An extraordinary story of survival and hope — fueled by Magick
Editor’s Note: Damien Echols served nearly two decades on death row — 10 years of that in solitary confinement — for a crime he didn’t commit. Rather than giving in to anger or bitterness at his mistreatment by the justice system, he used his incarceration to explore the practice of hermetic magick, giving him the strength and hope to
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With every thought, word, and deed you are influencing the world around you and determining what comes your way. Even when I was in solitary confinement waiting to be executed, I could still shape my reality to a large degree. Granted, most people do this unconsciously — they make things happen in their lives without giving it a second thought. The only difference between a magician and your average person on the street is that a magician does magick intentionally.
In my opinion, if you’re constantly exerting influence on reality, it’s a good idea to learn how to do it well.
I think spiritual visionaries have always been powerful practitioners of magick — the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus, Muhammad, Lao Tzu, and Gautama Buddha, just to name a few. These people devoted their lives to spiritual evolution for the benefit of everyone. When someone asked the Buddha, “What are you? Are you a god, or are you a man?” The Buddha simply replied, “I’m awake.” He meant that he had awakened to how the whole thing works — to the laws of karma and to the fact that reality isn’t just something predetermined that happens to us. He was awake to knowledge that we can all shape reality and create better environments for ourselves. We can actually do something about it.
Call this something whatever you’d like. I prefer to call it magick.
Every person on this earth is born with an entire universe of potential in them. Most people never cultivate the seeds of that potential, so the seeds go to waste and the people go through life wondering what went wrong, or blaming the world for everything that did go wrong. Magick waters those seeds to make that potential stir, grow, and flower. It accelerates our spiritual and mental development in ways we never could have predicted. Our ability to shape our destiny and the world around us using magick is limited only by our own belief, dedication, and creativity.
The week I walked off of death row was the most stressful in my life. I lived with a constant fear that it wasn’t going to happen. The prosecutor’s office and my attorneys were in heated talks about my deal. The prosecutor was doing everything he could to prevent being sued for sending an innocent man to death row, and my attorneys were doing their damnedest to help me survive the political maneuvering of the state. If the deal hit a snag of any sort, I knew I was going to die in my cell.
For several days, the stress was so crushing that I developed flu-like symptoms and broke out in painful sores on the inside of my mouth. Medical science has engaged in lots of research linking stress and its effects on the immune system. Another way of viewing this phenomenon is to understand that our thinking changes our energy field, and our energy field shapes our experience of our physical body. A large number of techniques practiced in magick are devoted to strengthening our energy field and understanding our energetic anatomy. Among other things, the stronger our aura, the more powerful our magick.
In magick, there’s one level of reality that we pay particular attention to, and it goes by many names around the world. The Chinese call it chiorqi, the Japanese say ki. In the ancient Jewish Kabbalah, it’s called ruach, and the Hindus refer to it as prana. In the fictional Star Wars universe, we know it as The Force. I just call it energy, because the word comes with less baggage and cultural nuance for me. Plus, there’s no particular religious significance to the word. Even scientists (especially physicists) talk about energy.
We are constantly interacting with other forms of energy — the energy of other people, places, and things. We absorb energy that is left behind after certain events have occurred. We are always bombarded by energy even if we don’t realize it, and it has definite effects on us. In some cases, it can pollute our energetic field and clutter it with harmful debris that eventually turns into blockages. We take in energy through all kinds of different methods — from the food we eat, the water we drink, and the people we spend time with.
Someone once said that we become a combination of the energies of the four people we spend the most time with.
That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people who teach you and make your life better. Also keep in mind that success and failure are both energies. If you surround yourself with people who are happy and successful, you can absorb and benefit from their positive energy.
Each level of reality affects the others. Thoughts stir up emotions, and emotions determine how much energy you direct toward whatever it is you’re thinking about. And the physical plane is where we can see the culmination of the process as energy manifests in various ways. This is where the power of attention comes in.
Have you ever known someone who wallows in negative thinking to live a positive life? Our lives are largely determined by where we place our attention — in other words, our lives depend on how we direct our thoughts and the energy we invest in those thoughts. If you spend your time focusing on negative results, your life is probably not going to be very happy. And if you direct your energy into positive endeavors, chances are your life will be more positive than not. Of course, magick involves a lot more than messages found in books like, The Power of Positive Thinking, but it’s important to understand just how powerful our thoughts are. If we worry too much about catching the flu — visualizing how miserable we’d be lying in bed, aching, fevered, and just feeling awful — we’re putting a lot of energy in one particular direction, and we probably shouldn’t be surprised if we end up getting sick. As Bob Proctor, an expert on the law of attraction says, “Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.” If you want a simple way to start doing magick, just change the focus of your thoughts and see what happens.
At some point, my wife and I began a particular practice to get me off death row. We each repeated a version of the following affirmation at least once every day. Here’s mine:
May I be home, free from prison, living happily with my Lorri. May it come about in a way that brings harm to none and is for the good of all, and in no way let this reverse or bring upon me or my loved ones any curse.
We concentrated on this outcome every single day, without fail. And within one year of starting this practice, I walked off of death row. One thing I learned was to pay careful attention to what you ask for.
Know exactly what you want and phrase it accordingly, because most of the time magick is going to give you exactly what you ask for.
And what you ask for might not be the same thing as what you had in mind.
Afterward, Lorri and I realized that we didn’t say, “Let me be found innocent” or “May Damien have a new trial” or “Let the authorities catch the person who actually committed the murders.” All we said is some version of what I wrote above, and that’s exactly what happened.
It’s also important to point out here that the deeper parts of our psyche don’t understand words. That’s not how they communicate. Fundamentally, those aspects of our consciousness use images, and if you keep reinforcing a particular image — say, lying sick in bed — that’s what it sees, not the story behind the image. That part of you isn’t so good at detecting preferences; it just sees the picture. In one way of speaking, it starts running a program based on the mental image, which makes it more likely that the image will manifest in the material plane. And before you know it, you’re lying sick in bed, exactly the way you didn’t want to be.
I have a piece of artwork above my bed to constantly remind me of how powerful attention is. It’s a print of the painting Daniel in the Lion’s Den, from the biblical story in which Daniel was thrown into a dungeon full of lions. The lions stand around him, eyeing him hungrily, but Daniel doesn’t even look at them. Instead, he stares up into a shaft of light coming down from somewhere above with an expression of profound peace; it’s as if he doesn’t even know that he’s surrounded by lions.
The image means a lot to me. It reminds me not to allow negative circumstances to pull me down and to never wallow in misfortune, even though the world might say it’s okay to do so. I want to emulate Daniel and stay focused on the light, no matter my situation — even when I’m surrounded by lions.
All that matters is that light — the very light we shape and direct when we practice magick.
Magick is a never-ending process. There’s no end to the path and no end to your exploration. The most important aspect here is your intention. Remember: where your attention goes, your energy flows. If you want magick to work for you, engage it wholeheartedly, experiment, and modify the practices according to your experience.
After a while, you’ll realize that performing high magick is deceptively simple. At the beginning, it might seem complex, but eventually you’ll find that it doesn’t take much effort at all. Trust me: you’ll get there. With consistent practice, magick becomes second nature. All you’re really doing is a more refined version of what you’ve done every day of your life. It’s just that now you’ll be doing it more deliberately and with a lot more power. All you need is to have the patience and determination to continue through the roadblocks, especially in the early stages when it might feel like you’re floundering around.
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