There are concepts that help us to differentiate, one of them is very simple, it’s about light and darkness. In order to be able to see our retina transfers certain amounts of light into electrical impulses that are transmitted by the optic nerve to the brain where they are transformed into images. Therefore the amount of light is relevant for our brain to display the ‘correct’ image. So the polarities of light and dark enable us to see.
The same applies to our other senses though. Our ability to touch things and feel the difference of surfaces offers us concepts of malleability and rigidity, cold and hot, smooth and rough. Our ability to hear helps us with volume and intonation.
The ability to differentiate is indeed a life saving programing. It helps us to recognize dangers and act accordingly by the fight or flight reaction of our organism. We need it for our survival, and actually it is an interesting little detail that the famous ‘eating the apple’-story gifts humanity with the knowledge to distinguish between concepts of Good and Evil – which is of course another polarity. Ultimately the ability to differentiate gives birth to polarities.
It is erroneous to assume that the differentiation process produces the same polarities in everyone of us. I’m strongly advocating the idea that each and every human being – and probably also the larger part of other living organisms – creates its own reality by its perception and therefore polarities do vary significantly. What is morally unacceptable to somebody is acknowledged as standard by others, but I don’t want to open up a discussion of ethics or politics for now as this would definitely exceed the limits of this blog, so my focus is exclusively on magick in this post.
So our perception shapes our reality (and our polarities) and our reality shapes our perception. The brain is indeed a pretty magickal organ, the more for example you use certain words and concepts in order to define yourself, your environment, your relationships, the more these terms become tangible, perceptible things. It’s a bit like a spell or self hypnosis. The problem is that our lenses of perception are more or less focused on what we already know, so often enough we are only realizing ‘coincidences’, analogies, congruent events. Why? Because we trained ourselves to do so. Actually, the real challenge is outside of this comfort zone. From time to time it might be quite useful to change those lenses, to blow the dust off of the smaller ones we haven’t used in a long time (or maybe not at all yet). This idea also applies to magick. How do you work with entities or systems you don’t know at all? Shifting our boundaries, exploring new materials, conquering new horizons is what scientists – and magicians/witches – do by changing their perception and challenging their beliefs about reality.
In magick you pretty soon come across the concept of Dark and Light as well as that of Left and Right Hand Paths. For me again these are nothing but personal concepts, ‘realities’ which cannot be generalized. I doubt that there is a universal scale somewhere where one extreme is the ‘fluffy bunny esoteric stuff’ and the other the ‘hardcore let’s raise hell’s denizens party’ (whatever both concepts might mean). So I reject the idea of absolute ranges here. It would mean that there was somewhere an authority on these issues which I believe is not the situation because then I’d have to believe in something like an almighty old man sitting on a cloud and this is not going to happen ever. As a personal concept these descriptions only help to navigate to a certain extent, like in finding a more or less common vocabulary while talking to other magicians/witches, trying to figure out where they might come from and if their workings are compatible with ours. And of course, these terms are subject to change in accordance with our experiences and this is actually a very gratifying process.
Similarly to the above mentioned difference between LHP and RHP every author on magick has a slightly different definition of magick itself as well as of so-called High and Low Magick. For me these concepts are again not completely useless but totally individual ones and only help for a limited amount of time, especially if and as long as one is in need of terms to define oneself by drawing a line in relation to others. We all know that boundaries may sometimes convey the idea of safety but this is a bit of an illusion because there is no such thing as safety in magick. So I believe the concepts of ‘High’ and ‘Low Magick’ serve two main purposes, first, to allow oneself to be lulled into a false sense of security, and second, to exercise control over others by labelling certain techniques or intents as less (which is an issue of power games and elitist thinking).
Using sex in magickal workings might require to a certain extent to be able to work with polarities. These polarities however are not concepts of biological femininity or masculinity but polarities of energy. In my opinion workings are open to one’s gender identity and again no rigid definitions or prerequisites are needed to be successful.
For me polarities are therefore individual and serve limited purposes until we realize how to shift and change and ultimately transcend them. The real challenge is to question everything you know about your personal and magickal polarities from time to time, to work with different ones and then to reach the point where they just disappear and the only concept that remains is pure energy. During this process the realization that the absence of something is sometimes equally powerful as the presence of something else might come up and change a lot in the game. Ultimately it is only our brain that shapes our perception of reality and the polarities we perceive are just the cumbersome attempts of our brain to make sense of things from different angles and in terms it already is familiar with.