Oct 2012 31

by Aaron Colter

[Clio Suicide in Magica Sexualis]

Anthony Alvarado is an inquisitive man. Most of us grew up playing make-believe, pretending to be different people or different things. We played games like Bloody Mary, and often wondered how much we were told was real and how much in our minds what we perceived could be. Although magic and the occult have been seen as destructive elements in American society due to the puritanical roots of our religious culture, beings like monsters, wizards, ghosts and other worlds are no less improbable than the miracles of the Bible. Such strong beliefs, of any nature, can affect the way we perceive reality. Heaven, hell, angles and demons, how many people would swear on their very life that such manifestations are real?

Though children shed their belief in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, millions of humans still trick their minds into believing fantastic creations. After being struck by a profound revelation, of sorts, Alvarado decided to write a book about the many ways a person can start to open those channels of accepting the impossible. His curiosity is documented in a new book titled D.I.Y. Magic, a short and easy-to-read guide to some seemingly opposing practical actions a person can take to start to hack their brain into believing all sorts of reality bending events. No reason why Christian fundamentalists should have all the fun playing inside their heads. But, be warned, sometimes, if you want to swim in the chaotic, hallucinating waters of the psyche, then you’ll have to dive in the deep end.

Alvarado was kind enough to answer some questions about his inspiration for writing D.I.Y. Magic, which should be the perfect way to prepare that brain of yours for a truly frightening Halloween.

Aaron Colter: What made you want to write DIY Magic? It seems that the methods you mention have already been documented in other sources.

Anthony Alvarado: Some of the approaches have already been written about a ton, and so I didn’t try to re-write the book on stuff like lucid dreaming or flotation tanks. And stuff like Tarot cards I added a new twist to them: what happens when you design your own Tarot cards?

Some methods, there is very little information out there. Like keeping yourself suspended during the hypnogogic state for example, that’s pretty rare. I think a lot of people have stumbled on this trick from different paths, and been like, “Wow, this works, am I the only one who knows about this?” So yeah I hope for the reader it’s like a good mixtape: some stuff is like an old classic in a new context, and some stuff is brand new for you.

AC: I’m assuming you tried all of the tactics mentioned in the book? Which was the most effective? Were there things you tried that didn’t work at all?

AA: Yeah, I did try all of the tactics. I’m sure my girlfriend thought I was going crazy. Every day I’d be doing something weird. Taking naps with a big spoon in my hand and an empty bowl, or lying on the couch with ping-pong balls covering my eyes and listening to white noise, super loud.

Out of everything I tried, I was really surprised at how effective flotation tanks are. And I’m surprised that pretty much everybody hasn’t tried these yet. One trip will make you a believer. The stuff that didn’t work consistently I didn’t include in the book. That doesn’t mean that it might not work for some people: chanting, and dancing, and drumming – there are a whole bunch of rituals that are some people’s cup of tea but not mine.

AC: Are there methods you still use today?

AA: Absolutely! I’m a fiction writer and I’m constantly searching for new ways to get into the deep end of whatever project I’m working on. My hope for this book is that it will find its way not only into the hands of people interested in magic, but writers, storytellers, poets, comics artists, musicians. My book is spinach for the muscles of the imagination! I’ve been playing around a lot lately with using Tarot and other idea/symbol generating engines to add an element of chance. I also have found that the more attention I pay to dreams in the morning, the more likely I am to have a flash of inspiration for a story while taking my morning shower.

AC: What’s your favorite tip or suggestion in the book?

AA: I kind of like the simple ones. Like grow a beard or buy a weird looking jacket you would never normally wear, and watch how much it changes your day-to-day, because people react to you differently.

AC: How did you go about selecting the illustrations in the book?

AA: I was lucky to have my friend Jason Leivan, the owner of Floating World comics, curate all of the illustrations. He is really plugged into the underground comics and art scene, and the roster of artists he pulled together for D.I.Y. Magic is awesome. I felt honored to have illustrations by artists like Farel Dalrymple and Ron Regé, Jr. because I’ve been reading their comics for years.

AC: What’s the most significant paranormal or outside-of-reality event you’ve ever experienced?

AA: I had a full blown mystic epiphany type experience, some years ago, that happened suddenly while I was walking past an oak tree. I won’t go into detail about it here, because it would take pages and pages. It was basically this intense realization of . . . the incredible strangeness that the world exists. You know, why is there something instead of nothing? But it was overpowering. I could hardly talk for 24 hours. And it seemingly came out of nowhere. I was like, what the heck was that? Later, it was through reading about other people’s experiences, that I started getting into a lot of the ideas that eventually became D.I.Y. Magic.

I’ve since learned that you can’t really convey the reality of a mystic experience. If you try, it just ends up sounding cheesy, like listening to somebody else’s drug trip. You can only write down pointers on how to get there.

AC: Do you think most modern mages, wizards, psychics, yogis, etc. are legit? How do you find the true believers from the snake oil salesmen? And, in the end, if you believe in it, does it even matter?

AA: What’s the Bible say about judge a tree by its fruit? It’s like that. I think you can tell by . . . well, is it working for them? And does it really work for you? The spell, or the yoga pose, or whatever.

At the same time, you’ve got a good point, does it matter? There is a teacher at the yoga studio I go to who is so amazingly cheesy, vapid, and New Agey, that I have a hard time not cracking up during downward dog. But his classes are just as demanding a workout as the other yoga teachers, so I guess it works. At least if all you want from the class is a good workout.

AC: If you could only give one piece of practical advice to someone trying to shake up the mundane, what would it be?

AA: Meditate. Just take 10 minutes every morning, sit down and empty out your thoughts. It does so much for you, and if everybody in the world did it we would be living in a different reality.

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