Weaving the threads of wyrd

So far we've talked a lot about wyrd: but what is it? The short answer is that it is what it is: there is no such thing as an 'explanation' as far as wyrd is concerned. But while we can't define it, we do all have our own experience of it. We're actually very familiar with it, and we have a very clear practical understanding of what wyrd is: it's just that we're not often aware of the fact.

If that isn't obvious, just think for a moment: when and where and under what conditions do you use the word 'weird'? Wherever you do, that's also wyrd. It's as simple as that...

So how do you use the word 'weird'? Think back on some experiences that you would regard as weird - preferably your own experiences rather than someone else's. Why would you describe them as weird? And was there any particular feeling or sense of awareness that suggests that you should describe them that way?

Build a new habit, perhaps, of noticing when you describe something as 'weird': look at the circumstances, the feelings, in each case as you do so. And use it to expand your understanding of the nature of wyrd: your connection with the tortuous nature of totality.

What we most easily recognise in something that's 'weird' is the twist, the surprise. "It's weird, meeting you like this", you might say; and they'd reply, "That's weird, we were just thinking of you". But it's not so easy to see the subtle web of choices that links the weirdness together: there's always a twist, but there's also always a choice. One of the most important results of re-connecting ourselves with wyrd is that we discover we're not solely at its effect, 'at the mercy of our Fate': so we learn to recognise that we do have choices - and can thus reclaim them as our own.

But that disturbing sense of 'weirdness' that accompanies our contact with wyrd - "it sent shivers down my spine", we might say - makes it hard to see the choices we've made that have led us there. And again the wyrd interweaves through everything, often showing us things we don't want to face: "that old guy was really weird", might be your response to the frightening glimpse of totality represented by the antics of some strange old man. It's not comfortable to face your connection with him: him as part of you as part of him, all inextricably interwoven on the wyrd.

Comfortable or not, that's wyrd: it is what it is. We can't control it: it is. And yet it's often the only place where we truly have a choice. To reclaim those choices - to re-empower ourselves, to reclaim power with and within our lives - we have to face our fear of the wyrd: and we do that best by working with its weirdnesses, rather than trying to fight against them!

A web of connections

To work with wyrd, and to see it in action, we have to learn a different way of seeing - although more accurately we need to re-learn it, since it's a way of seeing that we knew well as children. We need to be able to see connections, patterns, samenesses within differences, in a way that at first seems quite alien to our usual concept of cause-and-effect. But this is true in science too: to understand the concepts of chaos, researchers had first to develop an eye for pattern - especially pattern that appeared on different scales at the same time, and what one writer described as "a taste for randomness and complexities, for jagged edges and sudden leaps". Chaos is weird - is wyrd - and full of strange connections: so much so that we need a different way of seeing before we can see them.

We usually only see separateness, difference, in self, in time, in space: the sense of 'I' and 'not-I', for example, or the way we distinguish this object from that one, or that event then from this event now. We analyse, break things apart into components, describe chains of cause and effect, refine probability into predictability. It all gives a satisfying sense of certainty, of security.

It happens to be wrong. Or incomplete, rather.

The separateness is only one side of the equation, so to speak. It's like a threadbare fabric, consisting only of the weft: it has a shape, but there's nothing holding it together. It's the cross-warp of wyrd - those weird, improbable connections - that weaves in the connectedness, and makes it into a whole.

The improbabilities blur the boundaries. Remember the Möbius loop that we saw earlier, for example: the strip of paper obviously has two sides, yet the loop as a whole, through an improbable twist, has only one. There's no set point at which it changes: the boundary is blurred. In effect, each point is both on the opposite side and the same side as every other. And although every point is different, every point passes through every other point. It's weird - wyrd.

All these weird happenings in our lives are much the same: both separateness and sameness, connectedness, at the same point. We're used to having one or the other: having both together is what makes it seem 'weird'. And to regard it as ordinary - to experience it as ordinary - takes a little getting used to!

In wyrd, the inside is also the outside: we can experience others 'out there' or 'in here', and feel the connection and the separateness at the same time. The easiest way to do this is to indulge in the age-old game of people-watching - but with a subtle difference.

Choose a café - my own favourite for this is one in the city's legal district. Sit quietly in a window, and move yourself slowly, gently, into an awareness of wyrd...

Allow the boundaries to blur: the shapes of passers-by become silhouettes, a two-dimensional array of shapes that merge, split-off, merge into other larger shapes... Allow the boundaries of time to blur: watch the shapes woven by those people in their pathways through space and time...

Look again at the clientele, the passers-by: so many of them in ritual dress, clothes as labels for masks. The lawyers and barristers in their formal wigs and gowns; the businessmen in the corner, in their crisp suits and ties, bragging about the 'killing' they've just made in a deal. The secretary stomping by in shoes that are 'killing' her: tight skirt, a mask of make-up, papers clutched in front of her. And the old man, limping, sweeping the pavement outside. Stereotypes; each one acting out an archetypal thread in the fabric of life.

But they're all there inside you too. The patterns of the wyrd echo on every scale: the things you see about each person here are metaphors for how the same threads pass through you.

The barrister, releasing her long blonde hair from under the formal wig; and the lawyer, almost a 'beard with man attached': in what ways do you conceal or express your individuality? Watch them change masks as they shed their layers in the café: what masks do you wear in different surroundings?

The businessmen: yes, they're self-serving, uncaring, aggressive, greedy - and, incidentally, evading reality, because they're drunk. But how do the same adjectives apply to you? You wouldn't be able to see this in them if it wasn't there in you...

The secretary: you can feel, without trying, that none of this fits her. Reach out, feel deeper, and you may well find yourself sharing her anger: she hates these clothes, this job, the people who stare at her - but she's told that she 'has to' do this. So reach deeper again: what masks do you wear because others say you 'have to'? And what are you 'holding to your chest', as a shield against the world?

And what does the old man tell you? Where are you limping inside? Where is this road inside that you're sweeping, slowly, painfully - and which you know no-one notices?

Drink up your coffee: time to go. And as you leave, look back through the window at the place where you were: and see yourself sitting there, looking through the window at yourself, like you have done at all the passers-by. The observer and the observed, interlinked on the threads of time - and wyrd.

The boundaries blur; yet there are still boundaries. Other people are still 'other'; yet we can experience the sameness within us. Non-attachment, we might say, that's also non-detachment. That's wyrd.

When we finally allow ourselves through into this awareness, it's a truly enlivening experience - among other things, we experience the end of the myth of separateness, and with it find a release from that crushing sense of isolation that pervades our culture. But there is a catch: non-detachment must also be non-attachment, especially when it comes to building an awareness of other people and their feelings. Without maintaining a clear sense of separation at the same time as building the connections, there's a real danger of 'enmeshment' in everyone else - and a risk of losing our sense of self entirely.

I learnt this the hard way a long while back, as a student in London. I went on a strict vegetarian diet for a while, 'to improve my sensitivity' for some experiments I was doing - and couldn't work out why I felt so ill every day. The answer was that I'd succeeded rather too well! As part of the practice, I was reaching out, feeling my connection with everyone else, even while sitting on a bus: so I was sharing that person's headache, the next one's sore knee, the next one's dislike of her job, and the man beside me's argument with his wife. Being 'attached' to everyone, I took it all on as part of me... and experienced it accordingly. Not a good idea: that experiment came to a very quick end! We'll come back to this issue in more detail later on.

The ordinariness of wyrd

It's important to realise that these experiences are nothing special. They may be weird, but so what? The wyrd itself is entirely ordinary - a part of the ordinary world that we've forgotten to see, perhaps, but ordinary nonetheless. Once we stop looking only at the separateness of things, and instead remember how to see in a way that's both non-attached and non-detached, the wyrd once more becomes part of our ordinary, everyday world - and we can then learn to work with it.

To not see wyrd, despite its effects being all around us, is a habit we all learn in this culture: and it's that, and the strange - literally 'weird' - feeling that we get when it forces its way into our awareness, that makes our experience of wyrd seem so 'extra-ordinary'. Like most habits, this one tends to block our ability to see what's going on around us - and blocks our awareness of wyrd, making its 'un-ordinariness' into a self-confirming myth.

One way to break the habit is to go back and deliberately re-view some of your experiences of wyrd as if they're part of your ordinary world. Those weird coincidences just become 'Normal Rules'; the weird antics of that old man become a normal reflection of your own fears, echoed by him through the wyrd. Allow these things to become normal, ordinary. Seeing them this way, what do they now show you? What can you learn from them?

The wyrd is entirely ordinary: we usually don't see it because we've learnt to not see it. The only thing that's unusual about our usual experience of wyrd is that in some weird way it's managed to work its way through our defences against it! Once we re-learn how to see it, it sometimes seems surprising just how common it is, rather than how rare: but it shouldn't seem surprising at all, considering that wyrd is the interweaving of everything, everywhere, everywhen...

In particular, it's important to understand that having 'weird experiences' doesn't make us special - or anyone else, for that matter. It's an easy mistake to make. In the past, whole religions have been constructed from some minor interaction with the wyrd that's been exaggerated out of all proportion; in the present, we see it most often in fundamentalism and much of the New Age movement, and their obsessions with 'received truth' and the (egotistical) rôle of 'the Chosen Ones'. But once we get a grasp on the ordinariness of wyrd, this loses its entirely unwarranted glamour. Something's weird, you say: so what? It's nothing new. People have always experienced weird coincidences and 'channelled' information, people have always had strange meetings with strange entities: the history books are full of them. So it's nothing special: it's just wyrd, doing its usual weird interweavings; the 'strange entities' most often just 'id-entities with mistaken identities'. If we're ever in doubt, it's useful to remember the old Zen saying: "Chop wood; carry water. Enlightenment! Chop wood; carry water..."

Wyrd is nothing special: it's nothing to get frightened about, and in a way it's also nothing to get excited about. Sure, it's weird, but so what? - it is what it is, it does what it does. But it can be useful - if we know how to use it. And that, in the end, is all that matters.

What makes it hard is that wyrd so often speaks in metaphor. Those 'received truths' of which so much is made in New Age circles may be weird, for example, but in fact the interpretations are rarely wyrd enough! They're too literal: they don't allow for the twist that's always there in our interactions with the wyrd. As with wants and needs, the metaphor - the twist - has to be translated before we can put the information to use.

To take one example, we could look at a fairly common experience, that of 'past lives'. The experience - a very real and definitely weird experience - is of seeming to live in another body, another space, another time, at the same time as in this one: and often of recognising, in some weird way, other people you know in 'this' life. In some cases the information brought back can be linked to tangible archaeological finds, or other evidence that couldn't have been known beforehand. So the literal interpretation is that it is a past life: one of many past lives, shared with the same people over and over again.

Have you had experiences that seem to be of 'past lives' - or 'déjà vu', perhaps, which is sometimes interpreted that way? Remind yourself of them. Now re-view them as if they're unusual but ordinary, just an ordinary aspect of the wyrd. What difference does that make?

Think for a moment, though: this literal interpretation depends on a very crude and linear concept of time. And the sheer number of reincarnated Napoleons and Virgin Marys and Atlantean priests and priestesses would make anyone suspicious... If the wyrd's interweavings in time are as twisted as the sense of humour it certainly seems to have, we can safely assume that for a few of these experiences, the literal interpretation may well be correct - the experience is indeed of some past life, though not necessarily linked to any present one other than through the wyrd. But in most cases - certainly from my own experiences - it's wiser to interpret 'past lives' as mirrors of the present: reflections of the outside and inside, much as we saw in the café: the apparent past-life-as-Napoleon as an active metaphor for the thread of 'Napoleon' within us. Once we know how to interpret the metaphor, it can tell us much about ourselves that otherwise we probably wouldn't see (or face): but first we have to understand that it is a metaphor, and interpret it accordingly.

It's an ordinary experience; it's also weird. The weird is ordinary; the ordinary is wyrd. Because it's wyrd, there's always a twist; yet for the same reason, there's always a choice - one that relates not to some metaphoric past-life, but to the practical, tangible here-and-now. By reclaiming our awareness of wyrd, we can reclaim the choices that are concealed in those experiences - and begin once more to put them to use.

Do what you will

If we don't see that we have a choice, then wyrd will always seem to be something that's happening to us - rather than with us. Not seeing the choice, we don't have a choice - and the whole weird happening is then 'out of control'. And that's frightening. So we tend to block wyrd out of our lives more and more - not realising that in reality it's there to help us, if only we'd let it do so. The wyrd is the interweaving of everything, everywhere, everywhen: once we choose to look at what it shows us, we'll find that somewhere in there will be not only what we need, but also the way to reach it. The choice is ours: we just have to remember, though, that there's always that twist...

Rather than complaining about life or blaming it all on someone or something 'out there', consider yourself the weaver of it. Life as a cloth of choices, conscious and unconscious: which threads do you choose? They're all there on the wyrd. All you have to do is reach out and connect with them, and you'll find they're right there, in your hands... and then realise they've been there all along. What do you find?

Because of our interweavings with others' choices, and because of the twist that's always there, our experience is not solely our choice - and yet to a large degree that's exactly what it is. If we won't face the results directly, the wyrd will usually find a way to show us anyway: and then offer us the chance - but with a twist - to choose again. It can take more than a little courage to accept this! But it's important to acknowledge the choices we make: that's why it can be dangerous not to know what we truly want - dangerous for ourselves, and also dangerous for others, as we saw earlier with issues such as blame and boundaries.

Look back again at some of those weird experiences that you've remembered. Re-view them this time as being linked to choices of your own: were you wanting to meet that person, for example, or was there something you wanted to avoid? What were the threads of choice - or avoidance of choice - that made up the weaving of that incident?

The problem is that so many of our choices are unconscious: they're 'made for us' by habit, by fears, by default, by allowing others we assign power-under or power-over to make them on our behalf, and so on. And because they're unconscious choices, they're hard for us to see - or often to accept as our own. By re-connecting with the wyrd, we find out what those choices are - and can thus reclaim the power to change them if we will.

Connecting with the wyrd is itself a choice, a deliberate act of will. We saw this earlier with affirmations: we make the choice - the written 'affirmation of intent' - as an act of will, a deliberate choice. We then let go, without letting go - non-attachment is also non-detachment - and trust the wyrd to work as it chooses. And the results can be magic.

Literally magic: it is magic, if we accept Crowley's definition of magic as 'the art and science of causing change in conformity with will'. In this sense, though, magic is best understood as a way of working on our beliefs, which changes our perceptions, which in turn changes our experience: so it's more 'the technology of inviting change' than 'the science of causing change'. We don't cause change as such: we choose, and something happens. Not always what we expect to happen, though, because there's always a twist...

And it's magic in another, quite different sense. The dictionary may define magic as 'illusion and trickery', but that's not what we mean when we describe some special occasion as 'magical'! Magic is also joy... the discovery of joy: and that too can be found within the threads of wyrd.

Yet oddly enough, to reclaim that most true of all emotions is a deliberate choice - an act of will rather than an evasion of 'won't'. So to quote Crowley again, "'Do what thou wilt' shall be the whole of the law, ere it harm none". The wyrd is yours, is ours, is everyone and everywhere. The choice is yours - do what you will!

… but be sure that you will it!

There is, of course, a catch: there's always a twist somewhere! It's not quite as simple as "do what you will", because we're also responsible for the choices: it always loops round in the wyrd. That's one reason why magic is also defined as 'the art of the wise' - because we need to be wise to survive it! And the wyrd doesn't maintain a simple set of accounts, like some kind of 'double-entry life-keeping': it plays subtler games than that... "Do what you will", it might say: "but be very sure that you will it...".

When we talk in terms of magic here, we're not talking about the modern technological magic - the kind that does exactly what we tell it, and nothing else. (Though oh! how often have I heard the despairing cry: "this machine's done exactly what I told it to do - so what on earth did I tell it to do?") The wyrd is quite different, is something deeper, older: and while our usual everyday magic was made with reason, and for a reason, this older magic is simply a part of things. It is not for any purpose: it just is. "It is magic of the heart, not of the head", as the novelist Alan Garner once put it. "It can be felt, but not known; it may work to your need, but not to your command". And if we try to control it in our usual way, we'll soon find ourselves in deep trouble: we very quickly discover that it has a will of its own.

Once again re-view those weird experiences: but this time in the sense that 'the wyrd has a will of its own: it will answer to your need, but not to your command'. Remember the confusion between need and want - 'command' - that we looked at earlier: can you see in each experience the wyrd's response 'to your need but not to your command'? And which explains why what it gave you wasn't necessarily what you wanted...?

Whether it actually does have 'a will of its own' - or whether what we see is just the reflection of our own (childish rather than childlike) frustration - is a moot point: though since the wyrd is the interweaving of everything, everywhere, everywhen, there's likely to be something resembling 'will' somewhere! But in any case it's long been understood that it's wise to treat it as if it has a will of its own - in much the same way as we declare affirmations 'as if' they're true, in order for them to become so.

We can't control the wyrd: we can work with it, but we can't fight against it. We can't fight the Fates... And we can't command it: if we treat it with disrespect, we may well find that "there are memories about the Old Magic that wake when it moves". Sometimes we get exactly what we ask for: so we need to be very careful for what we ask!

We can't control the wyrd: but we can direct our relationship with it, our path within and through it. It depends to a great deal on commitment, and on respect - both of the nature of wyrd, and of ourselves - and a willingness to start from where things are, rather than where we'd like them to be. Slowly, steadily, we discover that we can indeed do anything we choose. But this is wyrd that we're working with: so there's also always a twist... Do what you will, then: but be very sure that you will it!