Diaries

La Parade - SeuratI keep a number of diaries. I have one hand-written diary in which I record thoughts and observations relating to initiatory projects that I am undertaking. I also have an electronic diary – just a collection of text files on my computer – in which I try to write at least one entry every day. The paper-and-pen diary serves a very particular purpose and it does this both in the way that a mundane diary functions and in a more magical, symbolical way specific to my projects. The electronic diary came into being quite recently for various reasons.

People beginning initiatory work are frequently advised to keep a diary but they are not always told how to do it or why they should do it. The act of writing can itself be a magical act (hence ἱερου γλυφικα) and, in this respect, it is probably best thought of as both a manifestation and a communication. But we shouldn’t be too pompous about something that is, in the modern world, a fairly commonplace activity.

A couple of years ago I began to keep a diary but I never knew what to write in it. If something particularly momentous occurred then I would write an entry but most of the time it just sat pointlessly on my desk. I carry notebooks around with me in case I think of something that I want to write down and gradually my diary turned into just another large notebook and my diary entries began to be spread amongst my many notebooks and pads of paper. Piecing together a chronological narrative from my disparate notes would be impossible. So, seeing no further use in the idea, I stopped even trying to keep a diary.

I maintained for a long time that my e-mail archives were my diary. I keep every e-mail that I send or receive so I have a complete record of my correspondence going back a few years now. I like this idea because there are things that come out in conversation, things that arise from the interaction with another person, that would not be clear at all in a traditional monologue-style diary. However, there are many things that are not mentioned in e-mails.

It may be helpful to consider what things we want to find in a diary. In general, we are looking for patterns. Consider the pointillism style of painting as an analogy. Up close, you cannot tell what the picture is. But if you step back, then the picture takes shape and the colours come alive. Diaries work the same way. It’s all very well being able to remember what you were doing on a particular day but if you cannot step back and see the bigger picture then you will never discern the patterns in your life.

So I decided to keep a daily diary. I try to write an entry for every day even if nothing much seemed to happen. The important thing is that I am absolutely honest. I must be brutally honest with myself so that when I come to review my life there is nothing missing. It has already born fruit: it is barely a month old and I have already noticed certain behaviours that restrict me which I had not noticed before.

So, why start a blog as well? There are a number of reasons. Because my diary must be complete and honest, it must also be secret. This is fine but I immediately lose the possibility of interaction – I lose all the new and different viewpoints that other people can provide. A public blog need not be just a monologue, thanks to the comment system every post can become a conversation. Second, a blog is a convenient way to let other people know what I’m up to. Third, I’m arrogant enough to think that some other people might be interested in what I have to say. And finally, in some ways the most important reason of all, I have recently begun a new phase in my initiation and I feel that beginning a public blog is a nice symbol of the start of new interactions. So, my private notes will continue to be recorded in my private diary but the rest will end up here. Of course, for this to work I need you to post comments…

Diaries provide the raw data necessary for pattern recognition. That is the great benefit provided by diaries as a product. There is also a benefit to be derived from diaries as a process, from the act of keeping a diary. If you don’t already keep one, I encourage you to investigate.

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Published in: on April 4, 2006 at 12:00 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. Very observant points you make on the issue of keeping a diary. I intellectually understand the potential significange of having a diary and attempted to maintain one (in one form or the other) for several years. I however eventually came to the conclusion that it isn’t really for me. I realized that I have too emotional and/or kinetic approach to life that I would really benefit from keeping a traditional diary as much as some people seem to do. I also tried having one in a poetic form (writing every night a poem that somehow felt to grasp the feelings and thoughts I had for the bygone day.) That one actually worked much better for me, and I still use it at least periodically.Perhaps my problem with a traditional diary is that I don’t like to verbalize (even privately to myself) ongoing internal processes, because it often seems to prove more of a hinderance than anything else.Nonetheless, I encourage everyone to at least experiment with keeping a diary if there is any desire for changing the course of their lives. Experimenting naturally is a long process in itself as one needs years before starting to gain real insight into the magical world of keeping a diary…

  2. I had the same sort of problem with my first diary. I didn’t really know what to write so it just became a chore rather than a source of enlightenment.In my current diary I don’t make any attempt to verbalize a process, I just try to capture a snapshot of my mental state on that day. It’s a bit like how in psychotherapy the patient isn’t meant to try to analyze himself – he should just plainly report his thoughts, dreams, feelings and so on then the therapist performs the analysis. I still do the analysis myself but I do it later when I read over my previous entries like a narrative – each entry on its own is just a static description.If you try to verbalize an ongoing process then you will limit your potential ways of continuing that process. To verbalize it you have to pre-empt what happens next – but you don’t know that for sure because you haven’t got there yet…


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