DAMIEN ECHOLS was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. His wrongful conviction, sentencing, and eventual release as part of the West Memphis Three case is the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Damien is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Life After Death and Yours For Eternity (with his wife Lorri Davis).
While in prison, Damien was ordained into the Rinzai Zen Buddhist tradition. Today he teaches classes on magick around the country and works as a visual artist. He and Lorri live in New York City with their three cats.
Damien Echols was wrongfully convicted of murder in the infamous “West Memphis Three” case and spent more than 18 years on death row before his exoneration and release. Now he teaches Western ceremonial magick—the same practice he credits with saving his life in prison. With Sounds True, Damien has published the book High Magick and a practice-oriented audio companion, A Course in High Magick. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Damien about magick and how it is meant to “constantly ingest more of divinity.” Damien describes two of the central practices of magick—the Middle Pillar and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram—and details why they are so foundational to the modality. Damien explains how he first discovered magick while in solitary confinement and details the concept of “will” in relationship to the Buddhist concept of dharma. Finally, Damien and Tami talk about what it means to manifest a “light body” and the overall goal of spiritual liberation through magick. (83 minutes)
Damien Echols is a “current-bearer”—someone who is able to pass to others an experience of boundless light. When I met with Damien in November of 2018 at a launch event for his new book, High Magick, I could tell that something had recently happened to him that had dramatically increased the intensity of this current. In this conversation, he describes how the practices of magick, which he calls “a Western path of enlightenment,” brought him to an experience of ego dissolution, which he describes as “experiencing myself as a small handful of sand that someone threw into a tornado.” The takeaway: an invitation to let go of any feeling of separateness, enter the abyss, and discover the interconnected light that awaits us.
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 goal of my new book, High Magick, is to provide you with the opportunity to experience the magick that resides within you—within each and every one of us, without exception. These rituals and practices are merely guidelines—a place to begin.
To get you started, here’s a short video where I share a basic magick practice for more healing love.
Once you begin experiencing magick, you will never see life the same way again. You’ll grow increasingly aware of the currents of energy active all around you, and the interactions between energy and the material realm. And you’ll discover that, contrary to what you may have been told, there are no limits.
I’m not here to tell you what to believe, and I’m not here to convert anyone. That’s not my job. My job (if you could call it that) is simply to show you what has worked for me through thick and thin. In that way, I guess you could say it’s my job to help. And my hope is that you’ll find these practices as useful in your life as I have found them to be in mine.
Damien Echols was wrongly convicted of murder in 1994 as part of the infamous “West Memphis Three” trials. He spent almost two decades in prison, until new DNA evidence exonerated him in 2011. In this fascinating episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Damien on how he rejected bitterness at his mistreatment by the justice system and used his incarceration to explore the practice of hermetic magic. They talk about what it took for Damien to survive prison and what brought him to the path of the magician. Finally, Damien leads listeners on a guided practice of hermetic magic he calls “The Middle Pillar.” (65 minutes)
While holding a mirror to our own organizational accountability, Sounds True unequivocally stands in solidarity with the Black community, the family of George Floyd, and the many others who have been victims of police brutality and ongoing racial injustice.
We stand with and for our Black employees, our Black authors and colleagues, our Black customers, and all of the protestors and social change activists—past, present, and future— who are working to put an end to racism in every corner of our society.
And we are committed to not just stand in solidarity but to step up.
Since George Floyd’s murder, we have been having many in-depth discussions among the 125-person staff at Sounds True about the most meaningful actions we can take as a transformational learning company to help educate ourselves and our community and contribute to the dismantling of racism.
We have been asking ourselves questions such as:
How can we best use our platform to better amplify the voices of wisdom teachers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)?
What’s in our Shadow, as individuals and as an organization? What unconscious areas must now be brought into awareness?
And how do we actively address these areas so that we can evolve as an organization and be a force of genuine service in the world?
The answers to these questions are not simple, quick, or easy. It has taken me a while to write this email to you, our beloved customers and Sounds True community, because we have felt as a team the need to listen carefully and look deeply within in order to lay out an action plan moving forward that will contribute to meaningful and substantive change.
Anything less falls short of what I believe this moment is asking of us.
We also want to learn and evolve in partnership with you. We are learning and growing together as a community, and it has been important for us to create a moving-forward action plan that invites engagement from our entire audience.
With arms wide open, I invite you to witness, support, and step up with us in the following ways:
Over the next two years, Sounds True will be undergoing an in-depth Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training in the workplace. This training initiative has been in development for over a year, and will be provided by TMI Consulting, led by Dr. Tiffany Jana. Dr. Jana is coauthor of the books Overcoming Bias, Erasing Institutional Bias, and Subtle Acts of Exclusion. As part of the training, we will be uncovering how unconscious bias, microaggressions, and micro-acts of exclusion show up in the workplace, in our personal lives, and even in our products. The training also includes a thorough audit of Sounds True’s hiring practices, HR policies, marketing materials, and more.
Sounds True also wants to include our customers, authors, and partner businesses in the introductory phase of this training process that we will be embarking upon. With that in mind, we are hosting a three-part webinar series on “Healing Racism” with Dr. Jana, beginning on Wednesday, June 24, at 8:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm PT. The series is free, and we are inviting our customers, authors, and business associates to join the Sounds True staff for this online training and to walk this part of our journey together. As someone on our email list, you will be receiving all of the details in future emails.
It is clear to us at Sounds True that we need to publish and otherwise amplify the voices of more authors and presenters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. If you have ideas about new BIPOC authors you would like to see published at Sounds True or included in our summits and online offerings, please write to us at email@example.com.
The Sounds True Foundation, formed in 2018, is increasing its efforts to raise scholarship funds for BIPOC students to attend our Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program and become trained as mindfulness teachers who will bring this practice to diverse communities all over the world. We will be hosting a virtual fundraiser on June 30 for this initiative and will be emailing you with more details.
As I mentioned, working to dismantle and heal racism—in ourselves, in our organization, and in our world—is not a flash-in-the-pan effort at Sounds True. This is a long-haul commitment to the creation of a different world that is just, kind, and equitable. And we have a heckuva road to travel with you to get there.
And we are committed. We don’t want to simply talk about spiritual awakening. We want to embody it … as individuals, as a company, and as a force in the world. Humbly and boldly, we are going to give everything we have and invite you to do the same. This is the time for us to step up, together.
Dr. James Hollis is a Jungian analyst, a former executive director of the Jung Society of Washington, DC, and a professor of Jungian studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston. He is the author of 16 books including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, Living an Examined Life, and, most recently, Living Between Worlds. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Hollis about his latest work and the increasing sense of importance for many people around living more meaningful lives. They also discuss how to find resilience during difficult times, how our souls let us know when we’re not on the right path, the difference between “meaning” and “purpose,” and more.
Establishing a place for regular outdoor meditation and nature observation is often referred to as a “sit spot” or “medicine spot”. Like the Buddha, who found his own tree of awakening, we too can go to nature and practice being awake to the reality of the present moment. This practice can also help us become more intimate with all the qualities of the land we live with.
“If one day I see a small bird and recognize it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird. If I just see it but don’t really recognize it, there is no thin thread. If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognize that same individual small bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little. Every time I see and recognize that bird, the thread strengthens. Eventually it will grow into a string, then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. We make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way.”
Guided Sit Spot Practice
Go to a place in nature that is close to where you live and that you can visit regularly.
Take a few moments to center yourself, breathing in and out, and arriving fully in the present moment.
As you are ready begin to walk mindfully with an intention to find a spot that calls out to you, a place you can sit and deepen your relationship with this place. The spot should feel welcoming, safe and comfortable. It could be under a tree, beside a boulder or in an open space. Often, east facing spots can be nice for early morning sits.
When you find a spot that feels good, in your own way, ask permission of that place and wait to see what comes to you. If you feel invited, sit. If not, keep looking.
Once in your spot, sit comfortably and become as still as you can. Imagine that you are melting into the earth, becoming a part of the land. Sit for at least 15-30 minutes, noticing any movement, sounds, or other sensations and activities.