Last night I have concluded a 5-month long run of my online class Cards and Magic (registration open again right now) had a fabulous time, and judging by the comments upon closing from the people in the class, there’s great reason to celebrate.

But here’s something that I can share with everyone else out here. The very last question in the live session was this: ‘But what is the Devil to you?’

This is the gist of what I said: The Devil is my capacity to be aware of whatever messes with my peace of mind. I’m the Devil, as all is reflection. I’m the peacemaker too.

Why did I say that? Allow me to expand on this point, so it may inspire a few others who practice combining cards and magic by way of looking.

camelia elias, tibetan sacred arts collection

The Nature of Reality

Reality is not what we think it is, especially not when we make divisions. The Devil presupposes that there’s a God, and that God is good. Many are attracted to the Devil because the Devil is subversive, goes against systems, is shameless, and allows himself to be mischievous. But the Devil described along these lines is not a Devil. This Devil is just someone who is tired of rules and conventions.

For me, the Devil is everything that binds me into attachment: be it attachment to fear, desire, addiction, or goodness, compassion, and such other concepts that presuppose a hierarchy and a division between good and bad.

It’s been long since I have given up seeing division where there is none, so when I go: ‘For me the Devil is my capacity to be aware of whatever messes with my mind and deal with it,’ it baffles most people.

At the level of dealing with it, what I do is this: I simply invoke some masters: Either I go with the Buddhists, the nondualist and non-essentialist kind in particular, or Jesus, and say: ‘Hello legion – manifested as limitation, frustration, resentment, hatred, righteousness, and so on – I see you’ve come to mess with my peace of mind and create drama. But not today. Today we don’t negotiate. Why don’t you just get behind me, or, accept my kiss.’

camelia elias, tibetan sacred arts collection

Solomon’s Key

Now, what are we to make of such an attitude in the context of cards and magic?

Just think:

I’m sure you’re all familiar with countless images of medieval conjurations of demons, spirits, and the like. Where do you suppose all that comes from? It comes from the practice of visualizing a very concrete expectation.

You expect to see demons – and they have very specific faces, as historical grimoirs have shown us – then you see demons. All you’ve got to do is cast a nice circle, chant some vibrations, and you’re set.

Conversely, if your invocations go for the ‘higher’ realms, then also here you will get to encounter exactly that which you expect. If it’s angels, you see angels; if it’s fairies, you see fairies.

In the context of polytheism, we’re dealing with the same business of aligning your visualizations with your exact expectations. You expect to commune with Odin or Jupiter, so you will commune with Odin or Jupiter, not a fox or a coyote.

camelia elias, tibetan sacred arts collection

The Magic of Nothing

Now, what I find more interesting in my own practice of magic, is how the work of detaching from the very thing that binds you – your own demons – brings you to an encounter with nothing itself. Because you see, if you’re free, especially free of expectations, or even better, if you have total peace of mind, then logically speaking what you get to have an encounter with is nothing.

Just as in the above case, when you expect to see demons and then you see demons, so here: When you expect to see nothing, you see nothing.

But what’s so special about nothing, and why is this form of detachment the highest form of magic?

Here’s my theory:

This ‘nothing’ is special because when you free yourself of your attachments you create invariably a lot more space in yourself and around yourself. You are all this space already, but if you allow for this space to be populated by all sorts of inventions irrelevant to space itself, then you can just imagine: The tightness and tension; the pressure. It’s bound to depress the hell out of you.

Imagine yourself being free even of your intention to do magic only so that you can successfully say, ‘I did it. It worked. I’m so pleased with myself.’ If you’re free of all attachments, you’re spacious. You are able to see right through your cry of success and the fact that in reality it means absolutely nothing. Words spoken in the air. Magic and power doesn’t care about your words. So it’s better to look elsewhere for modes of expressing your magic and power than through the prism of the self.

Furthermore, the meaning of the space that’s freed from attachment is aligned with what else you can then do, when you’re free, which is to pay attention to what is, not to what you fantasize about and is not. When you are free, you can just look. The magic is in approaching the cards from this detached position. This is what ensures that you will not doubt yourself. You will read like the Devil when you don’t doubt yourself anymore.


Many think magic is all about their intention. They couldn’t be more wrong. Your own intention is only a small part of what else is there. This is what I teach, how to grow roots in your own vastness, how to just look and not get involved in situations irrelevant to reality.

I’ve started Cards and Magic with a strong call for detachment, and why detachment is the condition for all successful magic. This for me amounts to saying that successful magic equals being in power and walking in power; and here I’m not talking about symbolic power, an extension of the ‘successful magical self’ – however peaceful or neurotic at that.

I ended the class on the same note on detachment, though in the last lecture I was even more insistent on the efficiency of expecting nothing, practicing recognizing the legions that come to you to mess with your peace of mind, and the ways of integrating, or rather dissolving, all your resistances, if you want to read the cards like the Devil.

What I have done in this class that was the most rewarding for me is to actually give people all that I practice. What I practice is the art of looking.

I ‘do’ cards and magic in the context of nondualist awareness, as I find that this method is the most honest. If I have success at it, then it’s because I relax.

I look at concrete concepts: embodiment, function, gesture, voice, and value when I look at the cards, but I always say: ‘This means nothing and that means nothing.’

I laugh a lot as I go about deconstructing power relations in the cards. But in this deconstruction I find a lot of transformative force.

The force in realizing that it really is just a question of changing your metaphors, your language, your going from the Hanged Man situation to the Emperor if you want power.

Then you realize that you see through the nothing that is, and you laugh.

Meaning does not arise from thinking about the images we encounter in the cards – oh, the Hanged Man again, I’m depressed’ – but from just looking.

Look and laugh.

camelia elias, tibetan sacred arts collection

Hello, Devil? How are you today?

While acknowledging all sorts of Devils, my strategy of annihilating them is to say: ‘Devil, you’re nothing but language. If I conjure you as a demon with this face, it’s because I have language to rely on, to provide me with just the right visual nuance for your doings. I have language to rely on for my constructions of how I let my fear drive the narrative of my rising hair. Devil, you and I are nothing but custodians of images. Those of our mind and other. But you know what? Let’s sit together, and enjoy the silence. If we must, we read some cards. We can visualize worlds and stories come to our rescue. We can heal and thunder through power. We can use the most exquisite sacred things from the Tibetan Tantric monks, landed in our home by way of miracles. Let the antique Thangka function as a cloth to spread our cards on. Let the dorje mark the spot. Let the prayer and the bell resound. And let us smile when we teach, create, and enchant. Expect nothing from me, as I’m free. Thank you, and Hallelujah.’

camelia elias, tibetan sacred arts collection


One of the students in Cards and Magic, Annie Kaye, had this to say that made me think of the Devils I know, and love. For community building, not self-gratification, this is exactly what I want to hear:

“I feel like we came together in a truly magical way. I imagine years from now I will say, ‘Yeah, I was in the first Cards and Magic course’ and it will be like saying, ‘Yeah, I was at Woodstock.’ Camelia, you created a Woodstock. Rock on. Thank you so much ♥ ♥ ♥.

Expect nothing, and all will be given. Smile and enjoy your peace of mind. Whoever needs to guide you on your path will show up when you are ready, whether as God, Buddha, or the Devil.

camelia elias, tibetan sacred arts collection


All images here are mine, featuring items in my collection of sacred Tibetan art. The thangkas, the prayer book, and the dorje are all ca. 1800


More nondualism? You’re welcome.

Due to similar discussions as above, you may want to check my latest posts that have a nondualist flavor, both on Patheos and under Spells on my website. Enjoy!

More words of power?

6 thoughts on “WHAT IS THE DEVIL TO YOU?

  1. Marie collins says:

    I am not at all sure what the connection Tarot has to Buddhism. I’m a little uncomfortable with that implication

    1. Camelia Elias says:

      What I’m talking about is method and practice, not belief. If you want belief, then this is not the post for you. This is a post specifically about nondualism, which is not an exclusively Buddhist thing. Also, the Tarot need not have any relation to anything. We can read the cards in a way that’s inspired by our practice of being in the world, rather than by what schooling we follow as to the history of the Tarot. Cheers.

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