The Magick of Being Stuck in a Rock and a Hard Place

Aron Ralston’s life changed when he was trapped for 127 hours in the Blue John Canyon of Utah’s vast desert. There are parallels between his transformation and the Seven Principles of Magick.

Aron Ralston

IMAGE: Digital photograph of Aron Ralston in a red jacket at sunset, in the mountains of Central Colorado, near Independence Pass (Aspen), CO. From his collection. Wikimediia Commons. CC license.

The movie 127 Hours is a triumphant portrayal of the human spirit. James Franco, of Freaks and Geeks and Eat Pray Love, delivers an Oscar nominated portrayal of Aron. The film was nominated for sixty-six awards by various cinema groups and festivals including six Oscars. (IMDB) Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy based their Oscar nominated screenplay on interviews with Aron and his autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place (2004).

Aron filmed much of his ordeal on a small digital camera and the film is shot from this perspective at times. However, it also includes wide panoramic sweeps of the Utah desert. Aron, through the media and speaking tours, has candidly shared how this traumatic experience was also a peak experience, a transpersonal or ecstatic state, that reshaped his life for the better.

The Beginning

In 1997, Aron began a challenge to climb all of Colorado’s 53 “fourteeners”, or peaks over 14,000 feet high in winter. Aron felt unsure of who he was and his place in life. To fill the void, he sought more and more challenging and even dangerous climbs. It became such an important part of his life that in 2002 he left his Intel mechanical engineer job to focus on climbing the peaks.

Call to Adventure

In April 2003, Aron left to hike Blue John Canyon. Despite being a volunteer rescue worker and knowing the dangers of hiking alone, he left without notifying anyone. In the movie and in a NY Times video interview he speaks about choices such as how he decided not to tell anyone where he was going and to go alone so ultimately he chose a dangerous situation.

Part of magickal philosophy is the principle or law of attraction. “The principle of attraction is not as simple to put into practice as it sounds however, because our negative thoughts, intents and choices are also returned. We get exactly what we choose. Much like the Djinni in the bottle that grants wishes exactly as spoken, usually to disastrous result.” (The Seven Principles of Magick)

In a deep part of the canyon, Aron’s right forearm was pinned and crushed by a falling boulder. He was trapped for five days. With the minutes slowing going by, he has hours to contemplate who he is and take time to notice small things about the natural world. In the film, Aron greets a raven that flies over each morning except on the last day. There is a time lapse scene of him watching sun light dance across the canyon walls until it reaches him. The light warms his skin and soul for fifteen precious minutes.

Delirious from dehydration, lack of food, and a decomposing arm he begins the think that the rock had been waiting for him all this time. That events and choices fell into place just so he would be forced into the situation. He goes back and forth between resigning to die or somehow getting out and making changes in his life.

The Principle of Unity
“The principle of Unity is the idea that all things are interconnected in a pattern or web of events, thoughts, and actions, and that beyond this, all things coexist simultaneously, being without time or space, as probability and potentiality. The connections between things can be both subtle and obvious, but there is always a connection, and this interconnectedness allows all things to effect or be affected by all other things.” (The Seven Principles of Magick)

Aron saw himself with a son. He remembered his family and saw them and friends sitting on a couch. He decides to not give up and begins the process of taking off his arm with a dull knife. The movie’s depiction lasts just a few minutes and in reality it took an hour. I couldn’t watch. I closed my eyes and ultimately forwarded through the scene. A few people at the Toronto International Film Festival and at showings in Upstate, New York fainted. (The Age)

In the video by, Aron explains how accurate the movie was and how he felt during the amputation.

VIDEO: 127 Hours Interview with Aron Ralston by

The Return to Society

At the end of the movie he takes a picture of the scene. Boulder, arm, bloodied canyon wall, discarded gear and says “Thank you.”

After his escape, he still had eight miles to travel in blistering sun to reach his vehicle. He wouldn’t be rescued for six more hours. He had to rappel down a 65-foot (20 m) sheer wall, severely injured and dehydrated, with only one arm, then hike out of the canyon. He was found by hikers who alerted authorities and he was rescued by helicopter.

“… it took 13 men using a winch to move the boulder so that Ralston’s severed arm could be freed. The arm was cremated by Ralston. He returned to the accident scene with Tom Brokaw six months later, on his birthday, for two reasons: to film the Dateline NBC episode of his accident, and to scatter the ashes of his arm, where he says they belong.” (Wikipedia)

Principle of Return
“However, in a spiritual sense, the return is not a circle, but more of a spiral, in that the journey we take along our path in life changes us, and so when we return to our origin (which could be a situation or state of being) we are changed by our journey, and so that which was once familiar is, by our change in perspective, once again new to us, and we are given to react differently than we once did, because though the situation may be the same, we are no longer who we once were. We have returned to our origins, but we are not the same as the person who originally left.” (The Seven Principles of Magick)

Just two years after his experience, Aron finished his climbing dream and became the first person to climb to the top of every Colorado mountain over 14,000 feet. He married Jessica Trusty, August 2009, and their first child, Leo, was born in February 2010.

“At the end of the film you see my real family sitting on that couch – me, Jessica and Leo. And I believe that’s why I got out of that canyon, so that I could find them … That’s the thing I appreciate most about this film. Danny Boyle saw this as being a story that illuminates and demonstrates an aspect of the human spirit that is actually very common. We have these very fundamental desires for freedom, for love and for connection. And these things are so powerful.

On the poster for the film it says there is no force on earth more powerful than the will to live. I say – except for the will to love. And that’s really what got me out of there.” (World Wide)

The Principle of Harmony
“Harmony can also be when your spiritual essence resonates with your surroundings and intent, or the energies of others, to create a sense of belonging.” (The Seven Principles of Magick)

Aron continues to travel the world climbing and giving talks. At the Swiss Economic Forum he explained “how he did not lose his hand, but gained his life back.” (Wikipedia)

References and other Articles of Interest:

Staff of Asclepius “The Seven Principles of Magick” by Masery and Arkayne Magii

New York Times video “Being Aron Ralston”

Wide World “127 Hours in the life of Aron Ralston” by Ralston

Aron Ralston’s blog “Trapped: The Rock Climber Who Amputated His Own Arm”

The Age (Melbourne) “Audience faints at ‘realistic’ amputation film” by Kellett, Christine–at-realistic-amputation-film-20100915-15bpo.html?autostart=1.

Wikipedia “Aron Ralston”

IMDB: International Movie Database:

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