This is part two of a two part article that discusses some of the various issues that have been buzzing around the blogsphere.
Are Spirits Real or Mental Constructs?
Lon Milo Duquette has been reputed to have said regarding spirits that they are all in your head. It’s just that your head is a lot bigger than you think. Others have proposed that spirits (especially demons) are psychological constructs, while others have even gone so far as to say polytheistic gods and goddesses are psychological archetypes found within the collective social mind of the culture or race. In such a manner, all spiritual phenomena are relegated to manifestations of the mind, and they cannot be seen apart or distinct from human consciousness.
I think that this perspective has its foundation in the fact that spirits don’t appear to have a separate existence outside of human interaction. The argument goes that because they don’t have an objective physical existence that can be empirically proven, they can’t exist as physical entities separate from the human beings who claim to experience them. Of course, the same thing can be said about the proposed existence of Deity or Deities. Everything is a facet of the mind. Everything spiritual is purely psychological.
This perspective is true, but only if you wholly or exclusively accept the psychological theory or model of magick. In fact, I would rate this perspective to be reliant on an overly aggressive use of the mind model of magick. There are, of course, other models, and if you adhere to any of them, the aggressive mind model would not only be immediately rejected, but it would also be considered intrusively obnoxious. The paradox of the reality of spirits is that they become identified and defined by the model that one uses, even though any definition or model will fall short of actually defining them. The same logic can be used in the discussion of the nature of the Godhead - it depends on the model or perspective that you are using. I would suspect that there might be some quantum magic to be found within these paradoxes.
If you are using the spirit model of magick, then everything is centered around a definition of spirits that is external and subjectively objective to the magickal operator. This model is very concise and simple to apply. You develop a relationship with specific spirits (invocation, evocation or votive offerings), and they in turn may be called upon to perform certain operations. The most important task that a magician using this model performs is to consistently establish and build on one’s spiritual alignment. This process has both a liturgical and an operational quality, which means that the magician functions as a kind of priest/ess or spiritual intermediary. Devotion, service, performing periodic liturgical rites, as well as invocation, evocation and assumption represent the core practices of this methodology. All of these techniques are important practices for the magician who adheres to the spirit model of magick.
However, if the magician is strictly engaged with the energy model of magick, then he or she perceives magick as a kind of energy exchange, and that the typical source of that energy is the human operator. Another aspect of the energy theory is the thaumaturgy model of magick, which proposes that a magickal operation is nothing more (or less) than the combining of various specialized elements to fashion or create a spell which produces a specific effect or impact. A pure energy model is very similar to a pure thaumaturgy model of magick, since both use specific elements to produce a magickal effect. To a magician who uses the energy model in exclusion to any other model, the questions of the reality of spirits is irrelevant and unimportant. Still, they would object to any theory that attempted to nullify their belief in an energy that exists as the foundation of their magickal practice. An aggressive psychological model would postulate that any kind of energy, combination of components, or the use of spirits are nothing more than psychological tropes. Such an over-reaching theory or model would make everyone unhappy, except those who whole heartedly subscribed to it.
Since I seem to function as such hybrid in my practices and beliefs, I would subscribe to all three models simultaneously, as I suspect many others do as well. That would mean that I believe, to a certain extent, in the subjective objectivity of spirits, but that I can also see their operation and impact within my mind and deeply embedded in my spiritual nature. Because I am also a spirit (as well as a body and a mind), then there must also be Deities and Spirits both within me and in the outside world.
These entities can also be found embedded in our culture and exist as pure symbols within what I would call the “super symbolic reality.” That spirits are both completely subjective (mental constructs) and subjectively objective (disembodied entities that exist and reside in the higher and lower strata of consciousness) is a known paradox, but one that I have had to make an accommodation with in order to make any sense out of what I have experienced. My magickal associates have worked magick with me, or independently using the same techniques and devices to invoke spirits, and have had analogous experiences to what I have had. This would indicate that there is a certain objective quality to spirits, although they remain a purely subjective experience.
Spirit Invocation/Evocation - Must Spirits Be Visible?
If spirits are subjectively objective, then one would assume that they must be visible, and that a successful invocation or evocation would cause the target spirit to be visually apparent. This is another topic that is making the rounds of the blogsphere, and most of the magicians who have written about this subject seem to agree that invoked/evoked spirits should be visually apparent.
My friend Ananael Qaa has written an article on this issue in his blog “Augoeides,” which highlights some of these points as well as highlighting the other individuals who have commented on them (you can find it here). Even Donald Michael Kraig has opined on this issue in his Llewellyn blog. Some in the “exclusive use grimoire” crowd have gone so far as to say that not only should the spirits be visible when successfully invoked, they should also be fully verifiable physical manifestations with an accompaniment of various psychic perturbations. This, of course, is the theory that Joseph Lesiewski has promoted in his book on magickal evocation. I have pretty much debunked the whole physical manifestation model of successful evocation requirement, but the other considerations for some kind of visual affirmation remain.
I guess the whole argument is that if you don’t at least see the spirit, then it can’t really exist, or at least the attempt to invoke or evoke it has failed. I might agree with this opinion if were not for the fact that there are quite a number of ritual systems used to channel the powers and abilities of spirits, and not all of them require a verifiable apparition. Sometimes a skrying device is required, other times a young child is used as a medium. John Dee didn’t see the many spirits that he conversed with, and he had to rely on the services of Edward Kelly as his seer.
It would seem that whether or not a magician is able to visually apprehend a spirit which is invoked or evoked has to do with whether or not he or she is so gifted. I have met individuals who don’t have visual experiences when they work magick, and others who are more prone to hearing spirit voices or sensing them in some other way. I think that it is narrow minded to discount dream incubation, which has an ancient providence, or other signs and portends as being less valid than a visual apparition. My theory is that spirits communicate on multiple levels simultaneously, and that the visual phenomenon that one might experience may not be the most important or significant.
As for myself, I am extremely visual and also gifted in the ability to clearly hear the spirits speak to me. Often when I perform an invocation or evocation, the apparition of the spirit is accompanied with a complete visual-like dream-scape. I not only see and hear the spirit, but I also see the spirit’s domain as well. It’s as if I were somehow consciously transported to another world altogether. When I have talked to other magicians, I seem to be part of an extreme minority in regards to this phenomenon. It is one of my magickal talents and it has served me very well.
Yet even though my senses have allowed me to be transported to another world, others who have either worked magick with me, or performed the same rite independently, haven’t had the same level of visual experiences that I have had. It is my gift, just as others have their gift or ability in the business of magick, and who is to say what gift is greater than the other? For one thing, I don’t bother using a skrying glass or crystal, and I don’t astral project. I don’t need to, but others might have one of these abilities fine-tuned to a point that would be analogous to what I am able to experience, or perhaps even greater. So I believe it has to do with your innate talent and ability. Certainly, having a powerful imagination is very helpful, but it isn’t necessary.
I have met a few powerful magicians who work with spirits and don’t receive any visual proof that the invocation has been successful. What they have instead of a knack for visualization is a powerful relationship with a spirit or group of spirits, and by assembling the components of the spell and directing the spirit to perform a service, the magick is succinctly accomplished.
One of my friends was a practitioner of Afro-Carribean religions and magick, and he never visually saw a spirit nor could he hear it speak in his head. He sensed a presence in his gut and his emotions, and communicated through divination tools, such as various kinds of dice, colored pebbles, knuckle bones, etc. He also had a very tight relationship with his chosen demigods and associated servitor spirits, but he never saw any specific apparition. Was his magick a sham or somehow less effective than someone who does see a visual apparition? I think that anyone who would have said as much to him would have really pissed him off. He would have been insulted by that kind of judgement, and rightly so. Magick encompasses a huge variety of practices and experiences, and every magician is nearly unique in how they practice magick and how they perceive it as well.
I think that making rules and establishing assumptions about how magick should work if it is to be considered valid is misleading, even when concerning the specialized magick that deals with spirits. The proof is whether or not the magick works, and that the magician is using his or her talents and abilities to their fullest potential. The rest is just the multitude of various possibilities that one can experience or somehow sense when performing any kind of magick.
High Tech Pirates, SOPA and PIPA - My Opinion
Arrgh! Avast ye swabs! Even a pirate has a pirate’s code! (OK, I got that out of my system!)
Nearly everyone has weighed in with their thoughts and opinions over the ongoing debate about various forms of media piracy. As an author, I am, of course, interested in preserving my literary assets (meager as they are), which I have spent many years developing, acquiring and writing for others to utilize. I don’t look kindly upon pirates, but I also believe that it’s probably impossible to eliminate them altogether. Unless we are to live in a police state with invasive government control and strict censorship, media piracy is going to happen.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to curtail anyone’s freedom of acquiring information or expressing their opinion. There are already strict copyright laws, fair usage guidelines, etc., and every now and then some media pirate gets put down through international legal mechanisms (such as what happened recently to Megaupload). I don’t believe that we need more laws to govern the use of media, and I am wholly against any kind of interference, control or censorship of the internet. Thus I am glad that both SOPA and PIPA were defeated, although there are still opportunities for the moneyed elite to oppress the powerless masses. All we need to do is to be vigilant and scream bloody murder when someone attempts to curtail our slowly dwindling rights.
The internet is like the wild west before it was supposedly tamed. You can find nearly anything you want to find on the internet. Uninformed opinions, urban myths and complete misinformation abounds on the internet, and all we can do to cope with it is to use as much critical thinking as possible, and to try to put out the truth wherever feasible. The internet is an infant medium that is undergoing a great deal of growing pains. It has already caused a lot of good and also posed some major social problems, but I think that it should be allowed to evolve into something more splendid than it is, and not be egregiously curtailed before it can mature.
Even though I occasionally find sites that purport to offer free downloads of my books (most of them are empty ghosts sites), and I do attempt to do something about them, my books and writings will end up on someone else’s media device without either recognition or payment of any kind. There isn’t much that can be done about this, and I suspect that eventually it will make most writing jobs and the many works that such individuals produce worth very little if anything. I also notice that there are quite a slew of books that can be bought on Amazon for as little as a few cents (the postage costs far more than the book, and downloading an ebook costs next to nothing). These wholesale sites put pressures on book publishers to make less money, and this will ultimately kill most of them off.
Most people don’t have a clue what it takes to produce a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, and I understand that. I had to learn how to write, both grammatically as well as communicating ideas in a recognizable format. As a writer, I often have ideas and whole stories living in my head and heart for months or years, anxiously waiting to be given a verbal expression. I have hundreds of characters and stories aching to come out, and as my skill as a fiction writer improves, I hope to give those stories and characters life. I am also very passionate about my practices and beliefs regarding ritual magick, and I feel moved to write about them and share them with my reading public. I don’t expect to make very much money doing this, but then again, I do it because I love to do it. Writing has become my passion and also the manifestation of my ultimate magick!
It’s all so ironic because I used to be a terrible writer, and I have reams of writings and notes to prove that point. When I was a young man I was a poor writer, and it has required me to work very hard to become as proficient as I am today, which, I might add, is far greater than I was, but a long way from where I want to be. Considering the hundreds of hours that I have spent developing, writing, editing and rewriting to get my message to you, my readers, I should think that spending a few measly bucks for my books would not be too much to ask. After all, I am constantly giving away a lot of my writings on this blog, and I also share my rituals and workings with the members of my Order, all at no cost to them. To honor me as a writer and as an individual who is passionately seeking to communicate my ideas, you could do no less than buy at least one of my books (even at a bargain price), attend one of my workshops, or even perhaps buy me a drink someday. After all, I am doing this for you as well as myself. My hope is that some of what I have written will be useful and helpful so you can produce your own magickal system, which is my overall writing objective.
So for this reason I have been steadfastly against legislation such as SOPA and PIPA, but I am also against media piracy of any kind, even though I know that at times the innocent are often duped into purchasing pirated merchandise. This has happened to probably anyone who has sought to order things more cheaply through the internet than buying something at a store. I have found that if the price for a given item is too good to be true, then it is likely either pirated or fake, or a combination of both. We have to protect ourselves and use good judgment while the internet and its various offshoots mature and become more self-governed. Anyway, that is my opinion on this matter for the moment, and it could even change in the future, depending on what happens. I might support a fair set of legislation that enforces a modicum of order on the internet, but considering how cagey most hackers are, any rules will have technical loopholes.