Wednesday Webshare: Crowley, Curses, Charms, and Coincidences

2014/09/17

Mercury WebRecently the earliest known Crowley document has been found. It’s his broken-heart love poetry after breaking up with Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt. As much as I really like Crowley, his poetry has never been his strong suit, and his earlier stuff even more so. Though the phrase “fiercer form than thirsty stallions amorous” will be hard to forget. (Also, I’ll make the totally false claim that Crowley thus led to the modern usage of thirsty to mean horny)

10 of history’s most fascinating sorcerers, including some I haven’t heard of, though there were a few I would have rathered be on the list. (Like me, do you know how fascinating I am? Wait, did I say fascinating? I meant egotistical and slightly deluded)

Old women in Hong Kong, will curse for money. What I found interesting in the article was the fact that it’s clear these women don’t believe in their magick, and it doesn’t sound like their customers do either, and yet they’re still popular. (Whereas some sorcerers for hire like me don’t get nearly that business, and I tend to expect results when I work :-p)

Ananael Qaa tackles the invocation/evocation battle which is popping up again. I agree with his point, the terms are largely synonymous historically, so I don’t see why making a slight distinction between them for different aspects of the same concept is such a huge deal.

An artist prints a selfie with his own blood. That sounds like it would be a fantastic magickal proxy for him.

Why is the ALS challenge so popular? Mainly because Satan is behind it. (Apparently this means Satan wants to cure ALS, and YHWH wants people to suffer from it and die)

Many great scientists have no issue with the potential of paranormal phenomena. I was glad to read this, because too often people assume scientists or scientifically literate people are anti-woogity shit, and they’re not. Some are, some aren’t, it’s almost like scientists are people too, and different from each other.

A 1,500 year old Christian amulet has been uncovered.

On the other side of the cursing question the Prime Minister of Thailand says he’s been targeted by the black magick of his opponents. Unfortunately my HGA told me explicitly that I can’t curse Canada’s Prime Minister. Plus, cursing a robot would get tricky I think.

What would happen if Lovecraft wrote the blurbs for porn movies? Wonder no more!

More on cursing, a church in Washington D.C. holds late night services were people come to battle demons, and black magick, and witches. Well, at least it’s refreshing to see Christians who still believe in demons and magick…

How well do you know your Bible? A simple 20 question quiz will let you know (only two options per question, so good odds)

Monks used to mummify themselves alive. Suddenly my practice no longer seems hardcore.

How to Make Magic, a write up on an amazing children’s book on magick from the 70s. Why don’t they write like this anymore. Maybe I’ll patch stuff together as my niblings get older.

Michael, from VSauce talks about “Spooky Coincidences” and how our brain filters and (mis)interprets(?) data to link things. It’s always important to think about these things as occultists, lest we see magick in delusion everywhere. As a friend of mine recently said “Not every dog fart is a ghost.” Selection bias, pareidolia, confirmation bias, and the link.

We used to think we were in the Virgo Supercluster. Turns out we’re actually part of another even larger supercluster, the Laniakea supercluster, it’s 500,000,000 light years across, contains 100,000 galaxies. I know not everyone thinks this is occult or magicky, but as someone who calls the ultimate divinity Cosmos and whose Abramelin was largely focused on how utterly awesome (in the literal and true meaning of the word) our Universe is, I thought I should share it.


Tulpa: Not What You Think

2014/09/14

What’s the matter?
I have a headmate.
It might be a tulpa.
notatulpa

I’m sure everyone has seen the articles going around now about the “Tulpamancers.” The TLDR version is there is a group of people who are creating mental companions that reside inside their heads. They’re making personalities, entities that are separate from their consciousness, but also somewhat a part of it. If you’re familiar with plural/multiple parlance they’re creating headmates, though as far as I’m aware, and I totally admit I’m not looking into tulpamancers, no “tulpa” ever fronts, or takes control of a person.

Now I’m not here to criticise what they’re doing or their techniques. The articles talks about the emotional/mental benefit these people are getting from their mentally constructed companions, and as I generally say about magick, it’s about getting results and whether it benefits you. So a few people mentioned that their companion helped them through their depression, good for them, depression is horrible to deal with, and if it works then I’m glad for them.

While not the same I’ve used similar techniques to separate and control aspects of my personality, for those familiar with my Egoetia work, which at this moment I can’t remember if I’ve ever talked about on this blog. (And if I haven’t blogged about it, that just goes to show you should attend the classes and conventions where I yatter about this stuff) So again, not challenging techniques or results, I don’t know enough about them to make a well-founded evaluation, but there is something I can say:

It’s not a tulpa.

What is a tulpa? Well, that’s a kind of tricky question. Tulpa is a Tibetan term, and this is where the issues majorly comes from. You have a group of people misusing a term from a religious tradition in a way that really misrepresents and misunderstands what it actually means. Even aside from issues around cultural appropriation it just seems foolish and lazy to me. Tulpa (sprul pa སྤྲུལ་པ་) can be broken down into two pieces: tul, and pa. Pa is just a suffix that terms a verb into a person (agentive particle). So for instance I perform the ritual chöd, so I’m called a chödpa, and someone who transmits a lung (rlung རླུང, in this case meaning the “energy seed” of a text to simplify it) is a lungpa. Tul means basically created, incarnated, emanated. So it really just means an emanated person or emanation.

Now it gets a bit confusing because it linked with the term Tulku (sprul sku སྤྲུལ་སྐྱ), ku (sku) meaning body, so emanated body. This term gets used in relationship to a Tibetan Lama who is recognized as a reincarnation of a specific high lama, they are an “emanated body” of that lama. The reason this gets confusing is an older term for Tulku was tulpaku, the person who has emanated their body

Back to tulpa, so emanation, that could apply to these people and their creation right? Yeah, if you want to go by dictionary translation meaning rather than how a word is used and understood within the culture. A tulpa is something used all the time in Vajrayana Buddhism, though the word is almost never used. When performing a ritual where you’re calling a deity of some sort you create a damshig sempa (dam tshig sems dpa’ དམ་ཚིག་སེམས་དཔའ) meaning Commitment Being. It is basically a visualized form of the deity first. So if you’re calling on Chenrezig, before you actually call on him you visualize him in front of you, create him with your mind, create an energetic “shell” for him, that’s a damshig sempa. That is sometimes referred to as a tulpa but not often. Once this is created then you call on the yeshe sempa (ye shes sems dpa’ ཡེ་ཤེས་སེམས་དཔའ) meaning Wisdom Being, which refers to the “real” deity. First you make a shell, and then you call them into it.

I mentioned tulpa is a term rarely used though. In fact yesterday at lunch, knowing I’d be writing this article I asked my lama what a tulpa was. His response? “A what?” When I wrote it down he recognized the word from having read it, but never really heard it discussed. (It was my lama who told me the older form of tulku was tulpaku, which I confirmed at home with a dictionary) At home I grabbed my various books and texts. Some ritual texts, some academic, some glossaries. Do you know what word I wasn’t able to find? Tulpa. I have huge textbooks used for teaching University courses on Tibetan Buddhism that cover everything you can think of, no tulpa. I know where the word’s popularity comes from (and I’ll get to that in a minute) but I decided to check my non-Buddhist texts

It shows up in almost 30 texts I could find (note: I didn’t actually check too many, I just had a sense of where they’d be if anywhere). They’re all over the place; Kenneth Grant, Donald Tyson, in books on Ceremonial magick, and books on Wicca. What do they say about tulpa? They just say it means an energy construct or thought form.

So where do we get the term? Alexandra David-Neel’s classic book “With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet.” In it she heard about the term, and stories about it, but it sounds like she’s confusing a few different things.

Nevertheless, allowing for a great deal of exaggeration and sensational addition, I could hardly deny the possibility of visualizing and animating a tulpa. Besides having had few opportunities of seeing thought-forms, my habitual incredulity led me to make experiments for myself, and my efforts were attended with some success. In order to avoid being influenced by the forms of the lamaist deities, which I saw daily around me in paintings and images, I chose for my experiment a most insignificant character: a monk, short and fat, of an innocent and jolly type.

I shut myself in tsams and proceeded to perform the prescribed concentration of thought and other rites. After a few months the phantom monk was formed. His form grew gradually fixed and life-like looking. He became a kind of guest, living in my apartment. I then broke my seclusion and started for a tour, with my servants and tents.

The monk included himself in the party. Though I lived in the open riding on horseback for miles each day, the illusion persisted. I saw the fat trapa, now and then it was not necessary for me to think of him to make him appear. The phantom performed various actions of the kind that are natural to travellers and that I had not commanded. For instance, he walked, stopped, looked around him. The illusion was mostly visual, but sometimes I felt as if a robe was lightly rubbing against me and once a hand seemed to touch my shoulder.

The features which I had imagined, when building my phantom, gradually underwent a change. The fat, chubby-cheeked fellow grew leaner, his face assumed a vaguely mocking, sly, malignant look. He became more troublesome and bold. In brief, he escaped my control.

Once, a herdsman who brought me a present of butter saw the tulpa in my tent and took it for a live lama.

I ought to have let the phenomenon follow its course, but the presence of that unwanted companion began to prove trying to my nerves; it turned into a “daynightmare.” Moreover, I was beginning to plan my journey to Lhasa and needed a quiet brain devoid of other preoccupations, so I decided to dissolve the phantom. I succeeded, but only after six months of hard struggle. My mind-creature was tenacious of life.

This is the origin of the tulpa as thoughtform in the Western sphere. In fact every reference to tulpa that you can find, traces back to this book, or is unsourced. Even the wiki article, while it includes other sources, everything that supports a tulpa as a construct traces back to this book. It also seems like a good source for at least some of the concern about thoughtforms gone wild. (Which really isn’t as sexy of a DVD as it sounds)

Now Alexandra David-Neel was an amazing woman. One of the first westerns to meet a Dalai Lama, a single female explorer who roamed Tibet (when it was illegal for foreigners to be there) and studied Buddhism with the lamas. While I don’t want to play a race card though, we have to understand that French explorer from a hundred years ago isn’t going to have the best understanding of Buddhism. So while her works are some of the most engaging and evocative accounts about Vajrayana, they also have a lot of issues, and the tulpa as a thoughtform is one of them.

Tulpas are an “energetic body” that you summon a deity into, they are not a thoughtform. You do not make a tulpa of just anything, in fact arguably you can’t, because it lacks the yeshe sempa. Visualized imaginations, and thoughtforms are something else altogether, tulpas are a very specific concept in a ritual process. They’re also, not even by extension something applicable to a personality that resides in your consciousness somewhere. So back to the tulpamancers, like I said, my issues with their technique and practice are none, but I do have problems with their terminology. We have words for things like that: constructs, egregores, thralls, thoughtforms, headmates. Hell English is a great language for building new words, or making up one. But don’t misapply a misapplication of a foreign word.


Tarot Review: The Transparent Tarot, by Emily Carding

2014/09/11

transtarotTransparent Tarot – Emily Carding
Schiffer, 2008, 9780764330032, 280pp., 78 cards.

There are plenty of tarot decks out there; many are derivative and boring, some are interesting, but only briefly, few are really engaging, and rarely are they unique. I would say the Transparent Tarot is unique.

If you missed hearing about the deck when it came out six years ago, it is exactly what it sounds like: a transparent tarot deck. Each card is printed on a durable transparent plastic card. I can say they’re durable as I got the deck when it first came out and still use it, and my cards are fine. The image of every card has been distilled down to its simplest essence. So while the Smith-Waite tarot has images so detailed that you could spend hours noting the littlest aspects of the cards, the Transparent Tarot cuts it down to what Emily thinks is the most essential meaning of the card.

4 of Swords

4 of Swords

swords04[1]For instance the 4 of Swords (drawn randomly from my deck) is transformed from the intricate image of the Knight in a specific posture in the tomb with a stained glass window (that tells its own separate story) and everything to a simple outline of a person laying down with a sword at their side and three above them.

(See the difference? That’s typical of the reduction that Emily has done in her art)

Emperor

Emperor

The art is minimalist, both in what is included and how it is illustrated. The images are in a style of pointillism, which allows the images of the cards to combine much easier than they would if the images were solid lines and colours. While the Minors are fairly standard the Majors were completely redone. Instead of reducing a complex image to its essential core Emily took the archetypal quality of the Majors and created something new. For instance the Emperor becomes a city skyline, and the Magician is now a red and a white dragon wrapping around each other in a manner reminiscent of a caduceus. I will freely admit not all of the reinventions resonate with me and my understanding of the cards, but they do work well.

Magician

Magician

So why transparent cards? What good are they? The deck works just fine as a regular tarot deck, but where it shines is the fact that cards can be placed on each other to give you more information. In doing a three card spread you could put down two cards in each spot, and read them as a single image because they blend together. This drastically changes the possibilities your reading has.

You can just combine cards to get new images and meanings, or you can make it more complex. For instance the significator card is something I rarely find useful. Here is the reading, and here is you off in the corner. With this deck you can deal out a significator and “walk” it through the reading. You place the significator over the Past card, interpret it, then put it on the Present card, interpret it, then the Future, and whatever else is in the reading. This is also really interesting for readings involving groups. You could do a spread about a partnership of some sort, and move their respective significator cards over the reading, to see how the same events will be different for them.

Any way of understanding or framing the world in a schema can become part of the way you read with the deck. When doing a reading you can deal two cards for each spot, the bottom is the internal aspect of the answer, the top is the external. Read them together as a single image, and then separate the cards to understand the individual facet. You can do Body, Mind, Spirit. My favourite though is to deal down four cards in each position (using a very simple spread due to the amount of cards involved) representing Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah, the Qabalistic Worlds. In this method Atziluth is on the bottom, and Assiah is the top card. This allows me to look at a situation and see how it is manifesting in my life (reading them all together), seeing what is just physical/mundane (Assiah, this world) and follow it up the ladder of creation to see how it is being influenced, or influencing the higher realms, and where the issues (if any) are originating. While definitely not something I’d do every reading, when I really feel something is important, or I’m stuck somewhere it’s a great perspective to take.

My tarot mentor would combine the Transparent Tarot with other decks. He’d do a reading with one deck, and then place transparent cards over the rest, or walk a single one through as the signficator.

Here the three cards are combined. A dead knight from whom two dragons rise to encircle a city, interesting and evocative image.

Here the three cards are combined. A dead knight from which two dragons rise to encircle a city, interesting and evocative image.

You can overlap the cards “cleanly” so the edges line up, or you could be more freeform, because if a card is directly on top of another, or half off, or rotated slightly, all of these will change the resulting image.

The deck comes with a book that is nearly 300 pages long, which for a tarot deck is impressive. The card explanations have a description of the traditional image, why Emily picked the image she did, and for the Majors she even gives an example of three cards put together and how they could be read.

There are two issues with the deck that I must address. The cards are thicker and wider than average tarot cards, and they’re plastic not card stock, this makes them difficult to shuffle. Also since they’re clear plastic they get dirty easily and pick stuff up, so make sure to keep them wrapped up, and more so than other decks make sure you’re reading on a clean surface or you’ll really need to wipe the cards off when you’re done.

I have over 25 tarot decks (I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough!) and the Transparent Tarot is probably one of the three or four decks I use regularly. It was a hit when it came out, and then it faded away, and I think some people saw it just as a novelty (as arguably any speciality deck is) but I feel it’s a deck that can be as creative or insightful as the reader is willing to make it.


Better Choices, Highest Good, and Passing the Buck

2014/09/09

“Do I take the new job, or stay where I am? What is the best option?”

Questions like this are really common, specifically the variation of that last point: What is best/better? Hell, I often think like that to myself, but frankly it’s a horribly ambiguous way to think, it’s also one that lacks power and responsibility.

It’s not something just from divination though, people use similar terms regarding the gods/guides. “Please put me on the better path” or “They know what is best.”

Maybe I’m in a nitpicky mood, but this always bothers me. These all presuppose that there is some singular ultimate universal best, and it’s just a matter of you getting there, and I don’t know if I believe that there is.

Take the job question above. “What is the best option [between these jobs]?” Well that could depend on what you mean. Job A might make you more money, but lead to a career so stressful it cuts ten years off your life. So what is better? A stressful shorter life with more money? Job B might make less but it could have better health and vacation benefits. So what is a better? More money, or having more freedom and time off? Maybe Job A is really emotionally fulfilling and Job B is brain numbing to you. Maybe Job B will suck for the next 5 years, but then you’ll get an awesome promotion. Maybe Job A is horrible, but you’ll meet the love of your life at it.

And so on and so on and so on. So when people ask me about the better options I do two things: I make them narrow it down (Do you mean financially, emotionally, physically, and what time frame? Etc.) and also look in terms of general knowledge. So rather than “what is better” my questions are “What does So-and-so need to know about A? B?” Often these answers are more revealing about their values, one way or another.

The reason I’m stressing this though, is so often when this comes up, the person doesn’t know what would make one job better, they haven’t figured out their values. They want the cards to make all the choices for them, even their value judgments. So if you ask about better options, make sure you can say what better would consist of.

Now even if there is some ultimate universal best for these people there are issues with that. They might not be ready for that best right now. As a matter of fact I would say if there is this ultimate universal best for all of us, that easily 95% of the world wouldn’t be happy with what it entails from their current position. Sure, maybe years down the line after they realized all the things that didn’t make them happy (but did briefly), and they’ve undone conditioning, or are over emotional attachments to “toxic” people, scenarios, whatever. So maybe according to the Cosmos Option A is best for them, but the person takes it, and quickly realizes they hate it and abandon it. How helpful was the reading then? They might not believe you, reject and deny you (as we often do with good advice).

The same and moreso for people who frame it in terms of their gods and whatnot. “To my highest good” has that problem, cause you might not want that good. Also, that’s a lot of trust to put on another spirit, and that is something I’m a bit uncomfortable with. Now for perspective I sacrificed a chunk of my life to do the Abramelin as close to the text as was reasonable just to get an Asshole In My Head, and I don’t wholly and blindly trust them. I believe a certain Entity/God/Whatever literally made my Soul, and I wouldn’t wholly and blindly trust them. I have a Yidam, who is supposed to guide me practice, and I wouldn’t wholly and blindly trust them. Do they have my best interest at heart? Sure, but their understanding of it.

My HGA’s interpretation of my best interests might be to burn down my house and force me to wander the city performing chöd or something to push me to enlightenment. Maybe that is my ultimate and universal best, but I’m not ready for that yet. The common analogy is the perspective difference in sports. If you’re in the stands watching a sports game (I don’t care which, they’re all the same to me) or even on TV you have this really big perspective, and can see if someone should do something one way or another. The player on the other hand sees from a smaller perspective, with more things in the way, but they also see the details a lot clearer. So maybe from way up it looks like doing something a specific way, but down on the field the player sees something you don’t, and that means the method you think is best could actually be flawed.

What it boils down to is when people toss out these vague best/better statements it strikes me as indecisive and irresponsible. “What job is the better option?” Well, what are you looking for? What do you value in your work and life? Chances are if you hash that out you won’t need divination to know the job to take, but because you’re indecisive and unclear you’re lost. (Or at least it will redefine what you’re looking for in the questions) Also, and this can be totally judgmental, but some people think it’s totally devotional and spiritual to toss up their hands and say “Whatever my god wants,” but to me that’s just passing the buck. Your life sucks, blame your god, they want you there, your life is awesome, thank your god, they want you there. I don’t deny this can happen, but there is a reason you incarnated into a realm of freewill (okay, maybe not really, but a semblance of it most of the time) and your god didn’t (at least directly). That’s for you to live, to make choices. Or when you claim your god won’t let something happen because it’s against your “highest good” that puts the responsibility on them, not you. Didn’t get that job you applied to, I guess it wasn’t your highest good, not the fact that you’re woefully unqualified or wore your vintage Rolling Stones shirt to the interview. Oh, your spell didn’t work, must not have been your god’s will…not the fact that you might have lacked focus, will, energy, understanding or anything like that. Highest good, and best options, while I don’t deny these on a conceptual level, I feel they’re used more as an excuse to think/act certain ways.

If you’re a magickal person of some sort, I think you owe it to yourself to stop being indecisive, and call the shots in your life.


Grave Dirt: Bring Up Your Dead

2014/09/05

I was asked on the Book of the Face how I collect dirt, and one on hand it’s really easy, do it however you want, on the other hand, if it’s not something you do I guess it’s helpful to know how others do it, so I thought I’d explain that.

There are (in the system I work with) three basic types of dirt: Grave dirt, Nest dirt, and Goal dirt. (I guess, last one was never named. Also there is Graveyard dirt, which is somewhat like Nest dirt, though elements of the other two now that I’m thinking about it)

The one most occult folks focus on is grave dirt. Whether it is a family member, a famous person, a spirit ally, or random grave, there are lots of uses for the dirt, which I won’t get into here, let’s stick with method. (Also, I reached my word limit talking about Grave dirt, I guess that’s the only one we’ll look at now, but hey, at least Goal dirt is already written, so you’re guaranteed a post on that)

My kit: Incense, lighter, spoon, containers with labels, and cigarettes, all stored in a zipper sandwich bag

My kit: Incense, lighter, spoon, containers with labels, and cigarettes

To collect grave dirt you need three simple things: offerings, a container, and a spoon. Being how I am I actually have a ritual spoon for this…and by that I mean one that I’ve only ever used for dirt collection and I keep in my backpack at all times. In fact, all three things in my bag at all time. (They didn’t used to be, but some spirits I’m dealing with have me doing a lot with dirt right now…)

The offering is a bit subjective. If you know the person it could be something appropriate to them. When collecting dirt from my Grandma’s grave I took her vodka and a cigarette, cause that’s what she liked. For my other Grandma I’d take flowers, specifically chicory, dandelions, or anything else that grows on the side of the road. For a soldier you could take toy weapons, poppies, whatever. A lot of people offer coins, and mention the Greek tradition of leaving coins for the ferryman. Personally, I think that is fairly silly. Sure, it worked in Greek culture, and pagans who still follow it would appreciate it, but my Grandma would look at me like I was a goof if I thought two quarters would be a good offering. (But being my Grandma she’d take it and thank me I’m sure) I get the reason, I just think it’s too esoteric for most people. If you don’t know the person, or don’t know what they’d like the big five offerings you can give become water, food, incense, candles, and energy.

Approach the grave, centre and still yourself for a moment, just let the world drop behind you a bit, and then set out the offering on or beside the grave. Depending on your skill/inclinations you can either just talk out loud to the spirit, or actually do a bit more work to call them up. On a simplified level I usually put my left hand on the ground and project a tendril into the earth until I find the urn or casket or a sense of presence, then feeding a bit of energy down that line I draw them up, gently asking that the join me, or at least communicate with me. (The latter is because some really like to be rooted in their remains and would rather talk from below than on the surface, I don’t know why, I didn’t expect it until I encountered it)

Give them the offering. If you know how you can either multiple it, or shape it. The advantages to water, incense, and to a lesser extent candles is they’re fairly good at taking the “imprint” of offering visualizations. So if you create a visualization of an offering water/incense/candles are a good way to ground that offering in our reality and keep it stable. Energy is of course even more malleable, you can offer it however you want, I use a variation of a Shinto method. I clap three times, loudly, but not too hard, but enough to make a clear sound. With the first clap I see the sound clearing away discordant energies, the second more fully calls the spirit into the place, the last is a welcome announcement ‘ah you’re here.’ Then I rub my palms together and hold out my hand as if I was holding a ball in my hands. Aside from the meanings of the clapping, by clapping and rubbing your hands you bring blood, and thus energy, to the surface of your hands, which you can then naturally let pool in the bowl of your hands, or you can will it out.

Now that they have been called, and given the offering you can actually talk with them more directly. This is totally up to you; do you just think it, or speak it, do you chit chat or get straight to business? While thinking works, I find the vocalization carries more energy to them, so the messages are more clear, and oddly so are their responses, and at least in a cemetery talking to a grave isn’t unusual. Explain to them that you’re going to take a portion of their land/grave (my grandmother calls her grave her “property”), and if you have a specific request/intent you can explain that, or you can just explain it’s for connecting with them. Wait to see if they agree, depending on your level of communication they might say it, or you might get a sense of yes/no, if you can’t even get that ask for a small sign “If it’s yes touch my right hand, if it is not touch my left.” If it’s a yes, just take a spoon of the dirt, and you’re good. Usually I touch the dirt first and say something like “This is the spot I’m taking if you would bless it for me” to just draw their resonance into it a little more. If it’s a no, either give up, and thank them, or see if you can convince them, maybe they want another offering, maybe they want you to visit more often (yes Grandma…) or something, sometimes it’s a firm no, other times there might be some negotiation.

Put it in your contain, seal it, and label it. (Okay, I label them, because I don’t use all the dirt at once in many cases and don’t want them getting mixed up, and I occasionally grab samples from more than one place in a day, and again don’t want to confuse them.)


Ganzfeld: Blindfolding Your Way to Vision

2014/09/02

There is one toy/technique I love, that I don’t use nearly enough: The Ganzfeld procedure. For those unfamiliar with it I’ll explain it briefly, and if you’re curious I’d recommend a bit of time with google for more detailed instructions.

To do the procedure you need a light defusing mask. The classic “mask” here is a ping pong ball cut in half placed against the eyes. The shape of the half-sphere, and the white plastic cause the light to scatter as it passes through, meaning everywhere you look against the inside of the ball is just vague undifferentiated whiteness. I personally use a thick paper mask, like the paper you’d get in sketch book, part way to being cardstock. The mask is cut out like a sleeping mask, and around the edges is glued stretched out cotton balls, so the mask sits about a centimeter above the skin. This framing with cotton balls also allows the mask to completely touch the skin so no light gets in except through the paper, then just staple elastics to the side so you can wear it. The paper will defuse the light in a similar way. Then you need some headphones, and a device that plays white noise, and any Smartphone can grab an app for that.

You too could look this good

You too could look this good

Sit down somewhere comfy, or lay down (though that makes it easier to fall asleep), start the white noise, put on the mask, stop moving and fidgeting, and just let go. Your eyes will struggle to find something to focus on, let them try initially, there shouldn’t’ be anything other than whiteness with no distinguishing features, after minute or so blink your eyes, focus on one spot, and relax. Eventually your eyes will unfocus as they get tired, and then you’re on your way.

What this does is put you in a state of sensory deprivation, not as good as a full chamber for it will do, but it gets the job done. What happens is without any clearly defined sound (thanks to the white noise), or anything clearly defined in your vision (thanks to the mask and your eyes getting tired), your mind kinda…panics? It knows it should be hearing something, it should be seeing something, but it isn’t, so it starts to fill in the gap and then you start hallucinating.

I hear you say “Now Kalagni, this is a mechanically produced hallucination; surely this isn’t useful for magick?”

To which I reply “Who are you, and how did you get into my head?! Also, of course it is useful, if used mindfully.”

Think of it like anything people use, on purpose or accidently for altered states and visions. Sleep deprivation, drugs, exhaustion, even dreams. All of these can cause visions that are completely “mundane” or mental, just images and concepts dragged out of your brain, nothing magickal or objective. True, perhaps, but they can all be focused. If you can keep your mind aware and in control, you can use any of these things to access a magickal experience.

If you go into the Ganzfeld with a specific goal, and keep your awareness focused on a specific end, it can be of great use. So what can you use it for? Well, anything visual/visionary to start. If I need to Look at a client and see what’s going on in their Spheres, I’ll probably sit down with the setup and when I feel reality fall apart, rather than letting my brain ramble and run the show, I direct my Vision toward that person and see what is going on. I use it to scry when I’m having difficulty, usually I’m fairly good, but if I can’t reach a person or place, sometimes this helps get over the hurdle. I know some people have used it to access past lives, that’s not how I work, but it’s another option. You can use it to communicate with spirits in a more intense way. In general it helps you clear out the distractions of sight and sound, so your spiritual senses can be more focused.

It works a bit differently for different people, but for me just before I start hallucinating a black-blue circle appears in the centre of my vision and slowly expands into the whiteness. When this happens this hole in my vision is my Gateway, I project my purpose onto/into it, make it link to the person or place, I might speak a small evocation “Before me opens the Void to Sheta, by Eerah is it opened, by Saytaraan it welcomes me,” whatever, and then I project my mind into the black-blue, and I’m off to wherever.

The thing to be wary of is having this become a technique you can’t operate without. If you can’t scry or communicate with spirits without this you’re going to have a problem. If you can’t scry or talk with spirits, this could help get you started, but you should pay attention to how it happens, what you feel, what the process is, and then work to recreate it without the setup.

The thing that I love about this technique though, is it is relatively simple (the hardest part is making the mask), it’s fairly quick to use (I think it takes about 5 minutes to start hallucinating for me), but it’s also really intense if done right. So really if you’re looking for something to experiment with, you could probably make this setup with stuff you have around the house, in less than 20 minutes, and be scrying in another 5.


Labels: Goldilocks and the Sorcerer

2014/08/30

I’ve always had an issue with labels; how to label myself, and my practice. On a personal level I dealt with trying to explain a gender identity, which during my late teens just didn’t have a convenient label (and would end up with me telling small lectures to explain things), and it wasn’t until my late twenties that terms like gender-queer came into usage. Sexuality was the same issue, sure bisexual worked, but it missed out on a few things, and again wasn’t until years later in my mid-twenties I found a word more appropriate for me in pansexual.

Magickally I’ve floundered on these things too. Like all labels, I wouldn’t feel compelled to use them if not for shorthand discussions with people. Every forum, every convention, every conversation, as an occultist you get asked something like “What are you?/What do you practice?” Granted I have labels I can and do use, but they’re often narrow and imprecise. Over the years I would have said: energy worker, occultist, magickian, Buddhist, ceremonialist, shamanic inspired, fate-fucker, but none of them ever really fit.

I never felt comfortable with the term pagan, sure, I might believe in the existence of some of the same gods as pagans, but I wasn’t one. My path wasn’t about these gods, or “the old ways,” or whatever. My path was about exploring, experimenting, and doing magick. The fact gods might exist was periphery information, in much the same light as the fact that a Taco Bell three cities over might exist. Witch was much the same, with an addition issue around the type of people I’ve encountered in real life who use that term. (My online witch friends are awesome, the offline witches I’ve met…well, I’ll politely say nothing about them)

I often use the term occultist, and I’d argue in some ways that is the closest of the terms, but also problematically the farthest away. It implies something bookish and scholarly, sure, but also passive, armchair, and hidden, which doesn’t work.

(Ceremonial) Magickian it has its flaws, but it works, but it discounts the ecstatic side of my work, the Buddhist elements. I’ve avoided shaman, cause despite having a strong influence of shamanic elements, there is a cultural issue both personally and interpersonally which makes that word tricky.

I often joked that I’m either a Buddhist using Ceremonial Magick, or a Ceremonialist using Buddhist Magick. That has worked more than anything else.

Recently though a term has been worming its way into my usage, for myself and others: Sorcerer.

What makes sorcerer any different?

Remember this?

Remember this?

When I say Buddhist there is the image of people in robes chanting and meditating in a room filled with incense, true. Yet that ignores the Buddhism that has me dancing and drumming in cemeteries, or making demon-traps for exorcisms. And that’s just where Buddhist doesn’t work in terms of Buddhism. (Though it’s a great decoy to give people who couldn’t/wouldn’t understand what I do, they think Buddhist is one thing, I practice it as another.)

When I say Ceremonialist there is an image of …actually again someone in robes, chanting in a room filled with incense, calculating out astrological timing and making sure that the appropriate planetary ingredients are in the incense, again that’s true. This misses the ecstatic contact though, when I don’t call to the Angels, but they Call their Fire into me. This ignores leaving the books behind and following the Will of the Spirits. And again, that’s just were Ceremonialist falls short.

These labels don’t include the fact that both of these traditions are heavily woven together in my practice. Every morning I make offerings according to Buddhist methods to the planetary angel of the day, I sit in anapana meditation before beginning to pray to my HGA, I use phowa to scry, I time sadhanas by planetary influences. These traditions are really one in my life, but there is more to it. My trance methods come out of shamanic traditions from East and North East Asia. My ancestor work, though wholly my own owes a lot to the practices I learned from friends practicing the African diaspora traditions, and the methods of East/South East Asia. The Gods I call to are from India, Tibet, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Mesoamerica, as well as those from modern gnosis. My energy work is modern models.

I know to an extent that everyone’s practice is somewhat eclectic, all traditions are, and modern practioners tend to be more so, and I’m not arguing that mine is any more or less eclectic, or that it’s better or worse in how it manifests. I’m saying that I find naming important, and all of the names I’ve seen and used are half-right at best, but sorcerer is a bit better.

I'm fine with this association. Plus google image all the labels I mentioned, sorcerer has the best results

I’m fine with this association. Plus google image all the labels I mentioned, sorcerer has the best results (Which is obviously the defining factor in choosing a label for your Path

When I say sorcerer…well, there are lots of images, but here is the thing, none of them are as strict. Buddhists sit, Ceremonialists read and calculate, Witches dance with spirits, Shamans travel the worlds, but a sorcerer…does any of these. To paraphrase Jason Miller “I use the word sorcerer not for what it means, but for what it doesn’t mean.” It doesn’t have the same cultural image that the other words do. All you know about a sorcerer from the title is that they do magick, fullstop. It does say the Path is about Divine Worship, or Material Ends, it doesn’t have the sense of High or Low magick, just magick.

I like this. It’s imprecise, but it’s imprecise in a way that is open, rather than one that is closed. I can say I’m a sorcerer, and that leads into a conversation about the elements of my practice. Sorcerer is a term used in a lot of English translations of different traditions, just because it has this open application. The most obvious from a Buddhist perspective being Milarepa and Padmasambhava, both have been called Buddhist sorcerers in English works. On the other hand when I say ceremonialist, my practice is defined, and then the conversation becomes me explaining who that term doesn’t work or fit, how I’m a ceremonialist “yes, but…”. I’ll still say I’m a ceremonialist, but not as a label, but as a facet within sorcerer.

It’s imprecise, but it gives enough detail to get the point across, without restriction any options within it. With all the other labels I’ve felt I’ve had to use them, and explain them away, but with sorcerer I can just let that term be, and clarify specifics. So for now, I guess you can call me a sorcerer, it sits more comfortably with me than labels in my past.


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