Spiritual Discernment in Pop Culture Magic

  Spiritual discernment

In Unseen Worlds and Practical Aspects of Spiritual Discernment, Anastacia Nutt argues that its important for people to be careful about what kind of media they expose themselves to. She argues that modern media can pollute the imagination of the practitioner. R. J. Stewart makes a similar argument in his book, and they have a point, although I don't entirely agree with them on their perspective on modern media. It is true that modern media can capture the imagination, and as a result become something which distracts the practitioner's mind. For example, you can probably think of incidents where you got the theme song of a commercial or show stuck in your head. Your monkey mind replayed that theme song endlessly, and it may have been something you weren't consciously aware of. When this occurs, it can be an example of your mind getting fixated on the media, to the point that your imagination can't focus as easily on other topics, or for that matter on your spiritual work.

One of the reasons Stewart and Nutt make the argument they do about modern media is because they are part of a spiritual tradition which has specific imagery that is used in the imagination as part of the work a person does within that tradition. Thus it makes sense that they would make the argument they make because they are using specific imagery which has an effect on the imagination and it's important to preserve the focus of the imagination in context to the workings the practitioners are doing. With that said, I also think that modern media can be useful in magical work, provided you aren't working in a specific magical tradition.

I'm not working in a specific magical tradition and I find modern media to be a useful tool for my magical work. However, even in that work, I still need to be careful about what media I expose myself too. I don't expose myself to just any media, but am very careful about what media I draw on, because of the effect it can have on my imagination. For example, I don't watch horror shows. The reason I don't watch horror shows is because I don't want that type of imagery in my imagination. I feel it would adversely effect my ability to connect with the spirits because of how the spirits are portrayed in those movies. This standard may differ from person to person, but I think it's important to use spiritual discernment to recognize what type of media you'll watch and work with. If you know watching or playing something will influence your imagination you need to ask yourself how it will effect your imagination. If it's something where your imagination becomes fixated on the pop culture and you aren't going to use that pop culture in magical work, then you might consider whether its really the pop culture you want to focus on.

There's also something to be said for the fact that sometimes you can cultivate an unhealthy interest in a pop culture character. For example, a few years back the character of Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7 was really popular, so much so that a number of fans claimed they were married to Sephiroth. They would share how they'd married him on the astral plane. Seemingly harmless right? But consider the mythology of Final Fantasy 7. In that game, Sephiroth is an insane character, with a mommy fixation and a desire to destroy the world. For all intents and purposes Sephiroth is a psychic vampire. The fixation on Sephiroth is an occupation of the imagination, on a entity that may not have the best interests of the people interested in him.

With pop culture, as with any kind of cultural tradition, its important to be selective about what you work with. Utilizing discernment is taking the time to do the research and determine what you'll work with and why.  It's recognizing that what you choose to work with is important because of how it shapes your imagination. I work with pop culture media but I choose the media carefully with a recognition of how it could effect my imagination. As my imagination is a powerful magical tool, I want to use it effectively in order to achieve the best possible outcome, so I'm going to choose what I feed my imagination carefully to make sure that what I'm putting into is something I can work with magically if I need to, as well as enjoy, without getting so fixated on it that I'm unable to remove it from my imagination if needed. Remember that what you choose to focus on does have an effect on your imagination. When you are working magic, choose what you draw on with an awareness of your imagination so that you can use it effectively when you need to.

I do feel that pop culture is the modern mythology of times and that working with it is useful. There is no reason not to consider working with pop culture, unless you are working in a specific spiritual path or tradition where there would be a conflict of interest. The principles of magic can be used to work with pop culture, and you can develop a spiritual tradition from that work. The system of Dehara, for example, which is based off Wraeththu is an example of such a system which people work with for both practical and spiritual purposes and it works for them because they have established a genuine spiritual connection with the Dehara. It's a modern mythology which nonetheless works because there is something there that is deeper that people connect to and work with.

I was interviewed by Lucian Pharoe. You can listen to it here.

Book Review: Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins

In this book, Jenkins explores how old and new media converge and shape pop culture as well as interactions people with have pop culture. It's a fascinating book which shows how fans are increasingly shaping the production of pop culture and how companies are reacting to that change. This book also shows the rots of social media and how the changing technology will continue to shape how media is produced. What is particularly important about this book is that it helps you understand how more than ever people have a role in pop culture and how the creation of pop culture is the creation of the modern mythology of our times. The author provides a variety of case studies that show how different mediums of technology are being used in the production of pop culture mythology. this is a must read book for culture studies, but also for anyone fascinated with how pop culture is shaping our time.