The Expansion and Contraction of Consciousness

William G. Gray has a way of explaining magical principles that really cuts to the heart of how magic works. For example he says the following:

Expanding and contracting consciousness is equivalent to muscular exercises in bodily terms, though when we use symbols we are contracting consciousness in one world by expanding it into another, the symbol being a common link between both. Our exercises therefore, must consist of reducing the time-event extent of a mass consciousness into a single symbol...We can reverse the procedure and extract masses of consciousness from the symbol.

It's an excellent explanation of sigils (though Gray never used the chaos magic version of sigils), but its also a good explanation of how consciousness can be contracted and expanded through magical work. The contraction of consciousness is the ability to distill a complex idea into a symbol, and the expansion of consciousness is to apply that concept to the world. It's one of those processes that is fascinating because of how we can learn a lot about the world through the application of it to our lives.

I've used the contraction of consciousness for public speaking, where I'll contract specific ideas into symbols and then when I'm speaking I'll access those symbols and extract (expand) the information. I've used the expansion of consciousness in my writing, with the idea being to pack concepts into writing and then let them expand through the act of reading them. That's actually how I approach teaching magic. Plant the seed, and then let it expand through the act of reading and application of the concepts.

When we recognize that consciousness can expand and contract, we realize just how flexible it is. Consciousness isn't static, but we can purposely play a role in its changing states and apply those to magical work as well as mundane situations. Actually if you think about it, invocation is a contraction of consciousness or multiple consciousness into one vessel, while evocation is the expansion of consciousness into the world, which has its own consciousness.

There's an interesting exercise where you visualize yourself becoming as tall as possible, and then keeping that visualization of tallness in place, you visualize another you becoming as small as possible. One fits into the other and you contemplate them together. When you can hold that concept pretty well together in your mind you understand contraction and expansion of consciousness.

Consciousness isn't special

Mike made another post on his blog (can you tell I like this guy's work?) and it prompted some thoughts. He notes that consciousness isn't special and I agree. In Magical Identity, I discuss at some length why consciousness isn't special. Consciousness is the apprehension of our activities and the application of a rational explanation for why those activities occur. It's basically a filtered awareness and explanation of what we do and why we do it.

That said, what makes consciousness important for magical work is the fact that we can experienced altered states of conscious awareness, and while consciousness is a ultimately a filter, it nonetheless is also what provides a sense of self-awareness and an ability to question and examine what we are doing.

Situating consciousness in the proper context is useful because then we know its limitations as well as what it can do within those limitations. That understanding allows us to apply it toward our magical processes at just the right place to use it effectively, while also enabling us to be skeptical of it, as it is ultimately a very subjective experience.



Conscious awareness as a reaction

As I've been writing Neuro-Space/Time Magic and exploring the concept of Identity, and how genuine changes occur in a person's life, I've been thinking a lot about consciousness. Consciousness is put on a pedestal in a way, as a big accomplishment, and I understand why that is. Consciousness, when applied in a mindful manner, can help a person control his/her reactions and even develop proactive strategies. As a friend of mine put it, it's awareness of awareness, which is significant when you consider that such awareness can be used to put a situation and responses into perspective. But (you knew there was a but coming), I also think that consciousness is a reaction. It's a reaction to the environment around you, as well as your internal responses to that environment. It's a reaction that focuses on controlling your response. You realize that a controlled response is the best possible solution for handling the situation. And perhaps what makes consciousness so useful is that such awareness can be used to put into place responses that are more useful for handling future situations. Awareness without action won't change anything, but awareness with action changes a lot. Those actions can be integrated into how we respond to situations, and in that process we can acknowledge that such actions are still reactions...conscious reactions applied to handle a situation from a place of awareness.

For a change to occur as it applies to behavior, you've got to make that change on a deep level. It's a change of identity, which includes a change of values and beliefs in order to support the action you'll take. Those kind of changes go deeper than conscious awareness, but conscious awareness can be used to go in and implant those changes and make them part of your reactive responses.

Consciousness is a tool. It provides some awareness of self, enough to be aware of the need to change and enough to allow a person to enter into an altered state of consciousness to go in and make those changes...and we'll still react...we'll just react with chosen reactions as opposed to ones put on us by events an circumstances.