If you work at a job and have to commute to a dedicated workspace, you know that you end up spending a fair amount of time there. In my own situation, I’ve always been of the mind that a person should create their own magical space in their workplace, for several different reasons.
In a recent post, Mike asked what people's experiences with the Goetia were like. I found the responses interesting, because most people described having problematic encounters with them. I've never had any of the problems the people mentioned in my own encounters with the goetia, but it likely helps that I've never done traditional evocation with them either, where you command them to appear and threaten and coerce them into working for you. In fact, I've never really understood the appeal of doing such evocations and have always focused on a more cooperative approach to any magical entity I work with (whether goetic demon or something else). I'd rather establish a relationship of respect and mutual benefit with the entities I work with. Consequently I've never experience any of the problems mentioned in the comments on Mike's post. If anything, I've had an excellent track record with the entities I work with. I've given them what they wanted and they've given me what I wanted. Everyone's happy.
Respect goes a long way, with people, animals, and magical entities. Instead of doing a traditional evocation, why not take a more respectful approach? Instead of being adversaries, why not work toward each other's benefit? And if nothing else why not critically question the cultural and historical beliefs that inform such an adversarial relationship?
In a recent blog post, Jason Miller argued that one of the things we need to the gravity of is the goetia. His point is that working with goetia has defined how people work with spirits and that it can become an obstacle to discovering your magical path. I agree with him, but in thinking about it, I realized that one of the reasons I like to work with the goetia and other established spirits sometimes is that they may not be the most powerful entities out there, but they are convenient to work with, in the sense that people do know about them and have some awareness of what expectations are involved.
But with that said, I think its important to expand your horizons. I do work with Bune, but I also work with Dragon. I have worked with Purson, but I've also worked with other time and space related entities. I've worked with the classic elemental spirits, and I've also chosen to explore the possibility of working with other elements.
There's value in going with what's tried and true, but there is something to be said for leaving the convenient behind and seeing what other spirits are out there. Thus lately I've been working with the planets, both in terms of contacting the archangels, but also working with the spirits of the planets in and of themselves. But you could just as easily work with Franz Bardon's lists of spirits, or with spirits from other grimoires.
At the same time having hopped on the Bune band wagon myself, I can say that choosing to work with him has been useful because he's getting so much notice. If everyone's working with him, there's probably a reason for that.
A little while back Mike asked a question about one of my posts, specifically whether or not I thought spirits could spawn new spirits and whether those new spirits would evolve. It was an interesting question, but I didn't really have an answer for him. It wasn't something I'd really thought of. Recently Justin emailed me about the idea of working with the spirits of the founders of a business and that prompted me to think about my other business. When I started that business in 2008, it went through several changes as I figured out what services I was offering and who my target clientele were. Eventually I settled on a business model and up until December of 2011 I stuck with that business model/entity. Then I decided to change my business once again. I changed not only the services I offered but also the logo of the business. In a sense, the old spirit of the business (in my original logo and services) birthed a new spirit (with a new logo and services) before moving on. I think of my businesses as entities in their own right. I need to feed them through my business activities and I treat them as entities in how I think of them and interact with them. So when Mike asked his question and Justin emailed me, I thought I might contact my business as an entity through the old logo and the new logo to see if there was any difference. And I found there was a difference. The old logo allowed me to access an entity that was in the process of fading away. It was no longer being fed by my activities and it knew its time was at an end, while my work with the new logo connected me to a business entity that was in the process of growing as I continued to work on it.
I didn't change the name of my business. I changed the services and the logo to reflect the direction I felt the business was moving in. It occurs to me that what I really saw was simply one version of the business being replaced by another version. It could be any of those things, but since that question was asked its something I've thought about and experimented with a bit. And it shows the value of asking a question like that...I never thought about it until it was asked and yet its leading me down some interesting paths.
I wrote a post a little while back asking if people thought spirits evolved. My own conclusion is that they do evolve and the best way I can demonstrate that is through examining several on-going relationships I have with different spirits I work with.
The first case study is Bune. Bune is a goetic demon of wealth and death. My work with him has focused on his patronage of my businesses. In working with him on my business, what I've been struck by is how much he has actually understood about business and how that understanding has manifested in my life. Even though it can be argued that he is a spirit, that identity doesn't automatically stop him from growing or evolving or being aware of the modern world. He has actually explained as well that by helping me learn about what I need to learn for my business he is also learning through me, which suggests that there is an interest on his part to continue to evolve his areas of expertise.
The second case study is Purson, another goetic demon with a focus on time. In working with him, he has shown me the connection between vibration and time (which isn't surprising since one of his tools is a musical horn), and in fact this has also pushed me into a direction of exploring some aspects of music and magic. As with Bune part of my on-going relationship with him involves a transference of information I learn in return for his insights. There is a decided interest in evolving and learning on his part, as well as on mine.
The third case study involves working with elemental spirits. As readers of this blog know I don't stick with the classic western five elements, but have branched out into working with other elements such as emptiness, love, etc. This has occurred in part because of my work with the elementals, and with their suggestion that elemental magic has evolved beyond the classical consideration of it, and that an exploration of elemental magic from a contemporary consideration of elements could be useful.
Finally there's Thiede, a pop culture entity from the Wraeththu series by Storm Constantine that I've worked with since the later 1990's. Many magicians wouldn't consider him a real spirit, but I've found that he seems to have all the characteristics of other spirits. He's shown me a lot of information on space as well as the leyline that connect planets and stars with each other. He's evolved significantly in the context of our workings together and continues to have an on-going presence that changes in part due to our interactions as well as his work with others.
I think that something which is ignored in working with spirits is the possibility that one of the benefits they get from us is an interaction that allows them to learn more of our perspective, even as they share their perspectives with us. Not all spirits are necessarily interested in our world or our perspectives, but I suspect the ones that get as much from the interaction as we do.
Recently I was looking through my magical library and I came across two books by Ted Andrews, books I've had since I was 16 or 17. They were books I'd hidden away when I was 18 and told I had to burn my books or leave, because they were books that were essential to my practice at that time. I was using the exercises in them for my daily work and also to connect with the elemental spirits. And to this day those books are essential to my magical practice in terms of the information and experiences they first provided. While my magical practice has gone far afield, the principles I learned in this books still inform and guide my magical practice. The books are How to Meet and Work with Spirit Guides and Enchantment of the Faerie Realm. Perhaps what I liked best about the books then and even now is the balance between practical techniques and theoretical information. As I looked through both books the other night, I felt a smile appear on my face, rediscovering a sense of wonder I first felt when I began practicing magic. As a teenager these books were doorways to a better life than the one I was living in. They provided me a sense of empowerment, a feeling of control, and a sense that I could actively make a difference in my life by employing magic. I still feel that way, but holding those books and flipping through them brought a sense of nostalgia and happiness over the memories themselves.
And flipping through them also provided inspiration for a working I did recently and am still engaged in currently, which I'll write about on Wednesday. It illustrated to me that going back through something you've kept for almost 20 years can still provided you surprises and realizations that you can work with.
What was your earliest influential texts that changed your approach to magic?
I'm reading The Well of Light by R. J. Stewart right now (amongst other things). He makes an interesting point when he argues that the categorization of elemental spirits into Earth, Air, fire, and Water (and spirit) isn't necessarily accurate. He points out the following:
If we think about Elementals as small components of 'pure' Air, Fire, Water, and Earth with some sort of limited consciousness, we are making them too abstract and too small...they are large conglomerate beings of one primary Element, but with the other three also present...elementals are perceived and encountered during a gathering of forces into undeniable, visible, tangible patterns: the forest fire, the volcanic interruption, the tornado, and the earthquake.
My own experience with the primary elementals has always been a recognition that to one degree or another the elements are interacting with each other. Think of a cloud in the sky. Sure there's Air, but there's also Water. But even leaving out the periodic table (which is a scientific analysis of the physical elements), I've never really been satisfied with the four or five elemental approach to magic. In the Strategic Sorcery course, Jason also discusses the elementals from the perspective of the five core elements and his approach to the elements is reminiscent of my early delving into hermeticism right down to the kings of the elementals. I've worked with them in the way Jason describes and I've also experienced them the way R. J. describes. In fact, my experience of elementals shifted to how R. J. describes them after my the working I did when I was eighteen where I exchanged some of my life essence for the life essence of the elemental spirits. And reading R. J.'s description made me appreciate that distinction he makes.
But as I said above, even the four or five elemental model never really worked. When I first started doing the elemental balancing work I realized that drawing on a traditional model for the elements was very limiting. An elemental force such as Gravity wasn't included, nor sound, nor even emotional forces that I'd consider elemental such as love or emptiness. So I started including them because I liked the concept of elemental spirits and could certainly attest to my own experiences with them, but I felt that there were more out there than what was readily available. I still hold to this perspective, so that even though I am working with Fire this year, I could just as easily be working with Gravity another year and find that it has much to offer from a spiritual perspective as what fire offers.
What do you think? Do you stick to a traditional perspective on elementals, or have you tried my approach and worked with an elemental that wasn't traditional?
In reading Mike's Blog as well as R J Stewart's books, one question that has come up for me is, Can spirits evolve? Mike seems to argue that spirits don't evolve and that the ethereal software they create is based off their understanding of the world and needs to be updated by people to understand contemporary concepts. R. J. Stewart discusses them in context of what they do and the sense that I get is that they might not evolve in a way that we understand, but that doesn't mean they don't evolve. That and applying a human centric perspective to the spirits is limiting because it is human centric.
My various experiences with the Goetia, elemental spirits, and even pop culture spirits is one that leads me to think that spirits are defined by function, but that the function can evolve. To argue that a spirit doesn't really understand modern day concepts could be accurate, but it might be even better to ask if it cares or if those concepts are relevant to its function. It might also be useful to ask how relevant humans are to its function?
When I've worked with Purson or Bune the experience I've had with them is one where they seem very up to date with the times. When I've worked with elemental spirits, that hasn't been the case from a human centric perspective, but the kind of information they provide me from an elemental perspective about technology and the environment suggests they have evolved as a result of changes brought about by people.
I think spirits can evolve, but that their evolution is defined by their function, and the domain that function operates in. I say that with a caveat, because I'm applying my own human centric perspective to this question, but based on my experiences I don't think of spirits as static or out of touch with the changing times and concepts...it just might be a question of what's really relevant.
Another interesting post from Mike on the word concepts. The more I read about his system, the more I understand it both in terms of entity work and in terms of using language for magical purposes. He explains the following with concepts:
Communication is actually about concepts, not words. You wouldn’t have a problem sending the concept of “computer” to a modern Frenchman, but it would be incredibly difficult to send it to someone from the 1700s.
I think that's an accurate description of communication, as well as the limitations of communication, which is probably why I remove the Ethereal Software (What I'd describe as entities) out of the equation for the majority of my workings. I create entities on occasion and the process that Mike describes for ethereal software is similar enough that I'd call it entity work. He'll likely disagree, which is fine, but that's my interpretation of his concepts based on his descriptions of the processes he uses to work with ethereal software. And when I create an entity I program it. I define it both in terms of concept and words used to describe the content and when I need to fine tune the entity its usually for the same reason: It didn't get the concept and the language used to convey the concept was imprecise. Further programming and fine tuning is needed to make it perform up to specs. Or as I like to put it, a more specialized definition is needed in order to insure an accurate understanding of the task that needs to be performed.
In general, people use language to convey concepts to each other. Sometimes ala William S. Burroughs cutup technique they use language to disrupt or attack concepts, while creating new concepts. Language is a useful tool for magical work because it provides a structure of limitation that can be used to sharply define and explore concepts, and then re-present them to the magician and/or entity (ethereal software). You even see this utilized with sigils, which start out as words (in some techniques) and end up as symbols that nonetheless embody a concept. And you see it with symbols that aren't sigils but nonetheless are used to convey a concept.
Concepts are constructs. They present an initial framework that is used to convey the experience of the concept. Words define concepts, give form to the frame, ground it in ink and white space and verbalized sound waves. Manifestation takes words and turns them into actions performed to achieve outcomes. Outcomes turn into experiences and then concepts...the whole cycle starts again.
When I don't work with entities, when I do a magical working directly the experience is different. The conveyance of the concept is to the magic itself. It's a direct experience, no mediator required. Maybe the magic, in Mike's system is the meta ethereal software, the force that channels all the other forces. In my system, and in the various methodologies I've developed over the years, magic is reaching in and pulling out the possibilities and melding them with reality, melding them with my reality. So when I do a magical working and I'm not using language or entities, but instead I am using movement or meditation or some other process less overt when it comes to communication the focus is on embodying the concept, making it a part of me, of reality as it is mediated and experienced through me. Actually even my approach to word magic is really about embodiment. No doubt a result of Burroughs influence, because the cutup method is really about disrupting the message while imprinting your message into the body of the word so that the word embodies your concept. The embodied experience of being as opposed to doing...doing is an echo of being, a way to move through the motions, but not really letting the motions move you to the space you want to reach. When you become the motions, embody them, you let them move you to the conceptual space and time you want to occupy. You become that space and time and in doing so you allow yourself to fully be present with a manifested result that is as much an extension of you as it is an effect on the environment around you.