Sometimes, in my approach to process and applying it to magic, I like to look at a given process in terms of an equation. An equation elegantly lays out the dynamics of a process, demonstrating what it takes to make that process work. When we explore the process of working with an entity (spirit, daemon, etc.) the equation we are using to describe the process of that work is based on the relationship we have with the entity, as well as our understanding of the relationship the entity has with the universe. I'd argue that our understanding of what a given entity does is subjective, because our understanding is situated through a human perspective and in general what you see written about entities has more to do with the type of relationship they can have with a person than has it to do with what their relationship is to the universe. When you do see their relationship with the universe written about it, it's written in a way which is very mechanistic, as if the entities were cogs in a machine. Again, I think this understanding of their role in the universe is subjectively biased and as such may not be as accurate as it could be.
I've written previously about my decision to take a non-anthropocentric approach to my work with entities, including the work I'm doing with the microbiota within me. The reason I've taken that approach is that I've realized that to really understand and work with entities I need to be wary of applying the subjective lens of my human based consciousness upon them. Even with entities like the Goetia who could be argued to have an anthropomorphized form, it's important to recognize that they are likely taking that form because it is expected of them or because they recognize its the easiest way for us to conceptually understand them. One problem with such imagery is that it can create a false impression of an entity. For example, modern day imagery around angels usually involves a human shaped being with wings on its back. Sometimes you'll even see cute baby angels with smiling faces. However, if you've had contact with an angel, such an image bears little truth to the reality of the angel and holding onto such an image allows us to only connect with the angel on a superficial level (if we connect with it at all).
If, on the other hand, we recognize that our perspectives and awareness of entities are limited we can open ourselves to experiencing them more directly. This can have its own dangers. My own experience of working with angels hasn't typically involved the modern day imagery, but rather has involved feeling their presence. When I feel the presence of an angel I feel its force, its function...in other words I feel what it embodies and does for the universe and my relevance to that entity is very minuscule, based on a criteria which essentially asks: "Is this encounter relevant to my function?" If the answer is no, then the angel isn't going to waste time on me. If its yes, it'll put some time toward me, as it relates to the function it performs. The danger in such an experience is that if the person isn't ready to handle such an encounter it can throw them for a loop. In that sense, the safety that imagery and visualization provide is this: You have a less direct encounter with the actual presence of the entity and what it represents. That imagery provides a filter or screen of sorts, which helps your mind, energy, etc. process the experiences you have with the entity, whereas if you take a more direct approach, you are working with a more primal form of entity and this can be overwhelming if you are not used to doing such work. To work more directly with an entity involves allowing your subjective preconceptions and filters to fall away and open yourself to experience the feeling of the entity, the feeling of the force it embodies and represents. To do this carefully, I suggest gradually working toward that experience, as I share with an example below:
When I worked with the element of fire for a year, I gradually evolved my practice to move away from working with the associations and attributes used to describe fire, to working with fire as a direct primal force. The shift away from attributes and associations was useful because it allowed me to realize how much I'd anthropomorphized fire. When I didn't work with the anthropomorphic aspects of fire, I experienced fire as an element in a direct manner that was humbling (always a good thing imo) and allowed me to come away with a much more nuanced understanding of fire as a force of nature. I didn't think of fire in terms of sexuality, passion, or anger. I experienced fire as a force of heat, warmth, and destruction, as well as rebirth. However this process took the better part of a year to achieve. First I had to recognize the limitations of the imagery, associations, and attributes that usually went hand in hand with fire. Then I needed to open myself to working more directly with fire by asking if I could experience it as a raw primal force. I was cautious in making that request and what I did was work daily with fire via my meditations and other daily practices, but I would only allow myself to go so far as I felt I could handle what I was experiencing. If I felt the experience was too much I backed off from it and did appropriate banishing and aftercare. By taking such a gradual approach I was able to get comfortable with that raw experience of fire and consequently understand it in a different way that I'd not had access to before. I apply a similar approach to working with entities.
Let's bring this back to the equation part of this post with two thoughts to entertain. The first thought is this: What you put into the relationship with an entity is what you will get from the relationship with the entity. We can take that statement a number of different ways. For example, how we approach an entity shapes its interactions with us. If we approach an entity with fear, then it will undoubtedly recognize that fear and draw on it to shape the experience with you. Similarly if you approach the entity with respect, the entity will recognize that and factor it in accordingly. Similarly if we approach the entity with a specific image, attribute, or association in mind, it will respond to and use that image, association, or attribute (though not necessarily in ways we'd expect). Entities don't necessarily have a fixed form. They will appear in whatever way is most effective to work with you, and I'd argue they may also choose a more experiential model if that's appropriate for working with you. Likewise what you bring to the interaction influences what they bring to the interaction. If you give respect, you are more likely to get respect, but don't assume that will automatically happen and be aware, as best as possible, what you are bringing into the equation.
The second thought is this: An equation has a defined result. A relationship can also have a defined result. Be clear on what you really hope to get out of the interaction with the entity you are working with. If you are clear on your intentions and clear on the ideal result than it can help you determine if you should even contact the entity. In my magical work, in general, I always define the result. By defining the result I can determine what, if anything I need to employ. Defining the result doesn't guarantee you'll get the result, but it certainly makes it much to work with an entity because you can present it with what you are hoping to accomplish with its aid.
Finally, I suggest trying the non-anthropomorphic approach to working with entities. I find it to be more effective because it strips away the masks and allows you to work with the entity on an experiental level that is not always present when anthropomorphism is employed. While that direct experience brings its own risks with it, it also enables the magician to get a much better grasp of the entity, not only in relationship to the magician, but also in relationship to the universe.