How Guided Meditation Hurts Your Magick

by Mike Sententia on July 28, 2011

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Hypnosis is the opposite of true magick. It works by placebo. It puts you in the wrong mental posture for magick. And it bypasses an honest evaluation of what really happened.

Guided meditation hurts your magick because guided meditation is hypnosis.

Last week, at a past-lives workshop in London, I followed 2 guided meditations. The teacher told us to “focus on your breathing,” “relax and hear only my words,” that “outside sounds only relax you further,” etc. Nothing remarkable.

Except that each of those phrases is remarkable. Not because they’re rare (they’re not), but because they’re hypnotic inductions.

I spotted them because I’ve been studying hypnosis this year. Before that, I didn’t think anything was off in those phrases. And most mages, even most teachers, don’t realize what guided meditations really do.

That’s why I’m writing this post:

  • So you can spot hypnosis, keep your wits about you, and figure out for yourself how you want to do magick.
  • To ask teachers to stop using hypnosis, and help them remove it from their exercises.
  • So you can call them on it when they use it anyway.

2 Ways Hypnosis is Bad for Magick

1. Mages derail their learning by falsely believing they’ve done true magick, when they haven’t really done anything. When you’re hypnotized and suggestible, you’ll believe basically anything.

2. Magick requires the right mental posture: Engaging your mental muscles so they respond to your visualizations, rituals and other instructions. Hypnosis is basically the opposite: Much of your mind checks out, and only the suggestible parts stay engaged.

Not only are you more likely to falsely believe you’ve done magick, you’re less likely to truly do it.

By the way, if you do hypnotherapy, or experiment with hypnotizing yourself, that’s different. I’m in favor of that kind of exploration. What I’m talking about here is a teacher who says she’s going to teach magick, doesn’t say anything about hypnosis, and then hypnotizes the class.

Spotting Hypnosis

People think of hypnosis as swinging a watch and telling someone “you’re getting sleepy.”

But really, hypnotic induction (how you get someone into a hypnotic state) is about relaxing the person and slipping suggestions past their conscious mind.

“You’re getting sleepy” fails, because it’s obvious to the conscious mind what’s going on. (It can work to deepen hypnosis once they’re already hypnotized, but it’s too crude for a first induction).

“Pay attention to your breathing, slow it down. Think about the muscles in your face, and notice how, as you think about each one, it relaxes, releasing all your tension” is a much better induction. It misdirects you (focus on your breathing) and gets you to relax without making it obvious what’s going on.

“You may notice your eyes wanting to close. That’s natural. If they do, let them” is good, too. It sounds like I’m just telling you not to worry about your meditation technique, but by bringing up the topic, I’m suggesting that the natural thing right now is to close your eyes.

In short, when the literal meaning of the sentence sounds normal, but the subtext tells you to relax / trust me / go to sleep, that’s an induction. Unless you know what to look for, it won’t look like anything. Which is exactly how hypnosis works.

I’m not a practicing hypnotist. If you are, please leave a comment with your thoughts on how inductions work and how best to spot them.

Also, this dual-meaning — one normal for the conscious, one implied for the unconscious — is also the basis of NLP, as far as I know. Any NLP folks want to chime in?

You’ve Been Hypnotized

These meditations were just like what I’d had in other classes. Just like the ones you’ll follow in your next class. This teacher didn’t decide “I want to hypnotize these students.” She just did what her teacher taught her.

This isn’t a practice done by bad teachers. It’s a bad practice done by all teachers. Myself included. Unless you know how hypnosis sounds, you wouldn’t realize you were doing it.

Next time you take a class, consciously notice each induction, and consciously choose to ignore each one. Then listen to the rest of the meditation fully awake. Ask yourself what it really teaches, and what kind of magickal skills a hypnotized person will really learn. Ask yourself how much credibility you’d give to their accounts of seeing past lives or feeling energy tingles or whatever, if they all happen during hypnosis.

Then ask yourself if that’s the way you want to learn magick.

A Plea to Teachers

Only teach what you know.

If you can’t teach it without hypnosis, don’t teach it at all. If un-hypnotized students don’t get any result, the hypnotized ones aren’t doing real magick.

A class based on hypnosis isn’t teaching. It’s trickery.

Fake successes will affect you as much as they affect your students. Seeing excited students lets you believe you taught them magick. Which keeps you from separating good teaching techniques from bad ones, just like your students can’t tell good magick techniques from bad ones anymore.

It’s less fun to look honestly at what works and only believe in things you have real evidence for, both in teaching and in magick. It’s hard work, not in terms of hours, but in terms of sacrificing pride and accepting failures. It’s not the popular choice.

But it’s the only way to truly learn.

Instead of Hypnosis

You can still use guided meditations. But use them with the proper mental posture for magick (alert, mental muscles engaged, totally un-hypnotized), and focus on using symbols to communicate instructions to the unconscious. That’s the basis of magick, after all.

Explain each symbol before the meditation, when everyone’s fully awake. Make sure they understand what’s going on, what each step means. Make sure they’re on board.

Then help students find the right mental posture. Follow that link for the exercises I teach. You’re welcome to use them, too.

At the end, students will decide for themselves if you taught anything of value. Maybe you’ll be disappointed. But that feedback is the only way to become a great teacher.

Students: You Get What You Pay For

If you pay for hypnosis-based classes, people will teach them. Hell, if 100 people will pay $10 each for “Doing magick by standing on your head,” there will be an upside-down magician taking names. The only way to get good classes teaching real magick is to refuse to pay for anything else.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Kol Drake July 28, 2011 at 5:31 PM

I was going to say… ya but…. but you sort of came around to what I was going to ‘protest’ about. I am a ‘fan’ of guided meditations and creative/guided visualizations which, I suppose, could turn into a hypnosis session if the person ‘inducing’ used improper terminology — but, most of mine is ‘self guided’ so wondered… do I ‘fool myself’ or am I using these tools properly?

Reply

Mike Sententia July 28, 2011 at 9:06 PM

The real question is your mental posture. You should be alert and focused, not zoned out. The right mental posture is similar to writing, studying, or reading something complex (where you’re totally focused). If you’re alert and focused like that while you see the images, you’re probably doing it right (and you’re alert, so you can evaluate what’s happening objectively). If you’re in a relaxed, zoned out state, similar to watching TV or doing a relaxing meditation, then you’re probably not in the right mental posture for magick (at least in my experience), and it’s a lot more likely you’re just fooling yourself. Mental posture is the key here, and for most other problems with “am I really doing magick?”

Does that help?

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Kol Drake July 29, 2011 at 6:07 PM

Help? — Yes, thank you.
Now.. to work on my posture.
*puts a stack of mental books on his head*

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Amonjinn August 3, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Interesting. Would you then discard shamanistic rituals that produced altered states of consciousness as forms of magic?

Reply

Mike Sententia August 3, 2011 at 2:53 PM

I haven’t experimented with altered states much. No drugs or anything. If your interest is in altering the physical world through thought, then you really want to be focused and clear, and avoid anything that could lead you to falsely think something had happened (hypnosis, hallucinogenics, etc).

But that’s not everyone’s goal. If you’re moreso looking for a mystical experience, something to expand your horizons and so on, then I could see certain drugs being useful.

So, to answer you: I think shamanic practices involving altered states of consciousness can be part of a spiritual / mystical tradition that also includes magick (that is, the tradition involves several things, one of them is drugs and another one is magick), but if I were designing a practice to teach technically proficient magick as reliably as possible (with no spiritual / mystical aspect), I would avoid drug-induced altered states.

Your turn. What do you think?

Reply

Amonjinn August 4, 2011 at 9:04 AM

Well, in my studies so far I’ve found that there are a hundred and one different approaches to what we do. There are rituals steeped in Western Esotericism, shenanigans in Principles of Discordia, peyote rights of Mexico, the rites of the Norse, crystal therapy of the new age movement, calling down the moon in the Wiccan tradition, Native American sweat lodges, the practice of Chinkon in the Shinto religion, creating alters to the Greek gods and everything in between including your practice of direct magic. Though I feel o-many a christian would disagree with me, the simple act of prayer is a form of magic.

A common thread of these practices is that one has to enter an altered state of consciousness. When you talk about mental posture you are entering an altered state. It doesn’t have to be on par with an acid trip but it’s a deviation from the standard every day perception non-the-less.

Different systems resonate better with different people. Some like scientific empiricism incorporated in their practices while others wish for deific subjugation. And once the path is found, it becomes easier to enter those altered states.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there are a lot of crap teachers out there that don’t really know what they’re doing. But that in itself doesn’t rule out one form of magical practice as being efficacious. Meditation has its place as does tripping balls on Mescaline.

You definitely have a distinct view and approach to how magic works. On top of that you are teaching others about your system and some have taken to it. That’s amazing! Your system is highly intellectual and technical. In a previous post you had mentioned that someone even asked you “why” your system so technical. In my opinion, because it works for you. You understand its language and in turn the system you use understands you.

In the same vain, a tai-chi master that empties their mind of all thought, increases their internal chi and releases that chi in a devastating blow that is otherwise humanly impossible is just as magical.

Tag, you’re it

Reply

Mike Sententia August 13, 2011 at 11:59 AM

I like the connection you draw between mental posture and other altered forms of consciousness, I hadn’t seen that before. Thanks! (And sorry for taking so long to reply).

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