Spirits and Systems: Which are Safe?

by Mike Sententia on September 29, 2011

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How to tell which spirits to work with, and which forces to channel.

KM asks:

My question is … how to go about finding a system. I am stumped here. What systems are ok for anyone to use, and the same for contacting spirit. How do you know what spirits are safe and not malevolent?

Finding a System

You have 3 options:

  • Use the systems of an established style of magick, like Thelema or Reiki. You would get those systems by performing a ritual of that style, or focusing on a symbol while you meditate. More details here.
  • Ask spirits or other mages you work with for a recommendation. The spirits will know how to connect the system to you. If the mage (or psychic or healer) doesn’t, just ask them to do their normal practice, find the connection the system makes to their mind, and follow it back to the system.
  • Some systems can recommend other systems if they work together. Kind of like Microsoft Office, if you’re in Word and want to make a pie chart it might recommend Excel. Just ask the system you use, and it will connect you to the other system in the suite.

Which Systems are Safe?

Like asking “what software is virus-free,” there’s no 100% accurate answer. Widely-used systems are probably safe (Reiki, Thelema, etc). Systems recommended by friends are probably safe. But now you’re passing up a lot of opportunities to explore.

Personally, I usually just try a system and see. An unsafe system will do 1 of 2 things:

  • Drain your energy a bit. No big deal, just disconnect, remove all its connections to you, and you’re good to go.
  • Connect draining or otherwise aggressive spirits to you. If you can defend yourself decently, they’ll usually give up and move on to easier prey. (See “Which Spirits are Save,” below).

Most things in magick can’t harm you too much. That’s not a fluffy-bunny “everything is sunshine and friendliness” thing, it’s the simple fact that most mages and spirits can’t affect the physical world very strongly. So going somewhere unsafe results in a headache, a lost week removing connections, or something else unpleasant but not actually that bad.

I was lucky that I didn’t know to be careful when I started, so I got used to exploring and the trouble it brings. Once you learn to defend yourself properly (not by visualizing an energy bubble, but by findind and closing connections), getting into trouble, and getting back out, stops being a big deal. And then you can explore a lot more of magick.

Which Spirits are Safe

Similar answer as for systems: If it’s a spirit associated with a widely-used style, it’s probably safe.

Most spirits drain a little energy (a fair price for their training, usually, though a real ally won’t drain you), but occasionally they want to keep draining long-term. In that case you’ll have to remove their connections and sometimes follow the connections back to the spirits to chase them off.

Spirit or System?

Spirits are sentient beings, like you or me, but without a body. Systems are intelligent but not sentient, like a computer program. How do you tell which you’re working with?

That’s tricky. Some systems, like Enochian, give you a vision of an Angel, to make it easier for people to grasp. Some systems are run by not-particularly-powerful spirits, but the system gives an awe-inspiring vision and energy signature, to impress users. Often, what followers refer to as “Gods” are just the system’s way of communicating information — how its interface is designed.

Don’t try to correct people. “That’s not a God, that’s just the system’s interface” won’t win you any friends.

So how to tell? If you can call on that thing whenever you want, by saying a word in Hebrew or writing a symbol, it’s probably a system. If anyone who knows those words and symbols can call it it, it’s pretty definitely a system. Would you serve anyone who says your Hebrew name? I sure wouldn’t.

With systems, work is a transaction. You make a request, possibly let it drain a bit of energy, and you’re done. Simple as buying books online.

Working with spirits is like working with people: You would start off collaborating on a shared interest, see if you like one another, and find other projects to work on too. A friend will usually respond when you call, but sometimes they’ll be busy. Sometimes, they’ll be focused on you, sometimes distracted. Where systems are always consistent (like computers), spirits vary from one session to the next (like people).

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

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew September 29, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Very cogent and informative. Personally I like to use a variety of systems for different tasks, though I think of them more as mutually contradictory perspectives. That way I can chose the best approach for the job.

The thing with spirits is that, as you mentioned, it’s just like dealing with people. You can derive some general etiquette, but they are pretty much all different in some way. And at the same time there are different ways to deal with people, differing styles of leadership and communication which all come together to form your experience with the spirit. While of course the spirit also has it’s previous experience to view your actions through, which is why spirits associated with a specific system of magick tend to like the same sorts of things and types of interactions, but may allow adaptations after it becomes familiar with you.


Mike Sententia September 30, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Thanks Andrew. Isn’t that always the way it is, that people are harder to work with than software? I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you.


Renaldo October 23, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Hi, this is my first post to your website. I have been reading through a lot of the posts over time and have always thought of this website as amazing. I just realised as I read this specific post that it brings about a certain question within myself, I have been extremely interested in Chaos Magick and I always loved the ideas of making magick fun and a way that is truly unique to oneself. In this post I noticed that you stated that beliefs do not affect reality and so I was wondering while everyone was on the subject of differing systems and which are safe or not.. Would you please answer if Chaos Magick would fall into the category of defined systems as it seems to be against what is stated except for the part of exploring magick, such as: the meta-belief that belief is a tool, rather than a means to an end. I would really like to perform effective magick and so I was wondering on your thoughts about it as a system, wether it would be fine to work with or a ghastly end to a beginner in magick? Thanx for all your time and any help or advice is much appreciated! Thanks again. Renaldo.


Mike Sententia October 24, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Welcome, Relando. Good questions. My answers are today’s post: https://magickofthought.com/2011/10/why-chaos-magick-disappoints-me/


Yvonne March 21, 2012 at 8:24 PM

I have come to this post pretty late, I know, but that is how I am working my way through your blog. I find this distinction between systems and spirits to be quite useful and I might adopt it. On the other hand I wonder what you have is a universal taxonomy. Where would you put something like Nature? If Nature is an intelligent force, it might be understood as a system; if Nature is a sentient being, it might be understood as a spirit (remember Pan?) Some of the devic beings of Nature can function much like software, as they are “in charge” of certain tasks, while others are personal and local spirits. How would you define Nature, as a system or as a spirit?


Mike Sententia March 21, 2012 at 8:48 PM

I’m not sure what you mean by “Nature.” So, sorry if this reply misses the mark.

My first thought is that Nature is a metaphor, a way for people to personify natural forces, rather than an actual spirit or system.

See, human minds are really good at simulating other minds. We evolved to do it. A mind (Nature, as a personified spirit) feels much simpler than physics equations. So you find a lot of non-scientific models of magick, physics and other things that invoke personified forces.

But you can’t actually connect to those forces. You can’t issue them commands or interact directly. They’re metaphors, not systems or spirits.

By the way, some readers found the term “system” confusing, so I’ve renamed it “ethereal software” in more recent posts. Both terms refer to the same external object.

More on this:

Does that help?


Yvonne March 22, 2012 at 6:27 AM

“But you can’t actually connect to those forces. You can’t issue them commands or interact directly. They’re metaphors, not systems or spirits.”

Well, I pretty much disagree much all of that, but our differences may be more methodological than anything else.

If “magick” itself is not working with “metaphors” and symbols, then what else is it?

I have not completely thought my way through this, but I am well on my way. So forgive me if I am not entirely clear as this is becoming part of my own fuller understanding.

Nature, according to my assumptions at least, IS a consciousness. Would you agree? (So we can argue over whether it makes sense to turn to theories from social science for defining that term, and whether consciousness is something specifically human.)

So my belief would be that Nature is a conscious system with specific functions, much like your ethereal software. The functions include providing order, organization and energy to create or make FORM. (another term borrowed from various outer disciplines) From this perspective, then, Nature must interface directly with other consciousnesses, including sentient human Souls or Beings. We are interested in the “bridges” by which those connections occur: the symbols, the rituals, the gods and spirits, the energies.

All of this begs the question of whether Nature is a Force, a being, a consciousness or a Divine architect or engineer. I do not know if these are matters of “faith.”

I could talk with you all day about this. But, actually I can’t. Thanks for writing.


Mike Sententia March 22, 2012 at 8:33 AM

I have 2 posts in the queue that should help give us some terms to discuss this. I’ll link to them from here as I post them. Let’s return to Nature after that.


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