Renaming Energy & Signatures: How Energy Behaves

by Mike Sententia on May 14, 2012

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If you came for a technical guide to energy, skip down to “how energy behaves.”

On my post about renaming the term “energy,” Simon left an excellent question:

Who are these terms for? Is it to gain some respectability so that ‘non magicans’ might look into this stuff and take it seriously? Or is it to orientate people who are already interested and just need a consensus term to use as shorthand.

My overall goal – with the blog and the book — is to develop a group of mages to work with. That includes knowing my terms and concepts, but even more, it’s about being able to use sensory connections and mental muscles and ethereal software and all the other parts that make my techniques work. So that I can post a technique for nergy healing, or personal growth, or observations about connecting to trees, and everyone can try it for themselves and see what happens. Because I really do want independent verification of what I’m seeing, I just need to get you the skills to do it. Also, ideally, other mages in the group would develop their own techniques, post them, and we can all learn from each other.

There are other goals. I want to help people be happier with their own magick, even if we don’t wind up collaborating like that. And long-term, I want to develop magick into a mature, respected discipline. But in the context of the book and the terms I use on the blog, that’s my overall goal.

My goal with these terms is to make my model more intuitive for people who want to go fairly far with the style — work through the whole book, and then push the limits themselves. Which means that I’m looking for a simple metaphor that suggests the actual behavior of each component. Kind of like how it feels natural to say “I reprogrammed the ethereal software,” but if you adopt the energy healer term and “Channel energy from The Universe,” you’d probably never even think to reprogram it. (“I reprogrammed The Universe” sounds more than a bit weird.)

The renaming is also for myself. The terms we use really do matter, and adopting metaphors that feel more natural to me will probably help me explore better.

So, let’s start with the behavior I’m trying to imply with my metaphor.

How Energy Behaves

Energy activates structure. That’s really about it.

“But wait,” you say. “Energy promotes healing, and causes tingly feelings, and does all these other things we’re always talking about.”

Indeed, it does. But it does those things by activating structures. And that is the key to the metaphor I want to convey.

When energy promotes healing, that’s because it activates the magical structures connected to physical cells which causes those cells to grow more quickly, suppress inflammation responses, or some other similar changes. When energy feels tingly, that’s because it activates the structures that connect to nerves and cause a particular type of neural signal.

How does the energy “know” which structures to activate? Signature. Each structure has a signature, and that structures activated by energy with the same signature.

This may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s fairly important. Healing energy doesn’t know that it heals, just like serotonin doesn’t know that it makes people happy. The effect of the energy (or the serotonin) is a consequence of the structures it interacts with. I want a term that focuses us on matching signatures and interacting with individual structures, rather than on the overall goal of what we want the energy to do.

Photo mosaic from wikipedia.


On signature, scale is probably the most important thing. You can break the signature down into smaller, simpler signatures. You know those pictures of a person, made of other pictures of that same person? (Photo to right.) It’s likely that, except that each of the smaller pictures are, in turn, made of even smaller pictures. This is what I mean by “the scale of the signature”: How many steps down you’ve gone from the large-scale picture.

Broad-scale signature is the feel of the energy. Smaller-scale signature determines if the energy interacts with ethereal software or a person, with the body or the mind, and so on. (The “domain” of the energy.) This doesn’t come up until you’re fairly far along in learning direct magick, but once it does, it’s quite important.

In general, structures are activated not only by energies that match the large-scale signature, but also energies that match some small-scale signatures. In that case, the activation is less efficient, and only activates part of the structure, getting it into a weird state. You usually want to avoid this.

So, those are the main concepts:

  • Energy activates structure.
  • There’s no inherent meaning, it’s just a matter of which signatures correspond to which structures, and which structures influence which cells.
  • Signature scale, and using it to work with different domains.

I’m going to think about metaphors today, and write about that tomorrow. Any thoughts? Leave a comment.

Other posts in this series: If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

f3n1x_hvn732 May 14, 2012 at 1:08 PM

I think a good name for energy could be “activator essence”. Or something like that. Is like everything (signature and structures) are made of energy::magick, but need an extra to work or to make then work better. Other name could be “mental activator” or “mental stream” because it is controlled by the mind, and active them, and the stream metaphor refers at the quality of the energy (it flows from one signature-structure to another).


Mike Sententia May 15, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Neat ideas. I like “activator.” Thanks!


Kol Drake May 15, 2012 at 12:57 AM

Did some surfing; looking at definitions for ‘body energy’ and ‘subtle energy’. Kind of liked this bit…

Kundalini is described as a sleeping, dormant potential force in the human organism. It is one of the components of an esoteric description of the ‘subtle body’, which consists of nadis (energy channels), chakras (psychic centres), prana (subtle energy), and bindu (drops of essence).

But had to wonder. Is chi or kundalini ‘subtle energy’ the same as the ‘magic energy’ you are working with — with your system?


Mike Sententia May 15, 2012 at 10:09 AM

Thanks Kol. I’m a little nervous about kundalini because I associate it with tantra and sex magick (again, not sure if that’s accurate, just my personal association). But “subtle body” is pretty widely used and feels good. A Theosophical friend uses “subtle matter” for my term “structure,” so that might be a good overlap there. Thanks!


wsa May 15, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Wow! A lot happened while I was off-line the last few days. I want to comment on a lot but I will start here.

In my opinion, precise terminology is incredibly important (even though I am the very one who quoted “the Tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao”). In my experience and observation, it can be a terrible burden or an incredible benefit, so it’s certainly worth spending some deep contemplation upon, even if it takes quite a long time.

For what it’s worth, I vote against Mike using any established Oriental or Indian terms (Qi, Chi, Ki, Prana, Kundalini, etc.) in place of his previous term “Energy”. The reason why is that each of those terms already have very specific and complete definitions; definitions that might have certain connotations he might not want, and frankly, might not even understand. For instance, I am a licensed practitioner of Chinese Medicine and have been studying Chinese Medicine formally for more than a fifteen years, practicing for more than a decade and even *I* do not understand the depths of the world “Qi” in just the practice of medicine not to mention in Daoism or in martial arts. Nor am I fluent in Chinese, nor Ancient Chinese nor Medical Chinese, modern or ancient; and unless I were, I could not claim to understand the depths of just the *definition* of “Qi”. That does not mean I cannot use Qi for my purposes in medicine or the word in conversation, but were I trying to establish a precise vocabulary of a new lineage of Magick I certainly would not use the word “Qi” unless I meant to encompass all its connotations. All the foreign language terms have the same issues, albeit some a bit further along, possibly, on the translation-into-English issue.

By the way, just in case you are wondering, it’s not at all unusual in Anglophone Oriental Medicine circles to argue about the precise definitions of words we use in the fundamental philosophy and practice of our Art; it’s an ongoing bloody battle, years in the waging, that you can see for yourself if you sign up to Oriental Medicine listservs and you can see in the literature if you read the ever more numerous highly technical books and journal articles on the philosophy of Oriental, usually Chinese, Medicine.

I think Mike would be far better off to use either an established word like “Energy” even with all its uncomfortable connotations that he can then specifically define and/or limit for use within his system of Direct Magick. Or he could coin a completely new term (a la “Orgone”,) but personally, I like this option less because it might be more daunting for the very people he would like to attract to his work. Resurrecting a dead language term is also problematic for the same reason that co-opting an established Eastern/Oriental term would be.

I think it’s worthwhile to remember, there are people in the world that know the true and complete definition of both Oriental/Indian terms and of dead-language terms and not only might they be confused, but they might also be offended. The food-fight on the listservs about the definition of Oriental medicine terms and of, oddly enough, Buddhist philosophical terms in actual definition and in proper translation definition is highly instructive as to what Mike most probably would not want to happen with his vocabulary terms for his system; and it could easily devolve into problems should people who have a vested interest in arguing about those terms become interested in Mike’s system. Those years-ongoing… maybe decades-ongoing now, nitpicky, food-fights detract from the essence of the Arts and Practices involved. It could be very distracting to the essence of what Mike is trying to transmit into the world should this happen over his terms.


Mike Sententia May 15, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Looks like someone will have to check the blog more often :)

I agree with a lot of these concerns, and I definitely don’t want to draw flame wars just based on my terms. I’m leaning toward 2-word metaphors, like “ethereal software” and “mental muscles,” which will hopefully avoid these problems. Thanks for pointing out these landmines.


simon May 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Phil Farber has an interesting article on the relationship between hypnosis and ‘chi’. Its not that he’s arrived at some definitive answer to all this that its interesting- but because one of his definitions for what we are discussing over here is ‘focus of attention’

I don’t know enough about Mike’s model (i.e following it and experiencing it) to comment too much. But ‘focus of attention’ sounds rather like the idea of ‘mental posture’. I’m not sure what that implies about the need for a concept of ‘energy’ that is clearly independent of the ‘focus of attention’ or ‘mental posture’.

I have to say- Whilst i’ve worked with the metaphor of ‘energy’ in my own practice- i’ve always been very agnostic about what it is. To the extent I’m not even sure its anything outside of what psycho-physiology has already accounted for.

But I get the feeling Mike has worked with what he calls ‘energy’ enough that he feels it warrants classification as an independent and ‘objective’ phenomenon (and that he tends away from overly ‘psychological’ metaphors.)

sigh…philosophy of science eh? irritating but unavoidable.


Mike Sententia May 15, 2012 at 2:33 PM

I like that post, how he makes the concept non-threatening to sciencey folks. Thanks for sharing it.

To me, energy is a real, external thing. I think it has to do with what we want to model: If all you want to do is account for the tingly feeling when you do certain meditations, then proprioception and attention are all that you require. If you need something in your model to account for the difference between active and inactive magickal structures, and for a thing that shifts the signature of another person’s mental muscles (you shift their signature, which then makes them unable to do magick temporarily), then you need something like energy.

One of the things I’ve become more aware of in the past year, though, is that most people examine models in good faith, and weigh them against their own experiences. So, if you haven’t experienced those aspects of energy, it’s totally rational for you to explain it all as proprioception. Which helps me see how to get people on board with my style: I need to give you exercises so you can have the same experiences that convinced me that energy is a real, external thing, then let you convince yourself. Which, of course, is coming up sometime later this year.


Audrey February 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Do you think matter and energy are controlled mentally?


Mike Sententia February 17, 2014 at 3:57 PM

No. Magickal energy seems to be controlled mentally, but matter is pretty clearly not. Matter seems to be influenced in some ways by magickal energy — cellular processes seem to be influenced by healing energy, for example. But that’s very different than saying matter is controlled mentally.


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