Spirits, Readme’s, and Other Ethereal Software Tricks

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Last week, we talked about what ethereal software is and isn’t. But why bother including it at all? Why not just describe everything as “natural laws”?

Well, if you only want to do one system of magick — Golden Dawn, Reiki, whatever — then it probably is simpler to just explain everything as natural laws. Those correspondences? The way a symbol affects energy, or a ritual causes change? They just do. Natural laws.

And if you want to learn several systems of magick, but only work within each system, using that system’s symbols and patterns to create rituals, then it’s probably still simpler to think of everything as natural laws. There’s Reiki laws, and Hermetic laws, and so on.

I’m after insight. For me, “natural law” isn’t a satisfying explanation. Here’s why: Once I observe that this ritual leads to that outcome, telling me it’s a “natural law” doesn’t add anything. It doesn’t suggest a mechanism I can investigate, doesn’t suggest further tests to try, doesn’t tell me anything beyond the initial observation that “this ritual leads to this outcome.” It sounds like an answer, and can quiet your curiosity, but it doesn’t lead to bigger and better things. Like eating candy, it can fill you up but it has no nutritional value. If you’re like me, you’ll want to explore why those rituals and symbols and whatnot behave the way they do, not just quiet your curiosity and move on.

Also, I want to mention: Don’t get too caught up with the software metaphor. I didn’t set out to explain magick as software, and until I started writing, I called those forces “systems.” Just an empty term, so I could explore how they behave, learn to use them well. I only adopted the software metaphor to make my work more accessible.

It turns out, exploring how those forces behave, and the commonalities between those forces, leads to useful techniques. Here are a few examples:

I recall in my early 20s, being bothered by a spirit. I had an idea: What if I send the spirit’s software a message in the software’s signature? Maybe it would think the message came from somewhere internal, and maybe it would respond. So I did, and it worked. I was surprised — I hadn’t actually expected that to work the first time. But I told the software to disconnect from the spirit and refuse to connect to me, and the attack ended immediately. Problem solved.

That became a staple in any magick fight. And it turns out, most ethereal software responds the same way, treating any message in its signature as coming from a legitimate user. It’s one of the ways I explore new systems of magick to this day.

Another trick: Readme’s. I often get new ethereal software from spirits, or from other software, or sometimes from a sigil in an established magickal system. The first step is usually the same: Ask the software, “Requesting basic instructions and basic use instructions.” Like readme’s of ordinary software, most ethereal software has recorded messages, provided by the programmers, telling users what the software is for and how to use it. Useless if you only want to learn one system of magick, but great for crawling around the inner-workings of magick and exploring a dozen softwares a year.

Similarly, asking, “Connect me to the folks who made you” (or “own you”) can help you find spirits to work with. Not how I did it initially, but if somehow all the spirits I know disappeared, this is how I would find more. (Note: This command often has better security on it, requiring a closer match to the software’s signature. Also, the spirits can choose to ignore you — think of it as getting the email address of a potential employer, it’s still up to you to be interesting enough for them to write back.)

Lastly, programming. I talk about it because, well, it seems so natural. I programmed computers, after all. Plus it’s some of my active research. But really, it’s advanced direct magick — not just advanced magick, but specifically direct magick, requiring you to do magick without ethereal software. And it’s only really useful when you run into a problem your ethereal software can’t solve, but that you could figure out how to solve with magick. I’ve only found a few problems like that myself. So, I’ve come to think of programming as more aspirational than practical: Some day, I hope to push magick well beyond what it can presently do, which will require programming ethereal software. But for now, and especially for newcomers to direct magick, I think it’s best to focus on using, exploring, and hacking ethereal software, and leave the programming for later.

Because, really, you can do some neat stuff once you learn to communicate clearly with ethereal software.

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