2 Questions on Visualization

by Mike Sententia on March 7, 2014

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Steven writes (his text in italics):

Hey there, I have two questions.

First, to practice building up energy, instead of visualizing mist going into my lungs, I find it easier to imagine static electricity going up my spine and then with each breath in it slowly grows around my body, but I’m unsure if that will work the same, I’m sure it will but I figured I’d ask.

“Work the same” is tricky. How does your unconscious mind respond to images of glowing mist? How does it respond to images of static electricity? I don’t know. Your mind will respond differently to different visualizations, but everyone’s mind is different, so I can’t tell you how you’ll respond.

Visualization-based magick is all about how your unique mind responds to images. That varies from person to person, and even from day to day, with your mood and hunger and whatever else. It’s inherently imprecise. That’s part of why I avoid visualizations, and instead direct my ethereal muscles consciously.

But you might be asking, “Will this visualization work to build energy?” Yes, it probably will. And if it feels more natural than visualizing mist, then do it. Just don’t expect your mind to respond to either visualization in the same way my mind does.

The next question is something I’ve wondered for a long time, the term “visualization” has always confused me, what exactly does it mean? Am I supposed to close my eyes and see actual images of lighting going up my spine, or am I just thinking of it (imagining) like I would a day dream? I apologize for the long message but I feel these questions are important to me growing as a mage, so I had to ask, thank you for your time, may the fates grant you fortune.

I actually don’t know. I’ve always visualized by closing my eyes and picturing the image. I relax, focusing on the images without tensing my body or face.

But I rarely use visualization for magick. Certainly not as part of my own practice. So I’m probably the wrong guy to ask.

Readers: Are any of you the right person to ask? Got tips for Steven on visualization? Please help him out.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ananael Qaa March 8, 2014 at 11:30 AM

In my experience people who are drawn to magick have a sort of “magical sense” that tends to be mediated by one or more of their normal senses. Some people experience it visually, others audibly, and others by touch. I haven’t come across anyone who experiences it via taste or smell, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Seeing auras and connecting strongly with visualized images is visual processing, traditional mediumship like conversing with spirits is auditory processing, and experiencing bodily sensation is touch or kinesthetic processing. It seems to me that Steven experiences magical phenomena via touch/kinesthesis rather than vision, which means using that modality is probably going to give him better results. So I think he should go with it and not worry about connecting with visualizations if they’re just not the way he naturally processes the information.

By the way, oddly enough I haven’t found that magical senses seem to correlate with how you normally think. I’m a strongly visual thinker, but my magical sense runs more along the auditory and touch/kinesthetic modalities. I can do visualizations, but I’m not nearly as good at them as a lot of other magicians I’ve met. I rely a lot more on energy sensations and so forth, kind of like how Steven describes his method of working.

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Mike Sententia March 10, 2014 at 8:58 PM

That’s really interesting — I’d heard about the different modalities of learning / suggestion, and had always assumed they corresponded to how people experience magick. But thinking about it, I’m more visual for learning, but tactile for magick. Interesting that they don’t correspond for most people. Thanks!

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John W. A. March 9, 2014 at 1:11 AM

I recently was writing something about this on my blog, Mystic Journal.

Ananael’s comment was really useful, but it was more specific on Visualization techniques themselves. However, I believe Visualization is just part of one’s Interface, or a dynamic, subconscious belief system which can behave interactively with the user’s conscious mind, to create the illusion that one is dealing directly with the physical world rather than the subconscious mind’s Interface. You can check more here:

Designing An Interactive Magickal Interface” – http://wp.me/p31b5Q-bq

Good post, Mike. But I’d like to see more written about Interfaces at large (and not just my take on them). I’d also like to ask if you or Ananael could write something about the step-by-step process of determining if you’re using an Interface, how to design one, the pros and cons of such a system, etc. An in-depth look would be awesome! =)

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Ananael Qaa March 10, 2014 at 9:34 AM

I’m probably not the best person to write such a thing, as I’m still on the fence about the validity of the software/interface metaphor. I also don’t believe in a coherent “subconscious mind,” so there’s that as well. Mike has written some stuff about this in the past with respect to his ethereal software and so forth, though. As I recall he has a couple of articles up here on how to connect with his software, and what it’s supposed to feel like. I imagine that would be an “interface” of a sort.

Now if your question is how you know whether you’re in communication with an intelligence outside your personal sphere of awareness, there are a couple of methods I use for that. Basically, you want to see if what you’re in communication with can give you accurate information that you couldn’t possibly know. So you can ask verifiable questions, then test and verify. For spiritual contacts, a good way to test is to ask the spirit for a number after they give you a piece of advice. Then you look the number up in a gematria encyclopedia like Godwin’s and see if it matches a concept that lines up with the information. If you find a good match, you have a good piece of information. Otherwise you may not.

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Mike Sententia March 10, 2014 at 10:45 PM

@John: In your post, you set up a straw man argument. Direct magick isn’t about directly affecting each individual atom, that’s obviously silly. Direct magick is about guiding your ethereal muscles consciously, rather than using visualizations (which are inherently imprecise), and about interacting with energy, connections, and other magickal structures directly (instead of using ethereal software).

In terms of interfaces, I think we simply part ways there. You seem interested in coming up with more ways to think about magick — metaphors to communicate your intent to your unconscious mind. I’m interested in developing an accurate model of how magick works under the hood, so we can use those underlying mechanisms to solve bigger problems. You can see this disconnect in previous conversations, where I use “model” to mean “scientific model,” and you use “model” to mean “way to think about magick.” When you ask about interfaces, you’re asking, “How do you decide what metaphor to use for magick?” Which is actually an interesting question, just not in the way you mean it. I answer that today:

https://magickofthought.com/2014/03/understanding-magick-metaphors-come-last/

In terms of interfaces in direct magick:

Ethereal software generally has an interface. That’s the set of commands. Software for experts will let you specify goals precisely, but requires good communication. Software for non-experts has a small number of clearly-different commands, so even if you don’t communicate well, it will probably know what you want. I’m sure there are other considerations, too, that I haven’t learned yet.

You can also use an interface for ethereal muscles. If you leave them unconscious, then you’ll communicate your intent to your unconscious mind through visualizations, symbols, beliefs, and so on. This is inherently imprecise. Instead, in direct magick, we make our ethereal muscles conscious, removing this interface.

@Ananael: Good answer.

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George March 11, 2014 at 12:08 AM

A lot of this is terminology, perhaps…

Surely the key thing about science is that “science is a method, not an ontology”, as the saying goes.

Scientific models really are just metaphorical constructs like any other – what sets them apart is that they are testable by experiment, and yield consistent repeatable results using an external independent observer. It’s their attachment to the method that makes them “scientific”. But this is a problem for magick.

Magick is always going to have the problem that the ‘action’ bit is subjective (by which I mean ‘internal’), because we do it with our minds. It has the same problems in that regard as the study of creativity. Whilst we might come up with methods or approaches and describe them and recommend them, we can never observe what’s going on in a person’s mind or be certain that two minds are doing the same thing. So unless we make some assumptions and take the MRI route, the science part begins after that. Personal reporting of internal experience isn’t sufficient: that’s not science, that’s psychology. Both the cause and the result must be physically observable in some way.

This doesn’t preclude a ‘science of the first person’, where each individual takes a results-oriented approach to one’s own internal work – including an external statement of intent – but every serious mage should be doing that anyway. But from a real science point of view, that inner stuff can never truly be ‘scientific’ in the general sense.

I think that’s what John is getting at. He has the concept of the “ITA gap” – the Interface-To-Action gap. The ‘interface’ being the (unobservable) stuff you’re doing in your head, the ‘action’ being the first observable step. When he talks about ‘model’ he’s not really talking about the ‘best way to think about magick’, he talking about the best way to do magick: which ‘mental objects’ one creates and how to use them. Those mental objects are the ‘interface’. And since those objects are made of mind-stuff rather than matter, no matter what the details of the experience, they can be referred to as metaphorical, and hence constitute a model. It’s just that they ‘represent themselves’.

Fundamentally, I don’t think you’re all that far apart in what you’re shooting for. The main thing is always surely, is it a useful description or approach, does it produce repeatable results? That’s the proof.

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John W. A. March 11, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Thanks, George. You got the gist of what I’ve been trying to say. =)

And great comment, by the way.

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Mike Sententia March 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Thanks. That makes sense, and it helps me understand what you and John are saying.

Here’s direct magick, using those terms:

1. Take the parts of your mind that drive magick, make them conscious. Interact with them directly, rather than through visualization or metaphors. More: https://magickofthought.com/2013/03/what-i-use-instead-of-visualization/

2. Explore what those parts of your mind do, what they interact with, and what mechanisms allow the change in the world.

I’m fabulously uninterested in more ways to communicate my intent to my ethereal muscles. That’s a solved problem: Make them conscious, move them like you move your arm. I’m really only interested in what happens after they start moving.

If one of your core tenets is that we can never understand what happens between “think this thing” and “change in the external world,” then this probably isn’t the blog for you.

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George March 11, 2014 at 10:40 AM

We’re all on the same page, it seems to me, it’s just terminology.

It’s the fact you’ve got hold of something that is persistent and reusable and can be used as if it’s a part of you. And then using it. Discovering your magickal limbs.

It’s not ‘think this thing’, because that would be more ‘thinking about’? The arm analogy is a favourite of mine too: There’s a difference between ‘thinking about’ moving your arm and being your arm and moving it. You don’t need to communicate with your arm; you are your arm. (Nor does it matter if you have a lever-based model for arm movement or a more sophisticated one involving brain signals, for instance.)

I’ve think we’ve sorted this, and can move on!

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