Ritual, Magick, and the Brain

by Mike Sententia on August 6, 2014

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Responding to Ritual as Social GlueSimon asks a question I find fascinating, even though I don’t have an answer:

Question here – your magick is very ‘head centered’ in some ways. Do you think there’s ever a case the engaging the body – ie actually moving it in patterns can achieve something in magick that sitting at a laptop cannot? And I mean magick in the more narrowly defined sense – affecting change in the world- rather than building social cohesion etc.

Its been demonstrated that views of the brain as some isolated phenomenon is now obsolete and what you do with your spine has as much influence on your mental faculties as anything else. Ethereal structures may well be ‘unfamiliar matter’ but we are still mediating them through our brain.
I wonder if there is not some correlation here. ‘as above so below’ and all that… maybe its not always the most effective route to sit behind a laptop and avoid doing strange ritual movements etc. I don’t know…

First, let’s review the moving parts: Ethereal muscles are the parts of the mind that interact with energy and drive magick. They are made of ethereal, magickal stuff, rather than nerves. They connect to the brain and respond to our thoughts and intent — that is, ethereal muscles do magick when our brain enters certain states.

To paraphrase Simon, some brain states don’t happen just from thinking ideas while sitting at a laptop. Some parts of your brain are devoted to physical movements, or speaking, or to seeing other humans moving and speaking. What if some of those brain regions let us engage and signal our ethereal muscles in different, useful ways?

I love the idea. Because it’s plausible, and it never occurred to me before. (Yet another reason you should start a blog.)

I don’t have a solid answer, but I do have a few thoughts:

Ethereal muscles seem to be able to connect to many different parts of the mind. That may be why some people see visions, others hear, and still others just receive information — their ethereal muscles may be connecting to the visual, auditory, and memory centers of the brain. Much of learning Direct Magick is helping your ethereal muscles connect to your conscious mind, rather than your unconscious. And around 5 years ago, I did some work connecting my ethereal muscles to the visual parts of my brain, and the information became more visual, a diagram of the tissue I was working with rather than just knowledge about it. So, it may be as simple as, “If your ethereal muscles connect to your physical-movement brain regions, then you need to do ritual. If not, then you don’t.” Which has always been more or less my model.

(Ritual also seems to work like a sigil, connecting the mage to that system’s ethereal software. See the section, Aside: How Do Sigils Work?)

Continuing that reasoning, if a person starts magick by doing ritual, they’re always engaging their physical-movement brain regions whenever they do magick. I could imagine their ethereal muscles bonding to those brain regions, and that those regions would become a necessary part of the mental posture for engaging their ethereal muscles. Whereas in someone who always did magick mentally, their ethereal muscles would probably not bind to the physical-movement brain parts.

But maybe there’s something else. Maybe ethereal muscles have a default set of brain regions they bind to, and one of those regions is the physical-movement one. Maybe that means that doing magick without ritual requires re-binding your ethereal muscles to different regions (through years of practice). Or maybe some ethereal muscles are one way and some are another way, and the only way to get certain ethereal muscles is to engage the physical-movement brain regions. I wouldn’t bet on any of those, but I wouldn’t dismiss them, either.

I don’t have an answer. But the next time I get the chance to do a by-the-books ritual, I’m going to do what I can to find out.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

George August 7, 2014 at 1:35 AM

Additionally, yes the “brain” is really spread throughout the body via the spinal column; there are other centres, such as in the lower abdomen. So it is interesting that physical posture could have quite an effect also, for instance – and vice versa!

Related, perhaps: the psychological gesture in acting, which can also be a physical gesture. Linking this to magickal intention / ethereal muscles?

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Mike Sententia August 7, 2014 at 4:52 PM

Really interesting. Is it possible to tie ethereal muscles / software to the nerves in the arm, so you trigger them with a hand gesture? Could an experienced mage tie ethereal software to the arm muscles of a non-mage, thus letting them do magick without learning much of anything? Could be some really interesting research. Like cyborgs, but with ethereal parts.

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George August 9, 2014 at 8:49 AM

This is an appealing idea: mnemonic triggers, essentially. I don’t see why not. NLP anchoring links to emotional state (‘resources’, in their terminology); so why not link to magickal states.

The idea of us actually introducing, grafting on ethereal software to parts of the body has legs (excuse the pun). It could also be done to, well, other regions for maximum gnosis-effect (for those who subscribe to such things).

Like servitors but attached to physical triggers, programmed to respond to certain gestures.

There’s another article on this, which also talking about ‘leading from the centre’, which is an interesting area. You can find that here. There’s a lot of good stuff to be had from acting resources, and dance imagery in particular; lots of scope for magickal application I think.

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Ananael Qaa August 8, 2014 at 7:58 AM

Having done a lot of work with Qigong, I think I can safely say that in my experience it’s not just the brain, but the entire nervous system that interfaces with what you call ethereal muscles. The Western tradition supports that too, with descriptions of the “body of light” that sound a lot like Alex Grey’s paintings of the nervous system and specific “signs” or postures used in many rituals, even though the energy work component of the Western tradition is less explicit. It seems like a pretty logical jump from your work connecting ethereal muscles to nerves that the same principles should apply to neural cells anywhere in the body.

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Mike Sententia August 9, 2014 at 6:49 AM

That’s an excellent point. I hadn’t been thinking of Qigong, Tai Chi, and other martial arts / energy arts. I’m moving this up my list of “stuff to look into.” Thanks!

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George August 9, 2014 at 8:51 AM

Martial arts is a great metaphor / great resource for magickal work. I think the two are very similar: a certain model of what you’re interacting with, the mind and body movements to take advantage of those.

Yeah, what is ‘chi’ and ‘centres’ but some kind of magickal structure.

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Simon August 8, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Glad its sparked some thoughts. A direct magick form of movement practice one day? Who knows..

Regarding your ambitions to create an organization some point. Its worth having a look at what is being done with the recently instigated Quareia School. http://www.quareia.com

This is teaching more classical magic- but trying to get at the foundations rather than teaching another ‘style’. Why it bears looking at is that the school being entirely online and free with minimal organization is a deliberate strategy. ie not just due to lack of resources.

I think they make a good case why magickal organizations in the future may often have to keep this very light ‘non’ structure. The template they have is potentially useful for giving out training in direct magick.

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