Archive for the ‘Getting Started’ Category

How I Spot Serious Mages

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

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When you meet a new mage, how do you know if they’re serious about magick? You can’t just ask, “Are you a serious mage, or a fluffy one?”

I find it’s useful to mention protection. Even just listing topics: “I do energy healing, manifesting and shielding. What do you do?” Every serious mage I know does some protection, but few fluffy folks do. It’s good for sorting.

Why don’t fluffy folks shield? Well, it’s basically the definition: Being fluffy = Believing that everything is safe and happy and soft and, well, fluffy. After all, if you believe that whatever you expect to happen, will happen, then it makes sense to simply expect spirits to never bother you, rather than learning to shield. I think most people outgrow fluffydom when they realize that approach doesn’t actually work.

Hat tip to Magical Experiments for the recent post on shielding, which made me think of this.

Also, for my long-time readers: I wrote another chapter of the book this morning. It’s good to be back on that project.

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Why Call it “Ethereal Software?”

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

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A new reader who I know in real life asked me about the term “ethereal software.” He uses the common pagan / new age term “The Universe,” and wondered why I don’t just use that. I couldn’t give him a quick answer in real time, so I’m writing my answer now so I’ll have it all ready for next time.

Let me ask you, how natural do the following sentences sound:

  • Which Universe are you channeling for that healing session?
  • Why did The Universe select that particular energy for the healing technique?
  • Let’s call the spirit who programmed The Universe and ask them for training.
  • That’s the wrong healing energy for this condition. Let’s reprogram The Universe to do it better.
  • That spirit is using The Universe to drain your energy. You should remove The Universe’s connections to you, then shield against it.

Now, let’s try them again with the term “ethereal software”:

  • Which ethereal software are you channeling for that healing session?
  • Why did that ethereal software select that particular energy for the healing technique?
  • Let’s call the spirit who programmed that ethereal software and ask them for training.
  • That’s the wrong healing energy for this condition. Let’s reprogram that ethereal software to do it better.
  • That spirit is using some ethereal software to drain your energy. You should remove that ethereal software’s connections to you, then shield against it.

Feels much more natural, right? And since everything starts with asking good questions, it’s vital to make good questions sound natural.

In short, awe-inspiring terms like The Universe shut down investigation and curiosity. No one expects you to understand how the actual universe works, so by calling the thing you’re interacting with “The Universe,” you stop expecting yourself to understand how it works, too.

That’s why I call the forces we channel “ethereal software” instead of “The Universe.”

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The Major Parts of Direct Magick

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

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This is the first non-introduction chapter of my book, defining the terms. Should be particularly useful for new readers. Feedback is welcome. Enjoy.

Before we can work together, we need to learn each others’ terms. Well, I’m a book, so I can’t learn anything. But you’ll need to learn my terms. That’s what Part 1 is for.

Chapter 1 (today) is a quick overview of the major parts of direct magick. I’ll also put this into the Glossary (link at the top of the page) for easy reference.

Ethereal Software

Ethereal software is my term for the external forces that drive most magick.

When you do a ritual, visualization, or send out your intent, you’re sending out instructions about what you want to happen. Those instructions get picked up by ethereal software, which then drives the actual changes in the world. You can think of ethereal software as the force that implements magick’s natural laws, or as the provider of the energy and intuitions you channel.

Like a computer, ethereal software is intelligent, but doesn’t have feelings or emotions. (Spirits, in contrast, are intelligent and sentient, like people.) Ethereal software was programmed, and can be reprogrammed by spirits and mages. We’ll do that in Part 5.

If the concept sounds similar to Chaos Magick’s “egregore,” that’s because it is. In fact, both terms probably refer to some of the same actual forces. But the term “egregore” also tells you how to create and strengthen those forces, how to find concepts with strong egregores, and so on. I use my own term because I don’t want that baggage.

Mental Muscles

Mental muscles are my term for the parts of your mind that drive magick. Engaging them makes the difference between imagining something vs doing actual magick, just like engaging your leg muscles makes the difference between imagining moving vs actually walking. We’ll explore how to awaken and strengthen your mental muscles later in this book.

In most magick, your mental muscles will contact the ethereal software, then get out of the way. But in direct magick — that’s what this book is about — we make our mental muscles conscious, then do magick with just our mental muscles, without relying on ethereal software. You’ll see how that helps us do new magick and get better results later in this book.


Energy is widely used by mages and healers to refer to “that thing that makes you feel tingly.” I use it the same way.

One trap to avoid: Just because it’s called “energy” doesn’t mean it has any similarities to other things called energy. The physics definition of energy (which we’ll write as physics::energy) is “the ability to do work,” but that doesn’t mean that magickal energy (which we’ll write as magick::energy) has an ability to do work. Why? Because we arbitrarily chose to name it energy, and could just as easily have named it something else. Naming a rock “barbecue” wouldn’t make it delicious, and naming the thing that makes you feel tingly “energy” doesn’t make it able to do work.

Have you ever seen a question like, “Does energy healing work by giving cells the energy they need to grow?” It sounds pretty plausible, right? Well, try it with that notation: “Does healing with magick::energy work by giving cells the bio::energy they need?” No, no it doesn’t, because magick::energy isn’t bio::energy. (Remember that the name “energy” was an arbitrary decision. We’ll explore how energy healing actually works in Parts 4-5.)

In this book, assume that “energy” refers to magick::energy.


Connections are how mages interact with most of their magick. Think of them like your arms. You connect to someone to send them energy. Ethereal software connects to your mind to read your intent. You’ll eventually follow the connection from your mental muscles to your mind, so you can connect to more mental muscles. I’ll say “connect to X” a lot, and every time I do, that means you’re using a magickal connection.


Structure is an overarching term for “stable, long-lasting magickal stuff.” It’s like saying “solid” or “made of molecules”: It covers most things you’ll see. Examples of magickal structures: Connections, mental muscles, ethereal software, and so on. Energy is the only non-structure we’ve touched on so far, and it’s not a structure because it’s not stable: It flows through connections and other structures.

Basically, I say “structure” so I’m not saying “magickal stuff” all the time.


You know how each person’s energy feels different? And how some energy calms you, while other energy makes you excited, and so on? I call that feel the “signature” of the energy, or sometimes the “type” of energy. You can think of it as a color, but it’s more similar to a Jackson Pollack painting than a solid green or a rainbow. Some people use the term “vibration” instead.

Structure also has a signature, which determines the types (signatures) of energies it will interact with. That’s not something most models of magick discuss, so don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense right now. We’ll explore it throughout this book, and by the end, you’ll be able to see what I mean and use it for practical techniques.

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Two Years Blogging

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

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I started this blog two years ago today, and I’m so glad I did. It’s exposed me to new ideas (thanks for the comments, everyone), and I’m better at writing and explaining magick because of it.

If you’ve thought about blogging, but you’re worried you don’t write well enough yet, here’s my advice: Get started. No one wrote well at first, except for professional authors, who already went through the pain of learning to write in books. The way to solve that problem? Write, get a friend to give you feedback, and write more.

Also, thank that friend for giving you real feedback instead of empty encouragement like “Looks great.” They risked making you upset and put in honest work because they care about you.

Don’t believe me? Check out my first few posts. They’re awful. Each one took me hours to write.

Two years later, I’m somewhere around decent. A “non-bad writer.” Which is really all you need for non-fiction.

You can do it, too. It’s just a matter of putting the time in.

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How Guided Meditation Hurts Your Magick

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

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Hypnosis is the opposite of true magick. It works by placebo. It puts you in the wrong mental posture for magick. And it bypasses an honest evaluation of what really happened.

Guided meditation hurts your magick because guided meditation is hypnosis.

Last week, at a past-lives workshop in London, I followed 2 guided meditations. The teacher told us to “focus on your breathing,” “relax and hear only my words,” that “outside sounds only relax you further,” etc. Nothing remarkable.

Except that each of those phrases is remarkable. Not because they’re rare (they’re not), but because they’re hypnotic inductions.

I spotted them because I’ve been studying hypnosis this year. Before that, I didn’t think anything was off in those phrases. And most mages, even most teachers, don’t realize what guided meditations really do.

That’s why I’m writing this post:

  • So you can spot hypnosis, keep your wits about you, and figure out for yourself how you want to do magick.
  • To ask teachers to stop using hypnosis, and help them remove it from their exercises.
  • So you can call them on it when they use it anyway.

2 Ways Hypnosis is Bad for Magick

1. Mages derail their learning by falsely believing they’ve done true magick, when they haven’t really done anything. When you’re hypnotized and suggestible, you’ll believe basically anything.

2. Magick requires the right mental posture: Engaging your mental muscles so they respond to your visualizations, rituals and other instructions. Hypnosis is basically the opposite: Much of your mind checks out, and only the suggestible parts stay engaged.

Not only are you more likely to falsely believe you’ve done magick, you’re less likely to truly do it.

By the way, if you do hypnotherapy, or experiment with hypnotizing yourself, that’s different. I’m in favor of that kind of exploration. What I’m talking about here is a teacher who says she’s going to teach magick, doesn’t say anything about hypnosis, and then hypnotizes the class.

Spotting Hypnosis

People think of hypnosis as swinging a watch and telling someone “you’re getting sleepy.”

But really, hypnotic induction (how you get someone into a hypnotic state) is about relaxing the person and slipping suggestions past their conscious mind.

“You’re getting sleepy” fails, because it’s obvious to the conscious mind what’s going on. (It can work to deepen hypnosis once they’re already hypnotized, but it’s too crude for a first induction).

“Pay attention to your breathing, slow it down. Think about the muscles in your face, and notice how, as you think about each one, it relaxes, releasing all your tension” is a much better induction. It misdirects you (focus on your breathing) and gets you to relax without making it obvious what’s going on.

“You may notice your eyes wanting to close. That’s natural. If they do, let them” is good, too. It sounds like I’m just telling you not to worry about your meditation technique, but by bringing up the topic, I’m suggesting that the natural thing right now is to close your eyes.

In short, when the literal meaning of the sentence sounds normal, but the subtext tells you to relax / trust me / go to sleep, that’s an induction. Unless you know what to look for, it won’t look like anything. Which is exactly how hypnosis works.

I’m not a practicing hypnotist. If you are, please leave a comment with your thoughts on how inductions work and how best to spot them.

Also, this dual-meaning — one normal for the conscious, one implied for the unconscious — is also the basis of NLP, as far as I know. Any NLP folks want to chime in?

You’ve Been Hypnotized

These meditations were just like what I’d had in other classes. Just like the ones you’ll follow in your next class. This teacher didn’t decide “I want to hypnotize these students.” She just did what her teacher taught her.

This isn’t a practice done by bad teachers. It’s a bad practice done by all teachers. Myself included. Unless you know how hypnosis sounds, you wouldn’t realize you were doing it.

Next time you take a class, consciously notice each induction, and consciously choose to ignore each one. Then listen to the rest of the meditation fully awake. Ask yourself what it really teaches, and what kind of magickal skills a hypnotized person will really learn. Ask yourself how much credibility you’d give to their accounts of seeing past lives or feeling energy tingles or whatever, if they all happen during hypnosis.

Then ask yourself if that’s the way you want to learn magick.

A Plea to Teachers

Only teach what you know.

If you can’t teach it without hypnosis, don’t teach it at all. If un-hypnotized students don’t get any result, the hypnotized ones aren’t doing real magick.

A class based on hypnosis isn’t teaching. It’s trickery.

Fake successes will affect you as much as they affect your students. Seeing excited students lets you believe you taught them magick. Which keeps you from separating good teaching techniques from bad ones, just like your students can’t tell good magick techniques from bad ones anymore.

It’s less fun to look honestly at what works and only believe in things you have real evidence for, both in teaching and in magick. It’s hard work, not in terms of hours, but in terms of sacrificing pride and accepting failures. It’s not the popular choice.

But it’s the only way to truly learn.

Instead of Hypnosis

You can still use guided meditations. But use them with the proper mental posture for magick (alert, mental muscles engaged, totally un-hypnotized), and focus on using symbols to communicate instructions to the unconscious. That’s the basis of magick, after all.

Explain each symbol before the meditation, when everyone’s fully awake. Make sure they understand what’s going on, what each step means. Make sure they’re on board.

Then help students find the right mental posture. Follow that link for the exercises I teach. You’re welcome to use them, too.

At the end, students will decide for themselves if you taught anything of value. Maybe you’ll be disappointed. But that feedback is the only way to become a great teacher.

Students: You Get What You Pay For

If you pay for hypnosis-based classes, people will teach them. Hell, if 100 people will pay $10 each for “Doing magick by standing on your head,” there will be an upside-down magician taking names. The only way to get good classes teaching real magick is to refuse to pay for anything else.

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Exploring Magick Through Science

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

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It started around 1994 with this question:

Why does magick change the physical world?

Not “This symbol means this, therefore you’ll get this result.” That’s how to use a ritual, not why it works. I wanted all the moving parts that make magick function.

Not “Your unconscious responds to symbols and makes magick happen.” That just names the black box. I wanted to understand how it “makes magick happen.”

Not “Magick works by influencing quantum probabilities.” Even if that’s true, it doesn’t explain the steps that connect a particular ritual to its results.

I wanted a thorough explanation of all the moving parts that make magick work, so I could reason about using them in new ways to do magick better — heal more effectively, get instant results, receive clearer psychic intuitions, etc.

I wanted the science of magick.

17 years later, I’ve made a good start. This series is about where I am, where I’m going, and where I hope you’ll go with me.

Science = Scientific Method

Science isn’t technology. It’s not a microscope or a computer.

Science isn’t the knowledge of a scientific field. It’s not physics, chemistry, or psychology.

Science isn’t in the words you use — trusting science-y terms like “quantum” and distrusting mystical ones like “spirit.”

Science means distilling what works, and discarding what doesn’t, through the scientific method: Systematic explanation, reliable observation, and tests that can disrupt our expectations. I’ll explain how each applies to magick in its own post.

I don’t like science because it’s fashionable or professional-sounding. I like it because it works.

How Science Can Help Your Magick

When someone asks you “how does the internet work?” they might want to know to search with Google, click links, and don’t trust anything promising “a monster in your pants.” Basic user skills.

Or they could want to know how to connect their cable to a wifi router, configure its password, and connect to the network. Advanced user skills.

Or maybe they want to know how to program a website, how movies get turned into electrical signals, and how cookies track you — the technologies that make the internet work.

Now imagine the internet doesn’t exist yet. Or it does, but in the 1994 AOL-era form, before youtube, google and facebook. Which kind of understanding helps you create today’s internet?

Hint: It’s the 3rd kind.

Moving to magick:

Knowing how to visualize energy moving won’t build tomorrow’s magick.

Knowing the symbols of Thelema, Enochian and Kabbalah won’t either.

To build tomorrow’s magick, we need to understand the technologies that make magick work — each piece that helps turn your intent into changes in the world. And science is the best tool to build that understanding.

If Science Isn’t For You

If, as you read this series, you feel like science isn’t for you, that’s fine. Lots of my posts are one-off tips — techniques I’ve developed that you can use without understanding the inner-workings of magick. Click here for a list of those posts.

And you can always come back here later if you want to try science again.

Outline of the Series

How to explore magick through science: Systematic explanation, accurate observation, and tests that can disrupt your expectations. (3 posts, read them in order).

Phases of science: How fields advance from philosophy to mature science, where magick is, and how to move forward.

Getting started: The nuts and bolts of exploring magick through science. (Probably its own series).

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