Symbols Evolve

Friday, April 29th, 2011

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What should you visualize, exactly?

If you do ritual magick, you have books telling you exactly what to say and do. The full recipe for the ritual.

Through your school years, books told you exactly what answers to recite and exactly how to solve math problems. They gave you recipes.

So you might reasonably expect me to provide recipes for direct magick. A pre-packaged series of visualizations for each technique.

What The Common View Misses

Visualizations are the language that your conscious mind uses to talk with your unconscious. That isn’t just a trite metaphor. Visualizations share 2 important features with spoken words:

  • Words have no inherent meaning. There’s no reason “stove” means what it means and not something else. We learn words through repeated use, until they feel natural, until we no longer realize they’re arbitrary. You’ll do the same with visualizations.
  • Words evolve over time. When you only do energy meditations, you only need to communicate “energy.” Then you’ll want to say “connection,” to make a path for that energy to follow. Then, difference between “healing energy” and “normal energy,” and between “energy in my signature” and “energy in my friend’s signature,” and so on. Like the Eskimos, who have 32 words for “snow,” you’ll develop visualizations for different types of energy and connections and structures as you learn magick.

That’s why I don’t tell you exactly what to visualize on most direct magick techniques. Because magick isn’t in the visualization. Magick lives in the thinking that lets you create the visualization.

What Those Details Let You Do

Creating visualizations is a skill. Here’s how I do it, and how this process will help you learn magick better.

First, a couple of terms, for the 2 kinds of things I visualize:

  • Components of magick: Connections, energies, etc. The moving pieces you act on.
  • Procedures: A series of steps using those components, like building energy in your chest or tracing a path to see who is connecting to you.

Visualizing Components

To make visualizations for components — signatures, energy, connections, etc — I think about what the component does, and let that suggest a metaphor to your mind.

For example: Energy powers things, so when I started magick, I saw it as a glow. Connections carry energy, so I represented them with wires. Remember, the details don’t matter. I could have seen connections as a tube or a string. As long as the behavior you’re trying to represent (“connections carry energy”) makes visual sense, it’ll work fine.

What does matter is what that visual says to your unconscious. You need to associate “magickal structure that carries energy” with imagining a piece of wire / string / etc. I have 2 methods for this:

  • Ask your unconscious what it wants you to use: Meditate (quiet your mind, clear your head). Think about the behavior of a connection. Let the visualization enter your thoughts.
  • Tell your unconscious about the association: Pick a visualization that makes sense to your conscious mind. Engage your mental posture for magick, use that visualization to do a simple task, while holding in your head what the visualization represents (“Wire = connection”).

When I teach mental posture, students use the second method to create new visualizations. I prefer the second method in my own work, too. But if you’re new to magick, you might not have a strong mental posture yet. So try both and see which works better for you.

Both methods have you focus on what a connection does. But before you can do that, you have to intuitively grasp how a connection behaves, so when you think “wire = connection,” you’re not just thinking the word, you’re thinking  the concept. That’s why copying my visualizations won’t work: Because the important part isn’t the image, it’s the concept.

If you want help figuring out what a component does, read about it. Click on a topic in the tag cloud to the right for a list of posts.

Visualizing Procedures

Once you can visualize components, you can make procedures. To sense someone else’s energy, visualize a connection without any energy moving along it, with your energy staying steady inside your body, and their energy flowing up your connection into your brain. Once you have the language of energy and connections, you can easily turn those steps into specific visualizations that speak to your mind.

With practice, my unconscious learned that “connection without energy” procedure, so now I don’t need to tell it every step, I can just visualize a connection without energy and my unconscious knows do the rest.

Evolving Visualizations

As I used connections, I noticed that some were bundled together in paths. I visualized those bundles as a co-ax cable (like you use for your TV), which bundles together a lot of wires. Now I had two “words” for connection: A single connection (a wire) and a bundle of connections (a cable). Let your visualizations adapt to what you’re working with.

I made new procedures with those bundles, acting on some wires and not others. Again, with time, my unconscious learned to do the procedure without much guidance, and I simplified the visualization until I was just telling my unconscious the goal, not guiding it through the process.

Several years later, I no longer distinguish between single connections and bundles for most tasks. My unconscious simply knows how to handle both of them, and doesn’t need my conscious guidance anymore. So I’ve let the visualization simplify back into seeing connections as lines.

But telling you to “see connections as lines” is completely unhelpful. It only works if you’ve already trained your unconscious about what connections are, how they behave, and how to use them. Training your mind is what matters.

So let your visualizations evolve. Let them become more complex as you pay more attention to certain parts. Let them simplify until they’re symbols, a shared shorthand for your conscious and unconscious minds.

Don’t worry that your visualizations aren’t the same as mine. They’re not supposed to be.

Non-Visual Visualizations

Visualizations don’t need to be visual. I feel signatures. You might hear the pressure of a connection. Communicate your intent and your instructions to your unconscious any way that feels natural. You’ll probably find methods that work for you but don’t work for other people. That’s part of the fun of exploring magick.

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3 Things You Don’t Know About Visualization (But Should)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

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Visualization seems so simple: You imagine something, focus on it, and let it happen.

But because it seems simple, we don’t examine it properly. “Think it and it happens” describes some magick, but it doesn’t explain how it works. It doesn’t answer questions like:

  • What’s the difference between an experienced mage visualizing effectively and a non-mage imagining the same thing?
  • When do visualizations work, when don’t they, and why?
  • How can you create better visualizations to do magick more quickly and reliably?

Here are my answers, based on my experience with the unconscious parts of magick. They should be useful to novice through intermediate mages, plus with anyone who teaches them.

Visualization = Imagination + Mental Posture

To most people, visualization means “focusing on images.” It’s the more serious cousin of imagination.

What the Common View Misses

Magickal visualization starts by engaging the parts of your mind that drive magick (your “mental muscles”), making sure they’re paying attention and ready to respond. Then you focus on images.

That preparation is critical. It makes the difference between wishful thinking and reliable magick. Which is roughly the difference between playing air guitar and real guitar.

That preparation is also the hard part. Anyone can focus on an image. But you need practice and training to find the right parts of your mind to create magick. I call that skill “mental posture.” It’s what makes magick work.

What Those Details Let You Do

By learning to consciously control your mental posture, you can engage the right parts of your mind to make magick work anytime. I explain how in this post. (That post gives several options for “Next” at the bottom, but this post isn’t one of them. Just hit “back” to return here).

Continue to Part 2

This post was short, so I’m posting part 2 today also.

Continue to Part 2: Why some visualizations fail, and what to do about it.

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Why Visualizations Fail – And What to Do About It

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

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This is post 2 in a series. Start with the first post here.

Once you’re sending instructions to your mental muscles — the parts of your mind that drive magick, analogous to how your arm muscles drive arm movement — what do you tell them?

If you follow most guides, you’ll tell them your intent. Visualize money coming to you. Visualize a shell protecting you from harm. Visualize energy entering your body and healing you.

The problem is, it doesn’t work reliably. Here’s why.

What the Common View Misses

Those visuals only tell your unconscious what you want to happen, now how to make it happen.

But maybe your unconscious already knows how to do everything. What’s that? You can’t draw a portrait, play a guitar and construct a house without training and practice?

OK, that was sarcasm. But it’s so obvious in every normal skill: You need to practice each step first. You learn to draw lines and shapes before drawing a portrait, play chords before playing a song, read architecture diagrams and pour a foundation before constructing a house.

So why do we expect the unconscious to simply know how to do magick?

I think it’s because we accept unreliability in magick. As though that’s just how it works. Which is a deeper problem for a bigger post.

What Those Details Let You Do

Once you accept that you weren’t born knowing how to do magick, you can teach yourself the skills to make magick work.

Think about playing a guitar. What’s the first thing you learn? Chords and notes. That is, how to move your fingers (something you can already do) to play a particular chord (something you can’t do yet).

Once that becomes easy, you learn to string together a series of chords (which you now know) to play a song (which you can’t do yet). Then you learn another song the same way, but it’s a little easier because you’re a little better.

Once you master the instrument, all these things become unconscious and you simply play the notes you see. But that’s the end point, not the start.

Let’s apply that pattern to magick.

Say you want to shield yourself properly. That works by closing the connections you have to everything around you — things you touch, look at, think about, etc.

A standard visualization would be “see a white bubble surrounding you.” Notice it doesn’t tell your unconscious anything specific about connections. It just tells the intent, not the method.

Instead, try this:

  1. Learn to recognize a connection. For example, quiet your energy, and have a friend connect to you, so you can learn how it feels. Then, have your friend sometimes pretend to connect but not really do it, so you can verify you’re noticing it correctly.
  2. Visualize grabbing and blocking that connection. Visualize closing it. These are simple steps your unconscious probably knows how to do. Practice this until it becomes easy.
  3. Now that your unconscious knows how to block a connection, simplify the visualization you used, and apply it to your entire body. If you saw the connection as a wire, and blocking it was cutting that wire, then visualize cutting all the wires all around you.

But wait. Why not just skip the first 2 steps and visualize cutting all the wires?

Simple. Because you need to train your mind how to cut one wire before you can ask it to cut them all. Just like you would practice each chord separately before trying to play a song, you should practice each skill separately before trying to do a complex technique.

You can do this with the core skills that separate novices from experts, too. My entire series on sensory connections — connections that let you accurately see the moving parts of magick — is based around teaching you a skill, letting you practice it, then using that skill as a building block of a more complex skill. That’s how I’ve always learned magick, and I think that’s how I always will.

Not sure what the steps are for a particular skill? No problem. In most of my posts, I’ll explain the steps to construct each technique. If you don’t know how to do a step, follow that link, and that post will explain that step’s sub-steps. Just keep following links until you get to magick skills you’re familiar with, then work your way up.

I know, it’s much less sexy than “visualize money and it will come to you.” But it works.

Part 3

Come back next week for part 3.

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