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Let’s clear up some misconceptions about ethereal software.
This post was inspired by Ananael’s comment, where he laid out some of his understanding of my model. Now, Ananael is an experienced mage, a longtime reader, and generally a smart guy. If he’s misunderstanding my model, others probably do too. Which means I should try to explain it more clearly.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Ethereal Software = Egregore
Not really. But it’s a good starting point.
Words do two things. First, they point to external objects. That man, this cup, those ships. We use words to point to things.
In that sense, “ethereal software” and “egregore” both point to the same external objects — the forces we contact and channel for magick.
But words also suggest purpose, use, and other connotations. Is that music, or just noise? Is it graffiti or art? I chose to use a new term because I disagree with the connotations around egregores — where they come from, how to best use them, and so on. I discuss that here (written when I used the word “system” instead of “ethereal software.”)
Programming vs Using
When I use ethereal software, I tell it what I want to happen. That could be a short instruction (“make me successful in this job interview”) or complex (“heal this cold, and adjust the signature every 5 minutes for the next 24 hours“). Note that I never said how to make me successful, or what energy to use for the cold. I assumed the software already knew how to do that.
When I program ethereal software, I show it how to do something new. For energy healing, that means using my ethereal muscles to produce energy in certain signatures, showing the ethereal software which tissues get those signatures, and describing what to do: “When I tell you to reduce her auto-immune sensitivity, apply this signature throughout her body for 3 hours.”
In order to program ethereal software, you must first do the magick without the software. That’s the origin of the term “direct magick”: Doing magick by directly applying connections and energy and other magickal structures, rather than telling a force what we want to happen.
You’ll notice that, just like computer software, programming and using are two separate skills, and generally not done at the same time. First you program ethereal software, then you (or someone else) uses it.
Most people never program ethereal software. I didn’t program anything until I’d been doing magick for almost 20 years, and doing it directly for 5-10 years. These forces can already do so much, it’s just rare to run into things they can’t handle.
(There’s also a middle-ground, where you name a complex command so you can use it easily. For example, “Whenever I tell you to heal a cold, by default, adjust the signature every 5 minutes for the next 24 hours.” Useful when making a command for someone else to use, if they cannot clearly communicate complex commands.)
Ethereal Software and Rituals
Rituals aren’t required to use ethereal software. In fact, most of the software I personally use was designed for spirits, and has no concept of a ritual; you have to communicate by packaging your thoughts into a message, like when you talk to spirits. But lots of mages do rituals, and Ananael was asking about them, so let’s talk rituals.
As a ceremonial practitioner, if I’m going to employ a software metaphor at all it seems to me that the “commands” in magick are akin not to each variation of a full ritual but rather the spirit names, words of power, and figures employed to construct those rituals. The “programming” takes place when a magician assembles those “commands” into a structure. So the Star Ruby is separate from an LRP because it calls on different names and godforms, but if you take apart the LRP, keep all the names and spirits, and put it back together to look more like a Star Ruby (which as I recall I sent you an example of) it’s still an LRP, just optimized differently.
I think this is a miscommunication about just what it means to “program” ethereal software.
Ananael is communicating his intent to the ethereal software. He’s doing it using a complex symbolic language. I can see why he might think of that as programming.
But remember, programming is when you show ethereal software how to do something it doesn’t understand yet. What signature to apply to which tissue for a particular healing technique. It’s not about explaining your goals, it’s about doing the magick yourself, with your own ethereal muscles, so the software can copy you.
(I’m not sure what the equivalent would be for manifesting, I haven’t programmed that software yet. But the first step would be figuring out how it functions under the hood, doing what the manifesting software does using only your own ethereal muscles, then showing it how to do that new technique. Which isn’t the sort of thing a normal user needs to do.)
The rituals I’ve seen — LBRP, OTO Mass, a few others — seem like a way to express your intent using a complex symbolic language. Someone (probably a spirit) programmed those symbols and correspondences into the software, then people learn the symbols and correspondences and use them to communicate with the software. It’s rather clever, actually, because it’s probably easier to explain these symbols than it is to explain how to clearly communicate with the software using only your thoughts. But the programming happened earlier, when that spirit set the software to know how to implement those commands and intents.
One more misunderstanding to clear up:
As I recall, you originally came up with the idea based on the concept that ceremonial magicians don’t change their rituals. The implication there, then, is that any trivial change to something like the LRP makes it “different software.” But to anyone who’s practiced the ritual that obviously isn’t true – magicians vary it all the time within reason and it works the same way and draws the same energy.
The origins are quite different, actually. I originally noticed how all these different systems of magick, with different theories about why magick works and how to use it, produced similar results. That suggests there’s a single mechanism shared by all those systems.
Also, the changes in the world that magick creates are much more complex than you could express in a sigil or ritual. Whatever magick does at the atomic level, however it figures out what will happen in the future and which ways to influence the present, something extremely complex must be going on. Which means something equally complex must be driving those changes, taking our instructions and figuring out the details of creating that change in the world.
(That equally complex thing is a combination of the software itself, and the spirits / people who programmed it.)
Now, the details of ethereal software — how we connect and interact, what exactly it does, if there’s one or many of them, etc — didn’t come from those ideas. The details came from working with ethereal software, asking spirits about it, and testing things out myself and with other people.
As for changing a ritual, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Remember how my sigil has 6 symbols? My ethereal software is bound to each symbol. So, you could mess with the overall sigil, reorganize the symbols, even change some of them, and it would probably still work. Redundancy is your friend, and I bet there’s more than one symbol involved in most of your rituals.
When you begin your ritual, the software is already out there, already made. If your ritual uses enough standard symbols and steps, the software will connect to you. If your ritual doesn’t, the software won’t. But doing something weird won’t get you different software, unless you accidentally modified your symbols to look like another system’s symbols.
And all of that is interesting, but probably not what’s at work here. Because doing a standard ritual is just one way to get software to connect. Much more common — the only thing I do, and from what I’ve seen, the normal way ritual practitioners do it too — is to just think about the magick you want to do. See, once you’ve used some ethereal software a few times, (once if you focus on it), your ethereal muscles will remember its signature. And most software will leave a tiny connection to you, to let you contact it again — all my software does this, anyway. So, just remembering the signature will let you contact that software again.
So, when an experienced ritual practitioner does some weird ritual, whether it’s a modified LBRP or some made up thing about Superman? They’re probably contacting the ethereal software by remembering its signature and letting it read their intent. No ritual required.
What does the ritual do, then? At a minimum, if rituals are how you do magick, they’ll help you focus. But I also expect (but don’t know) that most ethereal software used in ritual magick is programmed to respond to the ritual, to take the ritual into account when interpreting the intent it reads from the practitioner’s mind. I could see that adding redundancy to the communication with the ethereal software, and as we all know, redundancy is your friend.
Does that help? I’d like to know if this is clarifying things, for Ananael and the rest of you, so I know if I should go into this in my book. Thanks!
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