Posts Tagged ‘Spirits’

Spirit vs Self: How I Check if a Message Came from a Spirit

Monday, March 27th, 2017

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“When talking with spirits, how do you know if the message is from the spirit, or if it’s your own thoughts?” A friend asked me recently.

It’s a sensible question. Spirits don’t appear in front of me or speak audible words. Instead, I think a message, send it to the spirit, then quiet my thoughts and let the spirit’s reply drop into my mind. This is the experience of other practitioners I talk with, and it’s also how we receive psychic intuitions and other information.

I have a couple answers. The first is my day-to-day techniques for telling if a particular message came from the spirit or from my own mind. The second involves my other experiences with spirits, and why I believe in spirits at all.

Recognizing Spirit vs Self

In most sessions, I use two techniques to tell a spirit’s message from my own thoughts. These aren’t intended to prove that the message came from a spirit, and they’re not what convinces me spirits are real, but they’re fast easy techniques to help me check for errors.

The first one happens passively and constantly: A spirit’s message has a different voice in my thoughts. Try this: Recall something someone said to you recently, and picture them saying it. Notice how the memory retains some of their voice? That’s what it’s like: Remembering something said by someone else. The particular voice seems to be related to the spirit’s energy signature, and each spirit I work with has a slightly different voice.

The second one is something I do actively: I’ll try to shift what I’m thinking. If the message is, “Practice communication twice a day,” I’ll try to instead think the message, “Practice running three times a day.” If the words are all my own thoughts, they shift easily. But if they’re a message from a spirit, they have a certain firmness to them, and it takes extra effort to shift my mind away from the message. It’s subtle — I definitely can think anything I want, even while talking with a spirit — but it serves me well, flagging for me things that I heard because I expected to hear them, not because the spirit actually said them.

If I find that I’m not accurately hearing the spirit, I’ll repeat back to them what I heard, and ask them if it’s correct.

Again, I use those techniques to quickly check my communication for errors. But why do I believe in spirits in the first place?

Why I Believe in Spirits

I’ve collaborated with spirits to develop energy healing techniques, and seen people recover quickly afterward.

I’ve trained with spirits, learned techniques for making connections, sensing energy, awakening ethereal muscles, and more. Techniques that weren’t obvious to me, that I probably wouldn’t have come up with on my own, that worked well.

When spirits have trained me in some techniques, I’ve connected to them, felt the energy structures that make up their minds and bodies. When I’ve taught techniques to spirits, I’ve connected to their minds, watched them awaken ethereal muscles, guided them to do it in better ways. On occasion, I’ve even repaired a spirit’s ethereal muscles that were damaged by their errors or by a malicious spirit.

And as I’ve gotten to know a few spirits better, they’ve connected to my mind and body, shared energy for calming, or focus, or pleasure.

The most common, most obvious way to interact with spirits is by talking with them. That’s certainly what I do most of the time. But there’s so much more to do. And those other experiences are the ones that give me confidence that spirits are real and not just in my head.

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Energy Shielding: Keeping the Third Eye Closed

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

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“On my way here, my third eye was forced open,” a friend said at a recent event. “I was driving, it was distracting. I hate it when that happens.”

The phrase, “my third eye was forced open,” didn’t mean anything to me. I asked how it felt, to see if I’d experienced the same phenomenon and called it a different name. She described a pressure in her forehead and her perception shifting sideways.

That’s what I experienced years ago when spirits would forcefully create a connection to me.

“I think I know what it is. If you’re willing, I’d like to try opening your third eye, and if that works I can show you how to keep it closed.”

I connected to her, built energy, pushed on the connection. It worked, she felt that same shift. Hypothesis confirmed.

After I disconnected, she kept experiencing that perception shift, and it kept growing. I guessed that she was making her own connections, now that she was opening. “Find the connections from you to the area around you, and close them,” I told her. After a few seconds, she said the shifting sensation stopped, and that her third eye was closed again.

Next, we practiced stopping the process, so she could prevent her third eye from opening, prevent that shift in perception. I connected to her again, and had her feel those connections. “Notice the pressure, feel the connections, feel where they’re entering your field. Squeeze down on the connections, like tightening a fist or squeezing a sphincter. Close the pathways they’re entering through.”

She did. I felt the connections shut. She didn’t experience the shift in perception, and her third eye stayed closed. Success.

And a note for anyone teaching this: I got a bit of a headache after. I felt into my connections, and noticed some of them still in her field, crushed in her closed pathways. I’d withdrawn my connections before, but like a leg that fell asleep, the crushed parts didn’t move well, and didn’t withdraw properly. They also didn’t have much feeling, so I hadn’t realized they were still there. The headache abated when I slowly, consciously engaged the connections and withdrew them.

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Interview: Ethereal Software, Spirits, and Direct Magick

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

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Greg Carlwood of The Higherside Chats has interviewed Lon Milo Duquette, Jason Miller, and many other interesting magick practitioners. A couple weeks ago, he interviewed me. We explored what manifesting tells us about the nature of time, how spirits form a society, and a bunch of other great topics.

I’m working to finish the Healing Lab website, so no post this week. But enjoy the interview, and leave a comment here with any questions you have or topics you’d like more on.

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Speaking to Spirits: How Disembodied Voices Might Work

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

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If disembodied voices gave you useful information, what would you think? Spirits? Psychosis? And where would you go for help and guidance?

Ladonna Christy asks:

Dear Mike: I am a first time reader of your site. I have been interested being able to hear the spirit guardian who has been with me for over 9 years now. I noticed you mentioned that you will not hear them out loud. What do you think of what I call ( my aunt’s favorite name for it) a “behind the wall” voice? I can hear him at times like a voice behind a brick wall. It isn’t clear but seems to be out loud somewhat like a distant radio. The only thing is if he speaks full sentences, I only clearly pick up a word or two. Yes and no answers are easy but that doesn’t always happen. He is patient with me but sometimes gets annoyed when I just don’t get the message. I will try your technique. I will get back to you if I find I am hearing the whole sentences better and clearer. What is your take on “out loud”? I am not schizophrenic because he has proven himself time and time again. Also if I were schizophrenic I am sure I would hear out loud clearly all the time and the “voice” would be telling me destructive things or something like that, right?

One of the tragedies of the modern world is that we’ve medicalized mystical experiences. Last night, after I shared some of my energy healing experiences, a friend opened up about her mystical experiences, and we became much closer. Sharing these experiences used to be common and connective, but today no one shares them, so we believe we’re the only one with these experiences, and they become isolating. That’s a tragedy.

I’m not qualified to speak about schizophrenia, but I will say that, in many cultures throughout history, receiving useful information from disembodied voices would make you a shaman. I just googled “psychologist shaman” and got a bunch of results, including some PhD psychologists who are also practicing shamen. If you’re distressed, reach out to them — even if they don’t live near you, many psychologists offer sessions over the phone or skype. They can help rule out psychological issues, and also help you decide what direction you want to take with this.

You also ask some technical questions about talking with spirits. Those I can answer:

You mentioned that you will not hear [spirits] out loud. What do you think of what I call a “behind the wall” voice? I can hear him at times like a voice behind a brick wall. It isn’t clear but seems to be out loud somewhat like a distant radio.

I need to lay a little groundwork before I can answer that. I’m going to start with touch, then energy, then answer you on communication.

If you touch your leg, the nerves in your leg respond, sending a signal up your spine to your brain. I’ll call this a “direct sensation.”

If you instead close your eyes and imagine someone touching your leg, you’ll probably feel an odd tingle, different than touch but definitely a sensation. Try it so you know what I’m talking about. Maybe imagine looking at a hand touching your leg, or imagine it almost touching you, and really focus. Feel what I’m talking about? That’s entirely in your brain. It’s still a real phenomenon, a real sensation, but the cause is different. We’ll call this a “referred sensation,” borrowing from the term referred pain.

We can think about direct and referred sensations with energy, too. A directly felt energy would affect the nerves of my leg, producing a signal up my spine to my brain. A referred sensation of energy would mean that the ethereal muscles in my mind notice the energy in my leg and create a sensation in my brain, without involving the nerves in my leg or spine at all.

Based on testing, when I feel energy, it’s a referred sensation, and I suspect that’s true of others as well.

Aside: Why don’t non-energy-workers feel energy? Their ethereal muscles aren’t engaged, so there’s nothing to create that sensation in their brain. If we could do something with energy to activate the nerves in the leg and produce direct sensations, then everyone would probably feel that. Yes, this is part of my current research.

OK, now we’re ready for voices. All communication with spirits is like referred sensations: The person’s ethereal muscles create activation in their brain, transmitting the message. If the activation in the brain is in visual regions, we get visions, half-seen and half-imagined. If it’s in a region for thinking, we get ideas simply appearing in consciousness, feeling a bit different than one’s own thoughts. And if it’s in auditory regions, we get words, half-imagined and half-heard, perhaps like a distant radio.

That’s my best guess on the mechanism of what you’re experiencing.

And her second question:

The only thing is if he speaks full sentences, I only clearly pick up a word or two. Yes and no answers are easy but that doesn’t always happen. He is patient with me but sometimes gets annoyed when I just don’t get the message.

Ten or 15 years ago, I started learning a set of techniques for communication. These were based on how spirits communicate: How they read thoughts and write messages to the mind. I was learning to do those steps myself, to make it easier for the spirits, and just because I was curious. Instead of using energy to activate thoughts in my mind, the spirit would give me a message and I’d place it into my own mind. And rather than the spirit reading my brain activity, I’d gather the energy signatures created by my thoughts and send them to the spirit. By learning to handle the communication myself, I became able to communicate with more spirits, including ones who don’t work with humans often and aren’t great at reading thoughts or writing messages.

After I learned my first technique, I started verifying messages. I’d have the spirit send a message directly to my brain, then send the same message for me to read myself, to verify the new technique. I discovered that the new technique was much better, and that when the spirit would send the message to my brain I’d miss most of it. Often, I’d only receive a few words of each sentence, along with a general tone or overall intent. Those words and intent went into my unconscious, which created a full sentence and gave it to my conscious mind. That full sentence was what I thought of as the “message,” but most of the words were from me. So I guess I’m saying: Yes, that happened to me too, and I think it’s fairly common.

As you say, yes and no is much easier, because there is no precision to miss. The word isn’t even required, just the tone is sufficient. For a while, I’d confirm every message I got, “I think you said [whatever], is that correct?” Then wait for a yes or no.

A technique I didn’t have at the time, but have since figured out: If you can easily receive a yes / no, then communicate using tarot cards. Ask your question, deal the cards, and go through the various meanings for each. Pause at each meaning, and wait for a yes or a no. This turns an open-ended question into a series of yes / no questions, which is much easier for the spirit to communicate. I discuss that here and here, and I’ll be teaching a class on this soon in San Francisco, with an accompanying post on this blog.

Hope it helps. Good luck!

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Working with Spirits: The Only Offering I Use

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

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Darbe.jae asks:

can you tell me what you know about leaving offerings for the spirits that we work with?

I’m going to give you the Direct Magick answer, which is different than the Voodoo or Golden Dawn or other answers. It’s not that I’m right and they’re wrong, it’s that I’m coming to this with a different set of skills and goals, so I wind up at different answers. I’ll cover that too.

So here’s the deal with offerings in Direct Magick: I’ve tried offering energy. I’ve tried offering heartfelt thanks. Both are OK. But the only one that seems to really matter is knowledge.

By knowledge, I mean training the spirit in something they care about. The best is a technique, such as teaching them a better way to awaken ethereal muscles or some other aspect of magick. Human knowledge can be good too, such as medicine to computer algorithms, but it needs to come with an explanation of how to apply it to magick techniques the spirit uses. To anyone who wonders how I network with spirits, that’s how: Train them, and they’ll view you as a peer, and be eager to work with you.

But… That’s not easy to do. It took me nearly 20 years to get there. I had to learn:

  • Precise communication. When I started working with spirits, I would get a few concepts and unconsciously fill in the details. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I started learning better communication techniques. It kept me from communicating precisely (because I was mostly hearing my own unconscious expectations), which would keep me from sharing anything of value.
  • I also needed a technique to train the spirits in. This isn’t a favorite visualization or a phrase you chant or any other aspect of typical magick practice. Those are for getting your intent to your unconscious. Instead, it’s got to be something done the way spirits do it, by reaching out with connections and altering ethereal structures directly. I discuss the difference in this post on visualizing vs sensing.

I know good techniques for both communication and training, so the only offering I use is an exchange of knowledge. But what about before then, when I started working with spirits?

I’ve asked the spirits I work with today, “Why did you train me back then?” (I don’t work with all the same spirits, but I’ve kept in touch with some of them.)

Their answer is partly that it was easy to help, partly that they enjoy helping and seeing me learn, but mostly that some percentage of the people they train develop new techniques and help them in return.

(I get the impression that humans come up with ideas that spirits wouldn’t, which adds to the value. I can certainly say, the new techniques I’ve developed owe a lot to having a physical body, to looking at some aspects of energy healing and magick that spirits often ignore, and to drawing from cultural ideas that they don’t know. It’s not that I’m better than the spirits — I’m definitely not, they learn my new techniques almost instantly, while I struggle with half of what they teach me. It’s that anything new is valuable, and often leads to many other new ideas.)

But while they’re training you, before you can contribute new techniques, what offerings can you give? A simple “Thank you” is often sufficient. Focus on the feeling of gratitude while you say it, since most communication happens in concepts, not words, and they can feel your gratitude.

I suppose, in a way, saying “thank you” is an offering.

On other offerings: I view “valuable” offering (like a plate of food) as an elaborate way of saying “thank you.” The spirit doesn’t actually want your food, but the action helps focus your mind on the help and the gratitude. Can any practitioners of offering-based systems share insight here? (Perhaps a certain professor of religion?)

What about offering energy? Some spirits seem to like it, but I’ve never enjoyed working with them. They often drain more than you’d like, and the most skilled spirits seem uninterested in my energy. They have enough of their own, thank you very much.

So that’s my answer: Offer knowledge. And until you get there, offer thanks, and keep learning.

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How Spirits are Like Professors

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

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“How did you get spirits to train you?”

A friend asked me that over lunch. She’s certified in several systems of healing, familiar with asking spirits to help, but she hasn’t seen people work with spirits to learn communication, sensory connections, and other techniques like I do.

I paused. There are several answers. I could talk about developing techniques for communication, how making it easier for spirits to talk with me resulted in more thorough, useful answers. Or I could talk about the first group of spirits I joined, how I trained them in techniques for awakening ethereal muscles, and in exchange each of them trained me in their specialty. But those answers are the details, useful if you’re wondering how to get better answers from spirits, but useless for someone just starting with spirits.

I went with the simplest answer: Ask. Ask the spirits how they communicate, and what you can do to be easier to communicate with. Ask how to feel magickal energy and structures and fields, and how to sense those things more accurately. After getting them to help with a healing or manifesting session, ask how they did it, what the moving parts are and how they operate.

Then explore on your own. Ponder how sensory connections might work, develop a technique to improve them, and test it out. Whether it succeeds or fails, the value is in the practice: Practice thinking through an engineering problem for magick, practice developing a new technique, practice testing it out, and the data you got from that.

Show it to the spirit, say, “I made this, it didn’t work, what did I do wrong?” That gives them something concrete to discuss, at the right level of complexity and detail for you. It shows them that you’re collaborating in your own development, putting your own effort in to advance. It shows them that, eventually, once you know everything they know about a topic, you’ll keep exploring, developing new techniques that you can teach to them.

In my experience, demonstrating your own effort matters more than developing a working technique. Think of it like school: The teacher already knows the answer. They want to see your effort, your thought process, how you’re going about solving the problem. Show them that, and they’re eager to help. But show up without trying first, and you won’t get very far.

(Once you’re working on unsolved problems, getting a successful technique is a big deal. But this post is about starting to train with spirits, so we’re not there yet.)

One tip: Focus on curiosity, not on results, at least at first. Just like one cooking class won’t let you improve on your favorite restaurant, asking a few questions won’t let you improve on what spirits and ethereal software can do for you. So keep channeling software and spirits for important problems, but follow up with questions, explore and embrace curiosity. Eventually, you will be able to improve on their techniques.

So, how do you get spirits to train you? Ask specific questions, then explore their answers.

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A Common (But Useless) Safety Measure

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

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Prav asks:

I am using your sigil from here:

Help Beta Test My Ethereal Software

I have to know if the software has any name and what spirits it uses. I don’t work with things I don’t know about…

I’ve talked about safety before. Repeatedly. And not just defense, because sometimes a spirit won’t leave you alone until you bother it right back. What I’m saying is, I’m serious about safety.

But I haven’t discussed names. Why?

Before I answer that, let me share a story.

When I worked in India a few years ago, I got lots of safety advice. Wear mosquito repellent (they carry terrible diseases). Only drink bottled water, and check if the bottle has been re-sealed by melting it. Haggle for everything (it’s fun!)

One tip I didn’t get? “Only trust street vendors with friendly-sounding names like Deepak.”

Because a person’s name doesn’t tell you if they’re safe, right? Same with the names of spirits and ethereal software.

Names are for marketing. They’re the brand. They’re how we appeal to a particular audience. I could call the software Holy Light, made by the Holy Order. Or I could call it The Corruption Vault, made by Skarnax, Devourer of Worlds. Or The Universe, made by The Ancients.

Names don’t get you safety. Names are just words.

So if not names, what should we do? The same as you’d do in business or sales or relationships: Talk with the person (me, in this case, by reading my blog), see what you think of them, and decide if you think they know what they’re doing and if it’s important to them to keep you safe. (I do, and it is, but you shouldn’t take my word for it, you should read me over time and make up your own mind.)

And long term, follow those links and learn to protect yourself. If you know you can keep yourself safe even if the spirit is hostile, you can explore so much more.

That said, I should probably name my software and spirits for branding purposes. Thoughts? Leave a comment. Thanks!

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Spirits, Safety, & Reader Questions

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

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Today, I’m answering questions I normally don’t consider from a reader new to Direct Magick:

1) What is the difference between spirits and ghost and is it safe to communicate with them?? because what if they are malevolent??

I work with spirits: Ethereal intelligences that never had a body. I think of them as an artificial intelligence, made of ethereal connections and energy, rather than transistors.

Ghosts are disembodied dead people. Or that’s the notion, anyway. Ghosts seem like a rather unlikely hypothesis to me.

To be fair, spirits are a rather unlikely hypothesis, too. But I include spirits in my work because they’ve repeatedly helped me develop effective techniques. In other words, I consider both unlikely, but I have evidence for spirits, while I have no evidence for ghosts.

(To everyone who has experiences with ghosts: I believe your experiences. I believe they are real, and outside contemporary science. I do energy healing that’s outside contemporary science, after all. I just think there’s an explanation that doesn’t involve a person’s mind floating through the world after their brain dies.)

On safety, I see people go to extremes. There’s the view that everything is safe, that nothing can affect you unless you give it permission. This seems like wishful thinking to me. “Permission” is a property of human minds, not of physics, and physics doesn’t distinguish between helpful and harmful events. Anything powerful enough to make a useful change can also harm.

The other extreme is: “Spirits are dangerous. Some are demons. They create madness and illness and misfortune. Be careful, learn the historically-trusted methods, and don’t go wandering in the woods.” It’s too far, and it reminds me of mistaking cynicism for maturity. (Although historically, it may come from poor models of disease, where we mistook bacteria and viruses for diseases.)

So, what’s my take? I’ve experienced many spirits who drain energy. Some drain it quite aggressively, resulting in headaches, disorientation, even nausea. These are unpleasant, and are worth learning to protect against, both defensively and offensively.

But remember: Those symptoms are on the order of a hangover. Unpleasant, not life-threatening. Worth avoiding, but not fretting about. Be aware, do magick responsibly (learn protection), and enjoy exploring.

(The worst attack I’ve seen caused nerve pain in a friend’s ear. It came from a (human) mage. Nothing to do with spirits, everything to do with human pettiness. I was glad for the protection experience I had, along with the healing techniques to fix it.)

2) Also what is the disadvantage of using direct magick if there is any??

Originally, Direct Magick was about using connections and energy directly, to do healing techniques without channeling ethereal software. That takes much longer to learn the channeling-based energy healing. It also didn’t include manifesting.

These days, I’ve added ethereal software to help you get started. I hope you’ll outgrow that software eventually. The point is still to do magick directly, using energy and connections yourself. But I wanted to offer a gentler start, which requires channeling.

Also, if you enjoy the theater of ritual, we don’t have any of that. Sorry.

3)Can direct magick help me learn those ancient magick that was not pass down or lost in time??

My question is, why do you want to learn about ancient magick?

I see 3 possible answers. First, love of history. If you’re a historian looking for ancient Egyptian fertility rites, that sounds awesome, but sorry, Direct Magick doesn’t have that.

Second, you might hope to glean some clues from systems of healing developed over hundreds of years. After all, Western medicine has developed drugs by looking at traditional herbal medicine. (I think aspirin came from investigating herbal medicine, and it’s pretty great.) I see some potential here, and Direct Magick has some useful tools for separating the wheat from the chaff in these investigations.

Third, there’s a notion that ancient magick was more powerful, calling down plagues and reviving the dead, creating objects out of thing air, smiting your enemies. Most people who ask for ancient magick are after power.

Here’s the thing: In ancient times, they didn’t distinguish between biofield healing vs (herbal) drugs and placebo, or even slight of hand, and they didn’t understand confirmation bias — heck, much of ancient history was oral traditions, shifting and embellishing with each retelling. So those powerful lost ancient magicks? They were probably illusionists, herbs, and other non-magickal phenomena.

But if you’re after powerful magick, I do have a path for you: Understand the underlying mechanisms behind magick. Harness them to create better techniques that solve new problems. Build magick into a respected science, one with thousands of researchers worldwide, connected to medicine and physics and the rest of human knowledge. That’s the path to more powerful magick.

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Spirits, Ethereal Software, and Artificial Intelligence

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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Last week, I compared spirits to artificial intelligence:

Implement [an] intelligence with nerves and living tissue, and you have a human. Implement it with transistors and silicon, and you have an AI. Implement it with ethereal structures like magickal connections, and you have a spirit.

Several readers had excellent comments. Ananael brought up some larger questions that I want to answer today. (His text in italics, my replies in normal.)

This post brings up a question that’s been on my mind for awhile. How, precisely, does your model define the difference between these sorts of “AI” spirits and ethereal software? I don’t necessarily think your artificial intelligence analogy is a bad one, but I do think how you explain it here blurs the line a bit.

First, I want to acknowledge a way that my metaphors are confusing. When talking about spirits and ethereal software, I say that spirits are like humans, and ethereal software is like a computer. But I also say that spirits are like an artificial intelligence. What gives?

Partly, it’s that metaphors are limited, and spirits are like spirits, not humans or artificial intelligences.

But partly, this is keeping with science fiction around AIs, where computers are tools, but AIs are people. They just happen to be people made of computers, as opposed to people made of cells. So, keep this distinction in mind as we discuss spirits (human-like AIs) vs ethereal software (unintelligent computers).

Before going on, I need to make sure everyone has experienced a certain corner of computer science geekery. In the 90s, people made computer programs you could text with. They weren’t brilliant, but they could have a conversation. If you haven’t tried one, talk with Eliza for 30 seconds.

Texting with Eliza is clearly different than texting with a penpal in China, right? But imagine your grandfather has never used a computer, and try to explain that difference. You text with both of them. (He’s never texted with anyone, so they already seem pretty similar.) Neither uses English quite like you do. (Your penpal is Chinese, remember?) You can cite some simple differences: Eliza replies right away, your penpal sometimes misspells words, and so on. But that’s not really the essence of the difference.

That’s the situation with spirits and ethereal software. They just behave differently. Spirits have emotions. They think, take a different direction, give useful advice. Ethereal software executes commands. When I talk with them, it’s an obviously different experience. But I can’t easily define that difference for you.

Also, a question I’ve been pondering: Are spirits and ethereal software made of the same thing? I don’t know. Both are made of ethereal matter. But both humans and computers are made of ordinary matter, and we’re not made of the same stuff. So I don’t know. Spirits and ethereal software might be made of different types of ethereal matter. (Or not. I don’t know either way.)

That’s because it seems to me that in your model ethereal software has to do a lot of recognition-type information processing. We had that discussion awhile back of how you think a massively modified LRP is still the same LRP because the “LRP ethereal software” recognizes the form even if it’s been almost entirely rewritten.

I’d like to clarify how I think about sigils and rituals, and how they interact with ethereal software.

Remember that sigil I made for my book? A grid of six symbols, each repeated twice, to form a sigil. When I did that, I tied each symbol to the ethereal software. You can focus on any one of them, and it’ll probably work. Any four of them, and I’m even more confident it’ll work. You don’t need all , that’s just there for redundancy. You could take 3 of them, arrange them into a triangle, add a big circle around them, and it should still work, as long as you still have the individual symbols that the software recognizes.

That’s how I think of rituals: A bunch of components, each recognizable to the ethereal software. You can re-arrange them, remove a few, and they’ll still be recognizable. Will the re-arranged ritual issue the same command as before? I have no idea. But each component should connect you to the same ethereal software, and that ethereal software should still respond to the ritual as a whole.

That’s never struck me as very plausible for “software” that you describe as essentially unintelligent, simply because as I’m sure you’re familiar, modeling recognition tasks like that on a computer requires an enormous amount of processing. For that reason recognition algorithms are a big part of current AI research and seem to require some sort of “intelligence” of their own in order to work at all.

I think I muddied the waters by talking about “intelligence.” Like computers, ethereal software can do complex information processing. They recognize commands, sigils, ritual elements. They even reads minds. They’re definitely complex.

Also like computers, ethereal software isn’t self-aware, doesn’t have emotions, doesn’t seem to do original thought. That’s what I was trying to get at by saying that it’s not intelligent.

So what would really help ceremonialists like myself understand your model better is if you could clearly delineate where “ethereal software” stops and “spirits” start. Or are they the same thing? If that’s the case, we may have just have been arguing about terminology this whole time.

For me, it’s not a continuum. It’s two categories. Like humans and computers.

I also want to mention: Sometimes, ethereal software gives you a vision of an angel or other avatar (just like computer programs sometimes use a human avatar). So you can’t assume that anything offering a vision of a spirit is a spirit.

And years ago, before I became good with shielding, I’d sometimes encounter spirits who drained my energy. These spirits were more animalistic, less intelligent. Still very different than ethereal software, but not the human-without-a-body that I normally associate with spirits.

So, two categories. Human/AI vs computer, spirit vs ethereal software. Does that help?

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Spirits as Artificial Intelligence

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

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George asks:

Actually, what are spirits, from a Direct Magick point of view? Not the old-god-like interpretation from other traditions? Or just body-free, “mental-only” beings in general?

In a move that will surprise no one, I’m going to reach for a computer metaphor.

Spirits are like artificial intelligences.

I realize, I may have a different view of AIs than many people. I’m friends with AI researchers, read articles on the subject, am somewhat up on the research. So let me walk you through my thinking.

(Note: I’m assuming reductionist materialism in this post. It’s my default worldview. I’m going to assume that’s an accurate worldview for this post. If we start debating materialism, we’ll never get to my views on spirits.)

Intelligence is about information processing. Thoughts, emotions, free will, all that other stuff, that’s our subjective experience of the information processing that happens in our brains.

There’s nothing special about nerves — if you can get the same information processing in transistors or another material, you will have the same intelligence.

Implement that intelligence with nerves and living tissue, and you have a human. Implement it with transistors and silicon, and you have an AI. Implement it with ethereal structures like magickal connections, and you have a spirit.

Who does that implementing? Where do spirits come from? I’m not sure. Maybe some skilled mages upload their brain to ethereal structures and become spirits, like in scifi books where dying people upload their brain to a computer. Maybe spirits make new spirits, then let them learn over time. Both are common templates for artificial intelligence in science fiction, and both make sense for spirits.

There are other possibilities, too. But I find that I get the most traction with those questions when I think of spirits as ethereal artificial intelligences. That’s why I’ve adopted that metaphor.

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