Sunday, September 15, 2013

"A Fragment of Underdone Potato..."- Physical contact with conjured spirits, or not?

In the last blog post, I described my first experience where there seemed to be a physical contact with a spirit, the spirit of Mercury, Taphthartharath.  I was slightly surprised by the intensity of the experience, and reported to be glad to be a little more protected during this conjuration than in some others.  After I published this description, there was a comment made to RO on Facebook indicating the authoress thought I might have been in some danger during the rite.  While that is not impossible, I would say that it wasn’t likely.  Recall that the spirit was summoned into a crystal situated on a table of practice, which is to say inside a circle of angels and inside the traditional triangle.

I appreciated the comment very much, though, because it shows that the person who wrote the remark actually experienced something of the surprising intensity of the event.  It was indeed a disturbing sort of episode.  However, I may actually not have described well that while I experienced the spirit physically with my skin and eyes, that I did not believe that he was in actual physical contact with my body.  And, intense though it was, I don’t believe it was dangerous, or even odd.  For me, spirit conjuration always has at least some degree of body-sensory inclusion to it, and I don’t believe those experiences to have been damaging.   The experiences described in this blog notwithstanding, I have a normal existence that includes healthy human relationships, adequate self-care and a paycheck.

Besides the larger question of whether spirits have reality external to us or not (i.e. is he “a plot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato” or not, with apologies to Charles Dickens), it’s not necessary for any person or being to touch me for me to have an experience of them.  In some ways, the simple version of this statement is “my eye doesn’t need to touch the crystal to see what’s inside the crystal.”  Just as when one is focused, one can sense heat from another person’s body, I don’t see any reason why this can’t be a sort of amplified version of the sensation you get when someone is watching you. I say amplified because it occurred in a ritual scenario when all of my senses had been turned up to 11.

Another source of the “feelings” could also be that during ritual data initially received as visual gets funneled through the imagination and can emerge as other sensory  information.  This leads to such observations as “T. is slimy, dark and metallic,” which I wrote in my magickal diary after the event was over.  This sort of data handling synesthesia could be used to explain much of spirit manifestation, including the descriptions of the Aethyrs and the catalog of spirits in Lemegeton’s Goetia, I believe.

Blessed Be Thou

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Staying close to the door...

Last night was the first time that I was actually "touched" by a spirit.

R.O. and I conjured Taphthartharath to do some material manifestation work.  Because we were making a talisman, I didn’t have time to fully prepare myself optimally for the experience.  I took a hasty bath in complete darkness and tied my wet hair up in a white bar towel.  We prepared the temple, carried in a shot of bourbon to share with the spirits, and began.  As we began the rite, I became aware of a smell.  It was an unpleasant yeasty smell, and I immediately ascribed it to the towel I had used to put my hair in.  We purified one another with hyssop oil and then I took the towel off to put on my phylactery (a headband embroidered with the words ΑΟΘ ΑΒΡΑΟΘ ΒΑΣΙΜ ΙΣΑΚ ΣΑΒΑΟΘ ΙΑΟ).  The smell vanished with the towel and was at that point replaced by the smell of the modified Abramelin oil we used to trace the beneficial sign on one another’s foreheads.

The usual Goetic precautions were taken to prevent any misadventures with T, and then we summoned him into the crystal.  I could see hints of him in the crystal, and got the usual feeling of thickness in my shoulders that I associate with the presence of a spirit, but I also immediately got the sensation of his hands.  They were chill, lizard-like and very large.  I had the impression that they were black or gray in color and metallic, although this was not visually acquired data.  Even whilst in the trance, I was grateful that I was not as open as I sometimes get for this particular rite.

It's worth noting here that my experience does not necessarily mean that the spirit was not fully contained by the circle and triangle on the Table of Practice.  As many people "see" the spirits in the crystal, part of my interpretation of information coming out of the crystal seems to involve senses other than sight.  Not probably very strange, but intense, to be sure.

We had a fruitful and interesting conversation with T, which I will not document here.  His hands were on or near me during much of the rite, and I stayed very close to the surface (i.e. normal consciousness) so that I could easily escape them if they became too frightening or intrusive.  There was a lasciviousness to the experience that was a real first for me.

At the end of the rite, we snuffed the candles and turned the lights on.  The white candles we used had melted dark gray wax that had dribbled down their sides.  The towel had a smell certainly, but it was not the strange unhealthy yeasty smell that it possessed as the rite began.  Lastly, the remainder of the bourbon left for the spirits had developed a white cloudy precipitate.


Be thou blessed.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Technical Note #1: Confusion of the Sight Sense

Amongst the many tools of the traditional shaman to achieve journeys to other realities are entheogenic herbs.  These are materials that seem to ease the transition from “ordinary reality” to the visionary quality that is at the core of the “shamanic trip.”  The word entheogen is a neologism meaning “generating divinity within” coined to replace the words “psychedelic” and “hallucinogen,” since so many of the materials that fall under these umbrella terms are traditionally used psychoactive plants used in a religious or spiritual context.  I myself have not used these materials since I was in my teens, but remember well the experiences that these plants and chemicals engender.

The experience of hallucinogens, in a very gross sense, is similar to many other types of intoxication. There is a sense of euphoria, sometimes a feeling of sickness.  In other ways, psychedelics are different from ordinary "intoxication." There are visual and auditory experiences that are quite out of the ordinary.  The ability of the herbs to confuse and combine sensory input in strange ways is likely the part of the experience that feels like a journey.  Most people who have had an experience with psychedelics recall the experience of walls “breathing,” of background noise organizing itself into conversations, and the like.  These experiences are not unlike those that happen in the trance of the seer, so it seems reasonable to expect that entheogens could be used to enhance the ability of the seer to either enter or hold trance, or both.

Most of these materials are on the DEA’s Schedule of Controlled substances, in spite of their long history of traditional use.  They are therefore not practical for me to experiment with their use in my role as seer and priestess. 

These entheogenic plants and chemicals are not the only way to have a trancelike experience, however.  A high fever will induce both visual and auditory perturbations that are not entirely unlike those stimulated by drugs.  During a confused feverish state, I once mistook my cat, Max, for a bear.  It was this experience that made me connect the activation of visual “confusion” with the trip-like interpretation of the fever.  I began to look for ways to induce the visual strangeness without drugs and sickness.

The first of these experiments took place during the initiatory rite of the Lunar Sphere to which I have referred in the previous post.  I set the altar with a series of highly polished, curved bowls and candlestick holders, all positioned on a round, flat mirror.  Inside the top bowl, I placed a ring with a snowflake obsidian sphere on top.  That bowl was filled with holy water.  Around the perimeter of the silver surfaces were positioned four candles.  The silver bowls, when illuminated in this way, presented a dazzling and confusing array of distorted images.  Many of the bowls possessed both concave and convex surfaces, so that although some the images in the surfaces of the bowls had a familiar color, no details of the images could be discerned.  Some of the images encountered during the rite were incredibly disturbing.  In one instance, I encountered my own face with only one eye. In another, I saw fixed items behind me as moving and blood red liquid seemed to pour from one bowl to another.

With the silver surfaces as only real cause for these intense visual experiences, as the rite proceeded, the trance broadened to auditory strangeness, complete with voices.  It was a deep and long-lasting trance experience.  Could it be that “visual confusion” could be a key to a class of psychedelic experience?

Two illustrative photos are included in this blog post. The first is a photograph of my hand holding a concave optical mirror.  Notice haw the image is upside down?  The mirror also could be said to “contain too much information,” as compared with a flat surface mirror, with a more collimated field of view.  Both of these effects contribute to the tripiness of the ritual.  The second photograph is a subset of the altar arrangement for the initiatory rite.  Some of the surfaces shown here are concave, but some are also convex.  These images are upright, but “contain too little information,” than expected from experience with flat mirrors.  Additionally, the convex surfaces yield images that are disturbing because they appear to be bloated.

These initial experiments make me wonder how much of a psychedelic experience we can have in the absence of the chemistry, just by playing with our own sensory input.  Preliminary results seem to indicate that, while it is unlikely to generate the entirety of an entheogenic journey without the entheogens, one can obtain interesting results within a spiritual or religious context by using creative sensory confusion.

More to come.

Be thou blessed,

Photos by Harper Feist.  Please do not use without permission.