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The Nature Of Spirit (In Generalized Ceremonial Magic)


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#1 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 03:29 PM

In my experience...

Evocative magic is most often understood as intentional intercourse with spirits, typically intended to gain information not otherwise readily acquired, or to manipulate targeted circumstances that the operator wants to change. From the ceremonial magic perspective derived primarily from Medieval source material, the art tends to include selecting the right spirit for the job, in a manner of speaking. The literature on the whole tends to reflect a plantonic cosmological scheme, which in brief means a system of hierarchical categorization: spirits can be differentiated by species, and then ranks within each species, and individual spirits within a given rank, or something similar.

Within that context, individual spirits seem to be presumed to have an existence that is independent of the magicians who would summon them, and that is durable (perhaps even eternal). There is also, often, something of a place presumption in effect: the idea that when not in the summoned state, a spirit is somewhere else, in a manner of speaking.

To put a face on it, common versions of The Goetia list a number of individual spirits of the general demon or evil spirit class, along with their various ranks and personal attributes. A common modern approach to using literature of that sort to practice magic is to select a demon from those listings, the way a physician might consult reference material in selecting a remedy to apply to manifest malady.

I'm interested in how closely those ideas capture your (anyone's) attitudes and/or practices, and/or in how and why your ideas and practices differ.

Edited by R. Eugene Laughlin, 16 May 2019 - 03:36 PM.

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#2 The Stalking Hyena

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Posted 18 May 2019 - 02:53 PM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 16 May 2019 - 03:29 PM, said:

Evocative magic is most often understood as intentional intercourse with spirits, typically intended to gain information not otherwise readily acquired, or to manipulate targeted circumstances that the operator wants to change. From the ceremonial magic perspective derived primarily from Medieval source material, the art tends to include selecting the right spirit for the job, in a manner of speaking. The literature on the whole tends to reflect a plantonic cosmological scheme, which in brief means a system of hierarchical categorization: spirits can be differentiated by species, and then ranks within each species, and individual spirits within a given rank, or something similar.

In my own experience a spirit is not restricted to the task as advertised. I tend to look at this as "introductory", the more important thing being the spirit's astrological attributes. For example, a "solar" demon (viz, a "King") is supposed to offer "invisibility" but when summoned proceeds to effect changes towards social advancement.
I think the most important thing to emphasize in cosmology - whatever flavor of similitudes or differences - is the microcosmic aspect of the operator. The second most important thing, particularly as it relates to platonism or even cabala is that the scheme one is operating is analogical, not literal. The fixation on formula is like a meditation pattern one ultimately has to evolve further or even away from. Ironically, I have found that whatever class of spirits I work with are happy to help me do just that. Of course, I am speaking of what arises in and out of my own "magic mirror".

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 16 May 2019 - 03:29 PM, said:

Within that context, individual spirits seem to be presumed to have an existence that is independent of the magicians who would summon them, and that is durable (perhaps even eternal). There is also, often, something of a place presumption in effect: the idea that when not in the summoned state, a spirit is somewhere else, in a manner of speaking.

I think these presumptions are useful tools to help the practitioner visualize and give some sort of comprehension to what is being dealt with, but they are not "realities". If the spirit doesn't show up because it is "chained in hell" - and thus proceed to next conjuration - this to me reflects more of the operators internal resistance to forging the links of contact. The spirit may be "out there" in some other dimension, or a ray of a specific star or decanate or whatever, but the internal reflection in the operator is what completes and charges the "circuit". A spirit may be viewed not as an "entity" so much as a cosmic livewire that the magus can tap into.
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#3 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 18 May 2019 - 03:59 PM

View PostThe Stalking Hyena, on 18 May 2019 - 02:53 PM, said:

In my own experience a spirit is not restricted to the task as advertised.

What's your take on the individuality and relative permanence of spirits?

If you do assume that spirits are individuated, what's your take on what a given individual can and cannot do?
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#4 The Stalking Hyena

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 01:48 PM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 18 May 2019 - 03:59 PM, said:

What's your take on the individuality and relative permanence of spirits?

If you do assume that spirits are individuated, what's your take on what a given individual can and cannot do?

For me this is all very subtle, weird, and - not for lack of trying - I haven't been able to fixate on any conclusions. Nevertheless, I figure there is only one Spirit, and this recedes into a type of mystical "Zen" voidness pure paradox of being/non-being (viz, God). But more down to particulars, the individuality of a certain spirit is a reflection of the individuality of the perciever and is reinforced by continuous interaction. But this is also true of us flesh and blood entities. So I think the relationship is what makes things work, and also makes them trickier.
As far as "permanence" goes, I suppose that everything, however subtle and ephemeral, has a pattern that recurs in its proper time. Spirits, as individuals, could be said to be those patterns themselves. At any rate, we have sigils and books and traditions and sacred springs and legends that keep up hooked to them, and those things find their physical manifestation seeded in the human mind.

I think that what a spirit can or cannot do is symbiotic with the will of the operator. However, this is a two way street. A spirit might like to do things to demonstrate its power, such as "causing" phenomena or initiating/influencing or even interfering in a chain of events to demonstrate its existence. Generally, I try to watch for surprises.
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#5 vives gladio

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 03:05 PM

I guess there's two possible ways to look at this if I understand what you are getting at.

I flick my lighter and summon Fire. Ten minutes later I do it again. I have manifested two distinct instances of Fire.
Before I struck the flint against the steel, there was no Fire. After I released the fuel supply, the Fire that was has ceased to be. The Fire is gone and no longer exists.

I scoop a cup of Water from a basin. I pour the Water back into the basin.
Before I filled my cup, the Water was somewhere else. After I poured it out, it returned from whence I drew it. The Water still exists even though it is no longer in my cup. It is somewhere else again. I can draw the same Water later.

Edited by vives gladio, 19 May 2019 - 03:08 PM.


#6 The Stalking Hyena

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 05:55 PM

View Postvives gladio, on 19 May 2019 - 03:05 PM, said:

I guess there's two possible ways to look at this if I understand what you are getting at.

Actually, the more important thing is that you are generating analogies. This I consider a necessary psychological tool. I say that because there are too many possible ways to look at the issue, yet one must have a way of grasping it to make it useful. The processes you describe are apt enough, but with spirits we have an added extra element of character. The character, or persona, can also be described as the "mood" of a force.
What if the fire from you lighter had an attitude? What if the water in your cup said you were pouring it wrong?
It may sound silly, but to perceive such things animistically is an important mode of interaction with spirits.
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#7 Spida

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Posted 21 May 2019 - 09:30 AM

The default location of a spirit, as everything else, would be nowhere. With there being creation of an illusion - by the spirit or the operator - of it being somewhere.
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#8 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 21 May 2019 - 02:48 PM

View PostThe Stalking Hyena, on 19 May 2019 - 01:48 PM, said:

... I figure there is only one Spirit, and this recedes into a type of mystical "Zen" voidness pure paradox of being/non-being (viz, God). But more down to particulars, the individuality of a certain spirit is a reflection of the individuality of the perciever and is reinforced by continuous interaction. But this is also true of us flesh and blood entities.

I also embrace something of a unitary spirit doctrine these days, and feel it necessary to append, in a manner of speaking, because it's difficult to express its implications in concrete terms. For practical purposes, however, that idea can nearly be dispensed with, because at the experiential level spirit is made manifest as a universe populated with countless discrete beings of unfathomable diversity. As you suggest, it's all about the interaction between... manifestations? I suppose that's as good a term as any.

Leaving all that behind to accept the experience of discrete beings... we can speak in terms like, the spirit of this or that, and from there of various types of spirits. For example, living things express individual spirits (for the sake of interaction), and living things come in types. Each individual human therefore expresses an individual spirit, and so does, say, each individual dog have a spirit of its own. But then the individual spirits of humans all share in a human nature, so to speak, which can be understood as something different from dog nature, in which all dog spirits share. To phrase it another way, whatever the individual differences between human spirits may be, human spirits are more like each other than they are like dog spirits, and so are dog spirits more alike between themselves than their are alike with human spirits. But dog spirits and human spirits do both share in mammal nature, which is different from reptile nature, yet all three share in animal nature, which is different from plant nature.

That's the sort of thing I'm interested in here, with a spotlight on the spirit beings and types of spirit beings that people call upon in the exercise of their magic practice. Also if anyone disagrees with the above paragraph, I'm interested in hearing about how and why, or at least in descriptions of alternative/incompatible conceptions.
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#9 Spida

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 04:40 AM

It's as if we exist in a reality where rules are put in place, and it is quite difficult if not impossible to transcend the scope of these rules as they are all we have ever known, or at least presently aware of. If we condition our minds to dispense with some of these rules then certain problems may be resolved analogically; in combination with an augmented form of reasoning.

For example, there are problems with space and time. Is space infinite? This becomes less of a problem if space is thought of as a mental process of the primordial in lieu of something that is concrete and physical as in a conventional mechanical sense.

Does time infinitely regress? Not if it doesn't exist.

This unitary aspect. It is the source of everything; a precursor to space and time. Space is the illusion created by it, mentally. Time exists within it much in the same way moments pass within the microcosm.

This is the primordial point within the circle. The point is consciousness existing as a zero volume. The circle is the illusory macrocosm, or, spacetime.

Edited by Spida, 22 May 2019 - 04:42 AM.

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#10 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 05:23 PM

View PostSpida, on 22 May 2019 - 04:40 AM, said:


For example, there are problems with space and time. Is space infinite? This becomes less of a problem if space is thought of as a mental process of the primordial in lieu of something that is concrete and physical as in a conventional mechanical sense.

Does time infinitely regress? Not if it doesn't exist.

This unitary aspect. It is the source of everything; a precursor to space and time. Space is the illusion created by it, mentally. Time exists within it much in the same way moments pass within the microcosm.

This is the primordial point within the circle. The point is consciousness existing as a zero volume. The circle is the illusory macrocosm, or, spacetime.

I don't see how any of that bears on the topic of the thread in the slightest way.
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#11 Spida

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 07:19 AM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 22 May 2019 - 05:23 PM, said:

I don't see how any of that bears on the topic of the thread in the slightest way.

It was a continuation of my prior post, Mr. Laughlin. Which was pertinent to the idea of spirit location - the original post - relative to space and time.

I even reiterated your use of the term "unitary" to aid in solidifying a connection, which at the moment seems a bit comical for some reason.
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#12 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 02:13 PM

View PostSpida, on 23 May 2019 - 07:19 AM, said:

It was a continuation of my prior post, Mr. Laughlin. Which was pertinent to the idea of spirit location - the original post - relative to space and time.

Okay. I'll try to understand what you're saying. When you express that the spirit of the operator creates an illusion of it being somewhere...

Who or what is the operator? Who or what is the operator operating on? And to whom or what does "it" refer?
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#13 The Stalking Hyena

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 05:43 PM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 21 May 2019 - 02:48 PM, said:

To phrase it another way, whatever the individual differences between human spirits may be, human spirits are more like each other than they are like dog spirits, and so are dog spirits more alike between themselves than their are alike with human spirits. But dog spirits and human spirits do both share in mammal nature, which is different from reptile nature, yet all three share in animal nature, which is different from plant nature.

One thing I think that makes human nature distinct with regards to magic is that the human mind contains the valences and potential of all natures, be they animal or divine. I am sure you are familiar with how the structure of our brains is layered - for instance, our limbic region is reptilian, or so I have heard, and from there we get layers of tissue which lead up to higher processes and functions. I tend to think of this as reflecting a small part of the microcosm/macrocosm aspect of magic which I have found emphasized throughout all my studies.

Another way to put it is that a human contains every aspect of the animal kingdom from slugs to birds to fishes to lizards and elephants and dogs via the analogy of our emotions, behaviors, thought processes and even physical appearance. The "like by like" or similitudes with the animal world (or even the plant and mineral worlds) could be seen as a basis of shamanism. And, despite levels of apparent cultural sophistication, I don't really see much of a difference from shamanism and ceremonial magic spirit summoning.

If you look at some of our traditional "demons", you can see they often have a totem-like aspect to them, and this probably speaks to part of the brain, though I am inclined also to think of the mixture of species in one form are really symbolic of the equation or formula the spirit represents. This is also true of its name and numbers derived via numerology. Every aspect of the spirit's nature is formulaic (including its advertised powers), but could also be viewed as kind of an "empty vessel" to be enlivened by the will of the conjurer. The sigils and forms activate deep parts of his inner being, and the universe at large (macrocosm) responds to this through various forms of reflexive reinforcement.

That is not to say that the entities in question do not exist independently of the operator in an absolute objective sense. There is no way to know for sure if they do or not, though I think grasping at the perturbation caused by trying to find out is an excellent exercise, even if ultimately it may be futile.
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#14 The Stalking Hyena

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 05:46 PM

View PostSpida, on 22 May 2019 - 04:40 AM, said:

It's as if we exist in a reality where rules are put in place, and it is quite difficult if not impossible to transcend the scope of these rules as they are all we have ever known, or at least presently aware of. If we condition our minds to dispense with some of these rules then certain problems may be resolved analogically; in combination with an augmented form of reasoning.

I would like to hear an example of this "augmented form of reasoning".

View PostSpida, on 22 May 2019 - 04:40 AM, said:

Does time infinitely regress? Not if it doesn't exist.

From one point of view, time is motion. Have you read Ouspensky?
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#15 vives gladio

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 02:44 AM

The closest thing to an interaction with a spiritual entity that I can point to was not initiated on my part.

This occurred roughly 20 years ago. A friend and I had frequently visited a local pond. It was one of the few interesting places in walking distance available to our limited means.
One day, we were goofing about and simultaneously experienced a distinct sense of GTFO. There was nothing subtle about it, we looked at each other and both knew without speaking that it was time to go. There was nothing either of us could attribute the sensation to outside of a kind of superstitious notion that we did something to piss off the pond / whatever was hanging out around the pond. From my own experience t was a clear idea that I needed to be somewhere else. The sensation persisted for a good distance. Really the best description I can make is an instinctual level sensation of "Don't Be Here.". It was very unpleasant and I can still recall the strength of it just recalling the experience. Obviously I cannot attribute this with certainty to a spiritual experience, but that's the best explanation I can think of especially considering that the impression was substantiated by a guy standing right next to me experiencing near as I can tell the same thing. It came on suddenly, and dissipated gradually. After we both reached a point where the feeling subsided, we turned back and did not experience a re-occurrence however the experience was such that neither of us felt compelled to return to the spot for several weeks, maybe months.

From that, I can wrap my head around the idea of a certain locality having a spiritual presence or at least being a location of spiritual interest. I can't speak to the permanency or persistence of the entity or its interest in the location, the experience was not repeated. Subsequent visits did not either generate a sense of being especially welcome or really any other particular sensation either alone or with the friend in question.

I am not sure what my buddy was into at the time, but I certainly didn't do anything on my own part to summon or call forth a spirit that I can think of, so I am inclined to lean towards a certain independence of spirit from active magical operations based on my anecdotal experience.

#16 Spida

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 09:45 AM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 23 May 2019 - 02:13 PM, said:

Okay. I'll try to understand what you're saying. When you express that the spirit of the operator creates an illusion of it being somewhere...

Who or what is the operator? Who or what is the operator operating on? And to whom or what does "it" refer?

I suppose given an inquiry as to a particular location of spirit within a certain context. It may yield a higher degree of precision to first elaborate on the context itself.

The idea here is that space as well as time, and also locations within it are not external constructs as is the mundane consensus, but actually exist internally.

This could be considered purely academic; amounting to a modification of perspective as it pertains to spatial constructs. Most notably the prime construct that began some fourteen billion years ago.

So if one is going to elaborate on a notion such as spirit, and its' location within space at any given time. It may be worth noting that this space is not an externally expanding construct, but instead expands internally.

What this all means is that external constructs are illusory, and the only real existence is spirit, and that which exists within it. This is the reason why I mentioned the point within the circle. It is synonymous with microcosm and macrocosm.

So space and of course locations within it beginning with the universe itself are not outwardly expanding, that is the illusion. Instead it represents a rabbit hole forever moving; expanding inward. There is no space; there never was.

Reason; logic pretty much fails here, and the only viable analogy I seem to have conjured thus far is something along the lines of a lucid; vivid dream, or any internal construct as it relates to microcosmic consciousness keeping in mind that the two cosms are understood to be highly reflective of one another, or, even perhaps carbon copies differing mainly in scale as well as magnitude.

So ultimately what we end up with here is a modification of perspective, and to fully complete this analogy between the cosms one may inquire as to whether or not microcosmic consciousness also has the ability to fabricate and animate entities within itself as is the case with the primordial aspect and its' corresponding macrocosmic counterpart.

Edited by Spida, 24 May 2019 - 09:52 AM.

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#17 Spida

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 03:24 AM

The Stalking Hyena said:

I would like to hear an example of this "augmented form of reasoning".

All I mean by this is just reference to a superset of conventional reasoning. Pertinent to existence suppose I have an array of existential components. The normal prerequisite for inducting elements into this array is that they must be reasonable, or sensible, but there are times when a potential element may appear unreasonable, and at the same time necessary for whatever reason. So it is inducted into the array as a required element, and perhaps to be further reflected upon at a later time, in lieu of being discared because it fails to meet certain criteria.

Examples arise sometimes when evaluating either end of a logical tautology; dealing with concepts such as infinity and eternity.

The Stalking Hyena said:


From one point of view, time is motion. Have you read Ouspensky?

This is an injustice to time, to look at it as a singular entity when in fact it represents a duality with respect to the cosms.

In the microcosm it is the perception of time as experienced by consciousness, i.e. a passing of moments. This is not the same as your example which is macrocosmic time that is perceived as change or "motion" external to us.

They do function concurrently; are very similar, but I wouldn't say that they are perfectly synchronized. Time is relative, and peculiar to each of the cosms.

No I actually don't read a whole lot, but look up things on the internet frequently. I can spend hours reading the comments of others if it's something of interest to me.

Edited by Spida, 25 May 2019 - 03:29 AM.

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#18 Orlando

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 09:22 AM

View Postvives gladio, on 24 May 2019 - 02:44 AM, said:

The closest thing to an interaction with a spiritual entity that I can point to was not initiated on my part.

This occurred roughly 20 years ago. A friend and I had frequently visited a local pond. It was one of the few interesting places in walking distance available to our limited means.
One day, we were goofing about and simultaneously experienced a distinct sense of GTFO. There was nothing subtle about it, we looked at each other and both knew without speaking that it was time to go. There was nothing either of us could attribute the sensation to outside of a kind of superstitious notion that we did something to piss off the pond / whatever was hanging out around the pond. From my own experience t was a clear idea that I needed to be somewhere else. The sensation persisted for a good distance. Really the best description I can make is an instinctual level sensation of "Don't Be Here.". It was very unpleasant and I can still recall the strength of it just recalling the experience. Obviously I cannot attribute this with certainty to a spiritual experience, but that's the best explanation I can think of especially considering that the impression was substantiated by a guy standing right next to me experiencing near as I can tell the same thing. It came on suddenly, and dissipated gradually. After we both reached a point where the feeling subsided, we turned back and did not experience a re-occurrence however the experience was such that neither of us felt compelled to return to the spot for several weeks, maybe months.

From that, I can wrap my head around the idea of a certain locality having a spiritual presence or at least being a location of spiritual interest. I can't speak to the permanency or persistence of the entity or its interest in the location, the experience was not repeated. Subsequent visits did not either generate a sense of being especially welcome or really any other particular sensation either alone or with the friend in question.

I am not sure what my buddy was into at the time, but I certainly didn't do anything on my own part to summon or call forth a spirit that I can think of, so I am inclined to lean towards a certain independence of spirit from active magical operations based on my anecdotal experience.

I know of a similar story.

Back in the late 1960s, or their about, John Matthews, the author on Celtic and Arthurian occult books, joined what he thought was a traditional witches coven on Chanctonbury Ring, West Sussex, England. This particular coven turned out not to be a traditional coven, but read ‘Triumph of the Moon’, where this high priestess led coven is mentioned.

Chanctonbury Ring has what is believed to be the remains of an underground, or sunken, Roman temple, possible dedicated to Mithras.

John Matthews was visiting the area, staying with a relative. He had heard rumours about the witches on Chanctonbury Ring, and one full moon night cycled over to check it out. He parked his bicycle at the bottom of the hill. The hill was a difficult steep climb. Nearing the top of the hill he could hear the coven proceedings. John Matthews tried to watch the proceedings from behind the trees and bushes, but he was spotted by the witches and confronted by the imposing high priestess. After explaining his interest, he was initiated by them there and then on the spot, I believe, if I remember correctly. His initiation involved scourging, to which he still bears the scars to this day, so John claims.

Anyway, to get to the point of the story, the coven practised up on Chanctonbury Ring. The coven members were mostly from the around lying villages of the area.
One night the coven was doing a ceremony up on Chanctonbury Ring when something, a force, came up out of the ground, out of the hill. Everyone in the coven, including John Matthews, felt it. It was dark, imposing, and overpowering. They all fled the scene in terror. The coven disbanded after that because of it.

Charles William Taylor (British, 1878-1960) - 1930's Woodcut - 'Harvest Field' (with Chanctonbury Ring in the background).
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Edited by Orlando, 25 May 2019 - 10:05 AM.


#19 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 03:16 PM

View Postvives gladio, on 24 May 2019 - 02:44 AM, said:


...so I am inclined to lean towards a certain independence of spirit from active magical operations based on my anecdotal experience.

It's an interesting story and I appreciate that you shared it. It probably speaks to the characteristics of the world in which we live that are the very seeds of all manner of spiritual concepts, and by extension, magic and religion.

"Spirits in Generalized Ceremonial Magic" are, in contrast to the sort of spontaneous thing that happened to you, selected for their presumed powers, and intentionally summoned by a practicing magician to effect a certain end. How we got from those fundamental seed-type spontaneous experiences to elaborate pantheons of spirits and the procedures commonly employed to conjure them is an interesting anthropological/sociological puzzle, but the thread is rather meant to drop in on the ceremonial magic practice in full swing, so to speak.

The reason for setting it up that way is because I presume that those spirits are of a different nature from the kind of spirit(s) responsible for what you described. I think they're different in nature from the human and non-human animal spirits, and the plant spirits that tend to occupy a more shamanic practice as well.

It's useful to consider the full range of spirit-like experience in the process though, to set the table for the more specific consideration I had in mind.

Edited by R. Eugene Laughlin, 25 May 2019 - 03:16 PM.

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#20 Spida

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 06:32 AM

Spirit as a generalized non material entity. I was never able to be very specific about this sort of thing. I believed in the past I have had various encounters, but nothing on the order of entering into any meaningful dialog with said spirits. I had various bouts with sleep paralysis; feeling a presence then, as well as other times. The experiences always being somewhat vague, and not very informative. I observe what some call "angel signs" more times on a weekly basis than I can shake a stick at.

There may very well be a hierarchy of these entities. Not something I have the experience to elaborate on in a detailed sort of way, and may be inclined to be somewhat skeptical of those who do.

I believe pertinent to a particular class of this phenomenon, namely the emergent type associatd with the physical vessel. That there is a very strong and dependent connection between the spirit and vessel. Such that the spirits existence either being ephemeral, or non existent in the absence of this vessel. The vessel responsible for defining many charactereistics of the spirit among certain other factors.

Just as the material vessel is initially seeded for development. I suppose there could also be a seeding of the animating principle. I used to believe that spirit was something in essence tantamount to one or more of the four fundamental forces of nature. Fundamentally and mundanely animated by way of the electric principle, although the spirit possessing attributes similar to that of the magnetic principle. e.g. opposites attract, and the association with light. The common denominator being the photon which can be in a wave(frequency), or particle form. Electricity, a flow of electrons, are oddly enough, matter particles or fermions.

The forces mentioned attributed to the duality giving way to a deeper meaning or mystery, perhaps.
The Black Cat at Studio Arcanis : https://www.studioar...hp?f=23&t=17512





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