An Artifact of the ’70s

It’s interesting how things that once seemed so natural now come across as more than a little stilted and excessive. Case in point: as I work up my knowledge (and courage) to dive into the untested waters of crystal ball gazing, I’m absorbing the information in two books. In his Golden Dawn material on scrying, Israel Regardie recommended The Inner Guide Meditation by Edwin Steinbrecher as a useful example of one way to proceed. At the same time I discovered Steinbrecher, a forum mate proposed Crystal Ball Gazing by Uma Silbey. It turns out the two approaches are like night and day.

Silbey talks about a technique that is similar to advice I’ve followed for path-working with the tarot on the Tree of Life: that of creative visualization which places the seeker directly within the environment of the vision by figuratively opening a door, walking through and closing it behind, all while remaining suitably grounded and oriented. Steinbrecher also talks about exiting the psychic threshold (a cave in his model) through a kind of “side door,” but after that he turns over responsibility for making the most of the experience to a series of “inner guides.”

I can’t help but think that Silbey’s matter-of-fact explanation is more pragmatic (even if the ultimate goal is mystical enlightenment) and personally responsible, while Steinbrecher trails off into what today we would call “woo-woo” territory. In fairness, Inner Guide Meditation is a product of the 1970s New Age renaissance that now seems like a good deal of smoke and not much fire. Having lived through it from near the beginning, I no longer have a lot of interest in or patience with some of its more imaginative excrescences. As Silbey rightly postulates, having a conversation with entities we meet in our inner journey (assuming we don’t succumb to misleading astral “glamours” that invite self-delusion) is mainly entering into a dialogue with aspects of ourselves. Steinbrecher believes similarly but dresses up his system with personifications that seem rather “over-produced” in these less credulous times.

It may be that my prior experience with the astral plane – sans self-proclaimed “guides” – has placed me beyond the need of such hand-holding, but Silbey’s rational ideas about “charging the crystal”  for one’s particular purpose seem more economical and cut to the chase cleanly and without fanfare, placing responsibility for modulating the experience squarely on the seeker. Her work is replete with well-reasoned guidance, while Steinbrecher places more emphasis on a kind of “guessing game” designed to distinguish the “true” guides from the “false.” Since I’m not especially sanguine even about my own subconscious  intimations, I see no reason to play “20 Questions” with my psychic envoys, neither the ostensibly legitimate nor the engagingly spurious. They are all suspect in the astral twilight, so rather than wasting time quizzing them, I’ll just assume they have no particular reason to want to talk to me, and take whatever information I receive “under advisement.” As Silbey recommends, I’ll bring it back and analyze it later.

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