As I often say, I’m “devoutly nonreligious” in every orthodox sense but I do believe a persistent, non-human (or superhuman) primal intelligence, and maybe even a subordinate hierarchy of lesser spirits, inhabits the subtler realms of existence, and that we can communicate with it (or them) if we actively develop the sensitivity. (Before I get too far into this, let me be clear that I’m not talking about “gods and angels,” which are religious concepts.) It requires more than just “keeping an open mind,” it involves postulating this numinous presence in a coherent way and earnestly aspiring to establish a connection and open a two-way channel with it (or them) through transcendent mystical experience. Some of the ways I have become familiar with over the years engage the Creative Imagination: skrying in the spirit vision (or astral traveling, now called “path-working”) and crystal ball gazing are two; lucid dreamwork is another avenue that I haven’t explored. Then there is the practice of ceremonial magic, which is more structured than simply “having a friendly chat.”
As I understand practical magic (and I have studied it and performed a little in years past), the magician recognizes two methods for inviting discarnate entities into our personal reality. One is invocation, in which we open our consciousness to partnering with superior powers in a way that aligns us with their potency and allows us to draw on it for our own benefit; different forms of supplication (one of which is prayer and another meditation) are applied to make this happen. (“Assumption of the godform” is an advanced magical form of this spiritual exaltation.) The fanciful notion is that these spirits are just hanging around, eager for an opportunity to aid us whenever we call on them. Different forms of purification (such as fasting and “clearing”) may be practiced to render the magician worthy of receiving this boon (although some ecstatic types seek rapture through feasting and sensory befuddlement). Psychoactive shortcuts like natural hallucinogens (mescaline, psilocybin and ayahuasca, among others) can speed up the process, lowering barriers to nonphysical perception and heightening susceptibility to unique encounters. We drop our psychic defenses and hope for the best. (Those who have used a Ouija board may have first-hand knowledge of the attendant risks.)
Evocation is much less naive. It recognizes that not all denizens of the ethereal planes are favorably disposed to having their affairs interrupted by coarser forms of consciousness, while some may even be malicious and just want to mess with our heads when we bother them. These sometimes truculent beings (if you were the King of the Sylphs, how would you feel about being pestered?) are evoked or summoned into a prepared space (the “triangle of manifestation”) with all manner of dire charges and ritual exhortations to refrain from committing mayhem and – willingly or grudgingly – do the summoner’s bidding. Needless to say, this can be dangerous stuff requiring wards like the “magic circle” of protection within which the magus stands. It’s not for the faint-of-heart. Obviously, only the highest purposes should be entertained in this pursuit, but opportunities for self-serving abuse abound. I know people who have suffered psychic trauma in this way but they have never divulged how it transpired.
It’s probably obvious that I’m tuned into late-19th-Century occultism more than to popular New Age mysticism, but I recently came across another viewpoint that I can get behind. In a recent post on the Lorian Association’s website, Julia Spangler recalled having a conversation with a friend who questioned the “need” to assume the existence of spiritual entities such as Devas and Nature Spirits when the world seems pretty wonderful without them. She wrote:
“My response was, of course, that we are not choosing to have them here, or imagining them. They exist as part of the whole just as we do, and we are just learning how to respect their presence and collaborate with them more effectively. We might as well say why do we need to have humans, the earth is wonderful enough without them? As these presences do exist and are part of the whole ecosystem, we should learn to work in cooperation with them for the wellbeing of the whole.
This attitude toward the subtle worlds is not uncommon. If we can’t see it, then does it exist? We accept many things that we can’t see, often without thinking about it. But we are so trained by our culture to mistrust our perceptions that we often overlook those senses which do perceive our connections with subtle worlds. And we can get so locked into what we think we know that we fail to be open to new information or perceptions.
There are real mysteries in the universe, and new things to learn; and there are many wise minds and bright consciousnesses ready to help. If we keep our minds alert and open to new insights and perceptions we may be surprised by the companions we find ourselves walking with in our journey through life.”
I could not have said it better myself. Bravo, Julia!