Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Visions in Conjurations

First, a disclaimer:

I write blog posts for fun, and at a very high level most of the time these days. Some of the topics, like scrying, could fill an entire book. There are nuances and dependencies and variables that come into play that would turn the post into instant TL/DR on sight. I go into more detail in the course materials. 

Now, the post:

In yesterday's post on Scrying, I focused primarily on hearing voices and learning to discern the voices of the spirits. Joãoc asked in the comments:

I understand what you're saying about the voices of spirits. What about vision, seeing spirits? Does that follow the same kind of principles? Do you have to learn to distinguish between images in your head and those that come from outside?
It's a subject worth a blog post in and of itself.

First, yes, it follows the same kind of principles, you pay attention to "where" in your head it feels like a vision originates when you picture it in your mind's eye while meditating, and you can sort of "feel" the difference when you receive a vision from a spirit.

But it's kind of tricksy. There are a lot of different kinds of visions you get when you're conjuring spirits.

I use and advocate the Modern Angelic Grimoire method of conjuring that includes a crystal. I see images in the crystal, like a bird shape that I just "know" is an eagle, or a crow. I might see a landscape, a blighted tree, or cloud shapes in the occlusions and imperfections of the crystal sphere I like to use.

These images in the crystal prompt a dialogue with the spirit, and set the scene for another kind of vision that unfolds in my third eye, more on the astral side of things than the physical. A bird shape in the crystal becomes a flying crow in my mind's eye, sometimes Thought or Memory returning to the shoulder of Odin, other times joining a flock of Ravens of Dispersion descending on an aspect of a person's life, or raising up leaving a scattered bloody mess.

These visions are like guided visualizations, prompted by the images in the crystal, and guided into appearance by the spirit. As the visions unfold, I ask the spirits questions about what I'm seeing, and they fill in the details, or respond by changing the vision a bit, giving me more details.

These visions unfold through the imagination. Patrick Dunn, in Postmodern Magic, talks about the role of imagination as a bi-directional communication device. It's an important concept to understand. A lot of people think that anything they imagine is completely under their control, completely sourced in their own minds. It's not, entirely.

But where a spirit's voice will "feel" like it's from outside your head, these visions are still taking place inside your head, using the bio-ware we use to see dreams with our eyes closed, and to see imagined vistas. So there's always a "feeling" inside my brain during these visions, like I'm feeling the dance electrons flowing through neurons from my pineal gland to my occipital lobe to my frontal lobe as the vision passes from the unseen into my consciousness on its way to the memory banks.

In response to Joãoc's comment, Jack Faust said:
I speak only for myself, but there is a clear difference between the vision state and internal fantasies. The vision state is closer to lucid dreaming while awake. And the spirits move differently than people or images move in one's mind.
This touches on how to tell when you're "just" imagining, and when you're receiving an actual vision from the spirits. He's right, there is a clear difference in the quality of the image, and it takes experience to understand what that means. It's exactly like lucid dreaming, but that might not help if you've never experienced a lucid dream. It's sort of like that old joke about trying to explain the taste of bald eagle... it's somewhere between a carrier pigeon and a dodo bird. 

Spirit visions tend to be sharper, crisper, cleaner than imagined images I produce on my own. They also take on a life of their own. You can imagine a person move around in your mind, but when they move around on their own, you can definitely feel the difference! Things you imagine on your own can be quickly and easily turned into other images, while images from spirits won't change as easily, or if they change, it's not necessarily what you meant for it to change into.

Often, it's the level of detail and the quality of light in the vision that lets me know the spirits are guiding the vision. If you study the paintings of Bierstadt and Durand, you'll see that they tried to paint the Inner Light of Deity into their images. Spirit visions tend to take on a quality of illumination that is different from your normal imagination.

So far we've talked about mental visions, and that's the "bread and butter" kind of vision I experience. Images in my mind's eye that I can interact with, interpret, and understand. I get these kinds of visions every time I sit down at the Table of Practice with my crystal and conjure the spirits, without fail.

But there's another kind of vision you get in conjurations... visual visions. They don't just appear in your mind's eye, they look, for all intents and purposes, like they're right there in the room with you, hovering above the crystal. They are shadowy shapes outside the Circle. They are visual distortion fields of intense density that feel like they're sucking you in. They are hovering orbs, flashing lights, and people in the room with you that you see out of the corner of your eye.

Like hearing a spirit voice that sounds audible to you, these visions happen a lot less often. Sometimes they can be seen by others, other times they are visions that you alone will receive. The other day, I had a vision of standing in a circle with the Severn Planetary Governors. It didn't last long, just a quick flash, but I was standing shoulder to shoulder with them, with all of us wearing our vestments of office in the appropriate colors. It was really cool.

But this kind of vision is rare, and ultimately beside the point entirely for practical magicians. If you need to see spirits with your eyes to prove to yourself that your magic is effective and working to spec, by all means strive for that experience. But I think it's a weakness, not a strength, an indication that you rely on the evidence of your physical senses too much to function at full strength in the world of the occult, in the realms of the unseen and unmanifest forces of creation.

Spirit visions are only one part of the overall experience when scrying. I get a lot more out of the conversations with the spirits, the communion, but the visions are part of that communion and conversation. There are also other sensory things going on during the rite, sounds you hear, strains of music, or scents. The smell you get when you meet your Holy Guardian Angel, for example, it's delicious. You get other visual effects too, like seeing auras around objects during the rite, or a sharpening of your vision. I'll go outside after a rite and feel like I could count every leaf on the trees, or every blade of grass because they're so crisply defined. You feel things emotionally, the atmosphere thickens or thins, you feel hot, or cold.

Scrying is important, a very important tool in your magician's kit. But it's not the point of magic. The point of any magical act is the outcome, the end result. If you've done a rite to obtain a vision of the Eighth Sphere, and you saw and heard nothing in the rite, but then dreamed of meeting Iophiel and being ushered into a realm of light populated by entities whose silent hymns are the Glorification of God and the manifestation of the World at the same time, your ritual is a success. Rites to get laid and paid are successful when you get laid and paid, not when you see the spirits or hear their voices.

People say it's not the destination that's important, it's the journey, and that's both trite and true at the same time. But while I enjoy the journey, I don't forget that the reason I left the house in the first place was to get where I wanted to be.