De Regnis: On Principles of Practice and Regular Practices

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection (and the last!) will be on the topics of the principles of magical practice and regular practices.

On Principles of Practice

Dealing with the raw forces of creation, the elements, the planets, the stars, and other spiritual entities is dangerous, though rewarding. By interacting with these forces, magicians risk being overwhelmed by them without proper and regular practice and maintenance. Laying the foundation of daily practice to stabilize, sanctify, and secure one’s life cannot be overstated in importance;though it may not be glamorous or immediately rewarding, and though it may take considerable time and effort all on its own, regular practice is a crucial aspect of a magician’s life. Several principles can help guide a magician to developing a regular, consistent, and strong foundation in living magically.

Sanitize. Keep your entire sphere clean and cleansed, from the basest material components to the highest intellectual and divine ones. Air out your house, vacuum your carpets, sweep the floorboards, dust the fan blades, wash the car, light the candles, burn the camphor, sprinkle the holy water, clean all the things. Asperge yourself with holy water or other cleansing agents frequently.Do regular banishing and force balancing on yourself. Recleanse and reconsecrate your tools,talismans, and ritual space every so often. The more astral dirt you accrue by tracking it in from the higher spheres, or the more dust you bring in from inviting higher ups down into your house,the more confused and imbalanced things get down here and up there alike. Keep yourself, your surroundings, your tools, and your mind clean, cleansed, and clear.

Learn. You can do nothing if you know nothing. Read any and all books you can find on magic,philosophy, religion, spirituality, mathematics, literature, mythology, archaeology, linguistics, folktraditions, fiction ancient and new, science, engineering, history, economics, crafting, and more.Take classes in whatever you have an interest in, whether related to magic or not. Talk withfriends about their hobbies, experiences, stories, advice, warnings, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires.Expanding your mind also expands the potential horizons you can explore, no matter how innocuousor trivial something may seem. Harbor no biases on what you read, study, or discuss; keep an openmind and admit anything with practical merit. Go on roadtrips to see new things. Walk in big citiesto see new faces and fashions. Read blogs with political opinions opposite yours yet are well-writtenand reasoned.

Protect. If you have one foot in the door to get into the mysteries, you also leave the door ajar for ethereal enemies to attack you. Keep yourself safe. Set up barriers, shields, or guards around your house. Make protective charms, phylacteries, or enchanted trinkets to keep on yourself. Find out what force you best resonate with and manipulate it to act as a shield around you. Always keep an eye out for anything awry or ominous. Create magical or ritual weapons to call on or call up when needed. Create magical oils or incenses to keep out bad things and keep in good things. Be mindful of barriers, boundaries, and circles that have already been erected. Leave gossip, dangerous places, and risky situations be instead of looking for bad stuff to happen.

Breathe. Breathing is the source of life down here, and aspiration shares the same root with “inspiration” and “spirit”. By knowing, feeling, and controlling the breath one can control voice level, speech and diction, blood flow, thought patterns, and ultimately the entire being tied into material reality just as one is into spiritual reality. Breathing is the crux of meditation, and meditation is the crux of knowing yourself, which is the holiest injunction humanity has. Breathing,just breathing, is magical in and of itself; breathing is what animates us, ensouls us, and keeps us alive and living. Breathing is the foundation of magic, and breathing must be known, understood,and integrated constantly with oneself in order to progress.

Pray. Humans, powerful as they are, were never meant to be alone in any sense of the word, nor can they accomplish their goals on their own. People need help, and prayer is how humans can obtain it, especially from the divine. Pray for guidance, for patience, for mercy, for compassion, for humility, for forgiveness, for health, for sight, for knowledge, for wisdom, for authority, for power, for light, and in that order. Pray the Source, the gods, the angels, the celestials, the elementals, the dead, and each other for their blessings, advice, guidance, alignment, unity, and boons. Pray to know how to use the blessings and boons given to us to the best of abilities and for the best result for all of us. Pray with praise, pray with emotion, pray with silence. Pray with your entire body,soul, spirit and mind. Pray every day, pray several times a day. Pray.

Stay healthy. Humans are amphibious, both spiritual and physical. Magic is largely focused on the spiritual, but it always needs to bring the spiritual and astral down into the material and physical. Be sure you do not neglect your body, because the body the primary and only vehicle you have to work magic, and the one tool you will always have with you in the world. Get enough sleep every night. Go to bed at the same time every night. Get enough to eat every day, but no more. Eat the proper things in the proper amounts. Shower, wash your hair, brush your hair, brush your teeth, floss your teeth, exfoliate, deodorize. Get at least half an hour of light physical activity every day. Expose yourself to the elements once every so often. Go outside and enjoy the sunlight,moonlight, starlight, wind, mist, clouds, rain, rivers, oceans, dirt, trees, and animals. “Healthy”has its roots in the same word as “whole” and “holy”, and you need to stay whole physically in order to spiritually progress wholesomely.

Get dirty. Actually go out into the world and remind yourself that you are still a physical,material being that has physical, material needs. Everything in moderation, including moderation:get sick, get drunk, get high, get rich, get poor, get happy, get sad, get angry, get lonely, get loved.You are a human being to experience human life, and without that experience you will have failed at your birth’s purpose. Getting yourself meshed in human life, living in the world while not wholly of it, helps keep things in perspective and shows the power of the cleansing, cleaning, Light-bearing work you do. Getting dirty helps us realize that even dirt is pure and holy, that nothing is truly separate from the Source from which it came.

Do it. Complain however much you like or complain not at all; magic and life are going to suck no matter what. That does not change the fact that you are a magician to do magic. Do it. Do it now. There is no other way, time, or place to do it. Just do it.

On Regular Practices

Based on these principles, a magician should develop a strict regimen of practice that is carried out each and every day. It cannot be overstated or overemphasized how important and crucial it is fora regimen and routine of regular practice to be developed; this is the beating heart of the Great Work. Just as a musician must study music theory and practice for years, or an engineer technology and science rigorously for as long, before reaching mastery, so too must regular practice be both regular and practiced. This is the way magicians refine their skills as well as themselves, both in this world and in all others.

Upon creating a regular practice, one should endeavor every day to carry it out without fail. Even though this is ideal, however, sometimes life throws the machine of practice out of balance:people get sick, family emergencies occur, mundane matters must temporarily take importance,and so forth. Sometimes a little bit more sleep is needed, or one simply and honestly forgets to carry out one’s tasks for the day. This is alright, and no cause for inflicting punishment on oneself.In such cases when a set routine is broken, all that is required is to continue it where one left off. Failure and change is destined to happen in life, and the notion of success in a system where failure is inevitable is to keep trying and keep going after every failure. This dedication and willingness to keep up one’s routine and practice is the core ethic of the Work, just as the routine itself is the praxis of it.

Further, there are limitations to regular practices that have been set. Although it is good to keep oneself to a set practice, it is not necessarily as good to keep the same practice forever.As magicians grow and evolve in their spiritual and cosmic lives, some practices cease to become useful, while others can suddenly hold more importance never before considered. Every so often,but not too frequently, one should reevaluate oneself and one’s spiritual progress, understanding which practices are of use, which were of use but no longer, and what new practices might become of use or are interesting enough to pursue. Upon investigation and conferring with resources and other advisers, one should change one’s practice, add to it, or remove unhelpful acts to keep one spiritually fresh and constantly evolving.

To illustrate the notion of regular practice, a simple routine of daily rituals might look like the following:

Daily morning practice: ablution with holy water and ritual cleansing, prayers to the Almighty (adoration, intercession, requests for guidance and power), prayers to any powers or patrons one allies with, general offering of water and incense to local spirits and ancestors, at least thirty minutes of meditation, simple energy work.

Daily evening practice: at least twenty minutes of meditation, simple energy work, reflection on the day’s events, prayers to the Almighty and other powers (confession, intercession, protection, thanksgiving).

Weekly practice: thorough banishing and cleansing of one’s sphere, offering to one’s spiritual allies, divination of any pressing questions and the coming week, contemplation of a magical symbol.

Monthly practice: thorough banishing and cleansing of one’s home and local environment, divination for the coming month, reconsecration of one’s tools, consecration of holy water and other supplies used in magical workings.

Yearly practice: special feast days or festivals, offerings to one’s dead heroes or ancestors, pilgrimages to one’s hometown or spiritual focus, analysis of one’s progress in the past year, changes to one’s practice.

In addition to regular practice, having a regular space dedicated to practice is essential. Setting up a corner of one’s bedroom to act as a spiritual center, or using a spare room or insulated large shed for the same, will suffice to set up a temple for spiritual work. At least two focuses for spiritual work should be erected: a shrine at which one can comfortably kneel for devotional work and prayers, and a waist-high altar for operations, spiritual work, and conjuration. This area should be kept clean and pure, especially if kept in a bedroom or other public space where other people visit.

De Regnis: Supplies and Objects

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection will be on the topics of supplies, tools, and objects.

On Supplies and Objects

Although the primary heart of spiritual work with the kingdoms of the cosmos is inherently intangible and immaterial, material goods and substances form an important part of many spiritual paths,whether acting as focuses and stimulants for the body or for symbols for the mind to dwell on to obtain higher meaning. The use of ritual tools, magical items, consumable food and drink, and other supplies has a long history across the world, whether offering alcohol to spirits, use of drums and sacred instruments to induce trances, or creating charms and amulets for loved ones to keep them safe. Although there are effectively as many spiritual types of items as there are mundane items, a few large categories are described below that are important to the magus.

Tools. In the course of magical and spiritual ritual, specialized objects that undergo specific consecration for select purposes are used; these are the magician’s tools. Tools may take the form of simple day-to-day objects, such as pens or kitchen knives, but often are elaborated, decorated, and made special through their form, such as by detailed engraving or anointing with oil. Magical tool soften undergo specific rituals of consecration or blessing, where the tools are not only cleansed and dedicated to ritual, but also often for a specific practice or limited use within ritual. For instance,some ritual practitioners have four types of bladed instruments: a ritual sword to represent the element of Air and the powers of the mental faculties, a utility knife dedicated for cutting material things or sacrifices, a spiritual knife to draw circles or engrave special characters, and a war sword used to represent the planet of Mars for offensive and defensive works against spirits and animals alike. Different traditions use different sets of tools, both for their material purposes as well as symbolic meaning, such as the attributions of the elements of Fire and Air to the wand and the sword. However, common sets of ritual tools often include a wand or a staff, a knife, a chalice, a pentacle, a scrying medium such as a crystal ball or mirror, a brazier or censer, an engraving tool,and so forth. Divination tools and supplies, such as a deck of divination cards or dice, also fall into this category.

Clothing. Ritual clothing is similarly important in spiritual work, acting as another type of magical object. Special clothing, kept and used strictly for magical work, helps the magician in both stepping into the proper mindset for ritual work as well as preserving and enhancing the spiritual power of the ritual and the magician. Clothing should be used at the least for enhancing the atmosphere and decoration of the ritual, but may also be generically used for all rituals. Full sets of clothing, such as robes that completely cover the body, may be used across rituals equally well, or minor trinkets such as rings, belts, or boots that may be worn with different outfits can be equally suitable. Ritual clothing may change between traditions or even between rituals in the same tradition, and may be used for multiple purposes at once. These purposes often include protection,preserving purity, aligning oneself to the spirits or to a particular force, and similar purposes.

Talismans. Not all magical objects are those used in ritual. Indeed, many objects may undergo consecration or blessing to bestow benefits or cause changes without any active use. These items are talismans, items that have been magically empowered to cause change. All tools and ritual clothing may be considered talismans, but not all talismans are tools. Talismans are often used to benefit those who possess them in some way, such as protection from spirits or illnesses, enhancing one’s business, or to attract friendship and love from others. Some talismans are dedicated and consecrated by a particular spirit, such as saint medallions, to bestow the attention and blessing of a specific entity upon its bearer. Some talismans are simply set up in the home and left there, such as talismans for protection or safety in the home. However, not all talismans need to be beneficial;talismans to work harm may also be created, left behind as weapons on an enemy’s property or similarly snuck into their belongings to cause malefic influences. Many methods exist to create a talisman, from devout and concentrated prayer over an object to elaborate ritual and sacrifice.

Edible Goods. Particular foods, drinks, and other edible substances may be used in ritual to great effect, either for oneself or for the benefit of a spirit. Many traditions make food and drink offerings, especially those of fresh fruit, harvested grains, clean water, fresh or sacrificed meat, wine or alcohol, and the like; some traditions have the priest or ritual officiant give the food offering entirely without consuming any of it, while others instruct the officiants to partake of the food after the ritual or during it. Blessing food to contribute benefits, or cursing it to harm those who eat it, is a common practice and easily done, either for oneself or for others, even to preserve the integrity of it over long distances or time frames without other preservation. Foods and drinks with a mind-altering effect, known as entheogenic drugs, have been used to enhance or open the mind up to the revelation of gods and the spirit worlds, but should be used with caution. It is important to never use toxic substances without close supervision or control, especially those known to be fatal if ingested. Poisoning others, likewise, is condemnable and generally punishable by governments.

Other Supplies. Beyond food, drink, tools, talismans, and clothing, many other goods often come into play for a magician. Particular incenses, oils, candles, and altar cloths which may be used for anointing or consecration, or for use in different conjurations or communions with spirits, often forms a crucial part of ritual setup, especially given the elemental association of burning incense with pure spirit. Candles, offering light to the world, are burned frequently and used in great quantities to illuminate the world and the worker with the Light from the Divine as well as to honor, exalt, and offer worship to other spirits. Herbs, resins, powders, and dirts from any number of plants, mines, rivers, or other natural features may also be called for, as may some animal parts such as feathers, fur, or blood. Statues, sacred artwork, or other decoration may be desired for work or altar setup, especially when called for by a particular tradition or to call upon a specific spirit.Collecting ancient or authentic artifacts from a particular tradition, era, or culture can connect one with the practices and people who lived in the roots of one’s own tradition. Other implements,such as railroad spikes, horse bits, broken glass, or wooden boxes may also be required for specific rituals. In essence, any object may be used for spiritual or magical purposes, often in creative or novel ways merely by some ideal or purpose-based link that connects an object to a magical ritual.

Tool and Talisman Care. Consecrated objects, being made holy and powerful, deserve careful attention and care to maintain their power and blessed natures. They should not be handled by other people unless it is permissible to do so or if a ritual calls for it, and should not be handled or toyed with by the magician unless actively in use, and unless the magician is in a state of purity to properly handle them. Tools, though they should be regularly used, should also be regularly cleaned, polished, anointed, and similarly maintained. Incense, ashes, dusts, powders,and other debris should be cleaned up and disposed of respectfully, or be reused with care. Any consecrated object, if it requires it, should be duly and carefully consecrated or undergo a type of periodic reconsecration or recharging. Talismans, statues, and images of spirits or gods should be honored and kept clean or anointed, and should be kept in places of respect or holiness such as altars or temples. Metal objects should be gently polished regularly to prevent rust, tarnish, breaking, or similar degradation. Edible and drinkable substances should be kept separate from other supplies, and should be stored and ingested with respect and contemplation. Consecrated objects and supplies of all kinds are a kind of treasure that deserves respect and honor, being made something more than mere matter; disrespecting these objects is to disrespect the spirits and power that made them holy, which can cause problems or punishment by those same spirits.

De Regnis: Altars and Sacred Spaces

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection will be on the topics of altars and sacred spaces.

On Altars

Altars are important in the work of any spiritual person, as they provide a focus for one’s work.Altars may be any sacred place where one addresses the gods or spirits, or where one performs rituals or sacrifices at. At its most general, an altar is a dedicated spot that is not one’s own but so that one may work with the larger cosmos. Altars can take many forms, but are most often raised platforms, from the size of large hills to small corner tables or portable boxes. Depending onthe purpose of the altar or its target of sacredness, however, the altar may also take the form of a pit, a cast iron cauldron, or some other focus of reverence and spiritual power. Although all altars express the same idea of a place where one interacts and works with the sacred and the spiritual,altars commonly fall into two main categories based on their primary use: devotional altars for divine sacrifice and operational altars for magical ritual.

Devotional Shrine. The devotional shrine is a place or surface, such as a table or a cairn, where one makes prayers, performs sacrifices, and exalts the Divine. Holy symbols or images, such as statuary or icons, are common at devotional altars, and such altars are commonly decorated or embellished in manners pleasing to the devotee and devotor. Devotional altars may be prepared for accepting sacrifices of liquid, blood, meat, fire, incense, or other offerings as deemed acceptable by both spirit and man alike, or may be simple surfaces where one presents plates or bowls of the offerings to them. Devotional altars may be a single surface with many spirits or gods represented on them, or one may have multiple such altars each dedicated to a particular divinity. Any spirit, force, or god to be communed with or revered should have at least some representation and offering at an altar.It is always recommended to have at least one candle burning at all times on a devotional altar, or at least while one is making devotions there.

Operational Altar. As opposed to the devotional altar which is intended for prayers and sacrifices, the operational altar is a construction specific for the magus to work magical ritual. While supplicating the Divine may be done at the devotional altar, the operational altar is intended for a magician to directly contact and work with the forces of the cosmos directly or through the conjuration and invocation of other spirits. Instead of offering sacrifices, the operational altar typically holds the tools of the Work, such as wands, chalices, candles, talismans, and other such magical goods in order to perform ritual. Operational altars may be used for consecrating, blessing, en-chanting, or otherwise empowering objects to be made into talismans or amulets; for conjuration of spirits and angels; or for other particular magical endeavors such as energy work and healing. The primary distinction between an operational altar and a devotional altar is that operational altars are for one to interact with the cosmos on one’s own, while a devotional altar is for one to interact with the divinities and spirits of it on their own

Altar Care. Whether an altar is intended for one’s devotions or one’s operations, it is necessary to keep altars in good condition. Unless one has the direct suggestion from a spirit, altars should be kept clean and free from debris, dust, and all filth. Old offerings and sacrifices should be removed from the altar when the offerings have been consumed, usually immediately after the ritual or a day or so afterwards, depending on the spirit. Ash, extra herbs and powders, and loose supplies should be disposed of appropriately. The altars should ideally be kept hidden from outsiders or anyone who does not work with them, preferably in a separate room free from pollution and miasma; however,when in public or in a space where guests may be present, covering the altar with a clean cloth used only for that purpose may suffice. Before approaching an altar, one should be clean and purified physically and spiritually. Just as with one’s tools, altars should be taken care of for as long as they are in use. When an altar is no longer required, all its tools and equipment should be respectfully removed, a prayer or working done to officially deconsecrate the space or furniture used for the altar, and the furniture respectfully removed or given away.

On Sacred Spaces

Just as an altar provides a concentrated focus for one’s spiritual activities, larger spaces may also be used for devotion and ritual. While altars may be placed anywhere, they are commonly found in nested levels of sacred spaces, while some sacred spaces have no altars or only temporary ones erected for a specific purpose for a short time. Sacred spaces may be dedicated entirely to one particular spirit or type of working, or may be more generally consecrated for any number of rituals.

Circles. A circle is the simplest form of sacred space, consisting of a closed off area for protection or purity drawn about in a circle. The use of a circle is important, though features outside the circle such as braziers or stands may be in a square, pentagonal, or some other shape. The circle itself is sacred, due to its shape and property of consisting of a single unbroken line. A circle should be drawn clockwise and erased counterclockwise, as a symbolic means to create and remove the circle. Circles may be drawn by tracing a wand or blade on the ground, or may be drawn out in paint, powder, salt, or some other material. The defining feature of a circle is that it is inherently a temporary space, though a fixed circle drawn in something permanent may be reused in multiple rituals. Circles may also be drawn to be pushed out to the boundaries of whole rooms, such as by pointing the wand or blade up at the corner edges of a room in a circle instead of down on the ground.

Temples. Unlike the temporary circle, a temple is a dedicated space for spiritual work. A temple consists of some sort of structure, from a single small room to a sprawling construction complex,which is completely given over to spiritual work. Non-spiritual work should be limited or prohibited in the temple, which may house multiple altars for separate divinities or operations. Though the word “temple” is used, it may be applied to any similar structure, such as a church, synagogue, mandir, jinja, or masjid. Personal or small-scale temples may be set up in a house by dedicating a whole room or a corner of one to spiritual work, often with an altar and keeping it separate from the rest of the house and household activities. Other structures that may be related to spiritual work but not used for spiritual work itself, such as storerooms or galleries for religious art, maybe considered part of the temple if the actual temple space used for spiritual work encloses or is connected to the other structures or rooms. While a circle may be used to interact with the spirits,the temple is often seen to be the home or residence of a spirit. Small temples, such as those which occupy only a part of a room, may often be referred to as shrines, especially when they house some sort of cult image or relic. Oratoria, or prayer rooms, may be considered a type of single-room or part of a room dedicated to prayer and devotional work.

Precincts. Enclosing whole temples, large spaces known as precincts or temenoi are large areas of land and real estate given over to a temple, often including groves, parks, lakes, or other natural features of the land. These are most often reserved for large temples, but the precinct is sometimes the temple itself, especially if a spiritual tradition has an emphasis on open-air rituals such as in ancient Greek rituals. Sacred precincts serve to provide a retreat both in body and spirit to provide an immersive environment separate from worldly matters. These sacred lands may also be seen to provide an earthly paradise for man and god alike, as well as a place where man may be closer to divinity through nature or through meditation in a large area dedicated to a particular divinity.

Space Care. Similar to altars and tools, sacred spaces must be cared for and maintained, though the area covered by a particular sacred space may be difficult to maintain. Any sacred space must be kept clean and free from miasma; regular cleaning and cleansing of the area is good, as is ensuring that all who enter are pure and cleansed. Any who try to enter a sacred space with contrary or ill desires, or with an intent to harm, steal, or defile the sacred space, should be kept from entering at all costs. If the sacred space is not meant to be opened to the public, the space should be locked or somehow protected from trespassers. If a sacred space is created for a temporary purpose, the area should be thoroughly cleaned first in every way before consecrating the area. If the sacred space is dedicated to a particular god or divinity, the blessing and guidance of that spirit should be invoked both for the consecration of the space as well as for its maintenance. When a temporary sacred space is deconsecrated, all the spirits and work there should be honored and all tools, supplies,sacrifices, and work should be respectfully removed according to the wishes of the spirits and gods there; this done, the space itself should be thoroughly cleaned once more and all altars and furniture decommissioned and disassembled in a respectful manner, followed by the invocation of the spirits there to release the area back to the world to no longer be used for a holy purpose. If a sacred space was dedicated to a particular spirit or a particular type of working, workings or worship of spirits antithetical or opposed to that consecration should not be done in that area.

De Regnis: On Spiritual Conditions and Prohibitions

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection will be on the topics of spiritual conditions and prohibitions.

On Spiritual Conditions

Humanity, as any other class or race of sentient entities, is a complex creature, with complexinteractions that change complex states in one’s body, soul, spirit, and mind. Different interactionscan change the state and condition of a human: just as washing in water can make one clean,spilling dirt or dust on one can make one dirty. Sometimes, these changes are only superficial,but other interactions can induce longer or deeper changes, such as injuries or illnesses. Someinteractions affect the spiritual component of humanity in addition to or instead of the physicalcomponent, and these conditions must be recognized and worked with in order to maintain one’shealth and well-being. For one to work with the cosmos, it is not enough to limit one’s attention tothe self present in the physical world, but to the self that is present and can travel among all worlds.Although there are infinite conditions that the self can undergo, some of the most important and well-known conditions that should be avoided or fixed are defilement, affliction, haunting, stress,and shaman sickness.

Defilement. Just as the physical body collects dirt, grime, and filth that can create odors, illnesses, or other hygienic problems, so too does the spiritual body collect negative emotions, miasma,and pollution that cause spiritual problems. Sometimes these defilements have no physical basis,but they often do, such as coming in contact with something that has a markedly negative impression put upon it. Being defiled can cause spirits to stay away from yourself, and often requires purification of both the body and the spirit, physical cleaning and spiritual cleansing.

Affliction. Unhealthy spiritual conditions that one suffers to their detriment. Often, being afflicted has the result of one feeling “out of step with time”, always at the wrong place or at the wrong time, constant bad luck, constant or chronic illness or fatigue, opportunities being restricted or taken away, or similar. Two primary kinds of affliction exist, crossed and cursed. Crossed conditions are an affliction that one enters into through one’s irreverence, disrespect, ignorance,vulgarity, banality, or carelessness in one’s actions; crossed conditions are often the result of disrespecting or ignoring spiritual prohibitions or taboos, and angering spirits or gods. Cursed conditions are similar, but are the result of someone performing a ritual to explicitly harm the target. Crossed conditions are best removed through appeasing and asking forgiveness of the spirits, while curses must be dealt with and removed on their own terms or by working with the original curser.

Haunting. A condition where a person or place is under constant assailing or infestation by a spirit. Haunted conditions may take the form of obsession or possession. With obsession, the spirit constantly lingers around its target, nagging and annoying or generally causing harm and malignance; this is not unlike being crossed, and can sometimes be a result of being crossed.Possession is when one is dominated and controlled by a spirit, performing actions that the target would otherwise not do while unafflicted. Blackouts and loss of memory, as well as extraordinary physical or spiritual ability, are common indications of possession. Depending on the strength of the spirit haunting the target, varying levels of skill and force may be required to helping the situation,from a simple spiritual bath to a week-long exorcism or more.

Stress. A condition where one’s spiritual and energetic capabilities are fatigued to the point of exhaustion. Excessive ritual without properly preparing oneself, working for long amounts of time without rest and recuperation, and being too close to sources of power can all induce stress or burnout. Physical fatigue, fevers, headaches, hunger, delirium, sickness, and lowered cognitive ability can all be the results of spiritual stress. Proper rest and nourishment are needed to remove stressed conditions, including both physical and spiritual measures. Stress may be an indication that one is trying to attempt too much too fast; more preparation and simple exercises to build up one’s tolerance for spiritual work and power may be required.

Shaman sickness. An idea taken from various animist cultures, shaman sickness indicates that one is called to work with the spiritual world but ignores the call. Unlike simple vocations in the human world, when the spirits call and are ignored, humans suffer. Often, shaman sickness is present in children or young adults who are not properly spiritually raised or who try to shun the spiritual side of humanity, and symptoms can be at least as bad as crossed conditions, if not extreme up to the point of severe illness and death. Shaman sickness may happen to those who have not yet entered into a spiritual path or to those who have left their path entirely; in both instances, one is not performing their cosmic duty and will suffer until they reclaim their responsibilities. Shaman sickness is cured only by beginning or continuing the work given to spiritual workers.

On Prohibitions

Although not an active part of practice, the observation of restrictions and prohibitions on one’s actions is still an important part of one’s work. Just as there are laws in place to keep citizens of a country from enacting criminal deeds, many religions and spiritual traditions have sets of rules,precepts, and commandments to keep their adherents from straying from the path or performing acts antithetical to the teachings of those paths. Such prohibitions may be developed in any number of ways, but the most important and meaningful are those obtained from the spirits themselves, be they a god or some other spirit.

Prohibitions received from the spirits themselves, such as the Ten Commandments given to Moses by the God of Judaism, are usually set in place to please or placate the spirits that give them, or to keep them in an agreeable contract or vow with the people given the prohibitions.Such prohibitions, also known as taboo, are considered of the highest priority and should always be followed. Sometimes, as in the Noahide Laws, these prohibitions are intended for all people whether part of a particular religion or not. In other cases, these rules are given only to individuals for their own well-being and progress, or for the creation and effecting of vows.

Personal vows and ascetic practices, on the other hand, are prohibitions that one puts upon their own self and practice. Oftentimes, these vows are made as a mark of dedication to one’s path or to a particular spirit, such as prohibiting oneself from consuming intoxicants if one works with a god of purification or sobriety, or prohibiting oneself from drinking wine without making an offering of it to a god of pleasure and intoxication. Some vows are purely symbolic or have their basis in a particular spirit’s mythos and history, or are instituted to keep one’s practice in line or from falling apart. Extreme versions of these vows, sometimes known as a geas, implies utter adherence and obedience to a particular vow, with the result of breaking the vow being extreme debilitation, affliction, or even death; such vows are bindings.

Other prohibitions that might be observed, especially those that religions or traditions keep as a whole, often have natural or political causes that require certain rules of behavior to be kept to keep their followers a cohesive group as well as to ensure their practice and existence. For instance,rules to prevent gossip, clarity of speech, not making false accusations, not lying or exaggerating one’s stories, and not charging interest on loans are rules that, although not having a clear spiritual origin, help in other spiritual objectives as well as living a good life according to the ethics and values of a particular path. Keeping a rule of secrecy, not speaking to others of lessons learned, and similar laws of silence can help ensure the existence and sacredness of a tradition, especially one whose lessons are initiations or are mysteries that are kept from the general public. Other rules,such as the kosher food and dietary laws of Judaism, are meant as sanitary codes or similar guidelines to ensure the physical health and longevity of their adherents, which are necessary in order to develop a healthy spiritual life.

These and other prohibitions, though useful, are by no means mandated in the Great Work,depending on one’s path and progress. However, when one accepts a prohibition from a spirit, a group one follows, or oneself, it is essential that one carry out that prohibition. Breaking any rules that one is bound to is nothing good, and one should strive as much as possible to avoid doing so.It sometimes happens, however, that one breaks a prohibition, either with or without the intention to break it; breaking such a prohibition or vow can have no effect or chaotic and ultimately fatal effects, depending on the source and nature of the prohibition. Upon breaking a vow, one should always strive to make peace with the spirit or group that instituted the prohibition, confessing one’s violation of the rule, returning any boon or blessing that was bestowed in exchange for accepting the vow, and making reparatory offerings and apologies to spirits that demand it. Such offerings are dependent on the spirits that require them, so asking them or their priests for what may be required to mend a broken vow or to forgive a violated prohibition is necessary. Sometimes a vow must be broken to prevent a greater vow from being broken, or to prevent a great danger or evil that might befall oneself; in other words, utility can sometimes trump propriety. In these cases,upon breaking the vow or prohibition, one should still go through with the process of atonement and making reparatory offerings.

The purpose of accepting and carrying out vows and prohibitions is to show dignity, uprightness,and constancy in one’s Work. Through these vows, people, spirits, and the worlds we work in can depend on us and trust us with power, knowledge, and spiritual strength. However, by breaking such vows, one can often lose this respect and trust gained from the spirits. This can cause spirits to be less cooperative, ignore one altogether, or actively harm the one who breaks vows and prohibitions;similar results can happen just as easily with human entities as they can with spiritual entities. If one finds a vow too extreme to uphold, it is better to never accept it than to break it later and ask for forgiveness; if one has already accepted the vow, then the recommended practice would be to confer with the spirits or group of people who instituted it and ask whether the vow might be lifted or forgiven, depending on one’s situation. This latter choice, though not as harmful as outright breaking a vow and indicating that one is humble and self-aware enough to recognize one’s own weakness, is not preferable, however.

Prohibitions, vows, and mutual offerings can all be thought of as contracts. If several parties sign onto a contract with certain specifications, expectations, payments, and contingencies, then those parties are considered bound and obligated to uphold the terms of the contract. If any one party breaks the terms of the contract, any contingencies related to the contract being nullified or the specific part violated may come into play; otherwise, the contract may be in continued effect or may be entirely annulled depending on the terms of the contract. Once a contract is broken,there are usually no expectations about what the backlash, if any, might be; this is usually up to the spirits or to the group that institutes it, but are often known well in advance of any contract being signed, and are often part of the contract itself.

It so happens that one may enter into a contract, prohibition, or vow with a spirit or entity, including a person or a group of persons, and instead of the practitioner violating the prohibition or contract, it is the other party who fails to carry out the terms of the vow. For instance, a priest may seek the aid of a particular god for a particular end, promising to make offerings on their behalf in exchange for work done for the priest, but the event and work never come to pass. In such cases, the one who asked for the prohibition is often freed from the vow, since the other party broke it; however, one should be absolutely sure in approaching this matter, and always seek find out why the vow was not upheld or whether such a vow should never have been taken up to begin with. In the case where the vow on a spirit is not upheld, many factors can come into play,not all of which may be under the spirit’s capability. Sometimes, the integrity or credibility of the spirit is called into question; if this is found lacking, another spirit should be worked with

De Regnis: Approaching Spirits, Offerings and Sacrifices, Identification and Authentication

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection will be on the topics of approaching spirits, offerings and sacrifices to the spirits, and spirit identification and authentication.

On Approaching the Spirits

Respect and permission should be the rule to approach, interact with, and work with spirits. In short, if one respects the spirits, the spirits will respect them. This will not always be the case,of course, especially given some instances of particularly offensive spirits or spirits who have been specifically sent out to cause harm. However, even in these circumstances, working with respect and permission is often better than reckless vitriol and domination.

Respect towards a spirit can be effected in many ways, but generally the Golden Rule applies to spirits just as it would humans and animals. The crucial difference is that things that happen to humans, such as death or disease, do not happen to spirits or happen in ways hard for humans to comprehend. If a spirit reaches out to someone, it suggests that the spirit has learned about the person enough to engage in communication. It is similarly proper for magicians and all spiritual workers to learn about a spirit they wish to contact before trying to make contact. Learn about the tradition the spirit comes from, the languages and prayers and songs used to contact the spirit, the traditional offerings and acceptable sacrifices to be made to them, what the spirit finds appealing or desirable, and so forth. Such learning is a mark of respect to the spirit, which generally makes the spirit more amenable to working with a magician and hearing them out. Similarly, any vows,promises, or offerings made to the spirit should be held and followed through. Contact with the spirit, once made, should be continued in an agreeable time frame such as once a week, once a month, or so; simply dropping off the radar and ignoring the spirit is a mark of disrespect.

Imagine two people approaching a third. One of the two people is someone the third has known for decades, a good friend from youth whom the person knows is honorable and trustworthy. The other person is someone the third has met only yesterday, and though the person may have heard rumors, they are effectively still strangers. If the third person were asked to lend money to each of the others, the person would be more likely to lend money and more of it to the friend rather than the stranger due to the relationship built up between the person and the friend. Likewise, it is important to build up a relationship with the spirits based on respect, honor, trustworthiness,and the like. Although magicians often seek vassals or servant spirits for their work, respectful magicians seek to befriend rather than control spirits, since it provides them with something much more important than a servant: an ally. Servants perform work because they are ordered to; allies perform work because they want to.

Similarly, seeking permission from spirits is important to understand their capabilities and whether a particular action is the best action for all those involved. The notion of license from the spirits is another matter of respect, but also connects to the matter of what one is cosmically allowed to do. Indeed, many matters of trespassing, breaking prohibitions, theft, or similar crimes against spirits and the places and things they hold sacred can easily be avoided or eliminated entirely by asking for permission. Instead of making an adventure through a known haunted forest, ask for permission first to enter; instead of simply taking a pretty stone from an ancient tree, ask for permission to take it; instead of calling on an angel or a god to smite one’s enemies, ask first to see whether they will deign to do so. By acting out of pride and self-importance, magicians often neglect to ask for permission from the spirits and gods of the world. Asking for permission first ensures that we will be held in line according to our station without overstepping the boundaries laid for us or for others.

To ascertain whether one has received permission, always be sure to ask. Either through a simple yes-or-no divination method invoking the spirits or communing with the spirits directly,there are many methods available depending on the spirit to communicate and see whether one should or should not do something. This should not be regulated to every minute and single action, however; not all things require the permission of the spirits, such as brushing one’s teeth or making silent prayers in a particular location. However, anything that might infringe upon the hospitality, respect, and honor of the spirit should be questioned. After building respect and honor with the spirits, some magicians may find that spirits generally or specifically are more inclined togive permission to more things; this is a mark of trust upon the magician, which should be kept sacrosanct and unbroken if possible.

Building respect with one spirit tends to build up respect with many spirits, especially those similar to the ones already respected. Much as humans have their own social networks and cliques,spirits communicate and interact amongst themselves in myriad ways, sometimes as family and sometimes as enemies. Spirits talk, and spirits let other spirits know when a particular human is notable or remarkable for good or for ill. By respecting one spirit, rumors and news of one’s respectability spreads, which makes it easier for spirits to trust them. This also works in the reverse: if one disrespects a spirit or makes vows that are never upheld, other spirits also know about this and may decline to ever work with the magician.

There are times when spirits themselves are unable to uphold the vows and bargains they make, or lie to magicians, or even act offensively against humans and the world. Spirits who habitually lie, deceive, and cause harm should be avoided since they cannot be trusted. Spirits who fail in a single task or are unable to bring results despite a history of having good results should be forgiven and inquired about why they might have failed or how other things might have affected them. Keep in mind that all the rules of respect and permission that apply for a magician towards a spirit also apply for a spirit towards a magician: if one is harmed or acted against without permission given,the harmful spirit should be reprimanded or punished, especially if the harm was caused without prior warning or need. In these cases, it helps to appeal to higher powers, such as patron deities or strong spirit allies, to act on one’s behalf in addition to using one’s own measures to fight against and punish the spirit.

On Offerings and Sacrifices

An important part of building relationships and working with spirits is the process of making offerings, commonly known as sacrifice. In sacrifice, a Latin word meaning “to make holy”, an object, substance, or action is given and dedicated to a spirit; the thing given to them is effectively theirs. The nature of a sacrifice can vary based on tradition, the means of the sacrificer, and the desires of the spirit in question, and can range from a bottle of alcohol to a whole animal roasted in a special fire to a simple song sung in public or private. Games thrown in the honor of a spirit,certain ordeals of the flesh or spirit, whole lands or properties, and poems or books written with a special mention of a spirit can also suffice. The honor given to a spirit can take many forms, and care should be taken that offerings are given properly.

Typically, only deities receive sacrifices, while other spirits are given offerings. Just as the distinction between a deity and a spirit is merely a functional one, so too is the distinction between sacrifices and offerings. Some spirits eschew offerings entirely or find them unusual and unwarranted,such as angels who work merely to carry out the will of the spirit employing them. Other spirits require offerings like payment in exchange for any work to be done. Deities, being worthy of worship and sacrifice, may require or demand sacrifices so as to be worshiped properly.

The first step to learning what to give to a spirit is to learn more about them. Whether one learns about a spirit from old myths or traditional resources involving them or whether one asks the spirit directly, this constitutes an act of respect to further the relationship between somebody and a spirit. After discovering what a spirit generally likes, the sacrificer should ask whether a particular offering is to their tastes. After this, the sacrificer should make or procure the offering and officially dedicate it to the spirit. How this might be done is up to the sacrificer, but is often influenced by tradition and practices made by other institutions or cultural groups. If no such tradition exists or survives, then the sacrificer is more or less free to innovate and create a new ritual to make the offering.

Not all offerings are equally good for all spirits. Some spirits prefer a particular type of alcohol or no alcohol at all; some spirits prefer blood sacrifice of animals or the entire animal itself, while others may prefer bloodless non-animal sacrifices entirely. Such preferences are often deduced from tradition and mythology, but one can always ask the spirit to see whether something is preferred or not. Offering something to a spirit that does not wish that thing offered is often seen as a sign of disrespect, even done unknowingly; an example might be to sacrifice the sacred animal that represents a spirit to the spirit itself. This is similar to giving someone bouquet of flowers grown and pulled from their own garden, though this may not always be the case. Care should always betaken to ensure that a particular sacrifice is both appropriate and desired to a spirit, since a spirit may demand different things depending on the circumstance or aspect of the spirit.

It is important to note that once something has been given to a spirit, it cannot be taken back or simply replaced with something else. The act of dedication, another Latin word meaning“having been given”, is permanent, and it is considered a high offense to steal anything from a spirit; moreover, stealing or removing something that one has already given to a spirit is a dire sign of disrespect and untrustworthiness. Spirits tend to rightfully harm or otherwise punish those who steal from them, even if it was an unknowing act. If anything is to be removed from a spirit’s possession, permission should always be obtained and any conditions the spirits impose on the removal, use, and replacement should be followed through.Despite these warnings, one should not attempt to make needless or extraneous offerings to the spirits. Once accustomed to receiving a certain amount or repetition of offerings, spirits will continue to expect them implicitly; making offerings is a sign of a relationship between magician and spirit, and to overdo it is to raise the relationship to someplace the magician may not want.Giving something extraordinarily rare to a spirit may similarly change the preferences of the spirit to similar things, narrowing the availability of offerings down significantly. Spirits should be given offerings as rewards, while gods should be given sacrifices as due honor. Even the devout warriors of ancient Sparta made comparatively meager sacrifices to their gods so that they would always have something to offer, in stark comparison to the lavish Athenians who gave bombastic offerings and rituals.

On Spirit Identification and Authentication

Unlike humans, whose appearance and identification others can immediately verify based on sight and appearance, spirits require refined technique and discernment to understand who and what they might actually be. Calling upon a spirit can be a dangerous act in its own way, since it can attract the attention of any local spirit who happens to hear the call, and not all spirits have the best intention of the caller at heart. Just as human systems for communication, commerce,and intelligence have systems of protection and authentication set up to prevent undesired or unwarranted access, working with the spirits should be similarly protected to prevent undesired spirits from interfering.

Every spirit has two primary markers of identification: a name and a seal. The seal is essentially the sigil, mark, or glyph that represents the spirit. The two form a pair, and are identical with the spirit in every way. In other words, where the name is spoken or seal is written, the spirit itself is there as well. The name and seal of a spirit may be considered the audible and graphical “bodies”of a spirit, much as their presence may be considered their ethereal one. A spirit may have multiple names and seals, but only one name and one seal will ever be the spirit’s true name and seal. With the knowledge of a spirit’s name and seal, the spirit may be called upon and worked with, even to the point of commanding and controlling the spirit. Although many texts, including this one, list the names and seals of some spirits, other spirits may have another preferred name or seal entirely different from the one publicly known.

Knowledge of the spirit’s name and seal is crucial to ensuring that a spirit being worked with is the spirit called upon. In some cases, trickster or deceiving spirits will try to fool a magician into thinking that the spirit is someone else, either for harmless fun or for malicious intent. Although work at properly consecrated or dedicated altars, especially those for deities, tends to permit only the proper spirits called due to the consecration and sacredness of the altar, other work can some-times bring in wandering spirits or tricksters. In such cases, every spirit worked with must undergo authentication to truly know whether a spirit present is the spirit desired. Calling on the spirit to swear by some holy order or name of the Divine that they are who they say they are is a crucial act that should precede any other work or communion with a spirit. Have the spirit say its name and reveal its seal, or have them swear by the seal known to the magician that their own seal is the seal known. By doing this, one can reduce the likelihood of undesired spirits and tricksters. Although some spirits may take offense at having to undergo authentication, spiritual allies tend to understand why this is done.

The first act of working with a new spirit should be to obtain its name and seal. If the name is not known, the name should be asked for and written down; often, the language or writing system used to write the name is a choice left up to the magician, but this should be carefully selected and kept consistent throughout working with a spirit. Thus, if a spirit’s name is written in Hebrew, it should be written in Hebrew for the rest of the work with the spirit. Based on the name, a sigil maybe obtained as might any other word or name, but often the spirit has a separate seal that they prefer over the use of a sigil. In addition to asking for the spirit’s name, the seal of the spirit should also be obtained, with the image mentally or otherwise received used for as long as one works with the spirit. Some spirits have their names and seals change over time, similar to their appearance or manifestations, though this usually only happens for elemental or other low spirits. Thus, then name and seal should be reevaluated for use every so often according to the work with the spirit, especially if one has not engaged in work with the spirit in some time.

De Regnis: Divination and Notekeeping

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection will be on the topics of divination and notekeeping.

On Divination

Divination is the act of obtaining knowledge through occult or spiritual means. Its root word shares the same root as “divine”, and in the process of divination one shares their essence and knowledge with that of the Divine. The spirits and Divine itself know much more than any human or human-made system, and as such seeking the answers from the Divine may guide us where human intellect alone cannot.Many methods of divination exist, and every culture and tradition has some method of per-forming this act. There are two main components to divination: the inspired prophetical part and the technical symbolic part. Inspired divination is the reception of words, thoughts, and knowledge directly from the Divine, such as with prophecy or being filled with visions and clairvoyance.  Technical divination is the manipulation or procurement of symbols which are used as omens, done either with tools or by waiting for certain natural events like bird flight or thunderstorms. Many forms of divination make use of both styles, integrating them into a complete whole; however, no one divination system is best for all magicians, and many magicians practice multiple forms of divination depending on a particular need or ritual.

Inspired divination, or prophecy, may be performed by entering into a ritual communion with a particular divinity or spirit and asking them for their knowledge, or to receive a particular vision that can explain or guide a matter further. Use of trance or ecstatic states may be necessary for such visions to be fully seen, and sometimes the images or messages delivered are occluded in mystical or highly symbolic speech. In some instances, non-human language may be used, which must itself undergo intense evaluation to understand the message. Of all the styles of divination,inspired means to occult knowledge may be among the most pure but also the most difficult to render correctly. Being in a state of purity and worthiness to receive the message from the spirit may also play a factor in the process of inspired divination, and whether any message is received is entirely up to the spirit or force being invoked. Some ancient prophets, such as the Pythian oracle,performed such divination only on one day of the year as pleased the god of prophecy Apollo.

Technical divination, or common divination, can take a myriad of forms. Any method that manipulates material or worldly means to obtain symbols can be considered technical divination;thus, the disparate methods of horary astrology, Tarot, rune-reading, geomancy, reading tea leaves or coffee grounds, throwing shells, extispicy or haruspicy, augury, and numerology are all methods of technical divination, since they all rely on symbols produced by mechanical or natural means. However, each of these also has some element of the inspired in them, either in the method in which these symbols are generated or by the skill and clarity of the mind of the diviner to properly interpret the symbols to produce an answer.

Divination is an essential skill in a magician’s repertoire, and the relationship between divination and magical ritual may be considered akin to the relationship between the medical skills of prognosis and treatment. In medicine, prognosis, literally meaning “foreknowledge”, is used to predict and analyze a medical condition, illness, or injury that one has and the effects it will have on a patient. Based on the symptoms, causes, and likely progression of the condition, a physician will prescribes a set of actions, medicine, surgeries, or rehabilitation needed to cure or otherwise work with the condition. Not all treatments may be needed, and some treatments may be too extreme for the condition while others may be too weak, and some treatments may need to be applied in tandem with each other in order to produce a useful effect. Similarly, divination can help one to understand a situation, its causes, its symptoms, and its effects on oneself and what approaches may be taken to work with, fix, develop, or move past the situation.

To use another analogy illustrating the combined use of magic and divination, consider a river in which one stands. Down this river float many objects, some of which are priceless treasures while others are trash and slime. With divination, one may find out where to stand to avoid the trash coming down the river or where to position oneself so as to have the treasure flow into reach. With magic, however, one can change the flow of the river in subtle ways to have the course of the trash to flow away from the magician and to change the course of the treasure to flow directly to them. Through the use of both magic and divination, one can obtain the best of both techniques and maximize the amount of boons they receive in life while minimizing and steering clear of the dross and pain that life regularly doles out.

Not all divination systems can be used by any given person. Some people show better talent for communing directly from the gods, while others need something more concrete to work with. Some people prefer Tarot cards, while others prefer plain poker cards to divine with. Some methods give out much more detail than others while requiring more time and training to learn. Some spirits and traditions dictate which forms of divination to use to work with a particular entity or in a particular situation, with set treatments and practices to go along with the answers. The magician should be eager to try out multiple forms of divination and become capable in at least one, able to understand the symbols and obtain answers to any pressing questions that might arise.

When used for ritual purposes, divination should be performed to determine whether the ritual is both necessary and proper for a given end, as well as to see whether a given spirit or divinity is willing to help or forbids the magician to perform it. Monthly and yearly divinations should be done regularly to keep abreast of subtle changes in one’s life, and may also be done for individual days and weeks; this has the added benefit of regular practice to enhance one’s knowledge and skill in a particular divination system. Divining for others may be a useful skill and service to one’s community and, for the enterprising magician, may also provide a source of income and aid,especially when combined with other magical or ritual services that the magician may be able to provide for clients who face a spiritual problem.

On Notekeeping

Among the most mundane or tedious of tasks, the act of notekeeping and recording one’s work is still a vital task in one’s magical life. The importance of notekeeping cannot be understated;without recording conversations, experiences, and memories, a magician will be hard-pressed to understand the course that they have already taken in relation to the path they have yet to tread. Although memorization of texts, prayers, patterns, and the like will be of equal use and benefit to the magician, having a written log of the things one learns, does, and experiences will be both more trustworthy and more permanent than simple memory.

Ideally, a magician would have several sets of records or notebooks to be used for different purposes, and many such notebooks exist as handed down by previous magicians. Books like the Three Books of Occult Philosophy of Cornelius Agrippa to the Book of Shadows of Gerald Gardner to the Liber AL of Aleister Crowley all are examples of records a magician might keep for one’s own benefit or for the benefit of others, such as students or fellow initiates. However, no two magicians are the same, and no two magicians record things in the same manner.

  • A handbook, vademecum, or Book of Shadows to have as a quick reference for prayers, rituals,recipes, and designs. Good for fast notes, but ideal for use in a ritual setting when larger books may be too unwieldy or otherwise unavailable.
  • A textbook of ritual or grimoire to act as a “master copy” of rituals, prayers, and so on. More structured than a handbook, a textbook orders the magical knowledge and lore contained within and contains more of it, acting as a complete (or nearly complete) record of all of one’sown knowledge. This text itself presents itself as one such grimoire.
  • A book of seals to store any sigils, seals of spirits, designs, and plans for construction or meditation upon.
  • A book of interaction to record the interaction, communion, and conversation between oneself and any spirit, angel, god, demon, or other entity, especially in a ritual setting.
  • A book of divination to record any divination readings done, either by themselves or done by others, along with any omens, prophecies, or other divination-related information.
  • A journal to record meditations, contemplations, projects, philosophy, general ritual actions,and other general thoughts and memories.

While having one or more of each type of text is ideal, it is not strictly necessary; at the minimum, having a handbook to record things learned or obtained and a journal to record things experienced or conjectured will suffice. Keeping the material written in the handbook separate from the journal is essential, as it separates knowledge into two clear categories: knowledge to be done in the handbook, and knowledge that was experienced in the journal. While one may have use of a particular prayer in one’s handbook throughout many rituals, one may not always need to recall something a spirit said once or an unrelated hypothetical ritual one has not yet done. This delineation of knowledge can help a magician keep organized and ready to access any particular type of knowledge on a moment’s notice. It often happens that one produces multiple volumes throughout years of being a magician, and keeping different parts of their experience and learned knowledge in distinct places can help in tracking them down.

Where appropriate, entries in these texts should be marked so as to note the circumstances of a given record. For instance, during a particular ritual, the date and time of the ritual’s performance should be written down, as well as the location if done in an unfamiliar or special place. Other factors, such as the phase of the Moon, the planetary day and hour, mental and physical condition,recent illnesses or events, the weather, omens or divinations done beforehand, and so on may also be noted if known or deemed appropriate knowledge.

De Regnis: Visualization, Meditation, Contemplation

Although most of my writing is visible and accessible through my blog and my ebooks, there are a bunch of writing projects that I don’t necessarily intend for public release.  When I was recently going through my old documents folder on my computer, I found a writing project I had intended to be a compendium of Hermetic and Neoplatonic knowledge, guidance, and advice that would serve to document my understandings and work as a textbook unto itself, both for my benefit and any who might come after me.  This project, De Regnis or “On Kingdoms”, got pretty far along before it got abandoned, though parts of it serve as seeds or are outright cannibalized for some of my other works.  Though I have no plans to continue writing this text, I want to share some of the sections I wrote that can act as a useful introduction to some of the practices of Hermetic magic in a modern context.  My views and practices and experiences have grown considerably since then, but perhaps it can help those who are just getting started or are curious about how to fortify their own practices and views.  If you have any views, comments, suggestions, or ideas on the topics shared in this post, please feel free to share in the comments!

Today’s selection will be on the topics of visualization, meditation, and contemplation.

On Visualization

Visualization is the act of using the imagination to form in-depth images in the mind. While this may sound like mere daydreaming, visualization is far more powerful and capable of creating whole immersive worlds. Using the imagination to create images, then, implies a greater sense of“image” than simply a mental picture, and visualizations should indeed be more than just a fleeting thought in the mind. Visualization makes use of the mind’s full range of senses and perception to create an image, both from the physical senses and the ethereal senses. Visualization is essential in picturing or working with spirits, traveling mentally to other spiritual realms, and understanding and directing the flow of cosmic forces, just as the physical senses are necessary in helping one walk around a city or engaging in conversation with a friend.

Humans interact with the world with five primary physical senses: sight, sound, touch, taste,and smell. As humans have evolved to have refined and delicate organs of sight, the sense of sight tobe the strongest and first developed imaginative faculty of the mind. The relative ease of picturing the face of a friend, guessing how something might look now based on past experiences, or recalling a vivid visual memory can attest to this. However, the most intense and immersive of memories,dreams, and visualizations generally make use of all the senses. It is by all the senses working together that people interact with the world, and when one sense is hindered, the other senses compensate by bringing more information to the mind so as to comprehend physical reality.

The mind can be thought of as a machine that processes data. It can be argued well that humans do not experience the world directly, but only through the filter of their senses. For instance, though many people might perceive an icy lake as cold, someone with nerve damage in the hands might not perceive any change from that to a blazing bonfire. Similarly, though people might perceive one apple as red and another as green, someone with colorblindness might not perceive any difference at all between the two. The senses deliver sensory data from the physical world to the brain, which processes and unites them into a more-or-less coherent perception for the mind to understand and work with. However, the mind is more capable of creating and understanding the world than the brain itself is; while the brain can only process the information that the sensory organs give it, the mind can process all that and more all simultaneously.

A simple visualization exercise begins with physically picking up a small everyday object, say, a pencil. Observe the pencil: looking at it with the eyes is not enough. See every detail of the pencil,every groove and edge, every dent and scratch, the color differentiation on the eraser, the smooth sheen on the graphite, the angle the graphite has been worn down by writing. Feel the weight of the pencil, the temperature of it when picked up and how slowly its temperature changes when held, the smoothness or roughness of its parts. Smell and taste the pencil, the thick odor of its graphite, the rubbery tang of the eraser, the skin and sweat rubbed onto it with use. Hear the pencil and listen closely as the graphite squeaks and rubs onto paper or wood, the dull quiet brush of the eraser rubbing off the marks. Completely witness the pencil using every physical sense.

Afterwards, put the pencil down and close the eyes. Recall every memory, every perceived sensation of the pencil that was obtained from witnessing it, hear how it sounded, smell how it tasted, feel how it felt, see how it seemed. Recreate the pencil in the mind from the perception of weight to the perception of smell to the perception of how light reflected off it. Hold the complete image in the mind for a minute without letting it dissipate, then let it go. Half an hour later, try it again without picking up or observing the pencil in the meanwhile. Try it the next day. If details are lost, go back to the pencil and find those details and bring them back into memory. Over the course of several days, slowly increase the time spent visualizing the pencil from one minute to five minutes.

Once the pencil can be recalled in its entirety at any moment, repeat the same process with something a little larger or a little more complex, then again with something even larger or more complex. Proceed from the pencil to a fruit, a chair, a bed, a door, an empty room, a sparsely decorated room, a fully furnished room, a house, a building, a forest. Over time, the process of visualizing increasingly complex things, places, and people will become easier and the images more in-depth, more lifelike, and more real to the mind. Experiment with more complex things, such as an instrument playing a song or a meal being eaten. Learn how to recreate or newly create whole things in the mind, and the mind will be strengthened and capable of working with the immaterial realms of spirit.

On Meditation

Meditation is the act of reflecting or measuring oneself mentally, permitting one’s own mind to come to terms with itself by itself independent of external stimuli. In a sense, it allows the mind to settle down into stability unperturbed by thoughts that arise. The mind has been described,in one sense, as a mirror: it reflects anything put in front of it, though its true nature is clear and reflective. By letting the mind be reflective instead of reflecting something, the true nature of the mind can become known instead of the constantly buzzing, chattering, thinking mind that humanity has grown accustomed to.

The breathing exercises in the previous section lay the groundwork for meditation, and indeed form a style of meditation on their own. By focusing one’s awareness on a single, repetitive, cyclical act, one begins to shake the mind free from the thoughts that cloud it. When such thoughts arise in meditation, let them arise and let them pass without clinging onto them, following them, or becoming angry at their arising. All one needs to do is return to the original act of being aware.

While the breathing exercises focus on being aware of one’s own breath, meditation begins by being aware of one’s own thoughts instead of thinking them. Sit as before, comfortably and relaxed, and begin the fourfold breath exercise for a short while. When ready, having focused the awareness on the breath and permitting thoughts to arise and pass, begin becoming aware of the arising of thoughts themselves. Note where they appear to arise in the brain and in the mind, what other string of thoughts or stimuli caused a thought to arise from simply being aware of thoughts,and let them go. If a particular thought cannot be let go, say “I will think of this and deal with it later, but now it is time to let it go” and do so; if the thought persists as in a repetitive song, permit it to continue and direct the awareness away from it. Whenever the awareness attaches itself to a thought instead of being focused on the arising of thoughts, and whenever this is realized, bring the awareness back to the arising of thoughts without anger or shame. This should be practiced for five minutes a day after breathing exercises every day, working up to ten, then twenty, then indefinitely.

After this has been established with some level of repeatable skill, turn the awareness onto the act of being aware itself. Though perhaps recursively confusing, this focuses the mind on its own reflective nature without being reflective of anything; in this state, the mind is free of thoughts and can enter into deeper levels of trance or spiritual states suitable for magical working. Begin as before with the fourfold breath, then being aware of the arising of thoughts. After being aware of how thoughts arise in the mind, become aware of the mind and the act of awareness, of awareness itself. Hold that awareness, not letting other thoughts intrude as usual. Maintain this for as long as one can, and repeat the process every day. This may sound and seem difficult, but once attained can be repeated with ease.

On Contemplation

While meditation allows the mind to focus and explore itself on its own terms, letting other thoughts arise on their own as they will until they arise no more, this same focus and single-mindedness can be applied towards a thought to greatly expand its ability to be understood. As opposed to merely thinking a thought, focusing one’s awareness on a thought, topic, or concept allows the mind to fully enter into and explore it. This style of meditation is called contemplation, and in contemplation one comes to understand and support something from its fundamental axioms to its furthest implications.

Before beginning contemplation of an idea or thought, it helps to be intimately familiar with that idea or thought. Precede the contemplation with extensive reading, note-taking, discussion,and even idle banter involving the concept. Learn about its history, its development, its uses, its origins, its risks, its benefits, its correspondences, its associations, its causes, and its conditions.Whatever can be learned about it ahead of time will help in contemplation.

As before, begin by sitting comfortably, beginning breathing exercises, and enter into a meditative state. Consciously call up the idea or thought to be contemplated, then focus all awareness on that, exploring every thought that arises based on that original thought. If other completely unrelated thoughts arise, let them arise on and out on their own as before; if a thought can be made to fit or be associated with the contemplation, explore why.

As opposed to meditation before, where one wants to abstain from thinking consciously with a part of a distracted mind, contemplation seeks to completely absorb the mind in consciously thinking with its entire force.As opposed to meditation, where the mind is kept from wandering to focus on itself, contemplation allows the mind to wander down paths and avenues of thought related to the topic. Images,smells, sounds, memories, colors, and related thoughts that arise during contemplation, unless the mind is truly wandering off the path into distraction, help illumine or offer details or nuances or meanings to the topic being contemplated. Thoughts that seem to come from “outside” the mind,especially when contemplating the seal of a spirit, may also be indicative of the topic.Contemplation is not simply thinking about a thing.

Contemplation is completely absorbing the mind into a thing, deconstructing it, inspecting every aspect of it from every angle, discovering new angles and new aspects, using different techniques of thought to understand and comprehend it, and relating the meaning of it to one’s own experience: physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and eternally.