Not Everyone Needs to be Spiritual

It’s not often that I partake in Twitter or Facebook memes of the “let me divulge trivia about myself!” type, but recently, I found one that was actually kind of fun:

After all, as I see it, there’s no better way to get to know each other than by your shared dislikes or hatreds or by the things that really set you apart from others.  Anyway, I got a fair number of likes, and so I shared a fair number of strongly-held opinions, ranging from how I prefer the dishwasher to be set up to musing on spiritual practices.

One of the things I mentioned as part of this memes I actually had to expand on, because it’s actually a pretty important topic for me in general to consider as a magician and priest who takes on client work and who works with others for their own spiritual benefit, either for them to build up their own practices or to handle the load for them so that they can focus on their lives better.  I broke it down into two separate tweets:

I don’t think everyone has the capacity to live a spiritual life, nor is everyone meant to. Some people should (or must) focus on being worldly without incorporating spirituality, magic, or religion. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

To build on this: not everyone is meant to be a priest/magician/shaman/etc. Some need religion just to have religion in their lives without becoming a master of it, just like how some people need to know just enough math to shop for groceries without becoming a mathematician.

I touched on this same topic tangentially in my recent post about divination versus counseling, when the notion of getting frustrated with clients who don’t use divination for their spiritual evolution came up and my annoyance that this frustration would be a thing for some people:

Why do I feel so negatively about this stance?  Simply put, you’re not God.  You don’t get to establish the morals, ethics, and goals of other people according to your own, no more than you get to say what divinities I worship or what practices I perform.  If you think all spiritual work should be done in the name of elevation, development, and growth, then I would say that you’re wrong; people have been using magic for getting laid and getting paid since the first days of our awareness of spiritual dimensions of the cosmos and of human existence, and I find nothing wrong with doing so.  I don’t disagree one jot that spiritual development is a good thing, but I’m not going to knock the physical pleasures of the world, either, which are also good to have and to strive for.  And, quite simply, not everyone is going to be playing on the same playing field as you are, nor will they be playing the same games you play.  You don’t know the purpose of why someone acts the way they do, nor do you know their reasoning for it, nor do you know whether it’s fate or divinely ordained for them to do so.  All you know is that they’re coming to you for help with their purposes; if you find that you react so negatively to their aims, then you should simply decline the to do the reading and move on.

After all, there are indeed people whose jobs and roles in this incarnation aren’t to be spiritual, but still recognize that there’s power in it and want to employ those who interact with spiritual forces.  That’s pretty reasonable to me; while I’d like more people to be magicians or spirit-workers, some people have no interest in doing so, or some don’t care about it or just want me to handle the dirty work for them.  I cannot bring myself to judge others for where they are in their lives or what they’re doing with their life; as another commenter on Facebook said, “we all have our hoe to row”.  I’d recommend staying in your lane on this one; give your advice on being more respectful, worshipful, spiritual, or magical, but at the same time, don’t expect it of or force it onto your clients or querents.

I think you all can see where I’m going with this.

Let us assume, at least for the sake of argument, that God (or whatever sort of ultimate-divinity fate-issuing word you want to use for such a concept) has in mind for each incarnate human a path, a plan, a destination.  You might call this your fate, you might call this your True Will, whatever, the idea still stands.  Such a path is unique for each person in this lifetime of theirs, and fulfills a particular goal of God.  It’s a lot like what one of my favorite bands, the Crüxshadows, expresses in their song Elissa:

Everyone has a purpose
Hidden within our lives
Something we were meant to do
Or feel before we die

I don’t think I’m saying anything offensive here by proclaiming that this could be (and, in my opinion, is) correct.  But let us continue!  There’s a purpose for everyone, and that all depends on the person for whom the purpose has been established.  Such a purpose is, in general, known to the mind of God and, on very rare occasions, to the person themselves mediated by their guardian angel or priests who deal directly in describing to people their fate.  It is up for that person to work with their fate, and hopefully to rely on the aid of others who can and are willing to give it to them to accomplish it.  That’s about it, right?  Besides being incidentals towards helping another towards their fate, nobody has any kind of right to tell them that their fate is wrong, mislead, or misguided in any sense.  To say so is to be judgmental of that person and for the path that God has laid out for them, which means being judgmental of God, which typically ends poorly for all those involved.

It doesn’t take that big a jump to say that, if everyone has a purpose, some of those purposes may not lie in the spiritual realm or in working with reality in a spiritual way.  Consider some of the greatest academic and scientific minds of the past several centuries or before who, for all their accomplishments, were atheists or had only nominal ties to a given religion.  Having attained their works, would you feel comfortable in saying that they wasted their time?  Would you say that their revolutionary ideas, theories, and inventions which give us today health and wealth weren’t enough and that, nice as they were, they should have instead focused on other things of a more spiritual nature?  Divinity is as much present in matter as it is in spirit, at least in the Hermetic view of things, but you don’t have to call it “God” to be respectful and inquisitive about it.  There are other mysteries in the world than just those kept for initiates in temples, after all.

To phrase it another way, I’m sure that some of us have noted people in our spiritual communities that just don’t seem to “get it”, whether “it” is a particular method of divination, a particular vibe from sensing objects, a particular insight from dreams or omens, or whatever.  Some people don’t seem to click with a variety of spiritual practices, and, to me, it’s not unreasonable that there are people who don’t click with any spiritual practices at all.  It’s not necessarily that they’re having a hard time finding “the right system” of divination or worship or sacrifice or magic; it could very well be that there is no system for them to find, because they’re not meant to be a spiritual person.  No matter how much pressure we might put on them because we feel it might do them good, no matter how many alternatives we present to them for them to try out, it could simply be the fact that they’re not suited for any of them, because their talents, strengths, and abilities lie elsewhere.  Sure, training and practicing something might get them somewhere, and faking it ’til you make it can help a little, but let’s be honest: just like some people are naturally terrible cooks or authors, some people just aren’t cut out to be spiritual practitioners.

And that’s fine.  And you don’t get to judge them negatively for it.

Before people misconstrue some of the nuances here, let me clarify a few points.  For one, one main thing I can see being a major impediment to people being spiritual practitioners of some kind is conditioning.  Conditioning is a real thing that goes on for many people in many cultures, and there are people who, even if they should be spiritual practitioners, have been conditioned out of any such inclination.  If it’s part of their path that they should be spiritual people, then the conditioning will be broken one way or another, and it’s just a matter of time and dedication for them.  Don’t judge them for where they are on their path; give them the time they need, and welcome them when they get to where they need to be.  Sometimes, they just need to know that the door is left open for them, because they got held up in the commute.

Another thing to be aware of is, simply, life circumstances.  I would love to dedicate my entire life to spiritual endeavors and pursuits, but let’s be real: I have a mortgage, credit card bills, and a distinct reliance on food that I can’t seem to break myself of, and I need to work to pay my bills.  While I’d love to spend my days in meditation and astral travel and client work and tending to the spiritual needs of myself and people, I don’t have the time or energy for it on top of my full-time job with a nontrivial commute, dealing with my family, keeping my household in order, and so forth.  And, despite my complaints, I know that I have it damned easy compared to others I know who are bogged down with overtime all the damn time, have children with their own after-school activities, stressful marriages or family situations, chronic health conditions, and the like where they have, maybe, at best, an hour a week to practice that they could still better dedicate to tending to their worldly needs.  It sucks, it absolutely does, and I feel bad for these people who want to get deeper into practice but simply don’t have the time for it.  Still, I can’t judge these people for, perhaps, falling short of some sort of spiritual benchmark I’ve artificially and arbitrarily established for them.  They’ll get to it when they can get to it, and in the meantime, they should focus on what keeps them living and breathing.  After all, it’s hard to do breathing exercises if you’ve already expired.

Beyond those, what about the people who can be spiritual and want to be, but aren’t up for being actual practitioners or priests?  I mean, for me, that’s fine, too!  Just as not everyone can be spiritual, not everyone can be a priest.  After all, what is a priest?  Setting aside tradition- or religion-specific classifications for a moment, a good general definition of a priest is someone who is an expert in ceremonial and spiritual needs.  Not everyone who cooks needs to be a chef; not everyone who writes needs to be a critically-acclaimed author or a calligrapher or a court-ready stenographer; you don’t need professional training to do something good enough for yourself, or maybe even for a few people who trust you within your limits of ability.  Likewise, you don’t need to be a chef to enjoy good food, you don’t need to be an author to enjoy a good book, you don’t need to be an artist to appreciate art; you don’t need to be a plumber to poop in a toilet.  You can derive satisfaction and fulfillment from something without being able to do it yourself; that’s why we have and hire experts to do work and labor for us.  Sure, there are some things that you must be able to do for yourself, but if your needs within a particular domain can be met by the expertise of someone else, and if it’s more convenient and logical for you to hire them for that rather than for you to spend the time, money, and effort in attaining that same level of expertise, then why not simply outsource it?  That’s why we have experts, after all.

In a spiritual sense, this is why priests have congregations to tend to: not everyone out there is cut out for learning liturgy, ceremony, ritual, and spiritual practices, but they still want or need to derive benefit from them.  That’s why we have priests: to be experts in a domain where not everyone is cut out to be an expert.  Many people out there may not be spiritual practitioners but are still, in some sense, spiritual; they just need someone else to do the ceremonial lifting for them, and that’s fine!  They have their reasons for it, and they know that this is the best option for them.  Good for them!  Not everyone needs to be a priest, after all, whether that’s because of their life path or their life situations.  As I’m coming to terms with more and more, being a priest isn’t just about one’s devotion to the gods, but also about one’s devotion to the people who worship them as well.

Then I look around at occulture, and it seems like you can’t swing a cat without hitting a priest of this or a priest of that.  I mean, it’s not like this is a new or recent issue (it most certainly isn’t), but I do notice something of a trend for many people trying to become a priest in this tradition or that practice when it may not be the best choice for them.  After all, when everyone around you seems to be a priest, what’s your deal that you aren’t?  Sometimes people take the title of “priest” too whimsically when it really does have a factor of experience, education, training, and sometimes initiated lineage playing into it that, about as often as not, they tend to lack.  Then there’s also the social component of being a priest: you can’t be a priest if nobody accepts you as one or turns to you as one.  Priesthood is necessarily about involving people, whether that’s a community of non-priests or another community of priests who turn to you as their priest (like a bishop to priests, or a high priest to lower priests).  Of course, at this point, this is where my own internal definitions of priesthood conflict with others in a variety of contexts, so I’m getting off-track here.

My point is that, if you’re spiritually-inclined, do your best to explore it and see how far it takes you.  If you’re not, don’t worry!  If you think you’re not spiritual but feel some sort of tug towards it, explore it both ways: it might be a matter of conditioning that has rendered you spiritually incapable of working, or it might be a matter of peer pressure that you feel you ought to be spiritual when you’re not supposed to be.  If you’re not spiritual, then revel in worldliness and material, manifest reality, and explore the mysteries and wonders and pleasures thereof!  If you are spiritual, then revel in both, or at least the realm of spirit!  And, if you are spiritual, don’t worry if you can’t dedicate the time to being an expert magician or high priest or other grand muckety-muck; if all you need is some light sermon-serenading or some meditation, maybe alone or maybe in a group of like-minded spiritual people, then enjoy and use what you can do as far as you can take it!  If you are spiritually-inclined and have the time, energy, and desire to plumb the depths of spiritual reality and practices, then by all means, be an expert magician or priest!

Just know that your path isn’t the same as others, nor are your capabilities.  Do what you need; do what you Want.  Don’t judge others for living their lives as they need to or as they Want to, but support them all the same as best you can and as best you should.

On Psychometry, A Most Necessary Beginner Practice

Recently, someone came to me asking for a bit of help in contacting spirits.  This is one of the most concerning and troubling issues that most newbies and otherwise new practitioners to magical practices have, when you’re trying to contact spirits in some way and you just…aren’t getting anything.  Not just in conjuration, mind you, but any sort of spiritual contact: conversations, messages, dreams, hunches, tugs, any sort of signal that the spirits are listening to you and trying to talk to you as well.  Unless you’re naturally inclined to receive that sort of information, it’s not something that many people are just going to up and take to without some sort of practice or other means to “open your eyes”, so to speak.

When working with spirits for the first time, the best way to start is to just do the damn thing.  Go to their shrine, or build one for them yourself; light a candle and incense, make an offering of water or wine, say a prayer; time your work along planetary days and hours, lunar phases and mansions, or just whenever you feel like it.  However you want to do, just do the damn thing, sit down with your spirits, and have a chat, just like you would someone at a dinner table.  Use your actual words spoken aloud, not just said quietly in your head but loud enough for someone across a table to hear you.  From there, it’s just building up a relationship with your spirits, learning more about them, having them learn more about you, getting used to each others’ presences, and so forth.  But all of that can only work if there’s the possibility for such conversations to go both ways; it does neither you nor them much good if you’re the one doing all the talking and none of the listening, and I don’t mean just trying to shut the spirits down and drown them out.  If you can’t hear them talking back to you, then you’re not going to get anything useful done except by chance and hoping.  Without being able to hear what they have to say, you miss out on their advice, their needs, their wants, their stories, and their options for advancement for both themselves and yourself.

Being able to perceive spiritual information is crucial in building up spiritual relationships as well as interacting with and managing spiritual forces, so if you can’t perceive them, you’re not going to get particularly far in magic.  It’d be like trying to do intensive, deep-space astronomy without a telescope or cellular biology without a microscope: if you don’t have the means to perceive the information you need to process, you can’t process the information.  Unlike material sciences, however, the spiritual sciences don’t require tools as much as it does simple practice.  In a word, the practice and techniques of spiritual perception can be called psychometry, literally “soul-measuring”, but metaphorically “reading” the vibes, emotions, energies, and spirits of objects and places, whether animate or inanimate.

Some of the more advanced, wizened, or experienced practitioners out there reading this post may roll their eyes, thinking psychometry to be more entertainment and parlour trick than an actual spiritual practice or useful technique, but hear me out!  It’s precisely because it’s such a basic, parlour trick type of thing that it’s exactly why I recommend it as a spiritual practice for beginners.  It’s true that, once you start getting into some of the more meatier, esoteric types of practices that the excitement and on-its-own for-its-own-purpose of practicing psychometry quickly fades away, but it never goes away entirely.  Rather, once you get more advanced, you’ll likely think of psychometry like how you think of learning how to write or do basic arithmetic in elementary school: simple practices that, as adults, we never even think twice about because they’re so fundamental to so many things we do on a constant, ongoing, everyday basis, but are still fundamental and important all the same.  Psychometry is the practice of, and more importantly the acclimation to, spiritual perception; once you learn how to do it, it’s not the fact that you can spiritually perceive things becomes the focus of the work, but what it is that you can spiritually perceive.

I remember that it was my amazing sister (pole-dancer, Tarot-reader, astrologer, human designer, Tibetan Buddhist, chaos magician) who first introduced me to the notion and terms for psychometry itself.  She basically gave me a task: she took off one of her many rings, gave it to me to hold in my submissive hand, and told me simply to “tell me what you ‘get’ off this”.  That was it, so I…well, literally “put my mind to it”, focused my awareness on the ring in my hand, and…nothing.  I didn’t know what to do.  So my sister gave me one piece of advice that, I swear by all the gods above and below, has stuck with me in every single magical practice to this day:

“It’ll feel like you’re making it up, but you’re not.  Just do it.”

It’s another variant on “act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given unto you” or, in simpler terms, “fake it until you make it”, except that you’re not really faking it.  It just feels like you are, when you aren’t.

The idea behind psychometry is that you’re trying to perceive information through spiritual impressions, sometimes through physical contact but sometimes not.  You have to have an external source for it, and you have to be able to recognize it as external.  It’s like sight: you can’t see the light inside your eyes, because there’s nothing to see inside your eyes, but instead you perceive the light coming into your eyes from outside.  Same thing with hearing: you can’t hear what’s inside your ears, but the vibrations in the air that come into them.  Same thing with taste: you don’t taste your own tongue, but the sensations, flavors, and textures that come in contact with it.  The same thing goes for psychometry: you’re not trying to perceive your own psyche, but the psyche of things you’re reaching out to perceive.   The thing is, though, that this is a nonphysical process; unlike sight or hearing or taste, all this takes place strictly within the head for direct processing as opposed through a physical sense organ, and if you’re not accustomed to doing this, you don’t know what it is inside your head to process.

Our head is full of thoughts, images, ideas, dreams, and gods-know-what-else, but it’s important to remember that, unless you’re fully, totally, completely cut off from everything, whether by accident or by design, there is going to be a mixture of “your own stuff” and “other stuff that isn’t yours” in your head.  Knowing what’s what is the key to recognizing spiritual impressions; if you know that something isn’t coming from your end, but it’s still in your head all the same, then that means that it’s something coming into your head as an impression, information, message, or clue that something spiritual is happening and your head is trying to process it.  Most people in our modern world, however, don’t know how to make this distinction, and wrongly think that everything in their head is their own thoughts.  It really isn’t, but learning how to distinguish between what thoughts are yours and what thoughts aren’t can be difficult.  Meditation certainly helps with this, both for the ability to be aware of the thoughts that arise in your head (whether your own or not) as well as picking up on the patterns of your own cognition.  For instance, as you begin to pick up on your own thought-patterns, you’ll have a sense of “where” your own thoughts come up in your head, “where” your own head-voice talks from, what your own thoughts “feel” like as they arise and dissipate, what the tracks of your trains of thought “feel” like as you latch yourself onto them, and so forth.  When you feel a thought or voice that comes from an entirely different, unusual, or distinctly weird part of your head, there’s a damn high likelihood that that’s not you, but spiritual information coming in to be processed.  That’s all spiritual perception is: picking up on the thoughts and sensations, the images and emotions arising in your head not your own.

That’s what my sister meant when she said that “it’ll feel like you’re making it up, but you’re not”.

So I tried psychometry again on the ring she gave me, and rather than putting all my awareness on the ring itself, I simply relaxed and let myself connect with the ring, and let myself be aware of what was happening in my head.  I saw an image of my sister sitting at…a desk, in a bland, pale white room with a delicately messy bed in it, opposite the window with the blinds let down to block out the sunlight, with the lamp on her desk on, with her looking down at the desk with a focused, almost frustrated look on her face, her hand supporting her forehead.  I…felt like I was trying to come up with an image wherein she would be using the ring, like I was inventing a scene for this thing, but it…it didn’t feel like I was at the same time, because the thoughts didn’t feel like they arose in the same way as if I were actively imagining something on my own.  Saying this, both the scene I saw and my feelings about how it felt, my sister cheered me on; not only did I accurately describe her bedroom and workspace and how she often works when she’s writing or taking down notes, but I picked up on the key to distinguish exactly what she meant by her advice.

Starting from this, I practiced psychometry every now and again, sometimes asking a friend for their keys they always had on them, or holding their cell phone they’d often use for business, or picking up discarded pieces of jewelry on college streets after a weekend of partying.  Yeah, I definitely used it as a parlour trick to spook and impress my friends, but it served as an excellent way of validating that I’m actually Doing Something, and that I’m Doing Something Right; that sort of validation is huge to reinforce that you actually do have the skill and are able to perceive things spiritually.  Not only that, however, but when I spoke to my sister about how things felt and the types of images I got, I learned something equally as important: not everyone picks up on the same things the same way.  For instance, I get better spiritual information through psychometry about the context, the activities people do and where they do them, while my sister gets more about emotions and things spoken.  At some level, what we’re picking up on becomes equivalent, it’s just that we’re taking different routes and approaches to get there.

Another thing to bear in mind, though, is that not everyone perceives information the same way, either.  For instance, it’s common to say that we “see” something spiritually, but note how we’re using a physical sense to act as a metaphor.  For most people, it’s not really a metaphor; they actually are interpreting spiritual information through sight, or at least through visual imagery in their head.  However, not everyone is gifted with spiritual “sight”, but instead have another go-to sense.  Some people are better at spiritual “hearing”, others sensations of smells or pressure or temperature changes.  For myself, my main spiritual go-to sense is taste; information comes across most immediately and most naturally to me through sensations of flavor, texture, mouthfeel, and heaviness just like I would be tasting food or waste.  In some cases, this comes across in physical reactions or reflexes; I might lick the roof of my mouth or my teeth if something “feels” sticky, or I might retract my tongue if something “feels” sharp or bitter.  I get a literal “taste” for how people feel spiritually, and can evaluate their physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health through how sour, bitter, salty, sweet, savory, gritty, smooth, spiky, fresh, or rotten they “taste” to me.

I know that I’m kind of an oddball in that regard, but it goes to show that if you’re failing at “seeing” stuff in your head, don’t despair!  Consider that you have so many other senses to rely on: hearing, taste, smell, pressure, temperature, movement, and so forth.  Any one or more of these might be how your head processes spiritual information first: perceive first with what’s strongest, then use that information to “translate” it into something more complete.  For instance, if I take a look at someone and find that they taste “unpleasantly sour”, like an old lemon that’s been left ripped open overnight in the fridge, I’ll let my tongue roll around in my mouth and weigh how that feels, and how it reacts to my own body and my own notion of what people should “taste” like; it processes in such a way that, to me, it smacks of dehydration, unresolved anger or emotional baggage, a bit of fatigue, wanting to be left alone, stress leading to the beginnings of physical problems, not taking care of themselves properly, and so forth.  Once I get that basic set of information, I can then put it through my spiritual “translation” process of sight, hearing, and so forth to get a complete mental/spiritual image of the person that goes well paste how they taste.  So, just remember: if everyone else is saying “see”, for you it might be “hear”.  Don’t consider it a failing; consider it something to work on eventually while you rely on what’s strongest for you to do the same damn thing.

With that, that’s basically…yeah, that’s basically psychometry in a nutshell.  As for developing further psychometry skills, start with small objects, trinkets and jewelry and charms and keys, then slowly work your way up to bigger things, like pieces of furniture, computers, cars, houses, trees, boulders, mountains, plots of land.  Work at first by using your submissive hand to take in the information, then work with both hands, then either hand, then eventually no hands at all.  Work with friends and people you trust to get validation on what it is you perceive.  Meditate frequently to keep your mind strong and aware of thought-arisings, thought-dissipatings, thought-locations, thought-feels, and thought-patterns.  Try to expand your awareness to multiple things around you at once, try to sense connections between closely-related things, try to perceive an entire area at once, try to perceive things continuously, try to perceive things at a distance.  Being able to do these things is practice for dealing with spirits and energies that can’t be dealt with except through what is essentially applied psychometry.  Over time, psychometry will develop itself and cease to be its own thing, just like how writing or arithmetic used to be something you had to learn on its own, but now it’s just something you do as part of everything else.

It’s often asked by beginners whether there are any resources or books you could get to help with learning psychometry.  I mean…I guess?  Maybe under that name, even?  But I would ask, why bother?  It’s such a simple thing that I’ve done my best, and I think I’ve succeeded, in encapsulating in this simple post.  You can read about it all you want, but again, it’s such a basic and simple thing that all you need is practice, practice, practice.  Unless you’re naturally inclined or gifted to picking up and verbalizing such things, there’s nothing you can do to learn psychometry, or any method of spiritual perception, except to simply practice it and keep doing it.  You might get the information you’re supposed to get on the first go, or it might take you a dozen or three times.  Keep trying it.  You’ll get it, I promise.

It’ll feel like you’re making it up, but you’re not.