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.

Crucible Convention 2014!

Of course, October’s second-biggest event in my life (the first being that noble and highest holiday of my own birth) is still happening: Crucible Convention, as always held by the generous and amazing Omnimancers, this year on October 4, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Princeton in Princeton, NJ.  Tickets are $40, or $45 if you go to the convention banquet, and the hotel has a discounted rate until September 19th if you want to get a room.  Getting a room is heavily suggested (the hotel discount code is CRU), since occult talks, socializing, and antics go on well until the night, and the Friday night mixer is fantastic to hit up.  If you plan to get the dinner, do so early, since spaces are limited.  The convention schedule can be found here, and you can log in to register here.

Last year was my second year going, and it was a fantastic blast with good knowledge spread and good stories made; my first year was no small amount of fun and education, too.  This year promises to be even better, especially because yours truly is giving his first talk!  Yes, polyphanes will make his conference talk debut at Crucible Convention 2014 on (predictably, given the recent string of posts on it) “Mathesis: Towards a Greek Kabbalah”.  The class blurb from the Crucible Convention class schedule:

Although the traditions of ancient Greece provide the foundation for most Western occulture, the use of Greek techniques and tools is underrepresented in modern Western magic, especially that which falls under the banner of Hermeticism.  Most Hermetic magic practiced today is based on the studies of those who focus on the Jewish mysteries of kabbalah.  While the spiritual technology and philosophy of Jewish, Christian, and Hermetic kabbalah has been invaluable to the development of Hermeticism, Hermetic occulture does not make the best use of kabbalah as Jewish kabbalists do, and even then, kabbalah may not be the best fit for the modern non-Jewish Hermeticist.  As a non-kabbalistic alternative to the practice of the Great Work, polyphanes will discuss a new approach to Hermetic magic using an innovative theurgical and cosmological framework based on Pythagorean and Neoplatonic philosophies called “mathesis”, meaning “teaching of the mysteries”.

If you’ve been keeping up with the posts here, then you’re already ahead of the game (and there’s much to do and explore before I give the talk), but I also want to disseminate this topic as much as I can, since it’s kinda sorta my crowning project at the moment.  I don’t want to pontificate too much and start a schismatic group intent on divorcing Hermeticism from kabbalah, but I do want to give people something to think about, that “hey, there might be other ways to do Hermetic stuff besides kabbalah”.  Not only will it get a much-needed conversation going, it’ll also help in getting feedback from others and improve the system even more.

Save the date, preregister, and come to support me (and a bevy of other fantastic speakers, including my own personal colleagues) at Crucible this year!