Updated: Dec 24, 2022
This was part of the series I wrote years ago for the Church of the Holey Donut, a small magical group I organized and helped run years ago. It's in desperate need of a rewrite, which I'll get to at some point. In the meantime, I found this, which I think bears some relevance. I'll work it in as I do the rewrite, but for now it can live here.
Magick is so complicated sometimes, especially if you look at all the different systems. 3 elements, 4 elements, Two different 5 element systems, 9 elements.... and that's not even looking at the different arrangements of the spiritual planes. Of course, we're taught in one way or another that belief creates reality, and if it works for you, use it. The problem, of course, is that all the different systems don't always play nice with each other. So, where did this all come from? Well, I propose that it comes from our childhood, our ability to play.
In magick, there are 3 things that you need to make it work properly:
Visualization – you must be able to hold either your idea, in a pictorial form, or a image that is a representation of your idea or goal, in your head as an image.
Some form of system – Even if you're not trying to use one, even if you're making it up as you go, you have one. Now, what I mean by a system here, stripped down to it's basic parts, is a series of rules or principles that functions as a complete whole. You'll have it whether you want to or not, you might as well embrace it.
Belief – In order for your magick to work, YOU have to believe it will. I don't believe that the beliefs of anyone else influence that, unless of course you bring them into the operation, but your belief that magick works is paramount.
I submit to you that you have 2 of those 3 things anytime you engage in any sort of fantasizing or play. Kids do this automatically, whatever they're pretending. They hold images in their head, their imagination, that complete the scenario. Also, each game or scenario has a series of rules, a system for how it works. Many times, the rules are incomprehensible to anybody not engaged in this game. What separates play from magick then is belief.
Now, notice that I didn't include any form of energy or anything like that in the requirements. There is a reason for this. I believe that it's kind of an illusion that we need it at all. Energy is symbolic of the attention, focus and time you put into something. The idea of energy has crept into the modern magickal practice, so everything modern seems to talk about it. But if you look back in history, the only energy that you raise from within yourself, not drawn from somewhere else, stays within you. Also shared across all useful magickal or mystical systems, is the concept of some sort of astral or higher dimension or plane. THIS, I believe is the key to “energy”. There are 2 things that seem to be lumped in under the idea of energy. One of which is what becomes shaped or directed, and the other one is this thing that's taken out of you to do magickal work. As far as what comes out of you, I believe that it doesn't really exist. What this is, is your minds ability to focus. As you do any kind of mental work, magickal or otherwise, you get tired, loose the ability to focus. That's all I believe that this is.
So, the energy that is directed or shaped, I do believe that this exists, but... All this is, is the astral plane itself, or one of the higher planes if you want to look at it that way, although throughout this paper, I will use the term “astral plane” as a catch all for whatever different planes or dimensions you believe exist on a higher level. The astral plane shows us exactly how much Einstein was right.... On these higher planes, form is fluid, and something that seems to have a form, can melt or reshape itself in the same manner as energy. There really is no difference between the 2, so if you work with the idea of things as energy, then that's what this substance will be, and if you work with them as objects, that's what they will be. It's more the concept of ectoplasm, in many ways. How does one access this energy, you might ask? Welllllll.... In some ways, it's like reaching out for it, like the texts talk about, but in many others, it's kind of shifting yourself INTO it. When you were a kid, much of your life was spend doing things like school, music lessons, whatever. When you got time to play, really play, you'd kind of take a breath, and get ready. That's what it's like. The world looked different. I'm not talking about when you were bored and just killing time, but when you were really into your fantasy or game. The world looked different, you almost felt your world unfold around you, and in a very real way that's what was happening. You're kind of pushing yourself partially into the astral, and/or pulling it to you. Now, I figure we'll look at each of those other things in turn, at least as much as I can.
So, visualization... This one is pretty easy. Watch a child playing some time. They will create, wholesale, out of their mind, any number of objects, people, or forces, and they become ALMOST real to them, at least in a way. This is pretty fluid, but at least while something has immediate use, it's visualized. In kids we call this pretending, but I really don't see what the difference is. The key to this, is that shifting into another world that we looked at earlier. What happens here is that these things are shaped out of this ectoplasm. While they don't become physical, and you can't see them (unless you look real close), on some level, they exist. I think that this is something we as practitioners can learn a lot from. So many times, especially in the High Magick traditions, we learn to think of our visualizations that are imprinted over the physical world, as made up of energy. But what we learn from this is that actual objects can also be overlaid over the physical quite effectively. Sure, use energy to draw the pentagrams in the LBRP for example, but there's no reason why they can't become, Oh, I don't know, floating shields with pentagrams on them or whatever sells it for you. I think we make our visualizations much more complicated than they need to be, a lot of the time. Now, this works for forces, and it works for objects. Other persons, be they “people” or angels, demons, what have you, you have to remember that there's an external consciousness also in play here. There IS a difference when you actually make contact, but exactly what it is, is rather hard to explain... When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend named Mike, that I now believe to be an angel (I'll let you guess which one). Now, I could pretend that he was there, or I could SOMETIMES get him to show up. I guess lots of people never had this happen, but if you did, you know exactly what I mean. If not, you'll know it when it happens. More on this in belief, which is a great place to wrap up.
A system is created whenever a child makes rules as for how something works. Magick has so many different systems, and all of them work, at least to some extent, and you can even create your own. The key with a system, to make it work, is the same thing that a kid uses for pretending... It doesn't have to encompass everything (although the more it encompasses, magickally speaking, the greater it's reach) but anything it does encompass, has to fit with everything else it encompasses. That is to say, it has to be a cohesive whole, rather than a collection of parts. If you've managed to shift into this other world, then this will almost happen by itself. Not quite automatically, but it will kind of flow. Including things that are unconnected is fine, as long as they don't conflict, but if they conflict anywhere, then you will likely have a problem. This is the origin of the idea that you shouldn't mix pantheons. At least in a practical working, and quite often in Theurgy, if you're combining pantheons, then you're combining 2 things with the same sphere of influence, that should have absolute, or at least too much power over their sphere. It's a conflict, and breaks the system down. Just saying. Now again, adding another intelligence into your working, physical or not, and they bring their own ideas of the system into play, and that could create conflicts as well. This is why an existing magickal system is much more effective than creating your own.
There are a couple of things you need to understand about belief, before we even get started... First, What you think you believe isn't always what you believe. Second, you're not the only one who gets to believe things. This is the difference between play and magick, in a large part. We teach our from a very early age that what they pretend isn't real, so that's what they believe. Now, I don't actually disagree with teaching that, because the reality that what you pretend exists on another realm, is a bit complicated, and combined with the fact that much of it works through symbol... Kids could hurt themselves, imagining wings (symbolically appropriate) and then trying to fly or something. The astral or higher planes communicating through symbols is vital to understanding this as well. The key to this whole thing, I figure, is to remember that it's real, but it happens in another world. This other world influences our own, but in what seems to be indirect ways. I remember as a kid that what I pretended would change and adapt from what I first decided to do. This is part of what I think indicates a true connection, the fact that you may go into a scenario thinking that it'll go one way, then it'll change on you. It changes to reflect very real conditions. The setting might be yours, but the events change to suit the situation. This is when the development of the Will sets in, your ability to fight back against this shift in events, and re-focus events (making a direct change), helps create the world that you want, because if you change the astral, you change reality. Now, the flip side of that is, by playing the scenario out ( no pun intended), you can also change events. Belief influences the world, but the world also influences belief.
Now, a word on other intelligences... ANY time you bring another intelligence into your little world there, they start adjusting it. You remember as a kid, creating this world that you were super excited about, bringing someone else in to play, then quitting because they weren't playing right and it ruined it. They altered this world you were creating, to the point that you didn't want to be in it anymore. Now, magickally speaking, you have to remember that another intelligence in many cases is non-physical. An angel or demon, a god-form, what have you. These beings are very real, outside of yourself (or at least as much as any other person, but that's the subject for another paper), and so they will also make changes to your... environment, as well. This is actually I believe the cause of how your astral environment or game will shift to fit reality. The collective consciousness of everything, call it God if you want, also plays along, you can't help it.
Now, there's several different types of “play” here. First, you play or imagine, or fantasies knowing that it's just fantasy. This DOES have an effect, but I don't believe it's much of one. You are kind of deliberately disconnecting yourself from the astral or formative world. In short, your fantasy remains just that, because you didn't give it any juice so to speak. You never really created it. Second, you are creating a “fantasy” around the real world. Most ceremonial or magickal ritual falls into this category. Finally, you close your eyes and go. Most of this is motionless, or nearly so, and while you won't always have what people would consider an astral experience, that is kind of the penultimate expression of this. When you're not bound by the physical world at all, this can be very powerful and moving, but it's also hard to focus sometimes.
This is in many ways this origin of the idea that kids are more connected with the magical world. In many ways, we're born knowing how to do this, and we're trained out of it. There's a simplicity in remembering this rather than trying to learn everything like it's new. So I invite you, come outside and play!