No, you did not read that wrong. This is an article talking about other people’s realities, not other layers of our reality.
Recently, a friend posted a thought about her reality and how it seems that everyone that she knows insists that their own reality is validated, but then they refuse to acknowledge that her reality is just as valid and valued. This is a very simplistic discussion regarding acceptance of other people’s reality.
We operate on worlds and in planes that are constructs of belief. It makes them very subjective and very hard to quantify. Some quantification can be done simply through having been there or experiencing that for yourself, but the majority of this subjective reality is generally not open to being viewed by others.
You can view any reality, and you can translate that experience into a similar experience that another may have, but it is nearly impossible to experience another’s reality completely.
Cases like this most often vex those who are not in a magical community of some sort. Hearing about how one person visited Middle Earth and talked to Gandalf the White to gain some information on a spell, while also hearing from another that they went to the City of Brass and spoke to the Efreet there, makes most people who haven’t had similar experiences question the sanity of the speaker.
The basic problem is, what is real? How does one define reality? If you base what is real on what you have directly experienced, then how can you judge the reality of someone else’s experience that you have not had yet?
I think when it comes to accepting another’s reality, we must remember that we cannot completely judge it. Certainly if someone describes a scene to us with characters and beings that is an exact description from a fantasy novel or a movie, then we must take the rest of what they say with a grain of salt. But when there is a vivid description of a place that may or may not exist in other worlds that the speaker has interacted with, then we have to, as mature magicians, accept that they did have the experience they describe, no matter how odd to us.
Does this mean that we must buy into their reality wholeheartedly? Not at all. It is possible to accept that someone else had a specific experience without accepting the experience and the resulting changes in personality completely.
For instance, I can describe to you an adventure during which I went to another plane and caused changes in the peoples there, such that they went from being a single sex into being a typical dual sexual role. From there I can describe the consequences of that and the fact that they saw me as some sort of god.
Now, you can accept that I experienced it without accepting that it happened. The whole experience could have been a dream I had, it could be a fantasy I had, and I could also be making it up out of whole cloth.
This is where your judgment as a magician must play a role. You know what you have experienced and what you have seen. It is possible that you have seen something similar and can accept the adventure I describe with few reservations. But it is also possible that there is no way you can see that I had that actually happen to me, and so, you can reject it totally.
However, as a matter of courtesy, you should be able to accept that I believe it happened.
Acceptance of it happening does not mean that you believe it. You can have a healthy skepticism for what happened. If there is not any counter evidence that it happened, or if I am rational in all other ways, then it would be better to accept it and move on.
What this boils down to when we get rid of the extraneous stuff is “did this event have an effect on me?”
In most cases, the answer to that question is going to be “yes.”
It is this way for most magicians. The experiences we go through as part of our training, our self-study, and our practices are going to sound insane when we communicate them to others. This is why we generally don’t speak about these events to those who have not been through similar experiences.
Saying to another magician that you hear voices speaking to you will generally have them suggest shielding techniques or a banishing ritual. Saying the same thing to those who are not magicians will probably have them quietly calling Bedlam Asylum for the nice young men with the “I-Love-Me” jackets.
Did this event have an effect on you? Absolutely. Generally, events like these are the ones that have us believing in the Unseen, anyway. Therefore, our own personal acceptance of those events is paramount to our practice in a very real way.
So why is it that so many magicians can’t accept that others had seminal events like this happen to them? I cannot count the number of times that someone on a list brings up an event like this as a way of presenting magical “credentials” of a sort, and the rest of the list starts from the perspective of “no it didn’t happen,” and then proceeds to rip the event apart in various ways.
Why can’t those who are doing the ripping simply say, “Okay, you had this experience,” and move on? What is it about others having an esoteric experience that is so threatening? It’s not fluffy-speak to talk about these kinds of experiences among those who might have had the same experience and to get some more information and guidance.
They’re not asking you to buy into their whole philosophy of life, nor are they using that seminal moment as more than an interesting event to share. Would you question them to the same extent if they had an LSD trip and saw God? How about if they had a major revelation during sex? Or how about having a life-altering event happen while meditating in the barn?
If those events can be treated with disdain and incredulity, then they should be. But many major religions would have to change their foundation myths. If the events that created major world religions should be treated as sacred, then why can’t the experiences that another has had while in trance be treated similarly?
The fact of the matter is that no one’s reality is the same as anyone else’s reality. The reality I live in, where the people on the other side of my email account are just as important to me as blood relatives (and whom I would sacrifice more for than my blood relatives), is not the same reality that the CEO of TransAmerica is going to be experiencing in his office in San Francisco. Neither of those realities are going to be the same as the reality that a farmer in Africa lives with. None of those are going to be the same reality that Queen Elizabeth II lives with either.
Every one of you creates and carves out your own little pocket of reality where some things are important, and other things simply aren’t affecting you at all, and thus are of no importance. It is awfully hard to get a starving peasant in Russia interested in global warming, or to get a rich 20-something Jet Setter who has never been to a war-ravaged country interested in the danger of land mines.
The same holds true for magicians. There are going to be events and entities that are important to me that hold no meaning for you. That doesn’t mean that I hold them less sacred or real. It means that I have had a different set of experiences than you did, and that our paths are different.
Giving a “bye” to those who have different takes on the same situation is one of the first steps in a courteous exchange. It allows for those who have had vastly different experiences to come together and to discuss other topics at great length, enriching each other. It doesn’t mean that you have to buy the delusions of another, but you must treat their life-altering moments with the same sanctity and reverence that you ask for yours.
That means accepting other creatures they call upon, as well. Yes, I understand how odd it is to be speaking to their “invisible friend.” I have had a few awkward moments where I was forced to talk directly to a being I wasn’t sure was there, but I got over it. If you wish to gain something from the fleshy person you are interacting with, then accepting their Guides, Spirits, Totems, and so on as real is like accepting their spouse, children, and pets as real. It is simply kind and polite to do so.
©2007 by Daven.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
March 21, 2007 by Lupa
Filed under altered states of consciousness, columns, lupa's den, magick, mysticism, perception, self-created styles, self-transformation, shamanism, therioshamanism, totemism and animism
Alrighty, this month I’m going to diverge from my usual fare of animal magic to talk about something a little different that’s been bouncing around in my head: UPG.
Depending on where on the internet you hang out, you may have run into the acronym UPG. Unverified or Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis is essentially any information about a deity or other entity, magical topic, or related spiritual item of interest that is gained through one’s own intuition and experiences rather than third-party sources.1 It originated in the heathen communities in the 1970s or 1980s, but has been used with greater frequency, particularly with the advent of the internet.
UPG is used to differentiate historically/mythologically accurate material, particular with regard to the reconstruction and study of pre-Christian religions, from things that people either acquired in personal experiences or otherwise couldn’t show any outside evidence for. Reconstructionism, especially with regard to Celtic, Germanic and Norse cultures and religions, tends to be meticulous about details. There’s debate in the respective communities about how much UPG is too much; for example, the Celtic Reconstructionism FAQ provides some guidelines for dealing with UPG in relation to accepted lore.2
Anyone who’s been in the pagan community for any length of time knows that it floats on a sea of UPG. Many pagans quite happily mix traditional mythology with personal experiences to meet their own spiritual and magical needs. A survey of various books on the market aimed at the pagan crowd shows a wide range of scholarship that traverses the wide spectrum between Uber-Serious History and What The Hell Were You On? and UPG can be found in a large selection of these texts.
Unfortunately, problems arise when UPG is presented as historical evidence (with or without other poor sources). The many books on “Celtic Wicca” are a good example. One particular thread of ficti-myth is the persistent “Irish Potato Cult” that arose in the early 1990s. Despite the fact that the potato wasn’t imported into Ireland until a few centuries ago, it’s been claimed that the pre-Christian Celts saw the potato as a fertility symbol and even created rituals around it.3 Whether this was UPG or just some really shoddy scholarship, nobody’s quite sure.
Still, it resembles the sort of thing that often ends up as UPG, and the issues that can occur when it is then presented as historical fact. Additionally, various pagans may combine several threads of myth and religion from assorted cultures because of UPG; again, the problem comes when this blended mixture is presented as something historically accurate. And then there are cases in which UPG goes entirely against the accepted canon surrounding a particular topic; for example, someone viewing Kali as a loving, gentle innocent maiden, or Aphrodite as an ugly hag.
It’s entirely possible that deities may show sides other than the most commonly seen ones to individual pagans. In my opinion, deities are not one-dimensional characters, and I don’t believe they are limited solely to their mythical portrayals. For example, Artemis is a maiden goddess in the Greek pantheon; technically, when I got married I should have given up my relationship to her. Despite this (and the opinions of some modern radical feminists that Artemis only likes lesbians and hates all men), she never had a problem with the idea. In my private conversations with her, her main concern was that the relationship was a healthy one, and that I had enough room to be myself.
Granted, I’m not a Hellenic pagan. I’ve never really studied the details of Greek religious practices with regard to Artemis or any other Olympian. And honestly, I have no interest in doing so. I like the relationship I’ve developed with Artemis (or at least the independent, masculine female, wild-loving deity who refers to herself as Artemis in my presence). I’ve been maintaining that relationship for a decade or so, and it’s been quite spiritually fulfilling. My worship is through emulation, my offerings through actions and prayers. And that’s what works for me.
I admit it — I want my UPG. I am not a Reconstructionist of any sort, nor am I a Wiccan. In fact, I rather dislike pigeonholing myself with regard to religion — “Pagan” or “Neopagan” works quite nicely. The bulk of my spirituality and practice is UPG-based. My writing on Totemism? UPG-based Neopagan Totemism, not traditional. My relationship to and understanding of the Divine? My UPG coupled with observations of others’ UPG, as well as psychology, mythology and occultism. I tend to bristle a bit when people attempt to limit Paganism only to the modern worship of ancient deities; while I acknowledge the presence of deities, I neither see them as the ultimate manifestation of Divinity, nor even believe there is such a thing other than the sum total of all Realities.
To me, Paganism is the path I take to understanding my relationship with regard to all forms of consciousness and energy in the Multiverse. Deities and spirits are simply some of the other entities that I coexist with. In order to figure out where I stand, I have to use a lot of UPG to formulate my individual perspective on what’s both within and outside of me. For some people, preexisting religions and philosophies are sufficient for explaining Life, the Universe, and Everything. There’s nothing wrong with that; I just prefer to blaze my own trail, occasionally crossing those of others along the way.
Of course, there will always be those who are appalled that I’m “just making it up as I go along.” So what? I know that my beliefs aren’t Holy Writ or Accepted Canon. But they explain things to me, and in my worldview, that’s more important than making sure they match up perfectly with what works for others. To each hir own; I believe we’ll all end up in the same place eventually anyway.
- Anonymous (2006). Unverified Personal Gnosis. Retrieved 6 March, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UPG
- Laurie, Erynn Rowan, Kathryn Price NicDhana, et. al. (2006) The CR FAQ: An Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (How much UPG is acceptable in CR? How do you know?). Retrieved 6 March, 2007 from http://www.paganachd.com/faq/intermediate.html#howmuchupg
- Hautin-Mayer, Joanne (1998). When is a Celt not a Celt? Retrieved 6 March, 2007 from http://www.irishwitch.org/grove/When_is_a_Celt_not_a_Celt.shtml
©2007 Lupa. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.
I intend to describe in this article a fundamental technique of Hermetic Theurgy that I have developed over the last 20 years, and with any luck the reader will find in my words something of value for themselves. It’s probably best to describe it as “active imagination” as Carl Jung coined the term. Jung noticed that he could find revealing and non-self-gratifying imagery just below the surface of the mind, by making a suggestion to himself and then sitting quietly to see what might develop in his thinking. He found that if he did not steer his thoughts in any particular direction, merely sat as a passive viewer of what his mind might show him, many wondrous things would arise, including solutions to troublesome problems, intuitions, insights into his own nature (and those of others), often with a wash of curiosities that would set him to further pondering. Stillness, of course, is they key. While I have not meditated as often as I probably should, I have heard stories from others using Transcendental Meditation and related techniques about this very thing. Of course, most meditation practices of an Eastern flavor tend to warn against following these story lines and vistas too far, as they are a hindrance to the stillness of mind the meditator desires. I propose that these stories and vistas of imagination can be a key to unlocking the inner area of the deep mind and a conduit for conversation with one’s Holy Guardian Angel (HGA).
I do not say this lightly. About 22 years ago I had a long and intense conversation with the being who is very much in charge of my destiny, and I took the time to write down what I can remember of it in my book Biting Through. What was then a very direct conversation with what seemed like another, infinitely wiser intelligence is now little more than a memory that from time to time provides me with the most startling of insights and memories, typically when I need them the most. It stands to reason that other folks can access this part of their consciousness too, and so long as one doesn’t take it as gospel truth (the revelations are often highly symbolic), one shouldn’t get into much trouble. The caveat here is to keep an open mind and try not to decide that a certain experience means this or that thing. One should merely observe, keep an open mind, and look for the full depth of any possible truths as they might arise later.
We’ve lightly brushed on the key of it here — the suspension of judgement. I once read a book called Applied Imagination, which recommended a nonjudgmental approach to creative problem solving, as it seems that instant judgement of a thought or an idea is enough to derail it from its true course. This book told of a group of problem solvers in a highly productive think tank atmosphere and noted that these people wrote down all ideas that occurred to them, regardless of how silly or inappropriate they might have initially seemed. By this method, they were rewarded with a greater number of creative solutions that might have gone unnoticed had they been squelched promptly. It was as if the free-ranging creative process needed impropriety, silliness and whimsy to operate correctly and to arrive by whatever crooked path at useful solutions. It is much the same way with active imagination — one doesn’t discard the odd bits of imagery or data that float by the mind’s eye; one merely accepts it and remembers it long enough to write it down later. There will be both signal and noise, to be certain, and often layers of meaning that are not initially apparent and that will require the passage of time to understand in greater depth. Much of it will resemble poetry, with unusually linked ideas or foreshortened concepts that seem important pieces of an incomplete picture. When it’s really happening in a big way, and one has the ability to surrender to it and simply write or speak what comes, as it comes, one is directly in the groove, as they say.
This technique has direct application for magical practice, especially with the meditations that happen in connection with the Star Rites or with the Contact of the Power Deeps in the matter of Planetary Magick. The ritual serves to formalize the business of being on the receiving end of a transmission from the deep mind, just as the invocation serves to focus its content. It’s a simple formula really — magically clear the space by casting a circle or setting the wards, tune your mind to the frequency of the matter by invocations and orisons, then still your mind to the degree that somewhere between the chatterings of the “monkey mind,” other data emerge. With time and practice and patient retrospection at a later date, story lines can emerge. While entertaining, these story lines say a whole lot about what is happening inside of one’s head, and in a way not normally encountered by ordinary rational thinking.
Speaking of ordinary thinking, it is good to know that sometimes this data comes in large packets . . . It is difficult to describe exactly, but I’ll say what I can about it. “Normal” creative problem solving (at least as it happens in my mind) typically proceeds from one concept to the next in more or less straight lines, each idea depending in some way upon the one before it. Occasionally, one has a Eureka! moment where some intuition allows one to assemble observations and facts in a very different and productive way, not unlike the story of Archimedes at his bath. For those that do not know the story, it is sufficiently illustrative to retell here.
The regent d´jour of Archimedes’ time was having a royal crown made and he did not trust the maker completely, so he beseeched Archimedes to find a way to learn whether or not the maker had made the crown from the all of the gold supplied to him for the task and had not transferred some of it into his pocket. Of course, weighing the initial gold and the resulting crown would seem a ready test, but it’s quite possible that, say, lead could be used, then gilded such that it would not be noticed without sawing into the crown and looking for it. Puzzling over how this might be accomplished, Archimedes slipped into a hot bath to soak for a while, and noticed that the water rose a bit more than it once did, doubtless due to the dreaded middle-age spread. So far, so good — he had all the data he started out with for this equation, but he suddenly saw it in a different way. He realized that the initial gold displaced a certain amount of water and would do so whether it was formed into a brick or a crown. If lead was introduced (and gold subtracted from the crown) it would displace a different amount of water, even though care may be taken to make it weigh the same. It was at this point that the cry of “Eureka!” sprang from his lips and he ran naked into the street to shout about it, the story goes.
This eureka moment may happen from time to time in creative visualization, but I’d like to introduce the reader to a slightly more bizarre concept, the story-all-at-once phenomenon. The only other time I’ve even heard of the notion was from the late Ben Rowe’s (Josh Norton) web site accounts of his scrying into the Enochian Aethers. He wrote that sometimes he would receive discrete packages of information of which reception he was aware, that would unfold over time and present entire catalogs of information to him, seemingly all at once. The analogy I like to make to describe this thought process is this: Imagine you have a large collection of small, symbolically interrelated objects in a simple, starchy sort of handkerchief, corners held together as a loose bundle. You drop it on a table and it lays open all at once, exposing the objects. Imagine too that you instantly apprehend not just the meanings of the individual objects, but also perceive how they are interrelated with each other and even what sort of relationship they have with each other in Time. Clear as mud?
In terms of the active imagination this articles tries to describe, it’s a bit like drinking out of a firehose. Imagine that, for a moment, you can be behind someone else’s eyes, experience the observations of their senses, reach into the their memories and the swirl of emotions that lurk just beneath thought, the hopes and fears . . . This information from the active imagination can sometimes take that shape, just as certain rich and deeply integral dreams can. The following is an excerpt from Passage D´aur (annotated), a book of writings that describes one such instance.
For ever so few moments, I felt as if I were in the mind of a court minstrel, called to a place to play a sort of role-playing game which was instituted by the Comte of that Court, and which was resounding in a social way throughout the land. Parties were held, ranging from summer picnics to gala balls and it amounted to us poor lads from the neighboring villages and shires, who were sufficiently schooled in the arte musicale to make this calling, going there as a seeming wooing of the ladies that were presented to us. This was no Pagan feast of flesh, I assure you!
This game had rules and had a framework in which these rules might be bent with a perfect cover to a real expression of the game, happening in it’s midst, as it were. While we were most of all boys and young men of no greater fortune than our poor academies can produce, some were young men of foreign courts (or so ’tis said) who come to gaze upon their prospective.
There is a dimension of this game that is just beginning to dawn on me. I was told but I did not understand at first. They say that a man’s soul is female and that is why Botticelli and others paint in the obscure symbols they seem to prefer. They further indicate that praise of the Soul is praise of God and so we are acting in a kind of mummery with song and dance to praise our very Souls, as played by the young ladies of the court and whatever Great Aunt’s Handmaiden might gift her way in. It not only made men of us, but made men of others, by hearing our songs, borne of the praise of the most ancient of Beauties, ever expressing itself in the flower of the present, and filling in those short spans of time between songs sung of War, daring-do and the generally mad howling of apes that otherwise constitutes the music of our streets.
Annotation: It was very real and very personal but nothing like the contents of my ordinary life. I felt as if I were in another’s mind for the space of a few moments and that I had access to everything they knew about the world around them and the moment they were soon to face. Of course, as a bit of a minstrel myself and with an interest in the courtly traditions, I’ve read about some of this, but the depth of what was there to see and feel was breathtaking. Of course, it is an extension of a discussion I’d had with [someone] about being in touch with my anima which I had countered with an illumination about the feminine nature of the soul, as viewed by Dante and his ilk.
Ultimately, these words are but an impoverished sketch of what took place in my mind for those very few moments, for I could hear, taste, see and feel my surroundings and I could think back to my not-so-happy home in a village an unknown distance away. I could almost hang names on dozens of faces of people I’ve certainly never met in this life. Have I touched upon a past life, I wonder? Or is my deep mind wrapping up an answer in fairy-tale clothing with an astonishing depth of scenery? I still don’t know, but am open to any possibility, including attempting to dig out some corroborating evidence of an equally dodgy nature via past life regression hypnosis. Of course, this proves nothing but can add dimension to the study of a given story, by which one might unravel the reason it was presented in the first place.
Another time I beheld a story the setting of which seems close the A.S. current, even if only for its perceived ancient Florentine location:
I enter a chamber at a friend’s or relative’s house and I observe a chessboard. I know that the arrangement of the chessboard is not a game in progress as such, but it represents the deliberate arrangement of pieces in such a way as to describe a situation that he has called me there of which to learn. It is likely that he has guests of some sort and his are the sort of guests that do not need to hear of our news as they are far too central to its power and promise.
Our Uncle is the Duke, and his wife the Duchess, so I expect to see them as the King and Queen of the color opposite the doorway into this room. Their adviser is the Abess of (. . .) who came to this court from the Duchess’s family, so she is the Queen’s Bishop of course. I see that both knights are on the King’s side of the board and that they oppose the other side’s King’s bishop and by that I learn that Charles and Rodney are at odds with the Bishop of (. . .), but I also see that the opposite Queen holds the King in check, and that was what I was there to see. There is a curious pattern of [rooks] that suggests they are moving to cover their Lords, but I cannot discern more without some clues. Ignoring guests, I select a pawn and move it one step to the lateral edge of the game to show that I understood most of what was being presented to me, then I repositioned the knights in such a way as it seemed a whole lot more natural than the result of the tour upon which they had been supposed to ride. It is a game to fight the spies.
I don’t really know who I was in this story, only that my uncle was a powerful and rich man and that my loose lips might sink their ship which necessitated that my cousin (whom I was visiting) and I played a code-game upon the chess set that resided in the drawing room of this mansion. The pieces represented different members of our extended family and showed their current political relationships. My movement of the pieces indicated that I understood the message. I felt as if my cousin could enter the room at any moment and we might play a few turns to provide cover for our communications.
Nikito and Eshabirodja
These scenes are but deep moments in a reverie, but the storytelling function can take on a large scale, offering key moments in the history of a whole life, it would seem. Such is the tale of Nikito and Eshabirodja. Fair warning: this story is terribly personal and rather sad. It has features I’ve never encountered before in my active imagination and they are well worth pointing out. Like much of Passage d’Aur, this story came in direct response to my seeking a greater depth of information in my real life, for I had come to hold a deep and unexpected attraction for someone I have known for many years and was aware over the entire course of time (in which we came to deal with it productively) that there was a pronounced spiritual or karmic dimension to it. Naturally, I wanted to explore that and I felt that my exercises in active imagination might open up some new vistas. I was not disappointed. Bits and pieces of this story came to me over many months.
This place was black almost all the time, else black on gray with some fitful snow. We kept a hearth going on every hour of every day and the aroma of our scat fuel permeated everything and seemed to do so for generations into our past. There was a gentle slope to the river and our living was made from that river, but I can only guess how . . . fish maybe . . . and there may have been beaver or other furs . . .
I think it was a summer camp, an ancestral place where we stayed in that season. It was the only time we had alone. At our other home we lived in the lodge with all the others. On our bitter cold journeys by the river, I came to know you as I know you now. You were called Eshabirodja, for the delight you brought to our repast.
We kept to that way as we grew very old and were venerated, then taken for granted, then ignored. We did what we said we would do and spent ourselves to our last days giving the Salmon to the Family.
This is the first time I ever really felt I got more than mental pictures from this exercise. This time I heard the wind blow, smelled the smoke from turd-fires, and heard her laughter and someone call her name as she came down the lane towards me. It sounded Russian and I thought the caller said something that sounded like “Siberia.” I listen carefully and the name was repeated with different stresses, but still sounded oddly familiar. When I wrote down the name the way it must be spelled and puzzled over why it might be so, I quickly discovered that an actual person’s name was buried amongst it, the letters appearing in exactly the same order as they do in my love’s real name, and that this was the person I was asking about. Typical stuff from the puzzle-maker of my unconscious mind, come to think of it. Thinking about it later, I sorted this out into 2 boxes, one being labeled “past life, mine or someone else’s,” and one being labeled “symbolic story from the unconscious.” I still have no good tools to figure out which words to put in which box. In no event do I believe that the puzzle of the name is anything but my deep mind telling me that this story is about her after some fashion and I’d better pay it some attention. I didn’t know how far it would go. I kept drilling away at it, trying to get some sense of my own name or the name of this place or of my tribe or time but all I got was a collection of letters that could’ve meant anything: N . . . k . . . i? Nicholas? Nikita? It took awhile, but I think I came close.
We sat at the edge of the river and dropped our stakes. I thought about how you are and how you look and that made me think about how I see. Uncle Shadow-vision told me something a long time ago about how he sees, part in color and part in black and white, and I wondered if something like that could make people see different faces on others or maybe not be able to tell anyone apart? I told him that I once mistook someone else for him and called him by that name, but he just said, “I ain’t yer ‘Uncle Scatter-vision.’ Scram!”
After awhile, I get up to pee, and I see that it is I that has put your line out for you, even if you are not here to tend it. When I got back, I rolled up a bomber and sat smoking it while the bats started to come out of the trees that hugged the wide bend in the river. The tops of them were touched with the same pink fire that licked across the ragged horizon.
Nikito is back on the river with Eshabirodja here, but it changes to a memory of my own, seen through the eyes of another. The bomber seems like an invasive thought, or just my word for Nikito was doing.
The moon wasn’t up yet, but when it did come up, I knew I would be reminded of a certain thing. I once actually talked to someone who knew what I was talking about — the sight of the moon passing from cloud to cloud and drawing a silver veil over the things you see so that they seem to change. I remember the night I had my first woman, I held her on the couch where the window was, so we could both feel the restless wind that breathed there in the hot summer, the only cool place just then. She had blond hair and blue eyes but she didn’t look bad at all for a White woman. I did not look at her for very long just then, but even as I did for just a short time, I saw that her face looked a lot like another girl I knew when I was in The School at Madras and again like someone else, a teacher I had. For a minute or two it seemed like she could be just anybody . . . anybody. What a blessing, I thought.
It’s worth pointing out, as I have done in the annotation above, that there is indeed signal and noise and one cannot often tell which is which. If I have no word for what someone is doing or what sort of people they are, my unconscious mind will substitute something more familiar. Nikito and Eshabirodja seem to be primitive Eastern Europeans, but my mind persists in presenting them as Native Americans, probably because my knowledge of the former is almost non-existent and of the latter more familiar. I considered it a possibility that we have two similar stories cut-and-pasted together by my unconscious to illustrate a theme.
This reminds me of the Saki story called The Window. Nikito is very sad because Eshabirodja is gone, but I do not know until the last line if she has gone to pee, gone to town, gone to visit her mother for a year, or gone for good. I’m not sure if Nikito knows either, and there is a hint of madness or forgetfulness about it. His mind feels like a child who is left alone for a time and wonders if his guardian will ever return. Perhaps he enjoys lamenting for its own sake. It’s hard to describe exactly what it feels like to be in his head here, but it mostly feels very hurtful and sad.
These things were written chronologically, and this is the first bit where I realized (a few months later) that the river can be viewed as a symbol of life and death like the rivers Styx and Lethe (or the Jordan, for that matter). He “crosses over the river” and views his life from that side, then returns with a different perspective. Or does he go mad and flee to a hallucination? I sense other layers. Also, I sense that this way of life for him is an adaptation to something very big that changed everything about they way his people interact with the world. The world has changed in some big way and this life is part of his tribe’s adaptation to that change (and there’s a bit of a metaphor to that, too, isn’t there?). Maybe a freak storm changed the course of migrations, maybe a conquering people changed how he earns his keep. It seems to shadow everything he does and I wonder if he is giving Salmon to his people as a fisher might or is he giving this Salmon to traders, to Caesar, to Massah. Salmon, of course, is a Mercurial symbol associated with knowledge and communication and a pretty short trip from “Solomon.”
The face of the sun is hours away, but its light graces the river at my feet and lovingly sweats the fog off the crisp, slow waters. Ducks have been flying by in pairs and groups since there has been enough light to see them — maybe an hour. They don’t know where to go, for it is not warm anywhere right now.
I think you have been gone a long time now, for there is a hole in my wind where your words used to blow, where the scent of your perfume and the glint of eyes still glow. I keep talking to you as if you are there and I also know that you are not there and maybe I wonder if it matters any more. My ass is sore from sitting on the cold ground, but I can scarcely care enough to shift and stretch.
There is here a perfect picture of everything one could want from the great gift of the Spirit: The wide river of Life running through the wasteland of our new world, the knowledge of what needs to be done, who needs to do it and the honor of being one to so dare. Too, there is the further grace that my life and your love may intersect for such a time as they can and give to me this special melancholy moment. It is a hard and cruel diamond, but it shines.
I must have dozed. I pulled myself up and hauled on our lines. I put the fish above where the fire would be if I had remembered to actually build it. I hooked our lines across the limbs of the trees and inspected every knot, wiggled the tiniest scrap of meat onto every barb, then waded out to the log that I could walk across and drop it back into the waters. I decided then to sit on the opposite side of the river.
Things looked different here, aside from just being on the other side of the waters. I could look across the way and see our camp laid out in the pattern dictated by the fewest steps: there was our wanagan, our ramada, our fire, our snowshoes, our sledges and our shivering ponies. Mmm. For them I will build a fire! There is a lot of dry wood on this side of the river.
The fire has been warm now for an hour and the ponies would draw almost as near as I. Will the sun never come over the edge of the canyon? I think about how long you have been gone and I have to weep until I’m done. I cannot remember. I cannot remember anything but placing our lines, building our fire and taking the Salmon to The People.
Later there is a faint sound, as a bird leaping from a slight branch at the top of a tree, and it is at some distance. I hear the calls that come after and listen for what the wind will offer. It passes and is quiet again but only until I hear and feel a pat-pat-pat in the soil — almost, but not yet a sound. I stand, against all odds, against the frost that has frozen my blanket into a strange shape, and I lean against the tree to see farther down the path to our place beside the waters.
Eshabirodja . . . I see you come down the path home again.
Nikito’s last day on earth. He is either mad with grief or just mad period. Eshabirodja is gone and he doesn’t know or cannot remember why or to where, and he cannot cope with his grief. He ceases to care for himself and dies (I think) from pneumonia. His last words are actually a northwestern Native dialect, but it’s the only way I could say what he meant to say.
I do not know what is real, at least in the sense that the White man thinks of a thing as real. I think everything is real and that unreal things are misunderstandings; truth is everywhere and in every thing, but fear and monkey-shine make them seem to be less real than they are or make us so confused that we cannot connect with it and hear its words to us. I am no different than any other man.
Eshabirodja had been gone for such a long time that I did not know whether or not she was real any more. What made it hurt the most is that I did not know what happened to her, and I had to live with that unknowing until it drove me mad and alone into the place of the spirits. I think she went away because she did not like our life and wanted to do something she thought was better than [connecting] Salmon with [People]. Maybe there was a city and she wanted to go there, or maybe there was nothing and she just wanted to walk away, away and keep going away until she learned what else to do. I lived with the torture of believing that she had been savaged and killed on the road by bandits or that she had become a camp follower to give herself in that small way to the greater need. I was sick and I did not get better. I felt the frost on me like a gnawing animal, crouched on my chest as I lay in reeking animal skins. I think the ponies are sick and I haven’t heard the voice of one for all the time I have lain inside out of the snow. I find I have nothing to do but pray that the spirits will come and take me away from this terrible loss . . . spirit-helper have pity on me.
Spirit-helper have pity on me.
Again we have an illustration of a shift in language and content to show an unfamiliarity with what must be the actual language and content. The final phrase is a Siletz or Kallipuia Indian phrase I heard many years ago when I made a recording of two medicine men singing peyote songs at a gathering.
The truly odd thing about this story is that it doesn’t seem to portray in any sense the actual goings-on of my waking life. No one was leaving me (quite the reverse) and I was not terribly sad about the things I was going through. I reminded myself at the time that it is often useful to put myself in the place of other people in the story and try to see it through their eyes in order to gain a different perspective. It seems that these stories are reflections of real events around me, but told from different perspectives to help me see around corners in my mind. There is yet an even deeper version of this phenomenon.
From time to time, it will seem as if the storyteller pauses in the narrative and addresses me directly, offering words of wisdom, couched in the oddest of contradictory phrases. This is usually accompanied by a complete stillness of mind which slowly blooms into a sort of joyous weeping and a cathartic swirl of suppressed emotions. I can typically feel this shift in consciousness very distinctly, it seeming as if my creative faculties are suspended and I am just listening intently to what is said to me. When this happens, I signal it by the use of italics.
Sometimes, and on this occasion certainly, the ‘narrator’ of this story stops telling the story and addresses me directly. I can feel it happen. There is a shift in content, in word and meaning. It is as if a storyteller stops telling the illustrative tale long enough to tell me, the listener, what it means to me personally. These words almost always have many, many layers of meaning and interpretation and so, when I can identify them, I put them in italics. I don’t know whose memory this is, but I don’t think it’s mine. There is no electricity here and it happens at night by the light of glass lamps and fireflies. It seems like Nebraska in the ’30’s for some reason.
Not always in a lonely place do I behold you — sometimes it is at a café on a piazza I cannot name, sometimes on your grandparents’ farm where you held my hand under the table and asked me about the stars. You’d just heard about the pictures in the stars that were put there by the men who would tell stories at the gatherings. You wanted to know what I knew and I only knew about the pictures and I pointed them out to you, if I remembered them correctly. It was enough for you then, and made for us a simple moment to treasure.
As children of Earth and the Starry Heavens, our story is in those stars, forming a long way back in the bright spiral of time and calling out to our present ears as a collection of words upon the only Tongue that speaks the Word: I am your Heart. I am your Pain. I am the reason for your next breath. Thou art my life and I love thee. Your own love is a reflection of that and no more, but that is more than enough. Do not ever forget that.
I cannot read these words without tears.
I was mad at my wife, mad at the feelings I had in me and mad that I made the object of my love mad at me. I fell off the tobacco wagon and was struggling to climb back on. I held my wife in my arms and smelled Pall Malls distinctly, as if a cigarette was burning in the room and recalled that her mother died of cancer and that was her brand. It felt like a presence, a ghost. I don’t smoke Pall Malls. My muse speaks again and in that twisted and maddening ‘angel-speak’ that simultaneously enlightens and obscures.
You don’t need my words want my words reveal my words
Speak my words but hear my words you do in the deep of yrself.
Today I held you while we both cried and I felt your mother draw near.
Was it my own breath reeking of sticky yellow death or the touch of her love flavored by what she could not leave? Quitting is easier than this but the sea must be calmer than this I tell myself today
It cannot be every day that way
Dear heart, I suffer with you and in you
&you are every woman I have ever known
as I am every man I have ever been
Angel-speak w/o preamble. Possibly one of the most important insights I’ve received from this time. It is presented in an unusually clear fashion.
Listen to me, you had an important thought there: She (whoever She is) is the love of your life but cannot be your love of Life, dig? If I exist as a different octave of your being, it is proper to say that I am the Life of your love. This is a formula, and when you work it forwards you find Her. When you work it backwards you find Me. See again:
Life of your love . . . you’re love of Life . . . Love of yr life
Thee . . . Thine. . . Thou
Solve Coagula Est!
“Toluca” is your invocation
and you must know by now that you are but one more flower blooming in a bucket of shit
“Toluca” is a poem I wrote 20 years ago and it has always felt special to me. I’ve recorded it as a music & spoken word piece and performed it from time to time, and whether hearing it on tape or performing it live, the room is always very still. Here I am told that it is nothing less than my own personal invocation of my Holy Guardian Angel and I have since used it as such to solid effect.
There is an immense wealth of information available to us, if we’d only take the time to listen and to suspend immediate judgement. The rewards are as great as one’s patience, both with the process and with oneself. It took me many years to unravel “Toluca,” and it hasn’t revealed all of its secrets yet. Twenty years ago, my only clue that this poem was in any way unusual was the fact that, at some point, I began to quote verbatim the Bhagavad Gita at decent length. I have read the Gita, but I certainly have not memorized it and didn’t ever expect it to show up in such fashion. I shall close this curious essay with “Toluca.”
Toluca is home sometimes where you stare down the road with black and ancient and wond’rous eyes you see your soul entangled in mine but this you do not yet know . . .
Can these elaborately constructed forms differ so much from one another that no route can be see of forward-going-apace? The path of metamorphos-is is the path of divine light and also horror.
Thou art desire . . . thou art desire
Thy beauty is in my I
Thou art madness . . . thou art madness
Thy beauty is in my I
Thou art God . . . Thou art Goddess
Thy beauty is truth & lie
Both truth & lie
I hate my masque
Seven years of de-votion Seven years of backward motion
Had I but known the words I would have penned the song
“Voyage on your blood for it is love & no other”
The spiritual equivalent of the hydrogen bomb? Cum now be reasonable if you be know a sage then so shall it be — be not distracted that you do not perceive the slightest wisdom in what you are doing at this moment or any other who cares to seek for that perfect freedom? One man perhaps in many thousands then tell me how many of those who seek that perfect freedom shall know the total truth of my being?
Perhaps one . . . Perhaps every one
As we are all one and that one is all of us, who can it matter who among us would run to take the light?
(For it is all ours always was always will be) You have nothing in your I your I is in me of me it is me
I am you
©2007 Frater Auxilior Arti. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Frater Auxilior Arti (nee Fr. Adsum Iterum) is an initiate of the Astrum Sophia, co-founder of the Companions of the Glyph and author of the Book of the Glyph and PRAXIS: The 2nd Book of the Glyph. A life-long student of the paranormal, he brings a scientific/Fortean viewpoint to the subject, a thing he feels is sadly neglected. You can find his Facebook page here.
When we are born, that part of our brain that holds our identity is a blank slate, waiting to be written on by the impressions of our physical senses. As we age, we acquire more and more experiences, and these are stored as memories. We are the sum of our memories. Take them away, as happens sometimes in severe stroke, and we cease to exist. Our body continues, but it is no more than a physical shell. It is not who we are. Who we are is undifferentiated super-consciousness, acting through the filter of our various levels of memory, which shape and define that consciousness, limiting it into what we know as our personal identity.
We can never conceive anything apart from the input of our senses. That is the tragedy of the human experience. Try to conceive of a thing that is not based on your prior sense impressions and you will see that it is so. You cannot do it. If you think of a monster that has never existed, you will see that it is built up of familiar parts that you have learned about through your senses — skin, teeth, legs, eyes, ears, a tail. It will be certain colors, will emit sounds, will have a distinctive smell, be rough or smooth to the touch. We simply cannot imagine anything other than sense impressions. Even when we try to imagine completely abstract things, we can only hold them in our minds by translating them into familiar sensory models. This is the reason we cannot picture higher dimensions of space, but must use three-dimensional models to suggest them. It is a fundamental, inherent limitation of human consciousness, part of the very nature of what we are.
Even more startling the first time it is understood is the realization that the entire universe that we know and everything it contains exists only in our mind. That is not to say that another level of the universe might not exist apart and independent of our awareness, but if so we can never know anything about it. That is the key insight. We are prisoners of our own perceptions. Our consciousness is based on perceptual information, and the universe for us exists only in our mind.
You may have heard about Plato’s cave. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote in his dialogue The Republic that human beings are like prisoners chained in a cave who sit with their backs to the fire and perceive nothing of what passes behind them apart from the shadows that play across the cave wall. The cave is human consciousness. The light from the fire is our senses. The shadows are the things we build up in our minds based on our sense impressions. All we know consciously are the shadows. The moving shadows on the wall constitute our reality.
However, the cave is not all we are. In our higher natures, we transcend its limits. Sometimes, beings from outside the cave of sense impressions interact with our awareness. We call them gods, angels, spirits, ghosts, fairies, demons, aliens, and countless other names that attempt to define them in a way that our mind can handle. These beings from outside our perceptual reality are faced with a quandary. They exist beyond our senses, and we can only understand things of our senses, so how are they to reach our awareness?
They do it by using a technique that I have named sensory metaphors. A sensory metaphor is nonsensory information that has been translated into sensory information. The mind is incredibly versatile, despite its inherent limitations. It is capable of translating one sensory input into another sensory input under extraordinary conditions such as illness or a head injury, or under the influence of mind-altering drugs such as LSD. We can, under certain conditions, hear colors, for example, or see sounds, or even taste concepts. One sensory input can substitute its information for another input from a different sense.
But the mind is even more versatile. It can process information that has no sensory base at all into sensory data, thus allowing us to become aware of its existence, and to consider it by analogy. That is to say, we can never consider the super-sensory data itself because it lies beyond the reach of our consciousness, but we can contemplate the sensory metaphors of that unreachable data, in the same way we can represent and manipulate the higher dimensions of space with three-dimensional models.
When an angel appears to a human being, it has no physical reality. It cannot be seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted. You may object that reports of angels throughout human history record that they appeared as physical beings. Often angels are said to walk among us in the guise of ordinary human beings who can be touched. Women have even made love to angels.
True enough. It was not the angel that was perceived, but the sensory metaphor generated by the angel, which exists in a realty that lies beyond our capacity to comprehend. Only because the angel has generated a sensory metaphor of itself do we even know that an angel is present. If the angel wishes to communicate with us, it must express itself in a way we can hold in our thoughts and imprint on our memories. It must become sensory data in our minds, even though that data never passes through any of the physical avenues of our senses.
Unless a spirit generates a sensory metaphor of itself, we continue unaware of it even though it may be very near. It is sometimes said that the world throngs with spirits of all kinds, but that we remain unconscious of their existence. This is true. To become real to us, a spirit must engage our mind on our own level of understanding.
Sensory metaphors of a simple kind arise spontaneously under unusual conditions. When we see a ghost, we do not actually see anything at all — rather, we have the impression in our minds of seeing. The true nature of the ghost, which we cannot perceive directly because it lies beyond our senses, is translated into a sensory metaphor. Usually this takes the form of a visual image. It may be indistinct or translucent. Sometimes the ghost takes the sensory metaphor of a sound or series of sounds, sometimes an odor, sometimes a touch, and only very rarely it appears as a taste. Ghosts can simulate more than one sense at a time, and we may both hear and see a ghost, or feel the touch of a ghost and simultaneously smell a distinct odor such as cigar smoke or perfume.
Complex spirits, who have a more developed intelligence, seem able to at least in part control the sensory metaphors that we perceive, so that they can present themselves in whatever way they think is to their advantage in dealing with us, and if necessary, change their appearance. You have no doubt heard of demons summoned into the triangle of evocation by magicians who come first in a frightening and horrible form in an attempt to intimidate the magician, but when commanded by the authority of names of power, will put on more pleasing forms in order to converse with the magician.
Spirits are not in their essence the sensory metaphors that represent them. They become those forms in their dealings with us, in order to be able to make us aware of their existence and communicate with us, and to us they are those forms, just as to us a human being is the body that he or she inhabits. But apart from our consciousness the essence of the spirit is a thing we simply are not capable of comprehending. It is what lies outside Plato’s cave and we can never turn our head to look directly at it, because it is not within our capacity to do so.
The doctrine of sensory metaphors explains many mysteries about the nature of spirits. For example, why a spirit can seem completely and physically real to one individual, yet pass unperceived by another individual who is nearby. It explains why a spirit that can be touched cannot be photographed. Whether or not genuine spirit or ghost photographs exist is a matter for debate. My own belief is that such photographs do not exist. A being that cannot be perceived directly by human senses cannot register on photographic film, because in a strictly material sense, it is not there at all. Yet the sensory metaphor of that spirit can seem completely real and present to whomever it is presented.
All the tricks of capricious spirits become understandable. Fairies were noted for their fairy feasts, which would be there one moment and gone the next, and for their fairy gold, which after being given would turn to straw or vanish away completely. The doctrine of sensory metaphors explains the sudden appearance and vanishing of spiritual beings of various types, how they can seem material yet pass through solid walls or doors, how they can appear to turn to smoke or mist, how they can transmute themselves into the shapes of beasts.
Sensory metaphors should not be thought of as completely arbitrary and ephemeral. True, they are not real in the narrow sense that our sensory impressions of physical objects are real, yet they often express accurately the nature of the spirit that adopts them. When a spirit retains a sensory metaphor for long enough, it effectively becomes the spirit, just as we are our collection of thoughts and memories. A goddess conceived for thousands of years in a certain form, with specific characteristics, becomes that being permanently, in so far as anything in this ever-shifting universe can be said to have permanence. The name given to the goddess becomes the name of that spirit. Aphrodite is Aphrodite, she is not merely a spirit pretending to be Aphrodite.
A spirit that manifests over a long period as the sensory metaphor of Abraham Lincoln may truly believe itself to be the spirit of the dead president. And who is to say it is not correct? Its identity is based on the same motivations, the same beliefs, the same memory of experiences, that formed the personality of Lincoln. If it is not the actual spiritual essence of Lincoln’s soul, assuming such a separate and discrete essence to exist, then it is a clone of that essence. Perhaps the spirit is even able to tap into some higher aspect of Lincoln’s being, a kind of divine template of Lincoln that is stored in the Akashic records.
The control higher spirits have over sensory metaphors should cause us to be thankful most spirits are benevolent. The ability to control what we perceive through our physical senses gives these spirits the power of life and death over us. We have all had sensory tricks played on us by spiritual beings. We put down our car keys, turn round to do something, and when we turn back, the keys are gone. We search the table they were on, the room, the whole house without finding them, and the next day when we pass the table, there are the keys, sitting just where we left them in plain sight. This kind of thing happens so often, it scarcely causes us to think about it. However, if we considered the matter, we would realize that someone has been playing games with our perceptions. How else could we fail to see what was in plain sight the whole time we looked for it?
Poltergeists play with human perceptions all the time. This is the primary way they work their tricks. Usually this manipulation of the senses is coupled with the spirit possession of a human being, who unwittingly acts as their physical agent to move things or perform various physical tasks. Much of poltergeist phenomena is physical, but much of it only appears to be physical, but is actually composed of sensory metaphors. For example, everyone in the house may suddenly hear a deafening clap of thunder, yet no one in the neighboring houses will have heard a thing, because the thunder was not an actual sound, but merely the metaphor of thunder that existed only in the minds of those who heard it.
There seems to be some kind of natural law that prevents spirits from killing or injuring human beings in large numbers through the malicious manipulation of our senses. It does happen on rare occasions, but the demons who do it are outlaws or renegades who have stepped over the bounds of normal spirit behavior. Apparently there are no laws against playing with us, annoying us, or terrifying us, other than the general laws of good manners and good taste, and some spirits delight to do these things, though what their motives may be is a matter for conjecture. Maybe they are amusing themselves at out expense, or maybe they derive some personal benefit from generating strong emotions of anger, frustration or fear. Perhaps these strong emotions nourish lower spirits, and it is for this reason that they manipulate our senses in order to generate them.
The concept of sensory metaphors is essential to a useful understanding of human-spirit interaction in the twenty-first century. The old mechanical notions of spirit nature simply will not serve our purposes in this quantum age. We cannot weigh and photograph spiritual beings, and it is high time to get over this simplistic understanding of our reality. What we know is conditioned by our senses, but it is not limited to our senses. Our reality contains higher levels and higher dimensional beings with which we can interact, but only in a secondary way, by a process of translation that models the higher levels of reality in sensory forms that our mind is capable of handling. We should be thankful that our minds are so versatile, they allow this translation to occur, for without it we would know nothing of spirits, not even that they exist.
©2007 Donald Tyson. Edited by Sheta Kaey
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.