49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives
Canadian Paganism has a style all its own. Have a look at events, issues, celebrations, people, trends and events north of the border from the eyes of a Canadian Witch.
Cyberspace: An Astral Realm
I recently wrote a couple of articles for my column at Patheos’ Pagan channel about cyberspace and witchcraft. This sparked a very interesting discussion among my clan about the nature of cyberspace in general. I don’t know if any of you are science fiction fans, but a theme in the genre that you often see or read about involves someone projecting their consciousness into a computer system and navigating it as though it were its own internal reality.
Did you ever try to have a conversation with someone while he or she is on Facebook or Twitter? Kind of like talking to a wall, isn’t it? As my life partner pointed out, “when you’re surfing the net, you’re not really here.”
So where are you then? The answer is cyberspace, its own realm, in which your spirit engages with the spirits of others similarly travelling. This is especially true when you are actively connecting through social media; visualizing, texting, messaging, blogging, sexting, tweeting, googling, broadcasting, podcasting, vodcasting, gaming, skyping and chatting. It’s another dimension that doesn’t really exist in time or space; and doesn’t that make it, to the perspective of a magick-worker, an astral realm?
It’s a sobering thought! Surfing the net, therefore, is astral travelling of a sort. And there are all kinds of procedures and precautions that we take when we astral travel – and would never think of doing it without them! – which don’t even cross our minds when surfing the web or engaging in social media. From that perspective, Second Life and Minecraft and World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs become pocket-universes, with their own set of rules and physics, into which we send our astral bodies to play and accomplish goals. And we do it entirely unguarded, unprotected, and with reckless disregard for the reality of the situation. It’s no wonder that texting and driving are mutually exclusive activities; you certainly wouldn’t want to go on a shamanic vision quest in rush hour traffic!
And have you ever noticed that things never take the length of time you think they’re going to take when you’re online? Usually you say, “Just give me a minute to answer this post,” and then you look up and three hours have passed? Mythology and fairy tales tell us that this is a typical symptom of having been wandering in the lands of the Fair Folk; a traveller thinks she’s been gone for a day, but five years have passed. Now granted, web-surfing is not as extreme, but it’s noticeable. Perhaps we should make some effort to maintain contact with the physical world, such as setting some kind of alarm or egg timer to keep track of the time that is actually passing; or eat something to ground before we sit down to the computer, so that we can be more aware of physical reality.
Speaking of grounding – when we’re done surfing, perhaps we could use to take a moment to reconnect with real time and space. Have you considered that most of us tend to be a little spacey when we’ve been Facebooking for a while? Could that be because we’ve left our spirits partially wandering in astral realms? I suggest trying your favorite basic grounding technique to bring yourself back before heading off to do other things.
How about psychic protection? Most of us would never allow our spirits to wander without creating sacred space and engaging in whatever methods of psychic self-defense we find preferable. But we sit down to Twitter without this even crossing our minds once. Try it sometime, and see how much less you are offended by people being jerks in their posts with some psychic shielding on your side.
Which leads us to the subject of psychic attack. If we are astral-projecting, trolls are nothing less than spiritual bullies, assaulting our spirits with violent psychic energy. Cyber-bullying becomes soul-shattering abuse on the level of bad horror movies. I realize that sometimes people think it’s funny to harass each other and say really offensive things in type on YouTube, but maybe thinking about it this way might make you reconsider this position. Most of us would never stick pins into poppets to hurt others, so why would we try to hurt someone with our texted words?
There are deeper implications to this as well. It’s been an observation of mine that sometimes you just can’t find what you’re looking for while surfing, no matter how hard you try; and other times, you type three letters into Google and exactly what you want pops up as though it were magickally conjured. Well, who’s to say it wasn’t? In the astral realms, most of us have at least one guide or helper who lights the way. It occurs to me that it might be a good idea to befriend a “cyberspace guide” to aid my searches and research, and to keep me from getting lost.
In that same vein, one could also hypothesize that there must be other entities in cyberspace; ghosts in the machine, as it were. For example, what happens to all those lost messages? Are they random computer glitches, or were they stolen by the modern equivalent of gremlins? And I imagine the counterparts of brownies are out there as well, helpfully correcting our mistaken URLs and misaddressed emails.
So if this is true, then it is also true that one can create pocket-realms in the wider landscape of cyberspace. Certainly Second Life and Minecraft players do it all the time. We used to do it in BBCs and IIRCs and Yahoogroups and forums. We can still do it in Facebook groups but it takes more work because Big Brother is much more interested in what we’re up to. Try warding against trolls and building an astral temple to go with your coven Facebook page, and see what happens.
And if that is true, just like with the formation of thoughtforms and egregors, we can, intentionally or unintentionally, create ideas in the cyber-realm and give those things shapes and manifestations. So maybe we should all stop feeding into this Slenderman delusion and intentionally form something a little bit more positive and helpful, don’t you think?
Also remember, those of you who work magick in your practice that anything that you give your time and thought to in the Astral Plane is formed there, and then it begins to work to manifest itself in the physical world. So perhaps it’s best that we stop feeding trolls (as most internet savvy people will advise these days anyway) and spend more time building networks of productive, useful people who are trying to make the world a better place. Also, if you spend all your time online freaking out about the abuse of animals, carbon footprints or the tyranny of the 1%, you give it power. Now, I’m not saying you should close your eyes and ignore it all – we know these are realities in our world and we need to do something about them. What I am saying is that while you are online and creating things in the Astral Plane, if you care about these causes, maybe you should spend more time working on solutions and creating positive forces for change, than being afraid and complaining about the problem. I don’t think most of these issues still exist because people aren’t aware of them; I think it’s because people think there’s nothing they can do. But those who do magick as part of their practice know better; even though the gods help those that help themselves.
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