Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Seeing - Doing
I was recently asked the question of how it was possible for someone who had limited to no psychic ability to lead a ritual? I should also add the context of the ritual in question was one that involved operative magic rather than devotional work. In other words how could a person that was seemingly head blind be capable of weaving together the energies that were being directed towards them in the ritual. How does a person who does not perceive subtle forms and subtle energies know whether or not the circle, or whatever magical container they've created, is actually solid and secure? How do they know if there are imbalances that need to be corrected? And lastly how do they know if the work has truly been done? I will be honest and say that if someone had posed that question to me a few decades ago, I would've said that it was not possible. And I would've been wrong in making that summary judgment.
It was an abundance of psychic experiences that drew me to magick and Paganism at an early age. Learning to distinguish what was real physically from what was real in the subtle realms, and what was pure imagination was an essential part of my development as a person. So in my early days, I could not imagine a person being a competent practitioner that did not perceive as I did. Of course, I knew that different individuals would convert their psychic impressions into different symbols or different sensory modalities. Some people are stronger at seeing, others at hearing, others feeling, and so on, but I still had the assumption that they were using their psychic perceptions to guide their magickal workings.
My first inkling that the conscious perception of energy was not always necessary for effective workings actually came in a non-magickal setting. Years ago while in college, I was making the rounds with my artsy and avant-garde friends in a night filled with lots of performance poetry, cheap wine and cheese, kinetic art, and lastly an improvisational dance troupe. Much of what I saw was interesting and inventive but didn't really catch my attention. Then a dancer came on stage by herself, and to my eyes she was surrounded with a nimbus and shifting lights. My first thought was that she was a priestess as I’d seen that type of aura before. When she danced I saw her juggle flames and bring down a rain of stars that turned and spread to a series of crashing waves whose foam spread across the stage. At the after party, I asked her about her performance and started to describe what I had seen. Her eyes grew large and she told me that the imagery I described was very close to what she had envisioned in creating the piece that she danced. She also grew really uncomfortable because she was not a magickal person and had no awareness that she was projecting or creating those forms so palpably.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have observed powerful rituals and workings with tangible effects from practitioners that by their account don’t sense much of anything when they work. I have been the recipient of effective healings from healers who cannot describe nor explain, how they know what to do when they offer healing touch or prayers. In training students, I can think of several who can create powerful sacred space but claim to feel and see nothing. I have also had students that see and sense so well that they think they have cast a proper circle when there is only a wispy tracery of energy. I find it notable, that often my good students of the sort that seem not to have psychism more often report a sense of when things have a rightness to them. Whereas my students that rely on their psychic senses tend not to report a deep knowing as a measure of their work.
In the current magickal culture, there is a great emphasis on seeing and on all of the clairs as I like to call them. Most of you are familiar with words like clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, and other words used to label the psychic senses. Clair is a French word that means light or clear or distinct. So the commonly described psychic senses are really just those that we experience in our waking consciousness. This is an important distinction that I believe begins to explain how it is possible to perform magick without conscious perception of subtle energies. In my work I have also coined the concept of psychic senses that are noirs after the French word for black or dark. As an example, automatic writing or the use of a pendulum for divination requires the use of the noirs. When someone is engaged in automatic writing they do not first hear or see the words in their consciousness, instead they read them and discover them as they write them.
Normal waking consciousness, the part of you that is reading this blog is only a portion of your being. If you use the three parts of self model: Lower Self, Middle Self, and Higher Self, then I would also argue that even waking consciousness is only a subset of the Middle Self. If you use some other system or model, I think you can see the point I’m trying to make. Much of our awareness of subtle energies and other planes of being arises from or is resident to our Lower Self and our Higher Self. Those people who experience psychic perception in their waking consciousness are translating those impressions that are received in other parts of the self into the symbols that can be understood by what we have named as conscious awareness. When people are performing magick, healings, and divination without conscious awareness they are allowing other parts of their being to take charge of the shaping and the use of the forces of magick. This is not unconscious action or decision making, rather it is the turning over of control to other parts of our being that also have the capacity for judgment.
I do believe that all human beings have psychic senses, and that these senses vary in acuity just as the physical senses do. The greatest amount of difference lies in how much integration there is between the different parts of the self and how focus and the executive function is shared between different kinds of consciousness. I still believe that most people can develop the ability to perceive the subtle realms in their waking consciousness. However as I've pointed out earlier that is no guarantee that their magick will be any better than that performed by those that are allowing instinct to rule their actions. In this case, instinct just means allowing other parts of self to take charge. However those that do not have conscious psychic perception, generally do better if they are trained by people that have psychism.
Even though I do have very sharp psychic senses, I have found that some of my most powerful work has occurred when my hand has moved on its own, when my voice has shifted to a sound that I did not choose, etc. For those that do have the clairs, it is important to learn how to relinquish control to the noirs. For those that desperately want to see, it may or may not come to pass, but it is not the measure of your worth as a practitioner. I said earlier that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I suggest that we look at those workings and those rituals that proved effective and try to understand how and why they were effective within the context of the talents of the practitioners.
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