Mist over lake Kaviškis (Lithuania)

Body, Fetch, Talker, God-Self, and: Part 3: Talker Continued

If Talker mediates our experience of not only ourselves—our identities and our perception of those identities—but also the worlds that we experience, then we should prioritize shaping and weaving Talker to amplify and augment our power-from and our resulting freedom. The psychic censor (or as I’ve come to term it, halthaya, hurur, and mûl-ôl) convinces us that reality is mundane, material, and that magic and gods and Otherworlds do not exist. This censor operates on not only the paradigmal level—the logic of materialism and disbelief and disenchantment—but also on the personal psychological levels and on the social/cultural levels. In many cases, these various levels are linguistic in nature: language and discourse driven.

Psychological Levels of Talker

The psychological level includes imagining and identifying ourselves as helpless, passive, subordinate, and otherwise incapable of asserting ourselves and our agencies. We have thoughts like, This isn’t going to work. I can’t do this. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do magic. I’ll never get out of this place. I’m stuck here. I’m stuck doing this. I’m scared. I’m fucking pissed off—I need a smoke. I need money to live. I’m just one person. I’m ugly. I hate myself. I hate Todd. I’m just _______. I’m _______. And so on. Neurolinguistic programming (NLP), therapy, CBT, and many traditions have paths for trying to address this side of Talker. Thelema and Crowley prescribed certain self-abusive acts (Crowley would call for you to pinch, poke yourself with needles when you had certain thoughts you were trying to purge from your personal worldview and experience.) Feri and Chaos Magic have been fond of having folks avoid using need as an action they associate with themselves, or to avoid equating ourselves with our feelings. Rather than I am sad, you would work to replace that with I feel sad. Instead of I need food you opt for I want food. Need disrupts your own will and desire, subordinates your agency, and several traditions have similar approaches to starting to resist needing in favor of your will and your knowledge of who you are and of your will. Part of this enterprise is also narratively-driven: learning to tell empowering stories about yourself and your life that point you towards emancipatory possibilities, rather than diminishing your own sense of self, worth, power, and agency through stories of your subjection and powerlessness. Of course, you should not ignore active or ongoing oppression or actual problems in your life. If you are in abusive circumstances, if you are subject to oppression, misogyny, transphobia, racialized violence, etc., then you also have to confront and resist those forces in whatever ways you feel capable of doing. Of course, that resistance can take many forms, and sometimes resistance begins by resisting the ways of thinking and imagining ourselves and our lives that other forces have sought to impose on us.

Social and Cultural Levels of Talker

Those forces function often and most persistently over the course of our lives through the cultural and social institutions and beliefs that we’re born into and that we have to negotiate on a daily basis. These cultures exist at a variety of scales: your immediate culture, your community, your town, your province/state, your nation, your race, your region, etc. etc. These cultures also exist at a variety of levels: work culture, home culture, family culture, entertainment culture, political culture, religious culture, etc. All of these cultures exert pressures on us. In many ways, humanity has its own Mega-Talker that is always yammering at our individual Talkers. Go fig, Mega-Talker has ways of con/perceiving people, you, and the world that oppose individual empowerment/freedom in favor of perpetuating its own Way of Being. (And, to be fair, you can see each of those cultures and communities has having its own Talker that seeks to shape your Talker to be like itself.)

Spiritual Levels of Talker

From the magical, spiritual, and Otherworldly side of things, most of us begin with a Talker that has certain prescribed notions about how magic, spirituality, and the Otherworlds work. You can think of this prescription as the framework Talker has for thinking, imagining, perceiving those aspects of reality (and how the self intersects with those aspects of reality). Most often, our early or ongoing religious experiences filter our experiences of those aspects, but the stories cultures tell also exert strong influence. If you are a fan of SF or fantasy, or encounter the media’s representations of magic and gods and so forth, then those exert influence and shape your imagination of the supernatural and your expectations. If you are strongly religious, then you will expect to experience those realities through the filter of your religious background, and I would argue you would also filter those experiences through influences from the art and entertainment you’ve consumed.

In pursuing magic and spirituality, though, most traditions have practices in place to graft or to impose a new framework for understanding the Otherworlds onto Talker. In the Golden Dawn, this practice seems to have focused on reshaping the Sphere of Sensation. I’m simplifying greatly here, and I’m speaking as one who’s read much about the GD, but I’ve not initiated into the system. The GD appears to have conceived of the “aura” and “body of light” as encompassing an ovoid or sphere surrounding our “astral” bodies[1]. Drawing on classical and pre-modern esoteric philosophy, the GD said that this sphere represented the Microcosm. The Microcosm can refer to our own personal “universe” and how that Microcosm reflects the exterior universe or Macrocosm. If your Microcosm does not include the subtle, secret, arcane, magical, spiritual, divine powers and knowledge and symbolism, then you can’t expect to perceive, let alone manipulate or touch those aspects of the greater universe. The Sphere of Sensation refers to what you can actually sense and thus make sense of the Macrocosm.

When you do encounter something from the Macrocosm that does not already exist in your Microcosm, then the experience will likely make no sense to you. Your Talker/mind/Microcosm may quickly forget the experience,[2] or it may try to make fragmentary sense of the experience using the (perhaps not entirely apt) symbolism the Microcosm already has access to, or the Microcosm shatters into madness, incoherence, and/or adapts. The civilized world likes to mock unassimilated cultures, especially those which are tribal or lacking our technological sophistication, and the civilized like to mock the “uncivilized” and “unsophisticated” for how they fear or worship things the civilized take entirely for granted. However, the problem goes back to the Microcosm we have to work with when we encounter new things in the Macrocosm. If you thrust a typical Westerner into a completely alien environment, then the experience will likely be just as traumatic and confusing for the Westerner.

Of course, if you’ve retrained and rewoven your Talker so that its worldview is quite distinct from your neighbors, you are likely to strike your neighbors as rather nutty, if not mad. And if you merely expose yourself to new ideas without much effort to engage or to internalize them, then you might stretch your Talker some, might provide some context for some new experiences, but Talker is very resilient and very appreciative of stability. Talker will resist attempts to shift perspectives Talker feels very attached to, through which Talker has come to identify you and itself with. And in many ways, the fixity of Talker can partly account for the persistence of a great deal of oppression and prejudice in the world. You have to genuinely want to change Talker and work with Talker to effect lasting, substantive change.

Reweaving Talker

In regards to weaving Talker along magical lines, the GD had developed a system of correspondences, lore, and occult symbology, appropriating and adapting it from Hebraic and Western occultism and esotericism with some additional materials taken from grimoires and Asian traditions the British Empire exported to the West. Primarily, the GD adapted their own version of Qabala and hermetic theory, complete with their take on the Tree of Life and the Paths of the Tree and the mysticism of the Qabala. Students of the GD would begin internalizing all of this lore and symbolism, working to memorize it and to make it part of their mental landscape, imagination, and personal symbolism. They would even work to “project” the Tree of Life into a sphere, with visual aids available to help students visualize such a pattern and its meaning and significance. The point of this exercise was to ultimately graft that spherical Tree of Life into the Sphere of Sensation.

Put another way, the GD enjoined students to reweave their Spheres of Sensation, their Talkers, to reflect in the students’ Microcosms the Macrocosm as the GD understood it. That understanding of the Macrocosm was very particularly hermetic and Rosicrucian in its outlook. Their leaders demonstrated some rather pomo forward-thinking, though (colonizing might be another way to frame it). The GD deployed and incorporated the classical elemental model and other models for interpreting other occult systems and traditions. For example, building on the GD’s framework, Crowley and Thelema developed elaborate systems of correspondences so that Keter, the Crown of the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, is Zeus, is Wotan, is Unity with Brahma, relates to the Buddhist Meditation on Indifference, is Jupiter, is Shang Ti, is the Tao, etc.[3] Using such a symbology, the magician can interpret any non-GD or non-hermetic or outsider occult phenomenon within the GD system. In a sense, this adaptability is commendable, but it can also become very appropriative in practice.

Most traditions have some version of this approach, though. Indeed, the early apprenticeship and training stages of most traditions focus on retraining the mind and memory (i.e., Talker or the Sphere of Sensation)—and that approach comes primarily through rote memorization and immersion. Even the legendary bardic educations wherein one spends 20 years memorizing stories, verse forms, and formulas before learning how to adapt and use them—well, even that training focuses on rewriting Talker on linguistic and symbolic levels so that your entire worldview changes to something where you can imagine and do magic.From a pedagogical perspective, though, one imagines that better methods could be available to us.

Of course, this training of Talker can have very ideologically grounded purposes on the part of the culture or persons responsible for training students. If the late Victorian orientialist program of the GD rubs you the wrong way, or if the typical Sunday School and seminary education model rubs you the wrong way, then I’d encourage you to keep in mind that most forms of education work along the same lines. Westerners don’t spend 20+ years in school without Talker changing and adapting to reflect the worldview it finds itself immersed in.

Next time, I’ll still be talking about Talker, focusing in on my own work at reweaving her as I move slowly towards God Self and Sacred Dove.

[1] I’m using the quotation marks here because how you define these terms can vary from person to person and from tradition to tradition.

[2] The relationship between the psychic censor and Talker–that we have a hard time understanding or perceiving or remembering experiences that stretch beyond Talker’s ability to make sense of them–is something most traditions don’t devote much immediate time to.

[3] All correspondences courtesy of 777, of course.

Image: Mist over lake Kaviškis (Lithuania) by arz

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