Reading the Night Sky; Is There Love in Space

2: To Forget Magic—

One of the easiest ways to do magic is to not know you’re doing magic.

Of course, such a praxis isn’t terribly pragmatic. Years ago, a former colleague told me that the “magic happens when it needs to happen.” Hell, I remain quite stealthy when I’m not trying to be stealthy. I had a friend years back going through a very rough emotional patch projecting all of that emotionality into psychokinetic events while he slept, including lowering temperatures and big loud events that only occurred while he slept. Now, he may have also attracted the attention of other things looking to take advantage of all that rage, angst, etc., but he was enough out there for all sorts of things to happen.

He didn’t quite click that he was helping, at least: no, he thought he was “being attacked.”

When I first started being a wee little Crowess half a lifetime ago, the first time around, I and my friends had those experiences that many dabblers experience. Things happen. Entities start approaching you and your friends. You start having shared dream experiences from some of those beings. You pick off the surface scab of daily existence and the potentiality of this world and others appears.

I’ve read about this sort of thing happening to others, of course. The internet, y’know? And sometimes, folks will experience that exposed side of the world and Otherworlds and will run away—and often, the Otherworlds will accommodate you, or your desire to shut that out becomes a kind of magical anti-magic. If your will is to get away from the magical side of things, then you’re likely to enact your will—at least for a while. For these folks, the experiences will fade and diminish in memory, and they will often forget and rationalize what happened. This process is even easier if you can point to factors or aspects of the experience that mundane reality classes as “delusion or fantasy-provoking”: role-playing games, fantasy and fantastical media/art/music, puberty, drug use (of practically every kind, no matter how pertinent), sleep deprivation, loneliness, dancing & clubbing, hypnogogic states, weird dreams, sleep paralysis, trouble at home, stress, anxiety, and so on and so on. What also often creeps in is also the mainstream culture’s insistence that Magic and the supernatural don’t exist—not really—or it’s just psychological— And that’s before you consider whether or not you “find” religion—one of the big respectable religions like Christianity—and get that religion’s or a particular sect’s filtered explanation for what happened. Usually, that explanation tends towards, “Oh, you were experiencing the demonic world, or demons were trying to get at you—stay here with us and our religion/deity/group will keep the demons away.”

That is, for many folks who encounter the magical and Otherworldly, their minds and their cultures often work to occlude that side of the world. Something helps us forget or deny what happened. The magical can slip from our minds and into a forgotten dream that maybe happened or almost seems like it happened to someone else. Chaos Magic dubbed these phenomena of disbelief and forgetting and etc. the work of the psychic censor. Now, the psychic censor also works on you even if you do believe—at least “believe in theory”—in the magical and Otherworldly.

For example, for other folks, all that magical weirdness keeps going on, with ominous portendings and hauntings and visitors and nightmares and so forth—until it starts ebbing off. Or perhaps, those things continue until your social life or social necessity—work, family, health, etc.—distract you from engaging at the same level with the Weird. I myself would actually start to get bored, and I realized that I could spell up some more weirdness with incantations like “I wish that something weird would happen in my life!” And often, within a day or three, weird shit would come back around. Magic can be like a drug, just like anything else (my mind, of course, goes to Hellblazer). But mundane life and responsibility also exerted their inertia on me. I would grow distracted from the magical side of things and get caught up in work, school, family, or whatever. And the magical would pass into a similar territory of forgetting and distancing. The psychic censor had exerted itself in other ways.

If you want to imagine the process a bit more metaphorically and succinctly, then let me try this one. You strike a match of your own occult imagination, and it flares. You start blazing for a time and get attention from all the opportunistic things out there in the nearby Otherworlds. Of course, you’re filtering what you experience through the mental framework you’ve already internalized—anime, Supernatural episodes, John Keel, Dana Scully, Gort, Labyrinth, Game of Thrones, or whatever else—and whatever’s out there will probably work with your materials because you respond to them. But you’re blazing, but you’re not really sustaining whatever it is that fuels your flame, or you can’t (or don’t want to) moderate how hot and high you blaze, and finally, you start sputtering and the fire diminishes, goes out, or dies away to a few embers. And the opportunists move on in search of the next person blazing up. And in this metaphor, you kindle yourself and maybe you end up kindling your friends—at least the ones who you can kindle—and then you have a bigger fire running there on the edges of the Otherworlds.

Now, some mages, witches, what have you, would say that this process is exactly why you need a practice. Hell, I’ll say it. A practice should help you moderate, sustain your “fire” (tend your well, harness the wind, find more lightning—substitute your preferred metaphor), and do so on something resembling your terms. Looking back on the “old days,” I see how I had no real discipline, no sustained practice, or things like that. I was trying to blaze and being blown about and acting primarily as a passive participant in whatever spiritual pantomime was going on. I see now how certain threads I’ve mentioned on this blog (or have otherwise come out in my current practice) very much reflect what I glimpsed or noted briefly and fleetingly all those years ago. I recognize how Dana and An Morrigan and Elethis and more were there on the edges, but I was misinterpreting much of what I noticed. Hell, I occasionally had one of those goddesses grab my dreaming head and point me at something with a “Hey, you, look at this, okay?” However, I had a hard time pinning down and sticking to a practice for ages.

Thankfully, I always had a desire to grimoire—and journaling always had an appeal to me, but I rarely did so. Nonetheless, I still have old journals from back then, and sometimes I will look through them, remember, “Crap, that’s right—that happened.” Or I will see something—some symbol, turn of phrase, or image—and I will connect it to something that recently came out of trance. And had I not grimoired (even if in a far more half-assed manner than I do these days), the psychic censor and memory would have consigned far too much to oblivion.

In resuming my practice, I’ve read much along the way while trying to develop and maintain a practice. And compared to the old days, I have a much easier time gaining access to and reading books, articles, etc. I looked into Chaos Magic early on, which made far more sense to me than it did the first time around.[1] As I considered the idea of the psychic censor, I felt dissatisfied with what folks like Hine and Carroll said about it. As Peter Carroll describes the censor in (the admittedly dated even by Carroll’s standards) Psychonaut:

The physical part of ourselves is very touchy about Chaos and Magic; in fact, our mind abhors these things[,] and there is a very powerful censor mechanism that prevents us from using or noticing all but a small fraction of it.

When people are presented with real magical events[,] they somehow manage not to notice. If they are forced to notice something uncontrovertibly magical[,] they may become terrified, nauseated, and ill. The Psychic Censor shields us from intrusions from other realities. It edits out most telepathic communication, blinds us to prescience, and reduces our ability to register significant coincidences, or recall dreams. (Carroll, 1987)

Now, Chaos Magic generally advocates pushing for magic by engaging the subconscious with symbolic foci (i.e., sigil magic) while trying to trigger “gnosis”—an ecstatic trance state brought about in some way. The cliché is that Chaos Magicians practicing sigil magic are wanking sigilized  ligatures  in dark rooms to achieve “gnosis” so that their “Deep Mind” or “kia” or subconscious can take care of fulfilling their magical wills and desires however that works. All of this process is an attempt to skirt around the censor by distracting the conscious mind and, well, getting past the conscious mind. Of course, other methods exist: this ancient little essay includes thoughts on other ways to skirt the censor.

However, I was not satisfied with what I initially saw, in part because I wanted to know what the hell the censor was. What was “Chaos”? So forth and so on. How did it work and why? Or, at least, I wanted my answers that satisfied me. So, to get at the censor, I decided to start naming it as well as I could, to gain some power over it. I began with halthaya—the more overt “masking” that shrouds perceptions of magic and the Otherworlds. I eventually came to recognize that two other aspects (at least) existed: hurur, the false masks of ego and personality we wear and perform that we wind up mistaking as being who we are; and mûl-ôl, the daydream and unlucid dream-like fog we act within on a mundane, daily basis.

Now, I’ve since realized that different traditions—even Chaos Magic—get at ways to break down or break free of the censor and what I call halthaya, hurur, and mûl-ôl. Hell, the task of reweaving and reshaping Talker is pretty much what’s involved there. In the coming installments, I’ll be offering my take on these slices of the psychic censor and how they not only keep us from the Otherworlds but also constrain what we imagine we can accomplish.

[1] More education, more reading of all kinds, and having let a bunch of Crowley and other shit meander through my head for a couple of decades.

Image: Reading the Night Sky; Is There Love in Space by Dean Kavanagh

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