3: Obscuring Magic

Years ago, I was riding with friends in the next town over. Riding in vehicles is a wonderful way to experience a light trance state: road hypnosis, after all. And I hadn’t really been trying, hadn’t really learned anything about trance states, but there I was. At some point during this ride, I had the profound sense that—really—I could do any magic I wanted to. I could do anything. That raw burning potential was right there, raw burning potential wanting to explode out into actuality. Sling a fireball? Yes. Fly? Sure. But almost immediately, I felt something else: a presence that seemed all pervasive, all around me. Oppressive. Angry. Waiting and searching. Hungry. Like a predator noticed prey was nearby, and that predator skulked, waited, waiting for the prey to call attention to itself, to reveal itself. And roughly contemporaneous to this sense of predation, I also ran up against what such a display, what such an act on my part would mean—how it would radically transform me and change my life in ways I couldn’t wrap my head around. I had the profound sense that, yes, I could do nearly anything—but Reality itself would come down upon me, smashing and ripping me apart—and that I would otherwise transform myself into something, someone else.

So I balked. I came up against an unplanned—I dunno? initiatory?—experience, and I didn’t know what to do. I was scared by what I sensed—what I sensed I would do to myself. In hindsight, a good chunk of that response was the ego protecting itself. Hell, I’m pretty sure a good chunk of my sense of the “predator” was also that part of the ego complex within me working to intimidate me away from contemplating such things. Part of my response may also have been my ego misreading whatever entity, spirit, god may have been my potential initiator there while I was in the passenger seat.

This post’s going to be a bit more evocative and metaphorical, so please bear with me. And keep in mind that metaphor and reality are intermingling here, as they do. Magic, after all. Also, pardon the excessive use of italics here.

When I first read about the psychic censor and had a good understanding of what that concept meant, I did so many years later. I was sitting in a café on a rainy day, mostly by myself, and I thought I could sense the censor. This presence just beyond me and my immediate world—or hovering overhead or flying overhead casting a shadow like some giant bird of ill omen. It felt adversarial. It felt powerful. The thing is, I think a good portion of whatever I sensed was coming from me.

But there was more to that experience, and I was a little better prepared for it. Even at the time, I connected the psychic censor to whatever I had felt in the car—to whatever had led me to balk and turn away and distract myself. And this time, I had a name and idea to attach to some of it. I looked at it from a distance, even if it were highly abstracted, and I tried to keep my own reactions and assumptions in mind. At the same time, I also felt like I’d suddenly noticed a presence that’d always been there—the thing in the corner of the room that’s always there but everyone ignores it. And it seems content to ignore everyone, or to at least not do anything. But when someone does notice it, it twitches, starts to come to life.[1]

I’ve since come to see how this censor, or this sense of the censor on my part, points to both some external “intelligence”—some entity, egregore, thought-god, culturally-spawned intelligence, etc.—and to that part of the intelligence already within myself, already within us. In this sense, I think you can simultaneously apply an infection metaphor—a meme-complex that has reproduced itself within myself and others—and a metaphor of emergence, in which the external “reality” of the censor emerges from its origins or existence within individual persons. However, I don’t think you have one “psychic censor intelligence”—or if there is, its manifestation is far more rhizomatic and adaptive—I think you have clusters that emerge from populations and cultures and cultures coming together.

My point, though, is that this “intelligence” seems to exist beyond people as individuals but to have a presence within each individual. From a Microcosmic/Macrocosmic, Self::Cosmos perspective, anything we conceive of or touch or know we also internalize in some way, even if imperfectly or in deformed funhouse mirror sort of way.[2]

In its aspect as a shroud, as an obscuring force, as a selective amnesia causing agent, as a masking of the Weird, I came up with the word halthaya. Halthaya is that part of the censor that makes it easy to forget dreams and strange things you might notice briefly in the corner. Halthaya is that part of the censor that leads you to run away and distract yourself from whatever weird thing happened. Halthaya is that part of the censor that encourages you to stop thinking about things that would help upset your daily perception and imagining of the world as “normal,” “boring,” and so forth.

Halthaya also includes avoiding confronting or thinking about psychological realities about yourself. Pursuing magic can help expose things you repress or ignore or distract yourself from—the things most folks do in these regards to get through the typical stressful day, or to keep functioning, or to keep from falling apart, and so on. For me, magic threatened to expose a host of anxieties (social, body image, emotional, intimate, etc. etc.), so halthaya/the censor would do all sorts of things to distract me and help me conveniently forget paths of thought that might lead to ego-threatening places, realizations, etc. Hell, the supernatural drama that can emerge in early attempts at magic help in this regard. The psychic attacks and “demons” and so forth—often times the opportunists I mentioned last time—may team up with your own psychological/inner demons and your desire for distraction, leading you and your friends down a rabbit hole of increasingly complex narratives until you crash from the ride. And then, “normal” life rushes back in, and halthaya and the censor lead you into ignoring things for a while.

I’ve attempted to adapt and work around halthaya—most occult-minded folks do so. I’ve worked to adopt and sustain a daily practice. I’m a prolific magical journaler these days, but you have to remember to go back and read them sometimes, but even the act of writing things down helps. I’ve worked to habituate and to acclimatize my experience of the Otherworlds, but I would warn that you should avoid habit replacing experience. Avoid constraining experiences within a comparatively narrow range that cannot accept new and unexpected events. I’ve worked, gradually, at reweaving Talker/Dariar to better access and imagine and accept the Weirdness of the world. I’ve also worked to avoid monological explanations and models for what’s going on in the world, but I’ve always had an broad view of the Otherworlds. There are angels and demons, fae and dragons, planetary intelligences and aliens, gods and gods other people want me to see as the only God, etc. etc. And I’ve also had to patiently try to confront and get at the halthaya within—the thoughts and ideas and habits and models and tricks that keep me from living like I want to live or in imagining who I can live and act as. That is, I confront the halthaya within me that limits me in my life, my magic, and my identity.

[1] I suppose one pop culture analogy would be a reverse weeping angel. Still, the Otherworlds tend to work like this: the Otherworlds start to pay attention to you when you start paying attention to the Otherworlds and start bridging Here and There. For example, Crowley points to this in his Chapter 23 (“Improvising a Temple”) in Magick without Tears, noting that acolytes often “[attract] the notice of the Astral Plane: [their] new neighbors…taking an interest in the latest Tenderfoot, some to welcome, to do all they can to help you to settle down, others indignant or apprehensive at this disturbance of routine.” In typical ceremonialist fashion, Crowley recommends “Banishings and Invocations” to compensate. However, I would argue that the psychic censor is a different intelligence than the typical intelligence you may find in the Otherworlds, Astral Plane, etheric realm, or whatever you want to call things.

[2] For a different slant on this idea, see this earlier post about magic and art.

Image: Death (public domain) 


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