Cosmic Theater

I want to bring several threads together here in a coherent but speculative manner. I want to bring together my experiences with sigil magic and “sigil-spirits,” my thoughts on enchantment versus magic, my thoughts on magic and theater, and my thoughts on Magonian phenomena (UFOlogy and visitation). I want to argue that the imaginal world, daimonic reality, acts as a cosmic theater upon which persons are sometimes drawn into as characters in attempted enchantments by beings from some other reality, or our own. These enchantments seek to manipulate or change our reality here to particular ends, but so do our own. Conversely, people here have sometimes worked to influence or manipulate our larger reality through similar means, or to communicate or to compel particular results from some other reality, and in doing so, these persons must negotiate that cosmic theater as not only characters on that stage but as agents who can direct themselves and create conditions on that stage that help steer the action to the ends they want, all the while having to contend with rival playwrights, props, settings, and other characters.

Personal Spirit Ecologies

As I have greatly expanded my sigil magic practice of late, I have been using a praxis that takes advantage of astrological timing as an amplifier or “force multiplier” for the creation and activation of the sigils. The traditional chaos magic “wank-and-forget” method of activation entails masturbating while staring at the sigil until you orgasm while trying to fixate entirely on the sigil. The idea is to bypass the psychic censor through an unconscious state of mind—the trance state that orgasm can achieve. Instead, I have been using other methods of working to bypass that censor that are far more sustainable for activating an entire shoal of seven or more sigils in one session.[1]

In these activation rituals, I have seen myself in various settings with the sigils in a mode that is very much a “journeying” moment. Once I achieve this state, the sigil will often seem to come to life—wiggling, moving, dancing, and so on. This animation—and the often-idiosyncratic behavior the individual sigils evince—suggested to me that the sigils were actually alive, were actually spirits. To be clear, the sigils vary in appearance, and they can look like various things in the first place. After all, each sigil should be unique. I have had sigils move and act like little animals, like plants, like ships or sea monsters, like giants rising up into the constellations, like tattoos, and so on. They are all very much presences, and I have written about this kind of thing here before.

All that said, my observation is not novel. Image and glyph-style magic has an ancient pedigree, and sigils are an abstract expression of that kind of magic—incorporating linguistic, semiotic components encoded in ways to communicate with the personal unconscious and from there into the broader Unconscious and enchanted reality.

And, indeed, my little sigil-spirits are in many ways young spirits, newborns as they go out and about on their business. I then wonder about how they relate to older spirits.

For example, it can be tempting to view spirits in general as purpose-driven “machines” or entities who exist because something, someone (or some God) created them to fulfill particular purposes. Many interpretations of “elemental” or “terrestrial” spirits—even of angels and demons and daimons—embrace this notion: sylphs regulate the atmosphere and weather; salamanders regulate fire and its manifestations; and so on. Many cosmologies that are human-centric will predicate themselves on humanity’s special status and how these spirits—just like the rest of the cosmos—are there for humanity’s (well, men who occupy positions of metaphysical authority) use. Even “higher” spirits fall under this authoritarian aegis that reifies spirits into functions: after all, Michael’s “purposes” include:

  • Combatting Satan
  • Psychopomp duties
  • “Champion” of Christians and the Church
  • Will call humans to “heavenly judgment”
  • Protection “from lethal enemies” and “patron of soldiers, police, and doctors”

Of course, we can argue about framing Michael’s ontological status in these regards in terms of “purposes,” but Michael’s “roles” remain primarily how people conceive of this entity.

The information model would posit spirits as “programs” created at some point (or maybe emerging from the complexity of the system) and having that ontological status: they are not “persons.” Of course, it is easy to assume persons are granted personhood in these materialist or mechanistic systems, but keep in mind the reification of persons since antiquity by purpose, role, status, class, value, etc. Otherwise, aberrations or quirks in how these “programs” function can be accounted to rogue AI, untended programs that have gone weird as junk data has accumulated, the sheer complexity of the program itself, and similar arguments. In most cases, though, they remain mere programs—perhaps very powerful ones—but they are just programs.

Just like they are just spirits.

Just like we are just roles and meat and evolutionary psychological genetic urges and brains.

(Just like we are spirits.)

Anyway, I have wondered what happens to my sigil-spirits and similar entities once they do whatever I “made” them to do. I believe I read years ago how some magicians advocated calling back the spirit once you are done, once the enchantment has been achieved, and “unmaking” the spirit so they will not wander and cause troubles or be mischievous. This practice strikes me as poor enchantment and self-defeating. It also strikes me as presuming everything—especially spirits and reality—work in linear ways temporally and spatially, especially when psi-phenomena (and magic) show that is not the case.

What happens if we just let them go on and do their thing?

In my own case, I have begun to have the impression of how they all contribute to a figurative mass I have been arraying around me, but they are by no means tethered to me. They populate a personal space and reality that has its own arc and inertia through the larger universe. It occurs to me that one way to conceive of that space is as my microcosm, but such a cosm is not limited to spatial equivalence with my current position. Like a dream, that cosm can fare wherever it needs or wants to go. We can conceive of ideas as occupying spaces, but those spaces can be rather rhizomatic. The arc and inertia I describe represents a move towards the kind of life and reality I want to inhabit, want to fashion for myself in this incarnation (at least this incarnation) and in this Earth. My enchantments are by no means 100% effective, let alone actualizing in the precise (and limited) manners I might consciously imagine. Accordingly, these spirits contribute in a probalistic manner to the experiences I have, can have, might have in this reality. After all, if we live in a probalistic universe, then our magic (and actions otherwise) must work probalistically.[2] And my cosm interpenetrates with the larger macrocosmic reality and with others’ microcosms.

I imagine that part of the answer to the question I ask—What happens if we just let them go on and do their thing?—is that it probably depends on how you treated them and how you engage with spirits otherwise (and people even). If some treat their spirits or enchantments as machines, as code, as drones, then it is perhaps telling that some folks want to unweave or unmake them once they finish: the implication seems to be that those spirits might actually wake up and realize how they were treated. It seems as if the topic veers into questions of slavery and of eliminating slaves once they might start getting “uppity.”

In a weird way, I have found myself seeing myself more as, in some cases, a gardener or caretaker, and in other cases, feeling like their mother. My children are often strange, weird, wild, even monstrous—but then I can be strange, weird, wild, and monstrous. Even the assertive, aggressive, adversarial spirits do not reflect evil or unnaturalness—no more than a jaguar or wolf or bear can.

In terms of the wider spirit ecology, do not mistake what I am saying as meaning that spirits are all your friends: I would not say that any more than I would about humans or animals, let alone the weather. However, recognizing the agency and personhood—or at least the potential agency and personhood—reorients one’s engagement with the spirit world, with the enchanted world, into far more diverse territory that recognizes and encourages negotiation (both in terms of conversation but also how do you get around or deal with or navigate around hazards) and relationships.

My spirits may emerge into the world through a particular desire and intention, but there is something wonderful about letting them grow and develop beyond whatever initial desire and intention I might have had (or “purpose”). In that case, they are like children in a way—coming into the world through desire and intention, but they should be allowed to find their own way when they are ready, when they wish, when they can. Much as you should not try to shape your kids into being mere appendages or mere duplicates of yourself—you want your kids (hopefully) to grow into their own persons—so too, I would argue, you want the spirits you give birth to become their own persons. Some may go off into the Otherworlds eventually to find their own fates. I wish them good fortune. Some may want to hang around—I hope I grow aware enough to interact with them as they mature.

And just as children can grow up to become morally good or bad persons, and arguably, their fate emerges in part from the kinds of persons their parents are, so too should the arc of our lives, the kinds of persons and lives we try to live as, help shape the kinds of spirits we send out into the world.

Spirits of the Depths

So far, I have mostly described spirits created with intention and desire for particular ends and how those spirits and the enchantments they participate within seem to shape, nudge, move, propel the inertia of one’s life. However, these spirits are not the only spirits we have with us. We carry with us a host of incidental, accidental, and imposed spirits from a variety of sources.

From a depth psychology perspective (that is, taking Red Book Jung as magician-psych), some of these spirits could be said to be the spiritual aspects of neuroses or other conditions. Of course, I do not want to represent any particular mental health concern as “just spirits”[3] or to represent anyone’s experience in appropriative or dismissive terms. I am also not denying the reality of mental health concerns like depression or whatever means one uses to manage or treat depression or other problems. However, I can speak from my perspectives and experiences, informed as they are by my magical practice. And from a magical, spirit-centered model, mental health can associate with the spirits, including those spirits we have internalized in some way.

Part of this semantic quibble gets at how we define spirit even as we acknowledge the reality and power of spirits to move and shape the world.

At the same time, these spirits are not all negative, or at least not obviously so. In many ways, I am getting at the myths and stories we have internalized—either from our experiences and the dream logic that our minds use in integrating our emotional experiences or from our environments and cultures. These myths and stories become guiding spirits, often without people consciously reflecting on them: our heroes, villains, prejudices, neuroses, aspirations, inspirations, biases, vices, virtues, and so on. We accrete these spirits/myths/instantiations of archetypal whatever through our experience of body, culture, place, socialization, education, economics, and ritual (secular and otherwise).

And these spirits constitute the primary inhabitants or forces of our microcosms, and they help determine the arc and inertia of our lives. Some of these spirits can be our personal instantiations of “impersonal” spirits: saints, angels, an awkward (or moving) experience playing D&D or watching a movie about something engaging with myth in some way, a particular stormy night and its storm spirit, your ancestors and relations, genius domus, genius loci, and so forth. In many cases, these internalizations of spirits and images and all these other pieces of experience that shape people, they are incidental to peoples’ otherwise quotidian lives. In other cases, someone specifically works to impose or inflict those experiences upon persons in the hopes that they will stick, that they will become part of persons’ microcosms and selves.

In a way, then, when people engage in practical and active enchantment, they are working on magical depth psychology. Note that I am not engaging in mere psychologizing of magic and enchantment: how people perceive and conceive of themselves and the world is how they are going to live and do anything, “mundane” or “magical.” At that point, practical enchantment becomes a way for people to assert sovereignty over their mythic lives and realities that carries over into how they actually live. And sometimes, that includes wonders and miracles, turns of Fortuna’s wheel.

“Elvish Craft”

Although I have mentioned it here before, I want to revisit Tolkien’s distinction between magic and enchantment. I will pull from Tolkien again on this distinction. Tolkien addresses what he calls the Primary World—the quotidian world he and most folks experience—and the Secondary World of “Fantasy” through what he calls “Faërian Drama”:

those plays which according to abundant records the elves have often presented to men—…with a realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism. As a result their usual effect…is to go beyond [merely experiencing a “play”]. If you are present at a Faërian drama you yourself are, or think that you are, bodily inside its Secondary [Other] World. The experience may be very similar to Dreaming and has (it would seem) sometimes (by men) been confounded with it. But in Faërian drama you are in a dream that some other mind is weaving, and the knowledge of that alarming fact may slip from your grasp. To experience directly a Secondary World: the potion is too strong, and you give to it Primary Belief, however marvellous the events.…This is for them a form of Art, and distinct from Wizardry or Magic, properly so called.

He chooses to describe this “elvish craft” as enchantment while reserving magic for ways of “produc[ing], or pretend[ing] to produce, an alteration in” the mundane world, and magic is “not an art but a technique,” and “its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills.” In these senses, we might liken Tolkien’s sense of magic to techniques and processes that cause changes in this world, things we might call “science” or “engineering” or “natural magic” or “natural philosophy.” Chemistry is “magic” when we purify water through filtration or remove rust with vinegar and salt or when we illuminate the night with fire. Healing with drugs or herbs or therapies are kinds of magic, by this definition, as well.

Tolkien responds to the normal charges that “Fantasy” and myth-making are “lies,” and his response is in many ways in the tradition of Renaissance hermeticism and Philip Sidney’s A Defense of Poetry. However, it is also very much in keeping with Phil Hine’s observation that

The medium of the Mythic is our imagination, which knows no barriers except those which we impose upon ourselves. All ideas have their source in the imagination, which springs from the Deep Mind, beyond Personal awareness or the Social world,

and Hine notes that “By entering the Mythic world for a time, we learn to change ourselves, and by so doing, bring about change in the world around us.”[4]

Tolkien frames this enchantment in dramatic, theatrical terms, even as he is a bit snobbish about drama as a literary genre for conveying Fantasy, but primarily because he feels watching the drama distances audiences from direct immersion and engagement in its Secondary World. Tolkien sees enchantment as serving very real purposes, though, allowing us to “recover” from our instrumental views of the world and persons, how we have used “appropriation” and “possessiveness” to dis-enchant our worlds and persons. Enchantment provides the means to re-enchant the world, for “It was in fairy-stories that [Tolkien] first divined the potency of the words, and the wonder of…stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine.” This last pairing can be easy to gloss over, though, but it demonstrates just how profoundly Tolkien saw enchantment working: the basis of the Eucharist is itself enchantment, which “transfigures” (my scare-quotes) bread and wine into something more, and very much real to much of the world.

Let me link enchantment back to what I wrote about the microcosm and our weaving of its constituents. This process is akin to the narrativization of reality and biography that theorists like Jerome Bruner, Wolfgang Izer, Jung, Freud, and others have identified: our lives are made of stories. We make sense of them through stories. And since those stories are embodied, performed and en-acted, they are necessarily dramatic. They are necessarily theatrical. As Shakespeare has Duke Senior say in As You Like It,

Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy:
This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in.[5]

As magicians or witches or magical practitioners, we should be working to script, stage, and perform our faërian dramas—otherwise, someone else is scripting, staging, and directing us and our biographies.

Magonian Theater

Much of what I have talked about so far regarding spirits and enchantment has been pretty insular to the microcosm, to the personal experience. It is easy to just play around in one’s own spiritual “playpen,” to borrow a metaphor from Langston Khan, and people can do a lot of powerful work there. That said, what about spirits who exist independently and in an exterior (mostly) manner to us?

At the same time, just as people here on Earth practice magic and create enchantments, spawning spirits of intention and desire to go out to try to actualize those enchantments—my sigil spirits, for example—I wondered about spirits on the other side of things. What happens when the other side tries to enchant to affect our world?

In The Invisible College, Jacques Vallee tells several stories about the

reported psychic effects produced by [UFOs]…the space-time distortions experienced by percipients of craft-like devices which appear or ‘fade away’ on the spot, in ways that are reminiscent of descriptions of ‘materializations’ in the spiritualist literature.

For example, Vallee tells of an engineer who went hiking and separated from his group, discovering a craft that he enters. “As in a dream or a movie,” the engineer is transported far away to encounter “a large machine reminiscent of a computer, about five feet high and twenty feet long, with row after row of ‘recordings.'” The engineer’s “impression” is that the device fed its “contents directly into his brain.” He returns, goes to school, and does amazingly well in his University courses. These dream-like experiences and the way that many people seem to act during Magonian, UFOlogical, or during other Fortean encounters can vary extensively. While terror and dread can accompany many of these experiences–something that might seem a plausible reaction—others act as if they are in a trance or under some form of mind control.

Let me suggest another way to think about those states: they have become characters, not persons, in a Magonian (faërian) drama. They have been caught up in an enchantment.

Let me tug on this analogy more. If our magic can manifest through imprecise, probabilistic manners, then it seems reasonable to assume that it works that way for the Others, too. However, I do not think the Magonians and many spirits are the ones weaving these enchantments: I think they are the spirits trying to make them happen in our world. They are the “sigil-spirits” for the Others.

In this sense, I am describing daimons and daimonic reality, after a fashion. When it involves interaction with humans and similar beings, these daimonic actions and enchantments take the form of “dream-like” encounters—and often also actual dreams before and after the events. Even encounters recalled after the fact entail a similar kind of enchantment: it just takes a bit for the drama to cross over from daimonic reality and the Unconscious into conscious awareness, but it also suggests it has had unconscious effects otherwise.

Throughout all this pondering, enchantment still produces real results and, often, wondrous effects. Magic can and does work, and spirit, faerie, entity, and Magonian encounters cause real, observable phenomena, not counting the psychological or psychic effects.

From the dramatic perspective, we are dealing with not only daimonic beings but also daimonic encounters, daimonic sets, daimonic props, and more. The liminal spaces or otherworldly locales these Magonian dramas occur within are essentially akin to Tolkien’s Secondary World and to Faerie or the spirit world—but they are also sets and settings. That most experients act atypically as they might in such dramas suggests to me that they are acting as characters, only later perhaps realizing how they lacked agency and volition to act as they imagine they should have acted.

That said, I can see an argument that, in some cases, these experients act as their unconscious or deeper selves would act. However, given the sheer banality of most of their behaviors while in these dramas, they seem far more scripted by someone else.

At that point, the sheer strangeness of many of these experiences make more sense in that they are enchantments trying to achieve some transformation in our world (and in our psyches), but having to work probalistically, nudging and arranging factors and influences and causalities as well as they can to achieve broader goals. They wind up being weird because our own enchantments and magic can come out weird.

I also wonder what happens when the initial enchantment actualizes. Do these daimons go off on their own: do we have daimonic “aliens” in ships, or skyship aeronauts, still plowing through the Skies of Fate somewhere? Or are the Others calling them back and unweaving them? What happens when we encounter them incidentally? Or are there new spirit lists waiting to be assembled from the UFO encounters for which we have entity names?

I don’t know!

However, this dramatic, theatrical mode seems to be how encounters with the Other, with Faerie, with our universe work. If we want to avoid being characters in someone else’s drama, then I argue that this theatrical, shapeshifting, role-shifting perspective is one magicians, witches, and other practitioners should cultivate. We want to be the directors, writers, and volitional, agential, aware actors even as we perform different personae. Magonia and Faerie and spirits often have associations with tricksterism: however, so do witches and magicians. Fight Trickster with Trickster, I say. As we work to better know and bridge with our deeper selves, with our own spiritual realities through our enchantments and practices, and as we do so in pursuit of realizing and having—of earthing–our faërian dramas, so too should we be ready to adapt and improvise when we encounter the daimonic, Magonians, spirits of all kinds, the other, and even each other.

Featured Image: photovision| Pixabay

[1] That is, I’m using the Gordon White School of (Not) Anything Goes Sigil Magic, as adapted by me.

[2] I have to point to Peter J. Carroll, The Octavo, chapter 6, with the appropriate hat-tip to Gordon White.

[3] As if “just spirits” were a diminishment.

[4] Phil Hine, Two Worlds & Inbetween: Techniques of Modern Shamanism Vol. II, 7-8.

[5] I opted for Senior’s metatheatrical analogy here because everyone points to Jacques’s subsequent usurpation of that analogy, and most folks miss the point that the play makes through Jacques.

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One thought on “Cosmic Theater

  1. Well, what can I say? This was another great entry. Full of depth and meaning. Not having yet read much of Tolkien, I love how you include and elaborate on his distinction between magic amd enchantment.

    Like

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