Mishkan ha-Echad

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Magical Literalism

When did magicians start taking things so literally?

Recently the topic of the Z-2 Formula for Invisibility came up on Pat Zalewski's yahoo group. It appears that many people have been assuming this ceremony referred to actual, literal invisibility. I was under the illusion for a long time that we were not living in a fantasy novel, but perhaps I've been deluding myself (it wouldn't be the first time).

Pat mentioned that Regardie, Crowley and many others took this idea of invisibility quite seriously and literally, but I've always sided with the "people won't notice you as much" argument than actually disappearing into thin air. It surprises me a little that people who are otherwise intelligent and advanced in their magicial and spiritual training can be such literalists about any aspect of magic, especially something as fantastical as invisibility. I'm sure I'm not the only one to think that.

One thing of interest that came out of that discussion was something Alex Sumner posted:

"The Neophyte Ritual - and the Z2 formulae - is all about moving from Darkness into Light. So the 0=0 ceremony is bringing the candidate from darkness to light; Evocation is about bringing a spirit from being unmanifest (darkness) to manifest (light); talismans are about transforming an inanimate piece of cardboard (=darkness) into a magical object (=light); Spiritual Development is
about bringing the spiritual nature of the Adept from darkness to light; etc etc etc.

All of the Z2 rituals are themed about this "from darkness into light" trope - with one exception: Invisibility. Alone of all the Z2 formulae it is the Reverse: going from Light into Darkness."

Alex makes a very valid point that the Invisibility formula uses the reverse of the normal approach. I'm not entirely sure this renders it invalid, ineffective, or completely at odds with the rest of the material, as the theme of going from Light into Darkness is an important thing to explore in its own right and is something we experience on a daily and yearly basis. It does, however, raise a number of questions about its inclusion with the other formulae and if we can discover other "reverse" formulae within the system we are using.

14 comments:

Alex Kennedy said...

Dean,

As I said in the forum in question, I personally don't understand how you can be a magician, and at the same time believe that invisibility is "fantasy." After all, we regularly contact spirits and alter reality in all manner of ways. If invisibility is "fantasy," why not the rest of it?

That said, I've never known anybody to perform the invisibility ritual; and of course seeing (not seeing?) is believing.

But again, I have to ask... where does what we do stop being fantasy? If you're dedicated to the materialist world view, why not study science rather than magic?

Peregrin said...

Hi Dean,

Thanks for this post.

It does fairly gorm the mind that some people think literally within an art as metaphorical and symbolic as magic. I can’t recall anything from Mr Regardie suggesting he took the Z invisibility formula as literal. Do you know what Pat is referring to? Of course Mr Crowley recounts a Boys Own type adventure where this process saved his life, so we can see its attraction to certain folk :)

Personally I do not agree with the reverse formula concept idea from Alex Sumner you mention. While the Z Formula is the Magic of the Light, the primary focus is not light in the physical (or even astral) sense, but inward illumination that brings about a new birth/being/state of existence. The shroud of concealment is created and birthed into existence via the Z just as much as a new state of awareness is through the application of the Z to spiritual unfoldment.

That said, the intent and purposes of the invisibility do seem at odds with much of the Z formula. Then again so does that very odd mention of production of natural phenomena such as earthquakes :)

Dean Wilson said...

I received this comment, but for some reason I cannot publish it, so I'm copying and pasting it from the email:

"Alex Kennedy has left a new comment on your post "Magical Literalism":

Dean,

As I said in the forum in question, I personally don't understand how you can be a magician, and at the same time believe that invisibility is "fantasy." After all, we regularly contact spirits and alter reality in all manner of ways. If invisibility is "fantasy," why not the rest of it?

That said, I've never known anybody to perform the invisibility ritual; and of course seeing (not seeing?) is believing.

But again, I have to ask... where does what we do stop being fantasy? If you're dedicated to the materialist world view, why not study science rather than magic?"

Dean Wilson said...

Hey Alex,

There's a big difference between accepting metaphorical invisibility and literal invisibility. I believe literal invisibility as a result of waving a few sticks around and chanting a few names is fantasy.

You ask "why not the rest of it", which suggests that you take that as literally as invisibility. Altering reality and contacting spirits can also be taken metaphorically, or it can be seen as something that affects a different level to the physical. I have never actually seen an entity physically manifest with a body I could touch. That is not to say that physical manifestation in a different way (the common example is via incense) is impossible, but it's not a literal thing. That is what this topic is about.

I find it funny that you're suggesting that there is no line to draw. If you do not draw a line you will be living in a fantasy land and that is not where the real magic lies. If you cannot have a spiritual experience and bring that back down to the here and now, to translate that into action, then all you're doing is day-dreaming when you should be awake.

LVX,
Dean.

Dean Wilson said...

Hey Peregrin,

Yes, it makes me wonder about what else people take literally. Do people think they've literally died and been reborn in the 0=0 or 5=6? I know that many magicians are superstitious, but literal invisibility is really pushing it for me.

I can't remember Pat's exact comment, but I believe he was referring to something Regardie said to him personally.

The problem with Crowley is we can never be certain he's not just taking the piss ;)

You make a good point about the formula. Something to ponder on.

LVX,
Dean.

Niall MacShiurtain said...

I'm sorry Alex I don't share your stance that because we evoke and invoke and perform rituals that its a foregone conclusion that we achieve literal invisibility through some of the aforementioned rituals. In my own view adopting such a viewpoint seems to present it's own limitations in terms of being the process to bling trust and observance. Are we not meant to be working towards illuminating the darkness?

Which brings me to my next pondering on the matter. The invisibility as a formulae could lend itself to some lateral thinking in terms of learning to illuminate the darkness with being in touch with our own divinity. Basically bringing the light from the surface of our being to the depths.

Another aspect of metaphorical invisibility could be a "less dense" physical invisibility on the astral planes. Has or would there be a need to cloak or enshroud oneself on the astral?

Just some ponderings and would appreciate hearing others thoughts.

Alex Sumner said...

What ho! Sumner here.

I would like to make two observations. Firstly: have you noticed the scarcity of magicians claiming success with the Invisibility formula? I shall put my hands up and confess: I tried it once. It didn't work. Should I keep telling myself "it hasn't worked yet," and keep trying, or should I succumb to what rationalistic science has to say?

I once had a spirit-guide give me some sort of rationale as to how an invisibility spell could work, but to be quite honest I don't really see the point of it. It would be like ego-aggrandisement for it's own sake, it's not as if I would actually make use of it. Far better and more productive to concentrate on rituals that have useful end results!

My second observation is that whilst I do not have much experience of invisibility, I do have a lot of experience of taking part in Neophyte initiations as an officer. So my POV is that I have been helping all these people move from darkness to light, and then I come across the Invisibility formula, and it seems like I'm having to do the opposite. It's not a rational argument per se, it's more based on my own instincts and experience.

Regards,

AS

Solitary Dawn said...

Ave DEan,

well personally I do not believe that any formula would create real literal invisibility. The effect created may be similar to the “Graue Maus” effect (as we say in German – I see that wikipedia offers “Plain Jane” as a related term in English – the related text though does not explain the German term properly). We all may know the situation while being at a party, suddenly we recognize that person saying “oh since when are you here, haven’t seen you the whole evening” while that person claims having been there all night long just in front of us… As it was already said, I believe that a change of the Aura/Sphere of Sensation etc causes this change. As much as someone can attract attention, one is able to “distract” attention (not sure that works but you know what I mean). Pat said that Regardie mentioned that someone saw him flicker while performing the Z-2 formula. He also said that when he mentioned this to a circle of Whare Ra peeps, they were all laughing. Well what more to add to that – although, yo never know what is possible within the impossible. And who am I claiming to be in the possession of the final and eternal truth…

In LVX

Arcad

Sincerus Renatus... said...

I agree with Alex that it is a reversed Neophyte formula, i.e. from light to darkness. To break the invisibility "spell" you just use the ordinary neophyte formula from darkness to light.

However, the interesting question is:

From light to what darkness? Is it from the light of illumination to the darkness of ignorance, from the light of the spirit to the darkness of matter? Or is it another kind of "spiritual" darkness. My experience tells me that the invisibility formula invokes a "divine darkness", that which the Thelemites refer to as N.O.X. The melancholic divine feminine, the Tears of Binah, etc.

In Licht, Leben und Liebe,
S:.R:.

Sincerus Renatus... said...

Another question for you. Why does the G.D. call the "aura" the "sphere of sensation"? How much of the sensations that we receive for interpretation comes from the actual physical senses and how much from the sphere of sensation (or energy body, or etheric body, etc.)?

As the physical and ethereal is quite mixed up, as the latter is a subtle double of the former - the etereal forming the matrix of the physical - this is not that easy question to answer in my opinion.

In Licht, Leben und Liebe
S:.R:.

Anonymous said...

Nice one. It is odd how many magi have trouble with the concept of metaphor...
Also, reminded me of this variation of a tale told about Crowley - Son of the Invisible Man:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8IQ5-89ey8

Rev. E.M. Camarena said...

Greetings!
As to Invisibility, I have taken it to mean that when a magician does some working - (s)he will not be discovered as the worker.
Personally, the less thought the better, IMO. I prefer to work rather than the constant thinking and hair-splitting. It has gotten me this far in life...
Thanks for a most fascinating blog, sir.
Peace.

chiggles said...

Alex Summer said: "... It would be like ego-aggrandisement for it's own sake, it's not as if I would actually make use of it. Far better and more productive to concentrate on rituals that have useful end results!"

Perhaps actual physical invisibility is a metaphor for egoistic investments into this-wordly black holes - the intended results are invisible, i.e. non-manifest. A test laid by a sage or magician in days past for a student whom he doubted their good intentions in the tradition -- do they overcome and grow from investments in strictly the literal world, do they elevate understanding, go beyond the word to the spirit?

All this talk of metaphor and literality makes me wonder... what percentage of magicians used to write poetry, and what of those today? At what point did symbolism begin predominantly being mistaken for the end result? Post-enlightenment, what?

Ms D said...

I have had useful results with the alteration of the aura resulting in being unseen, whether it was affecting the ability of others to perceive and process my presence only, or if there was an effect on the external energy surrounding me also affecting perception I am not certain. I had assumed the former only. I am unaware of anyone vanishing matter, however.