Visionary Experiences, Scrying the Enochian Aethyrs, and UPG

Those who follow this blog will notice that I have begun an Enochian Aethyr scrying project.  I should say a bit about what this is (and isn’t) and what led up to it because there have already been some questions.   

I have a background not only in hoodoo and folk magic but also in ceremonial magic, reiki, other sorts of operative magical systems, and various forms of mysticism.  This includes the Golden Dawn’s neo-Enochian system and, more recently, the spirit work of the Mystical Heptarchy. 

I don’t write about this much on my blog because, while I do consider myself competent at goetic and angelic grimoire magic, I know I am only a “practitioner” when it comes to the work of Dr. Dee and the systems derived from his explorations with Edward Kelley.  And my blog is mostly dedicated to my thoughts on things connected to my practice of public sorcery and conjure.

Being a “practitioner” of Enochian magic means that I generally know what I’m doing; I understand the history and context of the work; I have performed successful magical operations using this material; and I feel comfortable with it.  However, it does not mean I am an expert.  Nor does it mean that I have satisfactorily settled most of my questions about it. 

The bottom line is: even though to be a magician is to be a perpetual student, some students are more experienced than others in a given area.  And, while I have a need to be continuously learning new things, I am also very careful about the difference between what I know well enough to do professionally and what I am merely studying, exploring, and practicing.

In the west, one of the “highest forms” of magic—if it’s even possible to make a claim like that—is Enochian.  It could be considered both magic and mysticism, depending on which part of the field we emphasize in our work.  We could call it a, “system,” but one of the things that often frustrates magicians when they start studying Enochiana is that it is not a complete system in any sense of the term.  Rather, it is a collection of related workings and processes, multiple spirit catalogues, and a unique cosmology that relates to the parts of the world as the Elizabethan magus, Dr. Dee, saw it.  Enochian may also function as an alchemical language and a cypher system for passing military and political information.

All of this can make the work very daunting.  And I agree with many seasoned magicians that Enochian is definitely not for beginners.  I’m not interested in occultnik scare tactics, but I do think the power of Enochian magic to alter the perceptions of the practitioner should not be underestimated.  More than any other western esotericism, Enochian work seems to break down (or at least weaken / make highly permeable) the barriers between subjective and objective space.  As Jonathan Back writes in Spirits Walk with Me: an Enochian Odyssey, which I highly recommend:

By the time I reached MAZ, the 6th Aethyr, I was becoming emotionally ragged. I didn’t realise this at the time, so immersed was I in this other world I had discovered, but in hindsight this was definitely the case. By the time I reached the 4th Aethyr, PAZ, my waking consciousness started to overlap with the realm of the Aethyrs. Whilst talking to someone I would often suddenly see the face of a character I had met during my scrying sessions, transposed onto their face.

Such experiences (as well as the classic poltergeist phenomena Back also references in the book) are par for the course when one is metabolizing the Enochian energies.  I say “metabolizing” because I believe this kind of magic changes the way prana (chi, bio-spiritual energy) moves within and informs the practitioner.  This is one reason to take it slowly and carefully, especially when scrying the Aethyrs.  But there are other equally good reasons.

Developing an out-of-control “UPG” might be even more of an issue.  Here and on Studio Arcanis you will see me inveigh against misapplied UPG all the time.  The acronym stands for “Unverified Personal Gnosis”—essentially experiencing (or believing) something subjective about reality which is meaningful to you but which should not be applied to anyone else.  It’s “unverified” in the sense that it is a personal truth or an idiosyncratic experience.  And inappropriately applying one’s UPG is such a problem in the occult, especially with those who still need to develop critical thinking skills, that it can void any possibility of communicating meaningfully with others. 

In short, if you hold your invisible friends and pet beliefs to be universally significant and true, you are treading on the invisible friendships and pet beliefs of others, which, for all we know, might be just as true (for them).  Now consider what happens when you scry in the spirit vision, especially in the immensely powerful context of the Enochian Aethyrs.  People can lose their sanity by merely projecting too deeply and too frequently into the tarot cards or into the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life.  Doing so with the Aethyrs is so much more engrossing and overwhelming than those things.  It is the central reason why this is not for beginners. 

Working with Enochiana means not only altering one’s energetic system but also one’s perceptions to such an extent that it may be very difficult to “find the way back” to a sense of normal consensus reality.  Also, we should not underestimate the horrendous ego inflation that tends to come along with such perceptual distortion.  Many a gifted magician has been laid low by egomania derived from powerful visionary experiences.  If you don’t believe me, look at Crowley’s The Vision and the Voice, which can be read both as a beautiful poetic description of his Aethyr scrying experiences and a portrait of enormous self-justifying egotism.

So why do it if it’s so risky?  The reason is relatively straightforward.  In magic, as in anything else, what you put in is what you get out.  You need to have a strong motivation to learn more about yourself if you commit to scrying all 30 Aethyrs.  It may take years.  But what this work offers is the opportunity to explore your inner subjective universe using some of the most powerful metaphors and symbols known in western esotericism.  This is why I have begun the project.

I also believe that it’s not “all in my head.”  I see myself as a microcosm of the macrocosm, containing all aspects of the greater universe around me.  Therefore, by exploring my inner world, I’m exploring those things in the world beyond me (by means of a “magical link” that I will write about another time).  This is my working definition of mysticism—simultaneous inner and outer spiritual exploration.

In any case, I want to note these things because I am explicitly not claiming that my visionary experiences apply to or have any purchase on the experiences of others.  I make them publicly available only to inspire others to find their own “vision and voice.”  My way is not your way and could never be.  But I can share my observations on the magical life with you and, in the process, provide a model that you can make your own.  If I am able to do that in my writing and in my magic, I can accomplish something very ambitious.

Magic is an art.  No two artworks (i.e. UPGs) are the same.  But techniques can be taught and adapted.  That’s part of the joy of being a practitioner and a good reason to apply oneself to this area of study.

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Control Consciousness, Control Everything

“The perception and control of changes in states of consciousness, whether for purposes of magical development or of life generally, is supremely important. It is now widely recognized that our state of consciousness, and in consequence the accessibility and direction of our entire mental and emotional potential— thus to a great extent our physical potential also— is affected by seemingly minor circumstances, and can by their aggregate be affected profoundly: imaginative stimuli, the inner impact of dreams, the colors, odors, and lines of association with which we surround ourselves. To many people who are interested either in maximizing or in controlling human potential, research into these matters has become an absorbing new study. To the student of Qabalah, who is interested in maximizing his or her own potential and in controlling his or her own spiritual destiny, the study and practice of these matters is likewise fascinating and of supreme importance, but is by no means novel. In truth, modern approaches and modes of interpretation can be applied with good effect to timeless knowledge, as they are in the pages of this book: but the deep psychology which underlay astrology of Chaldaea, the philosophic and mystical teachings of many lands and systems, can be traced here too. All have in their measure flowed into, or out from, the traditions of Qabalah.”

—Melita Denning & Osborne Phillips, Magical States of Consciousness: Pathworking on the Tree of Life