Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

Experiment with your magical practice by learning how to apply art, pop culture, neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines to your magical work, as well as exploring fundamental underlying principles of what makes magic work. You'll never look at magic in the same way!

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The Subjectivity of Spiritual Experiences

Lately, in my meditation group, we've been doing some work with space/time magic meditations and with spirits associated with space and time. In our most recent session I had the group do a meditation with Purson, a goetic demon who has some specific skills related to time. What I also told the group was that it's important to recognize that their experience of Purson is subjective and that he is only as real as that person wants him to be. That may seem like an odd statement to make, but the group was comprised of people that ranged from atheists to people who believe in the objective existence of spirits, and so I felt it was important to acknowledge that a wide range of experiences could happen that would nonetheless be significant to each participant and wouldn't necessarily invalidate any of the experiences. All the participants accepted that explanation and then we had our various encounters with Purson.

Spiritual experiences, by their nature, are subjective. For example I believe that spirits are objective beings in their own right. Note the word believe. Believe is a word rooted in subjectivity. That's what I believe, but I can't really prove it. I can tell you about my experiences and I can cite other people who've had experiences in their own right which tells that what they encountered is real, but its ultimately subjective. For that matter so is the argument that the spirit is just a psychological aspect the person is drawing upon. Again we can find a variety of people who will argue that position and draw on their experiences, but it's still subjective.

I think one of the challenges a magician encounters is learning to be ok with the subjectivity of spiritual experiences. What that means is that you can accept that other people won't have the same experience you have and that doesn't make your experience or their experience automatically more significant or valid than the other experience. It just means you have a different relationship and that relationship is based in part on what you believe and how that belief dictates your actions and experiences. If you can accept that, then the need to prove your version of the experience ceases to matter. All that matters is that each person had their experience and got from it whatever it is they needed.

So when I say that an entity is only as real as the person wants it to be, really it comes down to accepting that each person's subjective experience is shaped by what they believe or don't believe and how invested they are in that belief. And the only person who can challenge that belief is the person who holds it. Sure you can have someone come up with arguments for why their version of an experience is more valid than yours, but until you decide to challenge your own belief, its a futile argument. Accepting, on the other hand, that each person's experience is subjective is quite freeing. There's no need to invest in who's right or who's wrong. You all have your experiences and you leave it at that. As long as those experiences have meaning and help you make changes in your life, then that's all that really matters.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


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