Energy work remains one of those things that I know I need to do, that I try to do, but that I feel I should do more of. That said, I also wonder about the tech behind energy work. I concur with folks like Jan Fries who observe that chakras and similar approaches to energy work (developing the subtle bodies, body of light, three bodies, etc.) can all work if you invest in a particular system and go with it. If you want to discover the heart chakra and what it does to/for you, then imagine opening that up, cycling it up, etc., and seeing what happens.
Don’t be surprised if you start having to confront your emotional, psychological, spiritual, inner and outer lives, though. Well, you probably will, but roll with it, write it down in your journal/record (gramayre? However pretentious you wish to be, preferably in private), reflect, think about it, explore. In my experience, and I think in many people’s experiences, it’s partly about unclenching yourself bodily, mentally, emotionally, perceptually—opening yourself to yourself, your interiority, to the world, to others, to nature, to everything. Or, at least, learning how to open yourself when you want.
Tantrika-ist, Daoist, and WMT appropriations and adaptations and inventions have several takes on “chakras” and similar concepts. I’m a fan myself of “crown,” third-eye, mouth-ish, heart, wings/shoulder blades, center, sex, and root—with knees and feet and hands when I remember beyond my torso and head. Magic and mysticism—mantic and other practices—build from a foundation of active imagination, visualization and realization. You have to imagine, to conceive of things before you can easily perceive them, and vice-versa, and that includes gods and ancestors and spirits and more.
However, I’m not a fan of elements of the “energy paradigm,” which emerges in part out of the rise of electromagnetic research and technology over the last couple of centuries.[i] (I suspect rather much that the EM effects that accompany some phenomena may be epiphenomenal rather than the cause or vehicle.) It’s easy to reify energy and to get into a consumption, commodified mindset with it (“Your ritual requires 300 P.P.E./”mana”/spell points/Kirlian energy dots/essence/vitae; that’s why it didn’t work.”) That said, conceiving of “energy” in terms of flows, of breath, of water, of “elements” points more to that unblocked and opened sense of the self and the “energy work” we do with subtle bodies.
I want to connect the imaginal and visualization side of what I’ve talked about so far in this post with energy work and with spirit contact, and in this section, I want to focus on spirit interaction. I’m using spirits here in a very broad sense that can include ancestors, the dead, Ancestors and the Mighty Dead, gods, spirits of place and nature, celestial and chthonic, and more. (I’d argue the difference often isn’t as great as most folks imagine, and the difference is rather blurred regarding how one classes many of the kinds of spirits in that list.)
A friend of mine recommended I take a look at a couple of books that address working with spirits, so I wound up looking at them. Apparently these writers are “Not to My Taste.”[ii] I personally can’t stand the first one’s writing style, and I found the writer’s use of a re-skinned Tree of Life not terribly compelling. I’ve appreciated and have used elements from the other writer’s other books in the past, but I found myself disagreeing with some of their fundamental takes on spirits, and I found myself disdaining the Tree of Life & Related Concepts derived theory that pervades that person’s writing. Fair enough to them! It works for them and for many folks. I’ve written about my own resistance to that symbology in part elsewhere. It turns out I’ll also do so here.[iii]
I’ll focus in on the second writer here to get at where I’m going on this topic, but they’re by no means alone in the approach. They and others attempt to apply a symbolic filter, a particular symbological framework, an inner logic to spirit interactions.
Let me pause to clarify what I mean by logic in this post. I’m not intending logic in its more expected logic, reason, rationality, materialist, and deduction senses. I’m meaning it more in its broader sense. Let me adapt a dictionary definition that gets at the kind of logic I mean: “a system or set of principles underlying the arrangements of elements in a computer or electronic device so as to perform a specified task.” Now, I’m not suggesting that people or spirits are “computers,” but I think you can substitute computer or electronic device with a person’s worldview. For example, love has its own logics—its own systems of meaning, proof, inference, communication—and I mean plural logics because different people, different cultures have different logics of love. The same principle is true of magic and the supernatural.
This writer’s particular logic derives from the Wiccan and Tree of Life strands of the occult revival, and one of the perks of these GD-derived systems of meaning is their adaptability. Part of that adaptability comes from the ease in which practitioners can interpellate the Otherworlds and discarnate beings into their system and logic.
For example, let me dig out my copy of 777. Anubis, Lord Anpu, he’s associated with astrological Mercury, the sephiroth of Splendor, violet purple in the King Scale, Thoth, Hermes, Odin, Loki, Hanuman, fire opals (but all opals, in theory), the “God of the Holy Ghost,” Roman Mercury, mercury as a mineral drug, the Analysis into 4 Elements from the “Forty Buddhist Meditations” column, and so on. I would argue that this logic interpellates Anubis into Hanuman and mercury and so on.
Now, I have a problem with that kind of projective logic because it has a very colonialist and imperialist mode. And I find myself resisting internalizing that mode. I get a sense that a certain disciplinarian and other forms of bias accompany internalizing that kind of logic, and I find myself thinking about that bias as this writer considers how the “messier” traditions and native or diaspora traditions do things.[iv]
All that said, having a symbological framework or supernatural logic makes spirit interactions far more tenable. You want a logic that is robust enough or flexible but defined enough to help you access, interface, and make sense of your interactions. I’ve been listening to a variety of podcasts lately, and I heard a roundtable discussion about UFO and haunted/ghost hunting experiences (and other High Strangeness) and their often nonsensical qualities. As I listened, I considered the individual nature of these experiences as representing attempts on the entities’ or forces’ parts to interface with the experiencers’ personal symbologies. However, if one’s inner supernatural logic is undeveloped, ungrounded, and un-examined, then one may treat the encounter as nonsensical or may try to read the encounter literally. Instead, I would argue that the interaction takes on a highly symbolic but opaque (not easily interpreted) form. This opacity seems especially likely if one operates from within a primarily materialist, dualistic, mechanical, homid worldview. When such a person does encounter something Other, then they may very well interpret the event literally (and make pronouncements about spaceships and star fleets and galactic empires) or as nonsense.[v]
I would argue, though, that narrative, poetic, visual, dramatic artistic sensibilities provide a better interface, a better logic, for working with spirits and other high strangeness. That said, this approach takes you away from something you can share on social media or with others who can’t operate within that logic as well—you will not gain validation and The Truth That’s Out There. However, you will probably find an approach that works for you.
The WMT logic provides a way to get at that (though it’s probably not adapted for a lot of High Strangeness that’s entered into popular discourse since 1947), but I would argue that one needs a robust personal symbology—and an aesthetic, active imaginal skillset of some kind—to deal with the Otherworlds and Strangeness in mutual or at least shared terms.
Back to Energy Work & the Self
All of which gets me back to where I started this post. When I look at much of the energy work exercises and descriptions out there, they’re primarily visualization and enactment, and thus a kind of dramatic representational action. You imagine the bright shining light coming down from above. You imagine the chakras or furnaces in your body (or subtle bodies). You breathe not only through your body but also through your other bodies (or on those subtle layers, with the “breath” or energy those layers use). You can engage in inner body work, diving into the subtle paths of your bodies, into chakras to the realities within them and thus within yourself.
Much of that kind of work entails working with “energy.” Much of it also entails confronting your own inner landscapes, psychology, mind, body, and soul. But the active imaginal aspect remains.
You’re imagining yourself, and in imagining yourself, you’re also creating and shaping yourself. And, if you’re doing it right (or well enough), then you’re also establishing and learning your own inner logic about who you are. The WMT certainly knows this, though the WMT typically couches it in absolutist terms. Folks project the Tree of Life onto the body and subtle bodies. Hell, ancient medicine projected the Zodiac onto the treatable body.
However, as I’ve already said, the system is not absolute, and one can imagine and enact the shape of one’s self, with enough desire and intention and action. Do you want Tantrika-based manipura power? Go work on that. Do you want Kether over your head? Have at. But you can also work to open your body and bodies[vi], and in doing so, discover what your bodies are like. And I would encourage you to develop your own logic/system/symbology there.
That logic or system will likely have much in common with other folks! And you may find yourself discovering something that the ancients figured out aeons ago! I say fine! I know some folks prefer the speed and ease of internalizing established systems. I’m the kind of person who feels like a lot of those systems constrain my reality within ill-fitting—or abrasive—shapes. That said, I have read a lot from other systems, and not just magic and the occult: I’ve read all kinds of things, non-fiction, fiction, poetic, philosophical, psychological, and more. And I have to recognize when something I find resonates or lines up with what others have defined.
Anyway, occasionally I have periods of good practice with energy work, and I have less productive periods, too. But one thing I realized recently is that it helps me profoundly when I can imagine myself from just outside myself—especially when I also imagine/perceive/project the Otherworlds, gods, whoever. I must have myself inhabit the same greater, enchanted reality, I have to imagine myself in a shared reality, with the Other. I often conceive of it as a matter of me bridging here and there, of helping make myself clearer to Them—boosting the gain and the signal, clearing the channel. And to do so, I have to do to/with myself much of what other practices counsel you to do when working with the Other in the first place.
And that’s ultimately what energy work should get at, when you can manage to do so. I had the impression for a long time that one of my gods was out there whispering to me, calling to me, but I couldn’t quite hear. At one point, I had the sense that She was sending out a signal, and I was an off-line station that’d respond to Her ping with a pong, in “low-power mode.” But as time has passed, I’ve moved into various stages of “coming back online,” and She (and Others) have celebrated that revival. Energy work helps me bridge here and there more consistently, more clearly, more vibrantly.
For the Many-Colored Lands are bright, and I can also be Many-Colored and bright. So can you.
As I move to close now, I’ve found myself noting how my spirit interactions have seemed to plateau, for I notice how they could be. I can imagine how they could be. And there’s a certain egoic terror or panic that I can feel around the edges of that could be. Far more vibrant presences and a kind of electric immediacy. And I see, though, that’s something to work towards while stepping past the pan-ic and towards better realization and engagement.
[i] I have to admit that Patrick Dunn was the first fellow who pointed to alternatives for me apart from the energy paradigm, and he covers similar territory as he argues for the “information paradigm.” I can’t stand his latest book, though.
[ii] I thought about identifying them. I chose not to because I want to avoid starting Something I have no interest in dealing with.
[iii] All that said, this writer’s notes on energy work in these two books also gave me some tech and insight that’d been implied more than anything else previously. Those notes also inflect the post’s origins.
[iv] In reading this writer, I note how native or otherwise non-white traditions can practice and conceive of the world as they wish—are acknowledged by the writer as accomplishing things that the writer claims are otherwise super-rare and impossible or unfeasible in the WMT—because for the writer to do otherwise might mark them as racist. I think the reality is less that the writer is racist but that the logic strains to accommodate other peoples’ and entities’ logics. In a similar manner, the writer acknowledges that other American and/or Western European post-occult revival traditions may do things in a messier and “less disciplined” way, but far more implied disdain comes through.
[v] Some folks point to the idea that The Phenomenon is essentially trolling those who experience high strangeness–the “Trickster” theory—but I’d argue that’s more frustration than an operant hypothesis. I also detect something of a fetishification of “unknowability”—we’ll never know what’s going on, really, and anyone who says they do is deluded—which seems more a kind of logistic avoidance.
[vi] I say bodies here because the more I work at this, the more embodied (if differently embodied) those bodies seem.
Featured Image: Arthur Rackham – “How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad”, from The Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Alfred W Pollard, 1917