I recently listened to Gary Lachman point to Norman Vincent Peale’s threefold breakdown of process in The Power of Positive Thinking, for Lachman had been describing the kind of “American hermeticism” that has seethed in the country’s consciousness for a while. Peale’s process is straight-forward: Prayerize, Visualize, Actualize. It occurred to me that this breakdown is pretty much true for good deal of historical magical praxis, and it provided me an occasion to consider my own process.
This part of the process entails framing one’s intentions in a clear and specific manner. Lachman describes Peale’s process as putting the intention into prayer form, but I would argue that it also entails what Gordon White has called “Getting Their Attention”—getting the attention of spirits, gods, and whoever else it’s appropriate to ask for helping make your enchantments work. If clear intentions are important for sigil statement formation, for asking for saintly and divine intercession, for convincing Bune to get you money, then yes, you need to get your intentions in order.
This part of the process is where you should consider who’s going to be pushing on the probabilities and how. As performed by individual practitioners, most non-spirit-aided techniques (like sigils) work best with mid-range probabilities, at least according to Pete Carroll in The Octavo. It is quite debatable how much any enchantment—or even just living—lacks a spirit component. If ideas and archetypes can be a human way of relating to spirits and gods, and vice versa, then any intention or sigil or spell itself becomes an idea, a spirit, an imaginal something/someone who goes out to do what they do in the world. Other techniques—including group work and explicitly spirit-aided enchantments—can accomplish far more immediately wondrous results. I’ve participated in enough Lynn McTaggart Power of Eight intention exercises to see these kinds of results: far too many “mistaken” cancer and similar diagnoses or “faulty” tests. I have also seen enough spirit- and saint-driven work pull off results my individual sigils didn’t.
Note, though, that I’m not disparaging individual, non-intercessory enchantment practices like sigils. However, as White has argued in regards to shoaling, if you want to push on lower probability circumstances, then you have to break your end goal into the smaller, contributing circumstances that probably have to come together first. Those circumstances should individually be more mid-range probabilities that you can efficaciously push on. He uses the fish in a shoal metaphor, but it’s also a bit like working to get your individual dominoes in a row so they can tumble together towards that big target (in whatever shape it looks like), though shoaling is a more elegant and organic analogy. Each of those individual spells or sigils themselves need effective intentions.
I have to admit, though, that I’m not as good at that kind of problem analysis or enchantment project management as I’d like to be.
The Prayerize Stage should also entail considering who can help you achieve the goals of the enchantment. This point is where you consider what spirits, saints, gods, planetary forces, and so on are appropriate for you to call upon. This part of the process also includes considering the nature of the prayerizing you’ll use. Saint Expedite, Athena, and the Morrigan have particular ways they’re probably used to hearing and paying attention to humans, through traditional prayers, Orphic hymns, PGM formulary, and so on.
I would also say that you probably want to have some kind of pre-existing positive relationship with the being(s) in question, which is a matter of diplomacy and relationship building. When working with saints and the dead, this process will probably resemble making their acquaintance and seeing if you’re compatible human personalities, even as you should see what they want. Note, you don’t have to be friends—and indeed, you probably won’t be—but you can figure out what your working relationship will look like. Enchantment has long had a transactional frame. Consider the nature of votive offerings: I’ll give you this, if you deliver what I ask for. This process can also entail working to get their favor and beneficial attention.
Some beings also have preferred materia or imagery that can fall into the non-verbal components of Prayerizing, though they also straddle the line into Visualizing. Ultimately, we are getting their attention, telling them what we want, and hopefully they decide to help us make that happen.
Timing should also be a factor during the Prayerize Stage, including astrological considerations. Some moments are better aligned to beginning specific actions or events than others. At the least, you should consider the planetary day and possibly more: lunar day or phase, lunar sign, planetary hours—especially with the Hygromanteia—or something similar, and perhaps lunar mansions. Traditionally, dawn is great for operations relating to a particular planetary day, and lunar calendars survived for millennia for a reason. You should also consider, how do you invoke or signal or lean into these timing conditions through prayer, images, and materia (which are part of the prayerizing, really, but also part of the Visualize Stage)? A Mercurial operation should happen on a Wednesday, but you should probably “tag” Mercury or the ruling spirits of the day in whatever system you’re working in. For example, you might use the Hygromanteia‘s planetary prayers (and prayers for the spirits of the hours), the Heptameron‘s invocations for the spirits and angels of the days (and names and ruling angels of the hours), the PGM’s fragmentary information and names relating to timing considerations (lunar days 13 and 14, leading into the full moon, are good for Hekatean spells). You might even try adapting an Orphic hymn for the day of the week.
For Peale, this stage entailed vividly seeing and experiencing the reality you want to bring forth, and to be honest, this kind of “basic” visualization tech can work wonders on its own. If nothing else, even in our daily lives, if we can only imagine terrible futures, then we’re likely to keep finding ourselves in terrible presents. One of our challenges is probably learning how to stay with the present and its troubles, and the troubles of the past, even as we try to imagine better futures for our individual lives and the world.
I would argue that there’s a lot of overlap between these two stages—Prayerize and Visualize. The nature of ritual and performance is as an image or imitation of mythic and imaginal forms. In a way, it can almost be like we’re getting the attention of the universe by imitating, repeating, iterating those forms. When we get the attention of our helping spirits or allies and then utter our desires, we are “visualizing” those desires. However, perhaps “imaging” or “imagining” them is more accurate. That is, although Peale opted for a vision-centric approach, I’m tempted to point more to Ivo Dominguez, Jr.’s preference for “realization,” which he does to encourage practitioners to incorporate sensory modalities beyond sight.
The use of images in enchantment is also well conserved. For example, if you look through the Picatrix and many books of magic, you will find various images and characters (which are also images of spirits, though of a different modality) you should make at particularly auspicious times. You should then consider how visualization also entails using visuals, speaking, performing, timing, and more.
In regards to Visualizing, you can often see in the PGM a common note to “Do the usual” at various points in different spells. Although Stephen Skinner has suggested the “usual” is a reference to circle work, I suspect that the “usual” was often some Alexandrian take on “Visualize.” I have taken to doing this during a variety of enchantments, not just PGM spells and adaptations of them, where I will pause and turn my attention to seeing the beings I’ve been trying to get to help me or even to visualize my goal as happening. For certain kinds of enchantment, I have also taken to having a point where I will sit and do a McTaggart-style intention (well, a “Power of One” intention) where I will quietly intend at the images or while visualizing the desired outcome. (Images of some kind are handy at these points to focus your attention at—even if it might be a sigilized version of the desire. Also, the practice makes me wonder about some forms of sigil activation.) I can imagine the PGM’s Theban sorcerer may have done something similar, perhaps in a more mantra-like manner with particular ritual formulae depending on the purpose of the spell or the beings invoked. The “usual” may also point to the need to pause and sit with the ritual thus far, paying attention to any impressions, signals, or other things you might notice at various points in the ritual.
At this point, you’re supposed to act as if what you enchanted for is already “real” or “actual.” Crowley pointed to something similar with his example of enchanting for money and then acting like the check had already arrived by spending on a big dinner.
That said, the Actualize Stage can probably entail a variety of responses on a practitioner’s part. We want to earth the enchantment or otherwise bring that desired outcome closer to our lived experience. Or, to put it a different way, we should look for “roads” through which the outcome can come to us, or vice versa. If you enchanted for finding a particular thing—a tool, an opportunity, or a lover—you probably need to get out into places where you might find such things. In particular, I have to agree with White that you want to start looking for “low-probability” situations and places you can enter into to give your enchantments the chance to land in your life. By low-probability, I understand him as saying you should go out into new situations, new places, meet new people—that is, they’re “low-probability” in that there was previously a low-probability of you being there. It’s almost like going into liminal situations and places—liminal in the sense that what had once been low-probability or distant is now suddenly present and happening—and in such a liminal moment you might find what the universe can throw out for you.
There is also, in a post-Jung’s The Red Book world, the practice of earthing the enchantment in other ways: recording or talking about doing the earlier Stages and your impressions or weird things and synchronicities you noticed, and continue to notice. Pay attention to and record dreams that seem associated with the enchantment. That said, magic is itself often a process of “Red Booking”–working to make visible what had previously been invisible save in the world of dreams and our interiorities.
There’s also, I suspect, a version of Actualize that plays into practices for avoiding lust for result: carry on and don’t dwell on the enchantment and the desire except as signs or synchs relating to it come up. Otherwise, forget it, even as you should pay attention to opportunities for the results to land. Even Crowley’s approach works against Lust for Result by not lusting for it but living the result.
With the above in mind, the following represents what I’m presently using as an outline for designing enchantments.
Firstly, formulate your intentions and organize/design what you’re going to do:
- Get your intention down in a specific form even as you want to leave wiggle-room for the universe to get it to you.
- Determine what more-than-human persons you will approach to try to get them to help you. Determine what “prayers” or invocations you will use, or what other method for getting their attention you want to try. Figure out what materia (candles, incense, offerings, images, etc.) you need and how to prepare them.
- Consider what your visualization or “realization” for the desire looks like. Or, what does a moment from your life look like once the desire results?
- Figure out the timing and how to invoke that timing (during that time).
- Do any divination you need to help you fine-tune the intentions, your desires, or your praxis. I’ve thrown divination at timing, spirits, materia, and more.
Secondly, do the enchantment:
- Do your cleansing/banishing/opening.
- Invoke directionality and/or cast magical/sacred space, etc.
- Invoke timing.
- Optional: Do any prayers or mantras or other actions for augmenting success. (For example, one of the various Agathos Daimon or Helios prayers for success in the PGM. You could also try success-oriented Psalms.)
- Get the attention of your allies/helping spirits (Orphic hymns, saintly prayers, adaptations from PGM spells and appropriate barbarous names).
- Prayerize your intentions and perform them. Along the way, Visualize or “do the usual.”
Thirdly, do whatever “Actualize” things make sense or occur to you.
I treat the above as a loose outline, though I’m sure more procedural personalities can add and specify complexity as they need. In most cases, I try to look for existing spells, prayers, or tech in my tool kit and arrange them in a way that feels and seems to “make sense” or that complement each other. I have found that looking at comparative practices in other cultures has helped me recognize survivals of the same practices in the magical systems I work within, and doing so helps me think with them more constructively.
Feature Image: kellepics | Pixabay
 White credits hearing the term himself from Chris Knowles on an episode of The Higherside Chats.