This is a subject that doesn’t get talked about often.
Most “beginner-level” books ignore it or take an attitude of “you’ll grow out of it.”
Others take an attitude of “you’ll never get anywhere if you can’t do it.”
What I’m talking about is visualization. Nearly all modern western magic since the late 19th-century has enshrined visualization as the foundation of all practice.
Table of Contents
Why Is This Important?
A Childhood Conversation
I’m Guilty of It, Too
Yes, It’s a False Belief
Is Visualization Necessary?
What Should I Do About It?
Why Does This Work?
A Childhood Conversation
In a way, I’m reminded of something my mother told me when I was a child: “people think in pictures, not words.”
I responded, “Well I think in words.”
She said, “Think of a cow.”
I did, and told her so. She asked me, “Did you think the word ‘cow’ first, or did you think of a picture of a cow?”
I thought the word “cow,” but she wasn’t exactly accepting my answer.
This conversation was over 35 years ago and I don’t remember the exact wording (I don’t want to misquote my mom), but this is the bottom-line effect of what she said. While she meant well, and I believe the writers of magical textbooks mean well too, I couldn’t help but sense a dismissal of people who don’t buy into what I’ve often privately called “that right-brained bullshit.”
I’m Guilty of It Too
Exactly what the title says, I’m guilty of this too. Largely because of the way magic is taught, my own books talk a lot about visualization (especially “Ritual Magic,” “Effective Prayer,” and “How to Pray the Rosary”), even talk about practicing to develop visualization abilities, while not taking into account what’s in front of me: some people just can’t.
I’m one of those people.
I can visualize, draw pictures in my mind for a split second before they disappear, and can “see” an entity if it’s talking to me or attacking. But intentional visualization for me is something that’s strained and not natural, the pictures looking like they’re behind a dark screen of some sort and nowhere near the “Technicolor Hi-Def Experience” talked about by books and teachers.
It was (and still is) easier for me to visualize during actual magical work than during training sessions or regular practice. When doing “tattva” exercises, I’ve always been more or less visually blind when walking through the symbol even though able to sense and communicate with what’s around me. Even so, I still gained development in clairvoyance from practicing with the tattvas regularly.
In spite of being deficient with visualization, I’ve got no problem manifesting things I need or want in a timely manner. If there’s a problem it’s usually on the side of Sphere of Availability or not understanding the thing I’m acting upon, but it’s never been a problem relating to ability with visualization.
The bottom line is that I’m an “L-mode” thinker. I think in words, with pictures (“R-mode” or “right brain” thinking) coming in at a distant second.
No matter. With all that, I pressed on in the belief that if I tried hard enough, I could get that crystal clear vision everybody was talking about and become the magical super bad-ass they always told me I could be. Within the past few weeks I’ve come to discover that was a false belief, and I’d like to share my findings with you.
Yes, It’s a False Belief
It’s a false belief to claim that crystal-clear visualization is necessary for magical success; and like all other false beliefs, it has consequences.
One consequence is that it implies the non-visual student will never amount to anything, much like expecting a fish to ride a bicycle and then telling the fish it’s stupid when it can’t. Another consequence is that students may take this message to heart and then drop out of their study entirely. Not a good message for the student individually or for the magical community collectively.
A third consequence is that of those who “stick it out,” this false belief may lead them to spin their wheels for years chasing that illusive HDTV-type experience, taking up weeks, months, and maybe even years they could use developing other faculties.
A fourth consequence is . . . well, look at the questionable stability and illogic amongst so many we find within the magical community. I can’t shake the impression that the emphasis on right-brained activity may have alienated a left-brained, non-visual-thinking element who could add some intellectual balance (I may be wrong too; I’m not married to this speculation).
Is Visualization Necessary?
Here comes the million-dollar question: is strong visualization ability even necessary to gain magical proficiency?
After the past few weeks of looking on my life and experimenting, my answer is a resounding NO!
I can’t sustain a visualization of a blazing circle with four stars and four archangels for any more than a split second, but I get the effects of the ritual just fine.
I’m effectively blind when working with tattwas, but I’ve gotten the clairvoyance benefits just fine.
I don’t visualize when working to manifest money or anything else, but I manifest the desired object just fine.
However, when I say Mass I use a series of visualizations when consecrating the Host and the Chalice. I’ve never told anybody what these visualization are (and never will), but psychically-sensitive people in the pews have approached me afterwards and noticed what I did. Even when I’ve said a Novus Ordo (“English Mass”), and we’ve already discussed how much more difficult it is to raise energy with that ritual.
So the conclusion we draw from this is that a strong visualization ability is not necessary for magical proficiency, but it can be very helpful.
Consider that the grimoires don’t necessitate visualization. Or the Greek Magical Papyri. Or most western texts prior to the 19th-century Occult Revival. The only set of exercises I can think of that outright requires visualization is the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. In others such as the Rosary, visualizing the scenes enhances the experience but is not required.
This, of course, reinforces the conclusion that visualization isn’t necessary but can be helpful.
So What Do I Do About It?
Here’s the fun part. What do we actually do instead of just spinning our wheels hoping that eventually we’ll have a breakthrough?
In the first place, whenever a book or teacher says “visualize,” we replace it with the word feel.
Instead of trying to sustain the visual of blue flame, just stand there and feel the perimeter marked by the flame and pentagrams, or feel the air being purified within the circle, or feel the archangels guarding you from outside the circle. You don’t need to feel all three of these things, but latch onto whichever works better for you.
When you perform the Rousing of the Citadels, feel the Centers of Activity being activated when you say the Divine Names or think the phrases from the Lord’s Prayer. Then feel the energy as it circulates from center to center, and through your being when you do the Circulation of Light.
If you’re doing the 2nd Formula Clavis Rei Primae and/or the Orante Formula, then feel instead of visualize the light circulating between the centers and resting as an orange or rose-gold flame (depending on whether you’re using the version in Initiation Rites or Mysteria Magica), and feel the light-energy flowing out of your hands and into your wine-goblet (during practice) or your materium (during actual work).
This process of “feeling” instead of “seeing” can be applied to pretty much any work, and as you go along you’ll find yourself able to feel shapes and colors too. In essence, just as a blind man’s senses make up for the lack of his eyesight, your inner senses will become able to make up for the lack of visualization or clarity.
Why Does This Work?
It works when you substitute “feel” for “visualize,” because we’re talking about two methods for doing the exact same thing: targeting and directing energy.
When you visualize, you’re pinpointing a target for the energy you’re calling upon or with which you’re working. When you “use your feelers,” you’re doing the same thing. Of course the one advantage feeling has over seeing, is that you can produce a false visual of a person, place, or thing, or may fail to perceive your objective’s resistances or protectors. When feeling, it’s usually easier to get an idea of what obstacles or resistances are on your way.
This is something I realized when saying Masses for people’s specific intentions, that at some point before the Offertory I’d be in full contact with the problem and could feel not only what issues were blocking the problem but whether the desired result would be accomplished and what more may need to be done.
So when you feel your way through your magic, think of it as flexing your psychic muscles and working your way past obstacles in your path. Think of it as more than a blind man’s sensory compensation, but as an alternate form of targeting and control you may never have discovered otherwise.
While I’m reticent to say “feeling” is inherently superior to “seeing,” I’d be quick to say that one way is at least as good as another, and each brings their advantages to the table. For what it’s worth, future writings will address both visualization and non-visualization where applicable.
Even if you can’t visualize worth crap, I’d advise continuing to work on developing some sort of visual capability. Just don’t burn yourself out in the process and work with feeling during your major daily practices instead.
If you’re a world-class visualizer, I’d still advise working on your ability to feel around things without visualizing, for roughly the same reason martial artists are taught to fight while wearing a blindfold.
The more tools you have at your disposal, the better off you’ll be. This applies in your magical life every bit as much as it does to your mundane one.
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