Part 2. Creating a Magickal Space
(This is part two of a five part series of articles entitled “A Short Course in Scrying” written in response to requests by participants of the “enochian-l” and “Praxis” internet discussion groups; it first appeared as a series of posts on those groups in early 1997. The current version has been slightly rewritten to enhance the clarity of the presentation, and to include a small amount of additional material.)
The foundation of all magickal work is the imagination. The part of the mind that creates images serves as a meeting ground between the conscious mind, the unconscious parts of our being, and the magickal universe at large. Visual symbols are the primary means by which meaning is communicated in the magickal worlds. The more flexible you make your imagination, the more effective your magickal work can be.
The best exercise I know of for developing the imagination is called "creating a refuge" or "creating a magickal space". I first learned the technique from a Vietnam War veteran. He said that the U.S. Army Special Forces taught it as a means of maintaining a sense of privacy, personal integrity, and personal space under conditions -- as in Viet Cong POW camps -- where these things would be deliberately denied to him by his enemies. When I encountered the Fellowship of the Inner Light a few years later, I found that they were teaching essentially the same technique for purposes of self-mastery and spiritual development.
Once you become practiced in the method it requires no special physical place; it is completely "portable" and can be done anywhere you can sit and relax for a moment. I have used it effectively in many "un-magickal" environments; e.g., a crowded government office, a busy commercial hotel, and in the middle of the Las Vegas COMDEX show.
The basic idea is very simple. You make up an imaginary world that you would enjoy being in, and then you imagine yourself walking around in this world. Not much different, in principle, than what people do in any ordinary daydream. But here the idea is to work for consistency, so that it appears the same every time you enter it, and to continually add details to it. With practice and familiarity this imaginary world will begin to take on a sense of being a "real" place, not real in the same way as the physical world, but having permanence and a separate existence nonetheless.
For purposes of illustration, I am going to describe one of my own magickal spaces, one that I no longer use. It is important to understand that at every step, the images you use should be those that feel right to you; this is to be your own private space and its contents should always come out of yourself and be meaningful to you. Your space may resemble mine in some aspects; if so, that is all right. More likely it will not, and that too is perfectly appropriate.
The steps described here should be done sequentially, but you do not have to be perfect at any step before going on to the next. Right from the beginning, you can work on several steps in a single session. However, in any given session most of your attention should be given to the earliest steps in whatever group you are working on. As each step becomes more familiar it will take less practice to reach a satisfactory level and you can naturally give more attention to the next.
Establish the boundaries
Until your magickal space is well established, you should begin every session by affirming its invulnerability. Imagine that your space is invisible to any being but yourself, and is impenetrable by any force or person without your express, conscious permission. Think up an image of your space’s boundaries that reflects these ideas. I imagine my magickal spaces as "pocket universes" that, seen from the outside, are so tiny as to be lost in the immensity of our own universe; seen from inside, they are as big as I want or need them to be. Other people I know of imagine theirs as surrounded by an adamantine shell, or by a science-fiction force field that "bends" all forces so that they bypass it.
Once you have the boundary of your space established, imagine yourself inside it. As you enter into it, feel all the pressures and demands of your daily life being locked out behind you, unable to follow you in. Imagine that they became completely disconnected from you at the moment you entered your space. They are not trying to force their way in; they can not even sense your space or yourself inside it and are drifting away without finding anything to attach to. Feel yourself to be totally safe, totally free of any connection to the mundane world.
This matter of feeling safe is very important. As in the relaxation exercises, the feelings you generate are the way you tell the unconscious parts of yourself, the "sub-minds", what to believe and how to act. As far as they are concerned, what you feel is what is real; tell them something often enough, and they will begin to cooperate in making it so, to an extent you could not manage with your conscious resources. If you feel safe and free from pressure in your magickal space, then in a short time you will actually be safe and free there.
Create the landscape.
Once you have established a secure space, take some time to think about the general layout of your world. Decide on the major features of the landscape, what sorts of buildings or other structures you want. Make a mental map of the areas in your world that you will want to visit most often. Once you decide on these major features, they should not change.
A few ground rules for inventing your world:
You can populate your world if you wish, but DO NOT, under any circumstances, use images of living people in your world. For some time, all of the contents of your world will be a reflection of yourself in one way or another. There is a possibility that images of people will be "taken over" by some unconscious part of your mind as a vehicle of expression. If you use images of real people, the behavior of the image may carry over into your relationships with the real person, with ill effect.
Begin to build your world by picking one location within your "map" of it, and imagine yourself standing at that spot. Fix the relationships between various and marks in your mind, and see them surrounding you at the proper angles and distances. Fill in the details to the degree that you would actually be able to see if you were standing at a similar spot in the real world.
For example, one of my magickal spaces has a landscape of hills and ravines covered by a thick forest like pre-colonial America. The central area contains a rather utilitarian castle on a low bluff overlooking a large river meadow. A small tame river meanders along one edge of the meadow. Various outbuildings and special-purpose areas are dispersed in clearings in the nearby forest.
I began to build this world by imagining myself standing in the meadow, looking north. I can see the green grasses, small colorful wildflowers, and an occasional cowpie nearby. Animal paths wander about, and a more direct humanmade path goes from the bluff to the river. The bluff appears to be made of flaky granite, and the castle is right on the brink of it; a couple of winters’ worth of erosion to the bluff might undermine the nearest wall. I can only see all of one castle wall from this position, and part of another; I can just barely see the top of a tower above the wall. All of the walls are made of dressed gray stone without mortar. Below the castle a tunnel or gate is cut into the bluff at the meadow level.
Turning to the east, I see that the bluff gradually reduces in height towards the south, coming down to the meadow somewhat south of my current position. I can see the end of a dirt road where it curves off the bluff and into the meadow. More forest rising behind the road implies that the ground beyond is higher. I know from my "map" that there is an area of grassland a mile or two in that direction.
Looking south I see that the river continues in that direction, and passes through a cut in the hills several miles away. Sunlight glares off the entire length of the river in that direction; a haze prevents me from seeing anything beyond the gap. Looking west, I see that the river is fairly shallow at this point; small ripples cover its surface as if it were flowing over a gravel bar. The forest beyond it is edged with undergrowth, mostly honeysuckle bushes, which has been tramped down in places as if by animals coming for water. Paths leading into the forest quickly disappear into the shadows of the trees.
You do not need to fill in all the details of the scene consciously; in fact, it is better to encourage your imagination fill in many of the details by itself. Give it the general outline and let it show you what you should see in such a location. E.g., instead of trying to imagine each blade of grass and wildflower in the meadow, I would let my unconscious do so. If I liked what it did, I would send it a feeling of approval; if I didn’t like it, I would tell it to try again, and turn away for a moment to let it change things.
Once you have the view from a particular location fixed fairly well, move to other nearby locations -- twenty to thirty yards away, for outdoor locations -- and imagine what things would look like from this new position. What does the changed perspective reveal that was hidden before? What was unseen from the previous location that can be seen now? (Note that perspective in magickal space is never quite the same as it is in the physical world, though the difference is hard to quantify; you will not be able to make things appear in precisely the way you see natural objects.)
Keep moving to new locations and build up an image of the scene as it would be seen at each one, until you have a good sense of the place as an actual "space". In the example space, I spent some time going to various positions in the meadow, noting that less of the castle was visible close to the bluff, more of it from farther away; noting the colored gravel in the riverbed, and how it made a ford across the river, etc. Then I went up to the castle and looked outward from positions on every side of it, seeing the wider landscape, filling in the positions of various known places in the forest, deciding how far the grasslands extended behind the castle, and so on. Do this for your own space.
When you have established the perspective from several locations, try moving smoothly between them, with the parallax of the surroundings changing continuously, as it does when you move about in the physical world.
At first you will find that your perspective on your world has a tendency to withdraw from the scene; your imagination will try to view it as if seen through a window, or on a movie screen, or like a tableau in a museum. Whenever you notice this has happened, firmly place your viewpoint back inside the scene, and fix it there by turning and looking at what is in every direction around you.
Also at first, your world will tend to be still and tableau-like, a frozen image. Once you have the appearance of things fairly well established, try bringing some action into the scenes. Let grass and tree limbs be blown by breezes, and hear the sounds the wind makes. Watch water move and hear the sounds it makes. Add some living creatures to the landscape and let them move around in ways appropriate to their natures.
It is also important that you stay relaxed throughout the exercise; doing this work should be like a relaxing daydream, not requiring fixed concentration and alertness. Do the relaxation exercise before starting each session, and do it again if you find yourself getting tense at any time during the session. Let your mind do as much of the work as it can without conscious decisions on your part, and encourage it to do more.
You should spend at least several weeks on this exercise, and as much more as you want. Take your time, relax, and give as much work as you need to filling in the details in all the important locations in your world. Indoor locations should be given as much time as the general landscape. The more thoroughly you do the work in these early stages, the more effective your scrying will be later.
Establish a body in the magickal space
The final step in the basic process of creating a magickal space is to create a body for yourself within that space. Up to this point in the exercises, you have been pretty much a naked viewpoint, seeing the world but not interacting with it to any great extent. Now you need to build up an image of your body within the space, and learn to use it. To do this, you need to develop a conscious awareness of the sensory surface of your body and of its kinesthetics, and duplicate these in an "astral" body. Judging from accounts by students at the Fellowship of the Inner Light, this part of the work gives people the most difficulty, and people will have widely varying degrees of success in it.
Before entering your magickal space, stand up and relax, preferably without any clothes or jewelry. Close your eyes and put your attention onto your skin. Even without anything touching you, you should be able to feel a sense of activity or sensitivity in your skin, a "readiness to feel". Note the way your body’s shape is outlined by the skin sensations.
Next, plan out some series of movements that will move every part of your body in turn, through most of its range of movement. Tai Chi or Yoga exercises are good for this if you know them. Still keeping your eyes closed, go through the movements and note how each part of your body feels in different positions, and note what your kinesthetic sense tells you about the positioning of your limbs as you move.
Finally, do the same sequence again with your eyes open. This time pay attention to the way what you see of your body changes as you go through the movements. Pay particular attention to your hands and arms. Try to consciously associate the image of your body with the sensations you get as you move.
Each of these three steps focuses on one of the major aspects of your body image: your sense of the body’s boundaries, its internal sensations, and its appearance to your eyes as you interact with your surroundings. Under normal conditions, these sensations are usually unconscious, and are always secondary to whatever activity you are engaged in. You need to be aware of them consciously in order to build yourself a second body inside your magickal space. If you wish, you can do these exercises separately from your practice in your space, until you are ready to make your magickal body.
Once you are ready, sit down and go through the relaxation exercises, and enter your magickal space. Once there try to feel as if you have a body in the magickal space that feels exactly like your physical body, but is completely separate from the physical. Go through the three steps in your imagination, and try to duplicate all the sensations you had while doing them physically. By doing this you will, over time, gradually build up a perception of your "astral body" as a distinct entity, within and a part of your magickal space.
After finishing this exercise in each session in your magickal space, spend some time just moving around your world, touching and manipulating things as if they were physical objects. Things you touch should give sensations appropriate to their nature; bricks and stone should feel hard and rough; metals should feel cool, with textures appropriate to their shape; wood should feel warm and grainy, etc. If you have rituals that you do on a daily basis (and haven’t already started doing them in your magickal space) create a dedicated place in your magickal space for ritual work and begin doing them there as part of this practice.
The regular, repetitive movements of ritual work will serve to reinforce your body image, and doing the rituals will begin to turn your space from a mere refuge into something useful for your magickal work. In particular, I would recommend practicing the Golden Dawn’s pentagram and hexagram rituals; these will be important later, as a means of testing the visions you obtain when you start scrying.
The most common problem people encounter in this part of the work is maintaining a consistent shape for their body. They find that even after long practice their head and arms will remain reasonably well defined, but the rest of their imaginary body has a tendency to blur into amorphousness. This is a reflection of the relative density of nerves in the physical body. Eighty percent of our sensory and kinesthetic nerves are in the head and hands; half of the remainder are in the upper chest, shoulders and arms. Our perception of the rest of the body is substantially more vague, and depends as much on sight as on direct sensory connections. When one tries to build an astral body, the mind tends give each part of it a size proportional to the relative nerve densities.
This is really not so bad. You don’t need legs in the magickal space, since you are moving yourself around by your volition rather than by pushing yourself with muscles. You do need arms and hands to do the gestures of magickal rituals, and lips and jaws to speak the words. If you find that after some practice you can’t maintain a full body image, don’t worry about it; just get by with what you do have, and imagine the rest of your body concealed by a robe or other loose garment.
The second problem people have is that their physical body twitches or moves when they try to move their magickal body. They unconsciously tense up the physical body, trying to "lock" it so that it won’t follow along with the magickal body. This is a matter of lifelong habit, of associating the sensations of movement with the volitional act of moving your muscles. One has to disassociate the sensations from the volition, and another simple exercise will help.
In your magickal space, imagine you are standing with your arms held out in front of you, palms facing downwards. Now imagine that you are turning them so that the palms face upwards, but that you are turning them entirely with your eyes. That is, you see them turning over, and feel the sensations of the changed position, but you don’t involve the part of your mind that moves the muscles. You should see your arms move without willing them to move. (In fact, you are directing your will through your visual centers instead of your muscles, but it should not seem like you are willing it, at first.)
The first few times you do this, your physical arms are almost certain to tense up into rigidity. When you notice this happening, stop and do the relaxation exercises until your body is loose again, and then go back to trying to move your magickal hands again.
Once you succeed in turning your astral hands over without tensing your physical hands, you should try moving the fingers individually. Curl each one over onto the palm, and straighten it out again. Again, do the relaxation exercise whenever your physical body tenses up. When you succeed in moving the individual fingers without tensing up, try various coordinated movements: clenching your fists, grasping objects, karate chops, Vulcan greeting-gestures, and so on.
The hands are the hardest part of the magickal body to separate from the physical, because major portions of our nervous systems go into controlling their movement. Once you have managed to dissociate movement of your magickal and physical hands, the rest of your body will be very easy, and can be done with similar exercises, if necessary.