Hitting the spirits instead of psychology
Hitting the spirits instead of psychology

Hitting the spirits instead of psychology

A True and faithful relation of what passed between me and a bottle of spirits
Anyone who has read my books will know that I am a big fan of psychology.  Since the 1930s psychology has stopped a large number of magicians going nuts by making them realise that what they might be experiencing is not the anti-christ but by some repressed complex that they have not dealt with.
In my new  book Magical Imagination I look at psychological techniques which are now called “active imagination” but are better known in occult circles as pathworking or visualisation.  I do this so that people can master those aspects of themselves so that they can be more balanced when they come to do more serious magical work on both the physical and astral planes.
But like many things, the psychological approach in magic has gone too far.  Like many things lately I have to chant the mantra “I blame Regardie” but to that mix I have to also blame Francis King, who coloured his history of the Golden Dawn with Regardie’s bias.  Dion Fortune also inspired much of this approach, being one of the pioneers of lay psychology in her time.
Both men believed that inner states were psychological states and that the beings we encounter there were all aspects of our unconscious.   Thus when Dr Felkin, or Samuel Mathers channelled their secret chiefs they were just opening up a path to their repressed unconscious aspects.  To Regardie, the Book of the Law came straight from Crowley’s unconscious, rather than any spirit.
In many ways I agree with Regardie and King, you always have to interpret visions, or dreams psychologically first.  This is because any energy you encounter on the astral plane is going to be communicating through your unconscious.  If you encounter a Goddess then it is going to appear through the symbols you associate with your “significant mother archetype.”
Israel Regardie channelling Harry Potter
But where I differ with Regardie is that spirits, angels, and gods do have an objective reality which is separate from your own psyche.  When you work a ritual to a particular god or goddess, and you are lucky, you are going to pick up the real deal.
These spirits will appear to have a personality, a life and memories which are just as real as any being you meet on the material world.  They are going to have plans and needs which will go well beyond what you think that being would have or need.
In the cases of the bigger ones, such as gods and archangels, there will be a celestial version of it which acts very differently from the sub-lunar lower astral version.  The celestial version will be the highest and most abstract version of the god or archangel.  It will also be the most aloof from the needs of humanity and be more concerned with cosmic events, rather than helping you get a girlfriend.
The sub-lunar aspects of these beings are closer to earth and therefore understand humans more — they have also been more anthropomorphized by humans.  It is more often these beings that we end up talking to the most.  But the downside of dealing with these sorts of beings is that they have a few of humanity’s negative traits and need to be handled with care.
Some entities, such as ancestral spirits, elementals, and the darker daemons (I am not convinced that demons exist but are just Christian corruptions of sub-lunar entities) remain sub-lunar.  This sub-lunar realm also encompasses the underworld and anything you find there.  These sub-lunar entities which lack a celestial component are the most risky to deal with.  However they are also the most rewarding, because contacts with these spirits teaches us more about ourselves.  They are also more likely to help us with some of the magical heavy lifting.
The point of this particular blog is to say:
“Spirits exist.  They are not aspects of your unconscious, but real living beings.”
When that particular card is pulled out of the house of psychological magic, then a whole lot of things comes tumbling down with it.  Psychology becomes a method of communication and self understanding rather than a complete philosophy which can be applied to magic.


  1. I think the spirits in magical systems are the joint creation of the unconscious mind of the practitioner, and of a nonhuman and probably multidimensional external agency.
    I think the relationship is analogous to that of a computer user and the computer software, insofar as there can be no interaction between them without an underlying machine language , as well as input from the intentions and directives of the operator combined with an objectively existing cyber-structure carrying a flow of electrons.
    The difference between computers as we understand them and this external agency may well be that It arose on a Cosmic scale and evolved over billions of years, during which time matter, energy and information became so integrated as to make meaningless any distinctions between mechanism, organism, and living conscious awareness .
    Such a living system may contain us as subsystems, and provide us with whatever feedback we evoke from it by our imaginistic expectations.
    It may be at least as “personal” as we appear to ourselves to be, and at at least as “impersonal” as our fundamental reality most probably is.

  2. Richard Fox

    Julain, I mostly disagree, I feel what your describing is the modus operandi of astral work, not the beings themselves. Spirits have an objective existence outside man’s mind. The problem for magicians trying to deal with them is that we can most easily do so through the astral. Its a difficult, if not impossible task to decide how much is genuine contact and how much is from the unconscious of the operator. Assuming that you have the full attention of the archangels every time you perform a LBRP or that they are all aspects of the mind of the magician is patently wrong, the reality lies somewhere in between. Assessing that reality is the problem and the art. I find there are times when the god forms are just stained glass images that your bringing force through and others when someone has clearly entered the room and clearly owns it, but sadly, 99% of the time it just isn’t that clear cut. Regardie was a product of his time, psychology was new and shiny, religious authority was on the wane; it was intellectually more acceptable for him to see magic as a psychological process. In pragmatic terms, this stand point is exceptionally safe. If you treat the commands of the Raphael as in instinctive drive, or like a advertorial suggestion from amazon, your probably going to be quite circumspect and not do something too insane or dangerous. However I see the downside as being two fold. If I’m acting on impulse from a spirit I tend to find I have more energy and the obstructions seem to be have cleared away; when I’ve treated it more as an unconscious drive that motive force has been lost. Secondly I find seeing a sentient being’s existence as being solely a projection of my personality as a tad disrespectful.

  3. Thank you for speaking that out openly! “Spirits exist. They are not aspects of your unconscious, but real living beings.”, the most important statement. I think there is a current running at the moment through occultism that wants to bring exactly this important fact into the open. The powers we are dealing with HAVE a reality in addition to what we are adding with our own (sub)conscious to them. What we believe to know about them and perceive with “inner vision” etc is only a small amount of the reality (and sometimes wrong).

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