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Testing spirits

One of the central issues about contacting spirits, either ritually, channeling, scrying or through inner plane chats is a fear that they might be lying. Much time has been wasted by magicians listening to what they believe is their “contact” or “an angel,” getting duff information and acting on it.

Iamblichus mentions spirits who seek to trick the magician into following them by pretending to be much more important than they are.

Much of the problem is based on a lack of knowledge of how spirits work. The assumption often is that the gods and spirits are “like mighty humans” and approached in the same way. However, Gods and spirits are not humans — they are spiritual forces which have a consciousness which is vastly different from our own.  We give them masks which enable us to contact them, and these are called Daemons (which means messengers). Rarely, a spirit wanting to communicate will rummage around a human’s consciousness and select a mask which they feel is closest to their nature and speak through it. But whatever we see in an invocation is our creation which hopefully after our invocations, purifications and consecrations are ensouled by the Real Thing. I am not saying that the spirit of Father Tiresias you invoked was a psychological complex – although in many cases it is. I am saying is that you have built a psychological vehicle for the real Tiresias to inhabit. Your communication’s success depends on how much material is Tiresias and how much is you.

We fool ourselves with our “wish fulfillment,” wrong thinking and desires, and our invocations can mirror these things for us.

The Golden Dawn had an elaborate system of “testing spirits” by insisting that they return grade signs before speaking to them. It sounds illogical if you hate masonic things like funny handshakes – surely any spirit would have a copy of Regardie and know the Golden Dawn grade signs? But the point of it is that the grade signs are hardwired into your psyche by the initiation ceremony.  You are programmed to believe that someone who does not know those grade signs does not have access to the information. The mask you build for your Daemon is likewise programmed to exclude anything at that level. However, this technique ONLY works for those physically initiated into the Golden Dawn or a similar Order.

It takes about ten minutes of interaction to tell if the contact is a good one. It takes that time to forge the communication connection. This is particularly true of channelling. The first ten minutes is the equivalent of “testing, testing, 1,2,3” as the mind hooks onto the God or spirit. It is during this period that the spirit is examining the mask you have created for it and your knowledge to provide it with the symbolic language for communication. If you ever wondered why spirits in magicians’ diaries never warned them that the sun did not go around the earth, this is because they had no symbol set to communicate that information to a medieval mindset.  As a thought experiment pretend you are an Angel trying to explain electronics to John Dee using only symbols that he knows, and you will start to understand the nature of the problem. This is not to say you cannot get new information, you must, but you need to be aware of this problem when you analyse your communications.

What follows is a list which you can use to judge the quality of your contact.

  1. It does not praise you. Spirit contacts do not need to flatter you. I am not sure that they even understand the concept. If you find one that tells you that you are a messiah, or have an essential role in the world that will either be a manifestation of a battered ego needing support from a spiritual mother or father figure or a messianic complex. More dangerously (and rarely) it is the stock and trade of “trickster” spirit. A trickster will appear if you are a good organiser and could do what it wants. It will encourage you to do something like form a new religion or organisation which puts itself at the centre. The goal of a trickster is to create chaos through human inadequacy and create object lessons in the dangers of spirituality. The idea is to encourage people away from the spiritual system while increasing their powers. On the plus side, it will not abuse you either.
  2. It does not issue orders. David Goddard once said to me “Only God can command, anything else only gives advice.” People’s perception of Gods is that they are always commanding and telling people the minutiae of what they should be doing. The reality is that Gods are above all that and what they want to happen does anyway. Helios does not order the plants to grow; Venus does not demand that people fall in love, but their divine nature makes it happen. The daemonic mask we place between ourselves and the gods offers instruction and information, but sometimes it can get a bit ahead of itself.  One under the influence of a trickster spirit will often give orders as part of its goals. A magician with a controlling parent complex will sometimes find that the spirit they called orders them about in the same way as their parent.
  3. It does not tell you what you already know. One of the issues of communication using the unconscious is that the spirit sometimes appears to be using the information you already know. It is common among channellers for the spirit to suddenly start talking about some new theory that the channeller has just read. Other times they will reflect prejudice against people, objects, or ideas. Most of this is confirmation bias, or a desperate need on the part of the channeller to get some “inner confirmation of their beliefs. Other times it is a side effect of the method of communication. The spirit finds some ideas closer to the surface of the unconscious than others and uses that symbolism. When this happens, it must not be taken literally. But remember there is little point for a spirit to lecture you on the knowledge that you already have, and it knows you have, so you should be looking for something different.
  4. It never tells you socially backward information. Gods and spirits see things from an inclusive perspective. Even if you do not believe that all things are One Thing (which is the standard believe structure for Hermetics) spiritual forces do not see humans as notably different from one another. Based on our basic animal genetics, we are programmed to treat those we see as outsiders with fear and from this created a dustbin of hate based on differences and fake superiority. Our unconscious includes these sorts of things, but it is important to note that spirits do not have them. If a spirit starts spouting racism or suggests some discrimination against homosexuals or transsexuals, then it comes from this unconscious human dustbin and not the spirit itself.  In the unlikely event it DOES come from the spirit then we are dealing with a particularly nasty trickster time which is looking to mobilise people based on those prejudices and fears. Socially humanity has moved past those fears (even if they are not well-established people know they are wrong). What that these issues do not resurface in another way.  The rabidly anti-Semitic
  5. It speaks in ideas rather than specifics. A spirit is unlikely to get you detailed information about to handle a persona problem or gossip you about another person. What they can do is talk to you about the principles behind the issue you face which you can apply. This is because their consciousness resides. The closer to the material with the specifics of your questions the more unreliable the contact will be.
  6. It does not witter on about love and harmony. The bulk of published channelling and spirit communications is too fluffy and new age. This is because it comes straight from the expectations of the person initiating the connection. Spirits create a wide range of emotions in the person they are contacting and not just love. Some spirits have been known to give the ritualist a foul mood or depression, which lasts for some time. It is not because they are evil spirits just that is the magician’s reaction to that energy. Most of the “love and harmony” brigade are not interested in the practicality of dealing with real spirits they just want to be told “everything is all right” really.
  7. It does not demand you do something you know to be wrong. It sounds obvious, but there is a fantastic amount of people who committed some bizarre acts because their spirit told them. An example of this was the wife swapping incident with Dee and Kelly. This is not because wife swapping or sex was immoral, but because Dee and Kelly knew there was something wrong with it and Dee’s wife was against the idea. Forget that the angels were trying to get Dee and Kelly out of their moralistic bubble and get them into a more gnostic approach the whole Thing reeked of manipulation and sexism, something you should not expect from Angels.
  8. It does not say things which cannot be proven. I am talking about science fiction stories usually about past lives, fake history, stories about strange magical orders operating out of crystal mountains. If these do not come from the unconscious mind, then they must be taken as allegories or rejected. If Atlantians once talked using big telepathic hairnet – so what? That does not help a modern magician unless the spirit explains how to recreate the technology.
  9. It does not give you the easy option. If you are faced with a tricky question, you instinctively know that the hard way is going to be the right way. Spirits are tied to a primarily experiential being, so it is going to encourage you to do something correctly, so you learn. So if a spirit tells you “no you don’t have to work, just buy a lottery ticket on the hour of Jupiter on Thursday” then you know it is not going to happen. A spirit, if it is on the ball, will not shy from bluntly telling you the truth about yourself.
  10. It cannot defy fate. Life is experiential, and there are somethings that spirits cannot tell you because your decisions and choices are an essential part of the story. If they intervene, even by tipping you off, that will mean you do not learn that lesson. Sometimes they will just politely tell you “it sounds to me like you have a choice to make.”
  11. If it demands a sacrifice, it is a Daemon and not a God. When something asks for a sacrifice, it is a Daemon which needs that energy. This is normal and is usually appropriate for the God that the Daemon is masking. But it is crucial to remember limits on this. Lower daemons (and the dead) traditionally like blood and animal sacrifices and are more likely to be empowered by it. This is not always a bad thing as some rituals need those sorts of daemons, but it is not a general thing. Despite what Kenneth Grant wrote child sacrifice is not “higher” or “better” and is the opposite. A higher daemon is more likely to require a sacrifice based on service. A Mercury spirit might want the publication of a poem, Jupiter might want you to donate cash to a charity, Venus might demand an act of unconditional love to a stranger.  

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