Thursday 4 August 2022

The problem with magical 'contacts' (and, by contrast, how simple intuitions can be valid)

Two twentieth century Christian ritual magicians I like as people and whose work is valuable are Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight. Having said this; I regard them both as of-their-time, and their methods as no longer effective or valid.  

Both worked (partly) via what they termed 'contacts' - that is, spiritual beings with whom they made contact and who provided instruction, advice and conversation - using language. Such contacts were achieved by persons of suitable ability and motives, and also as the culmination of a long period of mental training that encompassed concentration and visualization. 

(I regard such magical contacts as a more active and conscious form of the varieties channeling and automatic  writing that have been a part of New Age spirituality, generally.) 

While I acknowledge that such contacts had some valuable effects and consequences up to the later parts of the twentieth century; I believe they are intrinsically prone to error - and these errors are amplified when the results are transmitted to a wider audience. 

Even assuming that the magician is well-motivated, that the spiritual contact is genuine, and that the spirit contacted is of a good and competent nature; then there are nonetheless two layers of problems about the use of language in these communications. 

Contacts work by a double-translation. In the first place; the spirit must translate from his thinking into words - in the second place the magician must understand the words, and translate into his own understanding. Thus thinking into words, then words back to thinking - before the recipient can know what is being communicated.

And the training of magicians is double-edged; because the capacity to concentrate and visualize entail a mental discipline that tends to perpetuate any distortions or errors in the magician. In particular; when the magician has not fully formulated his questions, or asks an unanswerable question (because the question contains false assumptions) - then there will nonetheless an answer will be generated - because that is how the training has made things. 

So the recurrent problem with magical contacts seems to be that of generating too-precise answers to too many and poorly formulated questions.   


By contrast, what I mean by intuitions operate in a wordless sense, without language. As I have written before; almost everything hinges on the 'question' which needs to be fully, clearly and validly understood. 

It may take someone a long time to become clear about what exactly it is that he needs to know. The question needs to be clarified to the point of being wordlessly grasped as a whole and held in mind. And motivations need to be clarified - because only genuinely Christian motivations will lead to Christianly-valid intuitions. 

In practice such questions seek equally simple - binary-type - answers such as Yes-No, True-False, Good-Evil.  

And in practice - as soon as the question has been clearly and simply known - the 'intuitive' answer is immediately forthcoming. 

No media, language, technologies or symbols are involved; therefore no training in concentration, visualization, meditation etc is needed - indeed such training will do more harm than good insofar as it has become an unconscious habit. 

And any attempt to explain the reasons for the intuitive understanding will therefore necessarily misrepresent the situation - and tend to reduce the solid assurance of the intuition. Because as soon as the intuition has been reduced to words, it will be distorted and incompletely represented; and these wrong reasons may then become a target for rationalistic-public critique such that the knowledge is no longer intuitive. 

Therefore true intuitions are private, clear and simple; and cannot be captured in language, nor can their intuitive nature be communicated. In a sense, each is a personal miracle that sustains faith, and potentially guides thought and conduct.  


agraves said...

Bruce thanks for the important explanation of the nature of intuitions being misinterpreted by the rational/critique mind. My own experience has shown me to be extremely careful about discussing intuitions I've had on a blog with comments. If you want a flood of responses just post something that "seems" to contradict the prevailing ideas of those reading it. Religion and sex seem to press the most buttons whether traditional or modern. Intuitions tend to be fairly brief, not book length communications, and often do not flesh out details to satisfy people. I think the best intuitions strike at the heart of a matter and is mostly for the benefit of the receiver.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ag - "I think the best intuitions strike at the heart of a matter and is mostly for the benefit of the receiver."

Yes, and that helps keep the motivations pure.

*Almost* every book I have read (of lecture/ interview I have seen) of 'channeled'/ conversational revelations has struck me as having gone wrong (and are nearly always disproven when they make prophecies- especially when these are detailed and in a large quantity.

Even a genuine clairvoyant/ mystic like Rudolf Steiner - who had some remarkable and vital intuitions - produced a much larger quantity of wrong than right insights; presumably due to the need to keep generating new material for his audiences, and the expectation that he would answer whatever questions others would ask him.

Jeffrey Cantrell said...

Thanks for this article. What most people seem to forget is that even when seeking communications from the spirit world, the vast majority of people fail to grasp the fact that such communications must be made on a "secure line." By that, I mean that just because it is a spirit speaking doesn't mean that it is a good spirit, or even the spirit to with whom you wish to speak. Much like in the physical world, if you are seeking to learn about cell metabolisim, it doesn't do you any good if you actually contact the bench of bishops. The seeker must know exactly who they wish to speak with and put in place such protections as are necessary to make sure that it does occur correctly. If you want to talk with the owner of apartment 3B, it doesn't do you any good to actually get the owner of apartment 4c regardless of whether that person is an entirely great person or not.

This brings us to the next great obstacle which is the tendency for self-delusion. It is amazing how readily people convince themselves that what they are hearing is divinely inspired and reinforces their belief or giving them permission to do what they always wanted to do. I believe you are correct in the two part translation process being subject to distortion that can cause a a person to "hear" an answer that is not precisely what the speaker intended. This is why I find that the concept of discernment, although difficult to grasp, does in fact lead to a true and correct result.

Lucinda said...

This is a great post, with "hidden in plain sight" simplicity. Your comment on a previous post brought to mind the idea of using discernment on one's own discernment. And this further explanation about how to simplify the answering process is very good. Thank you.