Revisiting Physical Manifestation

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I gave up on this one for a while. Not because it wasn’t working, but because it wasn’t working when other people were involved, and the topic upset a lot of people. There was no sense, I decided, in writing about things I couldn’t truly share with others.

But then, this happened.

TL;DR: HAIL SET!

The short version: a guy who found my blog on the internet used this tech as a space-setting for an execration ritual, burned some shit, confirmed that it had been burned, and the shit magically re-appeared, mostly unscathed.

And the question he put to me: why did this happen and what does it mean?

What it means is pretty straightforward: It’s a message from the spirits and deities associated with the rite. “You’re going to have to do a lot more than an execration ritual to purge the world of these pigfuckers. The problem goes so much deeper than just a few people. You cut the most prominent down, and they’ll spring up again. Similar looking people, same ideas, same problems.”

But why doesn’t every spell and every ritual have this level of manifestation? I am inclined to think that it’s not so much what we do, as priests, mystics, and magicians to facilitate as it as it is what we don’t do to get in the way. In the words of the magician in question:

I’m just a guy with a blog. I’m not even in the running for most powerful, or most experienced or most faithful, or most pious, or most talented, or anything. Two months ago I was about to ragequit my fucking religion and ignore the astral altogether, for fuck’s sake!

And I think that is exactly why he got the level of manifestation he did.

The Beginner’s Mind and Manifestation

We have this image of the wizard, a person who wield the forces of magic as a person who has studied their whole lives and slowly gotten better at this ancient and lost art over the course of their life.

Yet let me tell you what I observe about physical manifestation.

It happens more often for children than for adults, and every child who has experienced it knows that if they want it to happen, it’s better not to have adults around. When they tell adults about it, usually it gets written off as “imagination.”

It happens for neophytes more often than adepts. Every magician has their story about the first time they did a ritual and the immediate decrease in power that occurred with subsequent trials. Some of the most successful experiments only ever work once.

It happens more for those who are just exploring religion with an open mind than the super devout. It happens more for those who are just playing around and dabbling with the gods than it does for people who are well established in their spirituality and taking it very seriously.

We all know that magic comes from “long ago.” We look to ancient times and the distant past for it. Maybe we haven’t been looking back far enough. Maybe we need to look back to before a time when humanity consciously knew what religion was or how to follow it.

We must reclaim the beginner’s mind.

Is it really piety, or are we just piling our expectations in front of the door?

There have been times full physical manifestation has happened frequently for me, and times when my gods told me that they couldn’t cross over for me. Manifestation happened most with Hellenic deities when I was sneaking out of my very Jewish household to do stuff with Hellenic deities on the side. It happened least when I began to think of myself as clergy, and when I started to take a Polytheist path seriously. And when the manifestations of Hellenic deities started to wane, the Jewish deity, whom I was no longer devout toward, began speaking to me and sending me omens, including a message to the effect of, “Now that you’re not religioning all over me anymore, we can be friends again” (YHVH was my imaginary friend as a child. Ok, yes, I’m a freak).

When people say, “I want the gods to walk among us,” too often, the unspoken caveat is “but only if they confirm what I already believe.”

Belief is key here. We call religions “faiths” for a reason.

As long as the only thing we know about our deities is through holy texts and imperfect psychic senses, there is such a thing as theology. We can discuss what the myths mean, who our deities are, and what holy texts tell us about what they want for our lives. As long as those deities aren’t in the human world, people of faith are free to have all kinds of opinions. And those opinions, or as we call them, beliefs, are a huge part of an individual practitioner’s identity.

If deities physically manifest in an unambiguous way, there are suddenly winners and losers. No constructed theology is correct, and so everyone who even remotely cares about deities in a religious sense stands to lose something.

If the Greek pantheon ever physically manifested as themselves in person, it would challenge literally everyone’s beliefs and identities.

Non-believers would suddenly have to acknowledge that deities they don’t believe in are real.

Believers might discover that, no really, Dionysos is trans, Hephaistos really does need a wheelchair, Hermes actually has anxiety, Demeter still suffers from SAD, Apollon has difficulty making eye contact with people, Zeus isn’t as butch as you think he is, Aphrodite is like a size 18 with annoyingly perfect curves, that Artemis is way less asexual and way more into women than you want her to be, or that Hekate is neither the old crone nor the sexy maiden you were hoping for, but a lean, angular, intense-looking figure whose intelligence beams from her eyes and cuts straight into your soul rendering any discussion of her age or attractiveness moot.

Or conversely, maybe you thought Ares was something other than a buff, physically dominant blond hunk who looks exactly like the person everyone would stereotypically expect Aphrodite to go for. Or maybe you just need to accept that Hera is as conventionally attractive as they come and that Eris looks like Hera made a slightly evil clone of herself.

Maybe Homer was wrong and Athens was all wet. Maybe only Empedocles ever got it right.

Maybe none of them are as perfect as you want them to be, or beautiful in exactly the way you hoped. Maybe who they are doesn’t actually help whatever political agenda you have. Maybe, just maybe, you’d rather live your life wishing that the gods of your imagination were real than ever encounter them as they truly are.

Not everyone is willing to clear out the false gods of their imagination in order to accept the reality of who the gods actually are, and the gods know that. The gods also know that if they manifest, there will be winners and losers. 

The less religious you are, the less you have invested in who the gods turn out to be, and the less seriously religious people will take what you say about their deities. Therefore, if you are an irreligious bastard, counter-intuitively, you are much more likely to see the gods.

Fear of Psi or Attachment To Social Reality?

One theory I have heard Ceremonial Magicians express is the idea that, when we see a manifestation, we freak out. The fear, they posit, is the obstacle to manifestation.

Yet children who fear the monsters under their beds will often manifest them accidentally. The fear is no obstacle. You don’t even know. I worked in early childhood for years before moving on to teaching grade school. I saw preschoolers manifest some terrifying shit. The worst of these was an invisible spider creature that actually hit a kid in the chest so hard that it lifted him off his feet a few inches as it knocked him back. Normally, the presence of an adult will interrupt such manifestations, but I’m apparently not an adult for those purposes.

Just as religious people have an attachment to the gods of their imagination, we all have an attachment to the physical reality of our imagination, and we find it extremely distressing when those notions are challenged.

Whether religious, social, or natural, our ideas about the world are socially constructed. A very relevant quote from this article

People are embraced or condemned according to their beliefs, so one function of the mind may be to hold beliefs that bring the belief-holder the greatest number of allies, protectors, or disciples, rather than beliefs that are most likely to be true

If embracing observation rather than expectation is what is required for manifestation, we must overcome our fear of ostracism, then, to succeed. Moreover, we must approach all of reality itself with a beginner mind, and have the courage to accept that reality doesn’t work the way we thought it did if we wish to continue experiencing the manifestations as at first.

Very young children have not yet learned what the socially accepted reality is and so it cannot pose an obstacle or provide protection for them yet.

The Take Home Message

If you want magic to be real, there are a lot of sacrifices you must make. The first of these is your faith. The second is your piety. The deeper your investment in a deity being a certain way, the less likely they are to ever be able to reach you.

You must also sacrifice your sense of competence with respect to physical reality. You can’t think you know how everything works and also learn new things.

In the words of Leo Tolstoy: “The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.”

Spiritually, it is important to cultivate and defend the beginner mindset. This requires courage and an incredible amount of chutzpah.

It is only from this vantage that what tech we use matters.

14 comments

    1. Yeah, hard same, really. You, me, and a lot of other people, which is why I on;y write on this topic every once in a blue moon.

      I spent decades researching magic, trying to deepen my connection to the gods, and this certainly isn’t what I want to be true.

      Yet, this is the direction that observation presently points, and this is my best explanation of what’s going on. I could certainly be wrong. I hope I am.

      But “you have to check your dogma at the door and detach your sense of self from who you think the gods are” isn’t the most catastrophic conclusion, is it?

  1. This is all very interesting, and I’ve seen it come about in various ways…

    It does remind me of how, once the image of Antinous the Liberator I first received in 2002 was finally given physical form in 2017 that others could see, many of them didn’t get it at all, and one of the major points of that image was to convey that one should try not to be too attached to images of Antinous! (I don’t know if you saw the image, but I can point you toward it, and the ensuing discussion, if you like!)

  2. It’s really no different from scientific experiments, when you think about it. No matter how much evidence we have to back up a hypothesis, scientists still call it a “theory”; they understand that even the “laws of physics” and so on that we come up with around the most consistent results we get are…at the end of the day….still just theories. We haven’t even explored the entire ocean, we can barely get pictures of a small fraction of the universe. Why should we assume that the things we “know” about the world are eternal truths?

    Although I have to admit, even as I write this, even as I feel a deep, childlike excitement at all the things we have yet to discover…it’s also scary and frustrating. I want things to make SENSE, damn it! How am I supposed to live my life if I’m always expecting solid things to maybe not be solid, and also apparently time can be weird as fuck in any kind of liminal space, and I have a history of mental illness, so even empirical evidence observed by me isn’t “scientifically sound”, because it’s ~possible!~ that I’m bullshitting myself.

    What a mess😂

  3. In the interest of comedy, and of backing up what Thenea has said in this post and others about why it’s often a straight up Bad Idea for deities to do this for people and for people to talk publicly about it, I will post a handful of things that Angry Tumblr Kemetics have ALREADY said in the one, solitary, VERY long post I’ve been tagged in responding to my recent tumblr/WP posts (from an anonymous drama blog who’s had a hateboner for me and my friend/mentor thetwistedrope ever since we started making a concentrated effort to kick racists out of kemetic!tumblr) which they titled, “To Stir a Magic Cauldron of Farce”:

    “We must say this article from @smarmykemeticpagan is a desperate bit of pageantry…This is putting on a mask and impersonating a god to manufacture an aire of authority. This is a bold faced attempt to make oneself a cult leader. This is a lie, a con, a trick, a false pretense to claim “well all the gods in our pantheon support every word I say so you can’t argue against me, you literally argue against our gods!!!” Be not deceived precious kemetic friends. This con-artist tries but has no authority, unless you surrender to it, do not be seduced.”

    “This mod weeps for the gods to be slandered with such trivial garbage, professed as their own words…We were not impressed with all the veiled threats being stuffed into Set’s mouth either. These are the actions of someone desperate to mask the Enemy, as Trusted Friend. We advise the community to not be fooled and not to buy into these maddened ravings of a lunatic cultist desperate for power.”

    “This mod would dig deeper into every line of how this entire interview is a complete farce, but it proves that itself. We would like to remind you smarmy, be sure to take your medication, dear, this article shows us you’ve been lax.”

    and then they went on to call me a moron, say i’m furthering an ideology that “kills everyone every time it’s attempted”; a bunch of standard ahistorical reactionary bullshit; that Set told THEM that things have always been bad and so it’s ludicrous to say that Set would say that what is happening now is worse or cause for action; and ended their whining, as usual, by asserting that my saying racists and bigots must be destroyed makes me an agent of a/pep. (they are REALLY overusing that insult, considering it’s basically saying i’m trying to help destroy existence itself.)

    The way these people talk, you would think that I personally went up to their homes with a shotgun and tried to force them to convert to Communist Setianism. I also don’t know where they got the idea that I’m trying to start a cult, or that I claimed EVERY god in our pantheon thinks this, or that I’m in any way interested in trying to get people who don’t want to believe this to believe it, or where i ever claimed to have any kind of “authority” on anything, or wtf kind of ‘power’ i’m supposed to be getting from this anyways, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    also, gotta love the ableism. these people literally tell me to “make sure ur taking your medications ;)” every. single. time. that i say anything they don’t like. very sophisticated and classy people i’m dealing with, lol.

    1. OMFGs… start a cult? Does anyone understand how much work and headache it is to run a stupid MeetUp, nevermind start a cult?

      Didn’t you say you weren’t even 21 yet?

      So, these people are raving about how threatened they feel about a (no offense intended) kid on the internet having experiences they don’t agree with, and expressing anxiety that you might somehow steal some shade of their glory?

      Holy shit, Kemetic Tumblr Pagans, get it together. If a blog post is a serious threat to your community, it must be as flimsy as paper.

      1. This shit has been going on since I was 17; as soon as people found out my age, it was fair game to talk shit to me and call me a baby and an idiot kid whenever they want (but I never got any kind of forgiveness when i really did make dumb kid mistakes, of course). One of these days I’ll make a post narrating it, because what happened to me is a perfect example of a LOT of issues the pagan community in general has -although I have to admit I’m more than a little embarrassed to revisit some of the uhhhhh Foolish things i did and said back then. I was dealing with manic episodes while my parents refused to believe in psychiatry and take me to a damn doctor, and it…showed. A lot.

        Also, to be fair: these people are a minority in the kemetic community. They almost exclusively talk this kind of shit anonymously, and most kemetics (at least publicly) don’t take them all that seriously. Also, the ENTIRE tumblr pagan community does this kinda stuff ALL. THE. TIME. It’s the rule rather than the exception. I’m so used to people calling me an idiot kid and a lunatic and a power-hungry cultist at this point, I’m not even slightly phased or surprised.

      2. So… a bunch of grown-ass adults were bullying a teenager online, and expect to be taken seriously as spiritual people.

        A bunch of grown-ass adults have been bullying a teenager, and are expressing concern about evil in the world as a result of wrong-headed spirituality.

        YOUR SPIRITUALITY MADE YOU BULLY A TEENAGER AND YOU ARE ARGUING ABOUT WHOSE SPIRITUALITY IS LEGITIMATE???!!

        You feel the need to band together to bully a teenager so that people will do spirituality correctly.

        Anyone who doesn’t see a problem with this is so far gone that there are no words.

        Oh yeah, Set is evil. So evil. Those people only follow upright and good deities and only do good things.

        Like bullying minors. Because that is clearly, CLEARLY what is necessary to honor the gods properly.

        That is so pathetic that it makes my teeth hurt.

      3. Damn tell us how u really feel 😂😂😂 Especially as a new mother, it’s not surprising that hearing about this shit makes you want to throw things and scream. Hopefully, we can transform the community over the next decade or so, and by the time Alexis is ready to talk to online pagans, they won’t have to deal with this kind of shit. I already believe that I’ve seen a real improvement on tumblr since I was 17; people, even the ones who originally were cheering for me to be “humbled” and “taught a lesson” about hubris and “being the bigger person” or whatever, have mostly come around, apologized to me personally, and stand up to bullies like that. It’s a slow and frustrating process, but despite what most people seem to think, you CAN make changes to a community’s collective paradigm by talking to people in that community about it. You just have to be stubborn enough to keep trying when everyone is annoyed with you and even your friends are telling you to shut up because there’s no point and they don’t want to hear any “drama” anymore.

        I’m trying to take the advice of Hermes, and Set, and Jesus, and see their point of view. I suspect that a lot of people see someone saying “this god agrees with me politically” and have a knee jerk reaction they learned from watching all the pain they’ve seen caused by Christians insisting that Jesus is a Republican, and from that they decide, “anyone who is claiming a god takes their side in politics is manipulative and power hungry”. It’s understandable, if still kind of stupid; especially considering that in America, being “non partisan” is often treated as though it’s a position of moral wisdom and admirable tolerance for all people, even though often in reality it’s just sitting on your ass and feeling superior to everyone who’s trying to actually Make Good Things Happen Somehow.

  4. This is way late, but it’s a technical detail that may be important: ” a guy who found my blog on the internet used this tech as a space-setting for an execration ritual, burned some shit, confirmed that it had been burned, and the shit magically re-appeared, mostly unscathed.”

    TECHNICALLY, i didn’t use that tech as a space-setting, because The Shit did not happen in the same space. I used that tech on my bed, which is in the same shitty trailer as where The Shit happened (the same room even, just a few yards away), but it wasn’t the *exact* same physical space. It’s a nitpicky detail, but in Science, nitpicky details can mean everything.

    Maybe this means that this tech works anywhere in the same room? Maybe it’s more about intent and need than the exact space that is consecrated? To this day, if I put the ~sacred beads~ in the four corners of my bed and ask, I get some pretty spooky manifestations. I usually chicken out and ask whoever it is to stop, but that’s just me being too Scientific.

    Anyhow, I need to read about Greek temples and Isis and….fuck. I can’t believe how much stuff I still have to read. ON TOP of law school. rip my brain.

    1. The ritual is designed to work like the LBRP, if that makes any sense. Like, it looks a lot like a space setting, and I guess it is, but the target is the caster. So that makes sense.

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