[NB] Spirit typologies (imagine there’s no heaven)

So, second seal completed, third seal perhaps on the horizon (name and boundary form at work), and I have one of those dreams that I know I’ll need to remember when I wake up because it’s got information I will need packed into its structure. I wake up and start sketching that information out as diagrams. Pretty soon, I have what might as well be the spiritual equivalent of a dance step diagram composed of interlocking and bifurcating triangles.

I sit with that a bit and I can start to see alternative expressions of it. Instead of up and to the left, maybe back and to the right, or up and to the right, or…or…then I’m wondering after what it is that is being moved through these domains. Am I talking about an operation relating to destiny? Nope, but maybe something related to that more difficult to pin down ancestral soul/ghost self that we might really be?

Then I am wondering whether it makes sense to compare this with the Yeatses interwoven spiritual typology, with each ‘step’ being ‘proper’ to a given lifetime, with their being ‘false’ masks (easy missteps) that lead us away from that ‘proper’ work.

I find this schematization fascinating, but I’m not sure if it ‘really’ describes an ontological mechanism in spirit work. Even though it may not describe an ontological reality, I produce these sorts of things as necessary dimensions of my spirit work. They help me to realize and deepen a connection with the powers that animate my spiritual world (what you might call the spiritual court if you were a spiritualist).

This sort of thing isn’t exactly alien to people’s spiritual experiences. The Yeatses work has this diagrammatic dimension, as does that of C. G. Jung. There is something like this going on in the use of the Tree of Life in Western Esotericism generally.

These sorts of things need to be distinguished from diagrams that function as ritual instructions (e.g., a lot of sigils and seals in Western esotericism and most any ritual drawing used in African diaspora traditions). They seem to skirt the edges of the idolatrous confusion of our ideas about things and things as they are and they seem to be one of the vectors through which such confusion proliferates among newcomers to a tradition.

They have also been extremely useful means of orienting my practice. Perhaps the better model would be to think of them as ritual compasses or calibration settings (not maps, not representations). A compass can do an awful lot for you, as long as you aren’t living with your eyes glued to the compass. Glance down, then start moving. If things bog down, glance down again to see if you can get a bead on where to step next.

It makes me wonder if some of the ontological claims that rise up with the material (e.g., the Yeatsian progression through 28 lifetimes) are really just the spiritual equivalent of underlining for emphasis. What if the claims aren’t meant to be take seriously but intended to keep our attention focused on the orientations mapped out within them?

I wonder if we should read someone saying “this is how the spirit world is structured, these are its levels and its occupants” to be more akin to “these are crude formulas for the trajectories of spiritual work and the sorts of forces to which they are subject.” The one leads us to live heavily in our fantasies about the spiritual world, the other allows us to guide our fall/flight through it.


5 thoughts on “[NB] Spirit typologies (imagine there’s no heaven)

  1. You have a great deal going on here. I like it.

    First, I like the idea of the spirit seal being a Compass or a calibration setting. I read stories of factories in America in the 80s, which had “Japanese switches”. When throne, the switch would cause all of the dials on a given machine to flip to another number, does throwing off the tour of Japanese engineers visiting the factory from memorizing the numbers, for example pounds per square inch, and going back to Japan to copy the design or the industrial process by which it was made. Eventually, the visiting engineers figured out what was going on, and simply reversed engineered the construction of the Japan switch, and made the product correctly anyway. It shows both the challenge of working with the design of someone else’s spirit seal, and the value of reverse engineering what it is actually supposed to do. Which, I must admit, lines up with my own sense of the magical practitioner as a kind of spiritual engineer. But that’s my own bias at work, largely because of the work that I do these days.

    But the other point that I thought was interesting, and so important, is your role as a person who brings back. Someone who carries a Compass is on their way somewhere, but a person who has calibration settings is building something. This might be a dance, or an architectural topic like a shrine for a temple or a building, or a dance, or a machine, but something is under construction, or manufacture. This suggests something being brought out of the spirit world, and into physical manifestation. Sometimes this process is mechanical, sometimes organic, and sometimes the combination of the two. No matter which it is, the bringing forth is important. It is a necessary component of the process for the magically inclined, whether those things produced is poetry, or artwork, or a seal, or… I think you get the idea.

    It is not in a sense the same kind of making, as make magazine proposes. The magazine, and the maker movement generally, say that we are building things out of our own imagination; that we are constructing our own ideas into physical form. But the magical traditions arch that making occur within the context of a series of known traditions; a kind of unverified personal gnosis that is still rooted in a shared love of a cultural background. I don’t feel I am explaining this very well, but I hope that my meeting and my joy in your unconscious/dreaming experience becoming manifest in your design is clear.

    1. Io

      The Japan switch is a useful comparison when thinking about the record we have for seals. I’ve caught myself engaging in such obfuscation even in personal journals i never expect anyone to see. Even when I suspect that it doesn’t exactly matter whether I put the actual sign or not down. The concealment almost seems like a thing in itself, part of the spiritual expression…

    1. Io

      This post came with some ambiguity and confusion of its own, so I’m just glad to see the post is sparking your own thinking around this, confusion and all!

  2. Pingback: [NB] Geomancy, Souls, Texts | Disrupt & Repair

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