The Magical Imagination
by Slim the frequently possessed
The mind is the primary tool of magick. There are various items of paraphernalia that can be used, all sorts of delightful and depressing locations to enhance (or hinder) the mood. But the mind is still the key. A goal. The will to make it real. Passion to move the whole world, if need be. And imagination to envisage not only the end-point, desire sated, but the whole working, from initial setup, banishing, the very act of summoning and directing such power as to topple temples, and so much more. Indeed, there is nothing that should not be created within the imagination beforehand, and there is no tool that is more necessary to the sorcerer, none that he would feel the lack of more keenly.

It may seem redundant to speak of imagination. Every child has this gift in abundance. Some care little for it, some find regular ruts for it to rattle in as they grow, visions of sex or self-aggrandizement constituting their only imaginative exercise. Some few find in it a refuge, a zone of safety in which to escape the pain or pressure of what should be their lives. Imagination is a part of what we are. Despite this, the practice of magick requires us to develop this faculty to the utmost. Well, perhaps I have yet to scale that peak, but I can think of a few suggestions that might be of aid to those with even less experience than myself. And since the Muse bids me act, I will write! You, however, have a choice.

The initial matter is to determine the vital role of the imagination in magick. This involves several items. The first is to conceptualize an objective. One is first stirred to act by an emotion, a desire for change arising from the circumstances of ones life. If this remains but a mild feeling, no action is taken. If the feeling is powerful, then it constitutes the impetus to think of something better, and if it remains, gnawing at the ego, then one determines to grasp at the world and shake until the better option falls upon the ground. So, a superior alternative to the present is to be the object of fantasy (at this point it is a fantasy, and there is no reason to feel guilt over the word). This must not exceed the bounds of probability, for such are the effective limits of magick. This is to be thought on and developed much like a story, or picture. The central character is oneself, and the tale told is one of achievement (it is useless to devote energy to wanting success, instead energy is to be directed towards taking the object of desire). All the pivotal elements of the present situation should be dealt with in the image, in ways that do not stretch credibility. Realistic personal satisfaction is the aiming mark, with the proviso that the finale of the piece should (indeed, must) have the emotional impact of the crescendo or climax of a song or film.

Having created a masterpiece of fantasy, it is now important to control it. Our goal is not to indulge in fantasy as a way of escaping the present reality, but to use it as a device to change reality. Therefore it should not be used as subject matter for ordinary daydreams. These would tend to distort the image, turning it into a narrative or interpolating daily concerns and undirected fantasy. This would be wasteful. One way to control the image is to write it down, or draw/paint it, if one has the skill. A written description should act only as a reminder, the main work must remain in the mind. Actual pictures can be used in a ritual setting, but that is dealt with elsewhere.

The next step on the road to the city of your dreams is to activate the fantasy. This may be done in a number of ways. The essential factor is to raise emotion, which is concentrated upon the fantasy. My preferred methods involve directing conscious attention to the mind, ignoring the body. I like to go for a walk, which is my main form of exercise. This is largely an automatic, mechanical act that leaves me free to think of what I will. Another way that I like is to lie down or sit comfortably, and listen to appropriate music. Whichever used, I first relax my mind and then enter into the fantasy. One might ‘run through’ it to start with, then engage with it more deeply. It is vital to become very involved in the imagined scenes, so that they generate a genuine emotional response. As the action progresses, feeling should build up. This may be caused by thinking on the present situation, with its intolerable nature. Then there is the opportunity, an outlet for that repressed desire. Next there is some conflict, a struggle of wills or other form of interaction that causes the emotion to build up, like steam in an engine, working up pressure until ready to burst. Finally, the obstacle is overcome and one explodes in triumphant joy!

This is quite a natural process, easy for most people, I would think. The problem is that we tend to set our sights too high right from the beginning, and then indulge in defeatism when the big win does not materialize. Anyway, it is worthwhile going through this process a number of times, although it most certainly should not be a mere act of ‘going through the motions’. Fake emotion will not win you real success. Depending upon the length of the fantasy, and the effort it requires to sustain, it may be appropriate to perform it but once a day, or even several times in one session. It is useful to be aware of the fact that we are creating something akin to an obsession here, which is worth doing because it can liberate and manifest a lot of hidden power. But it is not so much use if one loses the ability to stop. So try to keep your active fantasy to specified times, and make an effort to cut the whole thing out of your mind if it becomes troublesome.

You might ask “is that it?” A fair question. I can’t tell you how this works, despite the time I have devoted to learning the answer. It does work, though. And if you take the skeleton I have provided and flesh it with the elements of your life, and vitalize it with the passions of your own heart, I know that you can achieve success with this method. Still, the journey does not end here. There is far more that can be done to the world with the imagination than this.

Now we share some idea of the potential value that a controlled imagination has, it becomes obvious that the products of spontaneous fantasy may also be of relevance. I find that if I am not concentrating upon a task or thought, my mind often creates various scenes. Some involve past conversations or activities with people, in which events unfold perhaps a little differently than before. Or they may concern the near future, anticipating situations that I may desire or feel some dread towards. Yet more deal with complete fiction, fantasies in which I am cast as hero, villain, or hapless onlooker. My point is not that I daydream a lot (although perhaps I do), but that these things are created by my mind for some reason, and may at times evoke sufficient feeling to become active.

I hold no qualifications in psychology, but it does strike me that if I fantasize about being powerful, then it is probably a response to the feeling of an apparent lack of power in my actual life. I do not think that daydreams require a complex system of interpretation to be understood, because it seems that most such things are rather obvious attempts to communicate partially submerged desires to the conscious mind. So, I would recommend that if you find yourself getting rather worked up during a daydream, or find that your mind consistently tries to snare you in a particular fantasy, stop ‘playing along’ during that fantasy next time it occurs, and try to analyses the situation presented. This can be a route to greater self-knowledge. It is possible for such spontaneous fantasies to develop into a direct communication with hidden aspects of ones psyche.

The dangers of a spontaneous fantasy being activated through unintentional but significant emotional involvement, is quite clear. Many daydreams are not pleasant. Anxiety can produce some highly disturbing mental images, and it is also very effective at shutting off rational thought. For these reasons, I have found that spontaneous fantasy can be a cause of self-harm (I do not mean physical acts of violence to oneself). That is, an approaching confrontation may be the cause of apprehensive visions. These may generate violent emotion, finally culminating in a most undesirable magical effect. I suspect that this takes place more often than is recognized, but generally at a low-level. My intention is not to instill fear of fantasy, but to suggest a modicum of self awareness and control.

Continuing the theme of daydreams, I have found that there are sometimes particular characters engendered by my mind, and provided with a particular agenda. This may be to act as a romantic ideal, a nemesis-figure, a source of wisdom, or whatever. Now, I think that such figures are intended to communicate particular information to the conscious mind, often of a type that is kept hidden by personal acquiescence, if not actual choice. This may be the knowledge that one is limited in some way, but it may be positive information that is submerged due to fear of failure or some such. What can be done is to engage these characters in direct conversation. One flows along with the daydream until one chooses to break it and start talking with the figure as though they are a real person (although you need not speak aloud). This often results in quite enlightening dialogue. It is also possible to empower one of these characters as a semi-independent servitor type spirit. That is more complicated, but can be worked out through experience. Whatever use you make of them, it is important to know that these creations are not merely there for entertainment. They are the equivalent of masks behind which lies the face of our own self.

I would now like to start looking at aids to the imagination. When I began my practical studies of magick, the first books I read and methods I tried were those of Chaos Magick. This ‘system’ encourages the use of fictional settings and symbols as the true magick comes from the operator, not the trappings. With this basis, I have been very free in the background material of my work. Thus I have drawn on the Mythos stories of Lovecraft, the Chaos gods of the Warhammer games and a lot of other sources, in addition to the traditional demonic hierarchies of the Grimorium Verum and suchlike. I don’t wish to cause offence by denying objective reality to any individual religion. However, I know that a belief system is not required for the operation of magick. The specific belief that magick works is of value, but this becomes unconscious after a while. What I will say is that I think there is one objective reality, but everyone perceives it through culturally-constructed conceptual frameworks, and interprets its nature and actions in an individual way. The best way to determine whether such a framework is personally viable is to ‘try it on’, and learn whether it provides the greatest range of freedom (i.e. experiment). 

I have gotten somewhat off-track, but the occasional digression is good for the blood. Leaving the philosophy aside, it can be the case that the unaided imagination is dulled by over-use or excessive TV exposure. Therefore it can be both practical and fun to cast about for a ready-made fantasy. Any piece of fiction (or non-fiction) may suffice. It should be capable of inspiring emotion (and it need not be limited to the nice ones), compatible with your general worldview, and not too likely to cause mental collapse (paranoia might feel good for now, but it will leave you with such hangover).

An example of a good item would be the tarot deck that was designed for the White Wolf RPG, Mage. I have reading the Mage book for years, as it is a great source of inspiration for stories. The deck takes slices of the storyline and symbolism of the game, combined with pleasant graphic novel type artwork. By picking out cards at random I can set my imagination to work, making up stories about the people and powers I see. By selecting particular cards, I can design a fantasy with specific elements that can be used in a working. I don’t want to sound like an advert for these people, so I’ll leave it now. The point is that any item of fiction or whatnot can be used in such a way. Try switching on the TV set, but with the sound off. Now find a channel where people are talking. Make up their words, so that you are having an argument or panel discussion with yourself. If you have been thinking a lot about something, it will tend to come out and you may find that the disparate parts of your mind will present some worthwhile information.

I have tried to give a limited but interesting introduction to the role and value of imagination in magick. I will regard this as a success if it at least encourages you to consider the possibilities inherent in your own mind. Not everyone has wealth or strength or influence. We all have an imagination. Let’s use it!

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