How to Not Go Crazy

So if clairvoyance is just “faking it,” what’s to say we’re not just making stuff up? The easy answer to that is, we are. That doesn’t make it less useful.

But I’m not sure the easy answer is true. We don’t always make up the stuff we see in visions; sometimes, it just comes to us. Of course, that’s also true of a schizophrenic, so we need to be careful. How do you test a vision to make sure you’re not just “making it up”? There are two ways to go about it: during the vision, and after.

Intellectualizing and doubting a vision while you’re having it is a good way to stop having it, even if it is a “true” (let’s just stipulate that some visions are true) vision. So how do we test a vision to make sure? There are several ways offered by the traditional magicians of the Golden Dawn, but many of them are of limited actual utility. I recall reading one that requires the projection of various Hebrew letters over the vision to see if it survives the experience. I had Hebrew at 8:20 AM; some days, I barely survived the experience, and I was corporeal. It’s easier simply to confront a vision with the symbol of the vision you were trying to evoke. For example, if I’m calling the spirit Och, and I’m not sure I really have the spirit Och, I just imagine his sigil and “throw” it toward him. If he fades away, flickers, looks different, and so on, he’s clearly not Och. He might be self-deception, or a deceptive spirit, but he’s not Och.

Another way to test a vision is after the fact. I do a simple skeptical analysis as I record it in my journal, asking myself some simple Socratic questions. The correct answers, for a real vision, are in parentheses:
1. Does this vision tell me something I didn’t already know? (yes)
2. Does it tell me something I want to hear? (no)
3. Does it tell me something I dread to hear? (no)
4. Does it sound like my own self-talk (for me, sarcastic, flippant, a bit elitist)? (no)
5. Was it mostly in words or in images? (audial is my favored thinking mode; if it’s visual, it’s probably not me)
6. Does it tell me one of the following things that are never true? (no)

A.  You are the savior, most important person in the world, yadda yadda.

B.  You are vile and horrible, nasty nasty thing you.

C.  Everyone/Someone is out to get you.

D.  That movie you just saw is actually true.

E.  You’re not really human.

7.  Does it say or do anything inconsistent with its symbolic nature, such as a supposedly Martial spirit being all loveydovey?  (no)

Obviously, it’s important to remember that sometimes visions do tell us something we dread to hear, sometimes particular spirits prefer to communicate in words rather than images, or vice versa, and sometimes visions do offer us good news.

The ultimate test is this: Does this vision, in any substantial way, small or large, improve my life?  If the answer is no, it is not a true vision.  If the answer is “yes, it proves that I am the Chosen One!” you need to seek therapy.  Because you’re not.

I am.



6 Responses to “How to Not Go Crazy”

  1. Regarding #5, looking for visual content is good advice regardless of one’s preferred mode of thinking. The reason is that visual hallucinations arising from schizophrenia are extremely rare. Mental illness almost always manifests as audible hallucinations, not visual ones, and that seems to generalize in most cases. So something with a strong visual component is more likely to be genuine for most people.

  2. Mostly I quite agree with all this – about the only point I’d quibble with is 6E. And perhaps a little bit with 6C, or at least the milder instance of it (someone, not everyone). Taking these one at a time:

    For 6E, I think it depends on what exactly you mean by both “really” and “human”. As my mom has always been fond of saying, there’s more than one kind of real. Spiritual entities often speak mythopoetically rather than literally. In that context, being told you are something other-than-human can be a valid and spiritually useful insight – as long as you don’t literalize it. For example, in one otherworld journey I did in a ritual a few years back, I found myself travelling to an island full of seals, one of which told me that I was a selkie who’d lost my skin. Does that mean it was a false vision? I don’t think so. Does that mean I’m literally a selkie and that my parents scooped me up off a seashore somewhere? Highly unlikely. I’m pretty sure I was a born in a hospital in a small Midwestern university town nowhere near an ocean. 🙂 But what it could mean is that the selkie archetype and mythos is something that would be worthwhile for me to explore – that there’s something in it that’s relevant to my life or identity in a symbolic sense.

    Similarly, I work with animal magic and spiritual shapeshifting a fair bit. There are a small handful of animals with which I particularly identify – notably, the one referenced in my usual online name. I’m certainly not in any way under the impression that I am physically any sort of animal other than a human one. But in the context of some spiritual or magical practices, I find it more useful to say to myself “I am Lynx” than to say “I’m a middle-aged human female web developer who happens to have something of an affinity with lynxes and at the present moment would like to cultivate that affinity in order to have an interesting spiritual experience.” The latter may be more literally true, but the former is a stronger and more useful magical statement of intent.

    On 6C: while I fully agree that it is almost never going to be true that “everyone” is out to get someone, and that even having “someone” out to get one is far less likely than a lot of people with persecution complexes like to think, it’s also true that there are some malicious people out there. Now in practice, this is rarely worth worrying about much, because, at least in my experience, the type of person who is prone to magically attacking others is also usually completely incompetent at it, since time spent cultivating pointless vendettas and juvenile drama is time not spent developing any actual skills. And I do think any vision suggesting that “so-and-so is out to get you” certainly needs to be approached with extreme skepticism, since it’s more likely to be rooted in paranoia than reality. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s never true. Conflicts do happen. People are occasionally jerks. And even paranoids sometimes have real enemies. Just not nearly as many, or as much worth worrying about, as they think they do.

    Anyway, apart from all that: very happy to discover this blog, and have subscribed to the RSS feed via LJ.

  3. Awakened Says:

    I like your style :).
    I really use very similar explanations. Like when someone asked me how to find out whether message really is from God or people are just crazy I said God will never tell you to hurt anyone.

  4. Great post! And I have to say, I love a magician with a sense of humor. It’s when folks get all dour and self-important, and *certain*, and then start conjuring? That I’m looking for something to duck behind!

  5. Awesome finale, there, professor. And now, some random anecdotes.
    I was once friends with a local woman who was a “demonolator.” Her patron was Belial, and she had two “avatar” spirits that served as links or whatever. I am not particularly studied in the sigils of demons, ftr. One night shortly after we first met, I had a dream of two large spirits, and that Meridjet let them in, though watched cautiously. They approached me, on my bed, and flashed a sigil at me. All I remember after that was the feeling of being given the once-over.

    The sigil was a match, as I confirmed later.

    I once went to meet my brother so we could go to a street festival together. I parked several blocks away at the agreed upon location so I could follow him the rest of the way when he arrived. I was parked in front of a floral store, which I hadn’t noticed.

    The owner of the store came out and approached my window. I rolled it down, expecting him to ask me to move. He told me he had some free flowers for me, and to come into the store. So I followed him in, and then into the cooler, wondering “wtf?” He had me choose the color I wanted, slipped me a $5 bill and told me to give him that to “pay” for the flowers in front of his wife, who was in the store. So we went out and he wrapped the dozen roses up and I handed him the money.

    When we came out of the cooler, I “saw” Meridjet frantically spazzing and gleefully exclaiming, “These are from me!” I went into omgwtf mode and high-critical overdrive, thinking I was losing it. It really robbed me of a sweet moment, and those are rare. I regret not grabbing one of those little signature cards, now.

    But it was cool. And I robbed the cool of pleasure by analyzing it on the fly.

    Bye now. lol I think I had something else but I lost it in my storytelling. Great post, though, I particularly liked #s D and E, though I have friends I respect who may believe in one or both of those. 😉

  6. […] Source: How to Not Go Crazy | Postmodern Magic […]

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