VIRTUAL MAGICK Speculations on Practice in the Electronic Astral Plane by Iona Miller, c19
Speculations on Practice in the Electronic Astral Plane
by Iona Miller, c1992
We are entering an era of magical technologies which are
relevant to the inner world of imagery and imagination.
Through Virtual Reality (VR) we can create an electronic
representation of typical symbols of the psyche and interact
with them. Even though these images have no concrete
existence, they are influential in the process of
The practice of magick, a sacred technology, normally
involves concentrated visualization activity coupled with
immersion in the autonomous stream of consciousness. Since
much of the training and practice in magick is based on a
recipe, formula, or protocol, these could easily be
programmed, using virtual reality, to guide an aspirant into
a specific state of consciousness. Biofeedback monitoring
could enhance that state.
Each virtual world would include a panoply of symbols
related to a specific archetype. The aspirant would journey
through this world. In the process of positive interaction
with these archetypal forms (or perhaps imaginally becoming
them), the psyche becomes "inoculated" with their resources.
A conscious relationship is fostered. This leads to a
greater sense of wholeness and communion with transpersonal
Through the arrival of Virtual Reality (VR) technology, we will soon
have access to a fully programmable electronic "astral plane." Magic
has always been a sacred technology, and combining it with VR makes
for a state-of-the-art practice. In virtual reality, we can create a
world which is, in essence or effect, "as good as" normal reality.
Through the use of visual, audial, kinesthetic, and olfactory
feedback, the experiential (rather than analytical) part of the brain
is guided to suspend its disbelief in the synthetic reality.
The realization of a system of interactive fantasy will allow us, as
artists or magicians, to shape the experience from the inside. It
will allow us to re-shape ourselves, also. A central premise in VR is
that you can manipulate your self-representation, or self-image. VR
represents a cultural revolution in the way we view reality, nature,
art, ourselves, and our relationship with transpersonal powers.
Interactive media will give us the ability to author moving images.
When you can put your images in cyberspace, you introduce your own
unique content into the experience. Background, or natural imagery,
will be texture-mapped for ambiguity. Ambiguity is one key to the
engagement of the imagination (Laurel, 1992). Communal virtual
reality is also possible for group rituals, but requires a
tremendously powerful computer to keep track of all the details which
perpetuate a believable virtual space.
The realm of imagination has traditionally been the province of
shamans and magicians. More recently, psychotherapists have entered
the arena of imagination as guides to the heights and the depths.
There are many different styles in the practice of magic from
primitive to sophisticated. Magic is the ancient technology for
dealing with lost or questing souls, while archetypal psychology is a
Basically, there are three ways of encountering the inner world,
reflecting the state of consciousness of the practitioner: 1).
prototaxic mode, a "possession" or trance state where the ego is
absent through regression; 2). parataxic mode, which includes art,
archetype, myth, dream, and ritual wherein the ego is enthralled; and
3). syntaxic mode, which includes creativity, gnosis, and higher
mystical states, where the ego is enraptured and eventually
Sophisticated magick, or Theurgy, has been practiced in western
occultism through the centuries largely by an elite group of eccentric
intellectuals. Many of them identified with the Rosicrucians, Masons,
Gnostics, or other "hidden" orders. These practitioners of the mystic
arts were the forefathers of modern sciences like chemistry, botany,
medicine, physics, astronomy, and philosophy. Through magick, they
learned a unique way of looking at the inner and outer world. This is
the major premise of any philosophy: "Look at it like this..." The
magical philosophy has left a tremendous legacy. The history of these
alchemists, mystics, healers, and theurgists outlines one of the most
interesting areas of human endeavor: consciousness studies.
The mapping of consciousness states and their corresponding typical
experiences (plus how to attain them) forms part of the doctrine of
any magical philosophy. The most widely embraced map is called The
Tree of Life. The very foundation of the modern western occult
tradition is contained in this circuit or glyph of The Tree of Life.
It describes a hierarchy of 10 states of being (Spheres), and 22
characteristic modes of transition between them (Paths). All the
corresponding symbolism of the human psyche is categorized according
to this comprehensive basic structure. It represents all ways of
being and becoming--all possible states of consciousness.
The philosophical system which the Tree represents originated in the
Jewish culture. Through synchronism it amalgamated with the Gnostic,
Egyptian, Arabic, and other systems. This synthesis became known as
Hermetic Qabalism. In divorcing itself from its Hebrew roots, Qabala
returned to the mythic domain of its informing archetype, Hermes.
In ancient Egypt, this archetypal energy was represented by the god
Thoth, Lord of Magic. He presided over skills such as writing and
translating. In Greece, as Hermes, he was the messenger between the
realm of the gods and men--he who could fly into the heights or
depths. Our modern forms of writing and translating have moved into
information processing via computers. Information processing is
fundamental to any form of communication.
Information processing is the foundation of all technology. Thus,
Hermes is the informing myth of a technological approach to sacred
psychology and spirituality. Hermes' domain includes gnosticism,
alchemy, magick, and depth psychology. Like programming, they are all
hermeneutic endeavors, involving the process of interpretation. Jung
noticed that, "Every interpretation necessarily remains an "as-if."
The ultimate core of meaning may be circumscribed, but not described."
He refers to the "as-if" reality as the closest we can come to direct
knowledge. For example, our God-image in the psyche is our closest
(and only) experience of Divinity, however unique it may be. We
perceive it directly, but it is a specific interpretation of the
Ultimately, it is our sense organs which help us interpret the world
and our experience through our perceptions. They help us make a
distinction between what is "real" and "unreal." The emotional part
of the brain, (the right, spatial lobe), cannot analytically
distinguish a symbol from a symbolic representation. In imagination
or virtual reality it becomes a moot point. Fantasy, in fact,
animates both our inner and outer worlds, and creates meaning. The
on-going imaginative process of the psyche is the ground of being.
Jung spoke of the psychoid aspect of psyche as the vast non-human
action of the universal forces.
Through the technology of virtual reality, we can take the imagery
arising from deep within our psyche and create an "as-if" reality
which we can enter at will. If magick is the art and science of
changing consciousness at will, in this context, imagination is
reality. It manifests as images. Jung implied that our closest
approach to God or any minor deity is through the God-image. This
brings to mind the process of invocation, or calling in the god-form
in magick. The conjuring of these archetypal images, and
identification or interaction with them is a primary application of
ritual in theurgy. In magick, it is taken virtually literally, as
magician Dion Fortune's comment shows:
...the Ministrant proceeds boldly with the ceremony as if
that which he had invoked had actually come about...He must
have the courage of his convictions, and give himself up
boldly to be the instrument of the forces he has invoked,
relying upon them to bring about the transition from fantasy
to fact, which is the meaning of transubstantiation. If he
proceeds to play the part he has assigned himself as if it
were a reality, he will find, provided the force he has
invoked is a genuine force and the pictorial image he has
made is a suitable one, that imagination has become reality
and that an influence is flowing into him, and emanating
from him, which is a very real thing indeed...
Since archetypal images arise from the collective unconscious, they
are common to all mankind. The God-forms invoked in magick are the
basis of our psychic life and our relationship to the universe.
Everything we are is virtually imagined through their forces and
forms. There is nothing but their primary essence to be found in
either our concrete or imaginal reality, if psyche is the foundation
of reality. Magic and archetypal psychology allege this is so.
Jung advocated the practice of Active Imagination for transformation.
He based his technique on the alchemical meditatio, or dialogic
exchange with the transpersonal. It involves entering the autonomous
stream of psychic imagery with the values, ethics, and perspective of
the ego, and interacting therein. Magick proposes a very similar
premise, but has an entire technology for clearing out a purified
psychic "space" into which an undiluted primal force may be called
forth. Both techniques share the same result: a consciousness
journey with real-time effects. Imagination is reality when it has
the power to move us biologically, kinesthetically, viscerally,
emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The prospect of "home-brewed" imaginal worlds for exploration and
recreation is on the horizon before the turn of the millennium. Those
pursuing the age-old Quest or Great Work will certainly want to put
this possibility to purposeful use. When a person becomes caught up
in a ritual, visualization, or meditation, inner vs. outer becomes a
moot point. Imagination becomes a spontaneous influence which can be
"seen" through the Observer Self. Magick is the directing of that
experience in a specific direction, to a particular focus. Each
ritual has its own telos, or goal. It is this striving, goal-oriented
attitude of the ego that makes magick a heroic quest.
We may speculate that similating archetypal forms in VR gives their
transpersonal energy a "body" to inhabit, just as visualizing does.
Chronicity (the propensity for archetypal forms and events to
cyclically recur) and synchronicity (acausal connection) provide
magically-charged energy for the simulated forms. All perceptions of
archetypes are simulations of their unknowable primal nature, anyway.
This holds true in mystical experience, art, and imagination.
According to Jung, archetypes are everywhere, so they will certainly
be found in virtual reality, alive and well. In this form, they will
be more accessible than ever. The novice could easily get a
first-hand training experience in what inner dialogue is like.
Archetypes will be just as inclined to inhabit or inform these virtual
images as any other. In fact, there is no way around it, if the
programs are consistent and coherent. With an artificial intelligence
program added, they will behave with a certain degree of spontaneity
and novelty, congruent with their character. VR conjures them, evokes
them, or calls them up into awareness for interaction. The imaginal
character speaks and behaves in its characteristic manner, but reacts
uniquely in each specific situation. The entire panoply of symbolic
correspondences, for which the god-form is the nexus, could be
displayed interactively for the aspirant.
In the magical operation known as assumption of the god-form, the
participant identifies with the archetypal power. In VR, the aspirant
could experience being decked out in full regalia, with all the
symbolic appurtenances, in an environment and atmosphere exclusively
geared to expressing that power. To role-play the characteristic
utterances and acts of that god or goddess could be a further
amplification of the process. Mythic journeys, programmed by master
magicians, will be available like the electronic games of today. It
could be used for accessing and anchoring transpersonal resources for
VIRTUAL BODIES OF LIGHT:
A major tenet of Qabala and occult philosophy concerns the nature of
the astral body. The Jews call it the Tselem. This starry body is
composed of scintillating etheric energy. It is perceived in
imagination as being composed of light that takes on various fine
forms. The analogy with electrical energy and light in cyberspace is
obvious, if not literal.
To work on the astral level, the magician identifies with this virtual
double of the physical body. In imagination, one perceives with the
eyes of the body of light while maintaining its perspective and
orientation. The light body has the ability of separating itself from
the constraints of the flesh and blood body, without limitations of a
The astral body contains the fully functioning consciousness of the
aspirant. Its existence is alleged to persist after physical death,
as reported by those with near-death-experiences. Magically, or
psychically, the astral body is built in the imagination through the
process of breath control, or pranayama. The VR program supercedes
the trained imaginative faculty. It opens the experience to those who
are not of contemplative nature, those unwilling or unable to spend
years training the mind and visualization capacity. It makes the
dialogic realm open to all in limited form. It establishes a new
medium for the traditional I-Thou dialogue.
The virtual astral body could be employed for the practice of
pathworking. Magick, itself, is the practice of practical Qabala, and
its most practical exploits are the imaginal consciousness journeys
known as pathworking. As a magical practice, pathworking differs from
ceremonial invocation by imaginally transporting the aspirant to the
location of an archetypal Form, rather than calling the Form into the
circle or oneself. The experience includes a "there-and-back-again"
experience of a very specially conditioned terrain. The exposure to
symbols keys processes in the mind which influence the process of
The paths of The Tree of Life are metaphorical "in-roads" through the
imagination. Each is marked by typical landmarks, milestones, and
signposts. Each contain their ordeals, challenges, and intrinsic
rewards. Pathworking offers a way of "finding" or "locating"
archetypes in imaginal space. In imagination, we do it simply by
wishing ourselves there, actively interacting. In VR, it requires
some programming, but the initial intent is the same whether creating
your own program or authoring a master program for others.
Each successive pathworking increases the area of perceptible inner
space. One can enter the experience as a passive spectator, or as an
active participant. The emotional impact of the experience is real.
Imagine when these experiences become re-processed in your dream life!
In VR, other humans could play the parts of entities encountered, or
the journey may be undertaken as a common adventure. All pathworkings
return the traveller to the point of origin, which is usually some
symbolic form of door to the netherworld.
Another magical exercise, rising on the planes, is conducted while in
the Body of Light. In this process, one imagines oneself moving
further and further up through the hierarchy of planes described in
the Qabala. You can get a sense for it if you can imagine an
ever-widening perspective moving from sub-atomic to cosmic. For
example, imagine you are a sub-atomic particle, an atom, a molecule,
an organism, an animal, a human, the biosphere, the earth, the solar
system, the galaxy, ad infinitum. All of this type of imagery is
readily programmable and universal in meaning.
VIRTUAL SEX MAGICK:
When people hear of VR, one of the first application that leaps to
mind is the possibility of virtual sex. Extending that idea into
magical realism we come across the notion of virtual sex magick.
Virtual sex magick awaits the development of tactile feedback systems.
However, the act itself is a generator for surplus magical energy
which may therefore be focused on a specific desire or intent. This
is known as the "bud will" or "magickal child." It uses the emotional
energy of enflamment coupled with the directive powers of will,
visualization, and intentionality.
Perhaps the most commonly recommended application of sex magick is for
attaining "knowledge and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel."
While this wasn't meant as "knowledge" in the Biblical sense, it is
certainly a possibility in VR. The consummation of the act means
either identification with, or dialogic interaction with the higher
self. Most acts of sacred sex reenact the holy union (hierosgamos) of
God and Goddess, Shiva and Shakti, Krisna and Radha, Yang and Yin
forces. It is a cosmic union of complements. Here again is fertile
ground for the programming of a VR reality to enhance the imaginative
Imaginal variations on the mystic marriage could use images of
mythical and historical figures or draw from the symbolism of Tantra,
alchemy, and Taoism, to name a few. One might perceive the experience
from the perspective of a particular god or goddess in a classical
union. Each program might contain one or many experiences of a
similar nature. The menu might include the union of God and the
Shekinah, God and Sophia, spirit and nature, anima/animus,
priest/priestess, or King and Queen. One time you might be Solomon
and Sheba, another Ares and Aphrodite, another Arthur and Guinevere.
The Royal Marriage is a transcendent symbol of the Self, and embodies
psychic totality. With plasticity of form and interaction we can only
speculate what hermaphroditic creations might result, what androgynous
beings. These experiences might not represent their mature
psychological counterparts, but they could be inspiring
dress-rehearsals, which jump-start the creative imagination, adding a
new dimension to sexual life--sort of the reverse of pornography.
Normally, we are not taught to direct our thoughts into any higher
purpose during sex, much less at the point of orgasm. Yet, to do so
can be healing and connective in a very deep way. VR could serve as a
model and demonstration far beyond any orthodox sexual therapy.
Interactive fantasy could be raised to new heights. This technology
could teach us new ways to relate to our bodies, sexuality, and art
(including the art of magick).
Another VR alternative for sex magick is to engage in actual sex with
one's partner. Both parties have VR helmets (much reduced in size
from current cumbersome models) which allow the simultaneous
visualization of the "bud will," the "magickal child," or goal of the
operation. This dynamic image is the focus of the lovers who invest
it with their mutual energy and love to transform it from mere
potential into a vital force for change in the real world. VR insures
that both parties visualizations are identical as possible.
The moment just prior to orgasm is a very open, suggestible state.
For some it is difficult to hold the magickal focus at that moment.
Passive impregnation by the VR system (based on the aspirant's
desires) could be readily accomplished at that point with suitable
imagery. It could be a non-literal, yet post-symbolic way of
conceiving an inner, spiritual "child" through ritual--the embryonic
form of the greater self. Countless variations on magical talismans
and mandalas might constitute part of the programming, as well as
explosive imagery of cosmic union. For the Royal Wedding to be truly
consummated, insights must be applied in practice. For it to fully
work its magic, it requires a prior marriage of Anima and Animus
within each aspirant. This is a form of "spiritual body" building.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank