Page 2 – How Symbolism Works
On the previous page I introduced five basic practices that are fairly common (with variations) in most western spiritual systems.
Now, the way any given spiritual tradition describes and relates to any of those practices is wide and varied and outside the scope of this article. I just wanted to make clear that yes I’m fully aware that the practices I’ve presented, are presented using African American terminology and therefore would follow necessarily from an African spiritual perspective and that that perspective is somewhat different from the theory I’m going to present below. I don’t feel what I am presenting is at odds with that or takes anything away from it. This is just how I conceptualize things.
These five practices are:
- Creating a Lucky Hand
- Practice a “quick” spiritual bath weekly
- Perform a deeper spiritual bath monthly (St. Cyprian dressing oil)
- Begin keeping a spiritually clean house
- Practice daily prayer with a devotional candle
Technically speaking anyone should be able to pick up these 5 practices, study them a bit and completely overhaul their life...
Yes I said completely overhaul their life.
These practices have a fairly solid track record, but most people when they’re starting out get minimal results and there’s a steep learning curve.
In fact the way they are usually presented leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
First there’s the technical questions:
- What’s a mojo bag/lucky hand?
- What herbs and things do I put into it?
- How do I activate it?
- How do I work with it?
- What’s it supposed to do?
...and that’s just for the lucky hand.
What about how to take a spiritual bath and it’s purpose. What happens if it doesn’t work? What does it even mean to “work” and how will I know if it has?
So this is the point where most training starts to fall down.
Let’s just look at the idea of setting a candle for Money Drawing.
Here's some pretty standard instructions for setting a candle.
These instructions come from Henri Gamche's The Master Book of Candle Burning Rituals.
They tend to leave some questions unasked and unanswered. Especially in regards to the many candles used in this spell.
Of course some simple searching will uncover answers about the herbs and oils.
The symbolism of colors and methods of anointing are pretty straight forward, too.
Let’s stop there for a second.
How come nobody teaches HOW symbolism ACTUALLY works?
Why is it always a list of things?
Green for money, purple for confidence, controlling and power, black for curses etc.
I’ll do you one better...
So I rub some oil on this candle, say these “magic” words and then what?
And wait, I repeat this process for 7, 9 or 21 days?!? Or More!?
How Symbolism Works In Magic
Seeing as we could start with pretty much anything, let’s start with symbolism.
When we look at any given ritual process, if it’s a well designed one that is, whether it’s an imaginative process or a physical one, we should be able to make the assumption that every aspect of the ritual/process is dripping with symbolism.
By every I mean, every aspect.
- Colors used
- Scents smelled
- Words spoken
- Movements made
- Preparations made
- Images produced in the mind before, during and after
- Feelings experienced
How do these symbolic things relate to the real world? To the outcome desired?
It could be said that symbolism is the main tool of the magician.
Generally in Magic 101 courses and articles the focus tends to be on the ritual symbolism. Such as what the candle colors mean, or the meaning of the cup on the altar etc. When the ritual itself is taught there’s a cursory “visualize your goal” and that’s that.
That’s a deep error in my opinion. Your interface with the world is your mind and the images which flow through it are the determiners of your experience in it. That being the case I focus quite a lot on what to do with your mind, you can learn about the symbolism of a bell or a candle color anywhere.
At any given moment, the only thing we are capable of interacting with is our mind. The senses bring in information, and that information is usually tied to your environment and may be “true,” but what you will personally experience of that information is a mind/body experience.
This concept is very important for spiritual work because it means that how our internal world is structured will determine the experiences we have in the external world.
A Tale of Two Minds
Here’s something interesting, we each carry with us an internal “map” (our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes) which we use to navigate our world and how we use that map will effect our life & spiritual work.
These internal maps are incredibly important to us, they become our means of quickly navigating our day to day lives. They allow us to make decisions quickly and to feel good about ourselves.
The content of this map will determine how we act in any given situation. How the content of the map got there is also incredibly important, but more on that later.
The “Map” Lives in a Special Place
So let’s talk a little more about this “map” idea and how it gets made, as well as where it lives.
I use the term “live” on purpose. It’s a living map. It changes, and as it changes so you change.
Take a moment to look around your room and think about all the information your senses are taking in. You’re seeing colors, textures, shape. There’s some amount of ambient sound, maybe you have some music on or there’s some other sounds. Within the sound domain there’s many different types of sounds at different volumes. There’s some sort of scent to the air, there’s also a certain level of pressure and a temperature.
All this is information your body/mind is processing. Some of that information you have direct and immediate access to. For example the chair is red. You see it and you recognize it’s red. But how is your right toe feeling?
For most people, when they were looking around at all the things, they were not aware of how their toe was feeling. Even though the toe was feeling how ever it felt while you were aware of the other information. You could say you were unconscious of the feelings in the toe.
So that’s the basic definition of the unconscious. Everything you are NOT aware of that exists at any given moment. The amount of things we can be unconscious of is staggering.
- Physical sensations (as just experienced)
- Colors (there’s entire frequencies of sound and color we just don’t have the sensory apparatus to process)
- Everything in the next room
Here’s the apa definition just to round things out:
1.n. in psychoanalytic theory, the region of the psyche containing memories, emotional conflicts, wishes, and repressed impulses that are not directly accessible to awareness but that have dynamic effects on thought and behavior. Sigmund Freud sometimes used the term dynamic unconscious to distinguish this concept from that which is descriptively unconscious but “static” and with little psychological significance.
The important point of the above definition is this part:
...not directly accessible to awareness but that have dynamic effects on thought and behavior.
The fact that the information has a dynamic effect, means that your experience of the world is being effected by things of which you are not aware.
One researcher stated my point this way:
...it is concluded that in both phylogeny and ontogeny, actions of an unconscious mind precede the arrival of a conscious mind—that action precedes reflection. (Emphasis added)
That’s fancy for “we’re all robots.”
An Example of How Our Mind Influences Our Reality: Perception Bias & Perception Defense
The map is also incredibly resistant to change. So resistant in fact, that we can flat out not see information in our environment that contradicts the map.
This is called the perceptual defense.
“in psychoanalytic theory, a misperception that occurs when anxiety-arousing stimuli are unconsciously distorted. If taboo words are rapidly presented, they may be misinterpreted; for example, if the stimulus word anal is presented, individuals may report seeing the innocuous canal.”
Some people believe that this concept goes to a very extreme level. Such that if information is presented to our perception that we have no possible means of understanding, we could possibly completely delete it from our perception.
Like it isn’t even there...