|(c) Antonio Mora|
Visualization has been mentioned on this blog possibly too many times, but I assure you that there is a reason for this! I have talked about it in posts such as "Communing with Nature", "Raising Group Energy", "Minimalistic Rituals", "Protection in Magic and the Power of Positive Thinking" and many many more. In most cases, I mentioned visualization as a part of a certain meditation or magical act (magic=directing energy towards a certain aim with a specific intention). This is because visualization is an integral part of both meditation and magic.
The Triangle of Causation
Visualization + Imagination
One thing that most people forget about is that imagination isn't only related to the sense of sight, but can also include all the other senses as well. People are mostly visual and are used to understanding that something is real if they can see it. So, even in our imagination, we try to "create" something (make it partially real) by visualizing it. Nevertheless, some people are not visual types and pay more attention to some other sense(s). For instance, auditory types will imagine birds by hearing chirping sounds. Olfactory types will recall a walk in the woods by recalling the wet smell of the earth and so on.
Of course, our senses are mainly used in order to perceive reality. But we are unaware that what we perceive is only part of what can be perceived. Our senses are not all that heightened and sometimes we may not pay attention to all our senses. Therefore, we will usually get only partial input as to what reality is like. A lot of people will completely ignore their sense of smell, touch and taste, but will put more focus on sight and hearing. By not smelling, touching and tasting a lot of the time, we don't get a complete picture of our reality. In his book Visual Magick, Jan Fries wrote a wonderful passage that really makes you think about this (by the way, I sincerely recommend you read this book because it is very helpful when it comes to strengthening imagination and visualization):
"This world-view very easily becomes habit and is rarely questioned as it seems utterly real and convincing. Before long we may forget that what we experience is not all that can be experienced, that we live in a selection, not in the fullness of all possible realities. When we remember that we select our reality we may remember to select a reality worth living in." (p. 55)I remember that I was at the beach this summer and I saw a little boy, about 4 years old, playing with a stick. He was obviously enjoying himself because he had a huge smile on his face. His parents came along with an inflatable toy boat, picked him up, put him in the boat and gave him a tiny paddle. Now, the boy was so attached to his stick that he threw away the plastic paddle and started using the stick to paddle the boat. The parents were obviously frustrated because of this and threw the stick away and gave him back the paddle. The boy played along but as soon as they came close to the place where they threw the stick, he got out of the boat, took the stick and continued playing with it. So what does this story tell us? Well, children have a HUGE imagination. This stick was so much more interesting to the boy because it wasn't defined by its shape and could therefore become anything his imagination desired - a sword, a paddle, a laser, a spear, a microphone...and the list goes on. This is the power of imagination. This is exactly what Fries referred to in the above quote. Adults perceive reality out of habit, so, for them, the stick will be nothing more than a stick. Children experience reality differently, more freely and use their imagination to create different realities, even though they do this just for fun.
Just imagine what we could do if we had the power to visualize in the way that children do! :)
Visualization in Magic and MeditationIt's logical enough that we are all born with the power to imagine and visualize if even children can do this. But, with time, these capabilities shrivel if we don't develop them. This can easily be done with practice, of course. As with any skill, it's best to start out with something simple and go on to more complicated things. But why, you may ask, is it even important to develop the skill of visualization and the power of imagination? If you're reading this post, then that means you are interested in magic, rituals and meditation. So, it's better to ask how these skills can be used in these contexts. The answers are numerous. Essentially, you have to use your imagination and visualization in any magical act because, as we have said, magic is the act of sending thoughts and energy to a certain goal with a well-defined intention. These thoughts and the energy itself are defined by what you visualize. For instance, if you are performing healing magic, then you will always try to visualize the person you are trying to heal as being healthy, active, full of vital energy, rosy in the cheeks and so on. Since magic is an integral part of rituals, then the same can be applied here. If you want to cleanse something in ritual, then you will first visualize it (most people visualize a white/blue light passing through the space/object they are cleansing). As for meditation and trance, well the type of visualization you do depends greatly on the aim of the meditation itself.
In any case, visualization enables us to reach deep inside ourselves, get the energy we need to do something and make it happen. I think this is also a great time to elaborate on Guiley's thought that "in an altered state, the conscious mind connects with the Higher Self and aligns itself to the flow of cosmic forces in the universe". It's interesting that, when we reach into ourselves in such a way, we contact what Jung called the Self (the unification of the conscious and unconscious part of our minds, i.e. the psyche as a whole). The way I see it, when we are unified with the Self and then perform magic (send energy, thoughts and intentions into the universe), we are doing this as Self. Somewhere in this universe, we are connected to our higher consciousness, or the Higher Self that Guiley mentioned. The universe is also filled with the thoughts, intentions and energies of many many people and our thoughts have to somehow pass through all of these in order to get to their destination. There's no point in pushing and shoving so our thoughts simply harmonize/align themselves with all these other thoughts and slowly but steadily reach their goal. After all, nothing is realized in an instant. Physical realization of ideas takes time and patience.
Jan Fries incorporated a few wonderful exercises into his book which can be very useful for activating the imagination and including all our senses in this process. When we learn to activate our imagination, ad with it our ability to visualize things vividly, performing magic, doing rituals and meditations becomes so much easier and more effective. You can find the full exercises in his book, but here are the simplified versions.
- Ask yourself what you are aware of right now.
- Say aloud what you are currently perceiving with all your senses. Start with one sense (any one you prefer).
- Let the sense you are describing fully permeate you.
- Move on slowly to all the other senses in turn.
- Try to speak in a friendly way (i.e. change the modulation of your voice). How does this affect your experience?
- Try to speak fast, loudly as if you were very excited about something. Let yourself go and you will see that you will automatically start speaking even faster, even louder and that you will become even more excited. How does this affect your experience?
- Try the "ceremonial magic" voice. This voice is very solemn and vibrates words. Like Fries said: "try to sound important, as if each of your words would have a world-shaking impact". How does this affect your experience?
- Speak slowly and calmly and gradually slow it down even more. How does this affect your experience?
- Try switching from your physical voice to you inner voice. What does it sound like and how does it affect your experience?
- If you are not pleased with the way your inner voice sounds, then try to change it, try "speaking" with it in a more friendly, calm way if need be. Just experiment. This is necessary because you will need your inner voice equally as much (if not more than) your actual voice in rituals.
- Find a tree.
- Walk around it, see it, listen to the sounds around you, feel the tree, focus on what you can taste, smell the tree.
- Speak aloud as you do all of this and express your sensory experiences in words.
"There are people who find it difficult to become conscious of their inner senses. When they close their eyes they see darkness, and as they continue to use their physical eyes, darkness is all there is. Inner vision is not seen but imagined." (p. 59)I have heard possibly too many stories in which people start off by saying "I just couldn't visualize anything. I saw nothing". This is because people focus too much on their physical senses and not enough on their inner senses. This may sound ironic after all of these exercises which focus on our physical senses, but here's the trick. Once we learn to fully sense physically, we will enhance all our experiences. These experiences will be easier to recall in our mind's eye later on (i.e. imagine) and will aid us in visualization. Remember, visualization doesn't only include the sense of sight but all the other senses also. In addition to this, by learning to focus on the external via our senses, we will also have more control over them and be able to tune them out when necessary (e.g. when focusing solely on our inner senses). I hope this cleared things up a bit. :)
After all of this babbling, it would be nice to sum things up. Basically, visualization and imagination are cornerstones of magic, ritual, meditation and trance. They enable us to envision the aim of our actions and help us reach a deeper state of consciousness if necessary (or perhaps open up to the world around us in some cases). The exercises mentioned in this post will help you not only improve your ritual and magical work, but also the overall quality of your life because, by developing your senses, you will be open to new experiences which will be all the more intense after you have mastered the senses.
So good luck with all of this! :D Until next time. Yours,