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Monday, March 28, 2022

Review: Consorting With Spirits


I had the opportunity to read a draft of  Jason Miller’s new book, _Consorting With Spirits_  a few months back, before it went to the publisher. Since then there have been so many times where I have wanted to recommend it to people asking questions in forums or posting things to their timelines. We've finally hit the point where I can talk about what a great book it is, and I'm super excited to do so. 

It is a wonderful book which explains many things and answers many questions magicians frequently have. I’m excited that it’s about to be available because of how well it addresses many of these concerns and questions that crop up as people begin to explore spirit work in a way which is accessible, comprehensible, and in my opinion – correct. It is, therefore, a book which you should probably have on your bookshelf.

Jason notes in the beginning of the book that he wouldn’t recommend it as a first book on magic because it doesn’t address some of the protection elements and a few other basic elements which magicians may need for this work. Jason has of course addressed those various elements people may need in _Protection and Reversal Magic_, _The Sorcerer’s Secrets_ and _Elements of Spellcrafting_. (Despite that, Jason still addresses these subjects in this book, while maintaining the focus on the actual subject – spirit work). Even with the suggestion that the reader might want to read a book or two before this one, if I had a close friend curious about what magic was this book is what I’d hand them. The book is such an easy brisk read. Jason’s conversational approach makes the material simultaneously accessible to a beginner and interesting for an experienced magician. The book writes about spirits in a way which inspires excitement, wonder, and approachability while depicting vibrant living magical practice grounded in real experience. It presents something tenable that the reader can hold onto and say “Yes, this sounds awesome, I want to do this, I feel like I can do this.”

While reading it to give feedback I ran into points where I didn’t have much that was meaningful to say because the book was so good as it was. Telling potential readers “this is wonderful, it’s fun to read and easy to understand and is full of information, ideas and instruction that you can use,” is helpful for a potential reader trying to decide if they want to read it. It’s not super useful for an author if they want thoughts about stuff they might be considering revising. The book was so easy to read and engaging, the ideas were sensible and the advice and instruction it gave were correct to the point that sometimes I almost forgot I was putting together notes for feedback, because the only feedback I had was “this is great, I like this.”

I spend more time with academic books and translations of historical magic books than I do with contemporary magic books. I’ve been studying and doing magic most of my life. It’s not super frequent that I walk away from a magic book or a magic class with a bunch of ideas for things I want to try out and explore. _Consorting With Spirits_ gave me some new ideas for stuff to try, gave me some clarity on things I’d been considering, and also showed me much simpler answers to things people frequently ask which I probably answer with too much complexity.

The only criticism I really had was that there were points where I felt like a particular subject could be addressed with more depth. As I continued reading I found that most instances that left me feeling that way were addressed as these subjects were returned to and more depth was provided in later parts of the book. The way Jason lays it out, things are introduced with the depth they need at first, and then if appropriate, explored more deeply later. This is probably better than just tossing a bunch of info at the reader. The reader can let the comprehension of the material grow as they read.   

Jason includes some great vignettes from his personal history. These are interesting cool stories which are informative. They also show the reader that this is stuff Jason hasn’t just done once or twice in the past, but these are experiences that Jason has lived and is currently living. They aren’t puffed up exciting stories to impress the reader. They’re very real, very clear examples of what real interactions with spirits are like. Jason illustrates what it’s like to navigate a living world interwoven with real spirits who we don’t always recognize until we learn to engage that component of our reality.

The book doesn’t lean heavily into exploring the history of spirit practices. It references them where appropriate. It references different perspectives and cultures where appropriate. The book isn’t about the history of grimoires, or who conjured what in which monastery or royal court. The book is about running around with your cadre of spirits and working with them to learn things and accomplish things in the present.  

One thing I think a lot of people will like is that Jason gives you options. He shows multiple approaches and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each. He presents different styles that will fit different spiritual persuasions and he talks about what’s similar and what’s different. He gives you the tools to decide for yourself how you want to do things and what you want to do, he gives you things to think about as you explore the options he presents or if you choose to explore other options, and he gives you permission to explore and personalize. The reader walks away fully knowing that they can take pieces of this and leave others and build the approach that is right for them.

Jason is also honest and clear about what approaches fit his experience and maintains his standard of not trying to explain methods or how to work with spirits outside the scope of his own work. As he does this it still leaves the reader open to explore how these techniques and ideas can work in other spiritual contexts. 

If you want a well written, engaging and easy to understand book to help you explore a variety of approaches from a variety of perspectives to engage with spirits while having an experience driven explanation of what that engagement looks like and what considerations to explore while building your practice, read _Consorting With Spirits_.

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If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration


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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Outgrowing Models of Magic

When I was 19 I began writing a comprehensive cosmological structure for considering magic. Many people thought it was a really good and thorough explanation...but several asked "how is this different from models of magic, it accounts for energy, spirits, psychology and everything else?" My answer was that it was the opposite. Instead of saying none of these are true, but we can behave as if they are when convenient I approached things from the perspective that all of these things are true consistently. Rather than our beliefs determining the language by which we approach things, the reality of our circumstances determines the nature of the phenomena we are experiencing.


The specifics of the worldview I outlined there aren't really important for this discussion. I have - as is probably evident to anyone who has read much of what I've written or interacted with me online - continued to hold the view that reality is real and our perceptions and experiences are based on the interaction of our personal histories with the objective influences of that reality.


As such, in the last few years, I have frequently suggested that we've hit a point in our collective development of occultists where we have outgrown models of magic. I do very much feel that when people try to seat discussion of phenomena in that often no longer fits how they are actually approaching magic, and it mostly leaves us stuck in something that was really useful 20 to 30 years ago but is significantly less so now.


I made a couple comments in a forum today and I felt like they really addressed my thinking on this matter, so I felt I would share them as a short post.


Someone asked, what is your preferred model of magic?


I answered:

"My favorite model of magic is 'We've grown out of models of magic and the universe is vast and nuanced and full of real things that are more interesting than trying to focus on just our imaginations'"


The beautiful, vast, living world teaming with spirits, stirring with energies, experienced through our minds, organized with information and language experiencing the dynamism of motion as it moves through the exchanges of construction and destruction, order and entropy is after all the concept which is central and dear to everything I advocate. A complicated, nuanced universe of multitudinous elements which would probably be simple if we were vast enough to comprehend it...and which is more than anything, beauty my Platonist cosmological safe space. (It is also a space which allows for stars deep in the darkness of the earth birthed from its rich sorcerous bounty...before anyone is put off by my Platonism.)


My brief answer, might be a little sassy. It addresses the idea that models of magic fail us when they put pragmatism over engagement to the point that we compartmentalize and shrink the world strictly to the space of our imaginations rather than grabbing hold of what it is. It didn't address the idea that models of magic might be intended as a language for understanding phenomena. I think it fails as that because it is usually fixed on negating the real in favor of belief and perception, or even negating perception in favor of intention.


The person who asked the original question responded asking about how phenomena we experience may relate in their presentations to our expectations and assumptions. This is a really important question in understanding the role our minds play in everything we experience, not just the ephemeral. It does play into models of magic, do we experience spirits because we expect spirits or because spirits are there? Do we feel energy because energy is moving or because we were taught the energy model?


I think some of that can break apart as we break apart the idea of models. I think the trap inherent there is part of the issue with getting stuck in models...and it's a trap we see people in European Traditional Magic communities fall into when they reject "modern" models of magic and assert only this one "traditional" model is ever true in all instances.


My answer to how the language of our expectations guides our experience of phenomena was the part which I felt really summed up my issue with models and was what led me to wanting to share more broadly than a comment on a forum thread.


"Generally the language of imagery through which our minds interpret non-physical phenomena (whether we're talking magical, spiritual, mystical, psychological, or neurochemical) by necessity takes the form of our own experiences, expectations and internal semiotic vocabulary.


Regardless of that, each thing can be itself and the universe can have room for all of them without us needing to try and parse them into disconnected models and incomplete paradigmatic structures.


I think the idea of models of magic was useful for a little while in getting people thinking about how just because we can use a hammer doesn't mean everything is a nail.


I think it holds us back by telling us everything can be a nail if we believe in the hammer enough but nails can be screws if we really want them to be and sometimes if we just imagine glue hard enough maybe things will behave like we have glue, or at least we'll feel like we had glue and that feeling is enough.


I think we can build bigger better richer more interesting things when we learn to navigate actual nails, screws and glue and figure out how to get the one we need and how to use it in the right scenario and address what is as what is rather than fixing on how we perceive it and whether the language by which we discuss it fits to what we'd like to believe.


Too often that latter approach devolves all the models into a psychological one which tends to bypass most effective action for reflective experience."


I don't think we're at a point where we should say "everything is spirits" or "we don't do the psychological model," we're at a point where we should say, "it's bigger than models, we've outgrown those little boxes."


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If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration



If you want some help exploring the vast world of spirits check out my first book – Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits



Now Available: An Audio Class and collection of texts on the Paracelsian Elementals



More Opportunities for Support and Classes will show up at Ko-Fi