It snowed here this week. I have been contemplating angelic magic and the use of saints in conjunction with sigilmancy, but as far as practice goes I have only been doing foundational work with sigils.
I did some experimentation with petra-sigils (sigils embedded on rocks) this past couple of weeks. I’ll offer some context. As I fall out of temporal orbit here in my forty-ninth year of life, there has been a ton of unprompted reflection going on between my ears. That looming event horizon of fifty years old is enough to trigger my memories and thoughts of the future into overload. Part of that reflection was on where I am at with my career and what I haven’t done up to this point. I have this tendency (or had? Let’s be the change we want to enchant for here, Drew) to get into a job and within maybe six months, completely regret doing so. From that six month mark to around the five year mark, I have performed the most brilliantly creative series of career self-sabotage.
I’ve only actually held one job for over five years, which was the one previous to the one I have now. It was the last job I had as a skilled tradesman, before completing graduate school and moving into Schwa office-worker mode. I am in my fourth year at Schwa Corp and the self-sabotage is rampant. Insane thoughts float through my head and pass them off as perfectly logical. My emotional boiling point has set itself to the same level as liquid helium. My inbox is filled with Google job searches from places in the world that I would never be able to move to. What’s different this time is my motivational catalysts have changed. Along with approaching fifty I know support a family, and that, thankfully, has been enough to keep my self-sabotage at low enough levels to suppress when in polite company.
Back to the petra-sigils. The firm where I work was in the process of replacing the sidewalks in front of its front doors. I came out the construction entrance next to the ripped up sidewalk, it was a magically prime day and I had already cast a shoal that morning at dawn. I looked down and there were all of these perfect, flat pieces of rock that were to be prepped and pounded flat to become the foundation of the new walk. On a whim, I grabbed one, walked around the block, drew up a sigil with the intention of saving X amount of dollars by retirement, retirement specifically from the firm, walked back and cast it into the aggregate. I did this one more time, coinciding with another prime astrological alignment, the sigil statement was slightly different but it had the same message — that this was the place where I would be successful, where I would make a career. All of my previous prosperity magic had been forms of self-sabotage, enchanting for jobs elsewhere, enchanting for disruption.
I had to wait almost a week before the concrete was poured, but once it was, and I walked over the places (in front of the main doors and the employees only side door), I could feel those petra-sigils spreading out, sending a magical squiggly sigil root system up into the building it was attached to. Everyone that walked through that door, I felt, was helping to spread the enchantment, embedding it in ‘place.’
Eric Wargo, in his work ‘Time Loops’ (yes, I’m still obsessed with this excellent book) touches on the psycho-physical connection of memory, dreams, and spatial memory when he states:
”Memory is… closely tied to our experience of place and geography, likely because of the hippocampus, the brain’s librarian/archivist, also contains our maps of space… Dreams — including precognitive dreams — use the same principles, activating absurd, punny associations to waking episodes and ‘placing’ them as composite images in familiar spatial settings.”
If this holds true, and I have no reason to believe that it doesn’t, than my regular visits to my grandmother’s farm in my dreams are an avenue to accessing a storehouse of information, both archived memories and prememories. I am rarely, almost never, lucid during these dream visits and am often bandied about by spirit-forms and their will. In theory, achieving a lucid state would allow me to go dig in the compost pile in the back, or root around the daffodils and centuries old lilac trees, climb the treehouse or search the rhubarb until I find where my prememories are stored. Wargo continues, commenting on how we (as in humans) generally conceptualize time:
“Humans have a very hard time not thinking of time in spatial terms. The visual/spatial calendars reported by people with synesthesia suggest what is possibly a more general principle: that our internal maps of space help structure our autobiographical map of time, our chronology.”
This has linguistic precedent in indigenous cultures. The Ojibwe words for time and distance are one and the same, there is no way to express a distance without expressing the time it will take to traverse it. Would creating a topography of sigils help to place statements at certain points in our timeline? Did actually embedding my sigils in the land itself make them more effective? I know where they are, when they were cast, but not what they look like. Is there a cartography of sigilmancy? Would creating a fantasy map, a Middle Earth for your sigils, a map that reflects our own path and experiences in the world, would that be a worthwhile piece of magical tech when trying to phreak probability frequencies until we find the most favorable ones?
When casting retrocausitive sigils, is paradox an issue? Let’s revisit what Peter Carroll has to say about Retroactive Enchantment in Liber Kaos:
“Most magicians are… comfortable with the idea that enchantments can be cast to force, or at least nudge, the hand of change as far as the future is concerned. However, [Chaos Magic Theory] asserts that the opposite effect, namely retroactive enchantment, is possible. In fact, many of the bizarre and anomalous results recorded in the annals of magic can only have been due to retroactive enchantment. In practice what happens is that a spell is cast and some time later a result is recorded which strongly implies that an alteration has occurred to events that probably occurred prior to the spell being cast… If you can convincingly alter your own memory then you will modify your future actions as a consequence.
[Chaos Magic Theory] implies a certain symmetry between divination and enchantment. The very act of perceiving some event which might have occurred or which might occur actually raises the probability that it might have occurred or might occur. This is particularly a problem in prescience, divination of the future. It is not merely a problem of self-fulfilling prophecy, but a more profound problem arising from the tendency of any image of the future to shape the future accordingly… All metaphysical theories involve some form of otherworld realm impinging upon the ordinary one. What has happened in quantum physics is that equations have been unwittingly written which describe some of the simpler effects of it. The problem for scientists is that they are observing and trying to describe effects due to something which they refuse to believe can exist. The problem for magicians is that they refuse to believe that the effects they create or observe could be due to something for which equations could be written.”
I’ve quoted this exact same thing a couple of times now and after working my way further into Wargo’s Time Loops, it really impacts me how closely what Carroll is saying in 1992 in a chaos magic book tracks with what Wargo is saying and the science and history he is quoting in Time Loops. I mean, it is nearly word-for-word, which says to me that Time Travel magic, a major component of the Lovecraftian system, is not only possible, but it is fundamental to how the universe works. It is also quite powerful how our author’s focus on dreams and informational time travel / temporal bilocation in many ways predicts both Carroll and Wargo’s writings.
Carroll deals with the white elephant of time travel paradox in a fairly unsatisfactory way, vacillating across a metaphorical psuedo/shadow time framework of his own (albeit intuitive) design. Let’s take a peek at what Wargo has to offer in this area, and see if we can fill in the gaps. He begins by introducing us to the work of one Igor Dmitrievich Novikov:
“a Russian physicist named Igor Novikov postulated that any form of time travel, informational or otherwise, could only have a non-paradoxical outcome. Reality, he argued, will always be self-consistent, even in a universe that includes cosmological exotica like wormholes that can carry information and objects back in time… [this] self-consistency conjecture is guaranteed by the laws of probability. Any attempt to shoot a billiard ball through a wormhole at an earlier version of itself in order to deflect it away from the wormhole’s mouth (and thus cause a paradox) could only have the opposite effect: nudging the ball into the wormhole instead… post-selection… governs the flow of information backwards and forwards through… spacetime. Information refluxing into the past only ‘survives’ as meaningful insofar as it cannot be used to foreclose the future that ‘sent’ that information… ‘When restrocausation is allowed,’ writes Princeton physicist York H Dobyns, ‘one may find that an event causes itself.’ As long as a precognitive organism orients unconsciously toward a future that includes it, then the outcome will be a nice, safe, cozy causal loop. The term used in physics for such a formation is closed timelike curve… we call it a self-fulfilling prophecy…”
He continues, folding the work of another physicist, Yakir Aharonov, into Novikov’s:
“Yakir Aharonov… proposed that the future is the hidden variable underlying quantum strangeness. Individual particles, such as those photons passing through the slits of the double-slit experiment, are actually influenced by what will happen to them next… not just by what happened to them a moment ago… The randomness that seems to rule the quantum casino, Aharonov suggested, may really be the inherently unknowable influence of those particle’s future histories on their present behavior. Measurement thus become part of the particle’s ‘backstory’ — precisely the part that always looked like randomness, or quantum uncertainty… the time-symmetric, retrocausal framework advanced by Aharonov… is… called the two-state vector formalism… an inflection of ordinary particles’ observable behavior by something ordinarily unobservable: measurements — that is, interactions — that lie ahead in those particles’ future histories. Nothing is ‘moving’ backwards in time — and really, nothing is ‘moving’ forwards in time either. A particle’s twists and turns as it stretches across time simply contain information about both its past and its future.”
The ‘nothing is moving backwards in time — and nothing is moving forwards in time…’ is a more satisfactory encapsulation of Carroll’s psuedo/shadowtime framework. By adjusting our own probability frequencies, we are ‘changing the station’ of our present reality. Sigilmancy, spirit-form assisted embedding of ideal realities in our subconscious, at the very least, sends this information backwards and forwards in time within our own mind. Once we embed a sigil, that information is not just present in our subconscious from that moment on, but for every moment previous.
One of the primary motivations for chaos magic is repeatable results, right? And if we are in quantum land, that starts to get tricky. Returning to Wargo on the concept of measuring (a necessary function of repeating) results of retrocausal effects:
“Another quantum mystery that arguably becomes less mysterious in a retrocausal world is the quantum Zeno effect. Usually, the results of measurement are unpredictable — again according to the famous uncertainty believed to govern the quantum kingdom — but there is a loophole. Persistent, rapid probing of reality by repeating the same measurement over and over produces repetition of the same ‘answer’ from the physical world, almost as if it is ‘stopping time’… If the measurement itself is somehow influencing a particle retrocausally, then repeating the same measurement in the same conditions may effectively be influencing the measured particles the same way in their past, thereby producing the consistent behavior.”
Could this have applications on Chaos Magic? Chaos magic is about creating repeatable results using whatever method works and embodying systems wholly in order to increase their effectiveness. Would using the same system of measurement in the same conditions over and over begin to change the result in a retrocausal way? Like casting a sigils that were all created using the same sigil statements, over and over again and setting up some type of system of measurement for the general effect (prosperity, health, etc.) The measurement could be as simple as a regular check in with a form that has a set of opinion scales.
I’ll wrap up this section with one of the closing paragraphs of Wargo’s section regarding the hard science of retrocausation. I find it hyper-relevant to how I am beginning to understand Carroll’s retroactive enchantment to work:
“With retrocausation, we can no longer privilege the past, as though causation is only a matter of ‘pushing’ (sometimes called efficient causation). The real mystery becomes why those efficient causes are so much more apparent and intuitively understood, and why influences propagating in reverse give us headaches… the first step toward finding a solution may be to train ourselves to ‘think backwards’ about events.”
Casting retrocausal sigils is one step further, training ourselves to not only think backwards and forwards (think ‘read-only’ mode) but to actively send new information backwards and fowards using spirit-form assisted sigilmancy. Lovecraftian Magic, one that skirts the primal fear known by our ancestors as they confronted reality, is an optimum system as it generates the intensity of emotion required to embed information in an accessible place across our own timeline.
Our Lovecraft tale for the week is From Beyond. We begin with our nameless narrator, describing for us the downward spiral of a physicist friend:
“Horrible beyond conception was the change which had taken place in my friend, Crawford Tillinghast. I had not seen him since that day, two months and a half before, when he had told me toward what goal his physical and metaphysical researches were leading; when he had answered my awed and almost frightened remonstrances by driving me from his laboratory and his house in a burst of fanatical rage…”
Giving us our archetype, Crawford Tillinghast, the amateur or gentleman physicist; he is a familiar type of character — the scientist that, instead of only putting faith in the scientific method, recognizes that there is much beyond the reach of science. We are finding today that is where the best, most impactful, science is heading — into a unified field where physics and metaphysics are given equal weight. The Tillinghast family is well known in Providence and can be traced back to as early as the mid 17th c., to Pardon Tillinghast, a Baptist pastor of the first Baptist congregation in America (and a criminal in the eyes of the dominant Protestants for some time before the Baptist faith was legitimized) and one of the earliest settlers of Providence. Pardon was born in Sussex, a soldier under Oliver Cromwell, and hailed from a family of coopers. It holds that our archetype, Crawford Tillinghast, would be a descendent of this famous Providence founder, given that he has the means to explore scientific experiments such as are described in the tale, at his leisure. Another city on our map of Lovecraftian Gates, San Francisco, was also founded by a member of the Tillinghast clan, suggesting a deep familial occult connection between the two towns. Our narrator continues:
“It is not pleasant to see a stout man… grown thin, and… even worse when the baggy skin becomes yellowed or greyed, the eyes sunken, circled, and uncannily glowing… added to this… a repellant unkemptness; a wild disorder of dress, a bushiness of dark hair white at the roots, and an unchecked growth of pure white beard… Such was the aspect of Crawford Tillinghast on the night his half-coherent message brought me to his door after my weeks of exile; such the spectre that trembled as it admitted me, candle in hand, and glanced furtively over its shoulder as if fearful of unseen things in the ancient, lonely house set back from Benevolent street.”
The likeliest candidate for a Gateway connecting to the tale ‘From Beyond,’ is the Nelson W. Aldrich house, which would have been one hundred years old at the time of Lovecraft’s writing of the tale and is located on the street mentioned in the tale. The house is now conveniently a museum operated by the Rhode Island Historical Society, so covert operations could easily be carried out beneath its roof. As I’ve progressed through this research exercise I have been forming proto-thoughts about the nature of our archetypes and some spirit-forms in general, particularly those spirit-forms that have not historical or physical proof of ever having existed yet still are able and willing to intercede in our reality when called. Could the same be done by a Lovecraftian Magic-User (or enough of them)? Could Crawford Tillinghast be brought forth, made from nothing but fear, thought, memory and detail?
Our narrator continues, offering us more detail into our archetype and insights into the primary stance that the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic takes against hard science:
“That Crawford Tillinghast should ever have studied science and philosophy was a mistake. These things should be left to the frigid and impersonal investigator, for they offer two equally tragic alternatives to the man of feeling and action; despair if he fail in his quest, and terrors unutterable and unimaginable if he succeed.”
This is an excellent assessment of what Lovecraft deemed the temperament of the scientist and philosopher. It is another mark in that column that designates Lovecraft an esotericist rather than a materialist as the empirical mindset is painted here in dim, negative hues, rather than lauded as the pinnacle of what a human might achieve. His narrator continues to offer more in this rich tale in the form of the following nested narrative furnished by Tillinghast.
“‘What do we know,’ he had said, ‘of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble sense we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with a wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected… I have always believed that such… worlds exist at our very elbows, and now I believe I have found a way to break down the barriers… We shall overleap time, space, and dimensions, and without bodily motion peer to the bottom of creation.”
Two things, first, the latter, the thematic element of breaking down barriers, be they doors or dimensional constructs, is as evident here as it is in nearly all of Lovecraft’s weird tales. Second, From Beyond is an excellent example of where Lovecraft is engaging in the genre of speculative fiction, as opposed to the ‘weird tale’ that he is ever attributed to. How does it change our perspective if we frame the authors work as speculative, rather than weird? It gives it not only more legitimacy, but makes it more possible that it could come true, that the experiments and theories of Tillinghast might prove accurate if and when we begin a full integration of physics and metaphysics — as the fields of paranormal and traditional scientific research grow increasingly closer. The final sentence in the above quote:
“We shall overleap time, space, and dimensions, and without bodily motion peer to the bottom of creation.”
encapsulates so much of the supporting theory in Eric Wargo’s ‘Time Loops,’ as it is derived from Edward Abbey’s ‘Flatland, a work that no doubt inspired much of Lovecraft’s extradimensional musings, as it did for so many individuals at the time of its writing.
And then, we at last reach the laboratory, the not-quite-steampunk / not-quite-modern science fiction (interesting how Lovecraft bridges say, Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov, a necessary missing link) lair of our archetype:
“We entered the laboratory in the attic, and I observed that detestable electrical machine, glowing with a sickly, sinister, violet luminosity. It was connected with a powerful chemical battery, but seemed to be receiving no current; for I recalled that in its experimental stage it had sputtered and purred when in action. In reply to my question Tillinghast mumbled that this permanent glow was not electrical in any sense I could understand. He now seated me near the machine, so that it was on my right, and turned a switch somewhere below the crowning cluster of glass bulbs… the luminosity increased, waned again, then assumed a pale… colour… I could neither place nor described… ‘Do you know what that is?’ he whispered. ‘That is ultra-violet… You thought ultra-violet was invisible, and so it is, but you can see that and many other invisible things now… The waves… are waking a thousand sleeping senses in us; sense which we inherit from aeons of evolution from the state of detached electrons to the state of organic humanity… You have heard of the pineal gland?… That gland is the great sense organ… I have found out… that is the way you ought to get… most of the evidence from beyond…”
This passage is calling out the pineal gland as the greatest sense organ. Within the context of the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic, which is primary concerned with the magical use of dreams, the primary source of melatonin in humans is a natural choice for the most important organ in the body because it induces sleep. Lovecraft’s introduction to the pineal gland no doubt came from the work of Madame Blavatsky, who identified it with the Ajna Chakra. The Ajna chakra has been considered the third eye for thousands of years in Hindu tradition and enjoys the reputation of having the ability to connect individuals directly with their unconscious so that they may receive messages from the past and the future — thus looping us back around into Lovecraftian Time Travel Magic. The mantras, or thought-sounds, that assist in activating the Ajna Chakra are ‘Ksham’ and ‘Pranava Om,’ giving us some light magical tech to play with while meditating on this tale. When we see something during an active imagination session or in a dream, it has been understood for a very long time that we are seeing that thing, seeing that spirit-form, with our Ajna Chakra or pituitary gland. Variants of this understanding are also used in Tibetan Buddhism, Qigong and Kabbalah.
Our modern world is being designed to disrupt the pineal gland. According to this article in the Review of Optometry discusses the relationship between the pineal gland and antioxidant / anti-carcinogenic cell activity, creating another tangential connection into the aesthetics of our system. Since stimulation of the pineal gland’s production of melatonin has cancer inhibitory effect, the disease that claimed the author, it seems to this researcher that any esoteric practice that would strengthen and activate the pineal gland (and the production of melatonin) would be well in keeping within the brackets of a Lovecraftian Aesthetic. High levels of melatonin are manifested by frequent and vivid dreams, so it can be extrapolated that the more we dream, the more melatonin is being absorbed, the healthier we are at a cellular level… time travel and dreamscaping for health and wellness. The narrator continues, recalling the survived horrific effects of the Tillinghast Device:
“from the farthermost regions of remoteness, the sound softly glided into existence… infinitely faint, subtly vibrant, [it] held a quality of surpassing wildness which made its impact feel like… accidentally scratching ground glass… I saw only the man, the glowing machine, and the dim apartment…
‘Don’t move… for in these rays we are able to be seen as well as to see… as long as we don’t move we’re fairly safe… keep still… do you suppose there are really any such things as time and magnitude? Do you fancy there are such things as form or matter?… I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness… Space belongs to me…’
I was now in a vortex of sound and motion… I felt huge animate things brushing past me… walking or drifting through my… solid body… I… became possessed of a kind of augmented sight.”
How prescient, this idea of ‘augmented sight,’ the layering of realities over one another. In a way, it makes AR [augmented reality] more of a kin to dreams than its more popular cousin, VR and a definite part of our growing magical aesthetic (imagine augmented reality glasses or contacts that embed sigils into your landscape). It reminds me of some experiences I have had, of falling asleep while reading. In a number of cases I have continued to see the book in front of me, the words on the page, and only realize that my reality has been augmented when my mind begins to make up the words on the page when my memory and optical imprint of them fades. I remember sitting in the farm house with my grandmother, she would fall asleep sitting up reading the paper, and I wondered (but really, I knew it) if she was still reading in her sleep as I had experienced. Virtual reality is more like a drug induced hallucination, blotting out our reality, and dreams can be like this a lot of the time but there is always a sense of self and place (even if that sense is ‘this is not my place’) in dreams — there is always a tether, an imbrication of the two realities on one another.
Our tarot match for the archetype of Crawford Tillinghast is the Seven of Cups.
Our Etteilla deck offers us two keywords for this card. La Pensée, or ‘thought’ and Projets, or ‘projects.’ Thought projects? or Projecting thoughts? Let’s dig into these terms a bit deeper.
Thought comes to us from the Old English terms þoht and geþoht, meaning the ‘process of thinking’ and curiously also meaning ‘compassion.’ It is a cognate with the German word element -dacht, which is found in Gedächtnis, or "memory" and Andacht meaning ”devotion.” So, to me, a ‘thought’ (or possibly a thought-form [queue ominous Twin Peaks theme]) is a type of memory-prayer or embedding a prayer in one’s memory. Project comes from the Latin ‘projectum,’ meaning ‘something thrown forth’ and, further back, from the PIE root *ye-, meaning ’to impel.’ *ye- is expanded out into object, trajectory, inject ejaculate and is the hypothetical source for the Latin term ‘iacere,’ meaning ‘to cast.’
The Seven of Cups, our representation of Crawford Tillinghast, maps to the act of Casting Memory-Prayers (read: Sigilmancy).
It is fitting, I think, because what are we doing when we cast sigils but layering on top of our current reality our preferred one. Also, and this is well known by any magicians that deal with this type of magic, sigils attract all kinds of beasties, especially when accompanied by ritual, as so many shadowy moths to a flame whose color we have never seen.