Chaotic Thinking

Why Study the Occult?

August 26, 2020 Liminal Warmth
Chaotic Thinking
Why Study the Occult?
Show Notes Transcript

In this first episode of Chaotic Thinking, our host Liminal Warmth explains who she is, why occult study might be useful or interesting even for rational, educated, and intelligent adults who are skeptical of the spiritual realm, and shares some stories from her own life to explain how she got interested in the topic.

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Hello and welcome to Chaotic Thinking, a podcast about the occult, paranormal, and adjacent topics that live on the periphery of our everyday experiences. I'm your host Liminal Warmth. And if you're listening to this, you probably arrived here from Twitter. I want to thank you so, so much for taking the time to listen to me. This podcast is a little bit of an experiment for me, where I'm very, very comfortable with the written medium, but I would like to start getting more experience with audio and video formats.

So in the spirit of throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, I plan to record quite a few of these and hopefully improve them over time. You'll have to forgive me for the audio of this episode. I'm recording it from a Logitech gaming headset in my RV. So if it's not perfect, well, it might get better soon, as long as I continue producing these. In the meantime, I wanted to talk a little bit today about who I am, and why I'm interested in the occult. And why you might want to be interested in the occult too. It's interesting because whenever I talk about the occult, I think about it as a very wide bucket and sort of put everything that might be in that strange liminal, paranormal, unexplained space in there with it. So don't assume I just mean magic and charms when I talk about the occult, I kind of throw everything in there from entheogens, to aliens to UFOs, to fairies to chaos, magic, witchcraft to like any spiritual system, that we don't have a good scientific basis for understanding.

I'm someone who really highly values truth and understanding the world around me. And it really bothers me that we spend so much cultural time energy and focus on these topics that are supposed to be completely fake. If you ask most educated intelligent adults, if they believe in magic, the answer will be a resounding no. That's because we're not supposed to believe in magic. It's something that our culture has made into almost a taboo topic. taboo might not be the right word exactly. But it's certainly something that isn't discussed in polite company, nor is admitting to a belief in any aspect of it. Even some of the more inoffensive ones like lucid dreaming, astral projection, divination, the really basic low level stuff that people kind of put in the like "that's spooky" category, but don't really always know how much reality to ascribe to it. And what's particularly interesting to me as someone who really enjoys talking to people and really likes hearing about people's experiences throughout their entire life, all kinds of experiences, is that when you actually get people one on one and start talking to them about spirituality, the paranormal, occult, all of this stuff, you would be shocked how many people will admit to at the least being uncertain about it. In fact, I would say less than 15% of the people who I've talked to about this in any kind of one on one setting, have some kind of weird experience that's happened to them at some point in their life, that they're just completely unable to explain using the tools that they've picked up through their education or through mainstream methods of understanding the world.

This has always seemed very strange to me. I don't believe that regular adults walking around with nine to fives and a mortgage happen to all be psychotic, delusional liars, for the one thing that happened to them. And frankly, some of these stories that I've heard from people aren't things that are easily explained by "Oh,maybe it was just a dream," or "maybe it was just a weird atmospheric effect". I've heard people who I otherwise completely respect and consider rational, highly intelligent adults tell me stories about encounters they had at various ages from five to in their 30s, where the only way to make sense of it is that something happened that isn't supposed to happen, based on our understanding of consensus reality. I've always found that really strange. And I've had my own strange experiences and brushes with the supernatural. Although, in spite of having an interest in this for nearly my whole life, I've had fewer of them that were really plausibly convincing to me that I would like which is part of what sparked my interest in approaching this in a little bit more of a thorough pragmatic way that you may have seen from some of my writing.

Now before I dive into topics like "what's an egregore?" or "How might a servitor work?" which are absolutely topics I am planning to unpack and look forward to exploring in future episodes, I want to just ask a couple of baseline questions posed to both myself and to you and talk briefly about what the value of digging into this stuff at all might be. After all, we've all got jobs and lives and things going on. If 99% of the time, these factors don't apply to us because we're unable to reproduce them or map them into our regular lives. Why bother looking into it at all? If this knowledge isn't useful to us, for the vast majority of our lives? What's the point in digging into it?

I have a couple of responses to that. The first is that I'm very much a systems thinker. I like to pick things apart and understand at a very deep level, how the whole works and how everything fits together, and this has had tremendous benefit for me both in my career and my personal life, as I've come to have a much deeper understanding of things that other people have at times, kind of glossed over. I also find that it's very useful in explaining how these systems work to people because having a deep base level understanding of how these things work, allows you to come up with metaphors and comparative analogies that effectively convey what's really going on. That kind of leads me into my second point, I want to know what's really going on.

When I first started getting into tarot, and I observed patterns in the cards turning up that seemed irregular to me, irregular from the perspective of probability, and irregular from the perspective of how likely it is that the cards turning up themselves in a way that related to the situation should have occurred. It bothered me. I was really frustrated that my experiments with Tarot didn't map to my understanding of probabilities I would expect from a deck of cards. probability, with cards in particular is something I have quite a bit of familiarity with. And like other paranormal zone experiences that I've bumped into, that just didn't make sense. It bugged me. And when something looks weird to me, my instinct is to dive in, pick it apart,try to figure out what's going on, try to reproduce it, and then think about how it might be useful to me in my life.

That's sort of how I approach everything in the occult space. What is this? How does it work? And if I can come up with a plausible model for how it might work in a way that produces a level of consistency that satisfies me? How might I make this knowledge useful in my day to day life? And furthermore, how might I share it with other people so that they too can benefit from it. And frankly, if this stuff really works, it has the potential to be massively useful for all of us. If we can use divination through study and practice to predict the future or at a minimum, gain a greater understanding about our lives around us and our interpersonal interactions, that has tremendous value. When you look at something like chaos magic, where sigils are involved, or ritual magic, where you're handling invocations and applications, those also have the potential to be tremendously useful if they work. And I think that's one of my biggest questions with this topic. Does this stuff really work? And what does that mean to say that it really works? Because I think a lot of the time when people think about magic, they think about slinging fireballs and instantly healing wounds, but my experience suggests that even if it works, it works much more subtly than that. But even a subtle impact on your life, even a slight ability to change probabilities in your sphere of influence can have massive returns. It can be the difference between a chance encounter with the love of your life and missing it by a series of moments. It can be the difference between getting a job that you had really hoped for, and not getting that job. It could be the difference between bringing your terminally ill child back from the brink when doctors are out of options, and not being able to do that.

Now, I'm not claiming that magic can do any of these things. I don't have the direct experience to know what the limitations of magical practice might be. Nor am I even confident that I am skilled enough personally to be able to wield whatever special powers humans might have access to tap into. But it's fascinating to ask the questions, look into it, and think about it. That leads me to my last reason, frankly, studying the occult is fun. It's really entertaining to dig into this stuff and try to figure out where the limits of reality stops. The supernatural comes into play. The idea that we might live in a world that's slightly more than mundane is a fascinating and appealing one. And the only way to figure out what the limits of that world are, are going to be through direct experience. Over and over again in my life, I've found things to be much more complicated than the way that they were presented to me. And you may have had this experience as well.

But if I had simply accepted the world, as it was handed to me, as it was taught to me by other people, who were working off their own, limited models of reality, cobbled together from their own education and their own upbringing and their own experiences and brushes with the world, there would be things I never attempted, there would be things about my life that I would never have been able to do. There would be things I just wouldn't have tried because I wouldn't have thought they worked. And in fact, they do. I think about something like lucid dreaming that when I was younger, I probably would have put in the same category of stuff that just isn't real.

The idea that you could be aware of your dream and control it seemed outlandish to me. But in fact, that was one of my first paranormal zone experiences that I discovered was, in fact completely true. And I figured that out by reading a book, following the instructions and discovering for myself that this weird thing actually worked the way that people claimed it did. I find myself wondering a lot, how many experiences are like that? How many descriptions of experiences that people have had and methods of engaging with the world that have produced some useful effect for them are actually true, and just poorly communicated to other people? Because I think communication is one of the primary barriers we have with each other words are so slippery and so difficult and it's incredibly difficult to understand what's going on in someone else's mind. No matter how eloquently they To express themselves, your own understanding of words and of words, the way they mean them can be a limiting factor.

So when someone tells you they did a magic spell, and it worked for them, I think a lot of people might assume that they tried to waggle their hands and say some magic words, and produce a fireball or a love potion, when in fact, their understanding of what happened and how it made an impact on their life may be much more subtle and nuanced, and still be within the realm of the supernatural.

Even in my own experiences with studying magical theory, there are words, ideas and concepts that I just straight up didn't understand the first time they were explained to me. And it was only after deep thinking about it focus study and experimentation, that I began to be able to grapple with the symbolism behind what the words represented more effectively and start to build the appropriate mental models around the information that was trying to be conveyed to me and more often than not, I been surprised by what I've found, as I attempt to wrap my head around this stuff, my hope is that as we go through this series of podcasts, and I explore some of what I'm finding, you two might find it interesting, entertaining, maybe even valuable.

I certainly feel that I get value from my spiritual practices on a regular basis. And whether or not those practices actually manipulate the material world in a way that we would consider supernatural. They provide real utility to my life, if it is possible to manipulate material reality through the mere application of human will, that's also something I would like to understand the boundaries of, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

I think before anyone dismisses these topics out of hand, it's important to recognize that our understanding of the world is always imperfect. Science is never done. And the more we seek to ask questions about things that seem strange, or things that don't fit our existing models of reality, the better information we're able to develop about how the world works. Anytime something seems weird, we should be picking at it, even if the results occur consistently. If we didn't as a species have this driving curiosity, this desire to try to dive into impractical and improbable things, we wouldn't have electricity, we wouldn't have nuclear power, we wouldn't have any understanding of quantum mechanics, we wouldn't have any number of amazing medical solutions that we do today.

It's a willingness to approach topics that seem unlikely, that go against the grain of common sense, or against the opinions of established experts. They'll allow us to break out of the old, update our models about the world around us and develop a better appreciation for how we can move through the world in ways that are beneficial for all of us. If magic, for lack of a better word, really does have the capability to heal the sick or predict the future, that just means it's technology that we haven't discovered the tools to use yet, or perhaps we have discovered the tools and we've lost them.

So one of my goals with all of this exploration is to try to understand if there are tools that we can apply in a rational, consistent way, and produce outcomes that make our lives better. I know that a lot of people think my interest in this topic is silly. Maybe even verging on a little bit loopy or crazy. But that's certainly never stopped me from asking questions before. And that's exactly what I intend to do. Go into this space, and try to understand, deeply understand what people are saying, what information they're trying to communicate to us. Despite the limitations of language, and unpack whether there might actually be some method to this madness. There are some things that I find frankly, really unlikely, but there are lots of things that I personally find unlikely that it turns out are entirely true. So my hope with both my own research and this podcast is that we can take the time to attempt to better match these claims about the ability of magic to influence the world around us with the materialist consensus view of reality that most mainstream educated people share.

Now, in spite of my claim to a rationalist approach, I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably not as skeptical in this realm. As some of you might like. I'll be the first to admit that I probably have a level of bias with respect to motivated reasoning here. I think the idea of living in a world where magic works is fun and exciting. That said, I do my very best in these explorations to be aware of that bias and try to challenge myself. Whenever I'm reading a book of magical theory or exploring a new paranormal or occulta Jason concept. I do my very best to try to watch out For those biases and try to rein in my own desire for it to be true to the best of my ability, I usually do that by recording everything I do, and taking copious notes on whatever I'm reading or attempting to accomplish. And then going back to check my notes and seeing if the outcomes I expected were the outcomes I set out to accomplish. It might not be as pure of a scientific theory method as everyone might like. But the reality is that so much of this stuff is subjective. So much of this deals with our own psyche and our own engagement with the world that I think it's difficult to apply many of the controls that would be ideal for a scientific experiment, and still have any expectation that we would achieve an outcome that would match what we were looking for. In addition to that, I have read some theories and I am open to the idea that the concept of magic or an application of human will or an invocation of story spiritual force might be something that actively resists detection in a consistent way. Furthermore, I have a personal belief on the basis of what I've read in my own experiments, that belief in what you're doing may play a very important role in tapping into whatever forces we may be tapping into when we attempt to produce magical results. This makes approaching it with a highly skeptical mind, very difficult. And this also comes back to my point about the importance of what I call playful beliefs when studying magic, having the ability to adopt a mindset in the moment where you fully believe in what you're doing, and then step back a short time later. And look at the results of that practice. With a slightly more skeptical and discerning eye than you might have held in the moment while you were attempting to do it seems absolutely critical to me to really understand what's going on when we attempt to engage the world through supernatural means and at least For me personally, it's not enough to know does this work? I'd like to understand how it might work, if it works, and precisely what the limitations of it working are given those factors that lead to it working, we'll dive into observations of the mechanics of magic and some possible explanations for how different effects might come about in later episodes. But I thought it might be fun for the back half of this initial episode, to spend a little time talking about why I might personally ascribe any level of truth to any of this. What experiences have I personally had or heard secondhand from sources I find persuasive, that lead me to believe there might be something to any of this, because frankly, if I was just going on the right ways of thinking, and the right ways of believing, my time would be much better spent working on one of any of my businesses, writing books, building That video game I'll eventually get around to building or even just spending quality time with my loved ones. But they're doing just fine.

And they get more than enough of me already. And frankly, I think this work is really important. I haven't seen anyone make a really convincing case to me that various types of magical practices don't work. And of course, it raises the question again, what does working mean? So let's talk about some weird things that have happened to me in my life. These are all things that at least piqued my attention enough that I was interested in pursuing them further. If you've read my why I'm interested in the occult thread on my Patreon, then you already know some of this and you already know where I'm coming from a little bit. I grew up in a Lutheran spiritual framework, being taught that the stories in the Bible were the literal truth of the world around me. That prayer worked, that miracles were possible, and that at least in biblical times, men with an appropriate connection to spirits have the ability to do things that we would consider Impossible, turning staffs into snakes striking a rock and having water spill out, calling down fire from the sky. As I got a little older, I really started to question the veracity of some of this stuff, mostly because I didn't see any evidence that these capabilities existed in the world around me. If miracles were possible, Why hadn't we systematize them? Why hadn't we found a system to produce them? Why hadn't anyone I'd ever met been able to produce a miracle? And so I assumed it was all nonsense. When I would encounter someone who claimed to have had a magical experience or had some kind of claimed relationship with the divine that they said manifested results in their life. I chalked it up to magical thinking, or hindsight bias, or just a flawed understanding of what had happened. And as I got older,

I started to read more classical magical texts just for fun. I got another Golden Dawn stuff a little bit. And I experimented with spells that I found online, and none of it ever worked for me. I didn't understand why there was so much writing and so much energy put into these things that just didn't work. But when I got even a little older still probably in my late 20s, I had my first exposure to chaos magic, which if you don't know, chaos magic is a system of magical utility that focuses on practical results. Really the only law with chaos magic is does it work, do it, there were no claims about right or wrong. There were no claims about spiritual efficacy. And in fact, chaos magics approach to magical theory in general is extremely playful. It's about pulling the raw possibilities out of the chaotic fabric of the universe to manifest in your life. And for someone like me, who is frankly, kind of lazy and doesn't want to go through all of the pomp and circumstance of hermetic style magic a lot of the time. This was very appealing, the idea of being able to construct a sigil and activate it. And put it out into the world and have a result happen seemed way better than having to engage in bizarre rituals with specific ingredients, when no one could explain to me why those ingredients were important. And so I began to experiment with it. I read books, I experimented with little aspects of sigil magic very, very lightly. And I tried to suspend my disbelief in it enough that it would work because the texts themselves had explained to me that believing that the outcome won't work would interfere with the magic. Up until these experiments with chaos magic. I hadn't personally had any experiences that I would put into the realm of something that would persuade me that magic was real.

The one exception to that was when I was 27 years old, and I visited New Orleans with some friends and a tarot street reader was able to correctly identify the initials of my then boyfriend future husband, and insisted that they were important to me, in spite of my own insistence that I didn't know anyone with those initials. It was actually my friends reminding me that those were the initials of my boyfriend that made it click for me. And frankly, I have no idea how she could have done that. My ex doesn't have particularly common initials, nor had I brought him up in conversation. And I wasn't wearing or holding anything that would have given her a clue that this person might be important to me. So that was a little spooky. I don't know. She claimed to be a psychic. It certainly wasn't enough on its own to persuade me that anything supernatural was happening, but it is one of those moments where you kind of look at it and go, Hmm, that's weird. Anyway, later when I started doing my own experiments with sigil magic, something that really persuaded me that there might be a little bit more going on here was two different experiments I did, which produced results in my life, or, at least which proceeded results in my life related to what I was trying to accomplish. I had been suffering from a personal medical issue throughout my mid 20s. That was very frustrating to me. And I couldn't figure out if it was a mental or physical problem or where it was originating, but it was causing me a lot of distress. And I saw therapists, I consulted doctors, I tried a whole bunch of different things, and nobody was really able to help me. So in desperation, I turned to magic. And I attempted to construct a sigil to help me resolve the problem. This was an extremely emotionally resonant problem for me, because of the distress it caused in my life. So when I constructed the sigil and activate it, forget about it as you're supposed to With chaos magic, I didn't really know what to think. And I didn't really know what to expect. But I really hoped that it would work because nothing else had and it looked like nothing else would. And I was starting to think I might have to live with this for the rest of my life. Six months after I had performed the sigil magic, the problem is simply resolved itself one day, I have no logical way to explain why that occurred.

And I don't know whether or not to attribute it to the sigil magic, but it does seem strange to me that a problem i'd suffered for from six years, just fixed itself One day, the human body is pretty crazy, and it's amazing what we can heal from on our own. And I'm happy to entertain the idea that my body just decided it was done with the medical issue, but it does strike me as a little bit spooky that it happened in such close proximity to the casting of the sigil and that it was so thoroughly resolved. The other weird experience I had with sigil magic is that I also used it to attempt to get my book business off the ground. And you may have heard the very common knowledge that writers don't make any money. Right now I make enough money off my fiction that I'm able to independently support my lifestyle entirely off my books. And while it's true that there was a lot of marketing savvy and a lot of hard work, and I have produced a lot of books, the early traction on my books that I experienced that gave me the confidence and the hope to continue pushing forward down that Avenue is different than what many other authors have experienced as they've put their books out into the world. I don't know whether or not to attribute this to the sigil magic performed for business success. Again, hindsight bias is a hell of a thing. And there are sigils I've attempted to activate that haven't seemed to do anything as well, but I don't do it a lot.

I've maybe activated 36 In my life, and I would say that at least two thirds of them have been followed by some form of result that met the conditions that I was trying to achieve by casting the sigil. Now, maybe I'm just lucky, or maybe those things would have happened anyway. I don't know. I'm not claiming that sigil magic works. But it was weird enough to have those things happen in proximity to the use of the sigils that it seems to merit another look, and some deeper investigation. I've had lots of other small experiences like this, that are sort of in the realm of things that I can't easily explain, but that aren't especially persuasive, either. To convince me that there's anything supernatural happening, for example, shortly before meeting my future husband, I was really tired of doing the online dating circuit. I've been doing it for about two years, and I had seen a whole bunch of different people and I just wasn't Finding the lasting connection that I had hoped to find. So I decided that I was going to be largely done with dating for a while I was going to just take some time and focus on myself focus on becoming a better person. But as part of that exercise, I did a sort of personal prayer ritual. My beliefs about the divine personally are very complicated. And I have often described myself as an agnostic, but I do have a strong sense that there is some higher power in the world and that it means me well. And so whatever that higher power is, I attempted to do a sort of prayer ritual to it, where I asked for wisdom and guidance. And I asked it to bring someone into my life that could help me grow in those important ways, and also helped me with my very human desire for companionship, and that prayer in particular felt very again Emotionally resonant to me, I've never had an experience that I would characterize as being communicated to by any kind of supernatural entity, including any sort of divine entity, but it felt important. And just a few weeks later, I bumped into my future husband, I spent eight very happy years with him. And unfortunately, while that relationship eventually didn't work out for a variety of reasons, I will always love him. And he was a tremendous source of learning and growth in my life. And I'm so so grateful that he came into it. In fact, he was probably exactly the person that I needed at that time in my life to grow in the ways I had to grow to become the person I am today. And he taught me a lot about love and compassion and self confidence and self reliance. And I'll be forever grateful to him for that.

Now, again, you can say it was just coincidence, and it might have been but Also, maybe it wasn't, I don't know. And of course there are like other even less persuasive experiences I've I've had that felt like brushes with the supernatural. There was one time when I was traveling in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota with some friends. But we had a very weird experience that that was strange more in the feelings it produced in us as a group than the actual experience itself. And I won't share it here because people always laugh when I try to convey it, but it felt like a very meaningful moment. And it was spooky. And I think that how do we not left the space that we were in at that moment? I don't know what might have happened. But something was definitely triggering our collective danger sense on a very personal spiritual level. I've also had a lot of weird experiences with dreams in particular, a lot of deja vu type things where I'll experience something that I'm absolutely convinced already happens to me in a dream at some earlier point in time. And again, I don't know what to think about those experiences. They're weird. It might just be a glitch in the brain. It might be that dreams are more symbolic than real life. And my brain is incorrectly mapping an experience I had to something that it remembered from a dream. That wasn't actually the same thing. There are lots of plausible explanations for this stuff. What they have served to do is make me very curious about this whole space. Because I'm someone who values knowing how the world around me works. It's really important to me to know whether I'm deceiving myself when something weird happens and I attribute it to supernatural forces, or whether there really might be something going on in the last year as I've started to go much, much deeper in my research and my investigation into occult topics.

The biggest thing that has been persuasive to me that at a minimum divination has some spooky reality to it is getting more into my Tarot practice. I won't go into those results in this episode because I already have written an article about it. And also, I'd like to get perspectives from people outside of myself to in future episodes, my hope is that I'll be able to talk to other people about their own experiences and get some additional stories about experiences people have had, that they believe are attributable to the supernatural, because as I've said, I have yet to have any experience that has completely persuaded me that there is truth to the supernatural and I'm not just deceiving myself. I'm very, very open to the idea, but I'd like a little more proof than a spooky feeling or something that can be attributed to coincidence. Tarot in particular is interesting because with as often as I read the cards, I'm starting to become persuaded that the results are better than random over time. If you're able to produce coincidental results repeatedly, in a context that's persuasive, you have to give it a little bit more weight than some of these one off experiences. And again, in either case, it's entertaining. And frankly, I would be as happy to have definitive proof that this really is all nonsense, and that none of the claims made by occult practitioners actually have any validity to them, as I would be to discover it's all real, because that at least would satisfy my curiosity.

So whether I end up unlocking the secrets of the universe, or whether I come to conclude this is all been a giant waste of time. I'm looking forward to digging in and getting into as much of the nitty gritty around these topics as as possible. If there's one thing I've developed a strong skill set over the years. It's getting my fingers deep into something complicated. Understanding and as well as I can. So my hope is that you'll come along with me as I pursue these investigations and hopefully have some fun with me along the way. If you're interested in getting involved or sharing your own story, or pointing me toward books or resources that might help me with these investigations, I welcome it.

I've mentioned a couple of times on Twitter that I'm working on compiling an occult research database, where I keep all my notes and all of my observations, and attempt to link concepts together so I can draw from different fields and try to make better sense of what's going on. I'm basically interested in any spiritual practice or any aspects of psychology, chemistry, biology, neurology, anything that might provide additional insight to what's happening when humans experience these things that fall outside of the realm of normal experiences. If you enjoy my writing, or if you enjoy these podcasts and you'd like to support my efforts in this area, please consider subscribing and becoming a Patreon, I am so appreciative of your support. And it does motivate me to continue digging and to continue writing articles and creating podcasts like this one. So you can do that at the link in my Twitter bio as well as see all of my other writing on a variety of topics, not just the occult. And if you have a story you'd like to share that you think I'd find interesting, please do reach out and let me know. If you're willing to be interviewed for a podcast episode. I would love that. And if you just like to share a weird experience you've had, I'd like to, I like to hear from all kinds of different people. Maybe together we can figure out what's really going on here. This has been Liminal Warmth on the first episode of Catholic thinking. Thank you for listening. And please say hi on Twitter.