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Essence Perception through Triat/Sphere Manipulation

Professor Stephen Quick, Ordo Hermetica

reprinted from "Fundamentals of Magickal Esoterica for First-Year Students", Oxford University Press, 1993

[In the previous chapter...] we have explored the nine basic spheres which are used to describe the magickal world we choose to manipulate. Yet these are merely esoteric constants, and whilst there are those mages who would use them in themselves to do the workings of magick, it is a very ham-fisted approach which lacks subtlety and is prone to failure, or worse. Those mages who would profess knowledge of magick through the concepts of spheres alone will also easily be seduced by the falicy that it is only necessary to exert oneís will on the world in order to change it. I cannot stress this point too much to the student: magick is not a case of wishing the world better. Those who would do so are at risk to both Paradox and Quiet, and romantic as Marauder magick is, you will need sanity to shepherd the sleepers.

The Essence Stereotype

The student of magick rooted deep in cultural paradigm learns first the doctrines of their order, followed by the rotes of their magick and thereby builds a consistent methodology through which to generate magickal change. On the other hand, the student of Esoterica (i.e. the Spheres) must look beyond the cultural, pseudoscientific, logical or other boundaries of cultural magick and draw from that culture by common analogy with others. How is this done? This problem is often the very first stumbling-block of a would-be mage. In order to assist understanding, the concept of Essence has been used as a model for magickal approach and understanding.

Weick et. al. [1] describe Essence as the manner in which the mage is fundamentally connected to the Quintessential Core of Reality. In other words, it describes his/her Avatar. Beyond this, however, the description becomes pithy and inconsistent. "A mageís actions are most likely to succeed when they reflect this fundamental connection", suggests that the authors put more than a little faith in their expectations of cosmic destiny, fairly typical of young magi who are too lazy or unwilling to pull their fingers out and get the job done. It is little wonder therefore that there is so much misconception on the subject of Essence when so few academics have given it fair treatment.

There are three basic Essence types (not including the elusive Questor) which are used as the basis for magickal comparison.

Pattern Essence

Weick et. al. blithely label this viewpoint as almost exclusively Technocratic. I have no doubt that Technomancers embrace this philosophy if only because it provides the simplest basis for elementary magick. I for one believe this to be the best metaphysical tool for beginning magi, and not nearly as flawed or as limited as its critics would suggest.

The Pattern model relies on these basic tenets. Firstly, it is assumed that the natural state of reality is static, and the nature of reality is unquestionably as we see it - the world in which we live has static dimensions, material quantities which are not subject to change whether they are observed or not. Secondly, magickal abstracts such as Quintessence, Entropy, minds, spatial and temporal location are viewed as discreet properties of patterns themselves rather than universal constants; a pattern is described as possessing varying quantities of Quintessence, Entropy and so forth.

Magick is thereby worked in discrete quanta, with isolated pockets of static made fluid and altered as per the effect. Working of magick in one area does not directly imply a knock-on effect in another. Because this philosophy does not involve the concept of changing the nature of reality as a single model, it involves far less risk in terms of mental stability.

Examples of Pattern Magick the construction of ordered, pseudo-scientific methods which are then translated into foci through the act of magickal practise. These include technological methods such as creating etheric devices (Sons of Ether), writing computer programs (Virtual Adepts) or developing science within the scientific paradigm (Technocrats); they also include non-technological approaches such as the construction of Fetishes in shamanistic ritual, the brewing of potions and use of blood as a source of "energy" within the Ordo Verbena, the structured practise of the Do by the Akashic Brotherhood, or even the practise of "Alchemy" and construction of some Talismans by some of the more traditional Hermetic lodges.

Primordial Essence

Primordialism is about faith and acceptance of axiomatic constants. There is a universal consciousness, a universal body, a universal entropic state. These never change. The Tellurian and all we see within it are subdivisions of these constants; an individual mind is simply a facet in the singular Mind of the Tellurian, for example. These Universal Constants, or Spheres, are immutable and pervade through every layer of reality. It is not the properties of the Spheres which are being changed by the working of magick but the way these Spheres interact with one another.

The Primordial believes in, or rather has faith in, a cosmic Grand Plan or Singularity. In sleeper culture this Singularity is better described as God (or gods for polytheistic magi), Infinity, Nirvana and so forth, and contains all of the Spheres. The working of magick changes the subtle interactions within the Grand Plan but does not (indeed, cannot) change the fundamental quantities of the Plan - i.e. Mind, Entropy, Quintessence and so forth.

If this Essence is becoming uncommon in the modern age it is because the Technocratic paradigm seeks explanations to everything, making the world-view of the sleepers ever expanding. Since primordial magick involves (in concept) re-writing the geometry of the Tellurian with every single rote, primordialists must expand their consciousness of the cosmos further and further, subjecting themselves to great risk from paradox by some hitherto unseen inconsistency in their model. In other words, proof denies faith, and without faith their magick is nothing.

The doctrine of Primordialism has not been aided one bit by the New Age revolution, with once respectable traditions being flooded with tree-hugging, crystal waving, wet-behind-the-ears Earth Mother sycophants. Modern magi who claim to follow the Primordial path are given over to absurd fancies that their avatars are sentient and embody the forms of ancient gods, animal totems and guiding spirits, ideas which are almost certainly born in the psyche and are a vain attempt to gain respect or attention from sleeper and mage alike by claiming themselves to be the physical embodiment of such a deity.

Examples of Primordial mages and magickal concepts are the most common throughout history. Icons of Faith such as Nirvana in Akashics, Mammon in witchcraft, Singularity in the Esoteric and God (and also paradoxically the devil) in Judao-Christian magick provide for the Universal Constant. The Primordial model of the world is further embellished by graphic descriptions of the alternate dimensions such as the seven levels of the classical cosmos (Gnostic), Heaven and Hell (Christian), and the Solar System (Technocratic Astronomy). Such a reliance on Faith as a defence against Paradox often results in numerous Paradox flaws, often consistent with the mageís own belief - a classic example of this being those mages of the Celestial Chorus that develop the Stigmata through over-use of magick.

Dynamic Essence

This is an extremely difficult essence model to describe, let alone practise. The Dynamist uses the viewpoint that the world is created by interactions between its inhabitants (rather than those between its fundamental properties) and is defined by the sensations of its observers. In other words, if it is not being experienced, thought of, believed in, it will cease to be! This concept is key to the understanding of coincidental magick and is one of the first lessons of the student of the magickal esoteric.

The Dynamic method requires the alteration of the studentís perception either by internal force of will, or more frequently by some external tool - such as drugs (as in Ecstasy cults) or computer modeling (Virtual Adepts). More than in any other essence the key here is the concept that the world is created by consensual opinion that it exists in one particular form or another. The working of Dynamic magick is therefore a matter of timeliness, working magick when the attention on the target of your spell is lowest and the mass consciousness is most amenable to a change in its perception. In actual fact, human beings notice less about inconsistencies in the passage of time and space than one might think, and so it is possible to work Dynamic magick in the presence of sleepers. Typically the Dynamist edits discrete quanta of time and spatial reality, removing the unwanted events and inserting their own view of actual events. Reality and existence begin and end with the Dynamist, and the working of magick is an imposition of your world view over that of those around you. As such it exists halfway between Pattern and Primordialism, applied only with reference to local events but requiring a dogmatic world model which eclipses that of any observers around you.

There are few examples of Dynamic magick in history as practised - this is because by its very nature, Dynamism is coincidental and is therefore ignored as mundane. As a result there are numerous references in sleeper culture which owe much of their reasoning to the Dynamic. These range from preposterous pseudo-intellectual ramblings from self-styled gurus such as Terence McKenna to scientifically accepted theorems such as the Einsteinís theory of Relativity (although in this case it is rigorously applied to the technocratic paradigm).

The Triats

The model of Wyld, Weaver, and Wyrm (Loup Blanc, [2]) is a myth which has been insinuated throughout much of magickal esoterica. Its roots lie in the mists of time as a base world-view model used by shamans and other spiritualists, and is a metaphor for the primal forces of Conception, Creation and Destruction respectively, a constant cycle. In the following section various analogies with this trinity will be used. The constant cycle between Wyld, Weaver and Wyrm is what creates the universe as we see it.

Valentin [3] first postulated the idea that the nine spheres could be grouped into three distinct types: Pattern spheres (Forces, Life, Matter), Conceptual spheres (Entropy, Mind, Prime) and Perceptual spheres (Correspondence, Spirit, Time). As you see, each of these groupings constitutes a Triat which is analogous to that of the Wyld/Weaver/Wyrm, or W3 as we will refer to it hereafter. Each Triat interacts with the other two; the Essence model which is being used defines the base Triat from which the mage chooses to conceptualise the Tellurian.

The Pattern triat of Forces, Life and Matter represents the system of biological, chemical and physical change within the Pattern Web, and is the basis for the Pattern mageís worldview.

                      Consumption (Wyrm)
               Life  -------------------- Matter
                     \                  /
                      \                /
           Creativity  \              / Creation
               (Wyld)   \            /  (Weaver)
                         \          /
                            Forces
Spatial, Temporal and Spiritual identity of the individual patterns within the pattern web give rise to the measurable values of Correspondence, Spirit and Time. Operating on the Pattern Triat are the conceptual quantities of Quintessence (the unifying source of all Pattern), Entropy (which defines the decay of individual Patterns) and Mind (which observes Patterns and conceives new ones).

The Dynamist chooses the opposite approach. Starting from a viewpoint of the Perceptual Triat

                           Substance
     Correspondence  -------------------- Spirit
                     \                  /
                      \                /
             Causality \              / Evolution
                        \            / 
                         \          /
                             Time
the interaction of individual minds as observers gives rise to the Pattern Triat, which in turn gives rise to the notion of a collective conscious, body and entropy, or in other words the Conceptual Triat.

The Primordial approach is difficult to describe because of the interaction between the Universal Constants (q.v.) and the Perceptual Triat. In truth the rigorous definition is a point of contention between scholars. Valentin suggests that the constants of Entropy, Mind and Prime give rise to Space (Correspondence), Time and Causality (Spirit)

                        Correspondence
               Prime -------------------- Mind
                     \                  /
                      \                /
                  Time \              / Spirit
                        \            /
                         \          /
                            Entropy
which further crystallise into the Pattern Web as we see it. Pander et. al. [4] on the other hand state that the constants solidify into the Pattern Web and thereby give rise to the concepts of space and time, Concept generating Pattern generating Percept.

Which Came First?

The upshot of these three systems is a definition of the Tellurian which places Concept, Percept and Pattern in a strict Hierarchy or "Ladder". The uppermost Triat gives rise to the intermediate Triat, which in turn gives rise to the base Triat.
Pattern Dynamic Primordial (Valentin) Primordial (Pander)

Pattern
generates
Perception
generates
Concept

Perception
generates
Pattern
generates
Concept

Concept
generates
Perception
generates
Pattern

Concept
generates
Pattern
generates
Perception

Other Essence Types

Questing Essence

This viewpoint is the subject of such dispute that its existence has been under question for half a century. Originally it was viewed as a very similar model to the Dynamic, because of the actions of its practitioners. Questing magick is characterised by the use of ad hoc magick; in other words, rather than use formalised rotes and spells, which are effectively combinations of sphere effects, the Questing mage chooses to isolate sphere properties and manipulate them separately and with little or no focus. Outsiders have referred to this practise as "automatic magick" and have praised and condemned its use in equal amounts. Osbourne [5] says this of Questing mages:
"They seem to exhibit the ability to work fluid magick by thought and force of will alone, without any more understanding of magickal systems than the Spheres which their powers affect. They work magick in the whimsical manner that we see exhibited by haemovores, lupines and the fae races of Atlantis. I have little doubt that this intuitive approach to magick heralds the next step in the magesí evolution, when we will become more like those old Atlantean races, creatures of pure magick..."
Valentin is less optimistic:
"These so-called Questing mages are nothing more than Marauders, working magick without discipline, routine, fear or thought for the consequences of their actions. They invite Paradox, and such practises should be discouraged if the Ascension War is not to be lost to the dementia of its soldiers."
Neither of these opinions bring us any closer to a concrete definition of the Questing Mage - and it is an almost universal tenet that such a rigorous definition as we seek cannot be applied to such a magickal philosophy. Pander et. al. are particularly vocal on the subject:
"Whereas the three base Triats of Pattern, Perception and Conception embody the basis for Pattern, Dynamic and Primordial essences respectively, the Questing Triat takes the individual Triats of Pattern, Dynamism and Primordialisn and forms its own Super-Triat from other magickal methods. In other words, the Questing mage is one who seeks balance between these three viewpoints and draws equally on all three models for their creativity. Ultimately, by looking beyond these base models of magickal space into the Super-Triat formed by the interaction of the standard Triats they reach past such magickal theories for a wider, larger and more balanced view of reality, and thus it can be argued that they are the next evolutionary stage of human mages. We know itís a bit of a half-baked theory but weíve already over-run on this book and the publishers are getting on our backs."
Pander et. al. argue that the Questing magus is the intermediate stage in Ascension between the Primordial, Dynamic, or Pattern essences and that essence which all magi strive for, the Infinite. This theory is tenuous at best; however their observation that many Questing mages draw from a variety of teachings, texts and religions, as is common for Orphan magi, is a poignant one.

Finally, the most succinct, if erratic, observation comes from Thatcherís underground masterpiece [6]:

"When the technocrat dog goes for his gun in a dark alley tonight, do you think heíll give you the courtesy of five minuteís litany in Greek and wafting incense over a chalk circle? No. Fireball him now, bugger the paradoxical consequences."

The Infinite Essence

If Pander et. al. are to be given any credence, then beyond the fluid magickal model of the Questing lies the total expanse of the Infinite. As Weick et. al. state, "The Infinite essence has never been known to manifest in Mages... [in fact] its existence is conjecture... [however] the metaphysics of magick fundamentally relies on the essence of the Infinite." Many authors have tried to explain the Infinite and have failed to reach any conclusion beyond a definition of "absolute control over oneís magickal abilities without the need for formal rote or even understanding of oneís powers... existence is the only model required for working magick" (Osbourne). As such it is a Holy Grail in the ascension process, and too many mages seek it for the power which they think it grants them. Such aspirations of power have material basis or viewpoint and are doomed to failure.

We will explore the Infinite in later chapters (see page XX).

References and further reading:
[1] Mage: the Ascension, Weick, Earley and Weick, Ordo Haagen-Daaz 1993
[2] Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Loup Blanc, Ordo Salubris 1991
[3] The Three Eyes of God, H. E. Valentin, Ordo Hermetica 1970
[4] Triat, You Might Like It, J. J. Pander, Ordo Akashik and Esteven Brock, Ordo Virtualis 1989
[5] Secrets of the Sabbath, Dr. O. Z. Osbourne, Ordo Ecstatica 1990
[6] Third order umbral sex, the Rt. Hon. Baroness Thatcher, Ordo Verbena 1985

Professor Quick is head of Temporal Geometric Studies at Essex College, Oxford, where he lives with his two cats Trimble and Gatanathoea. He likes fine wines and student mages who arrive on time to tutorials. At the time of writing he is touring India, playing bass with Gideon Stargraveís Indigo Shift.

Ralph Lovegrove