VR THERAPY & MAGICK
Chapter 4, cont.
There are two basic approaches to the use of metaphor in therapy. The first is a "canned" approach, which assumes a beneficial effect from certain imagery or stories for certain types of problems. Ericksonian hypnosis uses the "imported" metaphor for a wide range of diagnoses. The stories relate to the dysfunctions of the client and show a route to healing as a possibility and model. The treatment is essentially pre-determined and applied in a "one size fits all" manner.
In process-oriented therapy, the metaphors emerge from the client, rather than being imported by the therapist as a quick fix. In process work, the therapist does not assume to have any pre-packaged means of healing the client. Rather, the metaphor and meaning emerge organically from within the client, and the therapist merely guides and fosters that emergence. By merely "trusting the process", they arrive at a unique, creative solution. Epistemological metaphors are idiosyncratic for each person, and are the key to individualized therapy. Their experience is encoded in their personal symbols.
Through the amplification and elaboration of root metaphors and epistemological metaphors, VR offers a means of enhancing many therapeutic processes, which employ imagination. VR applications could be developed for Transactional Analysis, Gestalt, Transpersonal, and Jungian therapies. Many of the stock-in-trade techniques of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) could also be employed. In VR, one could experience even more vividly the "part's party" of conflicting subpersonalities, the "change history," or the process of "re-framing."
VR could be used for simple hypnotic regressions, phobia desensitization, re-parenting, the Gestalt two-chair technique, or dialogue with figures like the shadow, anima/animus, or wise self. Psychodrama scenarios with role-playing and other players could be useful. The other players could be human beings sharing in the therapy space, or computer generated images under the control of the therapist.
For example, in re-parenting, the therapist could create an imaginal caregiver based on the client's ideal description, or use the client's adult self as the model. The client may be regressed, even to infancy or womb experience, to feel viscerally the nurturing and positive support, which were unavailable historically. The new "memory" of responsive nourishing does not change the historical fact, but supercedes it in meaning. The greater the need, the deeper the impact.
In simulating subjective reality, VR provides a wider range of imaginal scenarios than traditional therapy with its ethical constraints. Some pioneers in re-parenting were highly criticized for their physical interaction with clients. One example was a therapist who actually breast fed her schizophrenic clients during spontaneous regressions, so that they could internalize that warmth and mature from the most fundamental stages of development. Clearly this crosses the ethical line. However, in VR the therapist has a host of resources available, which do not create dependency issues, or violations of physical parameters.
Another alternative is that the client creates his own world and manipulates figures within it, as in sand tray therapy. The story unfolds from the client and is externalized in VR. The therapist can look on or guide. The client can choose to "climb into" his waking dream and participate, or not. One could identify experientially with any character or object.
The high tech shaman/therapist may employ VR to supercharge the therapy process. However, this turbocharged therapy would not be indicated for most sessions. It should be interspersed with traditional sessions. In this way, Virtual Therapy does not become a substitution of symbolic realities for the world. Contraindications would be fairly self-evident. The same criteria apply to Virtual Therapy as those for determining any therapy of choice for each client. It might be fine for a systematic desensitization, and sensory overload for a fixed delusion.
VR can be used as a psychological training environment. The experiences are not only simulations, they are virtually real. They are true experiences on the emotional level. VR can be used to enhance our inborn perception and reaction capacities. With the subject isolated from sensory contact with consensus reality, all input comes from the totally fabricated environment. Client and therapist can open a door into any reality or fantasy they choose, for therapeutic purposes.
In the VR environment, we have the means of extending the capacities of both the body and psyche. Symbols and imagery can be used in either an "inoculatory" or corrective manner for balancing the personality. Paradoxically, they can be used for fostering a strong coping ego, or dissolving the rigidities of a personality through "ego death." The dissolving of the outworn, defective personality and the emergence of a new self in a safe environment, under controlled conditions has its model in the ancient psychological prescription of alchemy: "Solve et coagula."
Descriptions of this spontaneous process are found in many cultures. One classical example is the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which describes specific Bardo states, or states of consciousness, which emerge during the psychological rebirth process. The varieties of psychological rebirth are many. They generally involve rising anxiety on the part of the ego undergoing the experience. The fear comes from dissolving the primary identification with ego as the only means of experiencing Self.
The ego must pass through and beyond the fear, pain, and chaos which invariably lie on the path to inner healing. Typically, after this phase, there is an emergence into the transpersonal realm, where new resources are found, which can be brought back from the experience and integrated. In the modern era, similar experiences were reported in the field of consciousness studies, using psychedelic substances in a therapeutic manner. Most of the parameters of this experience could be simulated in VR Therapy without the use of drugs.
In this quickly evolving field, there are certain developments, which would mark greater degrees of freedom within the therapeutic setting.
Right now with simple computer conferencing, it is possible for a therapist at point A to interface with a client at a remote location. With a video interface, the nuances of personal observation are not lost. However, there is a definite perception of "remoteness" in the exchange.
The creation of a more tangible common meeting ground in cyberspace or a virtual world, overcomes this initial problem. However, it raises the practical problem of both parties having interfacing gear at their respective locations. Current state of the art involves cumbersome goggles and other apparatus like gloves or joysticks. All this gear is attached to the computer by cables required for power and information flow. Even if both therapist and client were in the same location, merely dressing in this gear creates an initial barrier between them.
The current generation of commercially available helmets deliver a low resolution image with a limited field of vision and a slow refresh rate. The complexity of the computer-generated world is limited with respect to the number and complexity of objects, visual detail, movement, etc. There may be an appreciable time lag between head movement and image response. Tactile feedback is limited to the experience of sensations of texture and light pressure on the fingertips.
Force feedback utilizes special hand devices, which duplicate the resistances experienced during movement of a small object under the influence of external forces. More sophisticated force feedback with complexly shaped objects with mass and forces acting on the whole body are under development but are complex and expensive. Creating the illusion of real solid objects would facilitate the therapy process, even though 97% of human sensory processing normally occurs through sight and sound.
According to Webb, "whole body suits have been created which sense the position and movement of the user's body and generate a 'computer simulacrum.' This allows the participant to view his own body and it also permits two or more people to see each other and interact. The amount of information needed to track position in space is very small, so it would be simple to use ordinary phone lines to communicate between users in two different locations who would appear to be in the same space."
The body suits from VPL are complex and involve a number of different sensor systems for different types of movement. They have to be individually fitted, which is time consuming and expensive. Current data transfer systems inhibit movement. The person wearing the suit has to have a thick cable physically connected to the computers. Ideally, there should be some sort of wireless link to the computers so the individual would be free to move around in a controlled space. Unlike conventional therapies, many potential applications of VR do not require the presence of more than one person.
This raises the question of self-administered therapeutic interactions where the computer program itself actually guides the experience. Many of the same issues come up that arise with self-administration of psychotropic drugs.
Again, according to Webb, "the function of psychotropic drugs is to introduce a new state of consciousness into the brain without regard to specific information content. VR is a new way to introduce specific information content into the brain without a specific state of consciousness. While the presentation of visual and aural information can certainly result in an altered state of consciousness, VR and psychedelics are really profoundly different."
That having been said, the potential for VR to be used to alter consciousness is vast. It could exert an incredible control over states of consciousness for either beneficial or harmful effects. The results could be as trivial as temporary alteration of mood or as profound as a radical alteration of personality. These changes could be voluntary or imposed from the outside. The capability of VR to either liberate or control the mind really needs to be explored and understood.
Artificial intelligence programs are being developed which can form a model of the user including an estimation of the user's belief system. Work is being done on the reading and interpretation of emotional states via facial expressions, gestures, voice tone and inflection, word choice, statements and even biophysical variables. Such a system could spontaneously change a virtual world based on the actions and reactions of a user.
VR is not immune to the possibility of abuse. Much like video games have become a form of addiction, which limits the availability of the individual for real life experience, VR has an escapist, addictive potential, because it could conceivably even create pleasure or ecstasy states on demand. In a therapeutic situation, theoretically the therapist is in control of the parameters of the experience. The reality of VR will probably include self-administration or direction for a variety of goals, including the possibility of virtual sex.
When sophisticated control languages are designed which permit the individual to have real time control over the design of the virtual world, there will be a real possibility of the projection of internal psychological instabilities into the virtual world, creating dangerous feedback and feedforward loops. There is also the question of involuntary immersion in a virtual reality designed to disorient and torment. In the information age, not all computer use is benign.
Most discussions of virtual reality assume that the virtual world will be constructed explicitly by the human operator. However, the computer could use fractal mathematics to construct a realistic landscape complete with plant life. There are a number of systems under development for creating artificial mobile life forms as well. The computer could generate a complex ecosystem without human intervention, which could be explored as if it were a newly discovered continent.
A typical hypnotic technique is for the client to create his or her own special place. This island of serenity, or sanctuary, could be explicitly programmed to suit individual desires and creativity. The juxtaposition of favorite elements would be possible, even if they are widely separated in the normal world. These "sacred spaces" would serve as havens of refuge, and also provide spiritual nourishment. The concept of temenos, an enclosed precinct, is relevant here. The customized cyberspace can function as a cocoon for the process of transformation or metamorphosis.
These VR experiences also offer the possibility of safe adventures which could be used, not only to relieve stress and anxiety, but to promote self-confidence and self-esteem. They would function as a psychological training ground, because there are real experiential consequences of immersion in cyberspace. The emotional changes could be profound, including the spiritual insight that our consensus reality is highly conditioned by the nature of our perceptions. We experience an image synthesized by our visual and neural systems triggered by stimulus from the physical universe. Our relationship with and attitudes toward physical reality may be profoundly altered by our development of VR.
Specific symbols could be introduced into this "brave new world." This could provide a backdrop for creating state-specific alternities. Therapy could draw its cue from the ancient magical practice of pathworking. Magic or Hermetic science was the closest ancient art to psychology. It preceded psychology in much the same way that alchemy preceded chemistry. In pathworking, the aspirant "journeys" to the imaginal location of an archetypal Form, and returns by the same route. Jung alleged that archetypes can be found everywhere, the universal embodied in the specific. In cyberspace, archetypes could be presented in a more abstract, fundamental and profound manner as "pure" ideal forms.
Such consciousness journeys have a transformative effect. Like the shamans of old who could "fly" to the moon or descend into the underworld, one's consciousness is set free from the bounds of empirical reality. The pathworking technique is much the same as that we have come to know as "guided visualization." It is pre-programmed. It could be used to prepare a client for more spontaneous interaction in the inner realm of mind. These experiences produce tangible outer effects on the behavior, body, emotions, and thoughts of the cybernaut.
In Jungian psychology, it is known that certain symbols cluster together. They seem to share a common nature, an affinity, or to have a natural sort of correspondence. Many of these correspondences are chronicled or codified in the lore of the occult, myth, and folklore. The image of a god or goddess presides over the entire cluster of related symbols. Thus the god Apollo is associated with the astrological force of the sun, the color gold, healing and certain specific scents, colors, sounds, events, plants and animals. Synthetic "gods" could be created by artificial intelligence programs to populate a virtual world. They would be capable of engaging in conversations with VR participants.
Like cures like in psychosomatic relationships to dis-ease. Jung said there are gods within our diseases. That energy can be transformed from a dysfunctional form to a transpersonal resource. It requires building a conscious relationship with the primary archetypal force. Jung encouraged a kind of meditative dialogue he called active imagination. It was patterned after an old alchemical procedure. In active imagination the ego actively engages the flow of imagination directly as a willing participant.
We can immerse ourselves in the living stream of consciousness and interact with that spontaneously creative imagination. VR could enhance this perception, eliminating years of training to develop visualization skill. It is not pre programmed, nor introjected from the therapist.
Traditionally, pathworking is a mediating act, which occurs in imagination. The imaginal world is known to psychologists as the realm of the psyche, or soul. Pathworking and VR could be used to gain access to specific resources and qualities associated with the archetypal symbol clusters. During the excursion, the participant enters as his ego-oriented self, complete with its values and goals. This is not idle daydreaming or self-gratifying fantasy.
The subject maintains this perspective even while exposed to and influenced by the evocative power of the archetype. Unlike a dream, there is the possibility of exercising intent and choice, as both the conscious and sub-conscious work together in a way that may never have been experienced before. The symbols create an atmosphere, which permits the development of a direct relationship of the ego with the transpersonal force.
This spiritual application of VR creates direct experience of personal and transpersonal interaction. The I-Thou relationship is made manifest in a non-physical reality. The experience is unique for each individual in both content and meaning.
We foresee the time when we will be able to dispense with the clumsy goggles and gloves and tap directly into the human brain. This would allow the creation of all the sensory and motor experiences of the "real" world. It is the ultimate goal of virtual evolution. Because the sensory systems are not passive detectors, but active processing subsystems, it would require the creation of active computer analogs of the sensory apparatus that could interact with the brain in the same way.
It may become almost impossible to distinguish Virtual Reality from Reality Proper! This raises an obvious ethical concern. If we succeed in creating a computer "dream time", it will have a profound impact upon our sense of personal identity and reality. Many options will be explored because of strong psychological, social, and economic demands, regardless of any individual researcher's opinions.
When The Whole Earth Review (Winter 1987) covered the VR revolution, they made an important point:
We can interpret a new tool as we would a dream, for what it tells us about the psyche of its creator. For with all their ostensibly practical aims, tools are also displays of fantasy, tangible metaphors, poems. They are the stories we tell ourselves about who we think we are, or wish to be. And the scary thing is that they help these stories to come true.
The word "technology" is derived from the Greek "techne" which means "the manner of accomplishing a task". This is also the root of the word "technique". As the quote implies, technology originates in the mind; without the concept of hammering, a hammer is just a strangely shaped piece of metal on a round piece of wood.
In the world of VR, man literally gets to play God, at least for a local universe. WER says,
We see in these images, for example, an uninhibited celebration of the separation and transcendence of mind over body: a disembodied intellect hovers over a barren and regular landscape, the clear line of thought being all that is necessary to create and control.
It is the ultimate control fantasy: "the images of supreme and effortless power from a distance."
This is a very glib and powerful image but it does not tell the whole story. There will be interactions with other human beings in virtual reality and we all know how quickly visions of control and perfection evaporate in the heat of interpersonal interaction. There is also the prospect of virtual worlds created by chaotic and fractal algorithms which will yield novel landscapes filled with strange plants and animals.
Virtual worlds will have their own laws, which will restrict the control of the individual over circumstances. There is also the prospect of artificial intelligence creating entities and environments with their own agendas. The initial vision of VR may be accurately captured in the WER quote but the actual experience of VR will quickly replace it with a more complete understanding of the new realm.
Psychologically, the current interest in VR might be viewed as one expression of the goal of spiritual ascensionism, disembodiment to free the trapped spirit. A compulsion in this direction undermines the sense of wholeness which involves holding the tension of the opposites between corporeality and spiritually.
It presents a new challenge to the conundrum of mind /body split, the primary psychic wound of modern western man. Grandiosity or inflation may be a natural side effect of this new technology. The new awareness this technology brings us requires grounding, integrating, and digesting.
The inevitable interpenetration of the virtual world with the physical world will tend to heal this division of the electronic mind and the physical body. This will occur in a number of ways. Most intimately, there will be the looping of body performance into the virtual realm. The computer representation of the body could change color as the person performed a particular physical task such as a tennis serve or a martial arts movement.
The virtual representation would accelerate the learning of a physical skill. The internal physical processes such as blood circulation, muscle exertion, electromagnetic brain activity, blood chemistry, etc. could be detected and externalized so that a person could walk around inside a visual representation of their own body. These applications would lead to a whole new level of self-awareness and biofeedback or neuralfeedback training.
Beyond an individual's self-explorations, the physical world will be imported into virtuality and computer-generated objects will be exported into external physical reality. Video windows driven by cameras will bring external scenes into virtual reality. Robotic manipulators/vehicles will be able to translate activity in virtual reality into actions in the external world.
Transparent glasses which can display computer graphic "overlays" will be able to show an individual virtual objects superimposed over his normal visual image of the world. With appropriate sensors, physical actions with respect to these computer objects will be converted into control information for computer devices. While it may be simple and easy to envision a hermetic seal between virtual reality and physical reality, that is not what the future will hold.
Even with a mind-set that denies the body primacy, the body is affected. It doesn't matter what external forces influence the patterned firings of nerve cells. The body cannot help but be profoundly influenced by its experience in virtual reality. Its biochemistry and electromagnetic field are influenced, as well as glandular activity. This has tangible results like any emotional experience. But VR Therapy has the potential to be much more impacting than, say, a trip to Disneyworld; or a movie.
The bottom line to the degree of influence exerted by the experience is the meaning which the participant attaches to it. It remains to be seen whether the net result of VR experience will be life enhancing or diminishing in regard to intra personal and inter personal communication.
Psychology is investigating the common ground between itself and spirituality. Most psychologies see the value for well being within some kind of spiritual quest or perspective. Different experiences condition our worldview and our view of ourselves. Our image of our relationship to the universe, and optimal conduct within that realm is the province of philosophy. It involves the primary questions: "Who am I, why am I here, and where am I going?" VR experience could affect an individual's response to these questions, opening a broader reality.
We know that the new computer technologies such as virtual reality are here to stay, whether they get used for positive or negative purposes. In principle, it conforms with the basic definition of magic: "Magick is the art and science of causing change in conformity with the will," according to Aleister Crowley. VR certainly brings us a giant step toward literalizing that notion. But to what end? If not to aid ourselves and our fellow human beings, what is the purpose?
Speaking of the philosophical implications of the new technology, Frank J. Dyer reminds us that eastern philosophy has long recognized the virtual nature of existence. The marvelous universe of discrete objects is an illusion. It is a veiling of the true transcendent nature of Reality through restriction of our consciousness to the world of apparent form. This illusory aspect of the manifested universe is termed maya in the yogic philosophy and in Vedanta. In yogic philosophy, all of this manifestation exists for the purpose of providing certain classes of experience to consciousness, individualized as the Self at the core of each person's being.
This could be the ultimate application for Virtual Reality, to enhance and accelerate that process.
Burt Webb is a multi-faceted individual: businessman, computer program writer, futurist, scientist, multimedia artist, musician, writer and speaker. He is always on the cutting-edge in such subjects as consciousness studies, the holographic nature of reality, post quantum physics, nanotechnology, chaos theory and complexity, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and science fiction. He has written and lectured widely in these and other areas of science and technology.
Contact Burt at phoenix @ eskimo.com.
Speculations on Practice in the Electronic Astral Plane
by Iona Miller, ©1992
Mythical Realism -- Virtual Bodies of Light -- Virtual Sex Magick
We are entering an era of magical technologies which are relevant to the inner world of imagery and imagination. Through Virtual Reality (VR) we can create an electronic representation of typical symbols of the psyche and interact with them. Even though these images have no concrete existence, they are influential in the process of transformation.
The practice of magick, a sacred technology, normally involves concentrated visualization activity coupled with immersion in the autonomous stream of consciousness. Since much of the training and practice in magick is based on a recipe, formula, or protocol, these could easily be programmed, using virtual reality, to guide an aspirant into a specific state of consciousness. Biofeedback monitoring could enhance that state.
Each virtual world would include a panoply of symbols related to a specific archetype. The aspirant would journey through this world. In the process of positive interaction with these archetypal forms (or perhaps imaginally becoming them), the psyche becomes "inoculated" with their resources. A conscious relationship is fostered. This leads to a greater sense of wholeness and communion with transpersonal energies.
Through the arrival of Virtual Reality (VR) technology, we will soon have access to a fully programmable electronic "astral plane." Magic has always been a sacred technology, and combining it with VR makes for a state-of-the-art practice. In virtual reality, we can create a world which is, in essence or effect, "as good as" normal reality. Through the use of visual, audial, kinesthetic, and olfactory feedback, the experiential (rather than analytical) part of the brain is guided to suspend its disbelief in the synthetic reality.
The realization of a system of interactive fantasy will allow us, as artists or magicians, to shape the experience from the inside. It will allow us to re-shape ourselves, also. A central premise in VR is that you can manipulate your self-representation, or self-image. VR represents a cultural revolution in the way we view reality, nature, art, ourselves, and our relationship with transpersonal powers.
Interactive media will give us the ability to author moving images. When you can put your images in cyberspace, you introduce your own unique content into the experience. Background, or natural imagery, will be texture-mapped for ambiguity. Ambiguity is one key to the engagement of the imagination (Laurel, 1992). Communal virtual reality is also possible for group rituals, but requires a tremendously powerful computer to keep track of all the details, which perpetuate a believable virtual space.
The realm of imagination has traditionally been the province of shamans and magicians. More recently, psychotherapists have entered the arena of imagination as guides to the heights and the depths. There are many different styles in the practice of magic from primitive to sophisticated. Magic is the ancient technology for dealing with lost or questing souls, while archetypal psychology is a modern counterpart.
Basically, there are three ways of encountering the inner world, reflecting the state of consciousness of the practitioner: 1). prototaxic mode, a "possession" or trance state where the ego is absent through regression; 2). parataxic mode, which includes art, archetype, myth, dream, and ritual wherein the ego is enthralled; and 3). syntaxic mode, which includes creativity, gnosis, and higher mystical states, where the ego is enraptured and eventually transcended.
Sophisticated magick, or Theurgy, has been practiced in western occultism through the centuries largely by an elite group of eccentric intellectuals. Many of them identified with the Rosicrucians, Masons, Gnostics, or other "hidden" orders. These practitioners of the mystic arts were the forefathers of modern sciences like chemistry, botany, medicine, physics, astronomy, and philosophy. Through magick, they learned a unique way of looking at the inner and outer world. This is the major premise of any philosophy: "Look at it like this..." The magical philosophy has left a tremendous legacy. The history of these alchemists, mystics, healers, and theurgists outlines one of the most interesting areas of human endeavor: consciousness studies.
The mapping of consciousness states and their corresponding typical experiences (plus how to attain them) forms part of the doctrine of any magical philosophy. The most widely embraced map is called The Tree of Life. The very foundation of the modern western occult tradition is contained in this circuit or glyph of The Tree of Life. It describes a hierarchy of 10 states of being (Spheres), and 22 characteristic modes of transition between them (Paths). All the corresponding symbolism of the human psyche is categorized according to this comprehensive basic structure. It represents all ways of being and becoming--all possible states of consciousness.
The philosophical system, which the Tree represents, originated in the Jewish culture. Through synchronism it amalgamated with the Gnostic, Egyptian, Arabic, and other systems. This synthesis became known as Hermetic Qabalism. In divorcing itself from its Hebrew roots, Qabala returned to the mythic domain of its informing archetype, Hermes.
In ancient Egypt, this archetypal energy was represented by the god Thoth, Lord of Magic. He presided over skills such as writing and translating. In Greece, as Hermes, he was the messenger between the realm of the gods and men--he who could fly into the heights or depths. Our modern forms of writing and translating have moved into information processing via computers. Information processing is fundamental to any form of communication.
Information processing is the foundation of all technology. Thus, Hermes is the informing myth of a technological approach to sacred psychology and spirituality. Hermes' domain includes gnosticism, alchemy, magick, and depth psychology. Like programming, they are all hermeneutic endeavors, involving the process of interpretation. Jung noticed that, "Every interpretation necessarily remains an "as-if." The ultimate core of meaning may be circumscribed, but not described." He refers to the "as-if" reality as the closest we can come to direct knowledge. For example, our God-image in the psyche is our closest (and only) experience of Divinity, however unique it may be. We perceive it directly, but it is a specific interpretation of the unknowable archetype.
Ultimately, it is our sense organs, which help us interpret the world and our experience through our perceptions. They help us make a distinction between what is "real" and "unreal." The emotional part of the brain, (the right, spatial lobe), cannot analytically distinguish a symbol from a symbolic representation. In imagination or virtual reality it becomes a moot point. Fantasy, in fact, animates both our inner and outer worlds, and creates meaning. The on-going imaginative process of the psyche is the ground of being. Jung spoke of the psychoid aspect of psyche as the vast non-human action of the universal forces.
Through the technology of virtual reality, we can take the imagery arising from deep within our psyche and create an "as-if" reality, which we can enter at will. If magick is the art and science of changing consciousness at will, in this context, imagination is reality. It manifests as images. Jung implied that our closest approach to God or any minor deity is through the God-image. This brings to mind the process of invocation, or calling in the god-form in magick. The conjuring of these archetypal images, and identification or interaction with them is a primary application of ritual in theurgy. In magick, it is taken virtually literally, as magician Dion Fortune's comment shows:
...the Ministrant proceeds boldly with the ceremony as if that which he had invoked had actually come about...He must have the courage of his convictions, and give himself up boldly to be the instrument of the forces he has invoked, relying upon them to bring about the transition from fantasy to fact, which is the meaning of transubstantiation. If he proceeds to play the part he has assigned himself as if it were a reality, he will find, provided the force he has invoked is a genuine force and the pictorial image he has made is a suitable one, that imagination has become reality and that an influence is flowing into him, and emanating from him, which is a very real thing indeed...
Since archetypal images arise from the collective unconscious, they are common to all mankind. The God-forms invoked in magick are the basis of our psychic life and our relationship to the universe. Everything we are is virtually imagined through their forces and forms. There is nothing but their primary essence to be found in either our concrete or imaginal reality, if psyche is the foundation of reality. Magic and archetypal psychology allege this is so.
Jung advocated the practice of Active Imagination for transformation. He based his technique on the alchemical meditatio, or dialogic exchange with the transpersonal. It involves entering the autonomous stream of psychic imagery with the values, ethics, and perspective of the ego, and interacting therein. Magick proposes a very similar premise, but has an entire technology for clearing out a purified psychic "space" into which an undiluted primal force may be called forth. Both techniques share the same result: a consciousness journey with real-time effects. Imagination is reality when it has the power to move us biologically, kinesthetically, viscerally, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The prospect of "home-brewed" imaginal worlds for exploration and recreation is on the horizon before the turn of the millennium. Those pursuing the age-old Quest or Great Work will certainly want to put this possibility to purposeful use. When a person becomes caught up in a ritual, visualization, or meditation, inner vs. outer becomes a moot point. Imagination becomes a spontaneous influence which can be "seen" through the Observer Self. Magick is the directing of that experience in a specific direction, to a particular focus. Each ritual has its own telos, or goal. It is this striving, goal-oriented attitude of the ego that makes magick a heroic quest.
We may speculate that simulating archetypal forms in VR gives their transpersonal energy a "body" to inhabit, just as visualizing does. Chronicity (the propensity for archetypal forms and events to cyclically recur) and synchronicity (acausal connection) provide magically-charged energy for the simulated forms. All perceptions of archetypes are simulations of their unknowable primal nature, anyway. This holds true in mystical experience, art, and imagination. According to Jung, archetypes are everywhere, so they will certainly be found in virtual reality, alive and well. In this form, they will be more accessible than ever. The novice could easily get a first-hand training experience in what inner dialogue is like.
Archetypes will be just as inclined to inhabit or inform these virtual images as any other. In fact, there is no way around it, if the programs are consistent and coherent. With an artificial intelligence program added, they will behave with a certain degree of spontaneity and novelty, congruent with their character. VR conjures them, evokes them, or calls them up into awareness for interaction. The imaginal character speaks and behaves in its characteristic manner, but reacts uniquely in each specific situation. The entire panoply of symbolic correspondences, for which the god-form is the nexus, could be displayed interactively for the aspirant.
In the magical operation known as assumption of the god-form, the participant identifies with the archetypal power. In VR, the aspirant could experience being decked out in full regalia, with all the symbolic appurtenances, in an environment and atmosphere exclusively geared to expressing that power. To role-play the characteristic utterances and acts of that god or goddess could be a further amplification of the process. Mythic journeys, programmed by master magicians, will be available like the electronic games of today. It could be used for accessing and anchoring transpersonal resources for the personality.
VIRTUAL BODIES OF LIGHT:
A major tenet of Qabala and occult philosophy concerns the nature of the astral body. The Jews call it the Tselem. This starry body is composed of scintillating etheric energy. It is perceived in imagination as being composed of light that takes on various fine forms. The analogy with electrical energy and light in cyberspace is obvious, if not literal.
To work on the astral level, the magician identifies with this virtual double of the physical body. In imagination, one perceives with the eyes of the body of light while maintaining its perspective and orientation. The light body has the ability of separating itself from the constraints of the flesh and blood body, without limitations of a mortal frame.
The astral body contains the fully functioning consciousness of the aspirant. Its existence is alleged to persist after physical death, as reported by those with near-death-experiences. Magically, or psychically, the astral body is built in the imagination through the process of breath control, or pranayama. The VR program supercedes the trained imaginative faculty. It opens the experience to those who are not of contemplative nature, those unwilling or unable to spend years training the mind and visualization capacity. It makes the dialogic realm open to all in limited form. It establishes a new medium for the traditional I-Thou dialogue.
The virtual astral body could be employed for the practice of pathworking. Magick, itself, is the practice of practical Qabala, and its most practical exploits are the imaginal consciousness journeys known as pathworking. As a magical practice, pathworking differs from ceremonial invocation by imaginally transporting the aspirant to the location of an archetypal Form, rather than calling the Form into the circle or oneself. The experience includes a "there-and-back-again" experience of a very specially conditioned terrain. The exposure to symbols keys processes in the mind, which influence the process of transformation.
The paths of The Tree of Life are metaphorical "in-roads" through the imagination. Each is marked by typical landmarks, milestones, and signposts. Each contains their ordeals, challenges, and intrinsic rewards. Pathworking offers a way of "finding" or "locating" archetypes in imaginal space. In imagination, we do it simply by wishing ourselves there, actively interacting. In VR, it requires some programming, but the initial intent is the same whether creating your own program or authoring a master program for others.
Each successive pathworking increases the area of perceptible inner space. One can enter the experience as a passive spectator, or as an active participant. The emotional impact of the experience is real. Imagine when these experiences become re-processed in your dream life! In VR, other humans could play the parts of entities encountered, or the journey may be undertaken as a common adventure. All pathworkings return the traveler to the point of origin, which is usually some symbolic form of door to the netherworld.
Another magical exercise, rising on the planes, is conducted while in the Body of Light. In this process, one imagines oneself moving further and further up through the hierarchy of planes described in the Qabala. You can get a sense for it if you can imagine an ever-widening perspective moving from sub-atomic to cosmic. For example, imagine you are a sub-atomic particle, an atom, a molecule, an organism, an animal, a human, the biosphere, the earth, the solar system, the galaxy, ad infinitum. All of this type of imagery is readily programmable and universal in meaning.
VIRTUAL SEX MAGICK:
When people hear of VR, one of the first application that leaps to mind is the possibility of virtual sex. Extending that idea into magical realism we come across the notion of virtual sex magick. Virtual sex magick awaits the development of tactile feedback systems. However, the act itself is a generator for surplus magical energy, which may therefore be focused on a specific desire or intent. This is known as the "bud will" or "magickal child." It uses the emotional energy of enflamment coupled with the directive powers of will, visualization, and intentionality.
Perhaps the most commonly recommended application of sex magick is for attaining "knowledge and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel." While this wasn't meant as "knowledge" in the Biblical sense, it is certainly a possibility in VR. The consummation of the act means either identification with, or dialogic interaction with the higher self. Most acts of sacred sex reenact the holy union (hierosgamos) of God and Goddess, Shiva and Shakti, Krishna and Radha, Yang and Yin forces. It is a cosmic union of complements. Here again is fertile ground for the programming of a VR reality to enhance the imaginative faculty.
Imaginal variations on the mystic marriage could use images of mythical and historical figures or draw from the symbolism of Tantra, alchemy, and Taoism, to name a few. One might perceive the experience from the perspective of a particular god or goddess in a classical union. Each program might contain one or many experiences of a similar nature. The menu might include the union of God and the Shekinah, God and Sophia, spirit and nature, anima/animus, priest/priestess, or King and Queen. One time you might be Solomon and Sheba, another Ares and Aphrodite, another Arthur and Guinevere.
The Royal Marriage is a transcendent symbol of the Self, and embodies psychic totality. With plasticity of form and interaction we can only speculate what hermaphroditic creations might result, what androgynous beings. These experiences might not represent their mature psychological counterparts, but they could be inspiring dress-rehearsals, which jump-start the creative imagination, adding a new dimension to sexual life--sort of the reverse of pornography.
Normally, we are not taught to direct our thoughts into any higher purpose during sex, much less at the point of orgasm. Yet, to do so can be healing and connective in a very deep way. VR could serve as a model and demonstration far beyond any orthodox sexual therapy. Interactive fantasy could be raised to new heights. This technology could teach us new ways to relate to our bodies, sexuality, and art (including the art of magick). Virtual tantra is a new medium in the sexual arena.
Another VR alternative for sex magick is to engage in actual sex with one's partner. Both parties have VR helmets (much reduced in size from current cumbersome models) which allow the simultaneous visualization of the "bud will," the "magickal child," or goal of the operation. This dynamic image is the focus of the lovers who invest it with their mutual energy and love to transform it from mere potential into a vital force for change in the real world. VR insures that both party’s visualizations are identical as possible.
The moment just prior to orgasm is a very open, suggestible state. For some it is difficult to hold the magickal focus at that moment. Passive impregnation by the VR system (based on the aspirant's desires) could be readily accomplished at that point with suitable imagery. It could be a non-literal, yet post-symbolic way of conceiving an inner, spiritual "child" through ritual--the embryonic form of the greater self. Countless variations on magical talismans and mandalas might constitute part of the programming, as well as explosive imagery of cosmic union. For the Royal Wedding to be truly consummated, insights must be applied in practice. For it to fully work its magic, it requires a prior marriage of Anima and Animus within each aspirant. This is a form of "spiritual body" building.