Mage: the Ascension -inspired spheres of reality exploration project... thing

Started by Ringtail, November 05, 2017, 11:25:14 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


^ Read to make this post make a whole lot more sense if you're not familiar with MtA.


I recently acquired a copy of 20th anniversary edition Mage for my birthday and have been reading it, although I don't know anyone willing/able to run a game currently. On a different topic, I have room for another big project to focus my practice. I think this is going to be how I roll, one thing at a time that I can pour all my energy into, with as few distracting "dailies" as possible.


Nine spheres,

Eighteen weeks,

I throw myself into the experience of one particular area of Creation for fourteen days and attempt to derive some kind of mystical understanding of the thing, and to perceive and manipulate it magically however I can. Hopefully that will be long enough to shift my habitual mindset into awareness of the sphere and make something happen. Of course there are blind spots in this way of dividing the universe and practices that won't occur to me to try, but there might also be a momentum effect that builds into something genuinely powerful, as I've experienced in past extended workings. Especially given the importance that blending spheres holds in the game.

This... sounds less interesting than it is to me. Considering that I plan to spend the next fortnight engaged in such activities as literally watching paint dry, it's probably a little abnormal that I was hyped enough about this to be awake at the crack of dawn. Oh well. If this works, I'll call anyone who doubted me a muggle and go rub myself in a closet.

I'll report back at the end of every two weeks.

And another thing. I've decided to do a ritual on each new and full moon that channels the power generated by this work into my hypersigil, so they add rather than distract from each other. I did the first one a couple nights ago, associating Matter with Jupiter and symbolically pouring resources into the hypersigil in the form of crystals and other physical tools. I hope to build up a ritual over time that empowers and aligns with the hypersigil using all the spheres, e.g. candles or electricity for Forces, a repeated chant or dance rhythm for Time, bodily exertion for Life... I don't know about the rest. Message me if you want the link to see the hypersigil.

Here's the probable timeline:

Matter Nov 5 - 18 / Full moon Nov 3rd - Jupiter
Forces Nov 19 - Dec 2 / New moon Nov 17th - Mars
Life Dec 3 - 16 / Full moon Dec 2nd - Venus
Correspondence Dec 17 - 30 / New moon Dec 17th - Neptune
Time Dec 31 - Jan 13 / Full moon Jan 1st - Uranus
Entropy Jan 14 - 27 / New moon Jan 16th - Saturn
Prime Jan 28 - Feb 10 / Full moon Jan 31st - Sol
Mind Feb 11 - 24 / New moon Feb 15th - Mercury
Spirit Feb 25 - Mar 10 / Full moon Mar 1st - Luna
And possibly something for the last new moon on the 17th.

See you there,

You have no idea how many Jesuses I are.


Section one - Matter

My posts ramble. It's because I'm lazy and I don't want to spend a bunch of time editing them down.

First of all, a couple changes to the timeline. It turns out that there is an official association with the planets already. In the world of darkness, each sphere has a "shard realm" which maps to one of the planets, including earth for Prime. I guessed right for Jupiter and Mars, so it's easy enough to change around my plans for the rest of the hypersigil-charging moon rituals. Also, I've decided it would be simpler to switch sections on the new and full moons, rather than the exact two weeks I was going to do, which doesn't exactly fit.

So a couple nights ago, for the new moon, I introduced Mars/Forces into the ritual and solidified the part that matter will play in it, namely the objects that are present. Here's a photo of the altar as it sits next to my bed. For the rituals I've been taking the stuff out to the balcony, where there's a clear view of the moon when it's visible. Right now the ritual is simple, I light some candles, play some music, burn some incense - dragon's blood and myrrh is my usual combination for the hypersigil, plus abramelin - and open a portal to the hypersigil, calling on its associated entities to help me help it. The objects on the altar represent resources and physical grounding, with each one also having its individual purpose. This time I lit more fires and included the knife, which in this context represents my will to cut a path for it.

From one perspective, matter was the worst place to start. In the game, it's mostly used in combination with other spheres, and in real life it makes sense why that would be so. The second level of matter magic is turning physical lead into gold and things like that (this will be a theme... the levels were designed for, *ahem*, real magicians), and the first level gives little description beyond the ability to perceive a material and its qualities, so I felt lost at first. I've always had the sensation of being able to feel the objects around me, but there's little evidence that what I'm touching isn't just my internal model of expected sensations. This could explain it even in the cases where it surprised me with apparently new information, e.g. laying down to sleep while camping, feeling out through the ground around me and noting the differences in desert soil compared to what I was used to, being confused for a moment by an apparent gap behind me filled with air and water until I remembered I was laying next to a gully.

I spent some time stalking the immediate sensation of different objects, both indoors and outdoors, but I wasn't able to guess any of them right without sensory contact. I wonder if my problem here is more something that would be solved by Correspondence/seeing across distances. Possibly I would have a better time if I was trying to feel out larger differences, like a big pocket of air or water where ground is expected, rather than the composition of a small rock in the hand. But I'd have to think of a way to set that up. There was a difference when I went to feel an item that was strongly imbued by a spirit; essentially, I felt the spirit instead of the material, and wasn't able to sense the item's physical makeup until I was less of a stranger to its inhabitant. But I didn't run this through a blindfold test.

The second day of this section, under the supervision of an accomplished stick and poke artist, I attempted to give myself a tattoo. This proved considerably more difficult that having someone else do it to me, and took about ten times as long, but pain gnosis is its own reward, right? The commitment inherent in inking oneself might take me closer to pain transcendence than anything I've tried before. According to the wiki, the Cult of Ecstasy associates Matter with their sacred passion of Hate, which made sense to me. Not because I hated doing the tattoo, but because in order to focus on getting the lines right, I had to dissociate from the chain of perception that goes through Life and Mind and focus on my skin as if it were inanimate. Which was hard. But it is hateful, in the same sense as hate crimes and dehumanization. After going home and working on it some more the next day, I had to stop because it was starting to scab. It should be healed and ready for more work sometime during the Life section, when the activity will be a more appropriate focus. Here is the unfinished tattoo. It's recognizable. I'll be able to improve it, however long that takes, and failing that, my tutor-friend will be able to clean it up some. I do intend to do this for all the spheres, but I might only spend one day per section on most of them, so I can get on with things.

Realizing how much the use of the spheres depends on paradigm, I took a couple days trying to refocus my vision of how I wanted to practice, and from there seeing how matter would fit in. There are two major ways I might be able to build my skill with it. In either case, a more interactive approach will get me farther, faster than passive meditation, especially if the stakes are high.

First – As awareness of surroundings. The best way to train this would be through some kind of dynamic physical activity like climbing or parkour. I'm reminded of when I used to scramble on crumbly boulders in the foothills in Colorado and the sense I was getting for how much pressure I could put on the rock in which direction before it would give way.

Second – Through crafting and enchantment. Maybe what I was supposed to do during these two weeks was to decide on a medium and start practicing with it. I never got that far, but I did make some things with materials I had laying around:

This is green Sculpy with shredded dried hawthorn berry, incense ash and flower seeds. Based on the paradigm I'd been consolidating, the idea was to see if I could imbue something with an effect purely based on its composition and symbolic form, without additional thought-magic beyond what was involved in shaping it. I had Ahavah hold each of these with his eyes closed and try to guess what they did. This one brought sharp attention to all the aches and pains in his body, which corresponds to its purpose as a healing/resurrection token.

Muladhara (root) chakra, plain red clay. Ahavah thought this was for courage.

Sculpy with hawthorn leaves and berries, in the form of a Cu Sith fairy hound. "Creativity" was Ahavah's guess.

Made with the extra hawthorn-infused clay and given to Alice Hart.

Classic glamourbomb, I think this is also just the clay. Ahavah characterized it as sharp and agitating.

A pair of butter knives that were lent to me for fighting ghosts. This may make them better at that task, and no less useful for spreading peanut butter. Ahavah didn't test these, but I noticed that the dremel made them slightly magnetic.

I didn't spend as much time on this section as I wanted to. Some of that was not knowing where to start, some was life getting in the way, some was lack of focus on my part. I ran into kind of a fork where, faced with an inability to directly perceive or alter objects, I could either spend many hours banging my head against it and possibly get nothing, or try to make a more complex, assisted go at it, and possibly get lost in the dressing. I did some of both, and the second road took me to making the things I posted above. All these problems were anticipated and part of what I was attempting to work through. I still think matter might have been the best one to start with, if only because it gave me some much-needed grounding and set a comparison for what is to come. Ahavah is wondering what I expect to gain by "dabbling" for two weeks at a time, and I don't have a particularly good answer for that which I can verbalize.

You have no idea how many Jesuses I are.


Wow, very interesting idea and fascinating read <3 Thanks for sharing and all the Best in the next segments.  :)

"You are the Key; You are the Door" -- I made a tag with that line in German recently  8) Do you know where this line comes from? I thought it was my idea, but maybe not...  Maybe it's from the Glitterbombing Manual or so...
"The Assault on Reality lives in you.
This is what you were born to do." -Ahavah Ain Soph

"As far as what I think the DKMU is? It's a promise to never stop fighting against mundanity, to always be injecting the weird into the world" - Timothy Buell

"Put in the work! :)" - Geri


I think it was your idea. I read it on the forums or one of the groups recently.

You have no idea how many Jesuses I are.


Quote from: Ringtail on November 22, 2017, 07:06:23 PM
I think it was your idea. I read it on the forums or one of the groups recently.

My idea, or rather question, was just "Can we learn something from MtA? If yes, which books to read etc." ;) But I'm happy if that served as an inspiration :)

Edit: Oh, I misunderstood you :D Now I get it, you meant that the "You are the Key; You are the Door was my idea". Not the MtA thing. ;D Epic Fail at reading comprehension from me. Well, at least I can't remember to have read it somewhere -- but who knows :D I posted into the main group recently.
"The Assault on Reality lives in you.
This is what you were born to do." -Ahavah Ain Soph

"As far as what I think the DKMU is? It's a promise to never stop fighting against mundanity, to always be injecting the weird into the world" - Timothy Buell

"Put in the work! :)" - Geri


Section two - Forces

I have a confession. I don't think I'm going to have a lot to present for these things. Or, it could be that I'm lazy and tired and getting over a cold and I just don't feel like writing much. But I'm not really in a place where I have a lot to tell, other than that I messed around a bunch with altering wind and weather. On a rainy day in the northwest I pushed up into the clouds, trying to create a high pressure front; within the cold-water-condensing I located its opposite, and then it was just a matter of bringing that forth. The whipping wind was its own opposite, so I had to find the balance point in the fury and expand that into a bubble of still air. I tried to fix both effects onto a campfire so I could do other things, but there was no correlation with this and the intended result. When it was just me doing the thing, it seemed like the weather would respond within a few minutes... but I spent all the time I was out repeating the test to figure out if that was just confirmation bias, and didn't get into anything more complex. See? Most of it's just skill training, and doesn't verbalize well.

Matter was kind of a lesson in how I needed to have a paradigm together and be doing something active in order to be the moving piece of the puzzle. Forces reversed that. It didn't seem to care much if I was moving or still, because it was moving, and it was a lot more amenable to my attempts to approach it without mediation. Actually, the first thing that became clear to me was that I need to be in direct contact with the weather or a regular basis just to stay sane. Amid other ways that I need to get my shit together before I can even, which are now being expounded to me.

I honestly might go the next couple weeks and then drop this structure, or stop reporting on it anyway. The two weeks is pretty arbitrary. I think it was something I had to/have to do for the first three spheres just for grounding's sake, but after that I'd just as soon work on one spell at a time. Still going to stay in this paradigm for a while though. The tattoos and the moon rituals will continue as planned.

You have no idea how many Jesuses I are.


I wasn't just attacking the "problem" with with unmediated thought. Mostly, that's what I did, because that's how I've been able to alter wind and such in the past. Meditating on the forces sigil helped me conceive of myself as a bundle of forces, and therefore logically able to interact with those outside my body. Sensation is the bridge. That was important. Then, when I was trying to lock the effect onto the campfire, I used a string of symbols, and another time I threw a sigilized paper into the fire when it was at risk of going out. That didn't do much. The LS did something, iirc, when I threw it in and the fire flared up right after.

You have no idea how many Jesuses I are.


Section Three

The new moon and my ritual thereupon this last Sunday marked the end of Life section. At this point I've abandoned my original conception of this project. The problem was that I was focusing on all these activities I was going to do which proved harder to get around to than I thought, and ultimately was more distracting than anything. But I'm continuing with the rituals on the moons, and that alone seems enough to instill the structure (as best I can form it), while letting my focus stay on my hypersigil. The sphere I'm working with thus remains in the back of my mind, and that influences things. Hell, right now is correspondence week 1, and I'm writing this on a layover at an airport. Ho hum. I'm still doing the tattooing too, which by itself dumps a good deal of power into it. I'm getting much better at the stick and poke. Although I haven't finished any of them, I can make an actual line now without it taking an hour. I'd show you, but I don't think airport security would appreciate me taking my shirt off and flashing pictures.

I may not continue with the updates. Most of what I have to say revolves around the hypersigil, and that's not in a state where I want to show it off to everyone right now (even though the hypersigil's spirit wants me to). I seem to be going through a symbolic restructuring and I need to create some form of art in order to remake my logical web. This may have something to do with creating a literary voodoo doll of myself and throwing her into cosmic nonsense with instructions to "make a plot!" The past month of this project and my attention to Life and Forces has shown me some things I need to do for physical health and sanity before I can even, and I have made some changes in response, so there's that.

Wish me luck.

You have no idea how many Jesuses I are.


Mage the Ascension sphere project exploration thingy final writeup.

Tonight, the new moon in Pisces marks the end of Spirit section and of my project. It hasn't been all that I dreamed it would be, but it has provided some insights on how these extended undertakings work and do not work.

My intention was to spend two weeks focusing on each sphere, to throw myself into the experience of that realm and see what I could learn. Right away, I ran into difficulty with lack of a specific plan. It's an old bad habit of mine to not set a clear, accomplishable series of tasks or goals and instead just "do as much as you possibly can all the time," which invites exhaustion and doubt. I specifically avoided goals that depended on success, e.g. "learn how to do x," because I knew I could get hung up on one of those for an unforgivable period of time without progress, and lust for result would become a problem. But the two week period was pretty arbitrary, and that bothered me somehow.

Between each section, on the new and full moons, I did a ritual to mark the transition and tie it into a hypersigil story that I'd been working on for a couple months. The story was already in bad shape. Basically, the type of constrained writing I was attempting brought way too much entropy into the mix, and the only way to deal with that would be to do an impossible amount of writing. Sort of like if you insisted on adding a few tablespoons of salt to your cake mix every morning, the only way to save the recipe would be to add a huge amount of all the other ingredients. Eventually I set the story aside for a while, but since some promising results did show up in relation to it, I plan to let it sit for a while and then scavenge the major symbols from it, if not into a continuation of the story, then into a reboot or a different format.

I performed some overcomplicated rituals (since I didn't know what else to do, I knew I wanted some kind of ritual but wasn't sure how to fill the time) on the moons to dump the power of the spheres into my story, but without a solid structure to receive it, I think all that extra juice just destabilized the hypersigil further. And since the main character was essentially a literary voodoo doll of myself, this confusion circled back to me, then I expressed it back into the story and... yeah. Add to that winter in Seattle, a boxy beige-y apartment without any good walking areas outside, a fuckton of energy poured into me from previous projects, and too much weed for the situation, and you get one very uncomfortable Ringtail.

Fortunately, that's all it was. Discomfort, building into overanalysis and associated anxiety. By early December it was bad enough that it interfered with my sleep, and I had sensations of constantly needing to stretch and move that focused around my lower spine (probably the fact that I was sleeping on the floor without a mattress didn't help). I began exercising because my body forced me to, and for a while I did just enough walking and yoga to be able to sleep at night, but the confusion messed with my head and convinced me not to do more through what I now see as a philosophical misunderstanding. Also laziness, veiled by said misunderstanding.

So by the end of the third section I was feeling pretty discouraged, and I quit the biweekly writeups because I felt like I didn't have enough to say. I wasn't going to stop the project in the middle, but at this time I also stopped putting a lot into it. I decided I would continue with the rituals and work a little bit with the spheres in between, but not really worry about it. And continue the tattoos, because as I mentioned in the first writeup, I tattoed all the sphere sigils on myself during the corresponding section, except for a couple which were in places that required someone else to do it. Most of them are still unfinished because it was slow and painful as hell until I got the hang of it. But from the first poke, there was no going back or quitting in the middle, and that's probably the real reason I followed through on the whole project.

It was right about this time, when I stopped going out to get the spheres, that they began coming for me. This was actually right on time with my prediction: from previous experiments, I expected that it would be somewhere around the fourth or fifth section that the universe would start picking up the pattern and sending it back to me. I think this was part of the reason I intuitively chose to begin with Matter; even though it would be kind of weird and difficult at first, the momentum would pick up right as I was going into the more abstract spheres and launch me just as I reached Prime.

In the fourth section, Correspondence, I set up a interdimensional portal thingy at a local park, then semi-coincidentally spent half the section in another state visiting family for the holidays. But the real synchs began the night of the full moon transition from Correspondence to Time, which occurred on New Years. For my companions and I, this was a beautiful night of mushrooms and magic taking place at the house where we now live, during which we ran through a doorway into a new timeline at exactly 12 midnight. Later, I wandered upstairs with Alice Hart into an area with some seriously weird, bigger-on-the-inside spacial distortions, which are present even when sober, but were mindblowing at the time. We found a tiny, neat bathroom with a clock stopped at 12 midnight which we dubbed the Bathroom at the End of Time, and a sort of cat tunnel in the walls that keeps going on and on when you think it should end, which we're pretty sure leads to Wonderland or something.

The synchronicities were strongest during the Time section, but they kept up through Entropy and into Prime. Possibly beyond that, but it's hard to tell what goes beyond confirmation bias. Prime section was bordered by a lunar and a partial solar eclipse, the first since the big one last summer, which I thought was pretty cool. To help with my exploration in this sphere, I listened to a song which has a particularly poweful effect on me, which I'd been saving for such a time. Listening to it a few times drove me into an obsessive and very impatient quest to know myself and all the ultimate things right the fuck now, even though I was aware that this was impossible. All the physical and psychological tension now had a spiritual counterpart. I undertook some bizarre yet harmless actions, trying to sort of muffle myself into an ultimate dissociated realization, which landed me some altered states of consciousness but didn't achieve what I'd hoped for. I think the callings that I projected had the effect of intensifying everything I was going through even more, and one night when it was all particulatly bad I decided that I had to take action... go to a nature park a short drive away, go there every day. I followed through, and walking around there helped me feel better, got my blood moving. I started jogging, and that cleared my head more. I realized that, if I was going to take the time to exercise, there was no reason not to put my full effort into it. I'd been half-assing the exercise, in violation of a motto that I've stated here before, that moderation is for cowards and everything worth doing is worth overdoing. Certain experiments have shown me that below all thought and memory, my baseline consists of a frenetic drive to orient and act. Thus, extended peace is not and never will be possible while I'm alive, but by dumping all my energy and struggle into manic workouts and jobs outside the house, I could create relief in contrast, flush out all the tangled inactivity and achieve some temporary degree of respite from the eternal war that is me!

For the rest of Prime and Mind sections, I kept up sufficient activity to reclaim my sanity. I'm now moved into a much less claustrophobic environment where I don't have to work out as often or as hard to retain clarity, but I know now what I can do, if put in a similar situation again. I felt that Prime section was kind of an offer for me to get back into the project, and with both me and the momentum pushing, there might have been some interesting occurances for the last month. But... I didn't. My focus was moving to other things. I didn't put more coins in the machine, and the synchronicities died down.

So, mainly I've been talking about the weird personal ride this project gave me. Honestly, it got more personal even than I expected it to, probably because I was calling the magic but then not going out to find and work with it externally. I have noticed an increase in my success with direct magic, but it's hard to say how much of that is from this project in particular and how much is a continuing trend. In MtA theory, power comes from understanding and the development of a personal paradigm, but with my head as fucked as it was, I didn't make a lot of headway on that, much as I tried. In the end, complexity can be added but the core mechanism is just magic. If it works it's because it's magic, if it doesn't it's because who knows. And I've been getting better at it, it's because I've been doing a ton of magic toward the purpose of getting better.

Based on what I actually did end up practicing, here is my suggestion for how I would redo this project. Instead of basing it on periods of time, take a day off for each sphere whenever that's possible, and do the following:

Matter: Spend the whole day working on some kind of hands-on craft(s). Experiment with different tools and materials, and listen to the medium as you work with it. Challenge yourself. Notice where it resists you and what shapes it wants to take of its own accord. Think of it like a co-creator, and when something happens that you didn't intend, consider it a suggestion. I find that listening like this drastically improves the rate of learning. If you want, go online and look up where the stuff comes from, its chemical structure, and why it behaves the way it does.

Forces: Go outside on a day when the weather is bad. Try to keep the wind and precipitation off your back. Try to build a fire. Run, climb on things, ride a bike if you have one, do parkour; don't kill yourself, but play with friction, gravity and acceleration. If you're brave and there's ice on the ground, try sliding or not sliding on it. You could do this with virtually any active sport – snowboarding, roller skating, whatever you have access to. While you're out there, you can try sneaking around animals and people who know what you're up to, and work on bending light and sound to avoid notice.

Life: You'll need multiple days for this, but essentially, it's time to physically challenge yourself. Undertake some kind of intense cardio exercise and push yourself as hard as you can. Notice the changes this produces in your body and mind. Learn your limits. Then, try to do the same workout in every combination of physical state you can think of. Do it after not having slept or eaten for a long period, when you're thirsty, sick, or on drugs, when you're especially energetic or depressed, when the temperature is cold or hot. Change up your diet and see how that affects your performance. Try restricting your breathing or hyperventilating (be careful!). Obviously if you have medical concerns, you'll need to work around those.

Correspondence: Put on a blindfold and keep it on. Wander around, using your other senses to navigate, and work on building a detailed mental map of your surroundings, including compass directions. Try to guess what's going on in other rooms, who's at the door, what the cat is up to, etc. Stay away from roads and cliffs.

Time: Dance dance revolution. Rhythm games in general. Periodically try to guess the time before checking it. I don't know what else to suggest for a single day, since as I said, the way I ended up interacting with this sphere was by expressing rhythms over the course of weeks and then watching the universe pick them up.

Entropy: Get out some jenga blocks, or just use objects you have around, and start stacking. Try to make a precarious tower that will stand even when you push it, then, pour entropy into it and try to blow it down with a breath of air. Play some games of chance. Make a sculpture out of material that will decay, like snow or fresh-cut vegetation, and craft it with an eye toward how it will change over time; make it so it will look as good after three days as it does when it's new, albeit different. Basically this:

Prime: This will depend heavily on your paradigm, but basically it's a day to go deep into questions of how it all works. Isolation, more blindfolding, wearing a mask and taking a vow of silence are all good ideas – each of these will bring you closer to the unmanifest. Work on moving energy around, if that's part of your practice.

Mind: Go out on a busy street corner and try to sell people something utterly useless.

Spirit: Also very individual, but basically, dedicate the day to whatever form of spirits, astral work, or otherworldly shit you do. If you're not into Faustian bargaining with external entities, hit up your higher self, check out the spiritual imprints of the plants and animals and other stuff around you, and go travelling.

If you do this right, at the end of each day when you close your eyes to go to sleep, the sensations and impressions of the day will be flashing through your mind. That means you're integrating new information. Rest up and get ready for some vivified dreams.

Viva la Magia!

You have no idea how many Jesuses I are.


Thanks a lot for this writeup! :)

"If it works it's because it's magic, if it doesn't it's because who knows. And I've been getting better at it, it's because I've been doing a ton of magic toward the purpose of getting better." -- nothing to add 8)

As you said --
"May Your Words Come True -- May Your Magick Shine"
"The Assault on Reality lives in you.
This is what you were born to do." -Ahavah Ain Soph

"As far as what I think the DKMU is? It's a promise to never stop fighting against mundanity, to always be injecting the weird into the world" - Timothy Buell

"Put in the work! :)" - Geri