4. Inner Work

The process of magic is facilitated by inner work, utilising primarily the Imagination and Will. I believe that all magic is essentially internal magic, as it is not important whether or not there are physical rituals or ceremonial elements; it is the inner powers that the magician uses to change reality. There are many different labels that can be given to the inner work process. Commonly used terms include: creative visualization, trancework, conscious dreaming, astral work, and willed daydreaming. As the process uses imagination it is similar to types of meditation, astral projection, and self-hypnosis. However, all the different names and terminology start to obscure the commonality between techniques, so I believe it is easiest to consider it simply ‘inner work’ as you ‘go within’ and conduct the work in via an imaginative process.

Symbols and Symbolism

Of primary importance to the inner work process is the use of symbols. Symbols may be used to enter the inner world, acting as a doorway, or they may appear spontaneously, as imagery, during a session. It is essential to learn to interpret the symbols and symbolism of all entities, places, and events that you experience. The exercises for this lesson provide examples of working with symbols and learning to interpret the symbolism of the inner realms. It is important to realise what a symbol actual is. A symbol represents a concept. By reading this lesson you are already working with symbols. Each letter represents a concept, in this case the building block of a word (and perhaps a clue to its pronunciation – although English pronunciation can be difficult to deduce from the written words). Each word represents a concept, some concrete (such as tree, dog, fire, human), and some abstract (such as love, time, Will, magic). What you understand about each of these concepts may be different than what another person understands, depending on things such as culture, education, experience, and religious or philosophical knowledge. For example, a tree is a simple, tangible concept, familiar to most people. However, to someone living in an arid dessert, their concept of trees may be limited primarily to palm trees. An Amazonian shaman may think of the medicinal properties of various trees in his environment. A botanist may be reminded of the broader family of trees of this species. A builder may consider the suitability that various trees have for construction. However, these things are only aspects of the actual physical reality of a tree. Consider the concept of fire. Not only is physical fire a concept familiar to most people, but in religious and magical symbolism fire has a complex spiritual symbolism also. Most people will be unaware of the deeper philosophical and magical symbolism of fire, even though they are very familiar with the physical properties of fire. While the interpretation of symbols from your inner world is a personal and intuitive process, it is also worthwhile exploring some of the historic and cross-culture interpretations given to various symbols. If you doubt the intense power that a symbol can hold, consider the swastika, made infamous by the Nazi regime of World War II era Germany. To many people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, the symbol evokes feelings of horror. Yet the symbol is found, throughout the world, and used by many cultures. Contrast the use of the swastika by the Nazis with the use of the swastika by Buddhists. This is a good example of a symbol being different to the concept that it is used to represent, as the Buddhists and Nazis both had different reasons for using it, and contemporary Western interpretation has taken on a highly negative view of the symbol. The symbol itself is not important, it is the concepts represented by the symbol. In a similar manner, non-English speakers are unlikely to be offended by hearing words such as fuck if they do not know the meaning. And the meaning of the word is dependent on context, fuck being used in so many varying and contradictory contexts – both positive and negative. To interpret symbols, both physical and from the inner world, the first step is to practice ‘reading’ it intuitively. This is a process of paying attention to thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impressions you get when looking at, visualising, or thinking about a symbol. The most important thing is to pay attention to the very first thought, feeling, or image that comes into your mind, and use this as a starting point. The first impression is before self-censorship sets in, and before your faculties of critical judgement starts offering contradictory interpretations or doubting the validity of your intuitive impressions. This takes time and practice, but is really the only way to know what you are supposed to get from a symbol. I recommend that you read lesson 2 again, and pay particular attention to the section Symbols and Synchronicity. Also, the section on Beliefs in lesson 1 is important to keep in mind throughout the entirety of this course.

Identification / Disidentification

Identification refers to the state or process of being identified with a particular concept, belief, or rôle. An identification can often be spotted when someone states “I am…” when describing themselves. For example, a woman may refer to herself by saying, “I am a mother.” This is a rôle that she has identified with, most likely unconsciously. It is not necessarily a bad or negative thing, however it is important to understand that you are not a rôle, concept or belief that you hold about yourself. Think of emotional states also. When you say “I am angry” you do not mean that you are literally anger, the emotion. You mean you are experiencing this emotion. When working in the inner realm, learning to identify with a concept or entity becomes a conscious process of shapeshifting through which a lot can be learnt. By identifying with, and perhaps transforming into, a particular symbol that represents a concept or belief, you are performing a magical process that can lead to powerful transformative events. This will be explored later in the course. Disidentification is the opposite of identification. In general it will always be a conscious process, although overtime people often lose the identification with concepts, beliefs, or rôles. When the process is conscious, it is again a type of shapeshifting, and a kind of psychological distance with an idea is intentionally created. It can be a temporary separation from the physical body, particular feelings or emotions, or a permanent way of breaking the identification with a concept, belief, rôle, or emotion. It is seldom performed by itself, and usually after disidentifying with something the process of identification is performed to align the psyche with a chosen concept or condition.

Exercise 1 – Symbol Journeying

This technique is often called pathworking in new age literature. It is a method of exploring a symbol, using the symbol itself as a doorway. Find an appropriate symbol to use for visualising. To begin with, a simple geometric shape (such as a pentagram or circle) or the letter of an alphabet related to magic (such as Hebrew, Runic, or Enochian) can be used. Later, a more complex symbol such as tarot card can be used. Draw or paint your chosen symbol on a small piece of white card.

  • Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
  • Sit comfortably with the symbol containing card positioned at an appropriate distance in front of you.
  • Gaze fixedly at the symbol, trying not to blink.
  • Breathe deeply and regularly. The connected-breath method is ideal. To perform this, breathe deeply, from the diaphragm, and as soon as your lungs are full breathe out. You push the air out of your lungs by contracting your stomach muscles, and allow the air to ‘fall’ into your lungs rather than sucking it in.
  • Allow the image to fill your consciousness. Imagine that you are soaking in the energy associated with this symbol. Feel the qualities and sensations associated with it.
  • Continue this for approximately 5-10 minutes. Experience will teach you how long you require to stare at the image to be ready for the next stage.
  • Put aside the card and close your eyes.
  • In your mind’s eye, see the symbol glow strongly before you.
  • Imagine the symbol glowing on a doorway, or that it is a portal through which you can pass.
  • Enter through the symbol doorway.
  • On passing through the gateway observe the scene around you.
  • Take time to let the scene build up before you. Use all your senses to take in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations of the place.
  • You may summon a guide to help you explore and to explain the symbol to you. Do this simply by requesting a guide appear to assist you. Alternatively you could call upon your Higher Self to assist you.
  • Explore the environment thoroughly; take note of any additional symbols your find, entities you meet, or thoughts and sensations you experience.
  • When you have finished exploring return to the portal, and return back through it.
  • Start to bring your attention back to the physical world by listening to any sounds.
  • Take a few deep breaths, and when you are ready open your eyes.
  • Record every detail in a journal. This is essential for improving your skills, correcting problems, and gaining some insights into certain symbols and events which occur during a session.

See the Tattva Vision exercise on the Magical Path website for a similar process using the Tattva symbols.

Exercise 2 – Symbol Reading

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes
  • Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to relax
  • Allow a symbol to come to mind that represents you at this present moment in time. The first symbol that appears is the correct one, do not attempt to change or choose a ‘better’ one.
  • Concentrate on the symbol. See it clearly in your mind’s eye.
  • What does this symbol tell you about yourself?
  • Explore what concepts and beliefs this symbol represents, and how those things relate to you.
  • Keep scanning the symbol for concepts, words, thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and how they relate to you.
  • When you are finished, open your eyes and write about this in your journal.

Exercise 3 – Disidentification and Self-Identification

This is a short form of the disidentification and self-identification exercise. It can be expanded and reworded depending on your own needs. Close your eyes, and repeat the following sentences: “I have a body, but I am not my body. My body may experience different conditions of health or wellbeing; my body may be rested or tired. My body is an important instrument of experience, and the vehicle through which I act in the physical world. I look after my body, and seek to keep it in good health, but it is not my self. I have a body, but I am not my body. I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. My emotions are countless, contradictory, changing. As I can observe, understand, and judge my emotions, I know that they are not my self. I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. I have an intellect, but I am not my intellect. It is more or less developed and active; it is undisciplined but teachable; it is an organ of knowledge about the outer and inner worlds; but it is not my self. I have an intellect, but I am not my intellect. I recognise and affirm that I am a centre of pure self-consciousness. I am a centre of Will, capable of mastering, directing and using all my psychological and magical processes and my physical body. I am a centre of awareness and of Will.

Last modified: 22 July 2017