Mystic’s Game

For this post, I am using the term mysticism to refer to the overlapping worlds of magick, spirituality, and religion.  It’s hard to divide the three up, so I chose to lump them together, and we can fight over that sometimes.

“Gamification” is a term I’ve seen in increasing use over the years – the idea of applying game elements (scores, achievements, measures) to various “non-game” elements of life.  When you place systems, rewards, and social recognition around something, people gravitate towards it.  We like systems; humans seek and make order.

Despite the term becoming prominent in the 2000s, humans have been doing this for our whole existence.  We have ranks in the military, systems of promotion at work, and ways of organizing territories, etc.  The title of Sergeant, the need to pass a certification test, and the idea of states or provinces are all gamification, at least in the broader sense.  As you noticed, I prefer the broader sense.

The world and people are complex, and we humans are good at making or finding rules and boiling them down to something we can work with.  If something needs complexity or simplicity, we’re damned good at finding either.

I’d argue that Gamification is critical in mystical practices.

When you dive into mysticism, you’re facing The Big Everything.  Call it the Good, Kia, Tao as I prefer, the Universe is simply so big it’s hard to deal with – and we’re part of it!  Even trying to understand and deal with our own minds is a challenge since you’re using your thinking to think about thinking.  No wonder we need to think of the great Powers as like us, understand stages of meditation, or develop cosmologies of Spheres and Paths.

Mysticism needs gamification because otherwise we have no place to start.  Even blowing your mind with ritual practices and substances is gamified because it’s safer – it’s easier to see the guardrails when there’s a plan.

I find seeing mysticism as a form of gamification to be liberating.  It provides appreciation of the systems people have built before me – and are building now.  It provides awareness that some of this is made up, but it’s made up for a good reason – it’s a tool to deal with the Big Everything.  It provides the power to make your own systems and ways of thinking when needed.  Finally, it provides humility to realize that what you think or believe is a construct as you need it that way.

And, of course, admitting mysticism contains gamification lets you apply knowledge from games, gamified activities, and gamification theory.

By the way, if you look at your esoteric practices and see the gamification within, turn that view on your entire life.  I think a lot of us know instinctively we’re gamifying our mystical practices since they’re big colorful, and wild.  We might miss how gamified our mundane life is.

Or maybe we ask if there’s any boundary between the mystical and the mundane.  Maybe that division is just a rule we came up with . . .

– Xenofact

The Map Is The Mirage

Earlier I commented on how my own meditative work was slowed when I focused less on doing it and more on reaching milestones.  When I focused on milestones, I got frustrated or risked taking shortcuts.  When you have a map, you can forget the importance of the journey – and no matter what you still have to make the journey.

This was part of a realization of why many esoteric documents may resort to obscurity and symbolism.  Too much of a map, and you end up inviting frustration and confusion.  However, I want to share another realization from my “contemplation of maps” – that detailed “mystical maps” also invite self delusion.

One of my interests is keeping an eye on spiritual grifters (indeed, it comprises a surprising part of my podcast listening).  As I follow the grifters I also wonder about the followers.  These followers will report spiritual experiences, alien incarnations, but heir descriptions were filled with jargon, repeated conspiracy theories, and so on.  They seem quite sincere, but their experiences often seemed to be, well, a little too imagined.

I’m sure we’ve all had times in meditation or magic where we realized “I am deluding myself,” of course.  Remember when you had expectations and later realized you’d made some of it up?  When you map out experiences you can make yourself believe you’re experiencing them.

I think some people taken in by spiritual grifters imagine these experiences as the grifter gives them a map.  Do this meditation to awaken your starseed self, be it Blue Avian or Pleadean!  Do these meditations and you’ll experience Angel communication!  Tell people their needs are met by “doing x to get y,” throw in some social pressure, and people will imagine all sorts of things.

Plus the grifters get to sell books, amulets, talks, get internet exposure, and so on.  If it goes stale, just make up some new grift and do it all over again.  Some people selling spiritual ephemera go through multiple entire belief systems.

Thus we can see another reason for use of symbolism or a little obscurity in mystical documents.  Not providing too much of a map lowers the chance people will delude themselves.  I imagine finding the right balance is a challenge, and makes me appreciate the many monks, magicians, and philosophers who found it.

As a closing note, as stated earlier, I believe mystic practices are fundamentally liberating and should be shared far and wide.  I’m just realizing it’s good to require some work, skepticism, and analysis of those you’re trying to reach.

– Xenofact

Gods, Demons, Spirits, Words

As an esotericist, I end up inevitably contemplating or discussing gods, demons, and spirits.  This creates another inevitability – the question “are they real” which is a great way to spend an evening, end relationships, or both at the same time!

On this subject, I eventually came to a conclusion I’d like to discuss.

I don’t question if gods, demons and spirits are real because of the aforementioned lost evenings and lost relationship. I’ve decided question is better phrased “are the concepts of gods, demons, and spirits useful.”  I’m sure other people have come to the same conclusion, but I figured I’d give my take since it might spawn useful discussions.

The idea of gods, spirits, and demons is that there are great living Powers in the world or Powers that we might as well treat as lifelike.  By recognizing them we may understand them and interact with them more effectively and safely – be it in ritual magic or just navigating through life.

For instance, I realized Facebook is a god (or perhaps a demon) even in the most materialist sense..  It grows and changes, adapts and adjusts, it’s in our minds and influencing our behavior.  It’s very much like a living thing, though one I’m keeping a wary eye on.  We just happened to make it, though perhaps some of us may wonder if it’s a mask on something else.

Seeing a corporation as a god or spirit, a living being, helps me think about and interact with such organizations.  These are not simple organizational flowcharts and bank accounts – they are living (or lifelike) things that very much affect us.  It’s also a reminder to be careful making or calling forth these organizational egregores and golems made of money.

I can also look at our planet – where I stray reluctantly into the Gaia hypothesis, albeit the less convoluted take.    Our planet is as complicated as a living being.  We might not treat it as a conscious being (though as we thinking beings are part of it . . .) but it is complex and organic.  Realizing you’re in a big natural system – a god or spirit – is a way to survive and prosper, though I have to admit I’ll take survive these days.

Yes, I feel sort of naive and plastic-packaged-New-Agey saying this, but referring to Earth as a godlike being is a reminder that life here is a complex situation.  A bit more “this-is-a-big-system-we-can-see-as-alive” and less “well that summer was surprisingly rainy” would be good for us.

I can also slide into psychology and talk about archetypes, those great patterns and emotions and interpretations hardwired into our minds..  Our myths could be seen as dressing up those deep elements and experiences to better understand them.  The thing is they have very real effects.

Language is a real vital force in our life – and we have stories of language-gods like Thoth and Seshat.  Love is part of our lives and we have stories of Freya and Venus.  The archetype view reminds us stories aside, there are forces in all of us, driving us.  In short, gods, spirits, and demons – hardwired into us by evolution.

Finally, I can get supernatural  Many of us reading have had Those Experiences where things get wider and strange, where Someone Reached Back or Out.  Some of us have been there, and the hardest belief or most scalpel-like skepticism doesn’t change that.

I’ve had such experiences.   Somehow it never makes you feel special, does it?  But it does make you think “yes, there IS something to the idea of gods, spirits, and demons,” sometimes while you’re lying in bed trying to process whatever the hell just happened.

I walked through several “explanations” for gods, spirits, and demons to show that the concepts are useful for each.  Do I think any above are The Explanation?  I just used this to illustrate my thoughts. – and I haven’t touched on Neoplatonism, hauntings, etc.  In fact I think all of the above are true to an extent and then some.

No matter one or many explanations, we are in a world of great Powers.  The idea of gods, spirits, and demons give us tools to recognize this, deal with it, be part of it, or defend ourselves when necessary.  If nothing else we need to recognize something very big may fuck with us and kill us.  I take a more benevolent view, but I also want these terms just to keep an eye out if you know what I mean.

Perhaps terms like god, demon, or spirit are archaic and I would agree!.  These words are terms of old, heavy with baggage and carrying the additional burden of multiple interpretations people fight over.  I’d love some new, friendly, usable words.  But until we have better ones – and perhaps we do and just don’t use them – they’re what we have now.

Might as well use the tools we’ve got in this wild, mysterious, complex world we’re in.