Sacred Uncertainty (by Jason Miller)
“Appear To Us In Comely Human Form…”
“to appear and shew thyself visibly before this circle, in fair and comely shape, without deformity or guile, ”……
– The Lemegeton
"to appear under a comely human form, without noise and without terror, to answer truly unto all questions that I shall ask thee.“
-The Grimoire Verum
These words and words like them appear in many conjurations so that the spirit doesn’t manifest in a way find frightening or worse. On the surface this just seems like a safety precaution, but have you ever thought about everything that it implies?
When angels appear to people that have not conjured them, what is the first thing that they always say: “Be Not Afraid”. Why would people be afraid? Because in their natural form, spirits that are oriented far from the physical world, exist in ways that we cannot ordinarily perceive. What glimpse we can grasp causes us fear, anxiety, and in some cases madness. The true forms of gods and higher-level spirits is not only more than we do perceive, but more than we can perceive. This is the first implication. The second is that they can and do change the way that they appear so that they can be seen and understood, at least partially.
None of this is news to most practicing magicians, or for that matter to armchair occultists. I think, however, that most don’t extend these principles far enough. Most magicians I talk to are able to accept that an Angel or a Demon is appearing to their five senses in a certain form for their benefit. Others acknowledge that they are only perceiving part of that being, like the story of the three blind men and the elephant, or Edwin Abbots square attempting to perceive a cube.
Its not just appearance that this applies to though. It applies to a spirits identity, history, and essence of being work as well. Some spirits exist similarly to the way people do but not all. Not Gods, and Demons, and Angels and other vast beings. A lot of people I talk to assume that the angel Michael is Michael and is always Michael to everyone that he appears to. Hekate is Hekate and is always Hekate and her identity is as solid as ours is.
What people don’t consider is that the very basis upon which these spirits are organized in terms of identity, history, and being is as much beyond our perception as their appearance is. Is Lucifer a separate being from Satan? Is Astaroth the same as Astarte? Is Jupiter the same as Zeus? My answer: Yes. No. Both. Neither. Not both nor neither. Any attempt to establish a firm definition of a vast spirit, much less a concrete spirit catalogue that gets it “right” , is nothing more than a spirit putting on a comely human form for our benefit. Whether it did it willingly or we forced it to.
Unfortunately, when some people realize that spiritual dimensions are not easily nailed down in ways that are neat and tidy, they run for comfort to the other extreme: declaring nothing to be true and everything permitted. This is a worse error than the belief that everything can be nailed down and understood easily. It relegates research secondary to whatever we decide to believe at the time and reduces the methods of Sorcery meant to interact with and change the world, into solipsistic acts meant only to reflect ourselves to ourselves.
Still others feel the need to go into “Meta” or “Quantum” declaring that the observer creates the truth of the situation. This too is unhelpful because we are not the only observer here. The spirit is as real as we are, its just organized differently. It’s also unhelpful and overly complicated way of thinking. All you need to do is think larger and accept that there are things you don’t know and possibly can’t know. Mega, not meta. We need to reject these comforting explanations and instead embrace the discomfort that comes with the statement “I don’t know”.
Every now and then students want me to weigh in with factual answers on magic and spirits, with the same certainty that we can know the atomic weight of tin, or distance between New York and LA. I can’t do that and won’t try. If I have to have a theology, it should be called SACRED UNCERTAINTY. This is not just admitting that whatever we perceive and understand is partial at best, but holding that concept as the sacred key to further understanding.
From this perspective we can look at all the worlds theologies not as factually true, nor as make-believe that lacks truth, but as models that can provide meaning and usefulness even though they do not represent complete facts. It is all like a spirit putting on a comely human form in a mirror. The importance of this appearance should not be dismissed nor thought to be true. We should explore and engage and constantly upgrade our understanding, rejecting easy answers that explain too much with too little. We can know that our models and our understanding is never fully true in a factual way, but still find it useful and meaningful to our lives.
This is SACRED UNCERTAINTY.