The Spirit Contact Cycle - or what makes magic an 'Afterwissenschaft'

I guess reading this blog entry will take you about 10 min give or take. That is enough to hear this wonderful tune at least twice in the background if you like... At the end of the day wonderful Mrs Feist and I are saying just the same. She obviously in much nicer words. 

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The Spirit Contact Cycle originally came to life as a model to illustrate how humans engage with each other and their environment in the 1970s. Its core value lies in the fact that it describes all conscious and subconscious stages that need to be passed through in order to create vibrant and satisfying contact. Derived from that it also was a great model to explain all sort of things that can - and tend to - go wrong while we pass through these stages... Since its creation by Zinker in the 1970s it thus became one of the key models in Gestalt Therapy - and this is also where I got to know it from. 

But why do I share this here? Well, this has two reasons essentially. One personal and one, well how do call it best?, maybe epistemological... 

As I know this will be easier let's start with the latter: Ludwig Blau in his seminal work on ancient Jewish magic "Jüdisches Zauberwesen" (1898) used the term 'Afterwissenschaft' (anus-science) to refer to magic and sorcery in a highly derogative way. Wether we like it or not, he probably had a point there? What Blau criticized with this term were two ideas mainly: 

  • First of all it was the fact that the fundamental approach of magic is to create connection between ideas and objects by use of 'sympathetic means', i.e. analogies and correspondences. As the identification of these analogies doesn't follow any scientific standards (but mythical and spiritual principles at best) it is a deeply flawed approach from a scientific perspective.
  • Secondly, since it very early days magic has the tendency to absorb and amalgamate ideas, practices and artifacts from various cultures, times and fields of study into their very much bastard-born approaches. While this might be considered the pinnacle of pragmatism it also needs to be considered highly unscientific again. 

It was in light of these points that Blau - and many other scholars after him - termed magic an 'Afterwissenschaft'. Well, let's call that fair enough. Because the real point is that no practicing magician would argue against that. Call it whatever you want - being agnostic about where things come from and focussing on the results they can produce together - that sounds like an awful good approach to me? Tearing down the paper-walls between school of thoughts and paradigms, sciences and arts as well as ancient cultures and today's spiritual practices might create a mess in your living room. It might look like a bomb exploded or a your children had another party in your favorite study room. Yet it keeps everyone involved from becoming anal - and it would have never born the poisonous idea of 'purity' of concepts, school of thoughts and races ultimately... 

So what does that have to do with the Spirit Contact Cycle? Well, this model is exactly the type of bastard that has always earned the scorn of anal scholars and scientists alike: It's mother Gestalt Therapy, it's father a Ritual Magician. They met at night and lay on a bed of grass when the child was conceived; and a few months later it was born behind a barn in the fields. The mother was horrified by its look - so much not like her - turned away and left it alone. The father was never to be seen, busily working in the barn that he had converted into a temple, no time for his former lover or any offsprings... So let's find a home for this little thing and bring it back to where it belongs: right in the middle between humans and spirits.

I also mentioned there was a personal reason to share this lovely bastard child of my two favorite passions. This reason, however, is not so lovely after all.

When I first learned about the Contact Cycle in a Gestalt context I learned that every contact starts with becoming aware of an unconscious sensual impulse. This can be as simple as realizing that we actually are hungry, angry, sad, tired - anything - before this impulse builds up unconsciously and erupts in uncontrolled emotions or actions. The starting point and fundament for any healthy contact - I learned - was to be open, sensitive and aware to what is going on within us right now. Not to what we think or want to go on, but what is actually happening in our bodies, hearts and minds without our conscious interference right now...

It immediately dawned on me that I had spent the better part of the last decade to develop the magical equivalent of this ability: the skill to become more sensitive and aware to the things that were going on in the inner or astral realms around me. Like many of us I had spent years practicing asanas, meditations, trataka exercises, rituals and kabbalistic prayers - all aimed to increase my spiritual awareness and ability to determine what was going on around me in the invisible realm right now.

Over these years I had made some progress. While I clearly didn't land where I had hoped to - or where Bardon and alike suggested I should land - after more than 10 years I could now at least hear spirits when they were standing right in front of me screaming at me in full voice. I could also feel a slight itching when they slapped me in the face or - more appropriately - a growling nervousness in my stomach when they kicked me in the guts for weeks. So after all the spirits and I were in contact and started to have nice conversations.'Nice' in the sense of a Caspar Hauser-like idiot stepping out into the sunlight for the very first time and inviting the first run-down pedophile he met on the streets for an afternoon tea... Not very smart but at least unafraid to get hurt.

That part, however, was the part I was okay with. What was not okay with me was when I realized that I had spent all these years training my astral senses to become more subtle and aware. But in doing so I had completely fucked up my physical senses to become better trained in things that happened around me on a plain social level...

While I considered myself a Neophyte at training my astral senses I had run into the completely wrong direction on a physical level for years. On an interpersonal level I wasn't in the vestibule of the temple, I was in a completely different part of the city! 

To be quite honest, this painful insight only dawned on my during recent weeks. Only then did I realize how often I get defensive or aggressive still in front of loved ones. Not because they or the conversations deserve it, but because I don't take care of myself well enough. And the reason why I don't is simply because I haven't learned how to do it... being so occupied with magic, rituals and astral ascension didn't leave me enough time to realize when I am hungry, sad, tired or simply incredibly exhausted.

This is clearly not the person, not the lover or magician I set out to become. And it was the Spirit Contact Cycle that helped me realize this truth. 

This is why I have written and am sharing this article with you. To share what has and is helping me and hopefully to contribute another little bit of waste to our wonderful 'Afterwissenschaft'.