If I ever were to publish a book on my personal magical experience this model would be its linchpin. Why? Because it takes a step back from the centre of ritual action, from the instructions of the Grimoires or the ladders of Neoplatonistic or Kabbalistic spheres of beings - and fills an essential hole that we find in most occult traditions since oral instructions have mostly ceased to exist. Here is what this model can do for us: In a short sequence of eight steps is describes how we create, engage, integrate and finally withdraw from spirit contact. Irrespective of whether you deal with an elementary spirit, an archangel, a demon or even your HGA - healthy and vibrant contact will always follow through all eight steps.
Now the term ‘contact’ might sound theoretical or lifeless to some, yet to me it is the central pole around which all my magical experiences during the last decade revolved: creating conscious contact with entities and beings that help me enrich my life and broaden the map of my consciousness. In a nutshell we could even say: magic is the science and art of successfully creating and engaging in spirit contact.
Why this model matters in magic
But before I explain the model in detail, let me share another reason why I think this model really matters for magicians in the present day... I think it matters because we are living in a radically different period of magic than any of our ancestors. Today occult information has become instantly accessible. Secret keys are not so secret any longer and there are more Grimoires out there on the internet than any magician can ever perform in a lifetime... For centuries our ancestors were starving on information shortage. All they wanted to know were the ‘What and How’ of magic. In stark contrast today we live in an abundance of ritual instructions. For us the burning question has changed from ‘What do I have to do in order to...’ to ‘And what then?’
Once the doors are opened, once contact is established to the inner realms - where do you go from there? What’s next? Or in other words: now that I have evoked the spirits of the Arbatel or Almadel or Picatrix - why isn’t my life more complete? We are living in a time of consumption and we started to consume magic like most other things in our lives. Yet the aftertaste is flat and for some reason we don’t feel satisfaction kicking in?
Any good answer is simple. So here are 2 cents: We don’t get satisfied, we move from one project to the next, because we don’t allow ourselves to rest, to look back - and to connect the dots. We are so obsessed with individuality and creativity, with achievement and output that we forget how to integrate all the living pieces. We are writing a book, a chapter a day, and wonder why all of our stories are so short? We are opening ten new circles a day and have lost the knowledge on how to close anyone of them again...
The word Grimoire stems from the root of the French word grammar. I guess this really makes the point: We have arrived at a time where the grammar of magic is openly available to everyone. Now it is time to say something meaningful.Not meaningful to others, but meaningful to ourselves: It’s not good enough anymore to create a mess of your life in the name of exploration, of recreation of ancient magical systems or occult science. It’s time to take responsibility - for yourself and the people around you that matter. It’s time to apply the things we found and to give back through our practice. It’s time that this place and our broken selves get a little better - because of magic.
Magic over the past centuries has been great in exploring ways to unlock hidden secrets, to push through where all other means of leading a successful life or establishing contact with higher realms broke down. However, magic has also been horrible at integrating what it found behind these doors into everyday lives - and at making it meaningful to ourselves and our social communities.
So in case we want to become better at integrating our magickal results into our everyday lives we shouldn’t look to our magickal lore to provide us with the perfect tools or traditions. And rather than reinventing the wheel altogether I’d prefer to steal it from another field of study - and then apply it back to magic.
The origins of the model
The model that I will share with you has proven to be extremely helpful in creating positive contact between humans - and in understanding the pitfalls that lie hidden on this path which we often trod along unconsciously like sleepwalkers at night...
In Part II I will explain the original interpretation of the model according to Gestalt Therapy where it emerged from and is still used in since the 1970s. In Part III I will apply this model to our relationships with the spirits and how we can leverage it to create and engage in positive spirit contact. If you are only interested in the latter you can skip Part II and directly immerse in the magical application of the model.
Joseph C. Zinker in his 1978 seminal book "The Creative Process in Gestalt Therapy" introduced a model that he called the Contact Cycle. Since then this model has become a central pillar of Gestalt Therapy. It's main benefit lies in the fact that it paints a complete picture of how successful contact materializes; as well as how it can be undermined and avoided consciously or subconsciously...
Gestalt Therapy was heavily influenced by the philosophy of "I and Thou" as developed by Martin Buber. Thus, in line with Buber's Chassidic thinking the premise of Gestalt Therapy is that life is based on the principle of dialogue. However, in order to be able to engage in dialogue the ability to create and maintain contact is the critical pre-condition. Understanding the dynamics of contact as well as our natural ‘contact behavior disorders’ forms the main corpus of Gestalt theory and practice.
And this is where magic comes into play: Every practicing ritual magician is working towards enhanced spiritual contact. Let's call it evocation, invocation, spirit communion, Merkavah ascent or forming a good old blood bound pact. Since millennia magicians have been striving to extend their spiritual reach, to enhance their ability to create conscious contact with entities of the inner or outer realms. Today we are just one more link in this unbroken chain - stretching almost eternally into the past behind and the future ahead of us. Our responsibilities as magicians therefore are twofold:
- to preserve the living legacy we were given and
- to continue weaving it into the fabric of our present time and societies. I.e. to bring it to live and to make it meaningful.
Now, you might be wondering what the latter has to do with Gestalt Therapy? Well, let's read the following definition of contact according to Gestalt - while thinking of ritual spirit contact instead:
"The whole (Contact - ed. FA.) is more than the sum of its parts - physical senses of touch feel, hear etc, and more than these senses might provide. It is not the seeing or hearing but how it is heard or seen; it is not the act of thinking or remembering that provides the contact but the quality of thought, seeing, remembering, hearing etc, and the summation of these. Contact occurs at the boundary of our self and the environment. Within the moment of contact all else merges to the background; as seeing your loved one in a crowd, everyone and everything else blurs and melts with your loved one in the foreground. Contact is a basic need of human beings, providing and opening to the possibility for change."
If we change the context from Gestalt to Ritual Magic we arrive at a pretty precise description of the magician’s state of mind during spirit communion: all senses are focussed and involved in the present moment - yet the sum of their impression is so much more than the individual parts. And just like all things blur around your loved one in a crowd so the magician prepares during weeks of abstinence, asceticism and prayer in order to be ready for the living contact with the entity chosen...
Stealing the core model of this philosophy and applying it to magic seems like a great starting point for an adventure into a new perspective on spirit contact.
How the model looks like
The basic model of the Contact Cycle can either be depicted in a cycle of eight steps - as the name suggests - or in form of a sinus curve indicating the ascent and descent of energy over time. In the following article I will chose the latter way simply because it allows a more elaborate description of the model.
According to this model successful contact is experienced as a flow through all sequences of the Contact Cycle without any inhibiting obstacles. Unfortunately that’s not the norm - as there are many pitfalls and mechanisms we use to avoid successful contact.
In the following two chapters, however, we will not look at what can inhibit or interrupt successful contact. Rather we will explore the ideal flow through all eight steps of the model - both, according to Gestalt Therapy as well as in a context of Ritual Magic. Still, our aim will be to show how easily many stages in the Contact Cycle can be neglected or overlooked. Both in our relationships with humans and spirits alike the science and art of creating vibrant contact is equally challenging.
- Buber, Martin, Ich und Du, 1923 (1919)
- Forrest, David, http://www.gestaltuk.com/indepth/contact-cycle
- Hartmann-Kottek, Lotte, Gestalttherapie, Springer Verlag 2008
- Perls, Fritz, Ego, Hunger and Aggression: A Revision of Freud's Theory and Method, 1942
- Zinker, Joseph, Creative Process in Gestalt Therapy, Vintage 1978