Strategic Sorcery Manifesto Point Three States:
Most systems of magic do not maintain a balance between the three levels of Material, Energetic/Astral, and Divine/Causal level. By making sure you hit all these points, your magic will be more effective.
I outlined this pretty well I think in The Sorcerers Secrets. If you havent read that yet (for shame...) here is a basic ruin down on what I mean.
NOTE: Below is an edited down form of the chapter in the book with a different last paragraph. If you already know the material from the book, just skip down to the last paragraph.
Most ancient systems presented a view of reality consisting of various layers emanating from the highest and most subtle divine realms to the most dense and material world that we experience every day. Since the movement from the subtle to the material is not really a system of different and distinct layers but rather a seamless spectrum, you can find many ways of dividing it up. The more attention to detail you look for, the more layers you will see. Some of these systems entail dozens of layers and sub-layers giving quite detailed descriptions of the role and potential of each. For our purposes we can rely upon a simple three level system, such as the one presented in the Chaldean Oracles.
The Oracles are a set of 2nd century Pagan Gnostic texts that have been an inspiration to magicians and mystics for centuries. They speak of the universe as consisting of Empyrian, Aetherial, and Material worlds. This simple system is loosely mirrored in the Celestial, Moral, and Mundane triads of the tree of life and the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya of Tibetan Buddhism. Franz Bardon, posited a similar three world system of the Akashic, Astral, and Physical planes. It is important to realize that these levels exist not only as different layers of the external world, but as sheathes of our own being, each more subtle than the last. We can forsake arcane terms like Akashic, Empyrian, Material and just call them Level 1, 2, and 3.
Level 3 is the material world that we exist within. It contains within it three levels of its own: non-living, living, and etheric substance. Non living substance is not only matter that we see around us such as concrete and such, but electricity and magnetism and other energies that can be measured with scientific instruments. Living substance counts not only as flesh and bone, but bio-energy. Etheric substance acts as a bridge between level 3 and level 2. Within the mind, this is the home of emotions and lower mechanistic thoughts and responses.
Level 2 is the Aetherial realm. It is the world of the subtle elements of pure fire, water, air, and earth. At the lower end of this level is the home of the astral body and an innumerable population of spirits. Here too is the origin of the subtle energy that has many names: prana, chi, lung, odic force, witch-power, and so on. At the higher end of level 2 are Archetypes, Planetary Intelligences, Angels as well as the lower mythic aspects of various Gods, Goddesses, and other subtle beings that despite their spiritual nature display ego clinging. Within the mind, level 2 is the realm of thought, ego, and logic. At the higher end of the spectrum is the intuition, clairvoyance and the beginnings of transcendence and transpersonal characteristics.
Level 1 is the Emyrian, Divine, or Akashic Realm. The Gods here exist in their highest and most cosmic transcendent nature. There is no hint at this level of the classic mythology that tells of fights and affairs between the gods and which sometimes make the pantheons sound like dysfunctional families. No, here we are beyond all that and dealing instead with cosmic and the causal forces. Within the mind this manifests as the gnosis of non-duality and the radiance of primordial unencumbered awareness. The perfection of perfection. Level 3 is both the highest rung on the ladder, and the material from which the ladder itself is made.
Anyone that has taken the time to study different methods of magick that have arisen in different cultures knows that there are drastic differences in their modes of operation and different points that are stressed. Looking at these in the context of the three layers mentioned above can be very helpful in determining how a given ritual or spell works, and how it can work better.
In Hoodoo for instance, most spells are operated by appealing directly to Level 1 through prayer and invocation, than channeling that directly into the Material world of Level 3 in the form of Oils, Powders, Candles, etc. While they do sometimes work with spirits, there is very little in Hoodoo about working with energies of the body or astral forms, so we can say that level 2 is of less concern to the Rootworker. In Golden Dawn style ceremonial magick there is also an emphasis on the Empyrian Realm of level 1 through prayer and invocation, but the Aetherial realms of level 2 are also very prominent in the taking of astral forms and channeling of energy through visualizations of pentagrams and such. The Material component of level 3 is present in the use of specialized tools, but over all it is not as stressed as it is in Hoodoo and other types of folk-magick. Certain Taoist types of magick pay very little attention to level 1 and focus on the Aetherial channeling of Qi (energy) through the body and into material bases like talismans and such.
Some types of magick focus on one realm almost exclusively. Prayer for instance appeals purely to level 1, but can be amazingly powerful when done by either a gifted priest or a large group. Psionics focuses almost entirely on level 2 and the manipulation of Psi energy. Other disciplines like Raja Yoga feature a balance of all three levels but are focused only on individual enlightenment and have no emphasis on sorcery.
I had never encountered a really balanced system of Sorcery until I started studying Tibetan Magick. It was only through that study that I was able to realize that getting all three levels to work in union, greatly increased the potential for success and the level of success gained.
I have from time to time been able to advise people on spells that have failed, or to witness ritual work that doesn’t manifest successfully. This is almost always due to a failing of understanding the role of one of these three layers. For instance I have seen several pagan and ceremonial rituals raise quite a lot of level 2 energy aimed for a specific purpose, which is just sort of released at the end of the rite hoping it will hit its target. If these folks instead channeled it into a material object such as a talisman or powder that could be given to or planted near the target it would give the energy a path to run along. Similarly I have seen people take meticulous care with the mixing of a proper oil or mojo bag but not make any real effort to pray fervently or channel any energy into it, and so end up with spiritually “dead” materials.
When planning a working, level 1, 2, and 3 should all be present to some degree. Level one provides wisdom and access to the non-dualistic powers that are at the very basis of reality itself. By meditation, trance, and devotional prayers you will grow to understand the fabric of reality itself and thus how to bend its normal rules.
Level two provides energies that will power your sorcery like a battery. You can either use your own energy, or the energy of anything around you, from the path of the sun, to the magnetic poles, to the stars, to the elements themselves. These can be channeled through your body like a yogi or martial artist would do, or they can be linked directly to something else and released on their own. This is also the level that is worked with to facilitate contact with spirits through evocation and offering.
Level three will ground your magick and help it manifest physically. Even if it only a candle or a stick of incense, some material component to any ritual will help it gain a foothold onto this reality. There is a school of thought tends to treat any ritual components as dispensable props with no inherent value in and of themselves because magick is “all in the mind”. Don’t buy into it. Mind is important but magicians, witches, and sorcerers meticulously recorded their formulas over the centuries for a reason. To disregard them out of hand in favor of a modern fad is just a bit disrespectful.
That’s not to say that magick is not “material tolerant”, any advanced practitioner knows how to make replacements and substitutions for everything from hard to get herbs to golden goetic seals. However, if you do the best you can with your materials; it will show in your results.
It is also important to know how the three levels play out in our own persona. As I said above: the material level of course is your physical body and also the base, chemical driven passions, which should be kept in decent shape if the more subtle energies of level 2 are to be drawn through it. Level 2 is the astral body with channels, subtle winds, and seeds as well as the higher psyche which rides upon these energies. Level 1 is your higher self, divine nature, and primordial awareness, the very base of your being. All three need to function in union if you are to be a successful sorcerer. People that focus exclusively on level 3 become slaves to the base passions and physical needs. People that work only on developing the energies of level 2 or without the ennobling influences of level 1, often develop various emotional problems and in rare cases physical ailments from energetic imbalances. People that work only on level 1 tend to lose focus of the material world and get “lost in the clouds” so to speak.
Exploring the role of all three levels of magic is integral to streamlining your magic and making it better. There are many benefits of practicing within a firmly established tradition with centuries of history and work behind it. One of the advantages of not working within one of these more or less static traditions is the ability to make decisions for yourself about how you do just about everything. When those decision are based on nebulous ideas of "whatever feels right" we are lost, because usually what feels right is what is in the comfort zone and reinforces who you already are and what you already think. When those decisions are based on real observation of what works and how well it works, than the lesson of the Three Levels can really be put to use in making your magic more effective.