Personally, I completely preclude the archetype approach, especially when it comes to working with spirits. Carl Jung's collective unconscious isn't like what many archetypists describe. That would be something else called "the Noosphere". The collective unconscious, according to Jung is a way that a certain species reacts to certain things that is universal to the species. It is not a collective miasma of beliefs accumulated over generations. Also, if one does in fact encounter a deity or demi-god, they will find that the psychological explanations fail to further aid them.
In a recent blog post Jason wrote about Post Chaos Magic (sounds like Post modernism) he argues that fictional or pop culture entities don’t have the same effect as more traditional gods, demons, entities, etc. He notes the following:
Some chaos magicians have claimed that in the modern, largely secular world, a figure like Superman receives more collective belief than a pagan deity like Mars, thus making comic book or pop culture characters even more viable for magic than traditional gods and spirits. Even if we accept that it is belief, rather than the object of belief, that holds the power to magic, this thinking confuses attention with belief. Attention and belief are not the same thing, there is a different quality to the experience all around.
Now I want to first issue a caveat. I have not ever identified as a chaos magician. I’ve always identified as an experimental magician (which is its own path). I mention that because in my book Pop Culture Magick I made similar arguments to what is mentioned above. I have, however, distinguished between attention and belief. In my book, I acknowledged that attention was not the same as belief and that while a pop culture entity might get lots of attention what made it an effective force was the actual belief the practitioner had in its existence and abilities. And not just belief in the entity for the course of a ritual, but actual, honest to goodness belief that lasts longer than a moment.
Back in the late 1990s I had the privilege of connecting with Storm Constantine, author of the Wraeththu series. We’ve continued our contact over the years (In fact I co-run Immanion Press with her). We both worked on the Dehara system, which is a system of magic based on contact with “fictional” entities from the Wraeththu series. As we developed this system, other people got involved and what stood out to me was that none of us treated the entities as fictional entities, but rather as genuine spirits we’d contacted. To this day I continue to work with the Dehara as do other people who’ve chosen to believe in them and form a relationship with them. The impact the Dehara have had on my life has been just as real as the impact my work with with the Goetia or other more traditional entities has been.
Jason rightly points out that one of the core issues of Chaos Magic (and for that matter some forms of ceremonial magic) is a tendency to treat spiritual entities as psychological extensions of ourselves. But to me what has always made pop culture magic a viable magic is the ability to genuinely believe and interact with entities that may not date back to Ancient Greek or Celtic cultures, but nonetheless have a real and viable presence, provided the magician is willing to explore that presence. I think that what has stopped many magicians from doing so is a combination of the psychological model of magic and embarrassment about considering the possibility of forming a spiritual relationship with a pop culture entity. After all the Pagan/occult community can be fairly harsh with those people deemed fluffy, as I can attest to from my own experiences. Yet as someone who unashamedly does work with pop culture entities from a spiritual perspective, all I can really say is: Such relationships really can be as effective provided you invest them in as equally as you expect the entity to.
I will note that there is a difference when you’re working with a pop culture entity in a manner that is driven more by getting a specific result as opposed to forming an ongoing relationship with it. I’ve certainly done that kind of work as well and while useful it’s not quite the same as when you develop an ongoing spiritual relationship with an entity.
I have found that there are spirits who do resemble the forms of pop culture beings. Even though they are not explicit comic book or anime characters, they have cartoonish or chibi/kawaii forms. I think a good experiment would be to use a specific character from any medium as a focal point to try to contact a specific group of spirit that resonates with that character and then see if a principle spirit of that type answers our call.
Great post! Not sure if you listened to @ThornCoyle's interview of Diana Paxson on Elemental Castings #14 (podcast)?
Paxson speaks of Thor, and how he's traditionally seen as having a red hair and beard. She then wonders if his Otherworldly image (created by the collective?) will continue to shift towards him being blonde haired as a result of the comic books and movies. Although they do not delve into this topic deeply, I find it interesting because he's both a traditional god and a pop culture entity. A fusion if you will. Very interesting!
Some interesting points. For my money I'd say that a character such as Superman springs from (in some respects) soil as Mars. One is simply a later cultural mask for what (to use the psychological model of magick) we might consider the same archetypal force. Moreover an archetype (to quote Jung) is the psychological expression of a physiological fact. The root of all these entities is that they are expressions, clothed in culturally understood iconography, of the underlying principles of the universe. And the universe of course includes human psychology but isn't limited to it.
I read Jason's Post-post as well. It gave me some food for thought as I've been in the process of formulating a working centered on time management. For part of that working I have planned to invoke Doctor Who.
Doctor Who to me is a completely real (multi)personality. I've had dreams about the Doctor... I've been watching the show, starting with the original series, since I was 11 years old (about 21 years ago) and it is the one television show I've "invested" myself in.
This investing of the self seems to be a key, no matter what type of entity or spirit is involved. You invest part of yourself in that being, just as you do in human-to-human relationships.
Since Doctor Who is a Time Lord I feel he is perfect for time management. In a "Strategic Sorcery" style I'm also doing some other work to prepare for the Time shift... Reading some business books on time management. I'm also going to get my Grandpa's pocket watch, which I inherited, fixed. And then consecrate it as a talisman on a Saturday during the hour of Saturn. Another aspect will involve Radio Sorcery. On my radio show I will do an extensive remix of Doctor Who material I've collected over the years. I will mix these recordings with the jazz music of Sun Ra. Sun Ra claimed he was from Saturn...
While this approach may not be exactly what you're talking about in working with Pop Culture entities, it is a multifaceted/multilayered approach towards the effects I want to build in myself.
@ShanonSinn I haven't listened to that podcast, but I do find it interesting how modern culture has appropriated and reinvented older mythologies.
@Julian Vayne Definitely true. In fact that kind of cultural masking occurs a lot in history. the christian appropriation of previous cultural holidays is a good example of that.
@Justin Patrick Moore It actually is similar to what I discuss in Pop Culture Magick. It speaks to the fact that you can draw on a variety of cultural resources to make an effective magical working.