Personality aspecting (heretofore known simply as “aspecting”) is the art of invoking, for varying lengths of time not necessarily limited to ritual space, aspects of the self other than the ego. We as humans are capable of utilizing the entire range of the psyche, though through conditioning and habit we tend to be narrowed down to a sliver of preferred patterns known as the ego. Part of this is sheer necessity of communication. We’re used to identifying people by their behavior patterns, and anyone who acts noticeably “out of character” may be questioned.
Any symbolic system may be used to represent the different aspects of the self: the eight colors of magic in Chaos magic; the four quadrants of transactional analysis in Prometheus Rising by Wilson; any of a number of pantheons of deities in cultures across space and time. Personally, I tend to work with animal totems as external guides to help me draw on the corresponding parts of myself. Ellwood asserts that when we invoke an entity, the invocation leaves a piece of the entity’s energy in the magician like a homing signal. While I agree with this, I also believe that that energy latches on to the part of the magician that it most resembles—like attracts like.
While external beings may be used in conjunction with aspecting, they’re not necessary. For one thing, invocation is generally done within the confines of a set space and time for ritual purposes; aspecting may be continued for hours, days or even weeks after the initial invocation of the aspect of yourself. Banishment is done only when the desired changes to one’s internal programming has changed (e.g., you’re able to access that part of yourself at will and/or integrate it with your ego). While it is invocation of a sort, it differs from the traditional structure and duration associated with that act.
The Ego Itself
Much is made of the act of shattering the ego. In order to progress beyond a certain point in metamorphic magic in general, whether going through an initiation into a group or experiencing a solitary rite of passage, it’s necessary to shatter your hold on the ego, to escape its constraints for a time. In the case of aspecting, you’re shifting to one side or the other of the ego, so to speak. In any case, to truly and permanently destroy your ego in its entirety would take a monumental effort, and would quite possibly leave one stark raving mad.
Even in the most extreme rites of passage, the initiate has something to go back to, even if many of the details have changed. A person who liked pizza, hated being in the cold and liked to sleep late prior to an initiation would probably still exhibit those traits afterwards (unless the point of the initiation was to break an addiction to greasy fast food). Additionally, the actual long-term changes that result from an initiatory experience may take a while to actually manifest—the heightened state of consciousness from the ritual exposes the initiate to the changes to come, but s/he must return to an earlier state of existence in order to build on what s/he has to start with, using the tools the ritual gave hir. Our growth comes more smoothly when we allow it to happen gradually, integrating new experiences and information at our own pace rather than trying to make sudden jumps in evolution without time to adjust properly. We have to adjust either way whether we like it or not; however, doing so in a controlled manner makes for a more complete transition, with less cleanup afterwards.
The Ego and Aspecting
With aspecting, it is much healthier to use the ego as a home base to which you can return. It’s possible, with enough effort, to transfer the duties of the ego to another aspect entirely; however, the shock of doing so in too short a time can cause more harm than good. We spend years creating our egos (and having them influenced by others) and a few rituals, no matter how shocking, will not result in a clean shift from one aspect to another, for the same reason we can’t drastically cause permanent changes in ourselves through initiation without some serious setbacks.
Think of the change as metabolism. The body is designed to metabolize food taken in at a certain rate. If you were to try to make your body digest food faster (such as drinking a gallon of water with your meal) you would get less nutritional value from your meal as it would spend an inadequate time in the enzymes and tissues that facilitate digestions. Additionally, it would quite possibly cause serious discomfort to your body, especially if repeated. So it is with integrating new information into our systems. Even when we eat a huge meal, we still need to take the time to let it digest and get what we can out of it. Similarly, when we ingest a new food, our bodies need time to adjust to the different composition. So it is with information gained through magic.
It’s important, particularly if you’re not used to aspecting, to introduce yourself to short periods of being other aspects. Choose something that’s not too different from your ego, and try it on for a few hours. Then wait a few days or weeks and see what effects it has on your ego. Repeat as many times as you see fit, extending the amount of time spent in the other aspect each time. Do this until you can access that aspect whenever needed; for example, if you’re normally a shy person, work with an assertive (but not necessarily aggressive) aspect of yourself. Then, when you are in a situation when you need to be assertive, call on that aspect which has become familiar to you and be what you need to be instead of just being stuck in your timidity. If you feel the need to be a more assertive person in general, continue to access that aspect until it bleeds over into the ego and permanently changes it. Keep in mind, though, that to do this thoroughly takes time. When doing any sort of metamorphic work it’s very easy to slide back into older habits and patterns, even after we think we’ve successfully changed ourselves. Twenty or more years of full-time conditioning can’t reasonably be written over in a matter of hours (violent brainwashing techniques notwithstanding—we’re looking for healthy changes here).
There’s nothing wrong with returning to the ego once a period of aspecting is done. You haven’t failed; instead, you’ve demonstrated the necessary control to keep from flying off into delusion and personality issues. Think of it as shopping—you go out, buy stuff, and then come back home and integrate it into your existing home. Very few people throw out all their stuff, move to a new location, and then buy a whole bunch of new stuff all within a short period of time—about the only time this happens is after a severe robbery, escape from an abusive situation, or a house fire, all of which are traumatic events.
The ego often gets a bad reputation because people often hang onto it long after it’s stagnated into a useless lump of dogma and stubbornness. However, in aspecting it has its purpose, just as with any other aspect. The trick is to balance it out with other aspects rather than continuing to allow it to have free rein over the entire psyche to the detriment of the rest.
Lupa is a twenty-something pagan and experimental magician living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and fellow author, Taylor Ellwood. She is the author of several books on occult and related topics, as well as a prolific magical artist. She may be found online at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.