An experiment in “physical clairvoyance”

Over the last few years, there’s been a bit of an uptick in books about developing “psychic abilities.” I put that phrase in quotes not because I’m looking to call the existence of such things into question, but rather because it’s often used as a kind of umbrella term.

Precognition, telepathy, spirit communication—the term “psychic” or “psychic phenomena” is applied to all of these and more. So when an author offers to help you build your own psychic potential, you usually have to go digging a bit to figure out exactly what they’re describing.

Overall, though, the general thinking here is that human beings (some if not all) have certain, innate senses which don’t seem to fit in with the “mundane” five we’re all familiar with. And, with proper training and practice, these “extra” senses can be worked like muscles at the gym, resulting in better performance.

Many of the “psychic improvement” books I’ve read seem to be of reasonable quality, or at least they offer some useful exercises in concentration, meditation, and listening to your own intuition. That said, not all of these books are created equally, and a few are…less than good.

I won’t name and shame here, nor am I aiming to put out any book recommendations. Rather, I wanted to say that the public’s increasing interest in psychic development reminded me of something from my very early days of magical study.

Touching things with Aleister Crowley

It was sometime around 1990, when I was about thirteen years old, that I first stumbled onto the writings of Aleister Crowley, an English occultist I’m certain you’ve not only heard of, but also have strong opinions about. I won’t get into my own thoughts about the man here, save to say that in my circle of friends we tend to refer to him as the “creepy uncle” of the Western, esoteric tradition.

One of the earliest papers of his which I read was titled Liber E vel Exercitiorum and it contained, among other things, a simple exercise under the heading “Physical Clairvoyance.” Here’s a slightly abridged version of this exercise:

  1. Take a pack of Tarot cards. Shuffle; cut. Draw one card. Without looking at it, try to name it. Write down the card you name, and the actual card. Repeat, and tabulate results.
  2. Remember that one should expect to name the right card once in 78 times. Also be careful to exclude all possibilities of obtaining the knowledge through the ordinary senses of sight and touch, or even smell. There was once a man whose fingertips were so sensitive that he could feel the shape and position of the pips and so judge the card correctly.
  3. It is better to try first the easier form of the experiment, by guessing only the suit.
  4. Remember that in 78 experiments you should obtain 22 trumps and 14 of each other suit; so that without any clairvoyance at all, you can guess right twice in 7 times (roughly) by calling trumps each time.
  5. As you progress you will find that you are able to distinguish the suit correctly three times in four and that very few indeed inharmonious errors occur, while in 78 experiments you are able to name the card aright as many as 15 or 20 times.

My teenaged brain loved the implications of this experiment. Not only did it seem to promise magical (or “psychic”) powers, but it provided a means by which to quantitatively measure your development.

If it looks like science, it’s gotta be science, right?

It’s a fun experiment to try, and relatively easy to pull off. There are a couple of stumbling blocks, though, which bugged me a bit whenever I came back to this exercise over the years.

First, my Tarot decks don’t tend to stay pristine for very long. Countless hours of shuffling has given every card of every one of my decks its own unique character—by which I mean they’re warped, with a wrinkle here and there. That’s how I like ‘em, so don’t judge me.

Second, doing out the probability math can get a bit tedious with the Tarot, thanks both to the varying numbers of cards in the suits, as well as the need to consider “harmonious” errors (like naming “The Tower” when you draw the “Five of Wands”) as being at least partial successes.

The general idea behind the exercise seems solid enough, though.

What if we tossed the Tarot cards and tried a different sort of deck?

Physical Clairvoyance v2.0

Let’s say we stick with a regular pack of fifty-two playing cards. We can buy a new pack without any dings or wrinkles, toss the advertising cards and jokers, and voila! We have a clean deck with exactly the same number of cards in each of the four suits.

Playing cards have been used for divination even longer than the Tarot. And, like the Tarot, each of the four suits has a general, traditional meaning:

  • Hearts are considered very positive, often meaning love or emotional fulfillment.
  • Diamonds are pretty good, and usually associated with material success.
  • Clubs are a little more challenging, and while they can mean success or accomplishments, it’s the sort which is only gained after hard work.
  • Spades aren’t very good at all, and usually mean struggles, arguments, or more serious challenges.

You might have your own associations and that’s fine. Use ‘em if you’ve got them.

We’re going to shuffle these cards thoroughly, then try Crowley’s version of the experiment wherein we want to guess only the suit of the card we pull. We’re also going to keep a running score, so grab a piece of paper and a pencil or pen.

When you’re ready, shuffle the deck, give it a cut, then draw a card without looking. With the card in your hand, take a minute or two to sit with and feel its energy.

Once you think you know which suit it belongs to, look at the card and see if you were right or wrong.

Write down the card you guessed, what the actual card was, and how many points you earned for that guess. Give yourself two points for an exact match (calling “Diamonds” and actually getting a Diamond). Give yourself one point if you guessed the wrong suit, but got the same color (calling “Hearts” and getting a Diamond). If you didn’t even get the color right, give yourself no points.

Now, unless you have far more patience than I do, you probably don’t want to go through the whole pack of cards in a single sitting. Instead, try it with five cards. You want to take your time settling in, and take your time with each card, but the whole exercise shouldn’t take you more than about fifteen minutes.

When guessing five cards using this scoring system, assuming your guesses are totally random, you can expect to get three or four points on average. A ten would be a perfect score, meaning you guessed the correct suit all five times.

It probably can go without saying, but this is an exercise designed to be done regularly, over a long period of time. This is both because we’re aiming to “psychic muscles” a workout, but also because small sample sizes can be very deceiving when doing these kinds of experiments. It’s entirely possible that you’ll guess all five cards right on your first try, but you probably wouldn’t want to take that result too seriously. Nor should you be disappointed if you don’t get a single card right.

Rather, shoot for five cards in a session, and try to do around three sessions per week. That’s over seven hundred guesses over the course of a year, which will give you a lot of data to play with.

Personally, I’d suggest using a spreadsheet to track your results, but I’m kind of a nerd. Do whatever works for you. The important thing is to be able to ask and answer at least some of the following questions.

  1. What is your average score each day?
  2. Does your average daily score improve over time?
  3. Do you get a better score if you perform this experiment right after meditation?
  4. Do you get a better score if you perform this experiment right after divination?
  5. Is there some ritual you can do to improve your score?
  6. Do you get a better score on certain days of the week, or during certain times of the day?
  7. Are your guesses more accurate when the card you draw is a certain number? Large? Small? Face cards?
  8. Do you tend to guess one suit more than the others? Are those guesses more or less likely to be right?

I’m sure you can see that there’s a lot of room to play here, and that’s a big part of the reason while even after more than thirty years, I still come back to some version of this exercise now and then.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

A simple prosperity ritual using the Ace of Coins

Among the four minor suits of the Tarot, the Coins seem to have had the most name changes. In the earliest decks, Coins were Coins, represented by circles of gold which linked them to money and prosperity. Centuries later, some decks represented them as Pentacles, and authors linked the suit to “materiality” in all its forms. And even later still, this suit became known as Disks in some circles, keeping most of the “material” significations, but adding or subtracting certain subtleties.

But what are Coins, really?

For most of us, they’re those little hunks of metal we let pile up in the cup holders or unused ashtrays of our cars. We almost never really even use them now, unless it’s to throw them in a jar or can which we later haul to a bank and trade in for “real” money. Otherwise, they just get in the way or get sucked up in the vacuum cleaner whenever we decide to clean under our sofa cushions.

Honestly? We just don’t think of them as money anymore.

Money, to most of us, means paper, but even that is a bit of a stretch these days. I almost never carry cash of any kind, and I know very few people who do. Instead, most of us rely on debit and credit cards, or even apps on our phones, for our mercantile needs.

And of course by “mercantile,” I mean “Mercury.”

Trade and commerce today is almost entirely under the rulership of Mercury in every sense. Money changes hands as fast as electrons can fly through the air. It’s ephemeral, intangible, and interconnects every aspect of our world in innumerable and often-imperceptible ways.

And when we see the stock market booming while record numbers of people are out of work, well, it’s hard to imagine money as being anything other than under the rulership of a capricious deity too clever for their own good.

There’s absolutely nothing about money which can be properly called “material” in this day and age. It’s as immaterial as a thing can get, so equating Coins with money doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Instead, in my opinion, Coins best represent tangible things which possess intrinsic value.

Take a look at the suit of Pentacles as illustrated in the world’s most popular Tarot deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith.

In the Ace of Pentacles, a hand issues forth from a cloud, bearing a single, enormous Coin. The scene takes place in a garden, with a path and archway leading out, to twin mountains beyond.

The handle cradles the Coin both gently and securely.

Is it presenting the Coin to us? Receiving the Coin from us as an offering? Or has it plucked the Coin from the bounty of the garden in which we stand?

Is the garden itself the Coin in some way? Aren’t the fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables we might find there more “real” than the zeroes and ones flipping about in our bank’s computer system?

In every bit of the scene below the hand, we see tangible, recognizable things which have intrinsic value. We see (or can infer) food, for instance. The walls of the garden provide us with a kind of shelter, don’t they? And the mountains beyond can provide us with stone to build with.

There is a solidity to the ground in this card which echoes that of the hand wrapped around the coin, even as the hand itself seems somewhat ephemeral, what with it coming out of a cloud and all.

If you look at the other cards of this suit, you’ll see patterns emerge which echo that of the Ace. In the three, we see a clear picture of an artist at work, crafting something which likely will outlast themselves. In the four, we see someone holding the Coins close, almost like armor. Are the Coins protecting the person, or is the person protecting the Coins?

Most clearly, though, I think the image on the eight most clearly shows the true meaning of this suit. A laborer, carefully and methodically creating piece after piece. They sit on a bench, hammer and chisel in hand, bringing tangible things into the world. We see a castle in the background, with a path leading out.

And just there in the corner, at the opposite end of the path from the castle—is that a forest? Or is it the edge of a garden? Is the laborer on this card actually in the garden of the Ace, and we just can’t see it from our perspective?

If so, might not the hand in the garden be the hand of the worker? Or is it our hand, receiving the fruits of the worker’s steadfast labor?

The concrete things we create. The physical objects we can hold in our hands to feel that “spark of joy.” The tangible items which fulfill our needs through their intrinsic value. These are all Coins, and the Ace is the source of them.

A Quick-and-Dirty Prosperity Ritual

One of the simplest ways to both see and use “Ace of Coins energy” in your life is to do a little “quick-and-dirty” prosperity work.

Variations of this spell or ritual can be found all over the place, most of which involve the use of paper money. For the reasons I discussed above (among others), I don’t do prosperity work with currency. I use Coins.

For this ritual, you’ll need a small candle, either white or green; a copy of the Ace of Coins (or the Ace of Diamonds from a regular deck of playing cards); a fire-proof or heat-safe plate; and a safe place where you can set a candle burning and keep an eye on it.

When I say that you want a copy of the Ace, I mean it. You’ll be getting wax on it. A photocopy is fine, but I usually just use an Ace of Diamonds from one of the ten million decks of playing cards I’ve somehow acquired.

As for the candle? Don’t be shy about using birthday candles. They’re cheap, come in an assortment of colors, and burn quickly enough that you don’t have to wait around for an hour or longer for them to burn down.

When you’re ready to begin, gather your materials where you’ll do the work, and take a few minutes to relax.

Put the plate down in front of you, then lay the Ace face up in the middle of it. When you do, imagine that this Ace is the seed or root of the prosperity and bounty which is to come. Remember, this isn’t the seed of money, but of the tangible rewards and goods which are about to come into your life. It’s better to think about the Ace as the root of the things you would use money to buy, rather than to think about the money itself.

As you place the card down, say something like this…

Ace of Coins (or Ace of Diamonds)

Seed of prosperity, root of good things

Promise of all that I need

Set your candle on top of the card, preferable in the middle of the Coin or Diamond. If you need to use a candle holder, you may. If it’s safe to do so, however, you can instead melt the wax on the bottom of the candle and stick it directly to the card.

After you’ve done this, light the candle, saying something like this…

As the Sun gives light to the seedling

Let this candle give light to thee.

Root of all I need

Fulfill your promise to me!

Allow the candle to burn down completely, imagining the light nourishing the Ace, allowing its gifts to grow. Imagine the heat and the smoke from the flame bringing the gifts of the Ace to life, and carrying them to you.

The words I provide above are just a suggestion, and I vary what I say a great deal whenever I do this work. Sometimes I’m looking for something specific, but most of the time when I use this for myself or on behalf of others, I’m looking for “generic prosperity.” It works either way.

And if you give it a shot yourself, let me know how it works for you!