Learning to invite and maintain various trance states is extremely helpful – indeed necessary – for successful magickal work. Trance is one of the most important skills for the magician because it opens access to communication with other planes, entities, and layers of mind (communication that will not always be initiated by the magician!). This helps soften the rigidity of the mind, especially for those prone to being very intellectual or controlling. Letting go of familiar states of consciousness helps overcome the fear of not being in charge of everything that happens to you. It leads to the natural arising of imagery and visions. Visions and altered states can also be encouraging for beginners in particular, as they provide a clear result and interesting experiences. As one gains experience, these visions and states can shed light on unrecognized fears, desires or attachments, which can then be released or healed through work with pure intention (sigils, prayer), ritual with benevolent entities and purification or banishing work.
The term trance is a generic name for a wide range of altered state of consciousness ranging from mild states such as daydreaming to extremely deep altered states akin to near-death experiences or full possession. Trance is not necessarily pleasurable: the content of the experiences that occur during the trance state may range from beautiful to neutral to frightening.
Becoming skilled at simple trance will set the groundwork for important further exploration. If you have little experience with trance work on the simple trance exercise daily for several weeks or months, or until you start to have clear results. Then continue with the exercises to deepen trance, again practicing daily until clear results are attained.
Basic Trance Exercises
The trance state is perhaps most similar to the range of states found between sleeping and waking; this is something we all experience daily, but can train ourselves to reach deliberately through simple exercises. Meditation practice alone generally produces trance states during certain phases of practice. When this happens you can take advantage of it to begin practicing trance work outside of meditation. If it has not arisen naturally, or you wish to refine your abilities, these exercises can help. Focusing on trance as a separate practice can help you learn to control and deepen trance for magickal work.
Do each exercise for 15 minutes a day (or at least several days a week) until clear results are experienced. Then move on to the next exercise.
1) Progressive relaxation: start at the toes and focus on each muscle, tensing it and then relaxing it. Work your way slowly up your body, tensing and relaxing each muscle as you go. Then mentally massage your body with imaginary hands making sure that it is perfectly relaxed.
2) Silencing the mind: stare gently but in a focused way at an object such as a mirror, bowl of water, kasina (colored disks used by Theravada Buddhist monks), candle flame or sacred object. Or, especially if you are lying down, follow the breath in and out as you breath, naturally letting go of thoughts to let your mind rest.
Note: The gentleness of your attention is important. Don’t stare or concentrate as if trying to burn a hole in the object with laser vision. Relaxation helps. Don’t worry if your concentration wanders here and there (which is likely if you are not an experienced meditator or magician). Just gently bring it back to the object of focus. Laugh at yourself! Getting fussed about it just makes it harder to concentrate.
3) Now add a word or phrase: Try repeating a simple common prayer like the Lord’s Prayer over and over while you stare at the object. You can use a magickal phrase, mantra or word of your own choosing. Repetitive prayer is a common technique used in Spiritist seances to get everyone in trance. Using a phrase or word associated with a benevolent entity or positive intention is best.
4) Falling/sinking imagery: close your eyes and imagine slowly descending a set of stairs, diving into deep, deep water and slowly descending into the depths, sliding down an energy vortex, or falling slowly from a great height. Falling sensations can be scary, so be sure to imagine yourself descending very slowly and gently. If you still find it too difficult to tolerate the initial falling sensation because of fear, consider making yourself a magick word to keep you safe. Refer to the section on sigils for how to make a mantric sigil which can serve this purpose.
Personally I tend to start with brief attention to relaxing my body and mind (steps 1 and 2) and then the repetition of a phrase. This may be the Lord’s Prayer or the mantra or call of an entity. I use the imagery of falling into a vortex as a supplemental or backup method, particularly in a distracting environment.
Deeper trance states will tend to evolve naturally from the diligent practice of simple trance. Both simple trance and deeper trance are states that tend to arise most easily if one doesn’t force it, but rather simply sets up the context for the mind to naturally incline that way. It will also arise of its own accord at times, sometimes unexpectedly.
Once you are easily able to enter simple trance, use the following techniques to set the stage for deeper trance to arise.
● design a symbol or sigil that represents your intention to deepen your trance state; achieve simple trance first, then visualize the symbol and hold the image gently but persistently in your mind (see section on sigils for instructions)
● choose a word, phrase or short prayer that represents your intention to deepen your trance state; achieve a simple trance state, and then recite the word(s) over and over in a steady voice. Concentrate on the words completely, but without straining.
● use repetitive movement (slow, gentle swaying, dancing, rocking or clapping); there seems to be a link between trance and movement in the upper back and shoulders. Clapping here is not about making noise with the hands, but about moving the upper arms and shoulders rhythmically back and forth.
● use repetitive sounds (drum, bell, rattle). It is the hypnotic repetition of the same sound over time that is most effective. Listen to music from spiritual traditions such as Gnawa, Candomble, Umbanda, Santeria, Vodoun, or Shamanism to understand how rhythm can encourage deeper trance. Modern trance music or audio trance training systems are also useful.
● Spend time around other people who already have deep trance skills. Trance is somewhat contagious, and you can find the “sweet spot” more quickly by practicing in the company of others who are already skilled.
The depth of trance is not directly related to the intensity or complexity of the preliminaries, though such can help a lot, especially when in training. Banishing before deeper trance work is recommended, as trance opens the mind in much the way you might open the front door to your house. During a trance state you are more susceptible to the influence of stray entities. Banishing first clears the space for your work, so you can focus on your practice without interruption by unintended “visitors.” Use additional methods of purification or banishing if you have problems. Invoking the Archangel Michael before and after practice is an excellent and powerful method of protection.
Trance states range on a continuum, and are not clearly defined. How you experience them can be affected by your posture (sitting or standing, for example) and by your predilections – some people are more likely to experience physical sensations, others to notice visual effects, and so forth. Make notes of your own experiences in your Magickal Record. Of course, defining the type of trance you have is not critical. The most important thing is what you experience while you are there.
● warm relaxed body, tingling sensations, mild electric feeling in body
● normal movement such as ability to walk, talk, write
● visual changes, such as seeing patterns of lights and colors or dream like images
● intuitive flow, communication, writing, speech and ideas come freely; inspired creativity
● detached mental feeling, hyper-alert expansive awareness, sense of being very present in the moment
● one tends to feel relaxed, refreshed or slightly energized afterwards
● increase in symptoms of light trance
● time slows down, sounds may seem to be felt in the body or be extraordinarily vivid
● if doing entity work, strong sense of presence, energy movements in upper body or head
● detached mental state with some dizziness, can be difficult to move smoothly, writing and speaking more difficult
● strong intuitive impulses can manifest in impulsive physical gestures (including automatic writing, etc.)
● strong flow of visual or verbal psychic communication
● one generally feels energized and recharged afterwards
● sense of world around one becomes intermittent, shifting, may seem to shrink or expand
● if lying down, can be hard to avoid falling asleep
● REM activity, strong visual dream-like imagery
● body may feel completely numb, or not seem to belong to you
● if doing invocation work, presence of entity in your own body becomes extremely strong, coloring thought, facial expressions, posture, movement, although it doesn’t control them completely
● effort required to speak outloud or write, though trance not disrupted when you do
● powerful internal flow of thought/vision/psychic communication, undisturbed by any outside occurences
● if scrying, strong sense of falling, darkness and pressure
● one generally feels very groggy and thick headed afterwards, can be difficult to shake off the trance without ritual assistance (banishing, etc.)
● even more extreme state which can be quite frightening due to hallucinations or loss of body control
● numbness or sense of not controlling body increases strongly, body may move under control of possessing entity, puppet-like, or simply become impossible to move at all (if lying down)
● vision may become hallucinatory, or there may be a near complete loss of any awareness
● sense of falling fast, or the world disappearing into a dot of light in the distance
● rarely possible to speak, beyond sharp yelps or other primal sounds
● massive energy load; very difficult to come out of. We would recommend deep trance be done in groups, so other group members can help the entranced person return to the world after the possession or vision is complete. Strong banishing work and quiet recovery time recommended afterwards.
(Instructions modified June 2012 to emphasize the clarify the usefulness of trance practice in the context of awakening and to recommend other methods of protection if problems arise.)
Robert Bruce, Astral Dynamics: The Complete Book of Out-of Body Experiences
Edmund Jacobson, Progressive Relaxation