The Magick Camera Obscura

3d rendering of the magick camera obscura by john wolf

Origin and Historical Highlights of the Camera Obscura The camera obscura (Latin: darkened chamber/room) is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen. It is used in drawing and for entertainment, and was one of the inventions that led to photography. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side. Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside where it is reproduced, upside-down, but with color and perspective preserved. The image can be projected onto paper, and can then be traced to produce a highly accurate representation. The first mention of the principles behind the camera obscura, belongs to Mo-Ti (470 BCE to 390 BCE), a Chinese philosopher and the founder of Mohism. Mo-Ti referred to this camera as a "collecting plate" or "locked treasure room". This is of especial interest, given the use of the device I am going to describe. The Mohist tradition is unusual in Chinese thought because it is concerned with

developing principles of logic. In fact, Mohism is an incidental side-study on its own merits Link: In the 6th century, Byzantine mathematician and architect Anthemius of Tralles (most famous for designing the Hagia Sophia), used a type of camera obscura in his experiments. Of further interest is, the Song Dynasty Chinese scientist Shen Kuo (1031–1095) experimented with camera obscura, and was the first to apply geometrical and quantitative attributes to it in his book of 1088 AD, the Dream Pool Essays. In 13th-century England Roger Bacon described the use of a camera obscura for the safe observation of solar eclipses. Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519 AD) described camera obscura in Codex Atlanticus. Here is a Wiki link for a some more information on the camera obscura:

Theory of the Magickal Camera Obscura In fact what I am describing the construction and use of is not a camera obscura in precise historical sense of the word, but is somewhat similar in construction. I am borrowing the term magickal camera obscura. This is not a "camera" in the traditional sense of capturing images, but has a similarity to the camera obscura, because it is meant to transmit visual images and strobed light sequencing through the visual neural cortex. The purpose and intended use of the "magick" camera obscura, is similar to other NLP induction devices such as Gison's "Dream Machine" and more technically advanced devices such as the Mindplace “Proteus” machine, which is supposedly a very effective device. It also has strong implications for use within the field of hermetic and alchemical studies and ceremonial magick operations. One limitation of the more advanced machines, is that most of the "programs" provided for them are made by commercial production companies, and are not able to be highly customized or tailored for, use of symbols, color, sigils - which tend to be outside of the mainstream commercial offerings. To put it simply, the magick camera obscura's requirements call for an economical assembly, quick additions or changes for optimization, and customization for hermetic, alchemical and certain ceremonial magick operations, as well as providing an effective NLP inductive method.

For the sake of brevity, I am not going to detail all of the theories of NLP induction, meditative processes, brain entrainment, biofeedback, binaural beats and auto-hypnosis - even philosophical alchemy. It is a far and wide-ranging subject, that would require the time-consuming authoring of a very large and complex book and an associated bibliography. I highly recommended that the reader educate themselves and do internet research and reading on some of the keywords and phrases listed above. It also would be advisable to have some working knowledge of induction of selfhypnosis, and meditative techiques such as "tratakam" or fixed gaze meditation and "pranayama" which is a method of deliberately controlled breathing. These are terms and methods worth exploration, and there are many books and websites that can provide further information - as well as exercises. It is worth note, that some of the information you will find and read is of a subjective nature - it is up to the reader to discover through "gnosis" or direct knowledge - personal interpretations and conclusions. Your mileage may vary from my own, or someone else's. It is unlikely that two people would have the exact same experience. Perhaps, a very similar experience may be had - or - dissimilar experiences. My theory however, is that it will produce a tangible "experience" based on my own experiments and mulltiple experience with similar devices and operations. For the purposes of this monograph, I am going to assume - that you as the reader already possess a working knowledge of some of the methods and techniques described and have done some at least tentative research on these terms and have some familiarity with them, as well as ceremonial magick ritual processes etc. The reason is that I wish to keep the focus this monograph strongly on the actual construction and specific application and use of the device.

Construction –
Here is list of materials and how to construct the Magick Camera Obscura. I have used care to keep the device, inexpensive, simple yet flexible. It could be made in a more complex or expensive way if you chose. Large cardboard box Empty paper towel cardboard roll X-Acto handled razor cutter Pencil Masking tape

Black construction paper (optional) Variable rate strobe light - this is the most costly item needed. It needs to be variable rate so it can be slowed or speeded up in strobe rate. These can be found online, or at theatrical supply houses. Colored plastic sheets

Line illustration of basic assembly -

Construction You will want the bottom fold of the box to be the top of the camera obscura. The top – open part of the box will be setting down on a table surface. Remove any flaps around the edges of the box top with the X-Acto carefully. Use the masking tape to seal up the fold openings on the bottom of the box so no light can enter through the top. Turn the box up on its side, and set the cardboard tube approximately at the center point (refer to illustration) and trace around tube with pencil. Use the X-Acto to carefully cut a hole a little smaller than the diameter of the cardboard tube. It should fit in the opening snugly. Now, cut the viewing port on the opposite side. It should be large enough to fit your face into. It could be an oblong hole or like shown in the illustration - a “doghouse” door opening. At this point, you could use black spray paint to make the inside of the box dark, but it may also have a problem with unpleasant lingering residual paint odor, so I would recommend taping or gluing black construction paper on the inside walls of the box. Darkening the inside of the box is an optional step that could be omitted if you don t want to bother with it. As far as the cardboard light tube, I do recommend spraying the interior of the

tube flat black spray paint. Doesn t have to be perfect, you just want to darken the interior of it. Let it dry for a day or two, to aid in letting the paint odor dissipate. Now, fit the cardboard tube in the hole, and secure it with masking tape. Close in around the join with tape to ensure that no light will leak in around the edges of the hole. When you get ready to use the device you can use masking tape to secure opaque paper or colored plastic sheets, sigils etc.. over the cardboard tube on the inside of the box, to filter and/or soften the incoming strobe light. You should be sufficiently ready at this point to begin some initial experiments with the camera obscura.

Using the Magick Camera Obscura –
The physical set up for the camera is very important. You will want to be able to be in a relaxed posture, when you have your face in the viewing port, without leaning over uncomfortably and getting a cramp in your back or neck. This will probably take some fiddling with and some experimentation to get right. I set the device up on a table, and strategically place pillows, cushions etc. - to be able to have my head at the level of the viewing port. This would be so I could easily and comfortably place my face in the port, with as little physical effort as possible.

You may have to experiment with a few configurations to find the right positioning for you. Once you have found a comfortable position for yourself, and a secure surface to set the device on then you are ready to start using the camera obscura. Now, I will describe the use of the device step by step here, but bear in mind, that you may alter some of the steps to fit your own aesthetics and requirements. First, tape any opaque paper, colored transparent sheets, sigils or the like over the incoming light hole to soften, diffuse and filter the bright strobe light. Set up the camera, and line up the strobe light, so the light bulb is lined up with the center of the tube. You may have to prop it up some with a book etc. and jiggle it a bit to get it to the correct level. Plug the strobe light into a power strip with an on-off switch. This is a “failsafe” so if you have problems you can shut the strobe light off immediately. Once you have it all set up, test it by turning on the strobe, check the “failsafe” and position it within easy reach, and then look inside the viewing port, to make sure it is all working as you wish. Make any adjustments or positional corrections.

When using the device I use my iPod to combine audio with the visual effects of the camera. Many choices are available. You could also put on earmuffs if you wanted to go for an “isolation tank” type experience. I have an iPod mix of dissonant sounds – that is – asynchronous electronic frequencies. This is what I happen to prefer. The reason is the sounds, are unlike what you would hear in the “natural” world or in every day activities. This “dissonance” itself – helps to create a conducive mind state for optimal lucid dreaming or “visions” if you will. This dissonance or asynchronous sound is closely related to the use of “barbarous words of evocation” the “voces mageia” or spoken “magickal” languages such as Enochian, that aid in shifting your conscious active mind, temporarily out of its normal range of everyday mundane thought. Typically, these electronic dissonant tones or sounds are synthesized electronic sounds and tones. Many times these tracks will not follow established or recognizable musical beats or synchronous metering. You could also use binaural beat” tracks of theta or delta wave patterns. Looped or continuous tone white and “brown” static sounds also work well. It is easy to find MP.3 s of these on the internet to download and put on an iPod or MP3 player. If you are using binaural beats you will have to use headphones to get the correct effect, and they will not create the neural “entrainment” effect played on stereo speakers emitting into an open room.

Again, many combinations are possible, and you will probably want to experiment with different soundtracks to find the most optimum ones. So, you have the Camera Obscura set up and ready to go, you have your selected audio tracks ready on your iPod or MP3 player and have your headphones plugged into it. Begin the session or experiment with some stretching out, relaxation exercises, and then start a 15-20 minute meditation session setting in front of the camera obscura device. I highly suggest use of pranayama or controlled breathing. In essence count your breaths, and let your mind and body come into as relaxed and passive of a state as possible. When you feel sufficiently relaxed, put your headphones on and begin listening to the sound tones that you have selected. Give this a minute or so. When you are ready, turn on the strobe, and place your face into the viewing port. You may want to tape a piece of black cloth to the top of the box so that you can cover the back of your head – similar to the old fashioned plate cameras so that

light doesn t leak in to the viewing area. Once your face is comfortably in the viewing port, close your eyes. Maintain the relaxed state, and slow and easy breathing. Do not force the experience, just simply relax and observe the flashing pattern from behind your closed eyes. Give this some time. Many times we are a little nervous or in a state of expectation, but just let the experience “happen” on its own volition – in its own time. Initial feelings may be a sensation of disorientation. If you start to feel physically ill - of course you should halt - however I have found that if you persevere through any small initial discomforts, they will lessen and disappear altogether. My own theory is that it is your conscious mind, rebelling or wanting to withdraw from the unfamiliar environment, so it will attempt some autonomic reactive “tricks” to make you halt what you are doing. For the first or initial session, I suggest a short duration of viewing in any case so you can get used to the setup and effect it produces. Now, some have reported that these devices “had no effect” or caused physical discomfort such as dizziness or headache. I can pretty confidently say, that if you experience “nothing” or feel anxious or the like, then you did not meditate well beforehand, and your conscious mind was not relaxed as it should have been – and was acting as a “block” to stop a lucid dreaming session, and you probably were not relaxed enough. Another explanation for this would be if you were to start the device without doing relaxation or meditation prior to viewing, and went from a conscious active “beta” mindwave pattern – to a theta entrainment pattern too quickly. Point is, that you want to be as near to the desired “theta” wave pattern as possible before starting the device to produce the most optimal lucid dreaming session as possible. In the literature you will read on audio NLP and “binaural beat” tones, it states exactly the same point. To have an optimum experience, you must be in a loose and relaxed state. Another potential problem with effect failure, headaches, dizziness or vertigo, while using the device can be checked by – keeping your eyes closed, not pinched tight - but comfortably closed, and as you view the transmitted light from behind your eyelids – “relax” your focus. You want to slightly “defocus” your eyes. It is a bit difficult to explain this if you are unfamiliar with the process. For lack of a way to adequately explain it, try the following exercise. Look at the symbol for the Ajna chakra below. Stare or gaze at it, then, let your eyelids relax, even droop a bit, but not close, and look at it and very slightly cross your eyes – don t force your vision to cross, just let it gradually happen as you relax and defocus your vision slightly. For me, the image will get blurry somewhat, then after a time will come into an unusually sharp focus of detail – without having to concentrate on focusing my

eyes or my field of view. Sometimes you will also get a “180” effect, where your side-to-side peripheral field of vision will widen or you may experience visual “splitting” or overlapping of the image you are gazing at. Here is where some reading and practice of “tratakam” is invaluable and is worth a very brief explanation. The basic definition of "tratakam" or trataka is to look, or to gaze at some external object. It is used in yoga as a way of developing concentration, strengthening the eyes, and stimulating the Ajna chakra.

Symbol for the Ajna Chakra

Ajna in turn, means 'command' or 'summoning' and is the sixth primary chakra according to Hindu tradition and is also referred to as the "third eye". The Ajna chakra is positioned in the brain, directly behind the eyebrow center, while its "ksehtram" or superficial activation site is at the eyebrow region, in the position of the 'third eye'. Here are some Wikipedia links for more reading upon the topics. One critical difference in practicing traditional tratakam, and using the camera obscura - is that unlike tratakam gazing - which is performed with one s eyes opened, the method used with the camera – is to keep one s eyes closed. The pulsing strobe light provides enough light intensity to penetrate through the closed eyelids. The object that one is gazing at in essence, is not “external” but the back of your closed eyelids, being illuminated by a strobed light source. I strongly suggest limiting your beginning sessions to a short duration at first to acclimate yourself to the whole process.

This segues into another important issue with use of the camera obscura. Presumably, you will be using a variable rate strobe light. Ideally, it would be best if you had a partner to change the rate of the strobe light entering the box. You will want to start off with a fairly fast rate of strobe, and gradually lower it, until it is at a slow pulse. You would accomplish this with a partner, by arranging a hand or finger signal. Motioning your hand down or up would indicate the strobe rate needs to be slowly raised or lowered. Some strobes do not have a “wheel” control, and it is simply a switch, that changes the rate. While this isn t ideal, it will work just as well with some practice and familiarization. If you have no one who can operate the strobe, and you are working solo, it is a little more tricky, but can be successfully managed with some discipline, and keeping your movements minimal and your mindstate relaxed. For instance, you might begin an initial session, and then decide to lower the strobe s flash rate. When you are ready, remove your face from the port, and give yourself a moment, then slowly reach over and lower the strobe rate – maintaining your relaxed state and breathing. Think of it as a series of slow “stages”. Keep your movements when you pause the session to lower the strobe rate, very minimal, easy, slow and relaxed. Don t allow yourself to look around the room, risking loss of concentration. If you lose a bit of relaxation or concentration, go ahead and lower the strobe rate, and just pause for a time – slow back down, and get back into your measured breathing. When you are relaxed again, place your face back in the viewing port, and start the next level or stage.

Effects of the Camera Obscura I very strongly suggest keeping a written or typed journal of each individual session. I note, day and time, sun or moon phase and what the current planetary positions are – these are subtle influences upon our biorhythmic system and are well worth noting for future reference and cross-referencing with successive sessions. You may note and discover optimal times, such as day or night, and particular moon phases, and perhaps even subtle planetary alignments or positionings create slightly different subjectively observed optical phenomenon or effects. This is why it is highly suggested to keep a journal so you can compare and review past sessions – noting changes in lucid dreams or other phenomenon. I don t want to “auto-suggest” any particular effects, “plant” or bias your mind with any particular expectation of specific phenomenon. Every person is going to have a slightly different experience using the device

correctly even though they may share common elements. One might expect lucid dreaming, “visions”, hallucinatory images, consciousness shifts, an OOBE (out-of-body-experience) or astral (spirit) travel or the sensation – as it is termed of “rising on the planes”. All of these have the distinct possibility of occurring separately or simultaneously. For this reason, I very strongly urge you after each experiment or session to “ground” and “clear” yourself – this is good “psychic hygiene”. You have performed an act out of your everyday experience – and opened your mind s eye. I recommend a grounding meditative session immediately afterwards, and preferably a “banishing” ritual – such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, or your own personalized banishing ritual, to clear your mind, and help you to return to the mundane mindstate safely, and to mitigate any potential negative residual effects. You may find you have very strong and vivid dreams after a session, and you should journal it carefully – as soon as you can. When you are finished and the camera is put up, and you have banished or performed a clearing meditation, have a bite to eat – and I like to go outside, and place both palms on the ground in the dirt – to further ground myself. Well, I hope you try the Magick Camera Obscura – and if not some other form or similar device. Take your time, do the prep work go in easy stages and journal your sessions and make sure to ground and banish. My next writing on this will be to document a specific working with sigils in combination with the Magick Camera Obscura. In the meantime - Happy Lucid Dreaming to you! Namaste! John Wolf 11/26/2010

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