Energy is all around us and pervades all things. In my opinion, the vast majority of us are born with some ability to sense and work with that energy on a magical level. Among many magical practitioners, there is great emphasis placed on one’s ability to “see” energy. As a community, we tend to value and favor those who can “see” the circle of energy raised to protect those gathered. We tend to seek out those who perceive the abundant energy around us in technicolor and hear the voices of deities and spirits as clearly as most humans hear one another.

Emphasis on “the sight” often breeds a sort of hierarchy among magical practitioners that can actually discourage those with less high-definition magical vision from attempting to better understand their own unique way of seeing the unseen and attempting to sharpen it. Instead, those who supposedly “don’t have it” rely heavily upon and edify those who do. This tendency can create a kind of mystique around certain people, a mystique that may hamper the development of others’ magical and spiritual skill set as it relates to energy perception.

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While I do believe that energy perception is critically important for a person on this path, the mystique around “sight” can be misleading for those who are just entering certain magical and spiritual paths or those who may have a Hollywood-influenced view of what energy perception really is. Simply by calling energy perception “sight” we obscure the fact that energy perception is not monolithic. I know many magical practitioners who “feel” energy in different ways; for example, as a temperature or pressure changes in their environment.

I know others who hear a humming or drone in the presence of certain types and amounts of energy. Some see energy in their mind’s eye as colors, forms, and textures. On a related note, oftentimes the voice of a deity or spirit will not be “audible” either literally or figuratively but instead will manifest as a stray thought, image, or idea that “pops” into a person’s head “out of nowhere” with a character all its own.

Does this mean that every stray image out the corner of your eye, every difficult to locate sound, or every temperature shift is a message from the spirits or an indication of energy activity? No, not at all, but those sensory experiences can be a starting place for figuring out how you personally perceive energy and spirit contact.

Sensory phenomena exist on a spectrum. This is true of our five senses; why would it not be true of the sixth? All of our senses are our own and we each have to work to understand what our perceptions are communicating to us. If you feel energy or what you think might be energy, go with it. See where exploration of that sensation leads you. Don’t discount it because it’s not a lush array of colors and concrete images in your mind’s eye. If you have a thought that seems animated by another being, go with it. Take it as the voice of a being beyond yourself and investigate further. Use reason, good common sense, and proper reality testing in the process, of course.

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If you think you may be on to something, read the tarot, scry, draw a rune, or whatever you do to test messages that you receive from spirits and other beings. Please do not ignore potential energy perceptions or messages from spirits just because it is not how another magical person told you energy perception is “supposed” to be. I’ve seen the myths and mystique around psychic vision derail many a witch, or worse, force her into a spiritually dependent relationship with someone whose psychic abilities she placed on a pedestal.

As a devotional polytheist, spirit worker, and Witch, my ability to perceive energy and receive messages is critical to my personal practice. When I was starting out, I trusted others who readily perceived what I struggled to perceive. By talking with other magical people, I learned which aspects of what they saw, heard, felt, thought, and experienced translated into basic energy perception and later interpretations of that energy. I then allowed myself the time and opportunity to study my own sensations and translate them into meaningful perceptions that I could attribute to the energies, gods, and spirits around me.

As I mentioned above, sensory experience exists on a spectrum. That means that not only do we perceive things somewhat differently from one another, but we also do not perceive every single thing fully or clearly. You may not sense all energy types as well as others. Also, some energy sources may be more difficult to grasp. For example, for me personally, the dead have to shout if they want me to hear them and even then, I do not always receive the message clearly. Also, I see structured, intentionally, energy constructs, such as shields and wards, much more readily than ambient energy.

These differences and difficulties in sixth sense energy perception are actually no different than with my other five senses. For example, I don’t see well out of my left eye and I can’t hear lower sounds well. Also, I’m more sensitive to hot temperatures than cold ones. The list goes on. With regard to my constellation of sensory perceptions, magical and mundane, I honor what I have and accept what I do not. That allows me to have the mental, emotional, and spiritual space to cultivate what I do have to the fullest of my ability. I would encourage magical practitioners and spiritual folks of every skill level and level of attainment to not downplay your ability. Also, don’t lament what you don’t have. Instead, find a way to capitalize on what talents, abilities, and skills you do have at your disposal.

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Overall we benefit from cultivating our ability to perceive energy and make sense of it in our lives and in our practice, but all perception has its limitations. Even those who see the unseen in high-definition or hear it in surround-sound will fail to perceive some pretty important things a percentage of the time. We have limitations no matter our skill level. Know your blindspots and watch out for them when you navigate various energies and points of spirit contact.

Finding blindspots is one part examined experience. It’s incredibly valuable to take notes and study what you learn, looking for gaps in what you know or gaps in what you understand. Simply taking an honest look at our perceptions will often reveal our perceptions’ limitations. Identifying blindspots is also one part discussion with trusted, capable, and knowledgeable others. Compare notes with others. Join conversations that may allow you to be a part of some truly profound peer-corroborated gnosis but be willing and prepared to fly solo when what you perceive doesn’t line up perfectly with what others perceive.

In my practice, a great deal can be corroborated by others, but there’s plenty that can’t be that is no less valid. I have unique, meaningful, and intensely personal relationships with a number of deities and spirits. Often others have had experiences similar to my own with a particular god, and often others look at me like I’ve sprouted a second head when I explain certain experiences. What I’ve detailed for those trusted, capable, and knowledgeable others may not be right or wrong, but simply markedly different from what others within my sphere of practitioner contacts have experienced with that energy type, deity, or spirit.

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A great deal of magical and spiritual practice relies on our ability to perceive the unseen realms and to trust in that ability. We cannot do that if we are absorbed in others’ perceptions of those realms to the exclusion of our own perception. My own practice gained power and momentum when I figured out how to regularly combine others’ perceptions with my own when appropriate rather than regularly allowing others’ perceptions to supersede my own. I needed balance between my perceptions and others’ perceptions.

We can each see important parts, respectfully compare notes, and hopefully gain a clearer more full picture of the whole. That work is threatened when we reify the perceptions of one person or small group of persons, blindly following where their viewpoint leads without taking the time to cultivate our own perception and the requisite knack for discernment. Overall, I’ve learned to allow ample room for individual differences in perception and experience, respectfully assessing what myself and others bring to the metaphysical table and how those contributions can shape what we know and understand about energies and beings beyond ourselves

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.