Know Your Vibes

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

Paradox is at the heart of the mysteries, and I both love and hate the presence of social media in occulture. I love that it has shared teachings, lore, ideas, and people who I might not otherwise come across in my life. I’ve seen some incredibly talented practitioners and insightful teachers and healers. I love there is a tool for them to have greater reach and success. I hate that in the currents of the media sea that bring me such amazing perspectives, there are so many horrible ones, sometimes by the same people, and often the horrible opinions and practitioners can have an outsized presence.

“Amazing” and “horrible” are in the eye of the reader, I know. My concern is when something problematic—something that is misunderstood, misinformed, or is a half-thought-out reaction from someone with reach—gains ground, and a large number of people agree. That misinformation then gets woven into their own truth and perspective. Many people with pretty pictures, controversial “hot takes,” and a lack of real world boots-on-the-ground experience, but an abundance of internet savviness can influence a wide swath of less experienced people. I guess it’s always been that way, as the elders to my generation complained about the plethora of bad books out there. Yet a book required a bit more time and digestion, and the rapidity of tweets and posts seems to change the dynamic. Nonetheless, sifting the bad from the good, the chaff from the wheat, is an age-old occult task.

Recently I was a bit stunned to see an otherwise knowledgeable and balanced practitioner rail against “vibration.” I come from the old occult world of The Kybalion. Everything vibrates. It was strange to see what parts of the paradigms of the modern occult and metaphysical movements are accepted and what are rejected, what are understood and what are possibly not, what is rejected in reaction to other’s misunderstandings, all of it creating a chain reaction that ultimately causes us to lose important bits of lore, knowledge, and theory. The response was regarding practitioners telling others to “raise their vibration,” a time-old phrase in the lightworker New Age movement. The phrase alone isn’t helpful, but don’t dismiss the idea of vibration as an important metaphysical concept.

The concept has to do with metaphor of transmutation. If we are defining vibration strictly as motion-based, then we have to restrict everything to physical phenomena and measurable quantified energy. Matter has a density to it even when at rest. Measurable energy has an oscillation, from sound to electromagnetism. If we are going to be “energy workers,” then we assume we are working with an energy in a spectrum that hasn’t been quantified, or as many occultists would think, on one spectrum with parts of that spectrum, those of magick, not quantified. Matter is its densest end, the soul the more ephemeral and unmeasured energy. Emotion, thoughts, and sensations would be part of that “life force” spectrum that we can observe the results of, but don’t have agreed upon measurements in science.

Raising your “vibes” certainly sounds trite, and without technique, the injunction is not helpful, but it has basis in esoteric tradition. You might find it expressed in “turning lead to gold.” While many alchemical traditions were literal, today most are not, and this particular one is a metaphor for the process of raising the vibration on this spectrum moving from density of thought and feeling—depression, karma, sin—to something lighter and more ideally refined, the pure gold of peace, awareness, compassion. It is transmutation based on intention, focus, environment, and the materials that help or hinder the process—what we eat, what we wear, what we listen to, and what we focus our attention upon.

Each generation finds its own language, and in this modern age which started in the late 1800s, we have sought to reconcile science and metaphysics as they once were among the natural philosophers. If you have a problem with that, you should stop using the term “energy” for spiritual vitality unless your energy work involves electroshock therapy or shining a colored flashlight on someone. If you are okay with metaphysical, unquantified-as-of-yet energy, you would also be okay with the expanded metaphysical definition of vibration. While this certainly doesn’t excuse the lack of meaningful help in the advice to “raise your vibration,” one shouldn’t obfuscate the essential valid idea.

This was just one example I saw. I wonder how many other babies are being thrown out with the bathwater. I encourage the change of terminology, the evolution of idea, and the valuation of process, but fear the dismissal that often accompanies these shifts. Our ability to have access to so much energy is wonderful, what I often call the Great Blessing of our Age, but it also can be overwhelming and lead to repudiation, misunderstanding, and loss of key metaphysical points in our education because they did not spark an initial interest. Our lack of “liberal arts” in metaphysics means that even in this age of interdependence and interconnection, our esoteric specialists can be just as blind as our technological and medical specialists to the greater whole. This is the dual edge of the Great Curse of this Age—access to everything, but little context and integration.

You can’t learn everything at once, but what is your pattern to learning? Is it haphazard? Can you get a full view of any one thing? Reflect on what you dismiss. Look to where it’s been used successfully. Think carefully if you hold the voice of authority in your community, if you have a following. How are you using that influence? Are you pushing your own blind spots as wisdom? Are you empowering, or simply seeking assurance and agreement, bolstering your own sense of security in your blind spots? Know thyself, and know that whether you believe in vibration or not, what you do reverberates through your domain, your reach, and beyond, changing things in seen and subtle ways. Be aware and conscious of the changes you set into motion.

Temple of Witchcraft