Now That I Have Your Attention…

Photo by Jacob Morch via

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

“Now that I have your attention…I don’t want to give it up.”

These words were spoken to me by someone I’d just met at an event I was helping to organize. A friend introduced us, suggesting I might have helpful thoughts on a magickal problem, and I shared what I thought would help, but found that following statement interesting. I know it can be difficult to break the ice and talk to people who run events, classes, and rituals. Though I try to make myself as accessible as I can in community, I also realize that in running what’s grown into an international organization, you can’t have intimate, day-to-day conversations with everyone, all of the time.

I would have been happy to have a conversation, but it wasn’t a conversation at that point, an exchange about anything interesting, meaningful, or fun; it was wanting to hold my attention for what seemed like an experience of validation or recognition of their story. It’s not an abnormal thing to want, and it’s something that can happen pretty often to public figures, but the level of awareness and articulation surprised me.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought about how that is a default state in society in general these days, especially in social media, and in particular, how people who are in the public eye do it in an effort to remain relevant. Like all things in occult community, I am always thinking about how behaviors and shifts in culture and subculture help us or harm us on the magickal path. Seemingly innocuous behaviors of the overculture can actually be quite debilitating magickally.

On a business level, social media influencers, including spiritual teachers and authors, are encouraged to keep your attention due to the behaviors of the algorithms determining who sees what online.

Post something every day. Let people see your face, your book, and hear your voice frequently, even if you don’t have anything to say. Check in. Share what you are doing. Share a photo of your food, where you are, and who you are with. Share your random thoughts. Tell us what you are working on. Tell us who frustrates you. Tell us what makes you happy. Post a bad review. Post a good review. Post something to surprise us!

On one level, this is great because it shows how we all do things, go places, and have feelings and thoughts throughout the day. It can humanize people we think are not the same as us, both those we might idolize and those we might think of as enemies. Social media can also create a seemingly more level playing field for those who don’t have the same access, particularly musicians and authors not accepted by the mainstream. Sadly the process favors sex appeal, flash, quick pithy statements, stunts, and sales pitches over depth, nuance, and meaning. We invest our attention in the artistic and intellectual forms of fast food, hoping to find a meal. And sometimes we do. Some have made an art in concise yet meaningful media. And many times, we just want something fun, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as we are consciously choosing it.

The equalization and access can create a false sense of intimacy, giving us the idea that we know someone when we really don’t. Many then make assumptions upon these false images. It also generates a lot of psychic energy that adds up and is projected at you, and onto you. For the most intense versions of this, we can look to the rise and fall of many actors and musicians, buffeted by the psychic storms of those who listen to and watch them. In smaller social media ways, it builds up with us too, and while it might not result in a horrific fall, for psychically sensitive individuals, the psychic process can batter us around unconsciously. You don’t necessarily have to be semi-famous, but simply have an intense social group. While this has always happened in any community as long as people have had relationships, the continual attention sparks more regular psychic “pings” in our aura, often disturbing our own processes and directing us in unconscious ways.

Our motivation might be consciously good too…we want to share, we want to educate, we want to have fun. Everyone else is doing it. It’s become ubiquitous with the culture of our world today, not just something relegated to the metaphysical communities. Our parents are posting. Our children are posting, though they might be on very different formats from us or our parents. It’s a way to bridge the divides of groups, societies, ages, classes, and religions. Yet when we do it to unconsciously seek attention, when we need to keep relevant, when we have to say things to just say them, to keep it going, I question the psychic harm this causes to ourselves and to others.

I love looking at new books online, at new reviews of books, music, and movies, and at crafting and garden tutorials. But I wince a bit when I see repeated tropes mimicked over and over again to gain our attention, suggesting something familiar, but slightly new, to draw us in. What will it be this time? As a Witch is often looking to free themselves from the constraints of overculture, I try to avoid repeated tropes in my own postings, even if such posts would be more likely to be popular. Holding someone’s attention is a great responsibility when you practice magick as you know it’s the currency of life force and consciousness. Participating in unconscious cultural patterns can weave you, and others, more tightly into those patterns.

If you are not working a 9-to-5 job where someone pays you directly, these advertisements on social media are quite necessary, but as you become more aware, they can also leave you feeling complicit in a harmful system. It’s similar to how people partake of fossil fuel transport, electricity, and factory farming—all of which are (at least on some level) necessary to function in our current society, but all of which can and do cause great harm—by drawing the line where they feel it should be drawn, clearly identifying what they can and cannot participate in.

As we post anti-capitalist themes about economic, industrial, and environmental collapse, we are essentially creating commercials for major corporations who are really the ones who hold our energetic attention. We become the grease for these media companies to thrive, and our grassroots alternatives never seem to take off. We are barraged by advertisements in the media we consume, as it’s a way to supplement or even generate primary income for our artistic content creators. For those of us in Earth-based traditions of season and cycle, there is often no sense of going fallow, of rest and regeneration, as one has to be “on” all the time. It plays into the capitalist notion of continual growth, not the cyclical time of nature.

In the era of occultism I entered, some concepts of the controversial author Carlos Castaneda had made it into the mix, particularly the idea of awareness of reality being referred to as attention. Despite my belief that I would not like the man and my understanding that many of the claims against him are likely true, some of his ideas about consciousness, his poetically interpretations, have their uses. Divided into first, second, and third attention, they can be most simply summed up as more ordinary day-to-day awareness; a heightened magickal awareness of the non-ordinary; and finally a level of high sensitivity and focus revealing the greater total of reality. His cosmology also had a classification of sometimes malevolent spirits called “inorganic beings,” always hungry, always seeking energy, and sometimes interpreted as parasitical.

I think of the original definition of the term “meme”: a discrete unit of knowledge animating culture, often compared to genes in biological life. Culture as an entity evolves with, or at least mutates with, successful memes. While the word is now used to mean amusing items often in graphic or video format shared on social media, the original concept was often compared to a virus or bacteria (only based in information, not biology) with the potential to change its host. Are some memes parasitic? Are the agents of the overarching culture parasitic beasts? While it can be a challenge to think this way, if we are working in an animistic universe, do technologies have an animating spirit? Does intangible information have an animating spirit? In my worldview, everything is alive, though not everything is wise or aware.

When I see patterns that involve drawing our attention away unconsciously, I see a form of parasitical being. That is not a critique of many artistic, spiritual, and talented creators on social media making their living, but the parasitical being is the overarching being to the whole process, the deva of the corporation, not always the individuals involved. But like it or not, they are training us to accept this as a new baseline of society and operation.

While this might all sound very much like pessimistic Gnosticism, like a take from the Matrix movies and related media, occultists have always known there are beneficent beings and parasitical beings. It’s not a reason to become cosmically nihilistic any more than recognizing there are tape worms, lice, mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and mistletoe in the biological world. We know scavengers and vermin serve a role in the ecosystems, as do parasites, and their psychic equivalents have similar natural psychic roles, until the infection becomes too culturally widespread. People, groups, and institutions can become infected. The means by which we unconsciously feed these forces is through our attention. If we don’t know it’s happening, we can never hope to change it.

So now that I have your attention, I ask you to really think deep, and act with magickal will, every time you give your attention to someone or something, or when you seek to get the attention of others for your own work, play, or purpose. Through attention, you are exchanging life force.

Just as we might clear our energy through ritual and intent, we can use the same techniques in refocusing our attention.

First, determine if your behavior is conscious or unconscious. In either case, is it serving you? Are you enjoying yourself? Is it healthy? Are there boundaries? Are you engaging in compulsive or addictive behaviors? Is it a problem when you really think about it?

Second, look to cut the energetic, psychic cords to unhealthy things and behaviors. Do a cord-cutting meditation, releasing from the technosphere and perhaps specific social media sites. Do it to disconnect from your phone. Make a ritual of purposeful disconnection and keep to those boundaries. I often place my phone on a selenite plate, to cleanse and clear it of the emotions I’ve had when holding it. I also learned to not just put my phone, pad, and computer to sleep, but to shut them off completely for periods of time, so there is no electromagnetic signature active.

Reflect on what might be implanted in you from giving your attention away. What was exchanged? For many, it’s a sense of body dysmorphia. We compare ourselves to others. It could be that sense of being an imposter—that you don’t have the same talent that others seem to be demonstrating effortlessly, not always realizing that you don’t see the fifty bad takes or the amazing digital retouching done behind the scenes. We can think that others are having a great life while we are not, so we live vicariously through them rather than find our own adventure.

For others, it is a sense of superiority or belonging. We often give away that much of our attention and energy because it is serving in some way, even if we don’t realize it might be a false sense of accomplishment or intimacy, at least from a spiritual perspective (that doesn’t mean you can’t have deeply authentic relationships online; just make sure the ones you think are deeply authentic actually are deeply authentic). Just as you would clear harmful thoughtforms and energy from your body, do the same from these thoughtsforms from the technosphere. Use energetic techniques and rituals to remove the thoughtforms, the patterns of these implanted ideas, before they take root or become part of our unconscious programming in the aura.

When I make a post or when I consume a post, I often think, what was the motivation, the intention, and the energy behind this post. Does it merit my time and life force? Does it create something I want to encourage in the world, or diminish good things in the world? I think of the teaching asking the initiate to question if what they have to say sounds sweeter than silence, then I consider if this post is adding to the background noise, obscuring greater beauty. I think about the edict of asking yourself if something is true, kind, and necessary before it passes your lips. I try to apply these ideas to the keyboard and video screen. I try to question my motivation and my own thought process when I go back to check how many likes or comments I have.

I share this not to scare or sound paranoid because there is generation of Witches, magicians, healers, and occultists outside of traditional contexts who haven’t been exposed to these ideas of parasitical entities hiding in the patterns of society, including now online and through corporations. This is why I share my thoughts in this longer form because I fear a quicker, less nuanced approach would generate TikTok’s on social media about psychic parasites, most likely embodying the very phenomena I am talking about avoiding here.

Online space can be a wonderful, potent place to nurture community and share creativity, even magick. Virtual spaces can be quite magickal and foster amazing relationships, but one does need to look at all the things that come with them and decide how best to handle them, just like in any space. Being so culturally new to us, we have just started exploring and have yet to realize all the potential dangers.

By becoming more conscious, regularly cutting harmful energetic links, and removing the repeated harmful programs we absorb, we can free the energy of our attention to our spiritual progress and magickal evolution.

Temple of Witchcraft