Artists and writers since time immemorial have struggled to figure out how to be more creative. Many have used shamanic and occult techniques to unlock the reservoirs of artistic inspiration. Here’s how you can, too.
Occult techniques, when approached correctly and stripped of the New Age woo-woo that has become attached to them, can vastly increase creativity, mental clarity and productivity, and show you how to be more creative. Here’s four occult techniques that can help you maximize your creative powers and find your authentic voice through whatever artistic or creative methods you choose.
1. The Tarot
The Tarot is a commonly misunderstood magical tool. Many people, unfortunately, take it too seriously, and see it as an end, rather than a means to an end.
To use the Tarot for creative purposes, it’s beneficial to let go of the expectation that the cards will prophesy future events. Rather, the Tarot can be used to expose dominant (and perhaps unhealthy) behaviors that were previously hidden from your conscious mind. This can, in turn, give you excellent fodder for lyrics, paintings, songs or whatever it is that you do. The Tarot truly can show you how to be more creative.
For example, say you do a tarot spread, and you notice that you have a lot of cards showing up under the suit of Cups. If you know that Cups are associated with the Water element, which is in turn associated with the emotional realm, you may begin to assess the spread in relation to your current emotional situation. Are you viewing things too heavily through an emotional filter? Do your emotions predominantly dictate how you react to everyday situations? Is this a problem? Over time you will begin to know yourself better simply by letting the cards dictate questions about yourself and how you act.
Break the Tarot rules. Reject the accepted meanings of the cards and see what that yields. Does the Tower card keep appearing? What does the Tower card make you think of instinctively, without any of the accepted meanings taken into account? Does it remind you of anything in your own life that you might need to express or investigate?
Delve into yourself, and be open to what the images make you think and feel, regardless of accepted meanings. Recognize what connections come up in your mind, and pay attention to what patterns emerge over time. What is your subconscious trying to tell you when you react to the cards?
Below, Alejandro Jodorowsky discusses how the Tarot can show you how to be more creative.
2. The Cut-Up Method
William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin developed the cut-up method of writing in the 1950s and 1960s, influenced by the montage technique of painting developed over the previous fifty years. Gysin cut up and rearranged newspaper and magazine clippings at random, and would later apply the technique to audio and film.
This would have a monumental influence on a host of future artists. For a creative person applying the method to their own work, it can yield quite a bit of content in a short amount of time by tapping into the hidden aspects of one’s own psyche. If you’re looking for a technique to show you how to be more creative, this is it.
My preferred method is to use snippets of my own writing, rearrange them in random orders, and craft the resulting chaos into a new piece. I find that I often begin to see what it is I’m really trying to say by noticing common words, patterns and themes. Sometimes I throw random words from other sources into the mix. The subsequent re-ordering and altered combination of these words yields new avenues and meanings that I wouldn’t have initially thought of.
The Cut-Up Method allows the artist to be less controlled by the conscious mind, and more informed by the subconscious mind. If you choose to apply order to the initial cut-up chaos, you may notice that over time a more authentic voice will be represented in your work, and it will seem less contrived and calculated.
Below, check out Burroughs and Gysin’s 1966 film “The Cut-Ups,” which demonstrates the use of the technique for film.
3. Astral Travel
Yet another occult term which is commonly misunderstood and misrepresented by New Age woo-woo. When applied as a way to discover how to be more creative, astral travel has nothing to do with literal “out-of-body experiences” in which you travel to Mars or what have you. In a creative or artistic context, it is much more like expanding and strengthening your imagination muscles.
Did you ever lay on your bed when you were younger with your eyes closed for hours, perhaps listening to your favorite music? Did you imagine worlds or scenarios based on what the music made you feel? Did images and entire stories seemingly play out automatically, without having to make an effort to create them? If you have had these types of experiences, you were “traveling” on the astral plane.
This might be mistaken for daydreaming, but there is a difference between letting your mind wander, and entering into a fully realized mental landscape full of potent images and symbols. With practice and dedication, you can strengthen your ability to travel in these mental realms while fully conscious, and in the process you will be able to use your imagination much more powerfully in your everyday interactions and creative pursuits.
Consistent practice and experimentation can yield the ability to recognize and catch the fleeting insights and a-ha moments your subconscious mind so desperately wants you to pay attention to.
Below, occult teacher David Shoemaker discusses the technique of astral projection on the “Speech in the Silence” podcast.
Rituals can help to ground us, focus the mind on the task at hand, induce trance-like states, and help us to embody attributes that we do not normally possess. They can also help to short-circuit the conscious mind’s filter over reality, and let the unconscious mind peek through the veil for a brief period.
Some of the common elements of ceremonial rituals (repetition, creation of a sacred space, a sense of theatricality) can be assimilated into the creative process. For an artist or a musician, this may involve creating a specific room or space used primarily for painting or playing.
In this space, start working at the same time every day if possible, and create a routine. Never do anything else in this space. You may want to adorn the space with images that inspire you, or that put you into a creative mindset. Get some incense to be used only in this space. Create an atmosphere with lighting. Keep it clean and orderly.
There are endless possibilities, but the main point is: create an atmosphere specific to what it is you are trying to accomplish, and do not make room for any distractions whatsoever. It might be hard at first to stay focused, but your environment has a strong effect on your mental and emotional state. Your mind will eventually become more attentive and disciplined, the creative process will become much faster, and you will cut down tremendously on all that wasted time spent clearing out clutter, cutting out distractions, or passively waiting for inspiration to hit.
For an example of creative ritual, check out Kenneth Anger’s 1969 film “Invocation of My Demon Brother,” below.
Summing it All Up
What many of these practices have in common is that they can enable the unconscious mind, rather than the conscious mind, to have a more prominent role in the creative process.
It’s usually within the murky, hidden depths of the unconscious that a more authentic self—the self removed from ideas of how you should act based on family, friends, occupation or tradition in any form—resides.
With practice, these tools can help you create a world that blends subconscious chaos with conscious order; a unique world of images and symbols that can become a wellspring of future creative endeavors.
If you’re ready to learn how to be more creative and supercharge your art, check out our free course on chaos magick here!