Group Explorations in
This essay explores Ego Magic techniques within the context of a
group. Originally conceived as part of a series of technical papers
for IOT UK, I am now making this information available for anyone
who cares to peruse it, as part of an ongoing series of releases related
to magical group work in general. Feedback & comments are
welcomed, and should there be enough demand for more information
on this subject, I might even get around to writing them.
Phil Hine, October 1997
Phil Hine can be contacted at: email@example.com
or, BM COYOTE, LONDON WC1N 3XX
This release in Adobe PDF format version 1.1
All Rites Reversed, 1997
Awareness and understanding of group processes, which, when you
get down to the root of it, means AWARENESS OF OTHERS,
requires some degree of AWARENESS OF SELF. Self-awareness
is not automatic, nor is it a constant. Exercises and techniques of
enhancing Self-Awareness come under the domain of Ego Magic.
Ego Magic is concerned with increasing one’s ability to make
realistic assessments of one’s own self-image and identifying and
modifying behaviours and cognitive patterns which are
dysfunctional. At least that’s the theory. Considering how important
Ego Magic/Deconditioning techniques are stressed as being to the
practice of Chaos Magic, it’s amazing how little information on
them there actually is. When one considers the Ego Magic techniques
that have been made available through Chaos Magic texts, the
following points should be considered:
(1) It is very easy to make a shift in belief content which does not
actually change the process (the way the belief is enacted) - i.e. a
shift from fanatical Christian to fanatical Pagan isn’t very
(2) It is very easy to rationalise a lot of potentially boundary-breaking
actions in such a way that they no longer present a threat to one’s
self-image. “I let X fuck me as an act of Anathema (see Liber Null
(3) We are really good at fooling ourselves as to what constitutes,
for us, liberating behaviour, and we all seem to share a common
human tendency that goes: “I am more liberated/alive/free because
I am into magic/wear a bolt through my tongue/leather trousers,
than those who don’t.”
(4) We’re also really good at glossing over ‘core’ problems with
surface behaviour which serves as a distraction from the underlying
issue, but doesn’t make it go away. “No amount of fucking around
will allow me to escape from not liking myself.”
(5) There is a common tendency to avoid Ego Magic as it is often
threatening, painful, and may resist ‘instant’ solutions.
Although there is a tendency to consider Ego Magic as an
individual task, it becomes obvious that most actions relating to
Ego Magic are pretty pointless unless they involve, at some point,
other people. Whilst it is generally understood that social groups of
various kinds play a large part in shaping our beliefs, attitudes, values
and social behaviour, it is rarely acknowledged that working with
Ego Magic techniques in a small group can be beneficial in getting
to grips with, and working for effective changes.
How Can a Group Be Helpful?
Group Members can provide the impetus for work to take place and
A Group has more resources available (experience, ideas,
A Group can provide immediate Feedback to its members
A Group can act as a space for ‘taking risks’.
For this project to proceed effectively, participating groups need to
be clear about:
Any disclosures made by a participant during times when this project
is being run, must be treated as strictly confidential.
For the project to be successful, participants must want to do it -
otherwise there seems to be little point.
Participants need to be honest about their own, internal responses,
and honest in their feedback to others. This is a major problem, as
people tend not to take social risks, for fear of changing the balance
of a relationship.
4) Ground Rules
Any ground-rules set up by a group must be adhered to rigorously.
This introductory module focuses on the development of Personal,
or Self-Awareness skills, recalling the injunction made to the initiate
to the Eleusinean Mysteries - “Know Thyself.” Most individuals
are capable of improving their understanding of themselves and
becoming more aware of their motivations.
Self-Awareness can be broadly defined as one’s capacity for
introspection towards one’s own biography, values, attitudes,
identifications, needs and how one’s behaviour is affected by others.
It also includes awareness of being an individual, and being
responsible for one’s own actions. A high degree of Self-Awareness
is generally held to be necessary for one’s well-being.
Although all individuals are unique, patterns of behaviour,
motivation and thought are similar and it is generally believed that
a high degree of Self-Awareness is necessary in order to understand
the behaviour of others. Whilst we like to think of ourselves as
unique and different from others, our sense of selfhood is also
dependent on our psycho-social environment. If we understand the
relationship between self and (social) environment, we are better
able to relate to other people, particularly if their behaviour and
‘personality’ seems to be fundamentally at odds with ours.
This module presents some simple exercises aimed at increasing
Self-Awareness. Please note that an exercise is successful only to
the extent that it provokes some further thought, discussion, or action
beyond itself. I have kept theory to a minimum, as I want to focus
attention on practical experience.
Recognition of Abilities & Limitations
Identification of Roles
Recognising/Evaluating Personal Aims
Beginning The Module
I have designed this module so that a minimum of introductory
theory is followed by exercise sets, each with any support theory
required for discussion and clarification. To work through the
exercises, one member of the group should be designated as the
‘facilitator’ (since everyone participates in the exercises, there is
no leader in the distinct sense). You may like to rotate the facilitator
for each exercise set, but please remember, all of you are equally
responsible for doing the exercise. The role of the facilitator is to
lead-off and prompt discussions, announce the end of exercises,
prompt for feedback, etc. Each subsequent Module session should
be begun by any feedback and discussion arising from the previous
Facilitators should read through exercise sets before presenting
them and ensure that any required materials or props are assembled.
I would recommend that you do not cover more than one exercise
set per meeting of your group. This gives plenty of time for follow-
through work, assimilation of points raised and feedback. Where
possible, I have noted an average time for the duration of the exercise,
but please remember that exercises should be followed by group
You will notice that some exercises are tagged with Follow-Through
options. Follow-Through exercises can be done by participants
outside of the group meeting, as further experiments in Personal
Awareness, and any results can be discussed at the next meeting.
Follow-Through work is an optional addition to the main sequence
Some Key Concepts related to
This term is used to refer to how an individual perceives himself,
and core elements of the Self-Image include: name, bodily presence,
body-image, age, sexuality, dominant roles & identifications. Some
aspects of the Self-Image are more important to a person than others:
it is more upsetting if these are challenged. How far does a person’s
self-image correspond with the way he is seen by others? People
tend to present a somewhat improved, idealized and censored version
of themselves for public inspection, so there is likely to be some
discrepancy. Also, some people succeed in insulating themselves
from the views of others so that they are unaware of how they are
The Ego-Ideal is the kind of person one would most like to be. It
may consist of a fusion of desired characteristics drawn from various
sources. There are varying degrees of conflict between Self-Image
and Ego-Ideal, and this dissonance can be extremely complex. Some
people, for example, appear to show little conflict - because they
perceive themselves so inaccurately. Furthermore, if a person shows
much conflict between Image and Ideal, it contributes to low Self-
Esteem, but may also lead to efforts to attain the Ego-Ideal. Such
efforts can take a variety of forms. One is to be concerned with the
actual attainment of certain standards, ideals or results. Another is
to make an intensified effort to project a certain self-image. If the
appearance is in conflict with the reality, this strategy will produce
further stress and inner conflict.
Self-Esteem is the extent to which a person approves of and accepts
himself - as himself, or in comparison to others. Like Self-Image,
Self-Esteem has a more or less stable core, together with a series of
subordinate esteems based on relationships with different groups.
Self-Esteem can become quite complex because, for example, some
people develop an exaggerated self-regard in order to compensate
for basic feelings of inferiority.
Roles are generally understood as sub-identities which an individual
holds in relationship to particular activities, groups or other
individuals. Individuals tend to play roles in a characteristic style.
The way an individual sees himself in each role is a part of his Self-
Image. He may perceive himself vaguely or clearly.
SET ONE: SELF-CHARACTERIZATION
a) Third Person Sketch
Write a Character Sketch of yourself in the third person, i.e. “John
Smith is.....” as might be written by a very close friend. Allow 15
minutes for this to be done. After all have finished, each person
passes their sketch to the person on their left, and then each sketch
is read out in turn.
Points for Discussion: was this difficult or easy? Did anyone
feel uncomfortable? Why do you think it might be useful?
Write third-person Character-Sketch as though you were appraising
your suitability for a job.
Write Obituary as though ‘you’ had just dropped dead that moment.
As above, but project the Obituary forwards to five years in the
b) Personal Strengths
(i) Each person makes a list of six strengths and six weaknesses
that you see yourself as having. Note: you do not have to discuss
these in the group.
Discussion points: how difficult/easy was it to draw up the lists?
Why? Was it easier to think about weaknesses? If so, why? Discuss
as a group anything which anyone thinks, feels or has learned as a
result of the exercise.
(ii) Each person identifies and talks about “A strength I wish I had,
and what I would have to do to acquire it.”
Look at the Strengths and Weaknesses that you have identified.
Is there a way that you could use one of your perceived strengths to
overcome one your perceived weaknesses. If so, how? Will you do
c) Intentions and Outcomes
Choose two social groups that you are a member of:
i) Why did you join them?
ii) What did you originally want from them for yourself?
iii) Have those intentions been realized?
iv) Have you modified your original intentions?
v) What are they at the moment
vi) Divide overall group into 2 subgroups, discuss each other’s
intentions, and, using keywords, create a list of everyone’s desires.
vii) Compare & discuss
viii) Discuss strategies for tackling some or all of these ideas
SET TWO: SELF-ESTEEM
It’s generally believed that some degree of self-esteem, and also
the sense that other people value one, is necessary for individual
functioning. Self-Esteem is socially useful. To discount altogether
the value that other people give to you, or equally, to be swayed
entirely by their values so that you are uncomfortably over-
dependent on them, indicates a problem with Self-Esteem.
What we generally need is a realistic sense of ourselves as
loveable, in some ways capable, able to give out regard, in some
ways talented and skilful, before we are likely to feel secure enough
to ‘let in’ other people’s perceptions of us. We may not take them
entirely on board, but will at least get a ‘feel’ of them, rather than
blocking them out or rubbishing them.
Being open about having a good opinion of yourself is particularly
taboo in Britain, although our Norse ancestors saw nothing wrong
in bragging. The heroic boast was accepted as a necessity if someone
wished to encourage himself to heroic deeds.
Each person takes a turn in telling the rest some of what they like
about themselves. As each person speaks, the rest of the group should
be particularly aware of whether the speaker sounds, looks, & feels
honest, confident or convinced about what they are saying, or if
they are enjoying it or not, and give feedback on this basis. Doing
this can bring up great defensiveness, which is sometimes expressed
as silence, nervous laughter, or rationalisations about avoiding ego-
inflation. It’s not necessary (or desirable) to totally focus on Self-
Esteem all the time, but it can be useful to check your feelings
After everyone has taken a turn at doing this, discuss your findings
as a group.
b) Anchors to Self-Esteem
(i) Each person lists six things which they feel are essential to their
sense of Self-Esteem, for example, “being valued for what I know I
am good at”. This list need not be ranked in terms of which is most
important - just six points.
(ii) One member of the group rolls a six-sided dice and calls out the
number. Then each person in turn discloses that numbered item “I
need to be working to feel worthwhile.” Other group members can
question this statement, probe for more information, & discuss it.
Select one of these anchor points and explore, through meditation,
visualization etc, how the absence of it affects you. Do this
thoroughly, until you can find a way to accommodate for this lack
This is a two part exercise. For the first part, everyone mills
around, making eye contact with another person briefly and making
a statement which runs themselves down “I can’t run for toffee”, “I
can never get to meetings on time.”
For the second part, everyone moves around making brief eye
contacts to signal communications, but this time make unqualified
boasts, which need not necessarily be true: “I’m speaking at
Wembley next week; I’ll get rave reviews.”
Discuss the effects of this. Did people have a harder time boasting
than running themselves down, or vice versa? Can wild boasts tell
us something about ourselves?
Between now and the next meeting, make a few boasts and a few
self-depreciating statements to a cross-section of people. Notice
their reactions to this, and how you feel afterwards.
SET THREE: ATTITUDES
What are attitudes? Broadly defined, an attitude is a tendency to act
favourably or unfavourably to certain objects, persons, or situations.
Attitudes are expressed in the form of Opinions. Opinions are often
not as extreme as the attitude which it is an expression of, as most
people express themselves in fairly moderate terms. Attitudes
strongly influence behaviour, even if we are are not aware of them.
Factors Associated with Attitude Formation:
We tend to attribute other people’s behaviour in a situation to their
disposition, rather than factors of the situation, although we are far
more willing to attribute our own behaviour to the situation, rather
than our inherent disposition. Attribution also refers to the personal
rules & assumptions (called ‘implicit personal theories’) we use to
ii) The Primacy Effect
We are generally biased towards creating attitudes based on initial
impressions. This first view, which can be taken in as brief a period
as fifteen seconds, can be both difficult to dislodge and is often the
longest lasting. Anything that a person does in subsequent meetings
is likely to reinforce that first impression.
iii) The Recency Effect
If there is a long gap between encounters, then our most recent
experience of a person, for better or for worse, increases in
importance. Note that both Primacy and Recency Effects not only
operate for individuals, but also any message they are putting across.
A stereotype is a set of attributes assumed to be characteristic of
certain kinds of individuals. Stereotypes can be very useful so long
as they remain flexible.
The group discusses the above points and each person should
recall a situation in which they were involved, where they can
identify the operation of each of the above four factors.
a) Attitude Identification
Each person lists three attitudes which they carry. For each attitude,
try and identify its Cognitive component (What I think about...), its
Affective Component (What I feel about...) and its Behavioural
Component (What I do when....). When everyone has finished,
discuss any findings & feelings raised. Note that Behaviour is not
always consistent with attitude, and may even be contradictory.
Changing attitudes can be difficult, if only because we tend to
actively avoid information which challenges our views, and also
tend to continuously be reinforcing our own attitudes, interpreting
any ambiguous situation in support of our attitudes.
b) Discussion topic:
You meet up with an old friend who, whilst being sympathetic to
magic in general, seems to have a very negative attitude to Chaos
Magic. Assuming that you want to do something about this, how
would you try and alter this person’s attitude?
NB: This could also (optionally) be tried out as a role-play, with
one person taking on the role of the ‘friend’, another the person
who is trying to change their opinion, and the other group members
observing the interchange. Different people could attempt different
techniques, and then any outcome discussed.
c) Owning Opinions
Owning personal opinions, can be at times difficult. We share a
common tendency to distance ourselves from our perceptions and
judgements and try and make ‘objective’ statements, or statements
which are somehow definitive. This involves the use of impersonal
constructions “It’s a pity that...; It’s good that...” and generalities
“Most people think...; We all think; I’m sure I can speak for everyone
when I say...”.
i) Have a short group discussion on this tendency. Why do we do
it? Does it feel good to make general statements? If so, why?
ii) Between now and the next group meeting, monitor your speech
patterns so that you avoid whenever possible, generalities and
impersonal constructs. Instead, say “I...”. It isn’t egotistical, it’s
more accurate. Be aware of how doing this makes you feel, and
how other people respond to this. Also, be aware of how other people
use impersonal constructs and generalities. If appropriate, try and
challenge them and monitor their response.
SET FOUR: ROLE IDENTIFICATION
Individuals all take on a wide variety of roles in society. The roles
are interactive and individuals move between them. Each role is
accompanied by personal attitudes, values, learned behaviours and
internalised expectations. Roles provide an easy solution to the
problem of self-image - there is a clear identity which can be adopted.
However, they can also be a problem since so much of the self
cannot be expressed in a particular role, and a standard solution is
to act in such a way that one becomes slightly ‘distanced’ from the
role - indicating that there is more to oneself than can be seen in
just this role. We also need to be aware of:
i) Role Expectation - the norms associated with that role that identify
the attitudes, behaviours and cognitions that are required and
expected for someone who occupies a particular role.
ii) Role Conflicts - an example of Role-Conflict is where there is a
variance between how you perceive a role, and how others expect
you to perform in it.
All of us have ‘audience groups’ who monitor our performance, for
example a doctor has colleagues and patients. There are also
‘reference groups’ against which we measure our performance. We
have to continuously make choices about the degree of significance
we give to these. Our behaviour in roles is both a function of personal
choice and extrinsic factors.
a) Role Identification
Each person chooses 2 social groups of which they are a member
and attempts to identify (& list) the different roles which they take
on in those groups. Then each person attempts to identify who in
those, are your “Audience Group” and your “Reference Group” in
each group. Then identify which roles you enjoy most - and why;
and which roles you like least, and why. This is followed by
Feedback & discussion.
b) Autonomy and Mutuality
Some psychologists believe that in all groups, there is a varying
degree of tension between ‘mutuality’ - the degree to which
individuals take on and express the norms of the group, and
‘autonomy’ - the ways in which individual uniqueness is stressed.
To paraphrase Irving Goffmann: Our sense of self arises from the
walls of society, yet our sense of being a unique individual resides
in the cracks.
i) Each person selects a social group of which they are a member
ii) Attempt to identify the norms of that group
iii) Identify how you express those norms
iv) Identify any way in which you distance yourself from those
c) Role Negotiation
This is a more interactive exercise aimed bringing more reality into
your perceptions of yourself.
i) Everyone sits with pen and paper in a large circle and writes
down everybody’s names in a column on the left of the paper. The
rest of the page is divided into 3 columns headed MORE, LESS and
THE SAME. For each person present you write a one-word or short
phrase to describe what you want more of and less of from them,
and what you want maintained.
ii) In the next part, you pair with everyone in turn and tell them
what you have written about them and hear what they have written
about you. You may have to use words carefully here. At the same
time, you have a second sheet of paper divided up the same way as
the first, entitled ABOUT ME, on which you write down what
everyone else wants from you.
During the paired conversations, you can negotiate with other people
about monitoring each other - supporting each other’s wants.
iii) Finally, reset the circle and give feedback for discussion. Check
if people’s self-esteem has been enhanced or lowered.
Once all the exercises have been worked through, please make a
Group Evaluation of the module.
1. Consider each exercise in turn, and for each:
a) Rate it’s usefulness for each person on a scale of 1 to 10 (where
1 = not useful and 10 = very valuable).
b) Rate its difficulty for the group to complete on a scale of 1 to 10
(where 1 = easy and 10 = very difficult).
c) Make any additional comments for each exercise, including any
of the Follow-Through options used.
2. Theory & Practice
a) Did you find the theoretical sections useful? Yes/No - Why?
b) Did you find the division of material into Sets useful? Yes/No -
c) Did you find the instructions clear, or confusing?
Please make any general comments on the module overall, along
with any suggestions for improving it.