Poiesis

Poiesis is bringing into existence what did not exist before. It is the power of manifestation and reification. Mage: The Ascension refers to this as Prime. And that is what I’m doing now, by writing this.


A few months ago, I tried to manifest an idea of mine into an organization (a startup). But the more progress I made at manifesting it in the larger world, the less buy-in I had with myself. At some point I couldn’t convince myself (let alone anyone else) that it was worth the effort to try to manifest it anymore. This was disheartening! It still seems like a good idea. So why couldn’t I realize it in the world?

I think there’s a missing skill. Some people seem to have lots of it. And I don’t yet have enough of it. So, how does one get better at the skill of raw manifestation?

Here’s my model for how poiesis works so far:

  • Vision. This will determine how much energy is necessary to manifest it. Proper nouns / naming, consistency, repetition, and details enhance vision. The more vision, the less susceptible this is to distortion from others. Sarah Constantin wrote up this advice for reifying her organization.
  • Buy-in. This can be from yourself, your friends, a target audience, etc. They can lend their poiesis to co-manifest your vision. Subskills are getting, keeping, and controlling buy-in.
  • Reaction to challenges. When met with opposing poiesis, what happens? Some strategies are avoiding, ignoring, and convincing. Lack of ability to stand up to opposing poiesis is a reason why some people HAVE TO surround themselves with yes-men or disconnect from reality to go forward.

More examples of the thing I’m talking about:

Improv is all poiesis. If I walk into a scene and say, “Stop stealing my horse!” and the other person says “I’m not stealing your horse,” it’s hard to move forward. Buy-in is key, but this also teaches strategies to maintain poiesis in the face of resistance. “Oh, you would deny it, thief? The nerve!”

In Dungeons and Dragons as GM, I’m learning that consistency of the world over time and small details add to the realism and player buy-in. You can’t lead DnD if the players don’t buy-in.

An event can happen by telling 100 people to come to a place at a time. If there are too many setbacks, I lose the ability to feel like I can really make 100 people come to this place at a time. Losing the feeling of confidence is similar to losing the ability.

“Where do you want to eat?” “Let’s go to Angeline’s unless you have a strong preference against that.” This has gotten easier over time.


Poiesis is a skill that could be valued and sought-after in the same way that one might train up in Charisma. I don’t see much about it in the common discourse. What are ways to train up in poiesis?

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