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?

One thought on “Poiesis

  1. I’d differentiate between manifesting things that are entirely unrelated and new (I should connect you with a specific author to discuss that) or transforming something that is in some form existent into what one intends to manifest. I am not clear whether you are specific to one of those types or mix them in your blog entry. I can say a lot about the latter and wonder whether you’d like the discourse. My understanding of the world is widely based on nature sciences, meaning in some way, everything is already there and “new” things are essentially transformed variations of “old” things. The way I look at the world, I see tree diagrams of scenarios how existing dynamics and things can follow different paths in the future. As I can’t know everything, every scenario has a certain likeliness of coming true. The more I observe, the better I can predict which scenarios will unfold. Now, the interesting part is to take an active role and find ways to make desired scenarios more likely than others. This is how I manifest my ideas, especially when it comes to social dynamics and human relationships. Navigating those things relies on close observation and careful intervention, e.g. by the concepts of non-violent communication or subtle application of suggestive language or actions. Pursuing this branch of thought deeper would go astray from the article I think, but I felt adding the perspective nonetheless.
    Regarding opposing poiesis: The potential for conflict is obvious, however, in most cases it is possible to merge both pictures utilizing a common ground. Most of that comes, in my experience, down to sensing the dynamics of appreciation. Once someone feels appreciate in their perspective, they are very likely to take huge compromises just to maintain that impression of appreciation and tribe-forming. Psychologically, becoming part of someone’s in-group / tribe allows to alter their picture without much resistance. Applying this can turn conflict into harmony, but comes with a power-imbalance on a meta level (which would be fine for a GM setting I guess).

    In a way I used Poiesis many years ago in an attempt to grow and evolve. I was suggestive in my actions and words to people around me to give them a picture of my desired future self (a travelling cyclist, back at a time I did not sports at all). Simple group dynamics surged me into that role eventually so it manifested.

    Thanks for the thought-incentive, appreciated. Hannes

    Like

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