Failed Quests

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    Curiouser and curiouser indeed! I always thought the definition of Psychic Questing was fairly clear-cut, but it turns out to be so all-embracing that I’m not sure it even counts as a definition! Or at any rate, not a very useful one.

    So here’s a completely different question which may shed some light on the matter. Now obviously this isn’t the sort of thing Andy C and Graham would have written about in their books because it makes a lousy story, but surely not every single Quest is successful? If they’re anything like life in general, most of them presumably fail at least partially.

    So: given that there doesn’t seem to be much agreement on exactly what Psychic Questing is, what ISN’T it? Can anybody (if it’s not too embarrassing) give an example in which, through human error, hopelessly misleading spirit guidance, fear of further involvement, realisation that the medium wasn’t actually a medium at all and was in fact in dire need of psychiatric help, or whatever, a Quest completely and utterly failed?

    After all, in the major published accounts, it’s usually obvious when the Quest is finished because either whatever they’re looking for is found, or if they don’t know what they’re looking for, they find something so obviously significant that they immediately realise it must be the Maguffin. Since most everyday Quests seem to have extremely open-ended victory conditions, perhaps it would be useful to hear what criteria people have for knowing when they’re flogging a dead griffin?


    The definition of Psychic Questing is simple; it’s using extra sensory perception to assist with investigative research.

    Within that mode of operation, whatever you choose to investigate is up to you… it’s all ‘Questing’.

    As for failed quests; it’s hard to know what was a wild goose chase or not (even with hind sight) it all effects who you are and your outlook… which may of been it’s purpose.

    I dont believe there ever is an end goal or objective, just the journey itself.

    But often events appear unrelated and nonsensical, within there connections ( and often things feel unfinished)

    Take ’21st century grail’ for instance. It kind of concludes with Graham giving Andy his Hawkstone ‘Magdalene Chalice’; yet the bulk of the quest via Richard’s impressions were about Aliester Crowley’s ‘Cup of Babalon’ and also some suggested landscape enigma centred around a 7 pointed star created by aligned sites… Graham’s chalice has nothing in common with Crowley’s Babylon Cup, and as far as I know the Marian Chalice has nothing to do with sacred site alignments… it’s harldy the same story that the book started with…

    There are no rights or wrongs in this, its just a journey… but unfinished (presumably Crowley’s Babalon cup is till out there, and the landscape design is still to be plotted out and defined).


    Actually I did notice that Andy’s “21st. Century Grail” Quest does seem a tad inconclusive – the part where they seemingly trip over the Holy Grail but can’t actually find it because they’re bumbling about in the dark was a bit of an own goal (to say the least!), and the “never mind, here’s one I found earlier…” solution just a wee bit too pat, but since the book’s ending more or less promises that the Quest will continue in the sequel, I assumed that that was only half the story.

    As for definitions – yes, Yuri’s is simple, but it’s also so broad that it covers just about anything! You might as well define a car as something that moves along the ground under its own power – do I now have to pay road tax on the cat? By this definition, finding Excalibur after 3 years’ hard slog while fighting off the Sons of Mordred (don’t panic! – I just made them up!) would count as a jolly impressive Psychic Quest, but so would going down to the park because I had a “psychic” feeling that I should, thinking nice thoughts in the sun for half an hour, and going home satisfied with a job well done.

    If the whole concept is so shapeless that absolutely anything goes, if I decide that today is a good day for going on a Psychic Quest, can I assume that anything whatsoever that pops into my head before midnight might be a psychic message? And if I suddenly decide that walking round the block clockwise thinking about white light would be rather jolly, have I accomplished something worthwhile? If there are no rewards for success, no penalties for failure, and indeed the concept of “failure” is apparently completely meaningless because it isn’t possible to fail really, and even if you do, it isn’t possible to tell because nothing will either happen or not happen as a result, isn’t it all in danger of becoming totally pointless?

    I’ll give you a real-life example. I used to know an unfortunate fellow who, as a result of taking way too many recreational drugs, had a total mental breakdown and became permanently unbalanced. Amongst his numerous other very weird beliefs was the unshakeable conviction that for some totally unfathomable reason he was under constant attack on the Astral Plane from a coven of evil time-travelling wizards who in the 1960s secretly ran Paisley Dental College. This fellow, who, by the way, was very, very obviously as crazy as a tree full of fish, and was only allowed out because he was completely harmless, honestly believed himself to be psychic, and that this vast cabal of time-travelling diabolist dental students really did exist, apparently for the sole purpose of putting voices into the head of a complete nobody like him.

    Should I assume that, because at least one person truly believes in this wildly unfeasible occult conspiracy, it in some sense really exists, therefore I can adopt him as my resident “super-psychic”, and assume that everything he says on the subject of the occult is fairly reliable? Should I start researching in all seriousness into this cabal of Satanists who did awful things in Paisley 40 years ago under the guise of dentistry? Furthermore, it occurs to me that there was actually one person who took him seriously, a fellow who also took rather a lot of recreational drugs, and who, though more or less sane, believed pretty much anything said with reasonable conviction by anybody because he was very stupid indeed. So if I went to the trouble of reuniting with these fellows (I haven’t seen them for years, mainly because they’re both incredibly dull people), I’d have the beginnings of a Questing Coven, wouldn’t I…?

    (By the way, this, like that cat business, is a “thought experiment” – I have no more intention of trying to square the ramblings of unfortunates undergoing treatment for severe, incurable paranoid schizophrenia with reality than I do of poisoning the poor old pussycat!)

    I mean, just because the other two people involved are mad, thick, stoned, or all of the above doesn’t necessarily make it untrue, apparently; and even if it IS untrue, that doesn’t make it TOTALLY untrue… So who’s for a Black Quest to Paisley, then? That’s 1960s Paisley, of course, so you’ll have to wait until I’ve got my Tardis working again…

    Yes, that’s a ludicrous example, but it’s perfectly true, and with just a teeny bit more effort, that fellow might have had a little group of terminally credulous stoned New Agers hanging on his every word (actually I suspect that he would have, had he not suffered in his teens from that really awful acne that leaves you looking like a pineapple for the rest of your life).

    I’m not suggesting that anybody here would swallow a yarn spun by some self-proclaimed “psychic” who claimed that all the problems in his life were consequences of his being pointlessly persecuted by unseen hordes of satanic hippy dentists (well I hope not!), especially as you didn’t have to be in his company for very long to realise that he was several wheels short of a unicycle (his habit of leaving the room in genuine terror to hide if a supernatural being appeared on the TV screen was a dead giveaway).

    But surely you have to draw the line SOMEWHERE – not trusting clinically insane “psychics” would be a pretty good rule of thumb for starters! Otherwise anything I do counts as a Psychic Quest, so long as I decide that I’m doing it in a psychic sort of way – going to the shops, for example. If I decide right now that there might be secret occult clues to be gained from the names of the household cleaning products in Tesco’s, should I go and have a look? After all, that DID just pop into my head, so it MIGHT be a secret message from the Hidden Masters in Tibet – no?

    Come on, there must be SOME people who are prepared to say: “When I was just starting out I used to get it all totally wrong, but now I know better”? Unless it really IS the case that all results, including no result at all, are equally valid – in which case, why bother doing it at all?



    You’re intelligent and quick witted, and there are no faults in the things you say, but I dont know what you’re looking for?

    I’ve investigated some things and they’ve come to a complete dead end; so, you could say I wasted my time, or that my research ‘failed’… but you know, something can happen ten years later that suddenly connects with the thing you gave up on ten years previously and a new ‘angle’ of comprehension is percieved. So was it time wasted or a failure?

    The only way a quest can fail is if you have fixed parameters, like, ‘I must fins such and such an artifact by the next full moon’ and you dont so you failed… but I dont work like that and I dont know anyone who does.

    I like the topics I investigate to be as un-biased and as un-contrived as possible; so I dont assume to predict the outcome, which means I dont have parameters; and that I am always open to a few surprises.

    Years ago, Richard Ward and I were on a ‘Brown Monk’ quest trying to find a certain red bricked church… we visited about 20 churches and never found the one we were looking for… Is that a fail?

    It didnt feel like a fail. we gave it our best shot and didnt come up with anything but I dont feel like a failure; just brush off and move on to other things… you cant force the universe to give you a ‘result’.


    Hi Dan,

    I think that you are trying to take a very black and white view of Questing and it might resist such neat classification.

    Yuri describes well what psychic questing is in a relatively narrow sense – “using extra sensory perception to assist with investigative research.” under this definition I guess you could tally successes and failures although, as has been mentioned before, what you thought was a failure may well later turn out to have been a success (and vice versa). But in my (very limited) experience the quest operates simultaneously on a number of levels so that the “narrow” quest is mirrored by a wider, more general quest which has more to do with the quester’s inner life. Often it’s the transformation in the individual that is the more important facet although it’s uncanny how significant hits/finds in the narrow quest tend to reinforce a breakthrough in the wider quest. It’s almost as if you get some kind of physical affirmation of the spiritual advance.

    But take “questing” at the most general level. All life (I believe) should be a metaphorical quest for the Holy Grail. What that actually means might vary from person to person but generally you follow your spiritual path where it leads you and your own inner life should mature accordingly. For me, anything that gets you out of your everyday routine is a quest of sorts.

    If we also take “psychic” at its broadest to me “arising from the psyche/mind” then any whim, hunch, dream, desire or imagining counts as psychic.

    So putting those two things together you have a very, very broad definition of what psychic questing entails. I would boil it down to the image of following your red thread. If you are seeking to follow your red thread to see where it leads next then you are indeed psychic questing. And as Yuri says it’s the journey that’s important not the destination.

    So when you say: “can I assume that anything whatsoever that pops into my head before midnight might be a psychic message?” I would answer “yes” (this meets my “psychic” criterion above). Also when you ask “And if I suddenly decide that walking round the block clockwise thinking about white light would be rather jolly, have I accomplished something worthwhile?” I would answer “yes” even more strongly because (a) you’re now actually acting on your intuition (instead of ignoring the prompt and continuing to sit in a chair watching the TV); and (b) because in the much more narrow sense of psychic questing visualising white light is an effective and useful exercise.

    Now still sticking to the most general sense of “psychic questing”, I would strongly question your attitude towards the two “unfortunates” you mention. The issue in this sense is not whether what they say is factually true but what they mean for your own quest. Do you need to examine your attitude towards schizoprenia/IQ/being interesting/being attractive?

    Again, even if you take the most narrow sense of psychic questing, there are traditions that say that maybe the mad are those who have glimpsed the inner truth and been seared as a result. So maybe somewhere in the psychosis there are indeed valid mystic insights. (The Terence McKenna podcasts from the Psychedelic Salon, mentioned elsewhere on this site, add much more colour to this side of things than I ever could).

    So in essence I think that the only failed quest is a quest not undertaken.

    Still not sure if this will give you what you seem to want in terms of clear guidelines, though :D


    This is what I needed. Thank you Simon. I think my question from the previous thread has been answered. :)


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