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Bartimaeus and other djinn often check through the planes for approaching danger and magic. All magic and illusions seem to be visible on the seventh plane as well as a slight ability to sense danger by using seventh plane. Given that the seventh lets Bartimaeus see all magic why doesn't he just permanently stay on the seventh. He usually seems to stay on the first plane and periodically flick through the others which seems dumb when he could just use the seventh plane.

  • I didn’t mention this in my answer, but it’s also worth noting that by looking at lower planes, a spirit can get an idea of what a less-powerful spirit or human can see. If djinn only ever looked at the seventh plane, besides the problems that I mentioned (missing details only visible on middle planes), they wouldn’t know what the spirits they were facing would look like to a human or an imp. – Adamant Oct 31 '16 at 22:27
  • @Adamant True, I guess it does avoid confusion if you can see the same as the magician you work with. – Bellerophon Oct 31 '16 at 22:29
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Because it’s useful

Some things can exist (or at least be visible) on a lower plane and not a higher one.

Certain forms of magic appear to be capable of existing on a single plane.

The first plane was clear, but he’d rigged up a defense nexus on the second—it shone like blue gossamer all along the high wall. It didn’t finish there either; it extended up into the air, over the top of the low white house, and down again on the other side, forming a great shimmering dome. Not bad, but I could handle it.

There was nothing on the third or fourth planes, but on the fifth I spotted three sentries prowling around in midair, just beyond the lip of the garden wall.

The Amulet of Samarkand

So in this case, Lovelace has defenses that exist (or can be perceived, at any rate) only on the second plane, not on the first, third, or fourth.

Another possible instance of this:

A red dome was visible (on the fifth plane) soaring up from the pines. As I watched, it disappeared; a moment later another, bluish, dome materialized on the sixth plane, somewhat farther off.

The Amulet of Samarkand

And a very clear example:

Minutes later, an extensive system of blue warning nodes extended up around the building on the fourth and fifth planes, coiled together at the top of the house and sealed itself.

The Golem’s Eye

If the planes were strictly ordered, there’d be no need to mention that it was visible on the fifth plane as well as the fourth.

Even scents can be limited to a specific plane:

The small man made a face; he swung the cat back and forth by its tail. "Depends on what you call 'worthy,' madam. It is a djinni of a disreputable cast, that’s certain. Ugly, unkempt; it gives off an unpleasant stench on the sixth plane.

The Golem’s Eye

Planes are literal layers of reality, not merely successively higher levels on which illusion and perception can exist.

For example, some magic was capable of binding a spirit on various planes (though only one would seem to be strictly necessary, judging from other events):

The threads were a Snare of the most resilient kind: they bound me on every plane, adhering to my struggling feathers, my kicking legs and snapping beak.

The Amulet of Samarkand

Of course, there is an implicit ordering. It’s harder for a spirit to disguise itself on the higher planes, and many of the weaker spirits show their true form on planes other than the seventh. For example, Lovelace’s sentries were visible on the fifth plane (at the lowest). Spirits that can see on more planes tend to be of higher power.

Of course, spirits, at least, seem to exist on at least seven planes, but that does not mean that everything does. In any case, it would seem that to get a full picture of a situation, it’s wise to search all the planes.

The seven accessible planes are superimposed upon each other, and each reveals certain aspects of reality.

The Golem’s Eye


It also might be polite to view spirits on a certain plane.

Faquarl seems to think that Bartimaeus should "address" him in his true form.

“Speaking of disparities in power, I notice that you choose to avoid addressing me on the seventh plane. This seems a little impolite. Can it be that you are uneasy with my true form?”

The Amulet of Samarkand

Whether this means that there’s actually a planar difference in speech, or whether Faquarl just means that Bartimaeus should be looking at him on the seventh plane is unclear, but regardless, he seems to think that Bartimaeus should address him on a specific plane.

Perhaps when interacting with a spirit that could only see on the fifth plane, for example, Bartimaeus would view them on the fifth plane while conversing with them (if he were inclined to be polite, a rather infrequent occurrence).

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