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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Unprotected Night Time Adventures

So, last night I had some questions I wanted answered. Sort of along the lines of issues related to mercy and severity.

I determined I needed some insight from the spirit world, but I wanted a general kind of view, from positive and negative spirits, a broad perspective.

A few months back I was having some really intense dreams where I was being challenged by malevolent spirits and was having to exorcise them. The dreams were much too real and were somewhat inexplicable. I took a rosary sealed with St Benedict's seal and tied it to my bed. St Benedict is the patron St of exorcists and he repels witchcraft and black magic. In general I assume Benedict is intended to be used against all magic, but I find his talismans useful to have around as a magician.

The dreams stopped right away. A couple other nocturnal disturbances got sorted too. It was good. Although positive spirit communication in dreams reduced too. Which I didn't really notice until I opened stuff up.

So, feeling the need to talk with spirits I opened up the door by taking down the rosary and put out kind of an open invitation. This is generally viewed as a bad idea. You usually want to know who you're inviting in and make sure to keep others out.

A lot of people would also feel like opening dreams is risky because you're inviting spirits into your mind. This isn't usually the case. Dreams typically do take place in your head. Even lucid dreaming is mostly a psychology thing. But some dreams take place between the world of spirits and your mind. You meet in the middle, so there is still a buffer. If you pay attention you'll notice a different feel to the environment in magical and spirit communication dreams than in normal ones, this is why. Not the same environment.

Aside from the buffer I was kind of in the mood to dive deep into whatever and felt comfortable with my ability to handle whatever came to visit. In fact the worrisome guys were more of who I wanted to hear from.

They were apparently not worried about talking to me though as all I got were angels. A bunch of them.

It was kind of like they put on a moral play in which I had an open ended role so my choices could answer my questions. It was pretty angelic in its somewhat indirect and melodramatic didactism.

I woke a bunch of times and always fell back into continuing the narrative. This usually doesn't happen for me.

In the end I guess the angels expressed their view, and tried to do so in a way to make me feel like it was my own.

To a degree they made me feel the draw towards Mercy and convincing me to flog an angelic prince with fire...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Like a Virgin, Evoking for the Very First Time - a Recollection of Conjuring in 2007

I was planning on doing a post about this sometime in the near future, but with some discussion tonight about the idea of methods of evocation, results, and visible appearance, I guess I'll do it now.

When I was a kid I really wanted to learn to conjure spirits. I'd gotten good at other forms of magic, but, mostly coming at it from a NeoPagan Witchcraft angle at first, no one talked about that. As I got more into traditional Paganism and traditional witchcraft, and began studying ceremonial magic and hermetic Kabbalah I still wasn't really finding anything on it. People would direct me to things like the LBRP, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted. Eventually I downloaded copies of the Keys of Solomon, and started exploring a few grimoires. Early on I saw enough of them to realize that there were several different methods.

I started exploring more deeply into ceremonial magic and the Kabbalah and began working with my teacher, and made friends with some people who while they weren't the super traditional and semi-academic grimoiric magicians of today, they were pretty hefty into demonology and a few basic grimoires along with some other modern magic. So I started to develop a view of the grimoiric system, and what I needed to do to develop myself towards safely and successfully using it. I frequently debated with friends who were also studying but hadn't tried the systems in the grimoires how strictly we needed to follow them. My view was that it was like a radio receiver. You could make a workable one with a few basic parts, but adding more pieces of better quality made a significantly more effective one.

So, as I continued my development and got to the point in my training where methods of conjuration started to be on the table I had a lot of options and a lot of view on what I should and should not be doing. I started out with some stuff based in GD influenced stuff, looked at some Levi and Crowley based ideas, and after a couple years of playing with those things decided to try something more directly grimoiric.

I worked with Mathers' edition of the Greater Key. This was 2007 and it was just before I began collecting all the Golden Horde stuff. I had a privately published edition of the Lemegeton as well as the Mathers, a few books on Grimoiric magic, and a couple other grimoires and grimoire based books. The Greater Key seemed like the most straight forward starting place. Oddly, Trithemius' material was my favorite, but there was stuff I wanted to do to prepare for it first, mostly in terms of tools which is ironic since it's one of the most low impact systems in regards to tools. But I also felt like doing more thorough evocations first would set up the relationship with the spirits to allow for me to work the Trithemian system. In any case, that was all nonsense, if you want to get started, draw some spirits into some crystals.

But I did not do that, I did the Greater Key. I had my white robe, worn by a priest celebrating Mass (not a GKOS thing), I had my magic sword, instead of a crown I had Abramelin oil, I had my censers of incense, and I had my seal and some candles. I also had the magic circle painted onto a sheet to lay out beneath me, and my bible opened up to psalms. I was ready to go.

I decided to work with Bariel, a spirit of Jupiter, and request bunches and bunches of money. I was used to working in a Mercurial milieu so I wanted to win money. That didn't happen, but I got really good results all the same.

I began with some ritual cleansing, did a bit from the GKOS, then the Headless Invocation, and then more GKOS material. The ritual over all was about 8 or 9 pages.

At the time I'd been out of college for about a year and a half, and so I was, as most millenials do, living at home. I had five burners of incense going. I'm conjurng like a madman when suddenly I hear a voice from above...


I pause, I think, “Oh shit, Lisiewski made it sound like you'd basically die or at least never be able to do magic if your conjuration gets interrupted midstream, what horrors await!”

I respond: “Yes, Mom?”

Mom: “BJ, put out that incense, you know I don't like incense, what're you even doing?”

BJ: “Nothing mom, it's ok, don't worry about it, sure thing.”

She goes away, and I think “what do you do now? Finish like a beast I guess.”

So I finished my conjuration. I definitely felt the presence of the spirit, now, 8 years later, I still very vividly remember it, but the whole time I was thinking “No, I got interrupted, it very clearly feels like the spirit is here, the space even seems sort of ripply and charged with presence over in that direction over there where it feels like he is, but this is clearly BS, I got interrupted, Lisiewski said there would be no success, only horrors would await me now.”

I guess I didn't mention I'd also read that book the Power of Ceremonial Evocation as part of my final preparations.

So I told Bariel what I wanted, polished everything off and wiped up, and moved along certain I'd failed despite everything seeming successful.

I didn't win any money. Instead, I had much more Jupiterian results. Which was good, since in addition to asking to win money, I'd asked for financial stability and a promotion and raise and for things to just have a general financial fecundity.

So within a couple weeks I had been told at work that while they couldn't promote me right away, because our staffing compliment didn't include a second person in the position they wanted to move me to, that I would get a smaller promotion and a bonus. They'd also be giving me a raise to max me out for what was my current job grade...and they were working on adjusting the staffing compliment to promote me. At this point I'd been in my role for about a year, and had been trained for the job to which I wanted to be promoted for about 8 months, but there were no openings anywhere. Within a couple of weeks, I interviewed for the position at two other locations, was told that if I waited awhile longer they'd probably fire someone at a third location and give me his spot, and in the end I was given the job at a fourth location with no interview or anything, I just got a call offering it and all I had to do was say I wanted it. My managers gave me my year end performance increase, and then gave me the increase for the promotion afterwards so that I ended up with a higher salary than they told me I would.

All in all within the period of about a month, I achieved a 33% increase in my income in addition to an extra $500 bonus, and being told that I had been short listed for the next round of management school.

During this same time, I was expecting to have to give my mom some money for things, which she ended up telling me I didn't have to do because my parents discovered they were paid ahead on a bunch of stuff and the addition they were putting on their house was way cheaper than expected.

A couple months later I ended up conjuring Bariel again using the same method, and I told him I wanted a new job with a salary that was about an 18% increase above where I was with better duties. Within a couple weeks I got a call inviting me to apply for a job which would include training and licenses that I wanted but couldn't get at my then current company. I ended up taking the new job, and while the initial offer was only about 9% above where I was I ended up making about 26% more in the first year than I did at the previous job, getting training which has led to a job that was originally intended as an interim thing becoming a career and giving me a fair amount of stability.

So, I would say those first to evocations were unquestionable successes.

Neither one had what I envision when the bad asses of magic describe evocation to visible appearance. Neither one was a hundred percent a pure execution of the material described in the grimoire. It was a faithful execution of the system described in the grimoire definitely. It was a workable execution, and it was a successful execution.

In posting this, my point is two fold pretty much...maybe three or four fold, we'll see as I type.

1. Your execution can have mistakes and still work
2. You can create a ritual based in the grimoires which earnestly follows the system without slavishly following the book
3. You can get results without a lot of the crazy claims people get intense about, just stay chill and do what makes sense
4. You don't need perfect or beautiful tools or even everything that's there. Study a bunch of grimoires, look for what consistently seems important use that.
5. Get off your butt and do it, because magic is awesome, you're awesome, and results are real...especially when the spirits are not just imaginary friends.

I should also note that this was before I achieved K&C, so it was not an instance of the spirits being super anxious to help me because I was an adept. I was a Dominius Liminis, or more accurately within the A.'.A.'. system an Adeptus Minor Without (preparing for K&C but not having done it yet). So, while some methods of evocation are better suited to people who've done K&C, if you are properly prepared to do the work you can still do the work prior to that. But stick with angels and spirits under the sway of angels in that case, and with systems that involve invoking grace first.

And On That Note...How do we know our magic is MAGIC?

So, yesterday we talked about how you're stronger when you're really you, and so if being you is being a magician then you need to actually be a magician and do actual magic. So what does that mean?

When discussing this issue the other day the person complaining about people not doing magic was mostly complaining about people not doing ritual. Of course there is magic which doesn't involve ritual, and there is ritual that doesn't involve magic. Now, when I pointed out that even people who do ritual are not always people who do magic, the person originally complaining asked, despite a clear lack of desire for an answer, how one would determine that a ritualist is not necessarily a magician.

So let's take a look at a few elements to keep in mind. Hopefully for those who are looking to develop their magical practice, these thoughts might help with developing more powerful, effective, and meaningful rituals.

1. Magic is by it's nature goal oriented.

In general a big part of developing into a more useful person for me was learning to understand the importance of being goal oriented. In college I took a class called “The Psychology of Motivation” it was an upper level neurology class and the professor had a reputation for being amazing but also incredibly difficult. The material was riveting in general, but the most interesting part was how well the teacher drove home the point at all motivation is goal oriented. It made me realize the importance of understanding clearly what a goal is and how to move towards it in terms of understanding our motivations and those of others, and therefore understanding the underlying elements of a situation. This is a huge part of being a magician. We have to be able to look at the world and see through the bull shit down to the truth of a thing. We have to be able to pull apart the puzzle and see the strings which form the maze. We have to know what will happen when we pull on a particular string and what will pull back on it from each end. Understanding goals is a big part of this. Understanding goals, and what is necessary to reach them is also hugely important to success.

From the perspective of a magician, understanding our goals and how to achieve them is part of how we decide what magic to do in what way. Understanding that magic requires a goal is an important part to distinguishing our magic from playing dress up.

Magic is about willed change.

Crowley defined magic as “the art and science of causing change in conformity with will” there is a bit of an implication towards the mystical elements of changing things based on one's true will when we quote Crowley. Personally I like to take it more generally “Magic is the process of causing change through the manipulation of subtle and unseen forces.” The will part is less obvious, but manipulate implies that we are determining the change created by these forces. In either case, we make a decision about what we want to have happen, and we make it happen.

So if we're doing ritual and it's not supposed to do anything, or we don't know what it's supposed to do we probably aren't doing magic.

2. So...being goal oriented, means we want the goal to happen

Years ago I was at a coffee house near a college. It was run by local NeoPagans and they used to do Pagan Band Jams. Sometimes the OTO would go hang out and meet people.

I once met a young man there who was clearly very concerned about his 1980s punk rock chaos magician image. He told me all about how he liked reading chaos magic books, he was wearing his chaos star t-shirt, and he told me about how he didn't believe in magic but sometimes liked to do rituals when people pissed him off so he could feel better by pretending to curse them. I said I preferred to spend my time doing things that accomplished stuff.

To me it seems silly intentionally doing something that we don't think will accomplish anything, but, I guess in his case it was accomplishing a sort of catharsis or distraction. This behavior isn't just a chaos magic thing, there are people who dress up as witches, druids, thelemites, wizards, whatever because they feel better doing so and doing rituals even though they only look for them to make them feel better. It makes sense, as a lot of writers stick to magic as kind of an in home self help ritualized psychology. Arguably this is a goal, feeling better, and there is a change, you feel better than you did. But putting on a warm blanket, or eating ice cream, or thinking happy thoughts can do the same thing. I wouldn't really consider this a change in the sense of magic.

When we're looking at changes sometimes they might be things which aren't clearly perceptible, but they're still things where there is a meaningful and significant difference. For instance rituals or practices which develop and strengthen the subtle body of the magician, or which expand awareness or psychic capabilities, or even revealing knowledge can all be magic. We're working internally in these cases, but they result in clear applicable changes at are more than us just deciding to smile.

Changes quite often can be external perceptible elements of reality. There is a clear presence in the magical community of people trying to downplay real external change because it's easier to look acceptable and not crazy, but, magic, throughout history, has always primarily been about creating a world we want. Looking through the grimoires we see rituals for gaining treasure, procuring favor, gaining love, taking love away, defeating enemies, tons of stuff. All of it is stuff that is beyond our ability to achieve it just by deciding that we want it, but it's all also stuff that can be the object of a clearly defined goal.

3. Magical practices should involve means of making the goal happen

If you want to hit a baseball, you probably need to swing a bat. Conversely, just because you're swinging a bat, doesn't mean you're hitting a baseball. You need the right tool applied in the right way at the right moment to the right thing in order to achieve your goal.

If a ritual or practice does not engage in any means of applying change it can't accomplish change and isn't magic. Now, a ritual which has no means of effecting change, or which applies the wrong means, or the right means incorrectly doesn't mean there is no intention to do magic necessarily, it may just mean the ritual is poorly constructed. Either way though, not going to hit the home run.

So what're some means of creating change by magic?

Spirits. Spirits are probably one of the oldest identifiable methods of agency in magic. They can achieve goals by way of offerings, pacts, or commanding them by names and seals.

The Kabbalah's magical elements involve arranging series or correspondences to track pathways of manifestation along the Tree of Life to create particular results.

More modern sources deal with flows of psychic energy and the creation of manipulation of thought-forms or of the astral light.

Somewhere between that more modern method and classical ones we see the conjuration of elemental and planetary forces, and other unseen forces within the universe to be applied to a situation by way of symbols of not by spirits.

There are many forms of agency, or means of power and action, which your magic can take, but it has to take one, or at least one, in order to be magic. Even more it has to apply it appropriately in a way relevant to the goal.

So in summation your magic should...

...start with a clearly defined goal
...have the actual intention of achieving the goal
...use techniques to manipulate and apply some means of achieving that goal.

So, you might still say, “well, how can we say these things are required for magic or that just doing ritual doesn't mean these things are happening?”

I would answer that it's pretty easy to watch a ritual and see if you can determine the goal, and the method for achieving it. The intention to succeed is less visible. Either way, magic should be somewhat testable. For those coming out of a Thelemic background, the method of science, the aim of religion. We should be able to review our actions and anticipate results and track whether to actions and results align and potential causes of error. This is a key part of training within the A.'.A.'. system, and was also applied amongst the Golden Dawn. Further both the A.'.A.'. and Golden Dawn worked to expand the powers of the subtle body of the initiate, with this being accomplished the initiate should be sensitive to the magical movements stirred by another's ritual, and a sufficiently advanced initiate should be able to recognize magic from theater. This testing of results and abilities was not something that was unique to the student, both the A.'.A.'. and the Golden Dawn worked with experiments to test psychic perceptions as the initiate developed.

In any case, arguing about the historical support for a magician to be able to recognize whether something is magic or bunk won't get us too far, but we at least have some notes to consider when planning our ritual actions so we can ask ourselves “Is this functional as magic or am I just doing ritual for some other reason?”

Little questions like that might seem unimportant if you're getting something out of it either way, but they're necessary to help you get to know your most reliable partner in all of this, yourself. As you understand what your motivations are more clearly, you can begin to understand how to achieve them more thoroughly.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Why your Magic should, you know, be magic.

It came up recently in a discussion the criticism of magicians who don't do magic. It's a strange sort of topic. People like to point the finger despite the three which point back at them. I myself try to point all four, retaining the thumbs up for those who actually do the work. What I mean to say here is, it's reasonable to criticize those who want to be magicians but don't do magic, but often those making the criticism fit the bill too. So we should be at pains, as magicians, to make sure that our magic is in fact magic and that we encourage and develop real magic when we can. Notice, I didn't say we should be at pains to do anything to the fake magicians. We should be too busy doing magic and being awesome to have time to become inquisitors, but we can spend our time being awesome and powerful presences and maybe lead others by our own gravitas towards being magicians who do magic.

Jack Parsons said in the Book of the Antichrist:

An end to all authority that is not based on courage and manhood, to the authority of lying priests, conniving judges, blackmailing police, and An end to the servile flattery and cajolery of moods, the coronations of mediocrities, the ascension of dolts.

And the Book of the Law says:

“Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!”

In the first instance we're kind of calling for the unseating of the false from positions of power. There is a definite social commentary element but also a mystical one. For our society to truly flourish we need those who are rooted in strength and forcefully called to grow in the proper manner to not only be its leaders, but also to be its people. We need those who are fully self possessed and ready to commit to the virtues of the heroic that flourish when we know and live in accordance with our natures.

The second statement is a little clearer to our purpose. Both note people whose actions are in opposition to their natures, lying priests, black mailing polices, soldiers at folly. In neither statement is the specific type of individual listed important, but more the point that we see individuals who turn from the work suited to their natures. In both we are set against such people as they are the antithesis of Thelema. Even for those who do not consider themselves Thelemites, this line of thinking is necessary to magic. Thelema simply restates principles which have been part of the Western Mystery tradition for millenia. Most simply we can look to alchemy, and see the idea of removing the gross detritus which hides the fine and subtle truth of a thing. We decay the outer shell and strengthen the pure inner essence to reveal the power of a thing.

With this line of thinking, that removing that which is not a thing and focusing that which is a thing we get to the true strength of the thing, and further that we must seek this in ourselves and our society in order to turn from failure to greatness, we can continue it to the idea that if we're going to be magicians we need to really be magicians in order to be successful.

This is kind of a “duh” moment. Doing actual magic gets you further as a magician than not doing magic does.

To look at it a little more, we have multiple ways in which magic can operate, multiple places from which magic takes its power. There are simple external things, signs and names, spirits, connecting with flows of energy, kabbalistic paths of manifestation, lots of different ways we can externally do simple magics. Exploring more deeply we get to points where the power and authority to do magic is strengthened as we connect more deeply to the elements of our essential natures. Just like the materium of our alchemy, as we decay the outer gunk around ourselves and strengthen our essence we become a more powerful medicine to get shit done.

Alternatively, when we're at odds with ourselves we're fighting against our success. If we are spending energy trying to be something that we aren't we aren't spending energy actually accomplishing what we want to accomplish. No one has to be a magician, but everyone should be themselves. So if you're a magician, do magic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Easier Than Not Sinning AKA The Reset Button

Recently I have been focusing my practical work around methods based in the Merkavah and Hekhalot materials. Some of this has been new rituals with a Merkavah flavor, some of it has been based on practices described in magical texts from that tradition.

An element of the tradition is that it has a very heavy focus on ritual purity with a view that mankind by his nature is "friggin gross" in the eyes of the angels. Lots of traditions of spirit work have rules about how to prepare but the sages of the Merkavah had a serious fixation thereon. Stories of angels being offended by the natural putrescence that they view l'eau des homme to be abound. My favorite example is one in which the angel shows up, he insults on of the great sages of the period, who has done more than a month of fasting and praying to prepare. He then tells the sage to undergo another forty days of ritual cleansing...not to prepare him to call the angel he wants...but to prepare him to receive instructions on how to purify himself so he can call the angel.

These angels take this shit seriously.

For most rituals I find a little naked time (read as stripping off the mundane), splashing on some holy water, saying some prayers, and tossing on my clerical robe to be sufficient.

Sometimes if it's more major I'll throw in a reverse confession. Or I'll mimic the confession burning from the Abramelin or use some materia I've put together based on that.

But, with the Merkavah angels, some of them are pretty specifically fixated on sin. More so than the others.

I did some work with the angels of the second heaven recently. The outcome was important to me. So I wanted to make sure to do it right.

Unfortunately in the text I was using, the angels of the second heaven are described mostly on the basis of condemning impurity. Sometimes...I like to have fun...and can be...a little...impure, but only a little, and only sometimes (read as most of the time).

I tried working with them with a regular ritual and they were not too responsive.

So I needed a new plan. A plan to get pure fast. Clearly there is not an instant spiritual detox at the record store. Calling my fellow clergy for absolution would be confusing and awkward. Who else did I know who could facilitate my expiation?

I happened to be doing some work with Raphael earlier that evening and realized he could straighten me out.

As I'm sure you're aware Raphael is the archangel of the Sun. So let's look at how that plays into this.

1. The Sun provides direction and spiritual gravitas. The idea of impurity in a ritual sense or of sin is that of losing direction and wandering towards less beneficial ends. Invoking the Sun reflects the assertion of direction on your being.

2. The Sun is splendor and beauty, so Raphael makes you seem all shiny and clean.

3. Raphael provides healing. Healing spiritually relates to balancing imbalances, removing impurities, and making the incomplete complete. All of this fits with correcting the impacts of missing your mark.

4. The sun is the planetary force most similar to the Philosophers Stone, which has the power to correct and elevate. Kabbalistically Tifaret is the bridge which transmits the light into the material world and aspiration into the spiritual world.

5. And most importantly the Sun is the part of you that makes you awesome. The Sun within your being is the you that is YOU. It is the part of you for whom the concept of sin or impurity can't exist. It is the road to the Throne, which the Merkavah is all about, it's the light that leads you home back to the knowledge that you weren't impure, you were divine the whole time.

So, Raphael is the perfect aid to call upon for your spiritual purity needs. He rules over your reset button. So when you feel like the sludge is weighing you down and clogging your valves hit reset, when you're worried that you're not fit for the work you're doing (even though you are) hit reset, when you need a little elevation, or balance, or direction, hit reset. The Sun is your magical reset button, and it's always at your disposal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sorcery – It's not your father's trick laying

"Sorcery has been called Magic: but Magic is Wisdom, and there is no wisdom in Sorcery" PARACELSUS.

Sorcery at times gets a bad wrap. But these days the term is pretty popular with some of the best magicians out there.

In my personal experience as a little kid, the Sorceress in He-Man and She-Ra definitely had wisdom; that was kind of the whole point of her character.

As I reached middle school and began exploring comparative religion and studying magic I got a new concept of sorcery: magic based in talismans and rituals that commanded spirits but didn't involve any divine presence. It took on a kind of non-religious shamanism image in my mind.

All in all, it wasn't a bad thing. I interpreted it as magic focused on being effective and nothing else.

I can see why Paracelsus might say it doesn't involve Wisdom though, if one interprets the Wisdom of magic to be the return to a divine source for greater understanding of ourselves, our world and our magic. Something wholly practical wouldn't be about that. But that position certainly suggests a sort of classism. Elite intellectuals get to do the real magic because they have time to focus on the alchemy of rotting dung, while poor cunning folk do evil magic not driven by wisdom, because they need to eat. Normally I'm not so populist in my position, but there's a definite sort of disenfranchisement. I'm not sure that sorcery is even accurately described as something which ignores that search for Wisdom. It's a narrative that isn't really meaningful anymore.

Anyway, as I kept getting older, and kept studying magic, I began to see the negative connotations associated with the word sorcery, and major writers from the magical revival treating sorcery as black magic.

Studying mysticism and magic in an academic context in college provided a similar definition of sorcery to the one I held, and without the negative implications. I figured college professors were right and Mathers and Crowley were wrong.

The system of magic into which I was initiated at the time even used the term sorcery to describe one of its grades, but I admitted feeling silly saying “I'm a Sorcerer in the Order of Draco.” In our case sorcery referred to magic using tactile implements such as dolls, and images, and links via contagion, as well as physical objects in sympathy to a symbol of a magical force or very basic sorts of talismans and fetishes.

Still, I felt silly, and I would look at IGOS and think “hmm, why'd they go with sorcery...”

Even with feeling silly with the word, I thought the negativity about it was stupid and I wrote at length about how Mathers's use of the word to equate to black magic was ignorant of the development of various terms, the histories of various types of magic, and just kind of the world at large. But I think I wanted to defend the word Goetia more than Sorcery.

In fact, the only thing that probably would have led me to crap on sorcery was my limited appreciation of Chaos magic.  I considered Chaos magic to be largely a very modern approach to a very simple sort of sorcery. I wasn't a huge fan.

Now, about 15 years later, I'm pretty cool with most words for magic and magic users, and actually find that the most down to earth and visceral terms seem to be the best. Some of these words have a certain power to them due to cultural impacts much bigger than our limited magical community. What seems neat though is, as I've said, a lot of the best magicians have embraced the term sorcery to describe their work, despite a lot of earlier late 20th century magicians rejecting the term.

I would think part of this may be because “magic” carries with it so much these days that is not magic. Ritualized therapy, religion restructured as magical ritual, and things along those lines are not implied at all by the word sorcery.

Sorcery still implies magic focused on results. Magic which explores various technologies and uses them appropriately. Magic with spirits and talismans. And, despite certain prejudices, usually magic with some sort of divine or quasi divine figures. Wisdom plus Results, this is probably why many of the best magicians these days describe much of their work as sorcery.

Growing up I had a hugely ranging interest in magic and have tried to study as many approaches and methods as I could. Being able to work with the Merkavah one night, Hoodoo another, the PGM the next, and then rounding it out with a grimoire, or a modern technique the next night is appealing because you have a wide and ranging tool box. I can work with the Black Man in the Forest when appropriate, toss a rosary by my pillow when needed, and conjure spirits of the second heaven as needed, all with no contradiction, and without assuming that I am adopting paradigms without their own reality. I can truly embrace them all as real.

Many modern sorcerers seem to have spent time becoming an expert in their chosen method, but have also spent significant time studying and exploring several others and can approach them separately or work them together. The prevalence of Afro-Caribbean systems amongst the community of grimoire magicians is sort of puzzling and first glance but makes a lot of sense and is pretty interesting as you think about it.

I think to some degree there is a generational element to this. It isn't the old eclecticism and it isn't appropriation. It's more like the tendency to multitask and interlink things. For people who grew up in a hypermedia inspired world there is not simply an idea that we can explore with depth multiple discreet things and understand them individually and also as part of a whole – that is simply how one approaches the world. In fact, it is puzzling to us seeing people who do not approach the world on the basis of interconnectivity.

So to close with a recollection that amuses me. I was once speaking with someone about a sorcery class series being offered at a local magic shop. I didn't anticipate the person offering it to have anything of value but it was possible he was simply sponsoring it, and so I was curious. The person with whom I was speaking chuckled and said something to the effect of “Well, no serious magicians would be calling what they do sorcery, so it probably won't be good.” I thought to myself that it was much more likely for a more advanced magician to call his work sorcery than your average person to do so, but still felt the class was probably not what I was looking for so it wasn't worth pointing out that these days, the kids aren't talking about MacGregor Mathers's sorcery.

Anyway, I leave you with this...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rings and Things

Each time I have read from the Greater Hekhalot the passages regarding Anaphiel are striking to me. He is not the highest angel in heaven, and he is given as distinct from the Prince of the Presence. He is one of several angels at the final gate leading into the Chamber of the Throne. There are several angels associated with this gate, as with the preceding six, but none are given the attention given to Anaphiel. Despite his recognition within the Hekhalot literature he has not continued to receive such distinction in later angelology and magic.

For those unfamiliar with him in Chapter 22 of the Greater Hekhalot it says:

“Anaphiel the Lord, a prince honored and beloved and fearful and terrifying and dear and splendid and strong and mighty and powerful and just and gallant, a prince whose name is mentioned on high before the throne of His glory three times each day from the day when the world was created and until now, for praise. Why? Because the ring of the seal of heaven and earth is given over to his hand. And whenever they see him all those on high kneel and fall down and prostrate themselves before him, a thing which is not done in the height [before any other prince]. If you say, 'They do not fall down before the Prince of the Presence‘ [This is true] for those who stand before the throne of His glory, who do not prostrate themselves before the Prince of the Presence, but before Anaphiel the Prince [even] so with the permission and according to the will of ‘ntrws rbyhg. Some say pwmyl smh brz‘, the Lord God of Israel.”

So he is given as the Prince who bears the ring with the seal of Heaven and Earth. He receives further distinctions elsewhere in the literature. In the Sefer Hekhalot he is the angel who brings Enoch into the Heavens on the journey which results in Enoch becoming the Metatron. As Enoch is not yet the Prince of the Presence, the Lesser YHVH, at this point Anaphiel is called Anaphiel YHVH indicating his likeness to the divine in his opportunity to function as the Prince of the Presence administering to Enoch.

Two elements of this story relate to how the first passage may become meaningful for us.

First Anaphiel functions as a Prince of the Presence and bears the fourfold name. Alternatively, when Metatron is not given as the Prince of the Presence the role most typically falls upon Michael, whose name is “He who is like God”. This similarity does not equate Anaphiel and Michael, as many angelic names are given in association with divine names throughout the course of the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature. The similar role does however put them within a group of angels of similar function in which they hold the highest positions in Heaven and appear before the most holy mortals as the manifest presence of the divine.

Additionally, Anaphiel performs this role in relation to Enoch rising to the Heavens. Enoch rising to the Heavens occurred prior to the Flood, as Enoch was brought to testify against mankind. According to the Sefer Hekhalot the Shekhinah was present on Earth as the divine presence, the wisdom which allowed for communication between pious men and the heavens. The Shekhinah in this context is not given the same anthropomorphizing as it is in later Kabbalistic works which treat her as God's bride, in this case the Shekhinah is treated much more like the Ruakh HaKodesh, as a divine energy, an expression of the divine presence manifest as the force of wisdom. When the angels expressed concern over the idolatry of mankind they convinced God to remove the Shekhinah from the Earth. It was at this same time that Enoch was removed. While Anaphiel is not named as one of the angels who removes the Shekhinah, it is a whole heavenly host who do so, Anaphiel is definitely named as an angel involved in the movements between Heaven and Earth at the time.
During this same literary period we find one of the earliest examples of a grimoire, or perhaps a proto-grimoire, and the earliest piece of literature in the tradition of Solomonic magic: The Testament of Solomon. The Testament of Solomon describes Solomon receiving a ring and divine grace by which he could command demons. This divine grace is of the same nature as the Shekhinah or the Ruakh HaKodesh. The ring is in part a symbol of its presence.

The Testament says:

“And it came about through my prayer that grace was given to me from the Lord Sabaoth by Michael his archangel. [He brought me] a little ring, having a seal consisting of an engraved stone, and said to me: "Take, O Solomon, king, son of David, the gift which the Lord God has sent thee, the highest Sabaoth. With it thou shalt lock up all demons of the earth, male and female; and with their help thou shalt build up Jerusalem. [But] thou [must] wear this seal of God. And this engraving of the seal of the ring sent thee is a Pentalpha." ”

So again, Michael, who functions as a Prince of the Presence delivers a ring. Anaphiel, who also bears the name of the Lord, and functions as a Prince of the Presence, also bears a ring bearing the heavenly seal. His ring is one by which all angels are brought to kneel. It would stand to reason that the ring bearing the seal of Heaven and Earth would be the ring given to Solomon. The nature of a ring given by a king is typically to bear the seal of the king and show the investiture of his authority in the one who has the ring, this is the seal described on the ring of Anaphiel. Solomon's ring commands the obedience of all spirits, just as would that of Anaphiel.

Anaphiel's description and function in the Hekhalot material give additional information which can inform our understanding of the magic ring.

The Greater Hekhalot says:

“And why was his name called Anaphiel? Because of the ramification anaph of the crowns [which were] placed upon his head, for he overcast and covered all of the chambers of the seventh heaven as did the Maker of Creation. Just as, concerning the Maker of Creation it is written [Hab. 3.3]: ―His glory covered the heavens,‖ so also [does the glory] Anaphiel the Prince as a servant who is called by his master‘s name.”

Anaphiel's name means “branch” referring to the branches of the crown. He is compared to the Creator whose glory covers the heavens. 2 Enoch in describing the Garden of Eden gives beautiful imagery which relates to this idea. It says:

“And in the midst of the trees that of life, in that place whereon the Lord rests, when he goes up into paradise; and this tree is of ineffable goodness and fragrance, and adorned more than every existing thing; and on all sides it is in form gold-looking and vermilion and fire-like and covers all, and it has produce from all fruits.” (2 Enoch 8:3)

Here it describes the Tree of Life amid the Garden of Eden as the resting place of God, in Sefer Hekhalot this is the place from which the Shekhinah is taken. In the description here the Tree is like a fiery all encompassing canopy which stretches over all of paradise, it is the adornment of the divine glory and divine harmony throughout the Garden.

The crown of branches described by Anaphiel's name is the same. Sefer Hekhalot in Chapter 18 is worded very similarly to the passage of the Greater Hekhalot. It further notes the other angels removing their crowns of glory when they lay prostrate before Anaphiel. Anaphiel is also sometimes noted as ministering to the Lord by placing and removing his crown of glory for him. His name and function is very much tied to the crown, him being the Branches in whom are the name of the Lord. He is the act of investiture of divine Glory.

This is consistent in his treatment. He brings Enoch to heaven that Enoch may be so invested in divine glory that he is consumed by fire and becomes the Metatron, the Lesser YHVH. He carries the ring of the seal of Heaven and Earth, which is the ring given to Solomon so that he might possess the Ruakh HaKodesh and its wisdom. His name reflects the crown of the divine and its overshadowing glory, which is the very nature of the Tree of Life and the presence of the Shekhinah on Earth. He is the only angel before whom the other angels prostrate themselves in praise.

One final quotation from the Greater Hekhalot will clarify the meaning of his nature:

“And why is he more lovely and beloved than all the [other] door-keepers of the palaces? Because he openeth the doors of the entrance of the seventh palace and closeth them before the throne of glory which is set high and standeth opposite the entrance of the seventh palace.”

He is the angel who gives access to the Chamber of the Throne and even brings the mystic into the Throne presenting him to the Merkavah and preventing the angels from destroying him. He facilitates what the Creator ultimately wants, for the mystic to achieve success and be brought into union with the Throne.

All of this explains the magic ring. We can get whatever ring we want, and wear it on whatever finger we want and dance around in circles and pretend to be magical, but doing all of that is really rather silly. The true magic ring is a sign of the presence of divine grace within the one who bears the ring. It is a sacrament, an outer sign of an inner state. The magician who possesses the true ring is in communion with the Prince of the Presence, the Angel in whom is the name of God, or, in our modern magical vernacular, the Holy Guardian Angel. The ring likewise bears the great name and sign of God, as does the soul of the magician who has the right to wield the ring. The process by which the magician receives the ring is the beginning of the process of moving through the Chambers to stand in the presence of the Throne, the process by which the magician gains Mastery and becomes like the Metatron, the Lesser YHVH.

When you have properly received the ring, and then in future works you put on the ring, consider this angel's nature. By putting on the ring you wear the fiery crown of branches that harmonizes creation within the divine glory. By putting on the ring you are united with the Shekhinah, the Ruakh HaKodesh, the divine presence on earth. You have the divine authority literally at your finger tips, because, you, like Enoch, are beloved of the Creator, and you're on the road to his Throne.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Be Post Modern

So yesterday I got to thinking about the idea of the new generation of magicians who have focused on exploring the grimoires, and ancient magical systems, actual tantra and Buddhism as opposed to Western appropriations, and actual Afro-Caribbean systems as a means of getting back to authentic vibrant living magic as opposed to magic as a psychological or social endeavor as being more authentically Post Modern than Chaos Magic.

I wrote down my thoughts and posted them to the Book of Faces and it occurred to me that this particular FB note was really basically just a blog post, and I should probably just start a we are.

Anyway, it could easily be interpreted that I am intending to insult the groups and movements which I suggest to fall into the "Modern" period of magic. I am not. I'm part of at least two organizations that fall within what I'm referring to as Modern. I think there is a lot of benefit to material from the Late Pre-Modern, Early Modern, and Modern phases of magic, but I don't think that it's an example of Post-Modernism, and I think the ideologies and approaches which I'm viewing as Post-Modern have a significant benefit.

Anyway, I don't really go much into what is Post Modern, but here are my thoughts on what's not.

Chaos Magic attempted to position itself within the realm of the Post-Modern as a way of suggesting that it is a sleek cutting edge reality bending meta-modality. It has elements associated with the post modern in its attempts at pastiche and satirical aesthetics. I would posit however that Chaos Magic is part of the subcultural development of Modernism within magic.

The transition to Modernism is characterized by a dialectic relationship between the traditional and the new which culturally represented in questions regarding the family, urbanization and industrialization, morality, the community as an organism, and other related topics. In magic we can see this development but several decades later than in cultural studies examining more general western culture. The advent of orders like the Golden Dawn, the OTO, the various Theosophical groups, and the other masonry and Rosicrucian based orders of the time were largely a continuation of the traditions stemming out of the Enlightenment era. Nothing about these organization represented a particular modernizing current in the magical community. Temple magic was still largely for the educated and leisure classes and it was largely a fraternal and social endeavor. Views or ideas about the workings of magic or its place in society were not experiencing dramatic upheaval, although there were changes in the terminology used, and publication increased largely because of changes in society at large. 

We begin to see a shift more like that of Modernism with the rebirth of these organizations after their stagnation. A more commercial approach to occult publication tied to city centers, and mass market exposure develops, and the rebirth of both the Golden Dawn and the OTO were connected to these shifts in publication. Magic expands to embrace a less class conscious approach as it seeks to pick up young people looking to explore their minds. The shift towards a discussion of psychology that was beginning to the end of the Late Pre-Modern incarnation of magic in the writings of Fortune and Regardie now dominates magical thinking and discourse regarding the exact interrelation of the mind and external phenomena becomes central with the embrace of the more modern psychological model holding sway.

The development of Chaos Magic and the IOT occurs within this phase. The appearance of cultural rebellion didn't rebel against the rest of the magical community of its time; it was generally coherent with society at that time. The metamodel approach, while novel, seemed focused on psychological underpinnings which were part of the general modern proposition of magic and were being largely accepted even outside of Chaos magic. The discourse that birthed Chaos Magic was the same discourse that shaped the modern incarnations of the turn of the century magical movement.

To put it more simply, Tradition poses a statement, Modernism recognizes that statement and realizes that it poses the question, “can tradition survive in a more technologically advanced world?” and it provides an answer that embraces technological advancement, (the survival of tradition is less relevant to this relationship, but Modernity asserts the subversion of surviving elements of tradition relative to the primacy of the Modern context).

Post-Modernism sees the answer provided by Modernism and determines that it was a failure. Modernity is rejected and the structure is broken. There is no dialectic discourse. Post Modernism embraces the schizophrenic pastiche of hyper-existence, or the inter-textuality of ideas and phenomena as expressed by the structure presented in hypermedia. The result of this rather than dialectic should be synthesis. The answer in a Post Modern world is that the summation of phenomena and information while apparently discordant clearly coexist, subverting the concept that the cacophony of existence is fundamentally discordant and implying that the summation while experienced as a constant stream of pieces creates an expression in which the juxtapositions inform one another. In such a model the traditional and the technological modalities exist as a shifting dynamism as opposed to a one sided solution to a dialectic problem.

Introductions are the typical place to start, right?

I've never been much for this whole blogging idea. I believe three separate people have at various times set up live journals to encourage me to blog and I always intentionally forgotten the passwords.

Lately, I have been re-igniting elements of my life. For personal reasons some of my magical and spiritual practice adjusted to focus on priestly work and efforts to do meaningful mundane work. I found though that over time ignoring elements of what you're called to do does not truly make them go away, it just creates decay and dissonance in your life, very similarly to ignoring the call to move forward in terms of initiation at the appropriate time in many systems. I had essentially determined my course, laid out my map, and walked away from the road to set myself adrift.

Recently I have begun to return to that work. As a result of stepping away from my Angel's instructions and guidance, the return has been full of a lot of stress overcoming the detritus that spiritual inertia creates within the mundane life. That stress has been pretty cool, despite being annoying as balls. Each thing I conquer reminds me that I can make the decision to move ahead and then do so.

In terms of the more obviously magical part of magic it has been pretty cool doing more ritual magic and feeling that I must do the things I've determined to do as opposed to feeling "ugh, magic, why should I be bothered to do that?" In my exploration of the doldrums I did a lot of reflexive and simple magic, mostly the kind I learned as a child, and a lot of enchantment to get small things I wanted, but by in large I shirked off most real magic. This kind of sucks though because in a period of life like that when something comes up where you convince yourself that more significant magic is worth the bother then you can't really do it if you've rejected your connection to real magic, or those parts of magic which connect you to your power and authority to do magic in a significant manner. Being back in touch with that part of myself, and that part of life and divinity is certainly nifty. Being able to pop out some ritual work and accomplish major life issue solutions with ease again is also pretty useful, and MAYBE...a little more exciting than using magic just to charm someone across the room.

So with my continued return to myself, I've also begun writing more, and thinking about teaching more. Both of those are things that reduced a lot as I reduced. A lot of people have complained to me about me not doing those things anymore without knowing that I was just not as magically delicious as I once had been. In fact my dear friend Rufus Opus was one of the only people to know the extent of my extended vacation from things magical. He is probably also part of the reason I'm actually blogging. Rufus has kind of been my indirect link to what's shaking in the world of magic. One thing I've noticed through that is that the world is now full of blogs. But not the self absorbed emo things I remember from circa 2005, now blogs seem to be a place where a lot of magicians write cool stuff and get it out to people who are interested in cool stuff.

They've replaced the message boards and yahoo groups that I lived on as a kid. So part of rejoining the land of the living seems to be blogging so I'm going to give it a shot.

Initially I was going to keep this brief and impersonal and just talk about stuff I do and why I'm worth reading, but, I come off like a prick most of the time as it is, so I figured instead of a boring stodgy "this is why I'm cool post" I can save being a prick for later, and for now be open and personable.

So, hopefully I'll stick with blogging, and hopefully you'll like what I have to say...and hopefully future posts will be less self absorbed and emo.