Over the weekend I was reading the Enchiridion of Pope Leo. I dig Catholicism enough that one of my friends, when he first came to the OTO, suspected me of being a secret Jesuit spy...and the people who had known me for years as an OTO member agreed that it was kind of a reasonable assumption. I still found the Enchiridion to be frustrating and off putting. Only a few portions were obviously useful, some others felt like they could be...if...they weren't so bogged down in Catholic guilt. Some parts drew me in, made me think of ways they could be used.
This got me thinking, about magical confessions, and how to make them better.
A great deal of ritual magic is based on worldviews rooted in religions which value ritual purity. Our modern cultures don't value that as much, in fact, our contemporary sensibility is often critical of religion. Magicians engaged in more traditional forms of magic embrace a world in which spirits are real and magic has a real impact on the world around us,. Still, traditional magicians often embrace a more free view of the world than that which embraces strict elements of ritual purity. Sometimes we criticize it as a repressive Christian view, but we find similar purity laws in most traditional religions, and we find purifications in the ancient magical texts with limited Christian influence.
I find a lot of traditional religious magic pretty inspiring. I also find that having a complete worldview, top to bottom, and making your magic an application thereof is necessary to having a truly powerful magical system, both in terms of transforming the world and developing yourself. I do not however find it useful to shit on myself for things that I don't think are a sin. So, that part of some of the magical systems I like doesn't fit my worldview. I've even had a spirit challenge me on that point before.
Still, I think some sort of moment of aligning oneself through confession can be really powerful.
In another post (Better than Not Sinning) I recommending an alternative method. A different one has occurred to me though. Negative confession is workable, and is definitely better than groveling about being a sinner. Why not positive assertion?
Modern systems like Thelema, and like the Traditionalist School look at the power in the positive view of people. In Thelema the active strength involved in doing one's Will and forcing forward as a star against the difficulties and distractions of the world is a source of power. This idea isn't really explored a lot by Thelemites, but it's pretty important in terms of understanding power and magic in a Thelemic worldview. In the traditionalist school tapping into the Primordial Tradition and the nature of the Hero are based upon the power of ones character. Strengthening virtue strengthens an individual not just personally but also by reputation and place in the community. This terrestrial element of power echoes in the spiritual. Virtue carries with it an occult force and authority which fuels and inspires the magician's ability to impact the world.
In the ancient world we see similar views. Virtue comes from virtus or manliness and implies force. The force implied is conjunct with the nature of certain virtues in the Greek and Roman world, those which imply the power and ability to impact the world. In a mundane sense these are the authority which one asserts in the family and in the public or political sphere. In a spiritual sphere these virtues are the strength of the animus or soul and reflect the power an individual is able to exert in a greater sense.
NeoPlatonism expands this in that virtue not only elevates the capabilities of the NeoPlatonist philosophically and intellectually, but also drives their ability to act in the public sphere and serve the common good. As their virtues elevate them to higher levels of virtue and increase their ability to create good for the community they increase their connection to higher levels of being and draw closer to the One and the Good. This becomes the foundation for theurgical practice and and compliments the development of the theurgist.
So we have a good basis for the idea of strength and spiritual fortitude being linked to character and action in both modern and traditional currents of magical work. Accomplishment also can be a useful element in establishing the power of the magician when dealing with spirits.
In the Merkavah the magician demonstrates his authority by announcing that he's part of the club. He shows the angels that he knows the signs, their names, the songs of the heavens. He is basically demonstrating to them that he knows what he needs to know, and that he's achieved the heights, quite literally, that give him the right to command him.
The Mithras Liturgy in the PGM essentially works on the same principle. The magician engages in practices to elevate himself and expose himself to spirits and then uses incantations, sounds, and signs which show them that he belongs there, is one of them, and should not be troubled or should be served.
The Sword of Moses, and later grimoiric works align the magician to the character of heroic biblical or magical figures in order to demonstrate that they have the character or personal histories of those figures and therefore deserve the same visitation of divine grace and therefore the same right to command spirits.
Witchcraft traditions grant power by birth and by ritual, talismans gained through completing certain rituals are further marks of a witch's power and ability to command spirits and powers of nature. Sorcery lineages grant power by passing it from one sorcerer to another through initiation, admission to a house, and investiture of spirits. This comes with signs, talismans, tools, and special ritual elements that show that the sorcerer is part of the tradition and has gained those powers and that authority over the spirits.
Countless other magical systems and traditions are based on the authority that a magician has by right of accomplishment or admission, or the gathering of tools and powers. A key part of magic is the magician showing that he has those rights and authorities. A way to do this is perhaps by taking a moment, aligning yourself to your sources of power and authority, and making them known to the spirits and occult forces with which you are about to work.
The first time I used this method was before a katabasis in which I needed to seek out Hades to ask his permission to engage in certain activities in the underworld. When asking the gods with whom I had more direct working relationships how to proceed I was inspired with a particular series of ritual actions, which by in large matched up to historical methods. An added piece though was beginning with the announcement of various initiations and ritual acts I had undergone which showed that I had a right to enter and ask for audience. The ritual worked very well and the ensuing series of necromantic rituals were successful. Still, until now, it was not a method which occurred to me routinely. It would cross my mind occasionally, but usually I'd settle on some purification or a negative confession. I think there are definitely times where that's still the way to go.
That said, there's also time to lay the cards on the table and and point out that you can do what you're doing because you've got the goods. So next time you're inclined to use some grimoiric magic, and the author wants you to crap on yourself for being human, instead, take a pause, and make an announcement extolling your virtue so as to remind the powers that be, that you have a seat at the table.