Beginning Conjuration and Spirit Magic pt 5: Intermediary and Crossroads Spirits
There could be a few reasons why. One possible question we could ask to find one solution is “who are you that they feel they should answer?” Spirits aren't all just functional manifestations that run automatically like computer programs when the right buttons are pushed. They aren't anthropomorphized externalizations of internal mental and emotional concepts. They are spirits. They don't have the same sort of conscious will as humans, but they are still aware individual beings. Now there are some people that take the view that when Iamblichus describes spirits who aren't very bright and are easily tricked by magicians, that these spirits are the demons of the grimoires, and so a magician dressing like a child playing at being King Solomon is enough to trick them into thinking you're Solomon. Others might take the view that angels obey magicians because God says so, and demons do because man is above them in the hierarchy. There are lots of philosophical and cosmological explanations, and some of them can work well, but it remains that the interactions don't always run perfectly, so spirits clearly have some wiggle room, even if they don't have full freedom in the matter.
So, the spirit isn't answering so you ramp up your use of names of God. But do the names belong to you? Do you have the power to use them. Think of more modern vampire movies...the clumsy would be hero tries to stop the vampire with a cross or religious relic, and the vampire laughs it off because the hero, being your average modern person, has no real faith in the spiritual power behind the symbol. The spirits obey the names but you have to be in a position to actually use them. A large part of grimoiric magic comes from the sacramental rite of exorcism, in which the exorcist by virtue of names and signs calls upon divine power to command spirits. The exorcist however had to be spiritually fit and in a state of sacramental grace to make use of the names with any efficacy. So the exorcist had to attend confession, make prayers to prepare themselves, and preferably attend Mass prior to the exorcism. Liber Juratus has this same admonition to attend Mass. Most grimoires require a period of spiritual purification, the use of psalms to prepare and consecrate oneself, and various prayers found in the grimoires to that bring about that effect as well. So you need to be spiritually fit and able to connect to the power of the names. This doesn't necessarily mean being a good Christian. In the case of some of the PGM rituals it might mean being initiated into a mystery tradition, or having done a magical ritual to give you access to the powers behind the names. In the grimoires it might just mean having a certain spiritual steadiness and balance while accessing some authentic understanding of a spiritual power behind the divine names or the thwarting angels. As you explore these systems you can find what this readiness means to you, and the more in touch with it you become the better your results will be.
There is another element which might help in addition to this readiness, and we find it referenced in the PGM, as well as hinted at, or maybe expressly present, in some of the grimoires. The idea of an intermediary spirit, or a spirit who helps connect you with other spirits. Now, calling it an intermediary spirit kind of pigeonholes this function, when in reality several systems have several ways of filling this helping and idea, and they're not all precisely by using go-betweens. To illustrate the essential idea though. If you didn't like something Microsoft was doing, and you walked into a board meeting and told them to design some new software that fit your needs better, they would be confused as to who you were and why you were there, and they probably wouldn't listen. If you were friends with Ted Turner, and Ted called up Bill Gates, and Bill called the board and said “Hey, Johnny Magician is a cool guy, he needs this software, can you help him he'll call you tomorrow about it” then they'll be expecting you and know you're someone they should listen to.
The PGM presents this idea in various rituals having to do with acquiring a daimon or a spiritual assistant. In the NeoPlatonic worldview this was a spirit who wasn't quite a human spirit and wasn't quite a divine spirit, but it could go between human theurgists and the gods and carry prayers and offerings up and blessings an assistance down. In a more magical context it could go about and accomplish things for the magician and it could help the magician in calling upon gods and spirits in other spells to aid in his work.
In The Testament of Solomon St. Michael the Archangel comes to Solomon and delivers a ring which imparts divine grace and wisdom upon Solomon allowing him to command spirits. The demons are commanded by angels, but the ring and the spiritual presence which accompany the ring give Solomon the authority over the demons and probably also make the angels obedient to him, even though we don't ever see him needing to make use of the angels. In Solomonic grimoires this same presence, essentially the Holy Spirit, is sometimes called upon by magicians to grant the power and authority to command the spirits. In such an example we could look at either the angel, or the Holy Spirit as functioning somewhat as an intermediary spirit, however we could also look at the presence of the Holy Spirit as simply initiatory in nature if it were taken as a permanent presence.
The Abramelin presents this idea with the Holy Guardian Angel. The magician goes on vacation, and brings back an angel! Or...more honestly, the magician cloisters himself in an ever increasing devotional ceremony of prayers, culminating in an intense period of prayer and meditation at the end of which his Holy Guardian Angel appears. The angel teaches him magic and as part of teaching him magic aids him in conjuring the Demon Kings, and then all demons subordinate to them, and subordinate to their subordinates, and so on, and eventually including familiar spirits granted to him. He is then by the agency of his angel able to call upon these demons without the trappings of a ritual magician and make them do things they have sworn to do. He can start with his familiars and if they can't do something they will refer him to the proper demon to do it. So he has both the angel and his series of familiars to assist him in navigating the spirit world. The Golden Dawn and Crowley kind of took this idea and worked it into a variant of the Pentacostal initiation of the Holy Spirit we referenced above, but even in their approach the Holy Guardian Angel teaches you magic and helps you command spirits. In fact the Stele of Jeu from the PGM, which was an exorcism of spirits, was reworked by the Golden Dawn, and moreso by Crowley, to make it into an invocation of this angelic presence. One of the key adaptations is replacing the exorcism language with language directed at making spirits and magic subservient to the magician.
Liber Juratus takes an approach that is similar to the Abramelin, but taken in a direction again more like this baptism of the Holy Spirit kind of view. The magician engages in a spiritual retreat to achieve the beatific vision, or the vision of the face of God. By achieving this the magician then gains the authority to command the spirits and do the magic described in the grimoire. In this case it is not so much an example of use of an intermediary spirit but rather creating that spiritual rightness by which the power of divinity can be accessed. Juratus also seems to take an approach that the angels and the magician share in a love for the divine and this is why the angels are willing to work with the magician. Achieving the beatific vision is a reflection of this state of grace, or perhaps a cause of it.
Maybe we don't groove on all this Catholic type angel helper stuff. Maybe we want something more down to earth? In sorcery traditions part of the initiation is accessing a connection to the spiritual powers of the ancestors of the house into which you are initiated. In witchcraft you are born into the bloodline of your ancestors and therefore you are born with a connection to their spiritual presence. These spirits therefore are able to serve as your intermediaries. They help make introductions for you in the spirit world. They can help exert spiritual force when needed to help keep a spirit on board with doing whatever they agreed to do. They can help protect you from spirits who are taking advantage of the opportunity to work in the world that you are giving them in ways which might have otherwise been disadvantageous for you. So your dead, again, those guys you're feeding at your devotional altar, are a whole crew of spirits ready to vouch for you in the spirit world, and who other spirits know have your back if things go sideways.
Witches also often keep fairy or other kinds of spirit familiars who help teach them magic and accomplish magic for them. These spirits can also work as intermediaries to help call other spirits, and help leverage agreements with them. On the point of witches and sorcerers, we also have forest spirits and crossroads spirits who give power and grant access to familiars and to spirits. In European witchcraft this spirit is the Witches' Devil, who contrary to popular modern opinion, is not precisely Lucifer and has nothing to do with fallen angels. Rather this black spirit makes an agreement with the witch and teaches the witch magic. He can be met in the forest under a tree, at the cross roads, or at night at the steps of a church. He is sometimes described, and depicted in artwork, as cavorting with the witches and participating in magical rituals with them. Frisvold describes a similar spirit in the forests of Trinidad in his book Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary. The forest power of obiya is granted by these spirits who inhabit the forest, or the wild natural places, therefore a place with a power similar to that liminal power of graveyards and crossroads in that it is a place not fully held by society and it is a place containing some uncertainty. The spirits he describes remind me very much of the Witches' Devil.
Like the devils of witchcraft and Obeah, Vodou has Papa Legba. Legba is a crossroads spirit who either grants permission of denies permission of the person approaching him to speak with the Loa and other spirits. In Santeria Elegua also connects to the crossroads and grants access to spirits. Now I am not suggesting that you begin all your grimoire conjurations with an offering to Legba and Elegua, or by making a call to the Witches' Devil, but these traditions which present a more living view of conjure work all involve some intermediary to work with spirits. Even looking back to Europe we have Hecate, and Mercury at the crossroads and able to grant access to magic and spirits, and to move between this world and the underworld.
So maybe the grimoire work needs to work with gatekeeper spirits too. Fortunately the grimoire tradition has a few of these. Oriens, Egyn, Paymon, and Amaymon, are the Kings of the Four Directions and they grant access to this world by the spirits who reside within each of their directional kingdoms. They sometimes appear in lists of demons, but are also often listed elsewhere. They are terrestrial rather than infernal, and have infernal, aerial, and celestial spirits to whom they accord. They clearly stand in conjunction with this world, at the spokes of the cross roads, each one ruling the vertical crossroads between spiritual worlds. They are a little different than the basic idea of an intermediary spirit in that there are four of them, and they don't feature in the grimoires as being called upon before calling other spirits. Some magicians think you shouldn't ever conjure them directly, some think you can start at the bottom of a hierarchy and work up to them, some think you should start with them and work down. Maybe working with your intermediary spirit...you're spiritual assistant, your Holy Guardian Angel, you might under the presidency of the angel connected to the King and make yourself known to the king, maybe share some offering, and create an awareness of who you are so that when you call spirits from the direction he rules you can reference the king if need be in calling the spirit. In addition to name dropping the king also you have the gatekeeper willing to open the gate so your spirit can be drawn to manifestation.
Start slow though. Keep feeding your ancestors. Talk with them about what you're going to be working on. Get them to sign on with helping you out with your conjure work. Just lighting some candles and leaving some candy and whiskey on an altar doesn't mean they're going to jump in and help with specific things you want. Talk with them about your life, and talk specifically about the work you plan to do and the help you want from them. When your ancestors are on board, pick what kind of intermediary you want. Do you want the spiritual assistant from the PGM? Do you want to work with the agathodaimon? Do you want to do devotional work to the Holy Sophia and draw on the Holy Spirit, or turn to the cults of the Saints and honor a saint related to spirits and magic? Saints like Cyprian, or Nicholas, or Benedict, or perhaps Joan of Arc, even St. Peter as the Gatekeeper could be an option. Maybe you want something more naturalistic and you do want to find a way to incorporate the witches devil or a crossroads spirit into your work. Maybe look at religions local to your environment and find what spirit locally served that purpose and make propitiation to him or her before your rituals. Or maybe you want to go all in with the grimoire approach as seen in the Post-Golden Dawn world and do the Abramelin working, get in contact with your Holy Guardian Angel, and work with him or her as part of your conjure work. Once you have your friend at the center of the crossroads, then maybe incorporate the kings, and see if your calls get answered more clearly.
You have options. Quite literally a world of options since there are so many variants of this idea from so many places. Poke around, find yours, fit it to your work.