In general, to a lot of people, the Abramelin working looks big and daunting and inaccessible. In reality, Abraham of Worms talks about a whole lot of things in his long story of his journey and his exposition of his ideas, many of which magicians who have done the Abramelin don't carry into their work once they've done the ritual, even if they argue for kind of an Abramelin purism. But in terms of the ritual itself, at least in the German version, a lot of it is kind of left to your own devices.
Your angel should be guiding you on a lot of specifics of what to do and how to do it. This is true too on the question of chastity. But, a lot of people want some human advice as well, so let's look at the question and why I don't think it's a deal breaker.
In general there are benefits to ritual chastity even outside of the grimoires and the Abramelin. Making a choice to be chaste for a time presents a feeling of self sacrifice and a test of being able to focus and execute your will despite other drives and desires. This feeling can be useful in creating a sense of capability in a ritual setting. Fasting can create the same kind of mental benefit. Piggy backing off of that idea, many of us also tend to associate asceticism with spirituality, even if our own spiritual practices don't call for it, because it's just a common cultural association. So these purifications can help us feel more spiritual because of those associations.
They can do more than this though.
Ritual chastity and fasting change our biological states, and so they create alterations in our mood and, depending upon the extremity, our awareness. These changes can be positive or negative depending upon how they affect us as individuals.
Along with these biological changes, refusing a bodily impulse can create an added focus, desire, and increased drive, but not necessarily for the thing we are denying. We can eliminate indulgence in sex and in pleasurable foods and focus the need for satisfaction on our spiritual desires. The energy that we would focus on fulfilling our bodily desires becomes focused on our angel, the tension we experience from desiring becomes a tension surrounding the desire for our angel. We become one pointed by eliminating those things which could otherwise distract us from our one pointedness.
Or at least, maybe we do.
For some people it might create a preoccupation with fulfilling the denied desire. Or they might become fixated on their success at denying themselves to the point that the exercise becomes more about self-restriction and less about orientation towards the goal. Fulfilling healthy human needs can keep us on track when doing things that are difficult because we alleviate a natural biological distraction. Most people can probably think back to adolescence and how much easier homework was if you took a few minutes of “me time” when focusing became otherwise impossible.
So yeah, there is potential utility and potential detriment in both choices, depending largely upon you as an individual.
The big thing, regardless of whether you end up being chaste or not chaste, is to not let physical sexuality and other physical desires subvert your focus and commitment to the ritual. It goes a little beyond that though...and because it goes a little beyond that, yeah, some of you might need to be chaste.
The Abramelin doesn't tell you to give up things just because they might become distracting. A lot of the rules regarding abstinence are pretty clearly modeled on ritual purity rules that occurred in other forms of magic. There is a significant overlap in my view between the Abramelin and the early Jewish mystical traditions associated with the Merkavah.
In the Merkavah tradition we find descriptions of Rabbis being pulled from visions of heaven by having a rag which touched a menstruating woman being brought into contact with them, because even that indirect disruption of their ritual purity was enough to make them no longer pure enough for angelic contact. In the associated apocryphal scriptures angels refer to man as smelling like a “white drop” or semen, suggesting that the angelic hatred of mankind stems from the offensive nature of our physicality and how filthy they perceive it to be. Angels are presented as being pretty anti-human in a lot of cases and this perception seems to creep into some elements of medieval and renaissance magic.
But this isn't always the case. In Liber Juratus angels don't hate humans, humans can do magic with angels because they share in their love for the creator. In Hermetic and Neo-Platonic worldviews it is again the human ability to reconnect to the divine or to mirror the divine image that drives our work with spirits. Even in Jewish magic it can be argued that God is the God of magic, and as that is the case humans do magic based upon God desiring it to be so, and so angels aid in that magic because it is in harmony with the divine will that man experience magic. Taking any of these view points, the idea that spooge disgusts angels so much that they need us to be chaste for 6 to 18 months in order to talk with us makes a lot less sense. In fact, if that were the case, everyone who achieves knowledge and conversation would have to maintain that level of purity, and that certainly isn't the case.
So why would you need to, or not need to be chaste?
In my experience, angels don't hate humans the way they do in stories. Rather angels hate the stupid shit humans do that gets in the way of humans being awesome. They hate when we are lazy, they hate when greed or lust for things distracts us from what we are supposed to be doing.
It would stand to reason that the real problem is when we try to fill our God sized holes with sensory indulgences so we can ignore the beauty and harmony of the cosmos despite the fact that engaging the cosmos would fill the hole.
Angels want us to be awesome. When they're accused of being dicks it's because they force us to work on ourselves in ways that can be difficult. People like working with demons because when you want something they say "sure, easy" but if you sit and have a chat with an angel, even if they'll help you out, a lot of the time they want to lead you to improve yourself or work in some way that will be beneficial to you from a big picture perspective rather than just looking at the specific instance you want help with.
Angels want you to be awesome.
When they look at you they see their creator, and they love their creator. When you aren't embodying who you are and who you can be it obscures the reflection of God in you. When you think on your own life, if you care about someone and see potential in them and they aren't working towards that potential, you want to help them get there, you want to push them a little, give them advice, maybe even be hard on them if it will help them. You want to see their success and all the glorious sense of completion that that success conveys. Same thing here.
The Holy Guardian Angel operates in this way even more so than other angels. Its job is wholly to get you to that point of awesomeness.
So again, in my experience, the angel directs you to fix stuff that you need to fix. In my presentations on preparing for the Abramelin I talk about getting your life in order, something which apparently a lot of people don't address when talking about this ritual. If you don't have stuff together in your life you'll have a lot of trouble committing to the work you need to do once your angel begins guiding you more fully. The more distracted you are by random problems the less focused you are on the work at hand. So part of preparing is really exploring yourself and seeing what work you need to do on you, but also looking at your life and seeing what fires you should put out or things you should situate in a more stable and balanced fashion. As you're prepping for the ritual you may find the angel even helps you with this.
As you get closer to the ritual the angel will also make it clear what things you should be giving up or what things you might need to add to your life in order to help straighten yourself out for him to connect with you. Personally, I used chastity as I described it above, as a means of focus and reorienting my drive and desire, but I only used it in the penitent days at the beginning of the ritual, and when preparing for and during the final phases of it, the stuff I had to change had more to do with healthy living. I have one friend who did the ritual and their angel was very clear that they needed to be chaste. A reduce in interest in sex followed the ritual for this individual, and so I would guess the angel felt that was something particular to that individual's needs. Another friend had to reduce consumption of meat, but not fully eliminate it, and had to get rid of alcohol, and their angel took measures during the working when this person stepped outside of those instructions to reign them back in. Once the ritual was done this person recognized that while consuming meat and alcohol was again ok, there was probably a need for a change in behavior from what it was prior to the ritual. I know a handful of well known magicians who successfully used Liber Samekh or variations thereon in lieu of doing the retreat based on either the French or German manuals, I doubt that they were all chaste during it.
In the end, trust your angel. If sex is a problem for you, your angel might inspire you towards a period of chastity...but it will probably be good for you and help you not just with your working but with other elements of life. If sex isn't a problem your angel probably won't be pressed about it so long as it isn't disrupting the ritual, and you consider points in the ritual where either chastity or sexual activity might be beneficial from a magical perspective, you can go ahead and keep having sex. If your problem is junk food, or meat, or alcohol, or gambling, or shoe shopping, or whatever, your angel will let you know, and the need to be chaste regarding that problem will be pretty clear. But it's between you and your angel. So if your angel hasn't told you sex isn't ok, it's probably ok, but like all things, in moderation.
So, one thing that you can skip the moderation on, is this blog. We're going to be running a special series of posts starting this week. So like and follow us on Facebook, and please share with your friends, so everyone can enjoy the special series. And if you have questions about seeking your HGA feel free to leave a comment.