Greetings Occult Navigators!
Ok, so there seems to be a bit of a stir going on over a recent post made on the Strategic Sorcery Blog, where Jason Miller lists five trends in modern occultism that he thinks need to be overcome or otherwise laid to rest. Rufus Opus had a few thoughts about it on the Head For the Red Blog. And even Morgan Eckstein links to it and adds a sixth trend that he wants to see die a painful death.
Because this list of five “gravity wells” happens to touch on a couple of subjects near and dear to me, I felt I should weigh in with my own thoughts. So, let’s begin by taking a look at the five issues:
1) The Holy Guardian Angel as a magickal prerequisite.
2) The Goetia as the be-all and end-all of goetia.
3) Wicca bashing.
4) Quantum Physics as “proof” of magick.
5) System Hubris – or “my system can beat up your system.”
I’ll just run down this list one by one:
1) The HGA: Jason’s problem here is not with the concept of the HGA. It is with a trend he is seeing that seems to make gaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel some kind of requirement for the practice of magick.
Frater RO takes it in a different direction. He doesn’t see a trend that requires one to make contact with the HGA so much as a trend toward over-blowing the entire concept of the HGA itself.
To be honest, I have to agree with RO on this one. I don’t really believe that anyone out there who uses magick without the HGA feels that they are getting no results because of it. What I do see is people treating the Abramelin Operation as some kind of ultimate initiation into Adepthood – something that can only be attempted by the most advanced and powerful mages, and which will result (if you survive) in the elevation of the individual to a godlike and ascended status.
That is complete bullshit, folks. If you read the Book of Abramelin itself, you will see that it was written by Abraham the Jew for his son Lamech as an introduction to the practice of magick! That’s right, it is intended for beginners. And, Abraham states very clearly in the text that achieving it will not make you an adept. It is only by working diligently with the HGA over a long period of time that one will eventually achieve adpethood in the practice.
Yet, for all of that, I was recently attacked on my own Solomonic forum at Yahoo because I stated that I commune with my Holy Guardian Angel (nearly) every Sunday morning. My telling the young lass all of the above didn’t change her tune. My quoting the Book of Abramelin where Abraham gives the instructions for communing with your Angel every Sabbath didn’t even change her opinion. She, sadly, was among the many who view Abramelin as a one-off summoning ceremony. She angrily insisted that contacting the HGA takes six months (or a year and a half) and thus there was no way I could be doing it every Sunday morning. Besides, if I had contact with my HGA as I claim, then certainly I wouldn’t be tooling around down here with the unascended plebes.
So, yeah, Frater RO is right when he sees the concept of the HGA being overblown. The HGA is not your Higher Self. Contacting it does not mean you have attained the Ultimate Magickal Goal and can therefore leave the Earth-plain behind in your own chariot of fire. And, I should add, merely making contact with the HGA is not the same as gaining “knowledge” of that Angel.
As for Jason’s gripe against viewing the HGA as a magickal prerequisite – I have to admit I am a bit on the fence. First – hell no, it is not a prerequisite for magick in the larger picture. However, I do feel that Western magick has long ignored the concept of gaining a Head Spirit to be your primary go-to entity for your magickal practice. (Much as I think we have ignored ancestor work, magickal offerings and other very ancient aspects of magickal practice for too long.) I believe we all need to consider these concepts very carefully, and I fully support the trends that are developing to bring them back into our “occulture.” Where the Santerians have their Saints/Orishas, and various grimoires have their Gatekeeper spirits and even the PMG have their Agathodaemon, I feel that Abramelin provides us with a solid method of establishing one’s Head Spirit rooted firmly in our Western heritage.
But, Jason is right when he says that you shouldn’t think gaining “K&C of the HGA” is the one and only way you’ll ever find success in your magick. It is ONE way, but not the only way. Even Abraham said there were only five or six people in the world who have attained the goal. I would say there are a few more today – but, still, consider that for every ten people you meet who say they’ve done it, one – maybe two – have actually done so.
2) The Goetia: Jason is right, the Goetia (the book) is fairly overblown today. But, I don’t think I have such a problem with that as Jason does. He’s sick of hearing about it, and I can dig that. But it’s a popular book.
Meanwhile, I have to point out that “the Goetia” is not the be-all and end-all of the practice called “goetia.” Goetia is a vast subject matter. It is not about the summoning of a list of 72 demons from hell. It is, in fact, a broad system of magick by which one works with chthonic entities. (That means Underworld entities – some infernal, some not, some lesser spirits and not a few of them Gods.) If you work with Demeter and Persephone, or with Angels such as Cassiel, or with Osiris, or use the Orphic Hymns or the Psalmic “lamentations” – you’re working goetia. Likewise, if you work with Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub and Belial – you are also working goeita even if you’re not using the book called The Goetia.
If any of the above shocks you in the least, then you need to run out and find yourself a copy of Jake Kent’s Geosophia and his The True Grimoire. You will come away with a better understanding of the subject of goetia, and with a better understanding of the magick you are already using. ‘Nuff said.
3) Wicca Bashing: Ok so Wicca has had its problems. During the latter half of the 20th Century it was a bit co-opted by the Self-Help movement. I once had a seeker (back in the 90s) write to me and say that the Wiccan ceremonies he had attended felt more like a support group meeting than an actual magickal ritual. And, I fear I had to agree with him.
Plus, Wicca was also co-opted by the mass media. From Llewellyn’s endless publication of fluff material, to Buffy and Charmed, to movies like Practical Magic (Sandra Bullock – yummy!) and The Craft, Wicca did seem to have had its soul sucked out by modern commercialism.
However, I can’t entirely knock the fact that Wicca went mainstream. When I first started on my path, I was a Wiccan. And even then (early 90s) it was still dangerous to be a witch. You could lose your job, your home and even your children. You could be physically attacked. But after the movement’s heyday in the last decade of the 20th Century – that is after Buffy, after The Craft, after Harry Potter – being a witch finally became “ok.” Maybe you were weird, but you were no longer “a dangerous cultist who doubtlessly abused children and small animals.” This applied not only to Wiccans, but to witches of various types. That was a Good Thing.
But we were still left with the overall impression that Wicca was for fluffy-bunnies, self-help New Agers and overweight teenage girls looking to shock their parents. (I have no clue why “overweight” got tossed in there – have you seen some of the skinny girls running around half-naked at Pagan festivals?? But I digress…)
For my part, I have always felt that this was an unfair characterization of Wicca. Just take the time to read through the Farrars’ Witches Bible, and you will find a deep and fully-formed Tradition of spirituality. Read through Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler and you will discover that Wicca and Neopagansim – as a movement – has a fascinating and diverse history. And, personally, I think you should also read Future Shock and The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler while you’re at it. He doesn’t mention Wicca or Neopaganism, but he describes fundamental changes taking place in our culture for which Neopagansim is quite well suited. (Look for the term “demassification” and think about how it applies to religion, and how Neopaganism fits the bill as a demassified religion.)
For my part, I once wrote an essay called The Neogan Altar – Shamanic Paradigm – wherein I presented the standard Neopagan usage of the Altar from the standpoint of ancient shamanism. My goal was to point out that Wicca, in many ways, fit the bill as a form of modern shamanism – having arisen quite naturally in our modern Western culture. I had intended to follow this essay with other “Shamanic Paradigm” essays illustrating further aspects of Wicca and Neopaganism in this light. Alas, my writing career took me in other directions – but perhaps I will someday return to the subject and complete the series.
All in all, I am quite proud to have begun my magickal career as a Wiccan – no matter how far I have since delved into the grimoires and the Golden Dawn. So, yeah, I agree the Wiccan bashing has run its course and – in many ways – is entirely based on ignorance. (See #5 in this list.)
4) Quantum Physics: I agree with Jason and Frater RO. For a very long time people have been conflating magick with the theories of Quantum Physics. Not only are they not saying the same things at all, but those who make the connection most often do not understand the first thing about QP. It is simply that when QP is dumbed down for presentation to us non-physicists, it can sound an awful lot like magick. I refer you to the famous Arthur C. Clark quote about advanced science often appearing like magick…
Yet, I will also play a bit of devil’s advocate here. While I do not feel QP and magick are one and the same, nor do I feel that QP helps explain or prove anything about magick, I still find the subject matter a worthwhile one for practitioners of magick. Much in the same way I feel that psychology and NLP are useful studies for magiciains. It is not that they are the same thing at all, but I feel that the modern scientific studies can inform our views of magick. (Plus, I tend to see science as a kind of magick or mysticism in its own right.)
Understanding that everything in the universe is formed from different vibrations of energy is useful when you’re contemplating magick. Understanding that there are various dimensions – only one of which we can easily perceive with our five senses – is useful, too. Understanding Chaos Theory (systems, feedback and iteration) is very very useful in the study of magick. Even String Theory, Schrodinger’s Cat and the postulation of parallel universes – all of these examples and many more are good things to think about when you’re studying magick.
It remains true, though, that you should consider them as separate studies than the art and science of magick. They are not “the same thing” at all.
5) System Hubris: I don’t have too much to say on this one. It seems to be something humans have always done, and will always do. In the classical era, the city-dwelling Theurgists swore their magick was “better” than what the Goen practiced in the rural areas. The Christians, Jews and Muslims swore (and still swear) their religions are “better” than the Pagan ones. Ceremonial magicians swear their systems are “better” than Wicca and Neopaganism. Solomonic magicians swear their chosen grimories are “better” than the grimoires used by other Solomonic magicians. The list could just go on and on and on ad nauseum.
And it is all part of the same chain of childish bullshit. The phrase “There is nothing new under the Sun” was written a few thousand years ago – and it is as true today as it was back then. Your system isn’t any better than all the rest – it just happens to be better for YOU. What you found works best for you is what we refer to as a Calling.
If the African Orishas called you, then Santeria is going to work better for you than anything else. If the Angels and spirits of the grimoires called you, then Solomonic magick is going to kick ass over all the rest. If the Angels of the Tree of Life called you, then the Qabalah is your thing. If the Lord and Lady called you, then I guess you’re stuck with Wicca. Every magician, every witch, every shaman, every man or woman of God/Gods/Goddess/etc. of any brand whatsoever was called to their post by their own spiritual guides and guardians.
This is simply something over which you do not have free will. You’re either called, or you’re not. If you’re not called to a path, then that path isn’t going to lead you anywhere. If you are called to a path, then you’re either going to go that way (even if it’s kicking and screaming) or you might as well lay down your wand and give up your quest.
Sure, you can be called by more than one system. I was called to Wicca. (One of my earliest spiritual experiences was of the Goddess walking beside me in a dream, whispering in my ear, “Blessed are thy feet that have brought thee in the way. Blessed are thy knees that shall kneel at the sacred altar. Blessed…” well you get the idea.) Then I was called to the Qabalah and Golden Dawn work. Then the Grimoires called out to me. Even the Gods of Santeria and Voodoo called out to me – not to come join them, but that they had something they wanted to teach me. But, regardless of when or how I was called, I was called to each and every path I’ve walked. And so have you been.