I recently gave an interview for the Podcast Healing From Within with Tony Valen, and it is now available for your listening pleasure. :)
I had a wonderful time discussing the Golden Dawn, Hermeticism, Spiritual Alchemy and much more. The guys who run this show are wonderful and I had a blast talking with them. They had never heard of the Golden Dawn before, so this was my chance to explain what the GD is all about, what we do, where we came from, etc.
I also talk a little about the grimoires toward the end, and even talk some about Ochani Lele and his influence on me. :) Starts at about 29:00.
You can listen to it now:
Healing From Within – Aaron Leitch Interview
UPDATE: I just learned that this episode had 682 total listeners – which is a record for the Healing From Within show. Awesome! :)
To All in the Western Mystery Tradition,
A shinning star of the modern occult movement has faded away. :( Donald Michael Kraig not only changed my life with his book Modern Magick, he changed the face of the entire occult community. Whether you are a Pagan, a Ceremonialist or both, whether or not you’ve read his work, you or someone you know has been affected by his work. Most occult authors – any authors, really – only dream of having that kind of impact!
And, you know what? The man accomplished his life’s work without ever resorting to politics or hostility. No matter who you are or what tradition you follow, you knew Don Kraig had your back. That’s a significant achievement for anyone in any field!
Donald Michael Kraig
August 17, 1951 – March 17, 2014
We Love You, Don!
My occult career didn’t truly begin until a friend handed me a copy of ‘Modern Magick’, and I decided to follow Don’s course. A couple of decades later, it all came full circle when Don and I both hosted workshops at the same festival. (It was Green Song Grove, right here in Florida, in fact.) I got to attend his workshop, and he attended mine. :) :) :)
Godspeed, Frater! You have left a legacy and achieved immortality. Great Work!
If you are one of #DonsKids, use the hashtag! :) And, please, continue to donate to the fund raiser. Let’s make sure Holly is taken care of through this difficult time!
I’ll be making two lecture appearances this fall – and the first will be this Saturday at GreenSong Grove’s Samhain Festival. Make sure to click the link to register! Or you can write to them at Council@greensonggrove.org. Or give them a call at (727) 804-9370.
This year, I’ll be giving two lectures:
1) Secrets of the Girmoires:
Explore the history of the “Old Magick”, from anceint shamanic traditions, to the medieval Solomonic grimoires and into the modern occult revival. The Old Magick – a line separate from the Golden Dawn, Thelema and much of the modern Neopagan movement – has been a lost art in the West for hundreds of years. But now it’s coming back, and this lecture will explore how it got from its primordial origins to those of us following the same path today.
We will cover topics associated with famous grimoires such as the Key of Solomon the King, the Goetia, the Heptameron and the Book of Abramelin. We will disucss related systems of folk magick such as Witchcraft, Hexcraft and Hoodoo – as well as various African Traditional Religions. We will talk about the people and places that gave rise to the Solomonic grimoires, and we will talk about how the Old Magick is enjoying a massive resurgance in today’s occult communities.
Bring your thoughts, as this will be an open discussion!
2) The Old Magick in Today’s World (or ‘How to Make Your Magick Really Kick!’):
The term “Old Magick” is a blanket term to describe ancient and indigenous forms of occultism and folk magick around the world. Many cultures, such as those in the East, the Mid-East, Africa and South America preserved their old folk traditions even after Christiainity moved in. But here in the West, we lost touch with the Old Magick sometime around the Age of Enlightenment.
But the Old Magick isn’t gone from the West! It has survived in writings on tablets and parchment and early books. It has continued in New World folk practices like Hexcraft and Hoodoo. And it is currently enjoying a revival in today’s movements of Solomonic practice, conjuring, sorcery, etc.
Most students of magick are well versed in the material descended from the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner. But it has become more important than ever for us to look beyond these uniquely modern forms of occultism and revisit what the ancients knew. This class will talk about some aspects of the Old Magick that are sorely lacking in most modern traditions, and how we can incorporate the ancient secrets into what we are doing today. Take this class to heart, and watch your magickal results increase significantly!
At the moment I am unsure what times these lectures will be held, but they will both be given this Saturday, October 12. Come on out and enjoy a day of Samhain fun, and we can have a chat! :)
Stay tuned for the announcement of my next appearance (at Florida Pagan Gathering), in just a couple of weeks!
Greetings, Faithful Readers!
Since I got caught up in the blogosphere, I’m afraid I’ve been sorely neglecting my old Writings webpage. (How old is it, you ask? Check the link below and you’ll see the URL is called “indexaol.html” – because it was originally my old AOL homepage! LOL Now it’s on Tripod, where it has been for what seems like eons…) That is where you can read most of my published essays and book reviews, listen to/read my interviews, find links to my books, etc.
Today, I finally took the time to do a massive update to the page – bringing the list of published material pretty much up to date. I think I included everything that has been lacking – but if you know of anything I’ve missed, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
Greetings, history buffs!
Nick Farrell just posted a blog about a rare painting of Edward Kelley that recently sold at auction in the UK (pictured above). I had mentioned this on Facebook back when it was first sold, but didn’t bother to blog about it. The reason I’m doing so now is because of the fascinating discussion that Nick’s post has generated about Kelley’s actual appearance (and to some extent his personality).
As Nick points out, the above painting was certainly made long after Kelley’s time, and was at least partially based on the woodcut of Kelley created for Meric Casaubon’s True and Faithful Relation… (see below). That, too, was made decades after Kelley’s death and based entirely on how the artist thought Kelley might have appeared. (Specifically fitting his – likely erroneous - reputation as a rogue and con-man.) Yet there are some differences between that woodcut and the above painting that suggest there might have been some “local knowledge” at work in the creation of the later image. Note that the painting shows him older, dignified and even on the heavy side – while the below engraving shows him gaunt, with a shorter scraggly beard and shifty eyes.
Probably not what Kelley looked like
What really inspired me about this subject was a reply on Nick’s post by Vincent Bridges, where he quotes from his own work An Alchemical Enigma: A Short History of the Rise and Fall of Sir Edward Kelley. It’s just three short paragraphs, but they contain more insight into what Edward Kelley really looked like – and something about his personality as well – than I have ever read anywhere before. In fact, it is so fascinating I’m going to reproduce the comment here. Enjoy!
For example, we have no clear idea what he even looked like; the only portrait was done from “reputation” a good 60 years after his death by the Dutch engraver Franz Cleyn. It shows a gaunt, long-faced, bearded man, wearing a fur-trimmed cloak and a four-cornered hat like a cleric’s biretta. However, this image is at odds with the few details we do have from contemporary sources. An English visitor in the fall of 1593 commented that he was “fat and merry” and another noted that he was a “weighty” man. He walked with a stick, notoriously mentioned by Dr. Dee in his account of Kelley’s altercation with one of Laski’s guards on the morning of his first visit with the Emperor. In the angelic sessions, his difficulty in kneeling is mentioned, and most revealing of all is the Papal Nuncio’s characterization in 1586 of Kelley as Dee’s hunch backed, “il zoppo,” companion.
And then there is the question of his ears, or lack of them. Simon Tadeas Budeck, a Czech alchemist and occult tattletale, of whom we will hear more, describes Kelley as “having no ears.” Budeck however did not know Kelley, his manuscript comments are from 1604, and so are somewhat unreliable, though it seems his report is partly correct. The best documented evidence is from a letter, dated in Prague, 20 July 1593, in which an Englishman named Christopher Parkins reports being interrogated about Kelley by one of Rudolf’s councilors. Among the questions put to Parkins was “if I could give any account of the diminishing of one of his ears, or of his good or evil behaviour in England.” Parkins knew Kelley, he is the source of the fat and merry comment; therefore it seems likely that Kelley had had just one ear notched. The alchemist Budeck also describes him as being “long-haired,” perhaps to conceal the disfigurement.
If we see Kelley as a long-haired, bearded, heavy-set man, with a sense of humor and a taste for the good things in life, and with a bent or twisted back that required a stick for support, it helps not only to humanize the legend, but perhaps also provides a few clues to his personality. This of course does not take away from Kelley’s predilection for violence, his hysterical rants, or his talent for insulting people. But it is very different from the Faustian, demonic deluder of legend. Yet, this aura of unpleasantness makes his success even harder to understand. What was it about him that held so many in his spell?
Notice how this new vision of Kelley as a “weighty” man better matches the painting of Kelley? It is quite possible the artist was drawing on these descriptions of Kelley while also taking the woodcut into consideration.
Greetings, Dear Readers!
The Four Philosophical Elements
Most of you are likely familiar with the four Elements and their association with the four cardinal points of the compass. The usual pattern in most modern traditions places Air in the east, Fire in the south, Water in the west and Earth in the north – an arrangement often attributed to the “four winds” of the earth-plane. A more stellar arrangement (based on astrology) places Fire in the east, Earth in the south, Air in the west and Water in the North. (See later in this post for more on that.)
I just had Ravin Digitalis ask me if I was aware of any tradition that assigns Air to the north and Earth to the east – and if such a tradition could be traced back to 5000 BCE. In my response, I cover many different associations of Elements to directions and where they (or where they likely) came from. I think you might find it interesting:
To my knowledge, there are no systems of correspondences of Elements to directions that go back to 5000 BCE. The earliest such correspondences could have arisen would have been in cultures that developed astrology – likely going back no further than Babylon. Not even Egypt had such correspondences that I know of – though they did have the four Sons of Horus as the pillars of the four directions (associated with the arms and legs of Nut), I’ve never seen any Egyptian text that associates them directly with four Elements.
From astrology we have Fire in the East (Aries), Earth in the South (Capricorn), Air in the West (Libra) and Water in the North (Cancer) – an arrangement that still existed when Agrippa wrote his work (see Three Books of Occult Philosophy – Scale of the Number Four). Another, perhaps sidereal, version would use the fixed signs: Leo in the East, Taurus in the South, Aquarius in the West and Scorpius in the North.
I’ve never found anything definitive on where the Air in the East arrangement – common in the Golden Dawn, Thelema and thus Wicca – came from. However, the GD was very into Ezekiel’s vision – which shows God’s Throne supported by the four Kherubs whose faces are Man (Aquarius) in the front, Eagle (Scorpius) behind, Lion (Leo) to the right and Bull (Taurus) to the left. If you face the Throne Eastward, and assume that “right” and “left” are from the perspective of the Throne itself, that gives the usual arrangement of Elements to the directions: Air-East, Water-West, Fire-South, Earth-North.
However, there is some ambiguity here. In Ezekiel’s vision (approximately 600 BCE), the Throne is not facing the East – he describes it as coming out of the North and facing/moving Southward. That would put the Man (Air) facing South and the Eagle (Water) facing North. If we still assume Ezekiel’s mention of “right” and “left” are from the perspective of the Throne, that would put the Lion (Fire) facing the West and the Ox (Bull) facing East. That would give you Earth in the East, but not Air in the North.
BUT – if we assume Ezekiel was referring to his *own* right and left, the two Kherubs would be reversed so the Lion would face East and the Bull would face West. But that doesn’t give you Air in the North or Earth in the East…
The only other example I know of (off the top of my head at least) is from the Key of Solomon, where directions are given for the construction of a magick carpet. There, one is told that Michael (Fire) is in the East, Raphael (Air) is in the North, Gabriel (Water) is in the West and Muriel (Earth) is in the South. This one gives you Air in the North, but not Earth in the East. lol
So I don’t see any traditional source for the arrangement [you mention] – and sure as hell nothing going back as far as 5000 BCE! lol Good luck!
If anyone knows of other associations and their origins, feel free to reply below and share with us. :)
UPDATE: Looks like Alex Sumner can tell us where the Golden Dawn got its “Four Winds” (aka Seasonal) attribution of the Elements to their directions. In the same blog, he reveals something fascinating: the “ADNI Formula” (as opposed to the better-known “YHVH Formula”). Awesome!
Welcome back, Aspirants!
In my last post, I shared with you an “anti-secret society” manifesto posted by Jake Stratton Kent to my Solomonic group, along with rebuttals made by myself, Nick Farrell, Peregrin Wildoak and others. In case you are just joining us, I want to make it clear that Jake and I are friends who each have a deep respect for the work and scholarship of the other. So this isn’t any kind of in-fighting or conflict – it’s just a healthy fraternal debate that has brought up all sorts of interesting points. If you haven’t read my last post and followed all the links I provided, I urge you to do that now before reading on…
You all caught up now? Good, let’s continue:
In this post, I’m going to share Jake’s Open Message to the Golden Dawn Community, which he wrote in response to the rebuttals he received to his manifesto. But before I do that, I want to offer a few more introductory paragraphs about the work Jake and I have been doing over the last several years.
Jake and I have never actually collaborated on any joint projects. We are simply two guys with similar interests/goals who know one another via several internet forums. Some of our work appears together in an anthology or two from Scarlet Imprint, And Jake has told me that he received some amount of inspiration for his Geosophia from my publications about the grimoires’ relation to shamanic vocation. (I wonder if he was mostly being nice when he said that. lol)
The goal that Jake and I share goes somewhat beyond merely redefining the Solomonic grimoires and the concept of goetia for occultists. Our true secret conspiracy is to plant seeds in what we believe to be the modern age’s fertile soil for a new kind of occult revival.
When you look at indigenous cultures around the world – native America, Africa, South America, the Caribbean islands, etc – you will quickly discover they all possess occult traditions and folk magick that dates back hundreds and thousands of years. We can point to examples in the ATRs (Santeria, Palo-Mayombe, Voodoo, etc), Mexican Brujería, Native American Shamanism, and even syncratic folk traditions like Hoodoo and Hexcraft – just to name a few. While all of these traditions have been influenced by outside sources (such as Christianity), all of them have persisted in their cultures without a historical break. Their brands of occultism are true living traditions, with relevance to the entire host culture – not just a few isolated scholars and religious sub-cultures.
Western culture, on the other hand, does not enjoy this reality. Our occultism and folk magick developed naturally for thousands of years, and then hit the massive brick walls of the Roman Catholic Church and (later) the Age of Enlightenment. During these periods magick was first outlawed, and then ridiculed, so that it finally became a relic of the past. Western culture moved on without its shamans and lost its connection to its native spirits – leading us ultimately to the world of corporate rule and rampant consumerism we all suffer from today.
Of course, this is not to say that Western occultism was successfully stamped out. Throughout the centuries, the Light has been kept alive by a few obscure individuals and several mystical groups – but the common “man on the street” either doesn’t know any of this exists, or is vaguely aware that “some wackos” engage in strange religious practices. For most Westerners, occultism has zero impact on their daily lives.
By the time we got to the late 1800s and early 1900s, Western occultism was literally starting from scratch. As Jake has pointed out, the modern occult revival launched primarily from a masonic model. And it pieced together what it could from dusty old books found in nearly forgotten archives, a few early archeological digs in Egypt, a largely watered-down understanding of Buddhism and heaping doses of psychology and Jungianism. They did the best they could with limited information (and an overwhelming Christian bias) – and they really did achieve a lot under the circumstances. It was the birth of the modern lodge-style systems of magick.
But what the Golden Dawn, Thelema and even Wicca have never achieved is the re-establishment of an occultism that is relevant to the day-to-day life of greater Western culture. We remain obscure sub-cultures. How rare is it, for example, for a layperson to seek out their neighborhood Golden Dawn wizard or Wiccan when they are facing hardships in their lives? For healing or exorcism? For rituals related to birth, marriage or death? For that matter, how often does a Western layperson even consider the Gods and spirits who share and govern their world, or think even once about how to strike a balance and harmony with such entities?
What Jake and I – and a good many others – see in the grimoires are manuals to accomplish all of the above. They contain catalogs of the native spirits of the West, and the shamanic methods of interacting with them. True shamans don’t learn their art in university or lodge-style settings – they learn directly from the spirits. And the Solomonic system is designed for the very purpose of showing us how to contact them and re-establish the Western Goen.
The magickal lodges aren’t designed for this purpose. I’ll return to that thought shortly – but for now I want you to keep all of the above in mind as you read Jake’s Open Message to the Golden Dawn Community:
An Open Message to the Golden Dawn Community
Various sources inform me that some of the Golden Dawn groups recognise their past failings and are ‘moving on’ now or soonish – that’s fine, even credible.
Meanwhile we have all sorts of attitudes and misconceptions in the occult community, originating precisely from the Golden Dawn, plus some help from Crowley and Grant. It doesn’t matter whether Crowley is/was popular with this or that faction of the current Golden Dawn community. If it is a community, it has a lot of work to do helping folks unlearn a lot of bullshit, and make space for better information. Sure, some Masonic tendencies in the occult community are not entirely Golden Dawn related, but some very unhelpful and generic problems DO originate in that area.
Particularly as regards traditional Goetia – to which the ‘standard bearers of the Occult Revival’ have done an immense collective disservice. This in several ways, and I need not emphasise Mathers’ editing and attitude flaws in his Key of Solomon or the still near universal semantic problems stemming from the Mathers/Crowley publication of the Goetia of Solomon. Waite’s ironic dismissal of the grimoires is also a comparatively minor matter. Aaron and others are quite capable of clarifying these details if need be. There is a more serious philosophical matter, which should alarm Western occultists across much of the traditional spectrum. It requires measured, reasonable but effective action, and cannot be avoided.
Mathers introduction of the Qliphoth into modern occultism has resulted, against considerable precedent, in an ‘anti-cosmic philosophy’ as one of the main features of modern Western Occultism. This is a disaster for Hermeticism and Neoplatonism, to which the Golden Dawn current among many Western schools essentially belong. These are positive philosophies, even with the inheritance of the ‘spirit/matter dichotomy’ inherent in Plato – which to a large degree Iamblichus resolved. The involvement of the premier occult ‘Secret Societies’ in Gnosticism – with its own pessimistic undercurrents – is also something Magical Orders need to clarify very firmly indeed.
The role of the Qliphoth in neo-occultism is also a greater disaster to understanding and reclaiming Goetia as a major formative ancestral current within Western Magic. Spirit work as a central part of western magic, long ‘demonised’ and driven underground, involves a spirit pantheon, traceable as early as the second century AD, and with older elements. These ‘Aerial spirits (demons or ‘third order angels’) have no real relation with the qlipoth whatever. The ‘fall out’ from the early revival as now represented in some quarters represents essentially a whole new layer of demonisation, for which the legacy of the Golden Dawn bears much of the responsibility. This has social and philosophical ramifications which have to be considered, by would be Hierophants and Orders alike. Again, Grant’s contribution to this fiasco does not absolve the Golden Dawn legacy of responsibility for the ‘clear up’. I stress also that an ‘anti-Satanic’ crusade would not be constructive, what is required is due acknowledgment of the authentic goetic tradition. The ‘anti-spiritualist’ clause in the Magical Obligation is an additional obstacle to true progress in the ‘spirit work’ aspect of traditional magic. Methods involving states of passivity and loss of control should not be subject to an ideological taboo at the very base of the Pyramid.
Additionally, the Secret Society model has had a major impact on witchcraft, another aspect of my original statement. The ‘bogus history’ and resistance to change inherent in this model has not been useful there. Other strands of the modern ceremonial community have also inherited problems (such as antipathy to spiritualism) from the GD/AC legacy. One influential secret society has only added one book to their curriculum since 1947 – that’s not a good precedent for an occult vanguard. This all results from the self referential tendencies in the Secret Society model. A closed door to stop knowledge getting out eventually stops it getting in. To repeat, its all very well you guys moving on – but you have a hell of a job catching up and clearing up, not only your own act, but the semi generic mess your past mistakes have encouraged.
Don’t just set up shop with some shiny ‘new improved’ labels. Occultism doesn’t need a new flavour in an old package. It needs to encourage self education regarding its traditions, from authentic primary sources and up to date research. It needs to understand the Western Tradition as a continuum, not a series of consumer niches and disjointed re-enactment styles with no inter-relationships or mutual influences. Rather than letting occultism get dumbed down and commercialised through their neglect, the Mystery Schools must exemplify Magic as an important formative aspect of Western Culture and be worthy of their Calling.
Otherwise what’s the point of them?
First in my response, I’d like to address Jake’s comments about the Qliphoth. I don’t want to spend much time on that here – since a really awesome discussion about the Qliphoth in Western occultism was already held on the Solomonic Group, and I highly recommend you check that out.
Moving on from that, I want to focus upon what I see as Jake’s misunderstanding of the proper role of secret societies in Western occultism. (Derived, I suspect, from his negative experiences with some lodges from his past.) While he makes several worthwhile points in his manifesto and open message, I still believe he is “conflating apples and oranges” in his feelings toward secret societies vs. folk magick.
As I said in my last post, I agree with Jake on several issues. The old magickal lodges did get several concepts wrong, and many of those concepts ended up permeating the whole of Western occultism. Work needs to be done to correct this: hence books like Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, Geosophia and others. Western occultism does not begin and end with the Golden Dawn.
Where I disagree with Jake is in his overall dismissal of the lodges themselves, and his suggestion that their continued existence is holding back the current Western occult revival. Sure, as I stated previously, the lodges are not going to revive the Goen or make his services accessible to the standard Western layperson the way the Santo is available to his people. But this doesn’t mean the lodges don’t have an important role to play.
In Secrets…, I devoted chapter three entirely to the subject of shamanism and the role it plays in society. I then devoted chapter four entirely to the subject of the “temple faiths” and the social role played by the priest. From there I argued that the Solomonic tradition was a melding of these two roles – an inherently priestly art that also requires one to fulfill the role of shaman to the community. In other words, it involves all of the spiritual rectification and purification required to elevate oneself closer to God, but then asks one to turn back toward the world and use his new-found wisdom and power to help others with the most mundane issues.
As an illustration of this, I point to the Key of Solomon the King, which suggests one should “acquire the rank or degree of Exorcist” before attempting its spells. That meant ordination in the Church and appointment to the Order of Exorcists. And the Order of Exorcists wee doubtlessly the most “shamanic” of the priestly cast, being in charge of healing and dealing directly with the everyday problems of the people.
Acquiring the ordination is simply a method of gaining the spiritual authority necessary to be taken seriously by the spirits and angels. (This is a subject I cover in some depth in Secrets…) In this light, here is the response I posted to Jake concerning my involvement in both the Golden Dawn and Solomonic magick:
You are correct that the orders are not going in the direction that you are pulling. Even my own Solomonic work (which you know is pulling in pretty much the same direction as yours) is done outside the confines of my order. But I just can’t see my work in the order as some sort of detriment to my Solomonic work.
In fact, my work in the order plays a rather important role in my Solomonic practice. No, I don’t blend the systems – I don’t use Golden Dawn rituals and techniques as a basis for the grimoire magick. However, the grimoires *do* happen to mention in places that some sort of ordination is helpful in performing the magick. In other words – it helps if one undertakes some form of initiatory process.
I’m not a Catholic, so becoming a priest in the Church isn’t going to happen. However, I am a Gnostic and a Hermeticist – and as such I became “ordained” by working my way through the Golden Dawn’s Outer Grades and into the RR et AC. I have sat as Hierophant – which you could translate as “High Priest” – in my Temple and initiated others into the Tradition. (Currently I am a past-Hierophant, but I will sit as Hierophant again when my turn comes back around.)
In fact, I joined the Golden Dawn entirely on the orders of my Guardian Angel. For me, this is how I gained the spiritual authority necessary to hang out with the angels and spirits of the grimoires. When they say, “John Dee we know, Agrippa we know, but who are you?”, I reply, “I am Aaron Leitch, Frater Odo Caosg of the Isis-Urania Mother Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” – and it does indeed carry weight.
I’m certainly not saying that is the *only* way to gain the necessary spiritual authority. But it was the way for me, and it works. And I see just as much relevance in the order as I see in what you and I are doing with the Solomonic material outside the orders. The fact that they are different does not make them mutually exclusive.
In essence, I believe what we are seeing in the current expansion of Solomonic and other systems of folk magick (including hoodoo, hexcraft, fam-trad witchcraft, etc) is the revival of Western shamanism. What we are seeing in the growth of the Golden Dawn and other secret societies is the establishment of the priestly side of the occultism coin.
Sure, we’ve got plenty of priests in the Church, but they are largely divorced from and hostile to occultism, and thus cannot play a relevant role in the return of a shamanic culture. (Crowley may have been correct when he suggested their day had passed.) Today, a new kind of priestly caste is required for that to happen – and such a priesthood, in the form of secret societies like the Golden Dawn , is currently in its infancy.
If you look at ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Sumeria, Babylonia, Greece, early Rome, etc. you find examples of Temple priesthoods and common folk magick co-existing in harmony. Each had its role to play in the daily lives of the greater community. The two were not mutually exclusive and in fact supported one another in many ways. I don’t believe either side of the coin – priestly or shamanic – must be abandoned in order for the other to prosper.
Jake Kent reads from Geosophia
It looks like good old Jake Stratton Kent has created a bit of a stir in the ceremonial magic communities. It started with a sort of “manifesto” that he posted on the Solomonic Yahoo Group – explaining the reasons for his opposition to the secret society (or quasi-masonic lodge) model of occultism. It was quickly followed by my own defense of such occult lodges.
This has made for a fairly interesting debate, and I’ve spent the last couple of days considering whether or not I wanted to bring it over here to my blog . But since in that time the entire matter has gone viral – and even Jake has found it necessary to post an Open letter to the Golden Dawn in response – I suppose it would be helpful for me to continue the discussion here.
To bring you up to speed I’ll be posting Jake’s original manifesto here along with his Open Letter to the Golden Dawn. Then I’ll share my thoughts on the subject. But first let me give you a brief explanation of who Jake Kent is and where he is coming from.
Jake is a goetic magician, but that doesn’t mean what you probably think it does. When Jake uses the term “goetia” he’s not talking about the Renaissance grimoire of that name (which we will refer to as the Goetia of Solomon) – nor about something so simplistic as “working with demons”. Instead he is referring to one of the most primordial foundations of Western occultism: the ancient Greek Goen.
Jake explains all of this incredibly well in his seminal work Geosophia – which I highly recommend in my review which you can read here. But for our current purposes I’ll attempt to give a very short and simple explanation. “Goen” was the word for shaman in Greece before the Olympian cults existed. The Goen presided over healing, initiation, magical protection and, most famously, funerary rites. When a person died the Goen were called in as professional mourners at the funeral. (Their ritualized wailing for the dead is why the word goetia is said to translate as “howling.”) And, of course, these shamanic duties necessarily required the Goen to interact with a host of underworld and “sub-lunary” entities.
These guys were at the very heart of what eventually became the Western Mystery Tradition. Whether it is Orphism, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Greek Kabiri, the early Christians worshipping in catacombs and tombs or the Golden Dawn’s Hall of Ma’at – you’ll find the Goen in their distant past. Plus, as the Goen we’re quite famous for working with underworld spirits, the term goetia (the craft of the Goen) became synonymous with “witchcraft” (i.e. – working with spirits) and formed the foundation of the Solomonic grimoire tradition. (Hence the Goetia of Solomon.)
Now, if you have read my books and essays on the subject of Solomonic magick, you know the shamanic roots of the grimoires have been a major focus for me. I have done much to reintroduce Western occult students to the Solomonic system as a form of “urban shamanism” or folk-magick divorced from the trappings of the later lodge-style systems of magick.
And I am proud to say that Jake, with his attempts to redefine the modern misconception of the goetic tradition, has been a co-conspirator with me in these endeavors. I dare say that each of us considers himself a modern incarnation of an obscure type of Western shaman.
Where Jake and I differ is that I am also a practitioner of Golden Dawn lodge-style magick. Jake has his own roots in Thelemic lodges. But where I find beauty and relevance in my order, Jake did not have the best of experiences in his involvement with secret societies. For him, the lodge was something that he needed to cast off in order to progress in his own quest. (I’ll save what my lodge has meant in relation to my quest for later.)
I don’t know if I have successfully gotten all of us on the same page, but at least try to keep the above in mind as you read the following manifesto recently published by Jake:
Goetia versus secrecy, Masonry & bogus history
This is close to an outline manifesto, relevant to the POV of my writings and distilled from over 4 decades of involvement in magic, public and private. I’m sure many will reject it out of hand, or mount a defence of aspects of occultism it attacks – but nothing said here is unconsidered; while the unquestioning retention of what it opposes desperately requires critique. Some of it explains why I’m a controversial figure, who many traditionalists find too radical, and ‘post moderns’ consider old fashioned. These easy dismissals are neat ways of avoiding important issues, when in fact the similarities between the extremes are more extensive than the differences, which is part of the problem, as I outline below.
*Goetia versus secrecy, Masonry and bogus history in modern occultism*
The historical links between goetia and shamanism are very strong. If you are familiar with the ‘Greek shaman’ thesis of Burkert et al, ‘goes’ was originally the Greek for shaman, especially as psychopomp. Funnily enough the same word, in its later devalued sense could also mean ‘witch’. Properly understood goetia is – essentially – the one authentic and continuous link the modern Western tradition has with the past, and that includes modern witchcraft (as I believe Hutton pointed out, and he is certainly right historically speaking).
There are various reasons I find the ‘Masonic’ model a dead loss in the many, many areas of modern magic where it applies. I see two reasons for Masonry in magic, one good enough, the other p*** poor. The good enough one was as a cover for free thinkers in an age when – for example – non-attendance at Anglican church was an imprisonable offense in England. That time is over. The other I will come to later.
The whole Secret Society model is not only unhelpful, but actively counter-productive. It is the principle reason why so much energy is expended fighting tiny little wars between factions (between witch groups, between rival Golden Dawns, between thelemic groups etc etc). Energy that could be better spent elsewhere – like incorporating the real advances in recovering our tradition made possible by *non-secretive* sources like academia. Indeed, one reason parts of the grimoire community are advancing faster than any other area nowadays is that it doesn’t automatically include this model! Which, whether in Magical Orders or Witchcraft leads to infighting, stagnation and parochialism. I also have no more time for ‘invented history’, which the entire occult world seems to rely on to an alarming extent. But lets start with secrecy.
Nothing I’ve heard from witch groups or magical orders in the last forty plus years has led me to feel they possess *any* privileged information – let alone insights – regarding goetia. Its been more of the same for decades, indeed since the C19th it has hardly moved at all – at least, not among occultists.
From my perspective, what I’ve learned about goetia in the occult world as manifest since the C19th is very unimpressive. Even if someone is jealously guarding material from deeper into the C18th/C19th it still lacks a lot of context, info and insights now available from modern scholarship, the papyri etc. Things have stood still for so long that modern research has got further along without them, and they don’t want to catch up! Where magic is going is not like where it has been since early modern times, but very few have caught on to that.
Which brings me to the Bertiaux/Grant end of the spectrum, what I call ‘dark fluff’, a major epidemic in recent modern occultism. There are so many ‘darker than thou’ types out there playing silly games with the Qliphoth, Necronomicon, Atlantean initiations and such. The grasp of the roots of magic in this ‘niche’ is even more bogus than the ‘occult establishment’ of the C19th and its offshoots. Indeed, they are much more similar to that establishment than they imagine. Spookying up the Golden Dawn, Crowley and modern witchcraft with a dash of Lovecraft and Qliphoth etc is no more informed about the real roots of Western magic in goetia. Its just more of the same in all but the most superficial details.
Which brings me to the other aspect of ‘why we used masonry’. It was as a *substitute* for elements of the magical tradition we’d either lost, or felt uncomfortable with in a more orthodox religious environment than currently exists. Virtually every western school has relied on Masonry to fill in the gaps for so long that they are no longer very interested in recovering what it was substituting for. There is so much Masonic bathwater that has to go to make room for real babies in the bath, and change frightens people. Hence bogus history and Masonry predominate, even though there is much better information and different structures available.
The *real* roots of what has been called ‘black magic’ by later philosophies and religions, is in fact an incredibly rich tradition distinct from them, *not defined by opposition to them*, or even reliant on similar terms (qabalistic or neoplatonist).
In short, through clinging to bogus history and the secret society model, we are selling ourselves very short indeed as Western magicians.
I quickly responded to this manifesto with my own defense of “secret societies” and the lodge-style systems of magick – as you can read here, and here. (Really, the entire thread is worth reading.) To summarize some of the major points I made: I do not find the magickal lodges to be outdated or irrelevant in the least. I personally see them as going though something of a Renaissance. They are sharing information with one another as well as opening themselves to what outside traditions have to teach – in effect overcoming the very shortcomings Jake describes in his manifesto. While such mistakes have certainly been made in the past, and even some groups may continue to cling to them, they are not intrinsic to the very structure of magickal lodges as Jake suggests.
Before long, this story was picked up by the enigmatic “Watcher of the Dawn” (Goetic magician slams out of date “secret masonic” magic), and even turned up on Nick Farrell’s Blog (Purging masonry from the Golden Dawn). The comments over on Nick’s blog are worth checking out – with folks like Peregrin Wildoak and even Tabatha Cicero speaking up.
If you do look into the responses made by me and other Golden Dawners like Nick and Peregrin, you might be surprised to discover most of us agree with a good bit of what Jake has to say. Secret societies that close their doors and their minds to cross-fertilization with outside sources do become stagnant and drift into irrelevancy. We (well… most of us) are fairly unimpressed with the bogus histories and lineage claims that were popular a century ago. We are equally unimpressed with what Jake is calling “dark fluff.” And, yes, those old 19th Century occultists did get a heck of a lot wrong where it came to subjects like goetia.
I think Jake may have been surprised (pleasantly so, I hope) to hear from so many Golden Dawners who did not fit his idea of stodgy close-minded tradition-hoarders. Contrary to what he thought, we are open to new ideas, new scholarship and new ways of doing things. Take for example this gem I shared with him on the Solomonic group:
For example, when we do angelic invocations in the G.D. Temple my wife and I (with our funky ATR background) bring food offerings. When we first did this, it was quite shocking to the other members of the Temple. They didn’t know what to make of it. But once they saw it in action, they got it.
One time, we drew up an astrological chart for a summoning we intended to do, and discovered that one Planet was in direct opposition to the Planet we intended to work with. No one was sure how to handle the problem – except for me and Carrie. We came to Temple that day with *two* food offerings. We opened the Hall, then went to the West, made an invocation to the opposing Planet and laid out the offering for those spirits. Then, we went to the East and did the same for the Angel we intended to invoke and made our offering there. Then we went on with the summoning without a hitch. Everyone in the Temple was floored.
And this, my friend, was happening in the *Mother Temple* of the HOGD. And that is the kind of thing I’m trying to get across to you. According to your view of my tradition, this could never have happened. Carrie and I would have been restricted from doing it, or asked to leave if we attempted it. And, yes, 30 years ago that might have been the case. But we were in fact given full lee-way to do this, and everyone there learned something from it.
It *is* happening, Jake. Things are not as stagnant in the orders as you think they are.
It was in response to this kind of thing that Jake penned his Open Letter to the Golden Dawn. For now, I’ll give you a break (and some time, if you’ve a mind to, go read the other blogs and forums I’ve linked in this post). In the next post I will share Jake’s Open Letter and my responses to it.
Greetings Angel Lovers!
Bernini’s “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa”
A rather interesting (and likely controversial) subject has come up on my Solomonic Group at Yahoo, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you here. I think the title of this blog really says it all, so I’ll just get right into the posts. First, here is the question that was asked on the group:
I am a married father of four who is aged in his fifties.
I am also a theology student and a school teacher.
Two years ago I was studying the Old Testament and noticed how Solomon and David both had many wives. This made my very curious and also quite envious.
Because at that time my marriage was lacking intimacy, and so out of desperation I prayed to God for a concubine or a second wife.
I didn’t think much of it, but about two weeks later a spiritual entity connected with me in an intimate way. This has conintued regularly for the last two years. It honestly feels like God has answered my prayer.
I did read somewhere that monks experiences similar types of connections with angels. Has this sort of phenomenon ever been reported before? Do you think that the biblical descriptions of Solomon and David having many wives may have been alluding to spiritual or angelic wives and concubines?
I find it rather intersting that – given this person’s particular sub-culture, which would not tolerate adultery or polyamory - he was able to find a spiritual solution to his problem. That aside, I decided to answer his specific questions:
Ok, first to answer your question about the prophets and their multiple wives: no, that was not an allusion to them having spiritual wives. They in fact had multiple physical wives and concubines. It is still practiced, in various ways and to various degrees, in many cultures around the world.
As for your other question:
Are you kidding?? Angels are all *about* the sex, man! ;)
(NOTE for those outside the US: The phrase “…all *about* the…” is an American idiom that basically means “like it a lot.”)
Occult and religious lore is chock-full of spiritual beings mating with humans. Stories of Succubi and Fairies producing offspring with human partners abound – including Lilith (who, in the form of the Queen of Sheba, is said to have indeed slept with Solomon). Some Jewish funerary rites are intended to banish all the deceased “demon children” who might otherwise appear at the funeral to demand their inheritance.
Pagan Gods – who are basically the same species of being as Angels – seem to have taken mortal mates on a regular basis – hence the existence of Demigods (half-human, half god) like Hercules and Perseus.
Also note the “Sons of God” described in Genesis, who descended to Earth and traded the secrets of heaven in exchange for sexual favors. This is an extension of the above Pagan concept – as the Bible offers this as the explanation for superhuman heroes and the “Nephilim” or giants. God supposedly flooded the world to get rid of them. (Though it wasn’t entirely successful, as Noah was rumored to be one of these offspring – effectively making *all* of us part-Angel today.)
Biblical legend also suggests that Eve mated with Satan to give birth to Cain.
And don’t forget Dee and Kelley’s (in)famous wife-swapping episode, which they undertook at the direction of their angelic contacts. (Though they didn’t mate with the Angels themselves, it was still the Angels who showed an interest in human sexual activity.)
Shamanic vocations often involve the shaman obtaining a “spiritual spouse” – literally marrying his or her Patron Deity to establish a life-long relationship.
An example of this is found in the Book of Abramelin – my own preferred grimoire – which promises “Knowledge” of one’s Holy Guardian Angel. This is an archaic term for “having intimacy with.” (Such as the Biblical term “He ‘knew’ his wife.”)
My own Guardian Angel has most certainly been my spiritual wife – and one of my earlier and most intense experiences with her was an extremely sexually charged encounter. Plus, once she was bound to me physically, she spent some months ravenously seeking out sexual and other physically pleasurable experiences. (It seemed to be part of her adjusting to suddenly having access to physical sensation.)
On that same note, there are many religio-magickal operations in which a divine being is called into the body of a human host in order to perform a sexual act with either a Priest or Priestess alone, or with one who has also drawn down a divine being. Such as the Wiccan Great Rite – where the High Priest and High Priestess become vessels for the God and Goddess to physically mate.
Plus there are several grimoiric spells intended to evoke beautiful spirits for the express purpose of having sex with them.
The examples could go on and on – this is a theme that permeates Western religion, mysticism and occultism. I have a feeling Jake [Stratton-Kent] will also respond to this, with many examples of magickal practices and operations that involve sexual contact with spiritual beings.
And Jake did, indeed, respond as well:
happy to oblige :)
well an obvious road sign is the Comte de Gabalis:
big influence on some published and manuscript grimoires.
Also the close relations of Lamiae (such as Lilith/Sheeba) and the Sibyl or sibyls is central to our magical traditions. Consider too the narrow line between ‘angels’ and ‘demons’.
From there to the Testament of Solomon, and gendered spirits at the root of Solomonic magic, despite later appearances/assumptions, places the theme pretty centrally.
This is why I love the Solomonic Group. So often, people get real touchy and defensive whenever sex and spirituality are mentioned in the same breath.
There certainly are groups out there that make use of sex and magick to abuse young naive aspirants. (See, for example, the “Theocratic Unity” group run by the Horos couple in the early 1900s.)
Yet, as we can see in the above examples, sex has been an intimate (pun intended) aspect of Western occultism for a very long time. And it goes beyond the usual subject of “sex magick.” Shamans, priests and wizards have been marrying themselves off to (that is to say, intimately bonding with) spiritual entities in order to learn occult secrets since the earliest tribal shamanisms.
UPDATE: A member of the Solomonic Group asked me a good question about the Holy Guardian Angel and the subject of physical sensation. I’ll share that question and my answer here with you as well:
> I had thought the Holy Guardian Angel was part of the transcendence of the
> flesh and its desires often associated with the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
> Aaron, may I ask why an angel of that class would want to enjoy sexual and
> physical experiences? I thought they are supposed to come from a realm
> where such needs have been transcended?
I feel the reason is *because* they come from such a transcendent realm. You take such a being from a place where there is no such thing as sensory input, then suddenly thrust them into a human host with full access to such alien sensations as physical pleasure (and, for that matter, pain), and I think it would be quite natural to want to explore and learn about these new things. Add to that the fact that they have not spent a lifetime learning how to regulate such desires, and it can result in behavior similar to an addict seeking out a fix. lol
I suspect this is the kernel of truth behind the stories of the Watchers and other divinities who were willing to trade all the secrets of heaven with mortals in exchange for sex. While “in the flesh”, the Watchers were willing to chance the Eternal Punishment of God for just a few hours of intense physical pleasure.
For a good visual example, check out the movie “Michael” starring John Travolta in the title role.
Of course, this state was only temporary for my Guardian Angel. Over time she seemed to adapt to her new state of being bound to a physical body, and the intensity of the experience finally balanced out. After that is when she got down to the business of training me – but she certainly had a much better understanding of what it is like to live down here, which was important for the relationship to grow.
Witch and Devil – Jos A Smith (From “Witches” by Erica Jong , 1981)