Greetings fellow wizards!
I have enjoyed reading the many responses to this subject both here and on Facebook. All of you have made great points, and many of you made one important point in particular that has inspired me to add this post to the discussion. For those just tuning in, my previous blog divided traditional Solomonic practitioners into three groups: two of them (and perhaps a combination of them both) I labeled “grimoire purist”, while the remaining group was labeled “grimoire fundamentalist.”
The real point of my blog was not to address how one practitioner chooses to work over another, but to mark a distinction between them. When I call myself a “grimoire purist” it evokes the wrong image of what I do. I grow tired of hearing things like “you grimoire purists can’t think outside the book” when that description doesn’t fit my personal practice. As I stated in “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires”, the books are just the starting point. It is the Angels and spirits you contact who will teach you the real magick.
And that leads me to the purpose of this new blog. The books ARE the starting point, and anyone familiar with my work knows that I strongly urge students (and adepts alike!) to avoid making changes to a grimoiric technique until they have done it “by the book” first and truly understand what they are attempting to change. This was the same point raised by many of you. You pointed out that there is a time and place for grimoire fundamentalism, especially when you are new to the practice and learning the proverbial ropes.
To be clear, I don’t really consider it fundamentalist to stick to the book until you understand it. To be a grimoire fundamentalist you need to have the closed mind, the insistence that the book is the ultimate unquestionable authority and that anyone who fails its letter in the slightest degree is a fool. None of you who responded to my last blog fall into that category!
There are times when I, too, insist on sticking to the book. Abramelin is one example – though it is a bad one because Abramelin “by the book” leaves a lot of open areas for your own Angel and spirits to fill in. Enochian might be a better example, as I am striving (little by little) to do things *exactly* as Dee recorded in his journals.
Yet, in both of these cases, I also seek to take the system beyond the book. Many of you have read my work on Abramelin’s word squares and system of spirit magick, so you have seen me take that system beyond the original grimoire. (More to come on that subject!) And if you’ve read my essay on the Angelical Alphabet, you know that I’ve expanded its use by applying it to Agrippa’s occultism. Most importantly, I have attempted to take both in a direction that is obviously intended by the original texts. (As opposed to simply trying to “update” them based on modern views.)
Therefore, I agree wholeheartedly that there is a time and place to do things strictly by the book. It is not fundamentalism to perform a controlled experiment in order to see how (or if) a system works. Only afterward should you attempt to change things based on your own experience, or based upon what the spirits involved tell you. I generally give students three basic rules in this regard:
1) If you are simply making use of Solomonic magick in general, you are free to do what works best. You can (for example) call the spirits from the Goetia using the Circle outlined in the Magus and the crystal-skrying method taught by Trithemeus. Or you can fashion your own Circle or one revealed directly by an Angel, etc.
2) On the other hand (continuing the above example), if your intention is to experiment with the Goetia in and of itself, then you want to stick with the instructions given in that text. The more changes you make to it, the less it remains “the Goetia.” There is nothing wrong with doing that, as long as you don’t go around afterward claiming you have all sorts of experience with the Goetia itself.
3) Whatever you choose to do, just don’t make up things as you go along, or use magick from another source, and still call it “Solomonic magick.” For instance: If you draw the sigil of Bael onto notebook paper, perform a Kundalini-raising exercise and then skry into the sigil, you may very well make contact with Bael, but you’re not using *Solomonic* methods.