From the Llewellyn Magick Blog, June 16, 2014:
Knocking on Wood:
Superstition and the Spirit Model of Magick
As many of my readers know, I am a practitioner of the Old Magick. That means I have abandoned the “psychological model” of magick (the belief that magick is strictly an art of the mind, and that spiritual entities are simply parts of our own psyches) in favor of the “spirit model” of magick (the belief that spiritual entities are very real and objective beings).
What that means is that my magick includes protocols for approaching the angels and spirits, methods of making offerings and caring for them, building relationships with them and convincing them (via mutual respect) to work with and for me here in the physical. It is, primarily, a form of shamanism—drawing techniques from ancient cultures and indigenous folks magicks. If you want some good examples of how I work (including photographs of the offering altars), check out these links:
- Invocation of Archangel Iophiel
- Invocation of Archangel Michael
- Mixed Qabalah Working with Samael
- Mixed Qabalah Working with Sachiel
Western Resistance to the Old Magick
Not every occultist wishes to toss aside the psychological model and adopt the old ways. Even now, I hear from those who are uncomfortable with concepts like establishing altars and making food offerings to spiritual beings. For them, the very idea of a spirit model just sounds silly and primitive. It depends on a worldview they feel was rightfully overthrown by science and reason. Above all, they seek to distance themselves from anything they understand as “superstition.”
That word—superstition—appears a lot in Western occult literature. Even Agrippa discusses it in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, so we know the argument has been going on since the Renaissance. Agrippa suggested that superstition can be helpful in magick, while other occultists of his time insisted superstition was the bane of magick and must be abandoned. What these people were actually talking about was indigenous folk magick—witchcraft, shamanism, etc. During their time, such practices were still illegal—punishable by arrest, forfeiture of assets, torture and/or execution. Therefore they had a vested interest in distancing themselves from the ancient pagan methods of magick—or “superstition.”
Because of this environment, the mysteries and philosophies of the Old Magick were lost in the West. The Renaissance gave way to the Age of Enlightenment (aka the Age of Reason) in the 17th century. Over the next several centuries, the study of psychology would rise to prominence in our culture, and most of our modern systems of occultism are based on the psychological model.
For occultists in such an environment, the protocols and actions that are vital to the Old Magick seem like barbarous nonsense.