The Metaphysical in the Physical: You are the Altar

When we start out on the magical path, we often feel like magic is something we do, not something we are.  We talk about the supernatural, unique magical experiences, and rituals done in specially designed chambers or areas.  Sometimes, we even fast or dress a certain way to shift our perceptions into that space of otherness because we consider daily life to be extremely unmagical by default.

If you’re like me, this is the way you were taught to think as a beginner.  It’s a good way to approach magic because materialism tells us that only things which can be physically measured (and, absurdly, money) are real.  The rest is delusion and self-deceit.  So the young sorcerer finds herself in the position of having to create a context, a magical micro-world, that can alter her perceptions, getting her away from reductive materialism and into a place where thoughts and emotions are just as real as things.  She needs to step into a microcosm where she can believe in magic, if only for a brief time.

In The Satanic Bible—which you may scoff at until you realize it contains a complete workable precis of ceremonial magic condensed to about 10 pages—LaVey defines ritual magic as “the performance of a formal ceremony, taking place, at least in part, within the confines of an area set aside for such purposes and at a specific time.  It’s main function is to isolate the otherwise dissipated adrenal and other emotionally induced energy, and to convert it into a dynamically transmittable force.” 

In other words, it’s about generating a certain kind of feeling that will be powerful enough to travel out of the magician, out of the chamber, and into the outside world.  The reason this is brilliant is that it reveals the true origin of the power: you.  Incidentally, this is why one of the optional ingredients in LaVeyan magic is a woman (or, really, any naked provocative person) as an altar.  Wouldn’t you feel more strongly about standing in front of a naked person than a slab of wood or stone?  Most people would be able to draw emotional power from this alone. 

An even deeper realization came to me years after first reading LaVey: it didn’t matter whether I used a coffee table, a big altar (for many years, I used a wooden door on two sawhorses), or a naked person.  Those were just proxies for the real altar being used in the ritual, my body.  I figured this out while studying hoodoo.  My hoodoo altar was (and still is) part worktable and part ritual surface.  What I make or put on the altar comes from my spirit or goes into my spirit or otherwise interacts with my spiritual self.  The oils, washes, colognes, waters, and mojo hands I wear on my person are also ritual items on a magical altar.  The “chamber” is my sphere of awareness, my personal space.

Once I came to understand that I am the true altar and that the physical surface in front of me is just a virtual workspace for what is going on inside me (remember: the true origin of he magic is the individual),* I started to notice that when I lived in a high-pollution area, I had to banish more often because the spirits around me were dirtier.  I started to pay attention to the metaphysical properties of my food and the energy that collected in various locations where positive or negative things had happened.  I began to see that there really is no separation between the metaphysical and physical.  Rather, it is an organic continuum.

Maybe we can blame Plato for the mind-body dualism which runs through Neo-Platonism and, by extension, through many forms of magical Kabalah and Renaissance magical cosmologies.  Christianity has this built into it at almost every juncture, which is probably the reason grimoire traditionalists work the way they do, seeing space and tools as essential ingredients for interacting with a demon-haunted world.

Well, the world is full of demons.  At least, in my UPG it is.  But I believe it’s also full of many different spiritual energies, intelligences, and discarnate beings.  This view resonates with me perceptually.  It gets me to that emotional place LaVey thought was necessary for the performance of effective ritual.  And it keeps me mindful that the magical chamber is wherever I happen to be.

 

* For those grimoirists and spirit workers shaking their heads because they work in paradigms that treat spirits as having an independent existence, I have three occult sayings: (1) as above, so below / as within, so without; (2) it may be all in your head, but you have no idea how big your head is; and, my personal favorite, (3) credendi visus est, believing is seeing.

 

The Transvocation of Malphas, the 39th Spirit of the Lesser Key of Solomon

Greetings to all who regularly follow my blog.  It’s been some time since I’ve posted here, mostly because my Enochian scrying project has taken up nearly all of my time allotted for magical work.  Still, I know I need to get back to my magical writing here.  So I thought I’d return by briefly mentioning a Goetic transvocation I performed about eight days ago.

My purpose was to find an exceptionally good condo for an exceptionally low price.  Since I was looking for this in a country that really doesn’t speak much English (or German, French, or Spanish—meaning I am mostly out of luck in the communication department); dealing with real estate hustlers and sharp customers who might be looking to part a naive foreigner from a large chunk of change; and operating under a serious time constraint (already employed here and needing a place to live ASAP), I felt some magical work was appropriate.

So I did a divination to make myself aware of whether magic could be of assistance in this and which forms might be the most effective.  My long tarot reading indicated that magic would be a good thing, that I should engage in some spirit work, and that Malpahs, a Goetic President in the Lesser Key, would be the most appropriate.

Frater Rufus “His Nibs” Opus, in A Modern Goetic Grimoire, notes that “Presidents are the active, most mobile spirits of the Goetia. They are quick, with the speed of Mercury, and they are very intelligent and analytical. These spirits are good at providing speedy solutions to problems, usually in the way of serendipitous information or opportunity” (42), and I have also found this to be true.  While I don’t scrupulously use the courtly ranks (and never consider the Zodiac correspondences or “thwarting angels”) for the demons, I do sometimes take into account how I will address them in terms of their relative status in the (incomplete) Lesser Key hierarchy. 

I started to do this after reading Jake Stratton-Kent’s discussion of the same in The True Grimoire.  But  as much as I admire Jake’s scholarship and insights, in the end, like a stubborn magician, I must always do things my way.  So I did approach Malphas with the respect befitting a noble when I transvoked him (or, I should say, transvoked with him—which I will explain shortly), but since I was staying with friends at the time and did not have a formal magical chamber set up, I had to use an unconventional method.

Mathers, in The Lesser Key of Solomon: Goetia, gives a telling description of Malphas: “He appeareth at first like a Crow, but after he will put on Human Shape at the request of the Exorcist, and speak with a hoarse Voice.  He is a Mighty President and Powerful.  He can build Houses and High Towers, and can bring to thy Knowledge Enemies’ Desires and Thoughts, and that which they have done.  He giveth Good Familiars.”  We know the descriptions in the Mathers-Crowley edition are mostly cribbed from Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum.  And yet I would much rather rely on the former relatively modern (Victorian) language than on the latter, which in most translations can be tiresome.

So I read Mathers’ description closely and saw that Malphas could find me a good place to live.  If you take nothing else away from this post but the following three points, you will not have wasted your time: first, every ability listed for a spirit is just a starting point—you need to work with them in order to discover the scope of what they can do; second, if a spirit can do a thing, he can usually do the opposite just as well; and three, the abilities of a spirit function poetically, not just in a superficial materialistic way. 

In other words, if a spirit “builds houses and high towers,” his act of “building” might cause a physical place to be constructed or it might bring you to a pre-existing structure or a “high tower of thought” or insinuate you into a royal “house.”  Learning to interpret the spirit descriptions in the grimoires is more like literary analysis than reading an operating manual, even if a “grimoire” is in many (often deceptive ways) a “grammar.”  If you can read them broadly and impressionistically, you will begin to see some of the hidden implications.  Who knew English class would be so useful for summoning demons?  

Having decided on Malphas, I faced the problem of space.  There were not going to be any nine-foot circles, censers, cubic altars, and Triangles of Art being laid down.  And yet, I don’t believe in the efficacy of wholly “astral” evocation work.  In my UPG, there has to be a channel to bring heaven (or hell) to earth.  If it takes place completely in the imagination, it could work, certainly, but at least for me, the magic risks staying in the astral.  And I want to minimize the chance of failure as much as I can.

With this in mind, I chose transvocation instead of traditional evocation.  Transvocation is a hybrid method of communing with spirits with origins in the ATRs, the Latin American Cyprianic tradition(s), and the post-masonic lodge magic of groups like the Golden Dawn.  Simply put, instead of calling a spirit to visible appearance in a magical chamber, the practitioner astrally projects into the spirit’s presence where it happens to be

Obviously, this is not without difficulty or danger.  If you believe (as I do) that physical, objective, measurable results can come from spirit work, that it’s not all masturbatory self-delusion, then you believe entering the presence of a spirit on its own plane means approaching it in its place of power.  It’s a hybrid technique because you have to take precautions in the physical before you make the attempt.

I  banished my space, used an amulet I have that anchors my soul, burned a stick of inexpensive frankincense, and began the Hu chant, a mantra I learned in Eckankar that enormously raises the “vibration” (for lack of a better term) inside the individual and in his immediate location.  If you think “Om” works, try Hu and you will never go back.  After everything was resonating intensely with magical energy, I began to focus on his seal (which I’d drawn out longhand on a piece of paper in black ink) and chant the spirit’s name.  I only had to do it for a few minutes before I found myself in his presence. 

I was (indescribably) in my physical body and elsewhere at the same time, a potent kind of bilocation—my astral form in a featureless dark space, just me and the demon.   Malphas was unmistakable.  He appeared as a man in a white linen robe with the head of a bird, both crow-like and also hawk-like.  The feathers went from black to vivid dark blue, sometimes transitioning to white at their tips.  His eyes were featureless black, unblinking.  A sense of unnatural stillness surrounded him and he did not move at all, as if he were some kind of mirage or projected image (which, in a sense, he was).  He just looked at me and waited for me to speak. 

Wordlessly, I knew he knew what I was going to said before I said it.   An emotional sense of dourness emanated from him, but there was no visual representation of this.  I asked him to help with finding me a place to live quickly and at a very good price.  After a short exchange, in which we determined certain specifics and details, he agreed.  Malphas departed suddenly, flying upwards into nothingness in the form of a great purple-blue bird.  As he departed, I did too, the binding of the transvocation having ended.  As if a giant rubber band were attached to my spirit, I snapped right back into my body.

On the sixth day after this working, I found exactly what I’d asked to find.  Coincidence?  I’ve learned otherwise.  The moral of the story is simple: not all spirit work must be done one way.  And the demons of the Goetia, at least, enjoy the work.  Even though I have been dealing with spirits for decades, I always feel a sense of wonder when the magic works.

                     Malphas as depicted in DuQuette’s Illustrated Goetia

Just so you know.

Friends,

Due to the long-term commitments I have to my current clients and to my Enochian Scrying Project, I will not be taking on new public sorcery or new divination requests for the foreseeable future.  When this changes, I will let you know here on the blog.  For now, my Proton Mail address will be unresponsive.

Some of you have been waiting over a month to work with me.  For that, I thank you and I wish you well in your search.

Best,

S+A

Scrying the 27th Enochian Aethyr, ZAA

This time, I saw the door into the Aethyr as being of the same gray stone, but the letters were inscribed with “ZAA” in brilliant blue light, which then became white light as I pushed through.  After a moment of disorientation, I found myself on a plane of endless light.  There was nothing but my body and light.  And so there was nowhere to go because every “place” was indivisible from every other place.  It was a world of homogeneity. 

My “body” was the only dark thing, a hollow shell that also contained the same light of ZAA.  And I got the impression that my physical shell (which had blackened as if it were burned) was a kind of falsehood, that it, too, was made out of light but in a way that allowed me to believe I was distinct and separate.  And I understood that this was true and false at the same time, depending on my point of view.

As soon as I had this thought, I saw another blackened shell (much like an empty corpse) of an old man hovering before me.  It’s eyes and mouth were full of the same light.  A voice came through the open mouth without the features moving.  It said, “These are fields of light.  There is nothing but light.  The light shines on itself and the darkness is illuminated.” 

I had the insight that the darkness is illuminated meant that it was (can be seen as) another form of the same light, just as I had sensed this relative to my own distinctness.  I then saw a vision of a ray of light coming through a window and impossibly bending back so that it formed a kind of endless loop into itself.  The entire Aethyr seemed, for a brief moment, like a giant crystal prism reflecting itself to itself.

At that point, I felt there was nothing left for me to learn in the session.  So I returned.  Back in my physical body, I was sweating.  I could feel heat waves coming off of me as if I’d been sitting out in direct sunlight.

Notes:

Discussing ZAA, Schueler offers a quote from Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine: “Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition.”  This is interesting in the sense that I experienced the homogeneity of light in ZAA as a kind of universal noumenon.

However, I again experienced the Aethyrs in my own way.  Instead of experiencing loneliness and separation, I saw how separation can veil a deeper oneness.  Maya is often referred to as a “veil” that obscures the deeper connected nature of things.  So I did experience my individuality, but I also had an insight into its falseness as well.  On one level, I am separate.  On another, I am not.

Interestingly, I did have a dream last night about the Egyptian Neter, Nekhbet, who represents both Isis and Nepthys (among other protective goddesses).  Of this, Schueler writes,

[Y]ou may see Isis and her sister Nephthys in ZAA. Isis is warm, loving, and motherly while Nephthys is cold, stern, and impersonal. The forms that these two lunar qualities (i.e., the waxing and the waning Moon) take for you may vary, but you are certain to encounter the qualities themselves in some form or another.

The fact that I had this dream on the night before I intended to scry the relevant Aethyr may be an interesting form of retro-causality.

This is further interesting because Nekhbet is, in a very direct sense, the unification of those two deities as the protective Neter of the pharaoh and of Ra as he travels across the heavens.  This has personal significance for me but it also suggests the unification of opposites—unity underlying apparent diversity. 

Schueler goes on to suggest that “Your main lesson to learn in ZAA is to accept individuality, but not loneliness. The terrible sense of loneliness in ZAA is a result of distorted thinking. The truth is that you are never alone. The entire universe is always a part of yourself. Realizing this is an initiatory preparation for the higher Aethyrs.”

Crowley, in ZAA, has a vision of the lunar goddess, Hekate.  But I saw neither moons nor goddesses (unless we count Nekhbet the night before).  Nevertheless, Schueler calls this “the Aethyr of Solitude” and I did experience a sense of being alone—that feeling of being ultimately inseparable from everything else and therefore alone because there is nothing and no one else.  This did not make me afraid.  It was more like an “illumination” of a legitimate perspective on reality.

A thought from GD Neo-Enochiana . . .

“Astral projections can draw on and clear emotional blockages and give tremendous energy to those who use it correctly. It helps us to develop control, and to gain access to the deeper parts of our nature by making us more aware of them. Astral projection with Enochian work, however, seems to draw from an external force that can flow through and aid us in exploration. It does this not only within us but also within the external universe by ultimately controlling it. It teaches us to merge with these currents of energy and ride with them rather than swim against them. In addition, it opens up a whole new door to our conception of ourselves and of the universe we live in.”

— Pat Zalewski, Golden Dawn Enochian Magic

 

Additional Thoughts on Scrying the 28th Aethyr, BAG

Since performing this scrying operation, I’ve had thoughts and experiences that seem relevant to the work.  First, “BAG” is supposed to be the Aethyr of guilt, self-doubt, and uncertainty.  I did not experience this directly during the working, apart from a sense of temporarily losing the reinforcing boundaries that define my “self.”  However, in the 24 hours that followed, I came down with a case of anxiety, depression, and crippling self-doubt that I cannot easily describe. 

This strengthens my theory that scrying the Aethyrs is as much shamanic journeying as it is ceremonial magic (if there is a difference as far as visionary work is concerned).  An effective shamanic journey doesn’t end in the “Otherworld.”  Rather, the shaman brings those experiences back with him in order to heal the community, the land,  and / or himself in some way.

Other magicians have written at length about how the boundaries between subjective and objective states seem to become flexible during Enochian work.  And I am beginning to see how that may function: the inner meaning and overwhelming (yet still subjective) force of this scrying has an “aftershock” in one’s life. 

This is why I think it might be wise to let, at minimum, one or two days pass between scrying sessions—not just to recover from the intensity, but to let the meaning of the recently scried Aethyr unfold in one’s mundane life.  Overdo this and I can appreciate how there would be so much unfolding at once that it could drive a person nuts.  As a wise friend said when I told him I’d begun this project, “Tie a rope around your ass in case we have to pull you out.”  Indeed.

Another interesting observation I can make at this point is that of corroborating images.  Granted, symbols of pyramids, scorpions, blood, fire, the moon, and gemstones are relatively ubiquitous in western esotericism.  Nevertheless, I have noticed that pyramids in four other accounts of BAG, scorpions in two, and an “Abyss” experience in three.  I encourage the reader to do internet searches on the Aethyrs in order to examine different visionary sessions, understanding that everyone will experience the Aethyrs (as with anything else) in his or her unique idiosyncratic way.  But still, it’s interesting to note the similarities.  I am keeping an open mind, above all else.

I am still recovering from the post-scrying fallout of BAG.  The next scrying session is scheduled for tomorrow.  I may or may not keep to that, depending on whether I feel up to it.  Slow and easy is nearly always preferable to half-cocked and irresponsible in inner work like this.