Grimoire Insecurity: the Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s lovely seeing posts from people who discovered Goetia last week and who have now, in their great experience and wisdom, embraced a grimoire purist attitude because anything else would be “ineffective” or “dangerous” or (gasp) “all in my head.” It’s equally wonderful to read smug responses to that from the opposite extreme: “I do it all in my astral temple, bro. I’m beyond tools and rules.” 

It seems to me that both of these extremes are similar and originate in insecurity. The first guy is terrified that he’s going to make a mistake. Maybe an even deeper underlying fear is that none of it is real and he’ll never know if he’s deluding himself unless he follows a strict rule set, which is the closest he believes he can come to an objective success-failure standard. 

The second guy is also afraid he’s going to make a mistake, but he believes following the grimoire purist approach is only for rich people with degrees in metallurgy and their own towers. Since he, like most people, got into magic because he wants things he doesn’t have (especially that tower), he circumvents his horrific doubts by making everything take place in his imagination.

There are many subtle gradations between these extremes, but stick around on magical forums (and on some of the ceremonial magic groups on FB) and you’ll notice the grimoire insecurity before long. It’s how Dr. Lisiewski and Steve Savedow marketed their Goetia methods. They sold a lot of books by exploiting the purist urge with horror stories from their own UPG (Savedow, in particular, reads like Book of Revelations fan fiction). There are also a bunch of Llewellyn and Weiser joksters who put books out in the other direction, some including a “Cicero method of magical tool creation,” but tending seriously towards the all-in-the-head approach.

I’m writing this not to say that purist approach or the all-in-the-head approach can’t work. What works for you may not work for someone else and there are some excellent purists who have a great, beautiful, grimoire practice. The opposite is probably also true, though harder to convincingly document because it’s so subjective (cf. “transvocation”).

But the insecurity, the angst, the defensiveness, the uncertainty is always easy to spot and that is what I’m inveighing against. It is often harder to keep an open mind, to say “maybe,” than it is to get red-faced and loud about your pet method of reassuring yourself that magic isn’t a waste of time.

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The Reality of Inner Worlds

Don’t try to validate any of your spiritual or visionary experiences. You determine what they mean for yourself. Your inner world is wholly and completely yours. And yet, it reaches beyond what you have been conditioned to think of as the boundaries of your everyday self. This is why my teachers used the term “within you and beyond you.” These inner experiences, whether dramatic or commonplace, are taking place in the inner world of your conscious and subconscious, but they are also resonating with the macrocosm (as below, so above). Therefore, your experience as a spiritual being is unique and also transpersonal. Honor what comes to you and what you send forth into this experience and respect the spiritual experience of others. In that respect is a certain parity that contains the paradox of individuality-vs.-universal oneness. It also contains the paradox of free-will-vs.-fate.

Jinn Summoning and Sorcery is Back

We’re having an interesting conversation about some new Jinn magic texts over on Studio Arcanis.  This post comes from that discussion, given that Jinn magic seems to be making a comeback.  I just read Corwin Hargrove’s Practical Jinn Magick: Rituals to Unleash the Power of the Fire Spirits.  And, though this post isn’t a proper review of that book, I liked it and want to mention it here.

Intrepid and curious magicians might want to investigate it.  That said, there are other worthwhile texts available that might give some foundation.  I’ve enjoyed Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar by Robert Liebling. It’s not a book of magic, but it’s definitely a book that feels magical, if that makes any sense. Another good one is Islam, Arabs, and the Intelligent World of Jinn by Amira El-Zein. A smart magician could draw a lot of inspiration from these two alone.

As far as practical books are concerned (apart from Jinn Sorcery, which, like all Scarlet Imprint books, is beautiful first and useful second), two others immediately come to mind. There’s S. Ben Qayin’s Book of Smokeless Fire (which Hargrove indirectly dismisses) and which I haven’t read and am not interested in. Then there’s Baal Kadmon’s Jinn Magick: How to Bind the Jinn to do Your Bidding, which is the highly simplified approach Hargrove criticizes in his book. Hargrove doesn’t name Kadmon’s book directly, but he says:

You have to be careful with simplification. One author recently wrote a book that simplifies Jinn Magick to the point that, in my opinion, the magick isn’t there anymore. His ritual form does nothing more than call to the Jinn King, with no structurally sound opening framework, direction, protection or any allusions to named Jinn. It’s a book that could be seen as either useless or dangerous, and to an extent that depends on the person using it, but it’s an example of what I can find disappointing about the over-simplified approach. I hope that what you get here has more meat than his book, without the convolutions set out by some older systems.

The thing with Kadmon’s books is that they seem like beginner texts but you actually have to be fairly confident and experienced to make them work (like many Finbarr, Parker, and Starlight texts). I think this is what Hargrove means when he says using it “depends on the person,” but it seems like a low blow. He also takes a shot at Nineveh Shadrach, calling Magick That Works overrated. I am surprised Al-Toukhi also didn’t draw some insults, given that Red Magick has been one of the few relatively well-known Jinn magic books in the West. It’s clear that Hargrove consulted Red Magick or at least is aware of it because he lists the book in his bibliography.

I was disappointed that Hargrove criticized Kadmon and Shadrach because I’ve gotten a lot out of both of these authors. Moreover, Hargrove is a solid spellbook writer in the Gallery of Magick vein (even if he claims not to be part of that group) and really doesn’t need to disparage the competition. His work is good and can stand on its own.

Revelations of the Heart

I really enjoyed these stories.

Story 1­­

Four pupils used to practice meditation.
These close friends vowed to each other to observe silence for seven days.

The first day passed well.
But as the evening progressed and the oil lamps became dim, one student couldn’t help himself.

“Attend to the lamps!” he shouted impatiently to an assistant.

His friend turned to him, surprised.
“You are not supposed to speak! Have you forgotten?”­­

The third friend piped up, “You fools! Why are you talking?”

“Hah, I’m the only one who’s kept silent!” exclaimed the last.

Story 2

The mystic’s dog loved his evening romp with his master. The dog would bound ahead to fetch a stick, then run back, wag his tail, and wait for the next game. On a particular evening, the Mystic invited one of his brightest students to join him – a boy so intelligent that he became troubled by the contradictions in…

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