Starting up work once again . . .

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Well, my six-month hiatus away from conjure is coming to an end.  I’m feeling the itch, feeling called by my spirits to get back in the game.  As my dear friend Brother Moloch said not too long ago: it’s good to take breaks but don’t let too much time go by.  He’s right, as usual.

Sometimes, you need to clear your head.  This kind of work is so serious and intensive that after every 15-20 client cases, I tend to need a decompression period if I want to stay on top of my game.  So it’s been a good one.  I’ve moved twice in this last period—to southern France and then back to the USA for a while.  Now I’m in Europe again, my workshop is reestablished, and I’ve been doing tarot readings locally to get warmed up.  

You can find me moderating on Studio Arcanis most days or contact me here via my secure email: friendlyoccultist (at) protonmail (dot) com. 

If you need some work done or you need a reading, check out How to Hire Me, my Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and What I Won’t Do for Money on this site.

While I’ve been away, I’ve gotten a plethora of requests for spiritual work.  To those who emailed me during that time, I can only say that sometimes the world of Spirit calls you to do this kind of work.  Other times, you are explicitly called not to work but to be introspective and care for yourself.  Since I have a full-time mundane income, I can afford to listen carefully to those messages.

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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.

Dealing with Demons

I recently had an experience in my grimoire work that I thought I’d share here. Ever since the rise of demonolatry publications in the 1990s—especially those of the prolific S. Connolly, whose approaches I happen to appreciate quite a bit even if I don’t always follow them—the trend in spirit work, particularly with demons, and especially with the demons of the Lesser Key of Solomon (the Goetia), has been non-coercive.

Jason Miller, on his Strategic Sorcery blog, calls this the “be nice” approach; though, I prefer to think of it as transactional. In other words, I’m not being nice to the demons, I’m being businesslike. They’re not my friends; they’re my partners in some project. And as with any business partners, it doesn’t pay to be hostile and nasty, nor does it pay to be fawning and gushy. Rather, the ideal is “fair and firm.”

When you’re entering a transactional relationship with someone, whether a spirit or a incarnate human, you want “consideration” on both sides, which can be defined as “the benefit that each party gets or expects to get from the contractual deal” (https://bit.ly/2M5eV9s). If both parties are getting what they agree on, all that is required is performance, nothing more. This usually works very well. Still, just as in business, sometimes you get screwed. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Everyone who runs a business of any kind knows that sometimes you will work with someone who either fails to perform or who misrepresents something. It’s part of life. In an ideal world, we’d all be honest and clear with each other about what we’ve done and what we’re able to do. But this world is far from ideal, and that includes the “spirit world,” which is also part of the world in which we live.

That said, especially when dealing with demons, you usually have to be strict about what you expect, even if the relationship is transactional. In my experience, the demons of the Goetia are largely reliable and, although they may act like you’re bothering them with your concerns, most of the time they actually enjoy working with magicians. A few, however, are nasty as hell, a few are pathological liars, and a few will only perform to the exact letter (and not the overall intent) of what you ask them to do, behaving more like stereotypical mischievous djinn.

Every magician will have a personal relationship with her spirits and so it’s hard to generalize about which ones will behave honorably and which will turn out to be screwballs and psychopaths. So it would be pointless for me to (further) blacken the reputation of certain demons who might turn out to be good partners for other practitioners.

But I will say this: identify and keep a list of the ones who do not perform, who seek to harm you in various ways, and who withhold information in bad faith. NEVER work with those spirits again. There are many others who can do future work. Much as with a human partner, they might fool you once and abuse your good nature. But if it happens a second time, the fault is yours for not learning your lesson.

Keep that list handy because sometimes, when a spirit thinks it’s clever, it will try to enter into another transaction with you, raising the stakes for another payoff not only from the agreed-upon exchange but also from the negative emotional fallout when you realize the same spirit screwed you over a second time. Avoid this.

I’m not saying not to work with demons. Sometimes, they are precisely the specialists you need for the problem you have. I’m saying do so carefully, wisely, and in a way informed by your own well-documented observations and experiences. Because anyone can be had. The point is to learn from your mistakes, dust yourself off, and become better.

Defeating the Inner Critic Through Ritual Psychodrama

Pop-psychology defines the “inner critic” as the harsh inner voice of judgment that most people feel to some degree, the inner accuser attacking them with feelings of unworthiness, guilt, shame, and incapacity. For some, it can become an inner abuser, growing so toxic that it casts a shadow over an entire life.

In Freedom from Your Inner Critic, Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss write that

When you feel ashamed, hopeless, inadequate, or just plain awful about yourself, it’s because your Inner Critic is attacking you. The Inner Critic does this in a variety of ways, but most commonly, it works by hammering you with negative messages about your self-worth. It may criticize your looks, your work habits, your intelligence, the way you care for others, or any number of other things.

This can ruin otherwise positive experiences and may even lead to self-destructive behaviors and the ultimate self-negating act, suicide. When an inner critic becomes insufferable, one tries desperately to be rid of its influence. But that doesn’t generally work because it has emerged from the netherworld of the unconscious. It is theoretically a sub-personality trying to protect us in some warped and counterproductive way, usually as a result of overwhelming stress during our formative years. Earley and Weiss note that “[w]e can’t get rid of a part of our psyche any more than we can get rid of a part of our body. We won’t be able to cast out or banish our Inner Critic forever. It might go underground for a while, but it will pop up later and cause us even more grief.”

I have found this to be true for most clients who come to me with this problem. They can psychologize their struggle but, at best, they achieve only temporary relief. Because the inner critic is part of them, it learns to circumvent their defenses, strategically appearing and disappearing, emerging when the body and / or mind is vulnerable and staying away when a person feels strong. Nevertheless, ceremonial magic gives a workable solution.

In magic, if the psychological model isn’t useful, we shift into a different set of metaphors and symbols to solve a problem. If one of our sub-personalities is tormenting us, we may not be able to get rid of it (or befriend it and work with it, as Earley and Weiss suggest) using medication and / or therapy. But we can treat an offending sub-personality like a spirit and use the techniques of spirit work to subdue, banish, or imprison it. This works. And it creates lasting change.

We have to be careful, though, not to equate ritual magic with a kind of second-rate psychology. Ever since Aleister Crowley wrote in 1902 that the spirits of the Goetia are actually “portions of the human brain” (The Lesser Key of Solomon: Goetia, trans. Mathers), insecure magicians have tried to use psychologistic language (appropriating terms from psychology to talk about non-psychological matters) to feel better about working with spirits. It has created an enduring debate that irritates most practically minded magicians. As Skinner and Rankine aver in The Keys to the Gateway of Magic,

This is a fallacy introduced by Aleister Crowley’s comments in “his” edition of the grimoire the Goetia. Demons are not, repeat not, psychological and definitely not anatomical ‘portions of the human brain’ as Crowley categorically stated in his introduction. In this introduction Crowley writes a tongue in cheek exposition of magic that has confused many generations of students ever since. It was not till the publication of the excellent edition of the Lemegeton by Joseph Peterson in 2001 that Crowley’s partial and defective edition has been finally eclipsed. Hopefully his introduction will now also cease to influence current thinking about evocation. Although we have the greatest respect for Crowley’s intellectual rigour and pioneering spirit, the introduction penned by Crowley in that book has effectively put back research into evocation by more than 75 years, by introducing the beguiling but deceptive notion that demons are purely subjective.

What Skinner and Rankine don’t discuss, however, is the usefulness of ceremony in providing tangible psychological release. Magic might not be psychology, but it can have a positive psychological effect! This is something Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan grasped early in its existence. In The Satanic Rituals, LaVey calls his formal black mass “the original psychodrama” and notes that “This ritual is a psychodrama in the truest sense. Its prime purpose is to reduce or negate stigma acquired through past indoctrination,” which might be the best nutshell definition of magical psychodrama ever formulated. That is exactly what a good ritual can provide, whether or not further magical outcomes are necessary or intended.

Sometimes, the personal subjective benefits from a ritual are the most valuable. I believe this, even though I tend to side with Skinner and Rankine in most arguments, since I have personally experienced the power of spiritual beings beyond the subjectivity of my own mind. Still, magic to feel better, magic to provide emotional release, is legitimate and reaches back to early shamanic practices designed to heal and protect. Even the Golden Dawn had a ritual designed to rid one of personal obsessing demons. It was called the “I.O.B. Ritual” (for “Identify, Objectify, Banish”). And many people have used it since Don Kraig included it in his book Modern Magick.

Grimoire magicians will automatically know how to imprison a spirit in a triangle of art or a circle, curse it, and exile it forever from the sphere of sensation. If you are suffering from a harsh inner critic, I recommend you try the following:

  1. Try to have a dialogue with the inner critic, if possible. Ask its name. If it won’t tell you or won’t even speak to you beyond trying to abuse you, that’s fine. It never hurts to ask.
  2. Develop a sigil for this creature. Remember, it is important to perceive it as separate from you. We know it’s an aspect of your mind, but you are now relating to it (objectifying it) as something “other.” I prefer the simplest sigil method: write out its name in capital letters. If it won’t tell you, write out INNER CRITIC. Then write out your full name, e.g. ROBERTA SOFIA SMITH. Cross out all repeated letters, leaving you in our example with something like: B F M H. Combine those letters into a single symbol that appeals to you. That is the sigil (the seal) of your inner critic. Then say the letters aloud. To me, it sounds like Befamah. That is the first pronunciation that came into my head. So it is the one I’ll use.
  3. Take Befamah’s seal and put it in a Triangle of Art. Summon using the conjurations given in any grimoire (you will have to learn the basics on your own). But know that the spirit doesn’t have to appear. Given the behavior of most inner critics, it will likely be in hiding. It doesn’t matter. You have its seal and a name. Now you are going to destroy it. I am partial to “The Greater Curse” from the Goetia, designed to imprison a spirit in the Abyss. As follows (modified for the occasion): Now O thou Spirit N., since thou art pernicious and disobedient, and wilt not appear unto me to answer unto such things as I would have desired of thee, or would have been satisfied in; I do in the name, and by the power and dignity of the Omnipresent and Immortal Lord God of Hosts IEHOVAH TETRAGRAMMATON, the only creator of Heaven, and Earth, and Hell, and all that is therein, who is the marvellous Disposer of all things both visible and invisible, curse thee, and deprive thee of all thine office, joy, and place; and I do bind thee in the depths of the Bottomless Abyss there to remain until the Day of Judgment, I say into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone which is prepared for all rebellious, disobedient, obstinate, and pernicious spirits. Let all the company of Heaven curse thee! Let the sun, moon, and all the stars curse thee! Let the L IGHT and all the hosts of Heaven curse thee into the fire unquenchable, and into the torments unspeakable. And as thy name and seal contained in this box chained and bound up, shall be choken in sulphurous stinking substances, and burned in this material fire; so in the name IEHOVAH and by the power and dignity of these three names, TETRAGRAMMATON, ANAPHAXETON, and PRIMEUMATON, I do cast thee, O thou wicked and disobedient Spirit N., into the Lake of Fire which is prepared for the damned and accursed spirits, and there to remain unto the day of doom, and never more to be remembered before the face of GOD, who shall come to judge the quick, and the dead, and the world, by fire.

Say it forcefully. It’s a wonderful weapon against all spirits and is, in the truest sense of the term, “going medieval” on them. If you have a problem with all the apocalyptic religious language, you may write your own curse, but this one carries the weight of tradition and its language is satisfyingly potent.

If you have never summoned a spirit before and don’t want to study how, you can always use the IOB Ritual (https://bit.ly/2H77LOi), which is actually a simplified version of a grimoire summoning and curse. The point is that when we objectify and dismiss the inner critic ritualistically, it creates that reality for us in the world of the unconscious, which is where the sub-personality lives. If we only try to battle it with our conscious rational mind (as with talk therapy, reason, or cognitive behavioral techniques), it pops back up like a weed we can’t eradicate.

A Dark Song (2017)

 

The ending is corny and I don’t get the use of the Reiki symbols (I can make up a reason for their use in a particular scene of the movie, but that would just be me reading into it).  Otherwise, I have never seen a more realistic film about a complex magical ritual.  Amazing, actually.

The Power of Evocation

Evocation itself is an earth-shattering experience
that often leaves the evoker in a unique frame of mind
after a successful conjuration. The first time a person
looks up and sees a spirit visibly looking back, a shift
in paradigm occurs that transforms the way the evoker
thinks and acts from that point on. In that moment
all the laws of reality that materialistic physics have
engrained on the developing mind tumble away and a
new way to look at the universe is revealed. It is these
experiences that characterize evocation and the proc-
ess leading up to it as a spiritual initiation – one likely
evolved from the cave, crypt, and crossroads rites of
the classical goes.

At The Crossroads

DuQuette on Practicing Goetia “by the book.”

This month, I am giving private lessons in Goetic evocation.  Whenever I teach this (or, really, discuss it at any length with serious grimoire magicians), the question arises as to how strictly one should adhere to the methods given in the medieval grimoires.  Lon Milo DuQuette, in Aleister Crowley’s Illustrated Goetia, expresses my views exactly:

There exist today, Goetic magicians (both solitary practitioners and organized groups) who operate strictly ‘by the book.’ The Circle, the Triangle and all the diagrams are constructed exactly as illustrated in the Goetia. They recite (or most often read) the conjurations, constraints and curses exactly as written in the 1687 text. Ceremonies of some of these magicians are a thrill to behold and, without a doubt, the Art will forever be perpetuated in its classic form because of their dedicated labor.

It must be pointed out, however, that there is absolutely no necessity (nor particular advantage) to blindly conforming with the Conjuration scripts of the ancient texts. The Spirits are no more impressed if you say ‘thee’ and ‘thine’ than they are if you say ‘you’ and ‘yours.’ Aleister Crowley was aware of this and crafted several versions of his own conjurations. In fact, as we shall see later, in his own copy of the Goetia he simply hand copied the Second Key of the Enochian system. It is our opinion (and that of other Crowley scholars) that for personal Goetic conjurations Crowley most likely in his later years discarded the traditional conjurations and simply recited the First and Second Enochian Calls.

It is also our opinion that the most effective conjurations are of the magician’s own design. We encourage the reader, once the fundamentals of the system are thoroughly grasped, to create your own conjuration which, like your Temple, equipment, and procedures, is uniquely yours.