Using Grimoires and their Spirits to Learn Magic

When it comes to old magical texts, you will know you are no longer a complete beginner when you can at least read a Renaissance grimoire* and determine a practical way of working with it. Spirits can also teach you how to do this. Here are three suggestions for developing a larger repertoire: 

1. Take the time to learn a modern grimoire, like those offered by the Gallery of Magick, Al Manning, or New Avatar Power (NAP) by Geoff Gray-Cobb.  They work!  And, in spite of their simplicity, they can serve as an introduction to this sometimes daunting field of occultism.  See if you can call up the “teaching spirit of the book,” sometimes referred to as the crossroads spirit or the “familiar of the text.”  In NAP, it’s called the “Magical Mentor,” but even the old grimoires have them (Clauneck or Scirlin in the Grimorium Verum, etc.).  Have this spirit teach you how to evoke a spirit from a more complex text.  For example, if you were working with the Magical Mentor, you might have it teach you how to call the demon, Marbuel from The Black Raven. The Raven is a relatively simple grimoire but harder than the modern texts and challenging for beginners because the method it offers takes a lot of knowledge for granted in the operator. Many books of magic are like that. Marbuel will then teach you more.  Do this multiple times as a way to magically deepen your knowledge and power.  It can be quite exciting to learn this way.

2. Get McGrath’s Practical Magickal Evocation. It’s a tiny book put out by Finbarr and can be found everywhere. One of the spirits given there is Maseriel, the tutelary demon of the book. He has “60 servants.” Each of these will teach you one valuable thing about philosophy, magic, or necromancy. But the trick is that you have to ask for this directly and you will have to do the evocation of Maseriel multiple times (which is his payment—you will discover). Write the 60 things (some long, some very short and obvious but still useful—and all personal to you) down in your magical journal. Those things (lessons) will continue to unfold in your life as teaching tools for a very long time. After these evocations, call Maseriel again and ask him for an improved method of working with another grimoire. I suggest you choose something just out of reach in terms of your skill level. If you are a relative beginner, you might want to choose The Grimoire of Honorius or Liber Armadel.**

3. Harder: get an utterly egregoric grimoire (i.e. one that is made up by some fake occultist but that takes on its own reality through use ***) like Evoking Eternity or The Devil’s Grimoire or The Gates of Dozak or The 13 Gates of the Necronomicon. It’s a good beginning-to-intermediate test to see if you can make those work, because they can, but more of the burden is on you to achieve subjective synthesis (i.e. suspended disbelief ****) and then push energy into those containers. Have one of the aforementioned spirits (or, if you prefer, one of the Shem angels from GoM’s 72 Angels of Magick) teach you how.

This is one of the classical ways a grimoire magician / necromancer would work—getting the spirits to teach the mysteries directly. It still can work that way. And you will find that your magic is a lot stronger when you have a spiritual teacher providing you with personalized instruction.  It certainly isn’t boring.

* You don’t need to be fluent in Vulgar Latin, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, Greek, Sanskrit, Arabic, or any of the other grimoire languages (to say nothing of Enochian) if you have an English translation. However, by looking up key words, you will develop a deeper grimoire literacy, which will make you a better magician when spirits speak in those terms. You will also have the good insights that come from learning a new language in that context. A grimoire is a world in itself and a unique perspective on the world. It is not surprising that a language is that, too.

** Not to be confused with The Arbatel of Magic, which I consider to be a more dangerous grimoire with multiple blinds that need to be taken into account on multiple levels. Leave this one aside for a while.

*** Ultimately, this describes all grimoires, but some are more obviously egregoric than others.

**** This is a term coined by the late, controversial Dr. Lisiewski. The following is his definition from Ceremonial Magic & The Power of Evocation: “Axiom 3—A state of Subjective Synthesis is produced through the conscious study, understanding, comprehension, and acceptance of the theory of all elements that compose a given magical act. As a result of this synthesis, an integrated belief system is taken up in the Practitioner’s subconscious mind. This allows the individual to perform the magic and obtain the results desired from the magical act. Argument 3—I define this state of subjective synthesis as a mental process which leads to an integrated belief system. In this case, it is the Practitioner’s belief system in the power of magic and in how the magic works. This belief system is held in the part of the mind below the level of conscious perception, known as the subconscious (or unconscious) mind. These ordered set of beliefs are then used by the subconscious (or unconscious) mind during the magical act.” I take issue with Dr. Lisiewski’s “grimoire fundamentalist” approach, but this idea is very useful, imo. 

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A More Nuanced Model of Magic

Imagine a tunnel running from your body to the magical result you desire.  Energy-information-spirit flows from the universe inside you down the tube toward the objective.  It also flows in the other direction, from the objective back into you and your inner universe.  This looks a lot like a discourse.  So it should come as no surprise that “conversation” is one model magicians have recently used to explain how magic gets done.

To a certain extent, the conversational model of magic is based on Frater UD’s legendary “Models of Magic” essay, in which he notes that “magic as a whole has always existed in many, coexisting models. What has changed, however, is the stress laid on one model or the other in the course of time.”  A very interesting stress comes to us through Speech Act Theory via the “chaos magick” of the 1980s: “Speech act theory considers language as a sort of action rather than a medium to convey and express” (https://bit.ly/2ueftVJ).  In other words, the act of speaking (and the act of magic) creates as it describes.  I communicate something to the universe, causing change, and it communicates something to me the same way.

This is nothing new: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Genesis 1:1).  Most religions and philosophies begin with an utterance.  But in western consensus culture, the popular mind is conditioned to overlook this.  People think only in terms of basic cause and effect (a crude syllogism): if I do X, then I get Y, where X is something that originates in my mind and Y is something brought into being in the world outside of me because of me acting on X.  This sounds a lot like early industrial reductive materialism, which assumes we are disconnected bodies colliding in space.  There is no oversoul in this view, which is probably why it’s something modern magicians have to overcome before their workings become effective.  The conversational model, on the other hand, can be far more nuanced and useful. 

Magic is as hard to define as love or truth.  It’s a concept that is highly mediated by cultural context and becomes concrete or abstract to the extent required in a given rhetorical situation.  For example, I might talk about magic in terms of Speech Act Theory, making it quite abstract and theoretical.  I might talk about it from the perspective of folklore, which will necessarily make it a lot more tangible (i.e. talking about magic as it exists in certain stories and legends).  I might even place it in an archaeological context, which would make it extremely concrete (i.e. these are the curse tablets, religious tools, or enchanted adornments used at a given place and time).  Unfortunately, Aleister Crowley’s usually half-quoted, highly abstract and permissive definition of magic has dominated Western esoteric traditions at least since 1913 when Liber ABA was made available, allowing “if X, then Y” assumptions to persist.

Crowley’s most often (incompletely) quoted definition of magic from Book 4—“MAGICK is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”—is too loose and vague if we want to look at the interaction that takes place in a magical process.  If we make his definition a little more complete (“MAGICK is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will. . . . Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.”), then we come a bit closer to the idea of conversation.  But we’re still working with an abstraction that’s so broad it allows all kinds of pervasive consensus-culture assumptions—for example, that magic is something you can “do” to the world the way you hammer a nail into a board.

Let’s go back to our simple conversational model of utterance and information exchange: energy-information-spirit goes out from the practitioner and comes into the practitioner during a working of magic.  Although it may seem that on one level we are doing something to the world (if X, then Y), it would be more accurate to say that we are guiding something in the world the way one guides a discussion to a certain subject or conclusion (I offer X.  The world offers Y.  X and Y change as a result—creation and description through utterance).

Applying this insight has everything to do with the practitioner relaxing her vice grip on results.  As I mention in my post about being a spirit-led conjure worker, “Beginning practitioners often mistakenly think that if they just concentrate hard enough, if they just WILL something into being, the world will respond.  This can work sometimes, but grabbing the world by the throat and shaking it more often results in nothing or even in the opposite coming to pass.”  This is another form of “lust of result,” getting in the way of one’s own magic by thinking that you have to move heaven and earth through by own power.  You don’t  Heaven and earth are always-already in motion; you simply have to guide that motion in the desired direction.

Relax, breathe, and be open to the direction spirit is taking in the world.  This means learning a reliable system of divination.  It means developing your psychic senses so that you can converse with spirits.  It means learning to summon the discarnate and intangible for the purposes of learning (for example, evoking Vassago using Paul Huson’s method in Mastering Witchcraft or the “Magical Mentor” from Gray-Cobb’s New Avatar Power or bringing forth a daemon from the Lesser Key of Solomon who “giveth good familiars”).  And it may also mean finding a patron deity who can initiate you into an energy-information-spirit paradigm of magical practice.

It sounds like a lot of work and a lot of uncertainty.  But that is the nature of this hidden art.  You need to have perseverance and openness and a sense that magic is in line with the momentum of  your True Will.  And you need to love talking to the world this way.  If you don’t—if you are primarily interested in “getting paid and getting laid,” by all means follow whatever spell book you’ve downloaded from the internet or come to a sorcerer-for-hire.  But unless you do the work to attain deeper understanding and personal gnosis, you will forever be wading in the shallow end of the pool.  So mote it be. 

“The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!” — Liber AL vel Legis I:45