Dear Young Sorcerer,
You have asked me about where to begin in the world of grimoire magic (and whether you should even mess about with grimoires in the first place). My best and most sincere response to this must be: the modern grimoires are doorways to great ability. Look to them first. That is what the second letter in this series of posts is about.
Above and beyond all others, The Miracle of New Avatar Power by Geof Gray-Cobb is one of the most asked about modern grimoires on my website and on Studio Arcanis, where I moderate. Over time, I’ve responded to questions about it individually and in more general teaching posts here on Black Snake Conjure. On Studio Arcanis, we even have a complete sub-forum dedicated to it. We admire it that much—and for good reason. But before I go into a new discussion, I’ll provide a brief summary of what I’ve already said about this material (with handy links).
I’ve talked about the hybrid nature of New Avatar Power in the sense that it functions as an instructive (and powerfully effective) intersection of Kabbalistic, angelic, demonic, egregoric, planetary, and divinatory magic, embedded in the overheated language of 1970s pop-occultism. It is, in a very real sense, a complete (and quite subtle) education in evocation and ceremonial magic. And I believe it is far superior to its more recent imitators, as much as I like and will recommend those in this post as well.
I’ve also examined the deceptive veiled language of these modern grimoires. In “Willpower and Manipulation in the Art of Spiritual Evocation,” I noted that
Gray-Cobb and his 1970s pop-occult contemporaries were real magicians who hid their knowledge in silly, rinky-dink, sensational books. Whenever you’re reading Carl Nagel, M. McGrath, Al Manning, Oliver Bowes, etc., remember to look closely at their sensational language and goofy anecdotes. These are blinds. If you can read between the lines (as an old Rosicrucian motto taken from Proverbs 20:12 goes, those with hears to hear and eyes to see), you will have access to some powerful techniques.
And some of you wrote to me, asking why they would do something like this. No one can say for sure, but, as a public writer on the occult, I believe these writers used clever “blinds” because what they were offering was (and is) very effective.
They didn’t want to mislead sincere seekers, but they also didn’t want to be responsible for placing power in the hands of those who would misuse it. So they wrote in such a way that only the most sincere and dedicated students would “decode” what they were saying and therefore get results from the techniques. Make no mistake, the knowledge in these books, once you know how to read them, can be egregiously misused. These aren’t texts dedicated to “harming none.”
I’ve covered ways to use these grimoires (and even older magical books) to learn better techniques of evocation and other forms of magic, citing the very old practice of magicians calling spirit teachers and learning directly from them instead of from human teachers or, more recently, how-to manuals. I’ve talked about how the “spirit book” or Liber Spiritum was traditionally a very key component in this process; although, many practitioners either don’t know about it, don’t understand how to use it, or don’t see a need for it today.
Lastly, I’ve discussed (mostly at Studio Arcanis in the “modern grimoires” forum) why and how the Gallery of Magick grimoires and the GoM’s imitators seem derivative of the work of Gray-Cobb, Al Manning, and Carl Nagel in particular. And yet most of the GoM texts are quite useful and well done in their own right, if a bit narrower and less flexible than, say, New Avatar Power or New Ishtar Power. And there’s still much more to say. If you’ve read my linked posts and have taken a look at the relevant fora on Studio Arcanis, you’re already fairly informed about what these texts are and what they can do.
However, I felt inspired to write more on the subject when I got a very interesting email that asked whether it would be a mistake to start with something like New Avatar Power when older “more traditional” magical books are so readily available—essentially whether the real power was in texts like the Grimorium Verum, the Grand Grimoire, Liber Juratus, or even the Papyri Graecae Magicae.
It’s a tremendous question because it’s impossible to answer to any degree of usefulness. The question looks for power in the grimoires instead of in the practitioner, which is a serious, if common, mistake. So my first answer was that any book of magic can be effectively worked if the magician knows what he is doing. But leaving it at that is neither fun nor kind. So I will rephrase the question: what is the value of (or is there a value in) working with modern grimoires as opposed to the hard (and rewarding) study of older magical books?
Obviously, if you’ve gotten this far with me, you know I think there is an immense value to be had in reading and using modern grimoires. But I would caution the beginner not to see a dichotomy here just because the older grimoires were published centuries ago and these came out beginning in the North American pop-occult boom of the late 1960s.
Modern grimoires are always, to some extent (and often very much), indebted to older traditions of grimoire magic. They use the same classes and individual spirits; though, they may call such beings in different ways. They often rely on mantra or visualization to do the work that more concrete magical accessories and icons did for centuries. And they may be written with modern lifestyles in mind—i.e. they may have very robust techniques for drawing money, exerting influence, and finding favor with those in power and far less about “making women dance in the nude,” causing displays of poltergeist activity or light shows, and affecting crops. If we consider the modern redistribution of population from rural to urban, this all makes sense.
Overall, the modern grimoires offer a doorway not only to powerful accessible magic but to the older traditions on which they are based. A great example of this is the “Magical Mentor” in New Avatar Power, a familiar spirit you can call to help you in all things. What many beginners don’t realize is that when they call this spirit, they are also getting a powerful tutor who can show them effective ways to unlock the Lesser Key of Solomon or The Black Raven. Learn to see all the grimoire literature on a grand continuum and so many more doors will open to you.
I strongly advise young sorcerers to internalize Aleister Crowley’s dictum: “invoke often and inflame thyself with prayer.” I would also recommend evoking often, that is, calling spirits to appear before the practitioner, not only to exert influence in the world, but to acquire knowledge. What better way to start this than with books written in the language of modern magicians and therefore more readily accessible? Becoming conversant with modern grimoires will make you a proficient magician and it will also pave the way to the older texts as well.
Like anything, grimoire magic takes practice. So if you are called to the magical life, start today. It is a very long but rewarding path.