Letters to a Young Sorcerer #2: Start with Modern Grimoires Like New Avatar Power, New Ishtar Power, and The Mystic Grimoire

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 PowerAnd 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.

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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.

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. 

New Ishtar Power

It’s past midnight and the degenerates in the apartment below have passed into the later stages of drunken incoherence.  Every Friday and Saturday night they do this.  On one hand, I hate to begrudge them their fun.  On the other, they are loud and obnoxious enough on a regular basis that I am beginning to think of them in terms of occult experiments.

In any case, my research into Botis and the graveyard experience continues.  Today, I followed the old Hoodoo tradition of paying tribute to the Queen of the Dead with 9 pennies and an invocation.  I didn’t have much time because the graveyard was set to close about 15 minutes from my arrival.  Still, after I said the invocation and cast the pennies one-by-one onto the ground, I could feel the power.  The dead didn’t appear this time, but it felt as if five people had suddenly hugged or enveloped my body.  It was an intense experience that stayed with me for hours afterwards.

Tonight, I performed the preliminary rites in Al Manning’s The Magic of New Ishtar Power.  These included drawing the Star of Ishtar while sitting in a consecrated circle; performing the Ishtar Mantra; activating a connection to the deities of the NIP system (Isis, Nergal, Ra, Ishtar, Osiris, Marduk, Thoth, and Bast), and committing the NIP Pentagram Ritual to memory.  I am good at memorization and can pretty easily digest long passages of text in a short amount of time.  So these invocations were fairly easy to remember.

In any case, I love this system.  Being a long-time fan of Gray-Cobb’s The Miracle of New Avatar Power and The Mystic Grimoire of Spells and Rituals, I’ve found Manning’s work to be comparable and sometimes even superior.  Moreover, I think Gray-Cobb and Manning compliment each other and would recommend that their systems be studied together.

While the imbeciles downstairs continue to scream and drink themselves toward stupefaction, I am in a much better mood than usual having felt the power of the NIP system in action.  I fully intend to put this grimoire to good use.