In recent years more and more people are coming to an agreement that we currently are in the midst of a magical revival. Compared to 15-20 years ago the amount of texts that were available have skyrocketed. This is of course something positive and there is no doubt that scholars are doing a tremendous job in making old texts accessible to the public, but in its shadow and mainly in social media, something else that is less positive has also emerged in its wake: a kind of unhealthy and competitive spirituality.
I am not of the opinion that everyone needs to agree with each other, but the aggressive tone of the various discourses goes well beyond that. And it seems to be the norm everywhere whether it is regarding Solomonic Magic, Witchcraft and perhaps the occult in general. This is why I have chosen to call it “The Tragical Revival” as the premises for making something better is there, but the general outcome is rather tragic and depressing.
One example of a discussion which tends to get quite heated is the discussion of methods within Solomonic Magic and perhaps particularly the method of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC). On one side you have the grimoire purists and on the other side you have those with a more experimental view. I am not going to go into that discussion here. My point is rather that it quite clearly demonstrates a kind of competitve tone in the discussion between two sides who are not willing to settle on their differences.
Mysticism and Magic
Recently another discussion has popped up, which at least I have not picked up on before, that relates to mysticism and magic. In a recently published anthology called Circling the Compass by Anathema Publishing Dr. Stephen Skinner is quite explicit on that he does not see a place for mysticism within magic. That is of course a legitimate view, although I strongly disagree with it, and find it quite peculiar based on that the Magical Revival in the 20th century had a lot of mystical ideas in it. It remains unclear whether Dr. Skinner thinks that the leading occultists of the 20th century were practicing much magick at all. In any case, it is not a matter that is undisputed. Although I can agree that there seems to be limited interest within Solomonic Magic for mystical ideas.
However, this is not my main problem with his article in that book. My problem is with what he proceeds to say. He states that the techniques found in Solomonic Magic is similar to scientific methods where the experiments are repeatable and that he values this type of scientific enquiry also in magic. It all makes sense so far. But then he goes on to tell the reader about the supposed dangers of not having a proper circle. Okay, so he agrees on that the warnings in the grimoires about physical demon attacks are a bit too much, but he claims that he often hears accounts of people who shortcut the method and make careless mistakes. And then he, rather arrogantly, adds that they are mostly protected by their own incompetence.
I have two problems with that. The first being that “hearing accounts of…” is not very scholarly. I understand that this is not a scholarly work, but one cannot simply go from stating that scientific values are highly desireable in magic to come with such an unspecific example. Sure, I have heard “accounts” of people who have dabbled in the grimoires and horrific things happened to them. The problem is that none actually knows these people. It’s always that friend of a friend or someone distant. Taking away all those who have managed to scare themselves, there are not much to these accounts at all.
The second problem is quite revealing. It is obvious that Dr. Skinner cannot have an overview of what methods or what amount of knowledge these people supposedly have had. To me the whole thing sounds like an ad-hoc explanation, while at the same time trying to establish his own authority with cheap rhetorical tricks. I found it unecessary as Dr. Skinner is already highly regarded for his work. And I also find it disappointing that someone who has done so much for the occult scene feels the need to take part in that kind of competitive spirituality. It is definitely not a kind of behaviour that I associate with scholarly or scientific work. These types of formulations are things to be expected to be found in social media discussions (who unfortunately are way too toxic) and certainly not in a published anthology. The essay certainly left me with a feeling of left-hand work. Although this post is not meant to be a book review I can reveal as much as that there are several other interesting essays in there that may be worth getting it for. Dr. Skinner’s contribution however only left me with that I should be getting his other books and follow the formulas precisely, if not, I would be considered incompetent.
Let’s leave Dr. Skinner alone for now, but I am not quite done with the grimoire purists and their view of magick yet. Naturally, I cannot say that all the grimoire purists share the same idea as Dr. Skinner that magickal experiments should be repeatable similarly to how scientific experiments are, but my general understanding is that it is quite a common opinion to have among them.
That brings me to the Abramelin and the idea of the Holy Guardian Angel. It needs to be said that the Abramelin operation is not considered to be Solomonic Magic – yet for some reason it is still quite popular among the grimoire purists, First of all, the idea of a Holy Guardian Angel to begin with, is a mystical idea, secondly, everyone seems to have their own interpretation of what the Holy Guardian Angel is and thirdly because the Abramelin operation is extremely demanding in a modern society (it was already demanding enough back in the days), almost none can follow it by the book. Suddenly because of the great inconvenience of the method it seems to be okay to shortcut it. To me there seem to be just as much to that as that there is a gentleman’s agreement to that a bikini on the beach is okay while underwear is taboo. Personally I disregard the whole idea of a HGA as none can seem to agree on what it actually is anyway.
My point is not to take any experiences away from anyone, quite to the contrary, I just want to encourage people to not be so vocal about them and also refrain from commenting too much on what other people experience. There is a reason for why one of the powers of the sphinx is to be silent. I don’t think it is in the best interest for the continuation of magick within the frame of competitive spirituality. The original Magical Revival had a lot of mystical elements to it and that is why I find it tragic that they now are being left out.
Well, that is only partly true though. For starters I am not sure how one could claim that having contact with angelic beings and so on would not have some element of mysticism in it. The lore around which they build upon is quite mystical.
Then you have different brands of magic such as various traditions within traditional witchcraft. And surprise, some of them are highly mystical. Just look at the works of Andrew Chumbley, Robin Artisson, Nigel Aldcroft Jackson and several other writers and tell me that there isn’t any kind of mysticism in it.
The Witchcraft Issues
Witchcraft has also undergone a process of renewed interest, but the challenges it faces are quite different from what is currently happening within Solomonic magic. My main issue with witchcraft is that there seems to be so much nonsense going on. It’s so diverse that it is really difficult to get into and see what it really is about, but it seems like most of the Facebook groups out there are mostly busy with posting nonsense cat memes, getting advice for their own experiences in life (often completely unrelated to what I understand being relevant for witchcraft) and progressive political opinions (naturally these people are extremely offended if you would disagree with them). There is very little discussion of witchcraft practice in itself or in the very least the history of the various practices of witchcraft. Most people seem disinterested in that or they are just unaware. And don’t even get me started on the Wiccans who always seem to have the most fantastic and embellished accounts that I ever read across any occult tradition.
I find it tragic that with access to all this new information and possibility to connect and share experiences through social media, that it seems to be a step backwards rather than a real revival of anything. I am not so sure if it is the quest for truth that is the most important for everyone involved. If it was, then why spend so much time and energy on other people to try and influence their opinion? It seems like a self defeating thing to do and it does not have any place in anything that can call itself a true magical revival. And that is a great tragedy, as there is potential to be had out there. But in its current state it does not seem to be anywhere near fulfilled.
I am not here to decide what works or not for others. I am here to share my own experiences so that other people can decide if that works for them or not. That is also how I treat books by the authors I read and what I look for when connecting with other people. Right now I feel quite disillusioned about the whole thing. It seems to make more sense to just take a step back and only focus on my own stuff, because “everyone” you connect with on social media seem to be focused on anything but themselves. Except the likes they generate of course. Who knew that the meaning of life (and magic) after all is a number: the number of likes that you generate. At least we can agree on that isn’t very mystical…
-Thus Spake the Night Spirit