And as he [the demon Ornias] was not willing to be subject to me,
I prayed the archangel Uriel to come and succour me;
and I forthwith beheld the archangel Uriel coming down to me from the heavens.
Testament of Solomon
The demons are with us from the beginning. The Talmud teaches that they were created on the eve of the first Sabbath, and when Adam opened his eyes and first saw the Paradise, the snake was already silently waiting for him, next to the Tree of Knowledge.
Today we know that the Bible inherited this subject from the ancient Mesopotamians. It is in the Epic of Gilgamesh that the first snake precedes the hero and devours the fruit of the Tree of Life, gaining, for itself only, the desired immortality.
The identification of the biblical snake appears in the Apocalypse of John, where the fallen angel is called the old serpent, Devil and Satan. Together with the writings attributed to Paul the Apostle, influenced by apocryphal themes, this passage marks the beginning of the disagreement between the Jewish and the Christian demonology that will decisively influence the development of European Ceremonial Magic. In the Talmud, the demons are described as beings of intermediate nature, living between the world of men and the skies of angels, with wings that take them from one end to another of the world and who know the future, but also who eat and drink, procreate and die. The main figure of the Christian demonology, the Prince of this World denounced in the Gospel of John, among the Jews is comfortably installed in the divine hierarchy, enjoying the great privilege of talking to God face to face.
We do not need to be limited to the Jewish-Christian thinking to meet demons. Demons are present everywhere and at all times. In Ancient Mesopotamia they were identified with diseases, and men’s magical relationship with such beings was defensive and therapeutic, unless the person had exactly the opposite objective – to cause illness, death or misfortune to their victim. The victim could be offered ritualistically to a demon as Lamastu, who afflicts children, but the supernatural agent of harm could also be a deity. In fact, the analysis of these ancient texts shows that in more than half of the diagnoses, the one who causes the suffering was an offended god, with the demons sharing with the ghosts only two fifths of the blame. It is interesting to know the Magic of Ancient Mesopotamia because then we can find almost all elements of medieval grimoires: purifications, prayers, offerings, lists of talismans, stones and plants… An important element within this set of beliefs was the idea that the exorcist did not have authority to command the demons directly, nor did he possess any supernatural powers; he merely appealed to the gods for help and acted at their command. Therefore, 4,000 years before Abraham of Worms began his long journeys in search of divine wisdom, there is a record of what we now call the Abramelin Principle and the confirmation that the Christian piety is nothing new.
Although the cultures from Ancient Mesopotamia reached a high degree of sophistication, the demonological pattern is basically the same we find in shamanism of all primitive cultures. It is a recurring fact that people spontaneously feel what they understand as the presence of magical beings and energies and analyze such experiences from the resulting feelings of well-being or discomfort. By the same token, all known solutions for the confrontation with demons had already been tested by primitive cultures. We did not progress at all in regards to magical practice and we only created more elaborate metaphysical and cosmological systems that try to explain or justify it, and sometimes not even that.
The two objectives of this historical introduction are to highlight the ideas supporting the conclusions presented at the end of the article and to demonstrate the metamorphosis that happened inside the magical relationship between men and demons in the western culture. The primitive cultures were more flexible in regards to dealing with the world of spirits and gods, but when the great civilizations got organized, the shaman was replaced by the college of priests with their interpretations, rules, laws, techniques and traditions progressively walled in an orthodoxy sustained by the written word. The demons were circumscribed to illnesses and misfortune.
According to Professor Sarah Iles Johston, the oldest known reference in any Mediterranean culture about demons working to the benefit of men, instead of being used to cause suffering to others, is found in the Testament of Solomon, written between the first and the third century AD. The text tells how Solomon, with the help of Ouriel and several other angels, forced Beelzeboul and a whole long list of less important demons to reveal their names and secrets. Solomon led them to work in the construction of the Temple and imprisoned them in sealed vessels – an element that was later on important in some of the medieval grimoires, and that Aaron Leitch correctly associates with “Spirits Pots” present in several primitive cultures. Solomon also received a ring that granted him power over the malign spirits, but in the end his power and authority depended on the protection from God and when Solomon loses such protection, his power is over.
And it came about through my prayer that grace was given to me from the Lord Sabaoth by Michael his archangel. He brought me a little ring, having a seal consisting of an engraved stone, and said to me: ‘Take, O Solomon, king, son of David, the gift which the Lord God has sent thee, the highest Sabaoth. With it thou shalt lock up all demons of the earth, male and female; and with their help thou shalt build up Jerusalem’.
The Testament of Solomon is a key text to European Ceremonial Magick as it marks an important passage in the magical function played by demons. Asmodeus, whose job and joy was to transport men into fits of madness and desire, when they have wives of their own, so that they leave them and go off by night and day to others that belong to other men; with the result that they commit sin and fall into murderous deeds, under the power granted to Solomon is led to make the clay for the entire construction of the Temple, treading it down with his own feet.
Still according to Professor Sarah Iles Johston, from at least the start of the first millennium BC, Mesopotamian magicians also used ghosts to accomplish various goals and in the Greek Magical Papyri we see these magical formulations for attracting love addressed to the ghosts of the victims of violent deaths and infernal gods as Hecate, but the demons seem to remain as a limited and rarely used resource. To us, the most important point in these papyri is the figure of the parhedros, or magical assistant. The parhedros is granted by a god, has a divine essence itself and appears as such an important element to the point of being considered in one of the texts as the fundamental magical element:
He will serve you suitably for whatever you have in mind, O blessed initiate of the sacred magic, and will accomplish it for you, this most powerful assistant, who is also the only lord of the air. And the gods will agree to everything, for without him nothing happens. Share this great mystery with no one else, but conceal it, by Helios, since you have been deemed worthy by the lord god.
Besides being a clear example of the Abramelin Principle, the parhedros is also of interest to us due to the similarity between the list of his powers and the description of the demons found later in the grimoires:
He sends dreams, he brings women and men without the use of magical material, he kills, he destroys, he stirs up winds from the earth, he carries gold, silver and bronze, and he gives them to you whenever the need arises. And he frees from bonds a person chained in prison, he opens doors, he causes invisibility so no one can see you, he is a bringer of fire, he brings water, wine, bread and whatever you wish in the way of foods [but never fish or pork]. He stops ships and releases them, he stops many evil daimons, he checks wild beasts and will quick break the teeth of fierce reptiles, he puts dogs to sleep and renders them voiceless. He changes in whatever form of beast you want: one that flies, swims, a quadruped, a reptile. He will carry you into the air, and again hurl you into the billows of the sea’s current and into the waves of the sea; he will quickly freeze rivers and seas in such a way that you can run over them firmly, as you want.
The search for a protective spirit can also be found in the beginning of Shamanism and became a trend in late Antiquity. The daemon of Socrates was identified as a protective and guiding spirit by Neo-Platonist and theurgists and in Porphyry’s Vita Plotini, it is demonstrated that the idea became common place:
There was a certain Egyptian priest who arrived in Rome and through some friends became acquainted with him [Plotinus]. Wishing to give a demonstration of his own wisdom, he asked Plotinus to come to a visible conjuration of the personal daemon abiding with him. He readily agreed, and the conjuration took place in the temple of Isis, this being, as the priest said, the one pure place that he had found in Rome. When the daemon was conjured to appear, a god came forth, not one of the daemon-kind. The Egyptian therefore said “Blessed art thou who hast as the daemon abiding with thee a god and not one of the lesser race. Having, then, one of the higher classes of daemons abiding with him, he for his part continued to direct his godlike gaze toward that being.
The Church incorporated the idea under the terminology of the Guardian Angel as of the Fathers of the Church in the earliest Christian texts, where he is referred to by several terms that define their functions: phylax (guardian), phrouros (guard), prostates (protector), epimeletes (superintendent), ephoros (overseer) and boethos (assistant). Sometimes the Guardian Angel is also compared to a shepherd (poimen) and to a herdsman (nomeus). Although every human being has an appointed Angel, the Christian belief defined that only after the baptism the Angel is actually effective in fulfilling its function, an idea that shall be in the origin of the key concept of the Abramelin Operation. According to Origen, the Guardian Angel “is like a father”, a concept that Crowley agreed with much later, who wrote “he is something more than a man, possibly a being who has already passed through the stage of Humanity, and his peculiarly intimate relationship with his client is that of friendship, of community, of brotherhood, or Fatherhood”.
The cultural characteristics of the Middle Ages called for interesting changes in the way demons are seen. Firstly, as a result of the opposition between religion and science resulting from valuing ignorance (now understood and held as ‘simplicity’), the Arts and the Sciences then were seen with disdain, as the emphasis in life was the salvation in the upcoming world. The writers of the New Testament demonized the whole world when they stated that it is under the rule of Satan and, consequently, so the Arts and the Sciences that deal with the world were suspect of diabolism. This is where the demons take on a new role, supported by the apocryphal passage where the fallen angels take women for themselves and teach them several arts, a role that later on is confirmed in the later elaboration of the grimoires. The best example comes from XVI century when Johann Weyer, the demonologist who was a disciple of Cornelius Agrippa, publishes Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, providing to the adepts of invocations a complete hierarchy of gloomy spirits. Such hierarchy is notable not only for presenting the spirits now organized according to the ranks of European nobility, but because besides the former functions we already know, as to cause earthquakes, to cause disagreement, war, arguments and deception and to kill men on three days with putrefying wounds, the demons start performing tasks that in themselves are benign and useful: to promote the science and knowledge of the mechanical arts; to search for favours and to reconcile friends and enemies; to teach moral and natural philosophy, logic and the use of plants and herbs; to give the best familiar spirits and to cure all illnesses.
Amongst the several grimoires, two stood out towards the end of XIX century and became, together with John Dee’s Opus Enochian, the main references in contemporary ceremonial magick: The Goetia and The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.
The oldest known manuscripts of these two sources date from the XVII century but the text in the Goetia is based on Pseudomonarchia Daemonum‘s list to which it adds Vassago, Seere, Dantalion and Andromalius spirits and provides an invocation ritual, something omitted by Johann Weyer. Some of the names also have minor alterations, as Marbas and Barbas and there are significant changes in the order of the names.
The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage has the form of a long epistle where Abraham of Worms tells his journeys and instructs his son Lamech in the Abramelin Operation, that consists of six months of constant prayers that culminate with an experience called “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”. The Holy Angel then instructs and protects the mage in the invocation of demons whose names can be found in a series of magical squares. Afterwards, the demons start performing all the typical acts of the grimoires which basically repeat the same activities seen on the description of the parhedros. The difference is that the Angel of Abramelin is less versatile or refuses to get his hands dirty, delegating the tasks to the infernal spirits.
Both books became contemporary icons for being associated with the two most influential names of Magick in the XX century. MacGregor Mathers, the main founder of Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, translated both books, which then became available to a larger public. Aleister Crowley published The Goetia and left us some referential passages by reporting his own experiences.
Abramelin was translated in 1897. Part of the legends about the book came about during its translation, with Mathers resigning to walk five miles every day, after recurring bicycle accidents on the way to Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal where the manuscript was, and after losing one hundred pages of translated material and two notebooks on the train from Auteil to Gare du Nord. His relationship with the publisher became conflicting and he was urgently in need of cash. Mathers left a record of the perilousness of the grimoire that at some stage justifies the later evaluation done by Crowley, that although Mathers was an expert magician who knew grimoires such as The Greater Key of Solomon well, he did not notice soon enough that Abramelin was the equivalent to dynamite compared to the gunpowder of the other systems. Mathers wrote:
It is the Squares which I have found to be endowed with a species of automatic intelligent vitality. I have had much experience of Magical Manuscripts, but to tell you my experiences copying these squares would cause you altogether to doubt my veracity. Therefore I advise you to be on your guard all the time that the squares and the Frontispiece are in your house. The shape of the Casket [in the illustration of the Frontispiece done by Mathers’ wife] presented by the head of the lower triad of Demons in the drawing was altered completely in the pencil sketches and that by no mortal hand.
Probably the most dangerous of all grimoires, Abramelin proceeded after his victims. According to Crowley, the young composer of genius Philip Heseltine engraved one square of Abramelin neatly on his own arm, to get back his wife. Crowley said that the woman returned, but a very short time afterward the musician committed suicide. Actually, it was never completely clear whether Heseltine’s death by gas was suicide, accident or homicide.
In 1929, in a warrant letter published in the Occult Review, an anonymous reader described his terrible experience of four months after a self confessed gross carelessness attempt to use one of the squares to get some information. Beginning with a vague feeling of oppressing terror, felt as an imposed emotion upon himself which could be banished by an effort of will, the manifestation quickly escalated in the following months to visions extremely clear of an entity that seemed be gradually awakening and becoming more and more active and clear, also proving being capable of hearing phenomena noticed by other people.
Crowley witnessed until the end of his life about the autonomous nature of Abramelin squares. In one of his letters, he advises:
You must on no account attempt to use the squares given in The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, until you have succeeded in the Operation. More, unless you mean to perform it, and are prepared to go to any length to do so, you are a fool to have the book in your possession at all. Those squares are liable to get loose and do things on their own initiative; and you won’t like it.
The first edition of Abramelin had a small printing run and the spontaneous power of the grimoire might have dicreased with its later publishing in large scale. Abramelin is currently available in French, Spanish and Portuguese. Curiously, when the new and more complete translation by Steven Guth was published, I had to order the book four times. Although I buy a large amount of books every month, mainly from Amazon and from Alibris, very rarely a book gets lost. Three of the Abramelin copies mysteriously disappeared in the post and after I got it, although a new copy, was the only one amongst almost three hundred books that got moulded in my living quarters in Angola.
Crowley left to us his descriptions of the execution of the Abramelin Operation and, together with the diaries of the Operation performed by George Chevalier in 1973, still are the only testimonials that I know about what happens when a magician decides to take such irrevocable step. Both narratives coincide when they show that the demons do not wait to be called upon and they manifest themselves spontaneously as soon as the magician begins the works. George Chevalier was systematically attacked during all the six-month period, also inside the Oratorium. Crowley left an impressive description of these phenomena:
The demons connected with Abra-Melin do not wait to be evoked; they come unsought. One night Jones and I went out to dinner. I noticed on leaving the white temple that the latch of its Yale lock had not caught. Accordingly, I pulled the door and tested it. As we went out, we noticed semi-solid shadows on the stairs; the whole atmosphere was vibrating with the forces which we had been using. (We were trying to condense them into sensible images.) When we came back, nothing had been disturbed in the flat; but the temple door was wide open, the furniture disarranged and some of the symbols flung about in the room. We restored order and then observed that semi-materialized beings were marching around the main room in almost unending procession.
The march of the demons happened still in London, before Crowley moved to his mansion in Boleskine and before he actually began the Operation, which was duly accompanied by several issues: his assistant ran away without explanation after less than a month; the housekeeper started drinking again (after almost twenty years of abstinence) and tried to kill his own family; a second assistant started showing symptoms of panic and the butcher, who mistakenly received the sketch of one of the squares at the back of a note, cut his own arm by accident.
Besides these comparatively explicable effects on human minds, there were numerous physical phenomena for which it was hard to account. While I was preparing the talismans, squares of vellum inscribed in Indian ink, a task which I undertook in the sunniest room in the house, I had to use artificial light even on the brightest days. It was a darkness which might almost be felt. The lodge and terrace, moreover, soon became peopled with shadowy shapes, sufficiently substantial, as a rule, to be almost opaque. I say shapes; and yet the truth is that they were no shapes properly speaking. The phenomenon is hard to describe. It was as if the faculty of vision suffered some interference; as if the objects of vision were not properly objects at all. It was as if they belonged to an order of matter which affected the sight without informing it.
As part of the magical war that later took part between the master and the disciple, Crowley took ownership of the translation of The Goetia prepared by Mathers and published it in 1904. This edition also presents a theory over the phenomenon of invocation that had a great influence over some of the modern interpretations of Magick. In The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magic written in 1903, Crowley explains the Spirits of the Goetia as being portions of the human brain and their seals as methods of stimulating or regulating these particular spots through the eye. Such explanation became fairly popular amongst some magicians later on and seems to eliminate a significant part of the risks due to dealing with an objective and independent entity. However, it shall be reminded that the text was written by Crowley during his skeptical-buddhist phase, prior to receiving of The Book of the Law in 1904. Crowley’s later writings always emphasise that both the Guardian Angel and the demons have an existence independent from the magician’s:
But do remember this, above all else; they are objective, not subjective, or I should not waste good Magick on them.
The Book of the Law is sometimes presented by Crowley as being the most powerful grimoire. In fact, the book presents elements of practical magick that qualify it as such, as recipes for incense, instructions for rituals, prescriptions for sacrifices, recipes for perfumes, recipes for cakes, instructions of sympathetic magick to slay enemies, instructions to create and use an altar and how to properly print the book itself. Crowley considered that getting The Book of the Law was the coronation of his efforts to finish the Abramelin Operation, started in 1900 in Boleskine. The scripture of The Book of the Law corresponded to the Sign and to the advices that the Holy Guardian Angel writes about a small square plate of silver at the end of a successful Operation and Aiwass, the entity that dictated the text, would be his Holy Guardian Angel. However, I found in this something that may be an embarrassment for those who support Thelema, the magical philosophy presented by Aiwass, as being in fact an original revelation. Crowley’s diary entitled The Book of the Operation of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage, in the entry for 20 March 1900, reveals that he had been reading Clothed With the Sun by Anna Kingsford in that period. Four years later, when he purportedly completes the Abramelin Operation, the content of his revelation repeats in detail all the main ideas of Anna Kingsford:
a) Both state they are the prophets of the new era
b) Both received a book from spiritual entities, which they defend as being the doctrine of the new era.
c) Both defined the new era as being under the spiritual direction of a regent: the Archangel Michael for Anna, the god Horus for Crowley. Both the Archangel Michael and the god Horus have the duty to fight against the decadent forces of the past era. Both archetypes are mythologically equivalent, with Michael defeating Satan and Horus defeating Set.
d) Both identified themselves with characters from the Apocalypse: Anna with the Woman Clothed with the Sun, Crowley with the Beast.
e) Both witnessed being guided by a personal daemon. Anna’s personal daemon considered the term “Angel” as being misinterpreted and preferred being called ‘minister’ better indicating its functions of guiding, advising and enlightening. Crowley’s daemon presented itself as being the ‘minister’ of Horus.
f) Both stated that women’s re-valuation and the harmonization between Science and Religion were essential characteristics of the new era, ideas most likely inherited from Eliphas Levi.
An important part of the Thelemic doctrine is based on the idea that the world had been “destroyed by fire” in 1904, when the praeter-human entity called Aiwass had dictated The Book of the Law. An identical idea was published by Anna Kingsford only a quarter of a century before and is extremely unlikely that Crowley did not know about it, as he had at least read Clothed With the Sun in 1900. Anna Kingsford describes her book The Perfect Way in a way that reveals strong similarity not only of ideas, but also of style, with the same verbosity used later by Crowley when describing The Book of the Law:
Enough, it is hoped, has now been said to show that the “world” did indeed, as foretold, “come to an end in 1881;” that the predicted new era then began; and that in the promulgation of the system contained in The Perfect Way, especially, if not solely, the prophecies have found their due accomplishment. For, to enumerate a few only of the grounds of the claim made for the book in question, it affords to minds duly instructed and percipient, a complete demonstration, altogether unique, of the spiritual nature of existence, and of the reality and persistence of the soul. It formulates the doctrine announced as that whereby the new era would be characterized. It solves simply and effectually the profoundest problems, historical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual, to the full reconciliation of religion and science. And, finally, it appears at precisely the juncture both of time and of conditions, indicated as that of the period of an event which should inaugurate precisely such a change in the world’s system and thought as The Perfect Way is calculated to bring about.
As for Crowley, in his Confessions:
Generally, The Book of the Law claims to answer all possible religious problems. One is struck by the fact that so many of them are stated and settled separately in so short a space. […] It reconciles cosmological conceptions which transcend time and space with a conventional, historical point of view. In the first place it announces unconditional truth, but in the second is careful to state that the “Magical Formula” (or system of principles) on which the practical part of the book is based is not an absolute truth by one relative to the terrestrial time of the revelation. (It is a strong point in favor of the Book that it makes no pretense to settle the practical problems of humanity once and for all. It contents itself with indicating a stage in evolution.) […] The existence of true religion presupposes that of some discarnate intelligence, whether we call him God or anything else. And this is exactly what no religion had ever proved scientifically. And this is what The Book of the Law does prove by internal evidence, altogether independent of any statement of mine. This proof is evidently the most important step in science that could possibly be made: for it opens up an entirely new avenue to knowledge. The immense superiority of this particular intelligence, AIWASS, to any other with which mankind has yet been in conscious communication is shown not merely by the character of the book itself, but by the fact of his comprehending perfectly the nature of the proof necessary to demonstrate the fact of his own existence and the conditions of that existence. And, further, having provided the proof required.
Paradoxically, the repetition of Anna Kingsford main ideas in Crowley’s prophetical revelations shows that the experience with Aiwass on 8, 9 and 10 April 1904 was a legitimate magical experience. To better understand this point, I will first describe my personal experiences with the Goetia and Liber Sameck.
In 1993 I got my first edition of The Goetia published by Weiser. Although editorially correct, I was personally disappointed for not finding in it all the well known images of the Spirits present in Dictionnaire Infernal, by Collin de Plancy. My dissatisfaction remains, as years later, when I bought a copy of the Dictionaire, the edition inexplicably did not have any illustrations…
The book was ordered from the famous book store of the Argentinean immigrant Francisco Laissue. Besides being the best occultist book store in Rio de Janeiro and, then, probably the best in Brazil, it certainly had a Borgean atmosphere, with occult entrances through unsuspicious moving book shelves and a large amount of books kept in the impenetrable neighboring room, much larger than the ones available to the public. The bookseller that worked with Francisco Laissue was also a character, a gentleman of a strong Spanish accent, a light hunchback and with disturbing blue eyes that resembled the eyes of a blind person. He passed away a few years ago, but the owner is still active.
One or two days before I got the book, I had a serious problem when closing my till at Banco do Brasil, where I worked for ten years. What initially seemed to be a simple authentication error, turned out to possibly be a considerable loss that I would have to pay for, when the documents required to correct the error mysteriously disappeared. The Goetia came to my hands exactly in this moment of crisis.
I came home decided to try the grimoire. I had some experience with the Angels from Kaballah and with Enochian Magick, but Goetia seemed more suitable to solve that urgent problem and it had the strong appeal of the novelty. Benefiting from being by myself in the apartment, I performed a quick invocation.
My partner at the time only came home later in the evening, but I did not mention the ritual. She had a strong clairvoyance, but was also very suggestible and not always reliable, what made me decide to wait and see if she would say anything. At the time I still had not developed the ability to perceive a magical presence and depended on her to know what happened during the ritual.
The evening went through normally until my partner woke me up in an irritable mood, asking me directly if I had invoked a demon. I remained quiet and asked the reason for the question. She said she was seeing a demon walking repeatedly over a plate in flames.
The invoked Spirit was Phenex and the description given by her impressed me, as it is attributed to the first decan of Aries and to the element Fire, besides, obviously, having its name deriving from the mythological bird. But the best was still to come: I immediately felt the pressure of the energy from the entity on my forehead, making me have the vision of a man in a warrior elm and flaming eyes that aggressively demanded what I wanted. During all night I had a succession of apocalyptical dreams and woke up feeling a strong and impressive fiery energy around my body. I decided to personally go to the Bank’s archive and as soon as I came in a colleague received me in a disturbed manner stating that he had had an intuition and had just found the pack with documents in another branch’s folder.
Now, I shall emphasize the fact that the Spirit that manifested itself did not show any of the characteristics described in the grimoire. It did not have the voice of a child, did not sing, did not talk marvelously over all sciences and, certainly, did not seem obedient. My choice was not rational too: I chose him intuitively, opening the book and placing my finger on the page, without bothering with its apparent inappropriateness for the task.
Obviously, such a success encouraged me not only to new practices but also to an effusive propaganda of the grimoire that became a trend in the Order I was initiated in some years later. Unfortunately, this trend originated several problems with the neophytes that started working with the system and, till now, people who were members of the Order eventually came to me for advice and to tell me bizarre cases.
Although I seem to enjoy the good fortune of whom is born with the Ascendant in Sagittarius and with Jupiter in the Midheaven, I did not leave unharmed after the series of invocations I performed. Even more than ten years after I stopped working with the grimoire, cleansing and purification works performed by other people found Goetic energies and bonds in my body, phenomena that do not differ at all from the ones described by ancient Mesopotamian healers that exorcised spirits nested in parts of the bodies of their clients – something also present in Shamanic practices.
The work with the Goetia, for my own personal experience, is full of risks and I can only fully agree with what Thea Faye says in The Devil is in the Detail. The phenomena are never what we expect from a superficial reading of the text. The grimoire does not explain that the Spirit can already be present before the ceremony begin, what happened when I instructed a brother from the Order in the work praxis. It also does not advise that, with the practice, the magician establishes a link with the Spirits that makes the ritual unnecessary. In a certain period, I needed only to think and the communication started.
With the evolution of my magical path, I ended up abandoning the grimoire in search of my Holy Guardian Angel. The method I used was to start working periodically with Liber Sameck for years, what allowed me in 2005 to reach an initial level of Knowledge and Conversation. One of the things I have been noticing is that the constant purification and energizing that Liber Sameck and other Theurgic practices grant, slowly change the person into a living talisman and subtly act in all other areas in life. Whilst the Goetia has an immediate and drastic applicability, many times with non-lasting results, Theurgy slowly establishes all the conditions in a permanent and balanced manner for the person who needs it.
Another important point that differentiates the Goetia from Theurgy is health. My personal experience and the conversations with other practitioners show that the presence of the Spirits negatively impacts in our physical state, maybe because of the contrasting energies. Goetic invocations seem to cause disturbances after practices such as depression, gastro-intestinal problems, susceptibility to viruses, panic attacks and stress. I was spiritually advised that, on the long term, a constant Goetic practice would give me cancer of the larynx. When I worked with this system, I used to perform subsequent invocations with Enochian Lesser Angels to cleanse and re-energise my aura.
Another fact not mentioned by the Goetia authors is that, apparently, the Spirits create situations where their invocation seem to be the ideal solution and the practitioner is found immersed more and more in this type of event. I today see the situation involving my buying the book and invoking Phenex with a well-humoured suspicion and I cannot avoid mentioning the famous advice from Crowley:
It is, however, always easy to call up the demons, for they are always calling you; and you have only to step down to their level and fraternise with them. They will tear you in pieces at their leisure. Not at once; they will wait until you have wholly broken the link between you and your Holy Guardian Angel before they pounce, lest at the last moment you escape.
My Goetic experience did not end when I parted with the grimoire. The period as an A.: A.: Probationer was marked by a large number of events of this kind. A few months before having my Reception, which happened in a hotel in Rome, I could enjoy the most impressive manifestation I have had so far and it happened spontaneously. In fact, I was in the shower when all 72 Spirits started manifesting themselves with an intensity so far unknown to me and I believe they spent almost an hour parading clock-wise around the magical circle I quickly took shelter in. I had to invoke Hru-Ra-Ha during the whole process to maintain some integrity amongst all that energy. But there is an important fact about this experience and the subsequent ones: the Spirits were not attacking me and neither demonstrated any aggressiveness towards me. They were presenting themselves and many showed energetically how their seduction and aggressive characteristics are manifested.
I shall call the attention to the fact that my attitude towards the Goetic Spirits was always one of respect and friendliness. The demons attract and always fascinated me. One of the biggest problems of Western Magick is due to adopting the apocryphal vision that the demons are fallen angels which, as I stated earlier, is not a vision originated in Judaism. From a scientific view of the reality, the Goetic phenomenon shall be assessed independently from Christian nonsense. Christianity was wrong about the various scientific facts that are considered trivial nowadays and it will most likely not be correct in more complex and subtle questions.
I can now introduce my theory over the Goetic phenomenon and the magical phenomena in general and, thus, explain why I consider the writing of The Book of the Law a genuine magical experience, although it is basically a pastiche of Anna Kingsford’s thinking.
The knowledge and the conversation with magical beings is a phenomenon ever present among human beings, since the most primitive cultures of the past to our urban civilization. I personally know several people that, since their childhood, perceive and interact with spirits regularly and at the same time live a completely normal life and are discreet about what they witness. It is part of the Brazilian culture a narrow familiarity with all sorts of mediumship and rarely do we know a family where at least one member does not belong to a Kardecist group or regularly attends an Umbanda temple.
However, with such vast collective spiritual experience in Humanity time and space, the contact with spiritual beings still is object of belief, rather than of science. I do not have means of scientifically proving that in fact I had a meeting with Phenex as the presence of these beings does not leave photographic or phonographic records neither does it show in computerized tomography. But computerized tomographies do record cerebral alterations that happen during the experience of what is called perception of a spiritual presence. It is a phenomenon that occurs on a specific part of our brain but this in no way clarify the objectivity of our invisible friends.
The difficulty in establishing a science of the spirits is not in finding a way of producing an objective record, although it may still happen. Even the revolutionary production of such record would be hindered by a fact that is obvious to the skeptical ones but at the same time is severely repressed by the practitioners, either spiritual mediums or Enochian magicians. It is the fact that a spiritual communication never provided a knowledge that is unprecedented and verifiable.
Put differently, no spiritual communication to date has gone beyond the content of the memory of the recipient.
What happens during the knowledge and conversation with a spiritual being is the stimulation of the human mind with extraordinary and highly creative forms. This explains how it is possible, for example, that the so called spirits of the deceased can preview or accurately tell events, tell things that seem extremely personal and, at the same time, be incapable of repeating the names of their parents and siblings when the medium does not know them. It tells a lot about the inherent human desire to deceive itself the fact the every day thousands of people attend spiritual sessions and never question these key issues.
Crowley was aware of this fact and one of his arguments in favour of The Book of the Law is that for the first time in history, it would have scientifically been proved the existence of Praeter-human beings. Unfortunately, we now know that all small numerological enigmas that The Book of the Law present as proof can be produced subconsciously, specially if you have an exceptional memory regularly trained in Gematry exercises. Aiwass would actually have radically changed the course of Science and History if he had dictated his book in an existing language but, till then, unknown to Crowley, revealed historical facts that were unknown so far, or any other information that Crowley could prove he did not know and that was true.
Another important fact to be considered here is telepathy. I personally know the phenomenon, which happened a few times in my past with people I had a strong affective relationship. As we see Crowley repeatedly being surprised when a new lover starts having visions with symbols that are related to him, we wonder how his magically exercised and active mind affected his lovers’ thoughts.
However, the personal experience of the magician, mine included, tells that the manifestation of a spirit is a phenomenon that seems very realistic and it is hard – in face of a successful invocation – to tell yourself that the entity in front of you is a mere phenomenon inside your own mind. Add to this the fact that sometimes the manifestations are spontaneous and unexpected, even undesired. That they affect third parties could be explained by telepathy and, if we check carefully, almost all magical practical operations are epitomised to effects caused on other living beings – unless you are into making rain.
Thus, my theory is: the magicians’ magical perception of the spirits and the spirits’ inability to communicate are not necessarily incompatible neither is there a need to be summarized into a purely subjective process, if the Spirits are energetic structures that organize memory and intelligence in a way that differs from ours.
Within this theory, a Spirit will affect and stimulate our body, our nervous system and our brain, according to its energetic characteristics. Its energetic configuration can enable itself to stimulate our ability to learn a new language or affect the area in our brain that works with Geometry, it can excite us sexually, activate our prescience and telepathy or make a part of our body ill. It communicates by associating and affecting energetically our mind and, therefore, will never speak in a language we do not know. It can affect other people at the magician’s request and cause synchronicities whenever there will be a living being that can be influenced.
An analysis of my first invocation with Phenex shows that all these effects happened:
- My partner was affected when she perceived the Spirit.
- I was affected in several ways and my magical perception was awakened or strengthened.
- The archivist was affected, causing a synchronicity. As it was the archivist who lost the documents, placing them in the wrong folder, the Spirit may simply have activated his subconscious memory.
From this point on, I can explain why I consider the scripture of The Book of the Law as being a genuine magical experience. Crowley was intelligent and knowledgeable more than enough to create a fraudulent revelation that, besides the obvious uses of Rabelais, repeats in details Anna Kingsford’s ideas. I will not even consider that he defended, consistently and throughout his life, the truth of his prophecy. What I will say is that if his intention was to create a fraud, he had critical sense and knowledge enough to forge a revelation that would not run the risk of being, at any moment, compared to the original. Actually, it is hard to believe that this comparison was not made sooner, mainly considering the fact that several of Crowley’s adversaries and enemies had personal contact with Anna Kingsford whilst she lived.
According to my theory, Crowley in fact was in touch with a daemon in Cairo and it produced The Book of the Law, magically affecting the memory, the creativity and the literary capacity of his scribe. Anna Kingsford’s ideas were strongly engraved in his memory because Crowley had read her book in the dramatic circumstances present during his first attempt to perform the Abramelin Operation and also because such ideas satisfied his needs for self-projection and recognition. In fact, the presence of Aiwass seems to have helped emerge a little of everything that affected most profoundly Crowley’s mind since his being admitted to Cambridge in 1895 until he went to Cairo in 1904; therefore, there are so many passages in The Book of the Law that seem to repeat parts of other known works and trends at the time, such as the translation of Kabbalah Denudata done by Mathers and the publishing the Chaldean Oracles by Westcott – both founding members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and, thus, influential figures for Crowley.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the demons have always been with us. In Ancient Sumer they were feared and exorcised. Later on, they started being treated as condemned, to whom it is legitimate to impose all sorts of forced work. Some preferred to sell to them their own souls in exchange of temporary benefits, secretly plotting a way of avoiding the pact sealed. Today, when Magick is practiced more than ever in History, we are back to the individualism of the primitive era when each one seems to have their own personal formula for dealing with these beings.
The first issue of Howlings will probably be a precious object of study for the anthropologists of the XXII century, as there are testimonials from Magicians that approach their Goetic invocations in many different ways, from the extremes of Paul Hughes-Barlow, who states that the Goetic Spirits are our friends and advises us not to use rituals, magical weapons and the magical circle to Aleq Grai, who learned that we need one almost anal attention to detail and advises us to the need of courage and depth of character when we call “the bugger” and eventually torture “the little bastard” when it does not serve us properly. Although I am more in tune with the position expressed by Thea Faye, it is impossible to say who is right, even more because what is right for one person today may not be useful to them tomorrow – all can change to the extent the magician evolves and suffers the consequences of his acts.
In retrospective, my contact with Goetic Spirits was fundamental to awake my magical perception, gave me a strong certainty over the reality of Magick, taught me to be prudent and respectful and prepared me to search Theurgy in a more lucid way. The experience with Goetia seemed to really be part of my path and if I suffered in the process, it was a result of my own mistakes.
Anonymous, circa I-III AD Testament of Solomon
A. Cohen Everyman’s Talmud
Ankarloo & Clark Witchcraft and Magic in Europe – Biblical and Pagan Societies
Sarah Iles Johston The Testament of Solomon from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance
Aaron Leitch Grimoire Shamanism
Anna Scibilia Supernatural Assistance in the Greek Magical Papyri: the Figure
of the Parhedros
Hans D. Betz (ed.) The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation
Mark Edwards Neoplatonic Saints
Jean Danielou The Angels and their Mission According to the Fathers of the
Johann Weyer Pseudomonarchia Daemonum
Mathers (trans.) & Crowley (ed.) The Goetia
Mathers (trans.) The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage
Crowley Magick Without Tears
Magick – Book Four
Aiwass & Crowley The Book of the Law
Francis King Modern Magic
George Chevalier The Sacred Magician, a Ceremonial Diary
Darcy Küntz (ed.) The Battle of Blythe Road
Humberto Maggi Therion: The Life and Word of Aleister Crowley (forthcoming)
Anna Kingsford The Perfect Way
Clothed With the Sun
How the World Came to an End in 1881
Alkistis Dimech (ed.) Howlings
 A better term would be “Solomonic Principle”, as I used in papers written after the publication of this one.