One of the most interesting tensions in the pagan/occult world these days is the ongoing interplay, and sometimes conflict, between the forces of past tradition and historical research and experimentation. I have been meaning to write on this for a while, but this week it was sparked by Frater RO’s post detailing his own inner conflicts of how to view Ian C’s ongoing court of Brigid project. There are two posts from RO, a reply post from Ian, and several running commentaries on all that are worth reading.
I have been where RO is myself. During the period from 1997 to 2002 or so I dedicated myself almost exclusively to Tibetan Buddhist practice. During that period I felt very protective of it, and did the kinds of things that overzelous people do. I issued dire warnings to people about Lamas that had even slightly shady credentials. I blathered about how much better it was to be in a tradition with an unbroken lineage of empowerment going back to the 8th century, and how complete and complex the Tibetan systems were. I would rage when people would get even the slightest point wrong. I once got so inappropriately rude with Sam Webster over whether thoughts can occur within Rigpa or not*, that I felt the need to apologize for being such a dick years later. To this day I still feel the need to go on a correcting spree anytime a magician or westerner mentions the word Tulpa, or talk about how Chod is for overcomming fear.
Eventually though I felt smothered by its completeness and lack of space for individual ingenuity and revelation. I backed off an began to examine my experiences within the context of everything else that I have ever done. I realized that part of my drive, part of my gifts, and part of what makes the magic work really well for me was precisely that creative energy and ability to communicate with spirits directly – which in turn gives the ability to develop ongoing revelations and create new things through experiment.
Some people are driven by the need to explore the past and re-create what has come before. Some people are driven by the need to communicate with the spirits people spoke with in the past in order to receive new practices and revelations. Still others are driven to experiment and create things whole cloth with as little influence as possible. Some people are so heavily invested in the extremes of this dichotomy that they lose the script, believing that unless a given piece of magic is from an ancient grimoire or unbroken tradition, it must be worthless, forgetting that at one time these thing had their origin in people doing new and inventive work. Others are so heavily invested in the new that they disregard tradition entirely, claiming that whatever a spirit or god happens to tell them automatically carries more weight than hundreds of years of history.
Though I perhaps lean a bit toward the side of ongoing revelation, I try to keep myself rooted in the traditions of magic – even if not one particular one. When I was working with Hekate she revealed four protector spirits that I wrote about in Protection and Reversal Magic. After the revelation of these four animal headed spirits, I found a reference to a tetradic form of Hekate with these four exact heads from the Chaldean Oracles. This was a case of history confirming revelation, which is always very cool. Later in my work with hekate she revealed nine forms of herself to me, two of which was very sexual and not at all in keeping with her history or cult. I treat this revelation as suspect because of that, and need a lot more testing and verification to make sure it meets my own standards of validity.
Many believe that The Goetia has its origins in the Testament of Solomon, wherein a boy possessed by the demon Ornias. Solomon exorcises the boy, but rather than just leaving it at that, he gets Ornias to reveal the names many other demons, their functions and the angels which can control them. While it is not always a matter of a confrontation with a demon – this is how it is done. You contact a power and ask them to reveal more powers, be they other spirits, techniques, or information.
As part of my writing process for Financial Sorcery I contacted Jupiter and asked him to reveal new arcana that could be used by my readers to better themselves according to the Jupiterian current. First he revealed four goddess attendants who all appeared from four coins he handed me. These four goddesses actually did appear on Roman coins (again affirmation of revelation by historical record is wonderful). Next he told me to work with my seer and illustrator Matthew Brownlee to transmit 16 sigils called the Lightning Glyphs, all of which will appear in the new book this spring.
I have had the opportunity to look over some of Ian’s Summoning materials and can tell you that it is very solid work. Exactly the kind of work that should be being done in Pagan circles, but which all to often is not. There are however a few others. Ivo Dominguez is one of the most solid Sorcerers and Magicians that you will ever find, and his Assembly of the Sacred Wheel makes use of a lot of Ceremonial Magic in a Pagan context. A lot of people do not realize it, but Simon once told me that one of the primary motivators behind the publication of the Necronomicon in the 70′s was to provide the type of Gate work and Spirit often connected with Judeo-Christian Magic, but which would be useful for Pagans. I don’t care what you say, I still love me some Necronomicon!
The issue that some people have is the appropriation of material from one tradition to another. There was quite a big Blog-ha-ha about this a year or so ago, and people seemed to settle on the idea that synchretism was somehow good but appropriation was somehow bad. Of course no one ever really defined what these were or what the difference was.
For me it is all about whether you are appropriating tech or symbol set. Tech is tech. It works because it works. A tibetan style of multiplying offering through visualization and energy, and substituting red tormas for blood offering will work as well in Haiti as it will in Tibet if it is understood and done well**. On the other hand, deciding that you just want to do the same magic you always do, but switch up the symbols and gods in order to feel exotic will usually result in getting your ass kicked.
Ian is appropriating the tech of the grimoires and applying it to the Spirits and Symbols that he is already working with. It is solid work and I expect great things from him in the future.
*They can appear and function within Rigpa as long as you remain unattached and grounded in the inherent clarity of the nature of mind. It is one of the defining features of the state.
** Doing this may involve having to constrain or even harm and banish spirits that are absolutely blood thirsty and unwilling to make the change. It was not an easy transition in Tibet either.