The Magick Circle

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 conclusion for the time being.

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Join date : 2009-09-03

PostSubject: conclusion for the time being.   Sun Sep 27, 2009 5:15 pm

The Medieval texts do not (for the most part) contain dark and horrible rites that call upon “Lovecraftian” beasties. They are not all about curses or pacts with “the devil,” and there is no enslavement of innocent spirits. Instead, they reflect the magickal philosophies and wisdom of our magickal ancestors, from whom we have inherited much. It is a system of magick complete unto itself and rich with the influence of tribal magick. Agrippa, in the Three Books of Occult Philosophy, describes what the grimoires promise:

To defend kingdoms, to discover the secret councils of men, to overcome enemies, to redeem captives, to increase riches, to procure the favor of men, to expel diseases, to preserve health, to prolong life, to renew youth, to foretell future events, to see and know things done many miles off, and such like as these, by virtue of superior influences, may seem things incredible; yet read but the ensuing treatise, and thou shalt see the possibility thereof confirmed both by reason, and example. [Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Llewellyn, p lxi]
The schools of magick or “natural philosophy” (that is- Alchemy, Astrology, and Spirit-working) were considered among the respectable sciences from the earliest of times. The Medieval and Renaissance mages I’ve mentioned above, along with numerous others both known and unknown, were also physicists, doctors, astronomers, biologists, mathematicians, philosophers, architects, navigators, etc. The existence of the Notary Arts and related texts makes this point evident. In truth, the men who created most of our modern fields of scientific study were adept mages as well (such as Sir Isaac Newton, who was in fact an alchemist).

For further information on this point, I highly recommend The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, by Frances Yates. The preface, especially, and truly the entire book, contains much information about the magickal nature of the early sciences, and the mystical minds it took to dream of them. The Rosicrucian thinkers of the seventeenth century were the ancestors of the Masons, the Royal Society of England, and of the Age of Enlightenment overall.

Not only was magick respected among the sciences, it was actually considered the highest and most sacred science. The Goetia begins, in some manuscripts, with the following words: Magic is the Highest, most Absolute, and most Divine Knowledge of Natural Philosophy, advanced in its works and wonderful operations by a right understanding of the inward and occult virtue of things; so that true Agents being applied to proper Patients, strange and admirable effects will thereby be produced. Whence magicians are profound and diligent searchers into Nature: they, because of their skill, know how to anticipate an effect, the which to the vulgar shall seem to be a miracle.

One must question, then, why magick fell from its lofty position. Why are the texts considered superstitious rubbish when they were penned by the hands of such as John Dee, Henry Agrippa, and Trithemius? In general, we are given the impression that magick fell by the wayside due to its inability to withstand the scientific process. By applying the steps of experimentation, magick is said to have come up short, producing no results, and was thus abandoned by the educated.

However, that assumption is simply not true. The historical fact is that magick was feared enough by the Medieval Church to outlaw it. Richard Kieckhefer opens his book Forbidden Rites with the observation that we are (mentally speaking) what we read, and the power that books hold to transform minds has given rise to anxiety as much as celebration. Various related developments in late Medieval Europe brought about a Renaissance of literature, and brought with it concerns about what people were reading. Magickal books which blatantly called upon demonic powers embodied the worst fears of those who naturally feared a populace that (for the first time in history) could read.

It was not that magick failed to pass the test, but that it passed enough of its tests to make the world-rulers of the day take action against it. It was forced from its position of highest respect into the underground realm of the outlaw and fraud. This is, in fact, no different from the current drug laws, and the treatment received by such educated men as Timothy Leary. History shows us that such arts as magic, alchemy, and even a good number of the currently accepted sciences have been regularly repressed by established governing bodies. The scientists of the Medieval and Renaissance Eras necessarily had to distance themselves from the practice of magick (at least outwardly). A world where a man could be executed for suggesting that the Earth revolves around the Sun was no world for the investigations of occult philosophy.

As well, the black plague that decimated Europe at the end of the Medieval Era had shaken many of the peoples’ faith in all things spiritual. Those who continued to insist on its use were often feared by the peasants, and ridiculed by their peers. Thus, a tangible separation began to grow between the studies of magick, and the other- materialistic- sciences.

So, here we stand at the dawning of a new Age, with the fear of the Church and our dependence upon materialistic science receding ever further into the past. We might choose to accept their authority on the uselessness and superstition of the grimoires, or we might instead return to the manuscripts for a second look; to judge them according to our own knowledge and experiences. We might decide to put them to the test- nearly six or seven hundred years after they were written- and see what results they might produce. Though it is common knowledge that they are the origins of many of our current magickal practices, few seekers have taken an interest in learning what deeper secrets they might contain.

In my searches, I found precious few who had taken such an interest. As I stated before, most (even Neopagans) were happy to accept the Medieval Church’s doctrine on the matter. On the other hand, those few who did make the effort to duplicate the experiments of the classical texts seemed to report outstanding results time and again. One might have to get up a little early on a Wednesday morning to find a virgin nut-tree from which to cut a wand. It might take some time to find thread spun by a young maiden. One might even have to dedicate a search by phone and internet to locate rare materials, herbs or perfumes. However, as E. M. Butler suggests concerning the Greek texts that gave rise to the grimoires: the instructions are not prohibitively difficult to follow, but they are by no means easy, and frequently demand considerable physical and mental effort on the part of the aspirant.

If one has “what it takes” to put forth such physical and mental effort, then one can eventually access the treasures of the grimoires. I personally made the decision to test their promises, and to follow their instructions and procedures as completely as possible. What I have found is far from a failed science that can not stand up to scientific process. On the contrary, I have found the results of the practice extremely impressive.

This book is about my experiences with, and discoveries within, the classical art. I have not written this book to explain the process of any single grimoire. Instead, it is about the living tradition of Medieval grimoiric magick that resides within the overall body of literature.

Of course, I understand the difficulty in referring to the grimoires as a “living tradition,” as it has been all but dead now for nearly five centuries. Some of their secrets have faded away, and the culture that gave them life has long since passed. Not only this, but the communities of the modern occult revival are seldom composed of Christian mystics who would find use for the prayers from the Notary Arts or Liber Juratis. Overall, there is no direct link between ourselves and the authors of the Medieval and Renaissance texts.

Yet, they remain in fact our magickal ancestors, and their work has provided the very backbone of our own modern systems. Knowledge of this fact is becoming more widespread today than ever before, and for the first time we have an abundance of information concerning them. Meanwhile, occult students seem to have a natural inclination to seek out the “root origins” of the subjects they study. Therefore, the classical grimoires are just beginning to enjoy their own revival- with their tribal-shamanic magickal secrets appealing to a surprisingly wide (and usually non-Christian) audience. They are, once again, becoming a living tradition.

I, of course, can not hope to cover every detail of Medieval practice in this one book. My hope is only to provide a solid background upon which to study and experiment with the grimoires. I have also attempted to share some of my own experiences; especially to illustrate how the techniques must be adopted into their proper modern framework. Only by understanding what these mysterious books once were can we understand what they will (and have) become.
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