Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Spell for Physical Immortality

There is a certain audacity that marks most cutting-edge magical research. Magicians like to seek the limits of the possible and push them as far as they can go. The great challenge of Western Alchemy is the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, which supposedly can be used to make an elixir that will confer immortality upon the alchemist. Most modern writers interpret this as the development of the astral or soul body, which is indeed immortal if properly strengthened and developed. But could there be more to it? Could a magical spell confer physical immortality?

For a number of years I have studied the science behind life extension. Human beings age because of two distinct processes. The first is related to the Hayflick Limit, discovered by Leonard Hayflick in 1965. Hayflick's research showed that cells could divide about fifty times before dying off. The cells start out as young and vigorous, but show signs of old age as they near the limit. More recent research has found that the limit appears to be related to the loss of Telomeres, sections of DNA that occupy the end of the DNA strand and are shortened with each cellular repetition. When the cell runs out of telomeres, it can no longer reproduce and will simply die. Since the shortening of telomeres is deterministic and an integral part of cell division, it is a poor target for a magical operation.

The body produces an enzyme called Telomerase that can prevent the telomeres from shortening during division if it is present in sufficient quantities, but even if a spell could increase the level of telomerase in the body it would be no guarantee of health. Telomerase is often found in cancer cells and it may be that the whole cellular clock system is an evolved defense mechanism against cancers that would otherwise kill us at much younger ages. The only strategy that seems to have much of a chance at slowing this process is Calorie Restriction - restricting the food intake of various animals appears to increase their lifespan by about 20 percent, and according to one hypothesis this extension is due to the slowing of the basal metabolic rate. Recent research, however, has suggested that some other mechanism is more likely involved. Notably, a chemical called Resveratrol appears to mimic the effects of calorie restriction when given to animals in sufficient doses without changing their metabolic rates.

The current research does not bode well for the aspiring immortal magician. There is little randomness in the cellular clock system that a spell could exploit, and the number of telomeres is fixed and finite. The only piece of good news here is how long the cellular clock would actually run when left to its own devices - about 120 years. The actual record for longest lifespan is held by Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122, and it is unlikely that anyone will ever reach 125 unless calorie restriction really works by slowing basal metabolism.

This limit has actually been known in the Western world for a surprisingly long time, as the correct value for the limit appears in Genesis 6:3.

And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

It is interesting to consider how the ancients might have come up with the exact number calculated by Hayflick in the 1960's during a time in which very few people lived anywhere near that long. Even with modern medical science, such lifespans are very rare.

This brings us to the second process that is responsible for aging. If the only mechanism in play was the Hayflick limit, a normal human lifespan would probably fall between 115 and 125 years, while the actual average for people who survive into old age falls between 75 and 85 years. This difference is due to replication errors that occur as cells divide for various reasons, ranging from environmental toxins to free radicals (oxygen ions that react with other molecules) to random chance. This second mechanism, unlike the first, is a strong candidate for magical manipulation. DNA in the body tends to replicate correctly anyway and only occasionally goes wrong - but the occasional errors add up over time. The probability shift involved in reducing these errors should not be all that large and well within the powers of a genuine magician. If this process could be completely suppressed, the lifespan of the magician could be increased by as much as 40 years - an increase of around 50 percent.

It makes sense that true physical immortality is likely impossible. After all, the world is not crawling with alchemists who have been alive since the middle ages, and if anyone had ever managed to figure it out they probably would have taught their students and all of those individuals would still be alive. The truth is probably more like the idea of "immortality" that is found in Taoism - enhanced and extended longevity rather than absolute physical incorruptibility.

So now we finally get to the fun part - how do we achieve this?

One form of the secret may lie within the Enochian magical system. The Enochian system includes "Angels of Medicine" attributed to the upper left subquadrant of each of the four quadrants on the Tablet of the Watchtowers. It seems reasonable to assume that angels with the power to cure diseases would also be able to extend life. Furthermore, at one point John Dee was told by the spirits that he would live "a hundred odd years." Dee outlived three wives and most of his contemporaries, dying at the age of 81 in 1608, but his actual age was well short of 100. Perhaps the spirits were just wrong, or maybe they were assuming that he would practice the magical system that he was being given - which is something that most experts agree that Dee really did not do after his split with Edward Kelly in 1587. Could the Enochian Angels of Medicine extend life by eliminating DNA replication errors?

For such a ritual to be truly effective it would probably need to be practiced daily. That means that it should be as short as possible without sacrificing magical effectiveness. Also, it is likely significant that the tradition always speaks of an elixir that confers immortality - a eucharist of some sort is probably the best way to internalize the conjured energies of the rite. My choice for this would be the traditional red wine, given that it contains a low level of resveratrol and has also been shown to have some beneficial health effects when consumed daily in moderation.

So here it is - building on my "Fast-Casting" Template, the ritual would look something like this. The temple would be set up with a small glass of red wine in the center of the Sigillum Dei Aemeth. If you don't have an Enochian temple setup, though, you should be able to put the wine on a regular altar table in the center of your ritual space.
  1. Banishing Lesser Pentagram Ritual
  2. Invoking Lesser Hexagram Ritual
  3. Preliminary Invocation (See Template)
  4. First Enochian Call
  5. Additional Calls to open the upper left quadrant of each Tablet (Air of each element in the Golden Dawn system). I use a simpler Call order than the more popular GD system, but if that system works for you use it.
  6. Conjure the Angels of Medicine for each of the four directions.
  7. Charge the Angels to imbue the wine with the power of the Philosopher's Stone to ensure perfect health and extend your life.
  8. Drink wine.
  9. Dismiss the Angels.
  10. Close the rite with a Qabalistic Cross or similar ritual, not a full banishing.

The drinking of the wine could also be followed by a Middle Pillar ritual, Animadversion to the Aeon, or some similar practice that energizes and strengthens the body of light. According to Hermetic metaphysics, there should be a reciprocal relationship between the body and the spirit - "As above, so below."

We live in a society without professional magicians, so we already lose enough practice time to our necessary non-magical vocations. If this ritual really works, imagine what you could do with an extra 30-40 years of healthy life. The problem with any spell like this is of course that you won't really know the outcome for a long time, but even after a week or two you should see some positive effect on your health if the rite is working properly. This has the added advantage that it doesn't add that much to the daily practice you should be doing anyway, so you're not really out all that much time if it doesn't seem to work for you.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. How about the use of Olympic Spirits? Didn't Paracelsus or who ever wrote that Arbatel say that they increase life up to 700 years? This is of course IF the Most High permits them to do so, but the text says they work on their on most of the time.