Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Whither "Syncretist Garbage?"

A version of this article was posted on 9/25/2006 on the previous version of this blog. It references two blog comments that were current at that time, one on the old Augoeides and one on another site. Despite these external references that are no longer current, it makes some good points outlining my basic approach to the Enochian magical system.

Enochian magick generates a lot of controversy among modern magicians. For example, in response to one of my original Enochian rituals, one of my OTO brothers wrote:

S.S. makes plain in this post an issue that I have been wrestling with for some time: What to do with the Golden Dawn system? For every minus that the G.D. has against it when paired with the original material, I find a plus. Just to give a couple of examples: I am very into the color scales and I love using the truncated pyramids.

Then, in a thread on the old Augoeides related to Patricia Shaeffer's Enochian Letter Essences, the following comment was made:

There should be enough available in Dee's material to create a system capable of querying itself and generating further revelations. Indeed, that should be the real test of its merit. Any external confabulations will, at best, produce syncretist garbage like the Golden Dawn's, or, at worst, waste time endlessly.

I work from the Scientific Illuminist perspective that contends magick should be a progressive science - that is, it should change and evolve as effective techniques are developed and ineffective ones are discarded. While I would have described myself as a Dee/Kelly purist many years ago, I have also more recently included more syncretic concepts into my Enochian work, including some ideas from the GD system.So when is syncretism a problem, and when is it a good thing that advances the discipline of magick? That's the big question, especially with the Enochian system.

Much of this controversy centers around the contrast between the original system dictated to John Dee and Edward Kelly and the elaborate system developed by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and Wynn Wescott of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It may very well be that many of the grimoires of the Medieval and Renaissance periods were originally transcribed using similar methods to those used by Dee and Kelly, but it is only the Enochian system for which we actually have the majority of the research notes and are able to refer back to them. The GD system was derived in part from those notes, but it also incorporated a number of elements from Hermetic Qabalah and as a result there are some sigificant differences between the two systems.
  1. The GD system makes use of a pronunciation method for Angelic words that is different from the pronunciation notes made by Dee.
  2. The GD system brings in a whole collection of Qabalistic attributions not mentioned in Dee's notes. This includes the color scales, truncated pyramids, and so forth.
  3. The GD system treats the 91 parts of the Earth as "Governors," when they are places and not spirits in the original notes.
  4. The GD system uses a version of Dee's Great Table based on a set of communications in 1584. A second version, more coherent version of the Great Table from a 1587 communication is used by some modern magicians, including myself.
  5. The GD system attributes the Calls to the quadrants of the Great Table according to a system that is not found anywhere in the Dee and Kelly material.
  6. The GD system does not emphasize the use of the temple furniture and other implements that were described to Dee and Kelly.
Unlike my OTO brother quoted above, I do not make use of the truncated pyramids in my own work, more because I've never really sat down and worked with them rather than because I think there is something wrong with them, but I do use the GD color scales extensively for talismans and lineal figures and those attributions work very well. I think that the GD magicians were correct in the basic premise that there is a Qabalastic structure to the Enochian system. However, in some cases I think problems arise because the Qabalistic model was favored over the original instructions in places where there are contradictions.

I have two basic rules for integrating syncretic elements into the Enochian system. First of all, the new material may add to the original system (1) as long as it does not contradict the original instructions, and (2) as long as it works. The first rule is fairly easy to apply, but the second requires solid research and experimentation. When applied to the list above, the first rule eliminates (1) and (3) outright. Many modern magicians are now moving away from GD pronunciation, so the use of the language itself is moving more in the direction of the original system. Some modern magicians have also commented on the misunderstanding of the relevant section in Dee's True and Faithful Relation that resulted in the GD confusing the Governors (12 zodiacal spirits attributed to the Tribes of Israel) and the 91 parts of the Earth.

(4), The controversy over which version of the Great Table to use, has solid arguments on both sides. Magicians who use the 1584 version note that it was received around the same time as other significant pieces of the system such as the Calls and that it was dictated to Dee by Kelly. The 1587 version was obtained by Kelly scrying on his own, after most of the elements of the Enochian system had been received. The 1587 version is the newest version of the table and is more coherent than the sometimes conflicting communications regarding the 1584 version. Also, from experience I know that sometimes dictation makes it more difficult to put together something as complex as a large grid of letters. At the same time it has been argued that the 1587 version could have been fabricated by Kelly, especially among those who favor the "Kelly was a con artist" narrative that characterize some biographies of Dee. I use the 1587 version because after much experimentation I found that it seemed to work the best of the various versions I tested, and this is a good example demonstrating that in the end, experimentation is the only way to resolve questions where the original material is contradictory.

(5), the order of the Calls, is a case where there is no contradiction between the two systems because no order was ever specified in the original material. My main problem with it is that when actually working around the Holy Table (that is, the altar table, not the grid of letters - Dee used "table" for both) using Dee's conjurations to the quadrants, the Calls mentioning directions become confused. I can go into more detail in another article, but briefly we know that each quadrant of the Great Table (the grid of letters) is attributed to a direction, and in theory a call that refers to the north should be recited when opening part of the Table attributed to the north and so forth. Some of the Calls mention directions, and these do not match when using the GD order. Also, the last four Calls (to me) clearly fall into the same group based on their content, but the GD system groups calls 3-6 together (which I agree with) and then subdivides the remaining 12 into four groups of three (which I disagree with) rather than three additional groups of four.

(6) turns out to resolve itself quickly and easily with experimentation. Enochian magick works without the furniture and implements, but the more you have the better it works. This has held up for me over the course of many years. I still don't have a perfect Enochian temple, but I do keep working on it whenever I can and one of these days it will be complete.

This leaves (2). There is one big problem that I have with GD attributions for the quadrants of the Great Table. The GD system attributes the four quadrants to the elements, which is logical and does seem to work. However, the mistake is that in the GD system the elemental attribution becomes the primary attribution of the quadrant, when in fact the original material names the direction as primary. BATAIVAH is the King of the East. However, when switching from the microcosmic "winds" model to the macrocosmic "zodiacal" model, BATAIVAH is treated as the King of Air and his quadrant is attributed to the west. I am convinced that this is incorrect - rather than BATAIVAH moving from east to west his attribution should shift from Air to Fire. Again, I have testing this out and in my own experience shifting BATAIVAH to fire seems to work better. It is important to note that the truncated pyramid system is still usable when shifting the elements rather than the names - the pyramids themselves just wind up attributed to different letters depending on whether you are working microcosmically or macrocosmically. This could also be an interesting avenue for research, and I may try it out one of these days.

Experimentation is crucial, and I will conclude with the comment that when you are experimenting with new magical techniques what you are looking for is an objectively measurable paranormal effect. Anyone can put together a ritual, perform it, and have it "feel good." The human mind is very malleable, and it's easy to convince yourself of just about anything if you put enough energy into it. An effective spell makes something happen that is relatively unlikely, or produces a real and lasting change in your perception of the world above and beyond what you could manage with self-hypnosis or NLP or any of the other "sleight of mind" systems that do not incorporate the concept of magical energy. The former is the best test because it can be measured directly - (1) did my objective occur, and if so (2) how unlikely was it? A more powerful spell can make a more unlikely thing happen - it's that simple. You will want to record your successes and failures over time with different techniques so that you can go back through your notes and determine which of the techniques you are testing produced the best statistical results. Whichever technique is the best is the one you should use, and remember that there is a lot of individual variation. You need to do your own work, though research done by others may point in a certain direction.
Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: