Thursday, October 9, 2008

Defining Invocation and Evocation

One of my pet peeves when reading through books on magick is authors who don't understand the technical distinction between invocation and evocation.

I commonly run across the statement that invocation is when you summon "higher" entities such as angels and evocation is when you summon "lower" entities such as demons. This is incorrect, at least as far as the definition goes. While it is true that the best entities to invoke are generally those defined here as "higher," it is certainly possible to evoke them. A good example of this is the most famous angelic magical system of all time, John Dee and Edward Kelley's Enochian system.

The distinction between the two terms is one of technique and is only secondarily related to the class of entity summoned. When you invoke an entity, you call it into your own sphere of consciousness represented by the magick circle. When you evoke an entity, you call it into an external containment structure. The most famous of these is the Goetic triangle, but the Enochian Holy Table also performs a similar function.

The "invoke angel"/"evoke demon" concept is based on an accurate understanding of the nature of these classes of entities, but the relationship is correlative rather than definitive. Generally speaking, entities are classed as angels if (A) their nature is creative and/or (B) their attitude toward human magicians is generally friendly. Entities are classed as demons if (A) their nature is destructive and/or (B) their attitude toward human magicians is generally hostile.

When looking over the old grimoires there is some ambiguity about the term "demon" because, first of all, the Medieval Church classified just about any spirit that you could summon as a demon. This point is especially confounded by the later "Faustian" grimoires which, while likely fake, are constructed around the mechanism of a pact with the Christian devil. Also, the word "daimon," which more just means "spiritual entity" without the "evil" connotation, may have been miscopied over the centuries in the days before the printing press when books of spells were still copied by hand and passed from master to student.

Nonetheless, the classification above remains basically correct for most of the cases you are likely to encounter, especially as a beginning magician. Invoking entities that are hostile to you or essentially destructive in nature is not a good idea. The hostility of the entity will divide your consciousness and thus undermine your magical operation, and calling destructive energy into your own body of light can undermine its integrity and contribute to health problems.

Friendly, creative entities, on the other hand, pose neither of these risks and are generally safe to invoke. Invocation also is better suited to theurgic work because when trying to unite with a divine entity evocation is kind of inefficient. In a theurgic evocation, you would have to call the entity into a containment structure and then perform some sort of additional procedure to unite with it. Invocation does it all in one step.

Evocation does make sense for angels and other "higher" entities when you are using them in practical thaumaturgic operations. When I do this I use the Enochian Holy Table as my containment structure and place it in the center of my circle, unlike the Goetic triangle which is normally placed outside the circle (though I will add that I do know a couple of Goetic magicians who place the triangle within the circle and have encountered no ill effects from doing so). Invoking for practical operations can work, but a side effect can be that you as the caster are affected by your spell along with the intended target. I'm convinced that this side effect is the origin of the Wiccan "Threefold Law."

So get it right - invocation = summoning and entity into yourself, evocation = summoning an entity into an external containment structure. If you're summoning an angel into the Holy Table the ritual does not become an invocation simply because the entity you are summoning is an angel. An author who says otherwise might not understand the source material as well as he or she thinks.

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