Monday, April 27, 2009

Poltergeists?

I originally posted this comment over at Strategic Sorcery and got no responses, probably because I added it to a comment thread that was already several days old. I thought about it over the weekend and I'm genuinely curious, so I'll repeat it here along with some additional thoughts. You may want to read this article first that includes some discussion of Joseph Lisiewski's Ceremonial Magic and the Power of Evocation, which is the book that the comment refers to. Here's my comment in response to Jason Miller's article:

Look at the work of Joseph Lisieski: he more or less picks a moment in the Renaissance and declares it the pinnacle of magickal tradition.

This is somewhat tangential to the discussion, which is why I didn't post it earlier, but does anyone here actually believe that whenever Lisiewski summons up a spirit from the Heptameron he gets all sorts of poltergeist activity like he claims in his book? He goes so far as to claim that if you don't get poltergeist activity, your ritual is a failure so you need to close down your temple for a month and do no other magical work.

Having done magick for a long time with a number of different systems I find that pretty hard to believe. The cynical part of me thinks that since you're hardly ever going to get poltergeist activity with a spell, the injuction about closing down the temple for a month means that you only get one or two attempts before enough time has passed that you can no longer return the book, but for the sake of the magical arts I hope that's not what's really going on.

Lisiewski seriously contends that if you do an evocation and you don't get some sort of physical manifestation like loud noises, objects moving on their own, and so forth it means that you haven't successfully evoked the spirit and therefore your spell will fail. Does that line up with anyone's experience? When I cast a spell I have no trouble feeling the "presence" of the spirit, but none of the stuff in my temple flies around and I don't hear a bunch of unexplained noises. To me an evocation method that does that just sounds sloppy, to be honest.

My initial thought is that since Lisiewski believes in doing grimoire magick precisely by the numbers without any modern innovations such as pentagram and hexagram rituals his style of ceremonial magick is sloppy, and I'm kind of curious about the probability shifts he can conjure up with the Heptameron. I've never used that grimoire myself, but I've worked with the Key of Solomon, the Goetia, and the Heptarchia Mystica. I've also done a lot of Enochian work based on the original Dee and Kelley material that should be closer to Renaissance grimoire magick than the Golden Dawn Enochian system, and I never encounter random poltergeist activity when I do conjurations. Do any of you?

From a probability standpoint I would think that poltergeist activity would be unwanted, simply because if the total probability shift you can summon up is M and the probability shift that would be required to produce the poltergeist activity is P, then it stands to reason that the final probability shift that would apply to the intent of the ritual should be M - P. You would therefore want P to be as close to zero as possible so that your intent is accomplished with the maximum possible shift. Maybe for Lisiewski it works the opposite way - with M and P correlated to each other - but as far as I can tell it certainly doesn't work that way for me.

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10 comments:

golden-dawn-hermetic said...

"Lisiewski seriously contends that if you do an evocation and you don't get some sort of physical manifestation like loud noises, objects moving on their own, and so forth it means that you haven't successfully evoked the spirit and therefore your spell will fail. Does that line up with anyone's experience?"

I disagree with him on many things, but I'll side with Lisiewski on this one. It is pretty much how it is supposed to be. I've experienced it and so has many other occultists that I work with. We all work classical grimoires, many are pre-Agrippa and Dee. It is one of the classical tests of spirits. You should ask them to move a physical object to prove they are present during an evocation. You can't go on feelings alone. That can often be a trick to persuade you to stop before they manifest.

I disagree that you need to shut down your temple for a month. The normal duration of an evocation can range between seven days to forty days in a cloister environment away from cities and their hubbub. That is how it was originally done. Abramelin's method isn't unique. It is actually traditional.

The same goes for the use of physical doorways or portals, which it seems few Western magicians are aware of these days.

When people tell me they got no physical signs during evocation and only 'psychic impressions', I tell them most likely their evocations didn't extend more than couple of hours at best and were probably done in their home.

That is fine *if* you are seeking messages in a medium like mirror. You don't need them to move objects for this level of evocation. The classical test in such a case was to ask the seer questions he couldn't possibly know that relates to the spirit. If he answers correctly then you proceed. If he didn't then either something gone wrong with the evocation or his ability isn't as clear.

Finally: Just because it has happened to you, doesn't mean the rest of us are bullshitting. You sound like a competent magician. You probably need to dig deeper than those sources into much older grimoires in Hebrew and Arabic, which outline many keys that are missing in later European books. Give it a shot the old fashioned way and see if Lisiewski is wrong :)

Ananael Qaa said...

I disagree with him on many things, but I'll side with Lisiewski on this one. It is pretty much how it is supposed to be. I've experienced it and so has many other occultists that I work with. We all work classical grimoires, many are pre-Agrippa and Dee. It is one of the classical tests of spirits.

Might you be willing to share your experiences in greater detail? Part of the point of posting this was to see if anyone like yourself who has worked with the system might be out there and willing to talk about some of the specific events you have experienced along these lines while working with grimoire magick.

When people tell me they got no physical signs during evocation and only 'psychic impressions', I tell them most likely their evocations didn't extend more than couple of hours at best and were probably done in their home.

Well, the physical signs I get are that what I want manifests. I'm mostly a thaumaturgist in terms of my own ritual work so I routinely cast for material things, not "psychic impressions." And my point is that I get successful results without seeing much in the way of poltergeist phenomena. My disagreement with Lisiewski is not that I think that what he's claiming is impossible, but rather that I've never found it necessary.

Finally: Just because it has happened to you, doesn't mean the rest of us are bullshitting.

Not being sure whether or not I buy Lisiewski's descriptions of his experiences certainly doesn't mean that I think all of you are bullshitting. I'm always interested in hearing more from people whose experiences don't line up with my own, since that increases our overall understanding of the magical arts. I'm more curious than anything else - as I said in the article, I hope that Lisiewski means what he says and the whole thing isn't just a ploy to sell more books.

Knight of Pan said...

My take on it is this. Many times I've had physical and audible manifestations.

These are side manifestations and mean nothing. If you summon a spirit and get all kinds of fireworks but the reason you called it doesn't come to fruition the evocation was a failure.

I've never closed my temple after such manifestations. A good banishing takes care of any residual effects.

Kind of reminds me of Steve Savedow's experiance though.

Gordon_Finn said...

I get rappings some times and a few other things every so often, but what is more important is a lack of sounds at my place and the small living things that make them. No bugs, spiders, mice, silverfish, birds, squirrels, etc. Most of them have cleared out.

The guy is crazy. The closing down the temple part is, I think, him hitting the bong water too many times.

Ananael Qaa said...

My take on it is this. Many times I've had physical and audible manifestations.

Knight of Pan, I loved Odin's story about the exploding birdhouse. That was you, right?

Kind of reminds me of Steve Savedow's experience though.

That was when he tried to work with a Goetic spirit and it started telling him all this stuff that he had to do, right? And he went ahead and spent all this time on it when he just should have commanded the spirit to cut it the hell out.

Suecae Sounds said...

I have witnessed poltergeist activity under very unfortunate circumstances.

Such occurrences would certainly today in my world-view be unwanted. I would consider poltergeist activity as a lack of control over the situation. But that's just me.

Jason Miller, said...

For the record, I do tend to get physical phenomina with evocations, especially sub-lunar spirits.

I view this as something to get them to stop doing, rather than encourage however.

In fact, if I am calling upon a spirit in a less formal way in a spell, I often interpret polergeist phenomina as a sign of misdirected energies rather than it all heading towards the target.

Lisiewski isnt all bad.

Ananael Qaa said...

Lisiewski isn't all bad.

No, and I hope I'm not giving that impression. In general his instructions for doing traditional evocations are quite good, minus the emphasis on what I consider to be extraneous phenomena.

What I really don't like about his book, though, is the dogmatism. It's all fine and good to write about the magical system that you know the best, but to then imply that it's the only possible way to do magick despite the experiences of countless practitioners doesn't strike me as very reasonable.

Gordon_Finn said...

Dogmatism does have its uses. Latching onto that level of certainty. It's very powerful. It's like using a mundane's world view's sense of certainty in magick. But, his thinking of shutting a temple down smacks in the face of people that know what they're doing. Does he suggest doing self-refinement and analysis of how you performed the operation, while the temple is down? That might be the only thing that would make that make sense. A month might allow one enough time to figure out what might have gone wrong, but still. The idea that you can't do other work, while refining this is bad. How are you gonna test if you've done enough refinement?

I don't have the book, but if he meant that you could do additional work to test your progress before going back and trying again, he said it very wrong.

Ananael Qaa said...

I think part of the reason he insists that you close down the temple for a month to let the energy settle is that he refuses to use modern banishing rituals because he is opposed to mixing modern techniques with grimoire magick. Without banishing rituals it's hard to say how long energy could persist in the temple, but a lunar cycle might be a reasonable guess if you wanted to be sure that everything had settled down. Lisiewski is a big proponent of Qabalistic cycles so that does make sense given his worldview.

However, like Knight of Pan, I find that modern banishing rituals are quite effective as tools for working with grimoire magick. I have yet to come across any model of magick that tests out as more effective than my operant field model, and that's completely based on working with pentagram and hexagram rituals - though the concepts likely translate to different techniques when working with systems other than Golden Dawn or Thelemic magick.