Monday, February 17, 2014

Thoughts on the "Restored Heptarchia"

Back in the late 1990's I was active on the alt.magick usenet newsgroup and was involved in a number of discussions related to Enochian magick. One that I specifically recall concerned what I then considered a brilliant idea with respect to the Angelic Keys. At the time I was trying to figure out how to relate the Keys to the quadrants of the Great Table, as I found the Golden Dawn's version problematic. I still do, and have been working with the Keys as laid out in Mastering the Great Table for many years now.

I first noticed the problem when trying to perform Enochian operations according to John Dee's original schema for the angels of the Great Table. I found that when going around the Holy Table and conjuring from each of the four directions, the Golden Dawn Key arrangement was a disaster. Many of the Keys refer to directions, but these never matched the direction from which the angels were being called. Clearly something was amiss.

Reading through the Keys in order a fairly simple solution presented itself. I related the First and Second Keys to the Conjurer and Scryer, or evocation and invocation, and divided the remaining sixteen Keys into four groups of four. Keys 3-6 are obviously one group, and Keys 15-18 are obviously another. Making groups out of 7-10 and 11-14 completed the set. However, there was one problem with this otherwise nice arrangement - Key 13.

With the other three groups, going around the Holy Table in order fit perfectly. But where Key 13 should have read "west" according to my schema, it read "south." But then I looked over the pattern again and noticed that Key 8, the "south" Key from the second group, did not mention a direction. I had read through the section of True and Faithful Relation in which Dee and Kelly are given the numbering for each Key, and noted that those sessions were disjointed and somewhat confusing.

So I figured that perhaps Dee had made a subtle mistake in the numbering. Maybe Key 8 and Key 13 should be switched! I announced this idea to the alt.magick newsgroup and was taken to task by none other than Benjamin Rowe, who commented that while he appreciated that I was willing to experiment with the system, I should make sure to thoroughly test out my idea before concluding that Dee, one of the most intelligent men of his age, got it wrong. I wound up working with the transposed key for a year or so, but found that it didn't really work as I expected.

So I changed the order back. As I present in Mastering the Great Table, what I found worked better was substituting the word "west" for "south" in Key 13 - and, in fact, just reading it as "south" even though you're facing west works pretty well too and the improvement from substituting the one word is incremental. What I learned from this is that even though a pattern may look pretty, it's real, solid experimentation that shows whether or not the magick actually works.

I thought of that story when reading over Aaron Leitch's recent post on Restoring the Enochian Heptarchia. What he apparently has done in his new book on Enochian magick is to "restore" the powers of the Heptarchial Kings and Princes into a format that makes more logical sense. He does this by swapping the powers of Princes Butmono and Blisdon, and those of Bralges and Bagenol. The new pattern is prettier, but I have yet to see any evidence that it works better.

In Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy I go with the original arrangement of the Princes. In order to fill out the powers of the Venus Prince and the Lunar King, I go with Carmara = Blumaza = Baligon and Hagonel = Bagenol. Carmara = Baligon is explicitly stated in the diaries, and Bagenol is Baligon's Prince, therefore Hagonel. Equating Carmara to Blumaza is a bit more of a stretch, though in the final version of the Heptarchia Dee does group Carmara with Monday. Also, there is a further note with respect to Blumaza, that he had not yet appeared "by that name" - implying that he had appeared, but by another.

As my version matches the original text more closely, I think that Leitch should be clearer about what his arrangement is. It's not a "restoration," it's an innovation. It's not that his arguments for it are illogical, or that the pattern he comes up with is inelegant. But when you take source material and change it around, you're not "uncovering" something original, you're modifying the material. Especially with the Heptarchia, Dee had several chances to swap the powers around and never did. "Revised" or "reordered" would be a more accurate term.

Now don't get me wrong, I love innovations. I think they're wonderful. The real test, though, is not how nice the pattern looks. It's how well it works, in objective, practical terms. I may very well go ahead and experiment with Leitch's ideas and put them to the probability test against the original arrangement. And if they do work better, I'll be the first to congratulate him on coming up with a working modification to the system. But doing so has proven elusive over the years.

As an example, one of the early innovations I initially liked was Donald Tyson's rearrangement of the Great Table, first published in Tetragrammaton. I personally think Tyson's idea of a physical apocalypse brought on by working Enochian magick is ridiculous, but he's generally a good researcher and his argument for his rearrangement was solid. However, I worked with it for a little over a year, testing it against different arrangements, and found that using it undermined the effects of my rituals dramatically.

As a quick aside, for those who don't know what I mean by probability testing, here's what I'm talking about. Practical magick influences the physical world through the manipulation of probability. What you need to do in order to test out a new magical technique is to identify an event of a known probability in the exterior world, and cast for it using each technique you're comparing in turn. Then you check to see how close you got to your goal, the closer the better. When you've done this enough times to build up a reasonable sample size, you compare your results and the technique with the biggest probability shift wins.

It's unfortunate that a scale like this can't really be developed at this point for works of illumination or really anything of an internal, mystical bent. Neuroscientists are working on the problem doing experiments with meditators, but so far there's nothing conclusive that can serve as a reliable marker. There have been a few studies with brainwaves that look promising, but as you need to look at both the firing frequency and the localization of the signals there's still a lot more work to be done before anything objective can be determined.

And objectivity is the key. That's why I insist on real-world tests. Everybody goes into circle thinking their new pattern is the best and will surely work - because if they didn't, they wouldn't be trying it out at all. So doing a ritual and having it "feel effective" is not reliable. When you work out a pattern that you think is clever, employing it in ritual usually will feel good and seem to confirm your expectations. So that's part of the function of practical magick - it's where the rubber hits the road, so to speak.

So at any rate, what I'm trying to say here in a roundabout fashion is that reading over Leitch's article I imagine that I feel much the way Benjamin Rowe must have reading my speculations on swapping around the Angelic Keys. It's great that Leitch is willing to do some experimental work with the system, but I want to see some real data before I'm going to be convinced that his new arrangement is better. In fact, I would encourage anyone interested in the Heptarchia to try both his and the original out and see what happens.

And as always, if you're willing to share your results, that's all the better.

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Anonymous said...

There's all of three of us actually working the system, I've found enochian tends to be really lonely once you get into the depths of it. Is Ben still kicking or did he pass on?

If you want some fun food for thought, on Sunday I posted the Prince Over Waters quote. I hate to say this but I've been working the Leitch version of this but using your book as the cheat sheet for the actual text of the ritual. I think your book is the one I actually use when walking around and Leitch's book has much nicer tables. Me and someone I'm not sure if I can mention both agree that the best blend of the system is somewhere between the Crowley/GD work and the Dee system.

All my blog posts tagged blumaza are with that format - your book but the "reformed" attributions. Which is to say the intent of the ritual used the traditional planetary attributions of the day, but the wording of the ritual followed your (Dee's) writing. It's not that I figured this out on my own, it's that I too thought it was a real mess.

Scott Stenwick said...

Benjamin Rowe passed away back in 2002. There are a lot of things that I like about his work, but the biggest problem for me working with it is that he was trained in a magical group that used the Frater Achad "upside-down" Tree of Life. Seeing as I learned Crowley's 777 version instead, it made a fair amount of his stuff hard to translate.

As far as using the Leitch attributions for the Heptarchia, my motto is that if it works it works - if you're getting good results, keep doing what you're doing. The main thing that bothers me about Leitch's book is how he's marketing it as "the first book on how to do the magick," "the first book you can use in circle," and so forth, when both of mine beat his to publication, Heptarchy by several years. He's commented on this blog, too, so he knows my books exist, he's just decided to ignore them in order to promote himself.

Pet peeve of mine though that is, it says nothing about the quality of the actual material in his latest book. I haven't read it yet, but I did read his first Angelic Language book and found it to be decent, even though I didn't agree with all of his conclusions. And his revised Heptarchia attributions are logical, they just are new and need to be tested out. I'm glad to see that you're doing just that.

Tomas B. said...

Hi Scott,

I am curious to know what you think of the points Aaron makes in his latest article:

Kind regards,

Scott Stenwick said...

@Tomas, This post is pretty much my response to that same article on the "restored" Heptarchia. In short, I find Aaron's new arrangement logical and interesting enough to be worth experimenting with, but I want to reserve judgment until I see how it holds up in ritual. I've run into too many instances over the years where otherwise elegant rearrangements of the material just don't work as well as the original.

One odd bit that I noticed rereading it yesterday is that Aaron gets the attribution for Brorges (the Saturn Prince, one of the ones he doesn't change) completely wrong, which is weird because the correct attribution supports his thesis better than what he cites. Brorges does not rule the Fire element. He did appear to Dee in a fearsome form surrounded by flames, but his actual stated power is that he "opens the gates of death." That is, he's who you conjure to kill someone.

What's strange about that is the point Aaron is trying to make is that the Princes should be mapped to the Kings along Renaissance planetary lines, but Fire isn't a great fit for Saturn. Death, on the other hand, maps perfectly. I seriously hope that's just a simple mistake on his part and not some editor at Llewellyn saying "Hey, we can't publish a book with a death spell in it!" Because I know they've pulled crap like that before.

Tomas B. said...

Hi Scott,

Thanks for your response & sorry for my mistake. Aaron linked to this article on Facebook some time after I read your post, I assumed that the article was released after your post.

The extra information you supplied in your reply is very interesting.

Kind regards,

Aaron said...

Greetings, Scott!

My brother, I'm not ignoring or marginalizing your work. I say that my book is the first that outlines how to do *Dee-purist* Enochian magick. (More specifically, I state that the book is the first to illustrate how Dee himself would likely have performed the rituals.)

I would categorize your work as Neo-Enochian - in that it draws from post-Dee influences, uses Pentagram rituals, etc. When you read my book, you'll see that my coverage of the Neo-Enochian current was limited at best. (I briefly cover Rudd, then Book H, then the bulk of it is dedicated to the 'Concourse of the Forces' and how to construct the truncated pyramids.)

There is a lot of great Neo-Enochian material out there. But I didn't mention much of it because my focus was on the Dee-purist stuff.

I don't see our books as being in competition at all. In fact, if the Amazon "Customers Who Bought This Title Also Bought" section is any indication, folks seem to be quite interested in both of our work. ;)

Scott Stenwick said...

I noticed that too, Aaron - people seem to be buying my books along with yours, which is great. I don't see us as competitors either. We have some different ideas about the material, but that's really the point - students need to take in a wide variety of opinions and perspectives, and experiment with them to see what works best.

As I mentioned in my latest article on the Heptarchia, I think it's great to see so much interest in the material. It's starting to remind me a little of the wave of new Enochian material that came out in the late 1990's that first inspired me to start putting together my own Enochian material.

I don't know if you've read either of my books, but the ritual templates I use accommodate both the Dee style of working and Neo-Enochian methods like pentagram rituals. Depending on how you want to work, you can do it either way, omitting the Neo-Enochian elements as you see fit.

At any rate, I really appreciate the ongoing discussion and hopefully it will get a lot of people thinking about and working with the Heptarchia. It's been a long-neglected part of the Enochian system, and it's about time people started getting serious about working with it.