Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Problems with Goetic Magick and the Black Grimoires

I am reading Jake Stratton-Kent’s book “True Grimoire”, which is an operant version of the Grimoirum Verum. I am also carefully looking over and reading Joseph Peterson’s book “Grimorium Verum” at the same time. My purpose in this dual read is to answer for myself a puzzling question as to why the Grimoirum Verum is such a hot topic for practicing ceremonial magicians these days. How do I know that it’s a hot topic? Just do a “google” of “goetic magic” or “Grimorium Verum” and you will find a plethora of web based comments, Yahoo groups and whole websites devoted to this topic.

I will fully review Jake’s book in due course, since I have a lot of other material to read at the same time. However, I skipped to the chapter in the book that discusses the nature of the spirits of the goetic tradition of magick.

Ostensibly, the Grimoirum Verum has a central task besides the creation of various “demonic” tools, the collection of other important regalia and the performance of the evocations. That task is the creation of the parchment (or lamb’s skin) talismanic device that has in its center the signature of the intermediary spirit Scirlin. Jake has compared this spirit to the Holy Guardian Angel of the Book of Abramelin,. He has written that the two grimoires are, therefore, closely related. This device is supposed to be drawn with one’s blood, as are the signatures of the other goetic spirits that one chooses to evoke. So one could consider this central magical device to be a kind of blood based bond between the spirit Scirlin, the operator and the other goetic spirits.

Signing something in blood is basically a kind of empowered agreement, also known as a pact, although in this case the agreement is more implicit than explicit. For instance, there aren’t any terms to the agreement other than one must go through Scirlin in order to contact the infernal hierarchy to obtain the powers and abilities of their servitors as well as command the various goetic demons. The infernal hierarchy is quite plainly spelled out in the grimoire and it pretty much matches a variation that we have written about previously.

Jake also seeks to redefine, and in a sense, reclaim the infernal hierarchy as celestial spirits and the corrupted names of pagan gods and goddesses. This revisionism isn’t new, since Poke Runion has taken this perspective as well and has used it to good effect in his Solomonic magical system. To compare Ashtoreth to Astarte and Beelzebub to Baal Zebul is all well and good, if you also treat them as pagan gods, giving them offerings and reverently serving them with orisons and oblations (as I have stated in the article on the Spirit Theory of Magic).

However, the grimoire plainly works through the Christian spiritual hierarchy and empowered authority of Adonai and Christos, so the attempt by Jake to “white wash” these demonic princes doesn’t really work. If they are pagan gods, then treat them as pagan gods, not as underlings to be commanded and coerced through the Christian hierarchy. So the attempt to redefine the various goetic spirits fails because one is still using the Judeo-Christian spiritual hierarchy, and in that hierarchy, the opinions of the theologians holds sway, not the musings of neoplatonists. If you were going to make use of the definition of demons (as the Greek “daimones”), then you would also need to discard the Christian spiritual hierarchy and replace it with one that is uniquely neoplatonic.

Jake, like many others, is advocating the use of the Grimoirum Verum in its reconstructed and restored version, but that version is still the late 17th century variation that has as its center piece a blood pact with a supposed infernal spirit named Scirlan. Basically, my problem with this reasoning is that you really can’t have it both ways - either use the redacted spiritual hierarchy of the neoplatonists and profoundly rewrite the grimoire or accept it as it is, but with the understanding that the infernal hierarchy of the Judeo-Christian belief system is in force. To attempt to work with both understandings at the same time is to engage in a kind of self-deception - it has to be all one or the other.

Jake also does a nice job examining many of the names of the infernal hierarchy, showing how they are actually quite benign or archaically pagan, but he fails to perform the same kind of analysis on the name of the intermediary whose name is Scirlin. To help make my point, I have decided to take a swag at finding a source for this name, even though it could be just a name or even an acronym. The first four letters are “Scir”, which is undoubtedly a Latin word, and in this case it would be from “scire”, which means “to know”. The last three letters are “lin”, also an identifiable word in Latin, which is “lino”and has the meaning “besmeared”, “covered up” or “befouled.”

So perhaps the combination of “scire” and “lino” could be defined as “the obscurer or befouler of knowledge.” This certainly sounds like the name of a demon, and further examination shows that the spirit “Scirlin” is actually a powerful emissary of Lucifer, considered an “emperor” to the great demon prince. Does this sound at all like an analogous spiritual aspect to one’s Holy Guardian Angel? Jake’s white-washing isn’t thorough enough to make that argument work. If perhaps he had completely changed the hierarchy and totally detached it from the Judeo-Christian system, treating the demon princes as pagan gods and goddess, then I might agree that his system has divorced itself from the aura of demonic magic. Only in that kind of reclamation could such a system be considered workable, positive and constructive. However, that is not the case, so the system of goetic magic found in the Grimoirum Verum is intrinsically demonic and potentially dangerous.

Other systems of magic approach the use of demons in a very cautious manner, attempting to balance the potentially destructive and disruptive nature of demons with the creative and harmonious powers of the angels. These systems emphasize the requirement that a magician who seeks to evoke demons must do so under the strictest controls, and only after a very long and arduous period of self purification, atonement and religious devotion. One could very readily practice a very powerful system of magic without ever having any recourse to the evocation of demons, and certainly their incorporation must be accomplished with the gravest sobriety and caution. To rule the chaotic, disruptive and destructive forces in the material and spiritual world, one needs to be well trained, highly experienced and powerfully in control of one’s self in order to work with these entities and not be damaged by them.

A useful analogy is the constructive use of high explosives. A person who uses them to help clear the earth for construction or the bringing down of derelict buildings requires a great deal of training, certification, extensive rules of operation and detailed planning. Not everyone can work with high explosives - and its safe usage has many rules and regulations. Failure to observe these rules will result in terrible misfortune. No less will the careless use of infernal forces in one’s magic cause disaster and personal destruction. Balance is important, but little balance seems to be found in the three days of purification required by the Grimoirum Verum. Also, the blood pact with an infernal intermediary is very troubling, since it will undoubtedly be a source of highly questionable information and instruction. It will also very likely begin the process of spiritual corruption and completely nullify the state produced by the period of purification and atonement as well.

So with these thoughts in mind, I feel that the current trend in performing goetic magic is very disturbing to me. This is because in my opinion the caution and controls, the need for years of experience and training are absent for those who seek to work with the Grimoirum Verum. While I will not judge either Jake or those who have found his book a great resource of magical knowledge and praxis, I will not seek to use this book nor will I emulate what others are doing. I suspect that Jake has a mechanism to maintain his spiritual balance, since I know someone who has personally met him and has said that he is a good and honorable person. However, there is much more to his magical practice than what he has informed the public through his book the “True Grimoire.” It is possible that without this knowledge of “how to balance these workings” that the unknowing operator will experience the full measure of the bitterness of spiritual corruption and ultimate self-destruction. Jake has earned a full measure of responsibility for his action of unleashing on the world a corrected and operant version of this black grimoire.

All I can say is “Caveat Emptor”, let the buyer beware that the Grimoirum Verum appears to be a diabolic system of magic that requires a “blood pact” with an infernal spirit. This is particularly correct if the operator is performing the magic in the grimoire as it is written, especially the corrected version published by Jake Stratton-Kent. I will continue to read over the two books and will keep an open mind, but so far I am quite skeptical that goetic magic is a legitimate magical system that can (and should) be practiced in isolation.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. You are correct in the sense that a pagan name does not a pagan god. It is the context and ritual ethos and forms that ultimatly invites the Spirit to come forth and for example Astaroth will therefore remain a demon within the context of demonology and a goddess within the context of paganism.

  2. Have you ever written on E A Koetting? I would love to read it if you have.

  3. First let me say that I very much agree with your criticism of Stratton Kent, and I do not need to add anything more. Second, well: I think the Goetic approach seeks a pact which somehow stays on equal terms with the demons, they work according to the payments they get from the sorcerer (non-magus) and the pact is just an employment contract. But Theurgy things are different, they are bound by the angels to do the work, and the magician is never found in symmetrical relationship with demons. This is the traditional teaching.
    If most presently preferred pacts is because it must be very pure to possess the necessary divine authority over demons by Theurgy, plus this also restricts the ethical possibilities, both the magician and the demons, to satisfy any whim , which is common among sorcerers.

  4. Interesting write up, as Jake explains in his book "The Trve Grimoire". The "Pacts" that take place in the GV are not like the so called pacts made with the Devil where one looses their soul. It is more to do with an agreement between the operator and say for example Scirlin. Where offerings are made to Scirlin in exchange for services from both Scirlin and other Entities under Scirlin`s authority.