Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thoughts About the Abramelin Ordeal

This article is the first part of a two part article that is based on my study and analysis on the Abramelin Ordeal. I decided to break up the original article and post the two halves for you to examine and think about. Considering that I am about to begin working the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal, which is different than the one proposed in the book, putting out these ideas would be both pertinent and relevant to my own magical workings.

I have been puzzling over the Abramelin magical system for over 30 years, ever since I got my first hard bound copy of that tome, Book of Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, translated by MacGreggor Mathers. The book was reputed to be written by a historically obscure individual, a Jew named Abraham who lived in the town of Worms during the early 15th century. I have previously deduced that there was a very advanced Jewish occult community in that town, since nearly a hundred years earlier another important work was written called Sepher ha-Ratziel or the Book of Ratziel. So the Book of Sacred Magic was part of a plausible historical line of occultism and ceremonial magic. It’s fairly certain that there was a sharing of lore between Christian and Jewish occultists, and so it is one of the areas where Jewish magic and occultism was appropriated and used by Christians.

One of the main features of the Book of Sacred Magic is that it contains a very long and intense ordeal that many magicians have attempted and failed to complete. Aleister Crowley was reputed to have attempted this working twice at Boleskine Castle in Scotland, and Alex Sanders was also supposed to have performed the ordeal and completed it; there are numerous others as well. The ordeal is arduous and difficult because it spans a period of 18 months, using the two sacred Jewish holidays of Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles) to break up the year into six month periods. There are three of these six month phases that represent the stages of the Abramelin working.

Mather’s version of the Book of Abramelin has only 6 months or three phases of two lunar cycles for the duration of the ordeal. However, Mather’s version is from a later French manuscript that was very corrupt. I suspect that the 6 months duration is a modification that did not exist in the original. I am using the duration of the ordeal from the German edition, which appears to be more authentic. Mather’s edition also has the requirement of a virginal male child to accompany the practitioner the first time the Holy Guardian Angel is summoned. The role of the child is to act as an innocent and unbiased channel, but this is completely omitted from the German edition, and I suspect that it is a superfluous addition.

The final working in this ordeal is performed after the second Sukkot, where the magician summons into manifestation his Holy Guardian Angel through the grace of God and by means of the successful but long period of fasting, expiation, purification, consecration, devotional prayer and contemplation. There is little in the way of tools that are required for this working (a special wand, incense brazier, balm, lamps and at least two different robes, head band and cincture), but the building of a special prayer room with windows facing the East and West, an outdoor arbor and a floor covered by sand or the potential requirement for an outdoor tabernacle may have posed a daunting series of preparatory tasks. Once the prayer room is completed and the other required items are obtained, the ordeal basically consists of a regimen of devotional prayer, frequent ablutions, expiation, contemplation and various forms of abstinence (renunciation). However, performing this rigorous regimen for 18 months would guarantee that something would certainly happen, if not that which the magician sought at the start of the ordeal.

Many magicians have attempted this working, but few have questioned the necessity of its arduous discipline and practices. The supposed outcome is the manifestation of the Holy Guardian Angel, yet that event only begins a long process of spiritual indenture. It’s done for the exclusive purpose to master the good spirit (the HGA), the unredeemed spirits (demons), and to unleash the power and potency of hundreds of magical squares contained in book four of the grimoire. The achievement of the ordeal is just the beginning of this process of spiritual mastery, but the key is to have access to the Holy Guardian Angel, without which, the rest of the magic is pointless and incapable of being realized. From the standpoint of the Book of Sacred Magic of Abramelin, the ordeal is just the initiation rite for becoming a magician, the rest of the specific ritual lore would be provided and expounded upon by the HGA. It would seem then, that the HGA acted as a kind of lofty magician’s familiar spirit, and was a required part of this magical tradition. Many magicians have desired the powers and abilities associated with the fabulous and mysterious magic squares that are a hallmark of this system of magic, but few had the time or the ability to achieve the basic requirements for the ordeal.

So that is the essential conundrum underlying this system of magic. The bar for success was placed very high for the would-be apprentice magician to pass over, and so few actually managed to complete it. I suspect that was the purpose of the ordeal, to separate the goats from the sheep as it were. The ordeal also required a strict discipline of piety, renunciation and spiritual devotion that many would have understood back then, but few if any could comprehend now centuries later. Abraham the Jew makes allowances for those who might have businesses or need to work in order to survive, yet the times have dramatically changed since then and this system of magic hasn’t changed. We are talking about a magical system that was derived in the early Renaissance, a time which held a completely different mental outlook and way of life than today’s modern world. There simply isn’t an opportunity to retire from the world for the last six months of the ordeal unless the magician is independently wealthy and can support a mono-mania for several months without interruption.

Since the central ordeal to the Book of Sacred Magic is so rigorous and difficult, I have decided to forgo this regimen and find other activities and practices that are more immediately rewarding and capable of being sustained while living in the twenty-first century. I have a job and career, a home, a relationship, friends and family that require much of my time. What time I have left over is given to my magical and occult studies. But I don’t have time to devote 18 months to perform a powerful ordeal, and I couldn’t function in semi-retirement for the last six months. It would seem that the Abramelin system of magic is a tradition that I admire and study, but not one that I could possibly even perform the basic initiatory ordeal. I have had to put this book and its system aside for other more pressing activities and studies; but it’s always there on the periphery of my mind, tantalizingly near yet out of reach, waiting ultimately to be resolved. 

 Recently, I have been examining the power and potential of lunar based magic and its associated mysteries. I put the entire Elemental and Talismanic Elemental systems of magic squarely into the matrix of lunar based magic. Of course, talismanic magic makes use of the 28 lunar mansions, and elemental magic uses the moon and the sun to imprint a powerful time-stamp onto the magical working, so as to assist it in focusing changes into the present world. Both of these approaches have worked marvelously well, and in fact, even after performing a series of these rites in June, July and August of 2007, they are still aiding and rewarding me with renewed and unexpected sources of money. Certainly, these kinds of magic work very well through the use of the lunar mysteries. However, I had not attempted to apply any other magical system to the lunar cycle, that is, until I began to re-examine the Abramelin ordeal.

Since purchasing the newest version of the Book of Sacred Magic, which was translated from a completely intact German manuscript by Steven Guth and Georg Dehn, and giving it a thorough study, I have found myself rethinking the entire structure of the ordeal. Previously, if you wanted to perform this ordeal, there wasn’t any room or ability to make substitutions, since the time-line appeared to be firmly determined and that is what made the ordeal so effective and difficult. The regimen of prayer and contemplation was not particularly demanding, nor were the tools required, although the requirement for the prayer room might be difficult for some, and this might be where some substitutions could be made. However, the time-line was based on the religious holidays of the Passover and the Feast of the Tabernacles, these being roughly six months apart in the Jewish calendar. One might even substitute these Jewish holidays with Christian ones, such as Easter and maybe Michaelmas, but that would be the extent of the possible alternatives.

See The Book of Abramelin - A New Translation - edited by George Dehn, translated by Steven Guth, Ibis Press 2006. This edition of the Book of Abramelin seems to have a number of variances with the version published by Mathers. There is no mention made of the Passover and the Feast of the Tabernacles in the ordeal, so it would seem Mathers’ version has been sanitized of all Jewish traces. Also, many of the magic squares are incomplete (160 out of 242), there are 9 missing squares, and an entire book is missing from the Mathers edition. Since that version appears to be a later incomplete French manuscript, I suspect that we can rely on the German manuscript to be more authentic and definitive of this system of magic.

Yet this ordeal is decidedly solar based, since each phase is six months in length, and there are three phases. I began to ponder that since I am neither Jewish nor Christian, and since my faith is an earth-based spirituality, why would I follow a solar cycle for this kind of ordeal? Why not a lunar based cycle? Since a lunar cycle takes only 28 days to complete, then breaking it in half and building an ordeal that would cover three phases or one and a half cycles of the moon would be quite appropriate. Like the traditional Abramelin working, there would be three phases, but instead of using an annual sacred holiday, like the Passover as the starting point, I would start at a point in the lunar cycle that would connote “beginnings,” and that would most certainly be the new moon. Then the ordeal would span the lunar cycle of new moon, to full moon, to new moon again, and finally, to  full moon. The duration of the lunar ordeal would last approximately 40 to 42 days. This period of time seems analogous to the ubiquitous forty days and nights of the old testament, which is used to denote an archetypal duration. It would seem that the period of one and half lunar cycles is just as auspicious as the solar cycle of 18 months, not to mention that it would have the added power of being very significant to someone who practiced an earth based spirituality.

So I would substitute the three phases of the solar cycle with the three phases of the lunar cycle, and establish a time period that would be quite doable for a person of the post-modern world of the twenty-first century. That being said, I was quite pleased with the new structure of the ordeal, but I began to see other possibilities as well. The regimen of devotional prayer, expiation of sins, contemplation, fasting and ablutions performed in ever more rigorous fashion represented the only activity that the practitioner engaged in for months, only increasing the intensity and frequency as the ordeal approached its final six months. Since I am already initiated and functioning in a spiritually transformed state, and I am also quite capable of performing rituals and ceremonies during the shortened lunar ordeal, I have decided to completely modify and change the regimen of the ordeal to make it even more powerful and demanding in the area of applied rituals. What I decided to do was to merge the Invocation of the Bornless One, as derived from the Golden Dawn system, with the Abramelin ordeal to produce a working that would, at its climax, assist in invoking the Holy Guardian Angel as an aspect of the magician’s absolute self, or the God/dess Within. Other workings also emerged in my thoughts, and an entire ritual magickal ordeal took form in my mind.

Is the Bornless One the same or at least closely analogous to the Holy Guardian Angel? Now that’s a question that any knowledgeable occultist would ask. The key word that links them is found in the term Augoeides, which was used in the Golden Dawn and in Theosophical circles to denote the luminous radiance of the self as godhead. It has cognates in the related terms Daimones (Greek), Atman (Sanscrit), Genius (Latin) and the Holy Guardian Angel.  The source of this term is obscure, but it seems to have originated in the writings and thoughts of the Neoplatonists, most notably Iamblichus and Porphyry, but was promulgated by theurgists in late antiquity. To quote a reliable source:

“Augoeides (Greek, "shinning image") is a term that has had various definitions within Western occult tradition over the past two thousand years. The Greek Neoplatonic writers of the late Roman period first used it to refer to the Body of Light or the transformed spiritual body worn by the initiate who had overcome the materialism of the physical world.” (See the online web page for the following quote here. I have found it quite complete and illustrative of my point.) 

An examination of this term would seem to link it even more closely to that aspect of the self called the “higher self” or “absolute self”, and it would therefore be more bonded to the individual than what was believed of this term in the middle ages. (Not to be confused with any aspect of the self that is associated with the ego or persona. A better term would be the self as godhead.) Aleister Crowley himself referred to the Holy Guardian Angel as the personal godhead Augoeides, and I think that we can safely assume this to be correct. Therefore, it would seem that the invocation of the Bornless One would represent a magical process used to summon the highest aspect of the self as deity, and that this operation would be quite analogous to the invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Some may dispute this linkage, but I believe that it is adequately supported by past usage and associations. (See Crowley’s articles - Liber Samekh and Liber VIII. Liber Samekh associated the HGA with the Bornless One, and Liber VIII proposes an alternate form of the Abramelin ordeal that lasts 91 days.)

This leads us to examine the nature of the revised ordeal that I am proposing to establish, and to carefully examine its various steps. The following is a detailed analysis of this newly devised Abramelin Lunar Ordeal, which takes around 40 days to complete and is actually much more ritually demanding and intensive than the original solar ordeal. The prerequisites are that this new ordeal be performed only by an adept, analogous to the sixth or seventh degree of the E.S.S.G. or Order of the Gnostic Star. This level of ability requires that the magician be capable of performing a magickal mass on a weekly basis and performing the Archetypal Gate rituals as well as the newly formed version of the Invocation of the Bornless One. The magician would have to be competent at performing magical evocations and all of the rigors that such a discipline would require. I suspect that if someone were to undertake this ordeal who does not have these requirements, then either nothing at the very least or complete personal disaster at the worst would be encountered through the misapplication of this ordeal.

Frater Barrabbas

1 comment:

  1. Hi again FR Barrabbas. I decided to read (and comment on) some of your other articles you've posted online. I wonder if you know about the link between Sabbatean Frankist teachings and the formation of the GD? I should send you the article.

    When you study closely the history of the Golden Dawn "adepts", it's like reading a rather bad novel. Lots of infighting, jealousy, gossiping, intellectual property (and other) theft, massive ego problems and more. You still see the same thing in GD offshoots. David Griffin, Regardie, Chris Hyatt, Chis Monastre, Zalewskys, and others. It's that they focused overly on gaining magical power and neglected work on their inverted planetary archetypes....I perceive. If a person is advanced enough, that person can see another persons' tzelem, even at a distance. Until you've actually advanced enough on the path, a person is vulnerable to a lot of manipulation and deception by so-called "adept" personae within certain Traditions.