Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Epilogue - Analysis of Lisiewski’s Book

Now that we have examined the main premises in Joseph Lisiewski’s book, Ceremonial Magic and the Power of Evocation, I can conclude with a final overall analysis of his system of theurgy and evocation. I have found incredible flaws in all of the basic premises and theories of this system, as well as what appears to be a deliberate trap for the earnest student who would attempt to use Joseph’s methodologies. Thus, I can’t in good conscience recommend this book to anyone who aspires to perform evocation. Seldom have I ever been so harsh in a book review to say that a book is not worth purchasing or being read by anyone, but that is pretty much how I judge this work. The only positive thing that I can say is caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

The rest of the book consists of a commentary on the grimoire called the Heptameron  supposedly written by Peter de Abano (early 14th century?), which Joseph declares is the oldest grimoire that we possess, and of course, recent scholarship has proven this to be correct. However, there are probably many versions of this grimoire found in library collections, and it would appear that the version that Joseph is using was probably taken from Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy. We are given this English translation with no recourse to the original text, no documentation indicting where it came from, and we are forced to take it as representing an original version of an uncorrupted source of lore. We have already gone over the problems with this theory, but we are expected to take on faith that this is a “pure” source.  There are, in fact, earlier sources of magickal lore, but the Heptameron was the first European grimoire, to be followed by the infamous Greater Key, Lemegeton, and others. I would not rate the Heptameron as one of my favorites, but it has its own unique charms and features and is certainly not to be discarded. In my opinion, the classical grimoires are the obvious Solomonic grimoires, such as the Greater and Lesser Keys. Why Joseph chose this grimoire over the Greater and Lesser Key of Solomon is a mystery. It may be that he thinks that the Solomonic Keys have succumbed to the rot and corruption that he accuses other later grimoires and books of possessing.

As a final note and to summarize my commentary on Joseph’s book, I find his evocation methodology implausible and quite improbable. This judgement is not only mine, but also comes from several individuals with as much background and experience as Joseph himself, although none of us were personal friends of Israel Regardie. Not only does Joseph declare that his method is the only one that works, it is the only one that produces full materializations as well. However, since his requirements for success are so steep, it is doubtful that anyone will ever be able to prove his methods as being either true or false, since failure requires a period of at least a month for the practitioner to regroup and start over again.

There is an inherent trap for those foolish enough to perform his method with anything but perfection, whether it be the tools of the art, the regalia, the lamen, magickal wards, ritual performance, personal beliefs, or the vague notion of the subjective synthesis. If the rite fails, it is the fault of the operator, not the system itself. If the rite succeeds, then a small miracle or a profound hallucination has occurred, either way, it proves nothing other than the fact that magick conforms to our expectations. Yet even magick has its limits.

It’s quite obvious to me that Joseph Lisiewski represents the worst of existential magicians, a closet atheist pretending to be a pious monotheist. He appears to be only interested in material gain and self aggrandizement, which is hardly the great man or magus that he believes himself to be. Joseph is hardly a news worthy individual (I had not heard of him until this book was published) and he has not changed the world with his magickal ability. For instance, he doesn’t get invited to the White House for dinner and consultations nor appear on cable news stations. He has not become famous in all the forty years of an astonishingly miraculous magickal practice, so we must assume that he is just another small time magician scraping a living from the world just like the rest of us. His only claim to fame is in the pages of his book, where his ideas may be examined and either lauded or rejected by magicians who represent his true peer group. This book is hardly a breakthrough in the practice of magick, so one is duly warned to objectively and critically examine its methods and ideology thoroughly before seeking to emulate it. There are, of course, better methods and systems available to the general public, especially ones that do not contain hidden traps.

In Zen Buddhism, the student is taught that there are many mental traps and illusions that can cause him to lose his true objective, which is satori. These illusions and mental traps represent the various phenomena associated with the experience of higher forms of consciousness. Such illusions are psychic in nature, so the student may see lights, hear sounds, even perceive complete visions and illusions that seem to be solid and real, but in reality, they are the extraneous phenomena that a student will experience when progressing on the path to the elevated and exalted states of being. These mental traps are all of the nature of an inflation of the petty ego, thus whenever any thoughts arise about one’s self importance or how great are one’s achievements, the student is told to ignore these thoughts and urges and continue with the work. Likewise, a student is taught to ignore the illusions and visions that appear as well. All of these phenomena are natural occurrences, but they signify nothing in the long term, and if pursued, they will lead the student astray and keep one from realizing the true goal.

I believe that the student of magick faces the same type of mental traps and illusions. Certainly, focusing on producing physical phenomena would be one trap as well as believing that one is exclusively God, or any variation of that delusion that enormously inflates the petty ego. If the objective of magick is to obtain divine union and then to act as a conduit of the Deity and its divine plan for this world, one must not allow petty biases, prejudices or ego infatuation to interfere with one’s objective. Divergent paths lead one astray. Being led astray means that you are no longer a member of those seekers who are achieving a true spiritual and magickal mastery.

Therefore, it’s obvious to me that Joseph has diverged from his true magickal path, since he has succumbed to the plight of spiritual materialism and has lost any perspective on his true spiritual and magickal path. He has become what we magicians call, a “phenomena junky” and it is a type of divergent pursuit that is as addictive as any opiate. I, however, will not follow his example, but will examine his declarations and realize his mistake, and then, by avoiding that error, profit from it. Such is the value of Joseph’s book to the community of practicing magicians.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. There is only one absolute in the universe: the perspective of the individual, all else is relative to this one point. Of course ones perspective is limited by what the individual chooses to allow themselves to see.

  2. @Seraphis, the Hermetic Principle, "The Universe is Mental" comes to mind. Agreed. Subjective experience. Re: the book itself: What really amazed me about the Lisiewski book is he comes right out and talks about how subjective experience is, yet in the next breath says, "This is how it's done and this is exactly what will happen, and this is why I'm awesome and right and the rest of you are lame, and wrong." That's why methinks I'll keep the smoke and mirrors (and religious fervor) outside my Heptameron circle. My subjective view on the matter is one size doesn't fit all and its' okay to modify grimoiric magick and substitute as necessary - and you're still going to get results - probably more powerful ones at that.

  3. So you came to brilliant conclusion, that modern masonic, postmesmeric and eastern methods are better to work the Art of Ceremonial Evocation which is exclusive to European midde-ages and reinessaince magic. I'm not even going to waste my time to prove you wrong, but this is hilarious. I hope that some day magical modernism will be defeated, before it corrupts Western Magic to death.