Monday, February 11, 2013

Enochian Magick and the Two Paths

Everyone who attempts to work a tradition or system of magick begins their process with some simple and basic assumptions. Which assumptions the magician accepts will determine how he or she will undertake the practice of that system. For instance, if a magician believes that in order to master the elected system or grimoire of a particular type of magick that he must fully adopt it without making any changes or substitutions, this will cause him to behave as if the grimoire were the sole source of his magical work. We might call him a traditionalist or a strict-adherence kind of magician. Yet, if another magician takes the opposite view and sees the same grimoire or system of magick as being just one among many, and that the only complete and “whole” system of magick is the one that she has developed for herself, then she will examine that grimoire or system of magick as one of many possible sources that she can use to build up her own system of magick.

These two attitudes, as you can see, will foster two completely and diametrically opposed perspectives. It’s also likely that both magicians won’t see eye to eye about what they are doing, and in fact, the traditionalist might even be insulted by the other magician’s disrespectful purloining of source material and using it to build what is obviously a revisionist system of magick. As occultists, we are acutely aware of fads, poorly researched or contrived New Age hybrids or occult ripoffs, but the steadfast work of a magician who artfully draws from multiple sources shouldn’t be included in the usual judgements and disdain for such amalgamated bastardizations. A magician who is a revisionist carefully selects her materials and then tests them repeatedly within the matrix of her own system. If they work effectively, then they are kept, if not, they are put aside or discarded.

Also, we should be aware of the fact that it’s not always an “either or” type of choice. Sometimes it is an inclusion of both approaches, since most everyone starts out with some kind of tradition or system of magick as their base. Taking a strict stand one way or the other might be too limiting, since sometimes magicians are given a tradition to work with well after they have already developed their own system of magick. It’s important to keep an open mind and to be flexible, to adopt an attitude of inclusion instead of exclusion. I have found this mind-set useful in approaching my study and practice of ritual magick as well as examining what other magicians do. So, it would seem that extremism in the pursuit of truth is a major stumbling block or petty vice rather than any kind of virtue.

However, in regards to Enochian magick, the beginning assumption about this system profoundly shapes the direction that one will proceed from that point. It would appear that this system of magick has a pivot point that determines exactly how one will tackle the Enochian material, and I have found myself on the side of the extreme minority, but perhaps others have also taken up my approach and just not written any blogs or books on the subject. Allow me to clarify what exactly I am referring to when I make such a loaded statement.

There are two basic assumptions (or opinions) when one ponders all of the diaries and materials published (and unpublished) about the system of magic that John Dee and Edward Kelly channeled from their scrying sessions over four centuries ago.

1. The Enochian system magick is complete and whole, and Dee’s diaries are the definitive source of all materials on Enochian magick.

2. The Enochian system of magick is incomplete and missing many strategic parts, and that the various Angels that Dee and Kelly summoned into their shewstone are the definitive sources of that system of magick.

There could possibly be a third perspective, and that is that Enochian magick is part of the Renaissance tradition of ceremonial magick, and that whatever missing parts it has can be found in the historical records of that overall tradition. This would seem to be the perspective of the historian, and often occultists who espouse a predilection for reconstructionism find the work of such historians to be invaluable and subject to incorporation into their reconstructed system. However, this perspective would fit hand in glove with the first opinion, and it demonstrates that the second is the real outlier. Although I would state my belief here that the second opinion is the true occultic perspective.

If magical practitioners use the first opinion as their basic operating assumption for Enochian magick, then all that is needed for assembling this system is to be found in the diaries. That would mean that any extraneous or ancillary material or phenomena associated with Enochian magick would be judged against that foundational work, whether it was determined by the active discourse with spirits or through some other insight. If the new insights appear to be corroborated by some analogous materials in the Dee diaries, then it can be (cautiously) accepted, otherwise it must be either rejected or put aside as an unqualified deviation. This is the practical and rational approach to a conservative traditional engagement with the Enochian system of magick.

Yet what if the Dee material is incomplete, and it requires the operator to contact the spirits anew in order to get further instructions, revelations and devices to optimize the extent materials from Dee’s diaries? If we make this assumption then how do we proceed? Do we throw away everything that Dee established and start with a completely fresh approach? Of course, if we did that, then would we be able to call the resultant developed magical system “Enochian?” I think that instead of throwing everything away we can accept various elements of the Enochian system of magick as established by Dee, and upon that, extend the system with new revelations and insights provided by the same spirits that Dee and Kelly conversed with centuries ago. I believe that such an approach would validate Dee’s methodologies and would also fill in the blanks and assist in building up a more comprehensive magical system. Could such new material be reasonably called “Enochian” if the spirits who communicated it were the same spirits that Dee and Kelly contacted? I believe that the answer to that question is yes - it would still be Enochian magick. In fact it would become a living, creative and dynamic system of magick, something that assiduously following the diaries wouldn’t be.

When we examine the materials of Dee’s diaries that have survived the passage of ages, what we possess seems to represent a complete system of magick. However, anecdotal historical information has shown that the diaries were broken into two sections; one was buried on Dee’s property at Mortlake and the other was secreted into a hidden panel drawer in a chest. The buried diaries were discovered in 1620's and became part of the Cotton collection, and the other was rescued from the chest during the great fire of London (1666) and became part of the Ashmolean collection. The Cotton collection had been somewhat degraded (although still legible) because it had been buried, and the Ashmolean collection consisted of only half of the documents that were originally stored in the chest (the rest supposedly became liners for pie plates or were destroyed before their value was determined). Dee himself hid these documents to ensure that they were never found or viewed by an undiscriminating public as he was preparing for another one of his long journeys. Sadly, the prophesied long journey announced by the angels was his death.

The fact that any of these documents managed to survive the passage of time is nothing short of a minor miracle. Yet the diaries weren’t the only materials that were part of Dee’s personal magical collection. According to Benjamin Woolley (“Queen’s Conjurer”), Dee used the diaries (and other materials) to fashion finished books of magic. The crown jewels of his collection were books that contained the wisdom and science revealed by Enoch (Book of Enoch, promised to Dee by the angels) and the reputed Mystery of Mysteries, and Holy of Holies.

It would seem that the best part of the collection was never found, so the final products that Dee had labored so many years to produce are likely lost to time. Supposedly, the angels directed Dee to burn all of his books at one time, and at a subsequent later date they were miraculously recovered, but perhaps not all of them. This might explain why Dee continued to perform scrying sessions with lesser individuals acting as seers years after he and Kelly had broken their relationship. Maybe Dee was trying to regain his lost treasures or he was trying to continue the unfinished work that he had started. All of the valuable information that forms the foundation of the Enochian system of magick was the product of the collaboration between John Dee and Edward Kelly, and once that collaboration ended, the valuable spiritual link was lost as well.

Therefore, we can safely deduce that the Enochian system of magick is far from being complete or whole. What we have today are some of the source diaries, perhaps containing the most important elements of the magical system but not all of them. It was very likely, in the mind of Dee, a work in progress and it would hardly seem to be sensible to “close the book” on any new developments or insights simply because Dee himself is no longer alive and writing about his magical experiments. Yet that is the argument which is used to strictly define the Enochian system of magick, either from a traditionist perspective or the contrary minority view of the revisionist.

While I would never compare myself to John Dee, nor could I emulate in any manner the level of brilliance that he demonstrated, I do consider myself a competent occultist. The elephant in the room of this argument are the spirits themselves who are the real key holders and the source of this wisdom. What is required of any occultist who would seek to summon and hold discourse with these spirits is the knowledge of the invocation process and a well grounded spiritual and magical discipline. That source knowledge is still out there possessed by the Enochian spirits residing in the Spirit World. It is waiting for some gifted and creative soul who has the temerity and audacity to contact them, and the ability to channel the great gift of their knowledge into a recognizable and intelligible system of magick.

This is exactly what I did back in the very early 1990's, and following that series of workings led me down the veritable rabbit hole into a world of wonder and amazement. It seemed to me that the spirits of the Enochian system of magick were not only still quite active, but eager to share their wisdom with others. Even so, I seem to be one of a very small minority of individuals who actually took this path. I have written down these experiences and analyzed the communications that I received in a series of unpublished books known as the Sepher ha-Nephilim. Some might see it as an attempt to re-invent the wheel, others have said that the results of that work doesn’t conform to the Enochian material as it is currently understood or practiced (perhaps making it useless).

What I have said in response to many of my critics is to invite them to take the second opinion as their founding assumption, therefore proceeding in the footsteps of Dee and Kelly and then, with an open mind, see what develops. I believe that anyone who actually attempts to follow this path is continuing the Enochian tradition as it was originally conceived, and perhaps taking such an experimental trip would validate what I have done. Until then I am unfortunately like a lone voice in the wilderness, unheard and unheeded.

Frater Barrabbas

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