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Magick and The Powers

Objective benefits of Magick?

Objective benefits of Magick?
3/27/18 8:15 PM
Let's assume that I'm not looking for material gains in the 'real' world, and I don't give a shit about summoning entities. Let's also define 'magick' as specifically 'ritual magic in the western occult tradition'.

I've been reading about it recently, and just seems... all over the place. I don't 'get' what the purpose of it is. Is it just to make people feel powerful, special or different from the crowd?

And, the whole subculture also seems to be filled with complete degenerates like Aleister Crowley and pals, so it's not even like the great figures are even worth emulating (unlike the Buddha for example.)

Let's take a little extract from Israel Regardie's book, the 'One Year Manual', where he recommends doing the '4 adorations' practise:
Who travellest over the Heavens in Thy Bark
At the Uprising of the Sun
Tahuti standeth in his splendour at the prow
And Ra-hoor abideth at the helm
Hail unto thee from the Abodes of Night

Come on now, what is this shit? Speak this gibberish in the four directions, based off of the sun's position everyday and you'll recieve some sort of  esoteric benefit?

Maybe I'm being a little too caustic, but even after reading up on it, it still makes no sense whatsoever. Every book has a different conception of it(From magick being simply a different style of thinking or whatever, like in Ramsey Dukes' books, to full blown reality manipulation.)

But, I'm open to having my view changed. What is an objective benefit of conducting magick, that you can acquire in a small timeframe, with normal concentration powers, and with small risk?

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/27/18 11:38 PM as a reply to D..
All right, considering I'm the guy with the ongoing Thelema thread, I guess I'll bite.

To answer your questions in bold:

What is this shit?

Liber Resh vel Helios, the fourfold adoration to the sun, written by Crowley, to answer your question literally. But you knew that already, right? What you're actually asking is "Why bother?" I can only speak for myself, of course. For one thing, I often find that I like to have an element of devotional practice on my spiritual path, and Resh provides that pretty nicely. To me it doesn't seem any stranger than someone chanting "Nammo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhasa" or visualizing Amitabha Buddha. I don't necessarily believe that I'm literally channeling occult solar energies such as Crowley suggests one does by the practice in the text. (Although who knows? Maybe. It's immaterial one way or another as far as I'm concerned.) I also find that the fourfold practice of Resh begins to create an automatic structure in my magical practice, dividing the day into clearly defined segments, and serving as a regular reminder of the Work. It's a discipline, just like any other spritual practice. Either one finds it useful, or one does not and discards it. (Isn't this the sort of practical attitude advocated by the pragmatic dharma community? It's exactly the same attitude Crowley advocated in his Scientific Illuminism way back in 1909.)

What is an objective benefit of conducting magick, that you can acquire in a small time frame, with normal concentration powers, and with small risk?

I don't think there are any, necessarily, at least that meet all those qualifiers. Again, I can only speak for myself. For me, magick represents a living syncretistic wisdom tradition which is entirely life-affirming as opposed to life-denying. It's fascinating and it's fun and at times it's scary and it's probably even a little bit dangerous. It can be an ego trip, but even that in itself can be an important and necessary step for certain kinds of people. (I have found in my own life that it was necessary for me to build up a healthy ego before I could responsibly even begin to work with notions like anatta without spiraling into an existential crisis.)

Magick, for me, is less of cure-all and more of an adventure.

For what it's worth, all of the criticisms you brought up are true, to an extent. The world of magick is messy and convoluted and all over the place (though depending on the tradition you're in, I believe there is actually a profound simplicity to all of it, merely surrounded by glamors, so to speak), and it's full of assholes. The occult in particular seems to attract its fair share of charlatans, the mentally ill, and the socially inept. At the same time, I think this can be a blessing in disguise. I think it's easier to spot the nutjobs in occult circles when you've got your own head on straight. The fact that the founder of Thelema is a man I would never want to fully emulate myself is, to me, actually a good thing, because it's a foil to putting the guy on a pedestal. The point is to discover who YOU are, not to emulate some jumped-up ego with nasty mother issues.

Is it for everyone? Not at all. Neither is playing Dungeons & Dragons or watching horror movies or eating spicy food, but it works for some people. Though I would say that I think that people who are genuinely interested in following a magical path as a means of enlightenment would do well to work on themselves a lot in a non-magical sense beforehand. I consider myself lucky in that I fell down the Buddhist rabbithole before I delved headlong into the magical one, and this (plus a couple years of therapy) really helped to put me in a good and sober headspace to approach the Mysteries.

It's a whole encompassing system in itself. No one can give you a satisfactory answer "Why," because that's ultimately the sort of thing you have to answer for yourself. I have my own Why, although it's more like a Why Not in a lot of ways.

Anyway, just my own two cents.

Do what thou wilt.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/28/18 3:28 AM as a reply to D..
Daniel has a great article on Magick which I guess would help make sense of western occult magick


RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/28/18 1:14 PM as a reply to Andrew S.
Well for me Magick is about curiosity and having fun, know other ways to use the mind etc.

Have to say MagicK for me is "supernatural" expirience like lucid dreams, fire kasina, moves of energy doing archetypal work and  alchemy so is more like taking the Hero Jounrey.

MagicK is much more, I will recomend these autor : Donald Tyson.

This is a very good workbook written by him : The Magician's Workbook: Practicing the Rituals of the Western Tradition
Have fun, take whats works , disacrd what not emoticon

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/28/18 11:43 AM as a reply to Andrew B..
Okay, perhaps I haven't been viewing Magick as a serious spiritual discipline.

I'll try out a few certain rituals, in service of a simple goal, and see what happens.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/28/18 5:18 PM as a reply to Jordi.
On the note of recommendations in the somewhat different (somewhat non-Thelemic direction):

Star.Ships (especially this, fun new knowledge), The Chaos Protocols, and the Grimoires + Saints courses with Rune Soup membership by Gordon White, and the podcast

The Encyclopedia Goetica

Communing With the Spirits by Martin Coleman

The Crossing Sun (example of practitioner's blog)

In my maybe eccentric opinion, at this stage I think a lot of the Thelemic/modern "Western" stuff actually gets "enlightenment" right the way we'd mean it here: in the sense of a series of clarifying and purifying cessations of consciousness or world and transformation in orientation of mind, especially regarding fundamental dualistic illusion, and eventual detachment even from cessations. Crowley even uses the words jhana, nibbana, etc. Cross that Abyss! Lots of Jungian and/or almost Tantric evolution stuff tacked on, and political/order drama.

I'd say it involves "enlightening exercises" like so. The mastery of subjective experience to map the inner vs outer, "As above, so below" (Hermetic/alchemical, Pascalian) axiom, causing inner change to cause outer or vice versa: symbolic expression in ritual changes inner astral and psychic landscape, astrology as the outer stars showering down geometries in the movement of events on our own planet as the mirror of heaven reflects the cosmos, or your internal beliefs and energies and intentional limits flowing back out into reality in the form of synchronicities, etc combined with increasing refinement of your own understanding of your desires leads you to the root of craving anyway. Do I want that beautiful house, no I have barriers internally/psychologically (hatred of wealth) and externally I haven't considered (property taxes), I actually want an experience of living in or being around such an environment with associated freedoms, atmosphere, etc... but no I actually want to realize those images and desires for those experiences to satisfy deeper desires of disquiet, discontent... some kind of fear and misguided hopefulness... fundamental suffering... etc. Do you want to manifest a miracle/siddhi to accomplish some goal other than to see it (rarely true)? Just admit you're a miracle seeker who wants to affirm/prove your faith. Are you actually following your desires sincerely towards their path of least resistance (the difference between cursing someone half-heartedly vs a willingness to sabotage them at work yourself or damaging their property at night)? Better understanding of your actual desires in lots of these practices = better manifestations, but desire bottoms out. Realizing that there are inside of you a large number of false values and abstract notions about reality to throw away also shows you your needs/desires are more moment-to-moment than you might have realized, pushing you deeper into meditation space. 

This isn't that correct but maybe playfully imagine the journeys of say a Solomon or Faust as making a series of small wishes getting you closer and closer to what you want until you realize the nature of wanting... 

I think a lot of that kind of stuff is what is really at play when toying with an "objective" vs "subjective" reality like in Daniel's piece.

Rituals bring concentration, maybe HGA is an emanatory primordial yogic guru, etc.

Austin Spare's self-invented death posture experiences of flashing visions and the ego blowing away like a leaf in the wind are probably also somewhat similar to kasina or even Dzogchen practices (I'd claim). If I remember Kenneth Grant writes the compelling opinion that Spare learned how to make contact with spiritual worlds, Crowley mostly just attracted it, and left a wake... 

Aleister Crowley is endlessly interesting and creative, even if sometimes horrible.

That said I'd think they (these currents) probably get almost everything else wrong with magic (practically, psychologically, and scholastically), especially as continuous with the historical traditions they were trying to adapt or revive. The above points towards a much more historical question that I think also strips away a lot of the (temporarily necessary) solipsism, postmodernism, and (deserved) sense of aimless contextless-ness and nonsense you can take away from Crowleyian occultism.

The links/suggestions above are for a much less alienated view of how these things fit together across a few hundred and even thousands of years of human life, and include a huge amount of ridiculously smart/instructive material.

As for taking it as a purely "spiritual" (read: personal, subjective) practice or not, I think this is a silly distinction or is the wrong question.

Gordon points out in the Grimoires Rune Soup course how practitioners binding demons even operating from a more "objective" view (not trying to do "psychological" work) tend to find odd changes in psychological texturing that results from that anyway. I like how there are many dimensions of work to do.

Jake Stratton-Kent would point out that a cosmology, model, book, or list of spirits/demons you're forming ongoing relationships with looks more like a shamanic process of understanding a map of the universe (or I suppose you could say the "self" if you're feeling solipstistic again) and forming useful, potentially mutually beneficial relationships between yourself and all these corners of the world.

Treating "entities" as real in some sense sometimes also promotes ethical respect and longer-term thinking. I like how that is peripherally addressed in this "A rose by any other name" essay.

There's also a lot of esoteric work to do with the body, grounding reality.

Secularized Western society has a terrible relationship with youth and the body, but also to death, the dead, and dying. It might seem more noble, skeptical, epistemologically smart, or whatever to doubt life after death (I disagree, even if I agree in that framework we're trying to overcome reincarnation anyway - which has much more interesting implications). But in practice the dead are there and should be given some attention (I like the conversation in the Pali canon in the Lakkhana-samyutta between the Buddha and Moggallāna after the latter's retreat on Vulture Peak in which they discuss ghosts they've seen, and Buddha says he sees ghosts all the time but tries not to freak people out by talking about them too much).

I tend to think that secularism and materialism walk hand-in-hand with inevitable, unreflective imperialist racism, and cultural bulldozing, although they create an illusion of blanketing humility and groundedness that would seem to be helpful for a Western Buddhist attempting to evade spiritual materialism. Sometimes this can look even more direct or literal than you'd guess such as Jack Kornfield teaching meditation to help the military (as was pointed out to me the other day) haha... I didn't know that we were trying to build a science fiction empire with all this stuff.

Practical impacts do matter unless you view detachment as only indicating the limit case of complete ascetic removal from a causal framework of the world. I like Machig Labdrön and all her Tantric demon-befriending stuff and helping peasants cleverly handle their karma (seeing karma), Amitābha (who built his Pure Land as a meditation center for a finite number of the rescued dead by cultivating and applying psychic powers for eons in some versions of the story), and in our other stories from myth-time the philosopher Nāgārjuna binding 108 (really would just mean "many") elementals and getting down with the nagas.

Maybe amusingly, I'd also recommend A Deck of Spells by Charles Porterfield.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/28/18 4:57 PM as a reply to S..
Thank you, and everyone else for the reccomendations. (Especially Gordon White's books, they pretty much are what I'm looking for.)

Also, I'm not really into materialism/secularism, I wholly believe in reincarnation and all the supernatural aspects of Buddhism, it's just that I failed to identify anything worthwhile in the magick books I had previously read. Perhaps, they're for a more advanced reader.

Anyhow, I will definitely educate myself a little more, and see if there is truly something worthwhile for me to gleam from magick.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/29/18 10:22 AM as a reply to D..
Also, are there nicer... entities to evoke? I must admit, one of the reasons I don't want to interact with them is that they seem a little too 'otherwordly' and 'evil'.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/29/18 10:47 AM as a reply to D..
Gordon White's good. I like his RuneSoup podcast. (Though I don't always agree with his points of view--but often that just makes listening even more enjoyable!)

I can't speak from much personal experience in evocation, but I would ask, which entities are you refering to, and what purpose would you have for evocation?

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/29/18 11:29 AM as a reply to D..
“Trust no spirit visible or invisible, but the spirit of dead men. For they love man more than others do.” -Job

As said before, check out the course on the grimoires and course on the saints in the Rune Soup members videos. 

It provides more than enough context to start understanding what all that is about. Then there are lots of books/methods/systems/practice directions to incline towards. 

reflective praxis > theories by people who do evocation > theories by people who don't do evocation

But best to start in the middle.

If you want to start somewhere, do Martin Coleman. It's not formal "evocation" exactly, but has some good foundational and related skills. It's practical, and starts with your ancestors. 

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/29/18 1:01 PM as a reply to D..
I don't give a shit about summoning entities

Please don't do this emoticon  I have had an EXTREME amount of trouble due to malevolent beings.  Summoning anything what-so-ever runs the risk of this.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/29/18 2:23 PM as a reply to Bailey ..
Bailey .:
I don't give a shit about summoning entities

Please don't do this emoticon  I have had an EXTREME amount of trouble due to malevolent beings.  Summoning anything what-so-ever runs the risk of this.

I've found the impact to be pretty positive on me/my life/interests in general. Worth putting out there the definitively nothing-comes-close-to-it "worst experience" of my entire life involved a "malevolent being," and it led to a lot of very rapid transformation (and skirted near disaster) in most dimensions of things for me. I don't regret it though... got me very serious about the Dharma, and was character-building too (I think). To each their own. emoticon

Probably comparable to meditation in that regard.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/29/18 4:15 PM as a reply to S..
I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot stick.  There is no reason to take refuge in anything other than Buddha.  He brings the most benefit and is the most powerful being in the universe.

I had to learn that my issues stemmed from demons here in the first place, Hermetic Seal pretty much saved my life.  The bad guys are tircky and can disguise them as good. Stick with Buddha.

If you want indepts disccusion:


RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/29/18 6:56 PM as a reply to Bailey ..
That's pretty interesting. I'm glad you're okay.

I try not to forget him too. Turning the Dharma Wheel probably affected me more positively than anything I can name, so my gratitude should be infinite in exchange for an infinite amount of possibly prevented suffering.

I'd say I think it's a very hostile view of the animist/animated world to see the whole thing made of lions and con artists, with all your neighbors as thieves and liars. I don't think that's quite wrong exactly - it's continuous with the ascetic view of aversion to people and their greeds. But it's just one way to exist even as an enlightened being in worlds of both danger and light. There's a spectrum of ways to relate to the people, animals, spirits of the world that include compassion, friendships, more professional looking arrangements, gratuitously or semi-necessarily aggressive situations, etc. You're attracting spiritual attention whether you know it or want to or not. I think an eye towards Jesus is good, but I shouldn't begrudge anyone who cares about saints, apostles, an angel, or their deceased mom looking down on them. So that's sort of my two cents. I can see where renunciates, the Desert Fathers, etc might come from but I lean much more towards Tantric-flavored views probably.

I love the Buddha. He don't pay my rent. emoticon

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/30/18 5:24 AM as a reply to S..
All your comments are very well said, S.

I think for some people magick is simply something that happens along the way and you either learn to use it skillfully or spend a lot of time suppressing it/denying it/using it in unconscious ways that lead to trouble. It can help shed light on our shadow side or fuel its unhealthy tendencies. Why some people and not others? I've spent a lot of time pondering this and the best I've come up with is that it's some combination of heritable traits and life experiences--nature and nurture. Karma, if you will. 

As for "objective" benefits, I've never met a perfect person and that includes the awake ones. Probably every human has at least some degree of trauma or psychological baggage and there are clear benefits to using magickal approaches for dealing with that sort of thing. If we're going to start poking at our deepest, most painful wounds (and I definitely think we all should)*, why not do it in a way that is fun and playful? You don't even have to have a natural aptitude for concentration for some of it. Uncle Ramsey's Little Book of Demons: The Positive Advantages of the Personification of Life's Problems is a hilarious little magickal self help book, basically refurbished Tantric but an engaging read and quite accessible even if you aren't a total occult nerd.

So while there is obviously a lot more to it than just the psychological benefits, let's not forget or discount them. Cleaning up the psyche is training in morality and a desirable end in and of itself. Not only that, but dealing with our unresolved crap improves concentration and frees up processing power that can be used for more magick or whatever other other goals we might have, or at least this has been my experience.

*Standard disclaimer: this is not to say that magick should necessarily replace talking with a good therapist/counselor/etc., depending on what you're dealing with.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/30/18 6:41 PM as a reply to Andrew B..
Hmm.. I'm pretty interested in working with aspects of Mercury(perhaps the Olympick spirit, Ophiel?) to aid me in more 'mundane' areas of my life.

But, everything I've read about entities always has some strange horror story about getting terrorised by a  malevolent one.

Or, Servitor magick, but I don't think those count as 'entities'.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
3/31/18 3:06 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda -

A little bit sidways but,

it's amusing to compare the differences and parallels between


and this, adding in a next step of comparison with a 'conversation with Mara' - could be interpreted as a very Zen lesson/conversations about/originating from fundamental suffering 

(both things that can get about that trippy, concentration, one for the more practical (as indicated by the end) and (Self-)flagellating)

D. -

Interesting! I wouldn't discourage you. Track good information. emoticon

(A more general comment but I also think it's good to know what you want, and also good to study and not approach too many things out of the blue/without context. Something that you feel an affinity or attraction towards should still be approached within the larger scope in which you find it, I think. So tackle the book or system(s), and precisely. Not that this is necessarily an/the issue, but fair note that 'identitarian' (someone says Zeus in the cartoon Hercules is cool, ergo they become an anachronistic Zeusist) concerns should (if existing at all) be a later product of practice and exploration of a realm and discovery/engangement with cosmology, not a motivation beforehand. That might not make sense, but it blew my mind a lot when that was first pointed out to me with these things.)

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
4/1/18 6:09 PM as a reply to S..
maybe HGA is an emanatory primordial yogic guru,
Interesting that you mention this. (If you don't mind me asking.) Have you attained the Knowledge & Conversation with the HGA?

The Bornless/Headless ritual seems to pop up everywhere I read about magick.

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
5/1/18 11:41 AM as a reply to D..
Have you attained the Knowledge & Conversation with the HGA?

I don't care about that very much.

The two topics are interesting from both the historical and practical systematic perspectives though.

# The Headless Rite

A version of the Headless Rite is actually in one of those two Gordon White books (The Chaos Protocols), which you could also find someone shamelessly copying here. It's also discussed with some interesting light in Star.Ships.

Apparently Aleister Crowley, Samuel Mathers, or someone else working with them renamed the "Headless Rite" as the "Bornless Rite" for arbitrary mystical reasons before 1904, despite the earlier English print versions as "Headless."

The rite is collected with the Greek Magical Papyri (often abbreviated "PGM"). The University of Chicago professor Hans Dieter Betz has published a number of these documents together that he edited working with multiple translators. He says:

"The Greek magical papyri" is a name given by scholars to a body of papyri from Greco-Roman Egypt containing a variety of magical spells and formulae, hymns and rituals. The extant texts are mainly from the second century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. . . The Greek magical papyri are . . .  original documents and primary sources. Their discovery is as important for Greco-Roman religions as is the discovery of the Qumran texts for Judaism or the Nag Hammadi library for Gnosticism.

The collected bundle is diverse and has been put in English from the various originals in Greek, Coptic, and Demotic (the latter two scripts/languages both forms of Egyptian). Some of them are simply straight-up Egyptian religion or Greek religion, the Hellenized forms of Egyptian religion, or are pluralist, practical spells that were used by working syncretic cultists calling on the Jewish angels, the one high God, and spirits from all over the Mediterranean. So you might imagine these are more representative of something like one-off instructions and workbook pages employed by a wandering magician operating in Roman Egypt, learning and drawing on whatever they could find, or belonging to mystics in Ptolemaic Alexandria digging from the rich treasure troves of lore that were (even then) likely often "misunderstood" and confusingly "misremembered" by late antiquity.

An explanation for the Crowley-era change to "Bornless" is due to "Resh" in Hebrew incidentally meaning either "beginning" (hence "birth") or "head." The transliteration is eccentric as the source document is Greek, not Hebrew.

In 1852 the Headless Rite first appeared in English in a translation by Charles Wycliffe Goodwin for the Cambridge Antiquarian Society as Fragment of a Graeco-Egyptian work of Magic worked from the papyrus at the British Museum. His version starts “I call thee, the headless one, that didst create the earth and heaven . . .” The “headless” here is from the word “akephalos.” Since “kephalos” = Greek for "head," “a-kephelos” is “without-head” literally. emoticon

Something being "unborn" is also spooky too I suppose. If you're going for a ‘root holy language‘ concept the Proto-Semitic character originating "Resh" is actually often believed to have come from a pictogram for a head anyway.

For a short excerpt compare the Betz edition next with Crowley (Liber Samekh).

Going with how it's organized, PGM V. 96-172 is titled The Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist containing his "letter" ("Jeu" is a character appearing in the PGM and in Gnostic literature as not just a scribe but a god and a magical word) detailing the Headless Rite.

University of Chicago Press:

I am the headless daimon with my sight in my feet; [I am] the mighty one [who possesses] the immortal fire; I am the truth who hates the fact that unjust deeds are done in the world; I am the one who makes the lightning flash and the thunder roll; I am the one whose sweat is the heavy rain which falls upon the earth that it might be inseminated; I am the one whose mouth burns completely; I am the one who begets and destroys; I am the Favor of the Aion; my name is a heart encircled by a serpent; come forth and follow.


I am He! the Bornless Spirit! having sight in the feet: Strong, and the Immortal Fire!

I am He! the Truth!

I am He! Who hate that evil should be wrought in the World!

I am He, that lighteneth and thundereth!

I am He, from whom is the Shower of the Life of Earth!

I am He, whose mouth ever flameth!

I am He, the Begetter and Manifester unto the Light!

I am He, The Grace of the Worlds!

"The Heart Girt with a Serpent" is my name!

The use and appearances of the rite throughout early 20th century occultism get a little complicated. The original Greek spell is an exorcism.

# The Goetia

A confusing (but, for reasons that will become clear, perhaps not too crazy) use of the Headless Rite is the 1904 inclusion of it as the "Preliminary Invocation" in the S. L. Mathers and Aleister Crowley book breezily titled 
The Book of the Goetia of Solomon the King translated into the english tongue by a dead hand and adorned with divers other matters germane delightful to the wise the whole edited, verified, introduced, and commented by Aleister Crowley for the Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth in Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness.

This book (the Ars Goetia) is a version of the first of the five books or parts of the Lesser Key of Solomon. Crowley also adds an essay, magic square, "Enochian" conjurations, and redraws the seals, and he lies that the text was a result of rigorously consulting and comparing the Hebrew, French, and Latin manuscripts; Mathers put this particular document together with limited access purely to English sources, which Crowley either didn't know or didn't care about.

In short this is a book of demon conjuring. The Crowley-Mathers version was reactive against an even worse, wildly bad version of the Goetia and other parts of the Lesser Key put out by 
A. E. Waite in 1898 in The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts. Waite's purposes were defamatory (with respect to the text) as he viewed the works with prejudice as low, bad, evil, useless, black, or ineffective magic, and he didn't think they were like anything magicians should actually attempt to physically practice - his version was intended to appear as silly and he was unconcerned by his omissions and inaccuracies. Waite was not a practical magician, and called the spells and conjurations in his book "absurd" and "ridiculous" - he did not do them.

Crowley criticizes Waite's book explicitly.

It's useful to remember that Aleister Crowley's activities and literary output span over a kind of long time range. He wasn't even 30 yet at this point (he lived to 72). He'd been trying to make sense of demons and Solomonic magic in the late 1890s starting with the Goetia rituals with Alan Bennett before he was even 25. Aleister hadn't found what was called "
Knowledge and Conversation of His Holy Guardian Angel" yet until he performed cycles of modified Abramelin rituals (Surrey, China, Paris), more drugs, and more of the Headless Rite. His infamous early meeting with Choronzon didn't happen until two months after his 34th birthday. Thelema and its holy books didn't exist yet. This matters a little in terms of assessing his maturity and knowledge about certain things. Aleister's opinions about certain special/important topics, most notably regarding working with entities and about what the spirits are, definitely seem to have evolved over his life. Crowley was also essentially stealing Mathers' work here without attribution at this stage as they were reaching their deep schism.

Returning to the book, the Lesser Key of Solomon itself is a complex text of ~five (often four) different pieces of writing, each of those dated uniquely maybe somewhere across like from the 13th to the 17th centuries. The oldest of these, the Ars Notoria, was more prolifically familiar to say a number of Latin-reading medieval monks and similar European scholastics, and back then it contained meditative prayers, imagery, and spells that are described innocently as being used for improving memory and capacity for knowledge, protection from fire and beasts, expelling all lusts, and obtaining communion with God. That piece probably reflects both older oral and visual traditions, containing many orations for obtaining divine wisdom and light and with references to exquisite symbolic figures (omitted in the Lesser Key).

The total collection is also called the "Lemegeton," which is an awesome name but a result of incorrect Latin. You'll see the compilation titled the "Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis" and the "Clavicula Salomonis Regis."

Looking at the Lesser Key on its own terms, it contains sections on binding evil spirits, sections detailing "partly good and partly evil" spirits, the rulers of the hours of the day, and the beneficial spirits of the Zodiac. That's in the four books of the Goetia, Theurgia Goetia, Ars Paulina, and Ars Almadel. According to the grimoirist Joseph Peterson, the medieval Ars Notoria was added as the fifth book to the Lesser Key in Robert Turner's 1657 edition, and manuscripts of the Lemegeton that include it depend on his version.

Much of the material in two of the texts relies heavily on the Steganographia by Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516). Other sources appear to be diverse and partly mysterious or unknown, but include works like the Archidoxes of Magic (attributed to Paracelsus) for Zodiacal seal descriptions, the Heptameron (first printed in Venice 1485, but composed possibly as early as 1310), a magical circle derived from the "Scale of the Number Ten" of Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) along with other Hebrew lettering hints from his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, and potentially Jewish or allegedly Arabian sources for the Almadel.

It's probably a mixed bag of people trying to work with what they have. Without saying whether it is good or bad - it seems to work enough to keep people interested - it is probably just better to say that it is not unique. There are many other conjuring grimoires, and books of secrets. Some people have spent a lot of time analyzing corrupted spirit lists or the systemic and hierarchical methodologies that should be followed, or have worked on restoring missing information in different ways, or have emphasized rigorous and careful engagement and practical experience as a better guide than the more philosophical theories.

For a quick linguistic overview, the word "goetia" refers to magic in a fairly general (if sometimes negative) sense to the post-Renaissance readers of Agrippa, and the word would have been recognizable and related to vocabulary and practices in ancient Greece connected to ceremony surrounding the dead - and later to sorcery. Loosely it has come to mean something maybe like "conjuring" (demons) or just a style of or within traditional Western magic as a whole. It is common among modern occultists to ungrammatically call the spirits of the spirit lists of the Ars Goetia the "Goetia" themselves, sort of comparable to calling a group of scientists the "Science."

# Adding the Headless Rite to Solomonic Magic?

Back to Crowley and the Headless Rite, he was publishing only the first section of the Lesser Key which concerns 72 "evil" spirits.

Superficially speaking an ancient Greek excorcism actually isn't a bad trick to add to your toolset in this case, if it works, no?

But that's not what's actually most interesting about the Headless Rite, either in history or in its structure, or in how it might relate to this kind of activity in general. We have a lot to unpack.

I like that (in his Grimoires course) Gordon White points out briefly that Aleister Crowley considered all these weird demons to be aspects of your own mind or psyche. I still like to read Thelemite resources sometimes, and I recently bought a new Qabalah book (The Brazen Serpent) by the actual A∴A∴ member Soror Nihil Obstat. I got this in part because of wanting to see what a cutting edge of magic looks like from different perspectives and traditions. I wasn't surprised to see that same internalist view about goetia still expressed on her blog.

White awesomely agrees there's a component of truth to this, and that if you deal with serious goetia practitioners or the associated experiences you will find the spirits impact on you and your states could actually make it seem like you are experiencing, subduing, binding, conquering, negotiating, or pacting with some of your "own" greeds, or forces of inner life. Gordon mentions his personal example of perceiving curious similarities in his experiences of multi-day fasting producing a delusory thought like "you can eat without eating" as similar to some of the more troublesome experiences/exchanges in engaging a demon. I think there is a potent and mysterious element of reality there. If you are forming relationships with the spirits for "practical" work or changes in the real world perhaps you could also say you are tackling the problems of "your" life both literally and figuratively. That's sort of in the 'to perfect yourself you must purify the world too' alchemical vein.

This is a fairly limited (and not always pragmatic) view of goetia however. You might as well treat every human in the world also as just a highly symbolically charged dream-character, including yourself. I mean hey maybe you should do a lot more of this (no-self and all). That could take you great places too. Practically speaking though it is often difficult to understand or navigate something like a map of the city (or the universe) if you don't believe it actually exists. Similarly long-term relationships with other beings (such as people) are often easier when you assume you can't just lie to them to make them feel good because they won't exist anymore as soon as you hang up your cell-phone. At this point I agree with the writers who argue that a better pragmatic model for this type of practice is something more like animism than solipsism. It also allows for much more complex and enhanced attitudes about the seriousness or scale of some of these things. A tree could be your neighbor and love your family for two centuries, and you probably will think it's "there" when you are not looking. Lightning can kill you, or it can power your crazy Ben Franklin/Frankenstein's laboratory machines. One of my favorite more obscure stories of the relative objectivity and independence of the spirits is started in the historian Owen Davies book Grimoires regarding the spirit "Membrok" getting up to business with French magic and spellbook-baptisms (also mentioned in Jake Stratton-Kent's Pandemonium - comparing with the demon Frimost and the topic of aliases and roles in the Grimorium Verum) and then continued with Jake Stratton-Kent's True Grimoire finally bearing the spirit's sigil due to their interactions with the modern author having no prior knowledge of the historical French precedent of the apparently same spirit putting its seal on books in another era.

So, stepping back to the topic at hand again: Crowley is dealing with demons in his Goetia. This is a process that might be adversarial. Doing the work involves relationships with other beings, questions of power, and potentially complex systematic elements.

There are hierarchies, authorities, and messenger spirits in these books. You might conjure multiple (even many) spirits at a time, or approach certain spirits first through a more friendly or subservient intermediary such as a guardian or a messenger (or a patron). You may reign in lesser spirits with the authorities of higher ones, ranging from using the holy names (say of God and the angels) to bind devils/elementals and then asking higher-ranking devils/elementals to offer up other 'smaller' spirits whom they rule to help perform tasks more appropriate to their abilities/office. There are many names/forces you call but don't or can't identify or (etymologically) understand. There are spirits you name or "invoke" but do not summon to full presence.

Occult authors David Rankine and Stephen Skinner point out that even Jesus does this name-calling by implication as part of an exorcism in Matthew 12:24-27 where he actually petitions Beelzebul:

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 
23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 
27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 
28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
. . . 
33 Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”

I'd say speculatively that the Headless Rite could help with this when we look at its contents.

# Headlessness

Returning to the Headless Rite for why Crowley adding it even just to the Ars Goetia may have good impact, there's a fairly short book by Jake Stratton-Kent published by Hadean Press called The Headless One.

The first part of this book analyzes how the source text we have for the rite doesn't exist in a vacuum, but is part a small genre of similar-reading papyri. He looks at the the PGM and a similar Demotic corpus published as "The Leyden Papyrus," or the "PDM." There are a number of points to be made looking at spells side-by-side (PGM CII. 1-17, PGM VII. 222-49, PGM XII. 365-75, PGM IV. 1331-89, PGM IV. 3007-86, much of PDM XIV., etc).

The spells serve divergent purposes.

They include a killing curse (or infliction of catalepsy) as well as the "Powerful Spell of the Bear."

Repetitions from the Headless Rite appear elsewhere like the typical phrases ("empty air, terrible, invisible"), the same string of six magical names, and references to the "headless one." It is abundantly clear and sometimes stated explicitly in these the rituals that the "headless god" is usually Set-Typhon (PDM XIV. 675-94), although they are also identified with the god Besas (PGM VII. 222-49). In this case with the Headless Rite there is also an Osiris connection.

Many other interesting names are called such as Neboutosoualeth, Aktiophis, and Ereshkigal.

More notably, we see processes of invocation that mirror the structure of the Headless Rite. Let's look at the rest of the Betz publication of the Headless Rite, with translator David E. Aune:

I summon you, Headless One, who created earth and heaven, who created night and day, you who created light and darkness; you are Osoronnophris whom none has ever seen; you are Iabas; you are Iapos; you have distinguished the just and the unjust; you have made female and male; you have revealed seed and fruits; you have made men love each other and hate each other.

I am Moses your prophet to whom you have transmitted your mysteries celebrated by Israel; you have revealed the moist and the dry and all nourishment; hear me.

I am the messenger of Pharaoh Osoronnophris; this is your true name which has been transmitted to the prophets of Israel. Hear me, ARBATHIAŌ REIBET ATHELEBERSĒTH ARA BLATHA ALBEU EBENPHCHI CHITASGOĒ IBAŌTH IA; listen to me and turn away this daimon.

I call upon you, awesome and invisible god with an empty spirit, AROGOGOROBRAŌ SOCHOU MODORIŌ PHALARCHAŌ OOO. Holy Headless One, deliver him, NN [insert name of the possessed], from the daimon which restrains him, ROUBRIAŌ MARI ŌDAM BAABNABAŌTH ASS ADŌNAI APHNIAŌ ITHŌLETH ABRASAX AĒŌŌY; mighty Headless One, deliver him, NN [the possessed victim], from the daimon which restrains him. MABARRAIŌ IOĒL KOTHA ATHORĒBALŌ ABRAŌTH, deliver him, AŌTH ABRAŌTH BASYM ISAK SABAŌTH IAŌ.

He is the lord of the gods; he is the lord of the inhabited world; he is the one whom the winds fear; he is the one who made all things by the command of his voice.

Lord, King, Master, Helper, save the soul, IEOU PYR IOU IAŌT IAĒŌ IOOU ABRASAX SABRIAM OO YY EY OO YY ADŌNAIE, immediately, immediately, good messenger of God ANLALA LAI GAIA APA DIACHANNA CHORYN.

I am the headless daimon . . .
Preparation for the foregoing ritual: Write the formula on a new sheet of papyrus, and after extending it from one of your temples [of the head] to the other, read the 6 names [AŌTH ABRAŌTH BASYM ISAK SABAŌTH IAŌ] , while you face north saying,

"Subject to me all daimons, so that every daimon, whether heavenly or aerial or earthly or subterranean or terrestrial or aquatic, might be obedient to me and every enchantment and scourge which is from God." 

And all daimons will be obedient to you.

This definitely comes from a breadbasket of old world religion (with Abrasax, Adonay, Sabaoth).

We can see that a terrifying array of powers are invoked. The ritualist borrows, commands, and beseeches the potency of many secret names. They identify themselves as a messenger of some power of the universe. Finally, they identify as the headless one they have already verbally conjured. The rite is filled with climaxes, all blurs of great daemonic names.

A stated goal is to make daimons obedient to the speaker and God.

Speaking loosely, the incantation involves a fairly standard process of mapping out a universe of concerns, patrons, and allies, and fixing the magician-priest's place in it, for the purposes of employing authority to bend it to their will (in this case banishing a particular demon). This can be non-superficially comparable to something like the ceremonial assumption of a god-form or totemic animal form, although it would be smarter (most of the time) to distinguish between states of actual 'shamanic' possession (and other kinds of conjuring) vs merely mentally embodying a deity, which Shinzen Young is careful about.

Jake Stratton-Kent points out that through Bennett, Crowley, and the many Golden Dawn variants "the ritual as a whole has been adapted primarily for invocation rather than exorcism." And that's exactly the point.

Some of the core process, language, and apparatus of the Headless Rite exists in the other distinct spells whether helpful or harmful. You might interpret that as part of an underlying base or technology incorporated into the magic, or more objectively as the overlapping groups of archaic spirits and powers who were helping these magicians and working with them.

The range of that magic is quite old school in feel and sometimes exciting, such as the use of the hundred-lettered secret name of Typhon on papyrus, the magician belted with fibers from a date palm, and the (burning) mouth anointed. I like that there is arguably little distinction between what resembles participation in the divine and what resembles "getting stuff done" every day.

"Headlessness" is also a particularly rich esoteric concept that is extant in many cultural mileus and traditions.

It can indicate the invisible head of the initiate that is transported into the ethereal world, granting vision.

It could represent the infinitely changeable and invisible nature of the human self. Or the oracular skull, and the boundary between life and death. Martin Coleman points out, referring to the necromantic Oboth: "Several of these heads have been recovered by archaeologists from the ruins of ancient cities. Most of them are quite similar in construction." Less literal versions of these tools (houses or ties for other spirits) can exist as maybe iron pots in Santeria, enchanted egg shells in Brazil, a necromantic Govi bowl in Haiti, and kindred jars, dolls, and boxes circling the globe. It was allegedly a Harranian practice to pull the head of a buried (sacrificed?) person - believed to resemble Mercury - stretching his neck so he would speak in tongues when Mercury was at its height. The Picatrix contains rituals involving a severed head. Another fun fact from Coleman:

Cleomenes, the King of Sparta about 520 B.C., kept the head of his murdered friend Archonides preserved in a jar of honey. He was known to have asked the head for advice on various occasions, and he was apparently quite satisfied with the answers he received.

Or it could represent a certain character's partial ascension in the TV show Twin Peaks (which is also obviously influenced by Crowley's student Kenneth Grant's writing on UFOs, the 1940s-50s, the Children of Isis, and the Mauve Zone). (My favorite comment by Kenneth Grant is him saying that "Black Brothers" are just anyone who believes only in an Objective Reality, as an aside.)

# Why Be Headless in Goetia? 

In the context of supplementing later Western magic with the Headless Rite, there are maybe similar cases of the specific addition of "restorative invocations" to books intended to conjure demons.

In the Grimoires course, Gordon White highlights another version of the Goetia that was owned by Dr. Thomas Rudd (called Liber Malorum Spirituum), who was a magician working in the 17th century.

Apparently the larger body of Rudd's writing taken together restores or preserves an important - or at least very useful - key detail found in many grimoires: the invocation of the dark trinity (often abbreviated "LBS" or "LBA"). 

To a number of goetia experts (read: Encylopedia Goetica) who fixate on the systematic and structural elements of the older spiritual hierarchical practices, a significant form of damage suffered by the Lesser Key (in addition to scrambled spirit lists, and missing sigils) might be the absence or loss of an invocation of several of the most important, relevant spirits of Hell (Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, or Astaroth) who rule over all lower spirits. Just like Jesus in Matthew calling Beelzebub - who in some Christian demonology/books of spirits is curiously also identified with the Greek figure Charon: strict, dangerous, but fulfilling an important role in reality between two worlds dealing with each other. There is a frequent call to the highest demonic authorities, principles, and emperors or princes of the world to rule over their lesser demonic entities. Speculating about relationships mapping in the human world, I suppose there is a kaleidoscope of differences from trying to get a favor from someone by paying their boss, befriending their spouse, asking their best friend to pass the favor along, connecting with their colleague or someone they admire, becoming someone they admire, appealing to their better nature, blackmailing their landlord to negotiate a lower rent, or much less efficiently calling in a favor from the President of the United States if he or she happens to owe you one. 

Some of the other structural components that seem to interest a number of the "Grimoire Revival" writers include placing the "Four Kings" in particular into their proper order, and possibly making proper use of messengers and intermediaries (and more on that later regarding the HGA). There are many forms of protection, binding, authorization, devotion, and patronage.

Dr. Rudd was a friend of John Dee and quite a busy man (a military engineer), who also additionally included into his Goetia the much older "thwarting angel" concept of matching one against each of the 72 demons to control it, adding angels and many talismans to the original material.

So... who knows, maybe the Headless Rite accomplishes something similar to Rudd's own added LBS invocation and the thwarting angels in his separate attempt to work the same material hundreds of years earlier than Crowley and Bennett, in terms of binding demons or authorizing the magical work? Not sure how necessary either would be if the book (Ars Goetiaworks as is for competent and persistent or lucky people, but either set of additions might help.

# Why Be Headless in General?

You'll see in White's version of the Headless Rite that the invocation component is obviously still there, and he adds in directional details for the Four Kings as well as the use of the constellation Orion at the time you're performing it, and liquor offerings - good idea. As elsewhere, the rite has been written as in more recent use to specify that the magician is excorcising (well, targeting) themselves.

In the Chaos Protocols (2016), the Headless Rite is not recommended for a particular ritual magic use toward a goal in the world (or even the control of demons except in a loose sense I guess), but for its potency as a disruptive force in your life. Many people report a lot of weirdness, unpredictability, and even inconsistency in their experience employing it. (It definitely could drop you smack into A&P territory, or possibly anywhere.)

White suggests it as a "spiritual depth charge," and offers it as a best 'alternative' method to getting noticed by the spirits and for opening yourself up to the spirit world's influences - aside from dropping out hard with psychedelics. It is not a self-initiation rite, but it can trigger initation. You're dialing the phone to see who picks up, and also pulling up a lot of very powerful energy (and, I guess presumably, performing explosive exorcisms on yourself - what are you exorcizing? I wonder what demons might be out there that bind our mouths and eyes?). White says it's good for beginners and more advanced practitioners. He also warns relatedly that "magic will destroy your life." This is "a feature, not a bug." This can be extremely true!

The use of the ritual is historically fascinating. Leah Hersig had it in the back of her diary and employed it for visions. It was performed by Crowley in late November, 1911 when he spoke with "Secret Chief" spirits (a la Theosophy), used successfully to conjure one of them. It was involved in 1920 converations between Aleister Crowley and Aiwass (his HGA). He combined it with Enochian calls and emphasized it's importance for use in contacting your Holy Guardian Angel.

Crowley also performed the Headless Rite in connection with manifesting/preparing siddhis.

In 1903 in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, Crowley conjured magical light that was bright enough to read by. This is a famous/discussed "what was the point of that" example of someone performing a miracle.

I'd point out however mystical and frequently impractical Aleister's overall program for his own life may have been that he did experiment with what should be called actual thaumaturgy/siddhis multiple times in his career. His experiences aren't too dissimilar for what you reach with the Theravada/Buddhist supernormal powers practices in the Visuddhimagga people discuss infrequently here, which a number of DhO writers have experiences with. Crowley had a magically "high" period of finding the boundaries between worlds to be extremely thin in the late 191Xs while in America during long retreats that is especially interesting, inclusive of his sammasati trances and past life recollections (a great method for doing these past-life remembrance meditations is also outlined I think in both the Visuddhimagga/Vimuttimagga), and meeting ball lightning.

In March of 1904 Aleister Crowley performed the Headless Rite again in the King's Chamber while attempting to conjure sylphs for/with his wife Rose Edith Kelly. It didn't work the way he wanted. He got the entity Aiwass, and the result was the dictated book (through his wife) that is better known as The Book of the Law. Something about Egyptian gods, starting a new religion, changing of the ages, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will." blah blah. This outlines the principles of Thelema, the faith Crowley proselytized and practiced for the rest of his life.

The 1904 case teaches a good lesson about not just "using anything to do anything," and to admit that the technology is (a) not entirely in our intentional control and (b) that it arguably sometimes does something closer to what it looks like/is supposed to do instead of just an arbitrary application that Crowley tried. I suppose maybe it's like how there are a hundred creative things you could do with a blowtorch, but it's still a blowtorch. Same could be said with a fork. 

Even more exciting, White again in his book Star.Ships is alert to the fact that Crowley may have unintentionally been plugging very old world keys into very old world machines, performing the rite literally inside the pyramids at Cairo.

Crowley performed an invocation to Osiris inside a stone map of Osiris (the Great Pyramid) that contains the same 'up to the sky and back' journey found in the Pyramid texts... Crowley was unaware of Giza's Orion Correlation, as well as the headless hunter motif associated with Orion in some of the oldest cultures on earth.

He has a wackier article stating further:

When was the last time anything as ‘big’ as Crowley performed a magical act inside that stellar immortality machine?

. . . 

It’s my current contention - and Vinay's as well, although I don't want to get any of my crazy on him - that Crowley (to really annoy you all with my metaphor) activated the download of the space ship blueprints otherwise meant for a Pharaoh. All that stuff about slaves and kings in the Book of the Law gets thrown into new light, doesn’t it?

. . . 

Thing is... Crowley was aware of the Egyptian fingerprints all over the Book of the Law. Spell 177 in the Book of the Dead - universally considered to be a continuation from the Pyramid Texts - is basically a concise Book of the Law . . .

Star.Ships also marks that Rose directed Crowley to the "Stele of Revealing," from the 25th Dynasty. He cared about the art on the front (item #666, synchronously). It's at least a little interesting that on its backside are two spells from the New Kingdom Books of the Dead. "They allow the spirit of the deceased to return to the earth at will."

Someone else's personal gnosis can be our universal gnosis or not, when it needs to be.

In Stratton-Kent's book, he also includes pieces of magical journal scribing from when he was performing the Headless Rite and other rituals very regularly, the entry dates in the 1980s.

He experiences some interesting visual phenomena. At some point (a certain level of dosage), his experience of time gets wacked. He claims to see clocks retrogress right before his eyes, and the time dilation gets amazing. He writes, madly, something like how alchemy from a certain viewpoint might be the manipulation of time in advancing our own evolutions. He says in the same passages that Qabalah and astrology tell us things like where we are and where we're going.

Someone else's personal gnosis can be our universal gnosis or not, when it needs to be. 

# HGAs (Anything)

So aside from exorcisms, invocations, siddhis, time perception distortions, heavy concentration, use in performing safer(ish) goetia, triggering magical current initiations/A&Ps, personal growth, etc, the Headless Rite is pushed famously by Crowley to make contact with your Holy Guardian Angel.

What is an HGA? Crowley knew in the extremely interesting and intimate sense of meeting his. But he also had no idea. His opinions changed completely over forty years of thinking about, experiencing, and living with the topic. 

If you google it you can find any arbitrary view, I swear to you. Some people will say it's your kundalini experience/energy serpent. Or your shadow. Your animal companion spirit guide. Anything.

[Some hipper writers claim the HGA is "quantum uncertainty," which is nonsense to me. I didn't take a dozen plus classes solving differential equations and studying mathematical physics, do research with a dark matter theorist, spend three days listening to a Nobel Prize winning physicist yell about how we don't know anything about quantum mechanics in sufficient depth to have a sophisticated philosophy about it, program for a Fermi Lab scientist, and become an engineer to tolerate unreflective worship of cool but misunderstood science by occultists who should have much better things on their mind than claiming that spirits are spontaneous thermodynamical miracles of mind-created gaseous bodies (- I've seen this view before).]

Crowley's philosophies mutated from holding that the HGA was your inner secret enlightened self embodying your True Will to - at the end of his life - believing the HGA to be an external being who is independent of you merely assuming the mentorship role.

That can sound very Theosophical, this idea of secret/and or dead spiritual masters on a higher plane manipulating our world. Crowley believed in his past lives he'd met chiefs, teachers, masters, and prophets including Mohammed and similar figures for great discussions about how to incarnate and help the world (as he allegedly recalled in his trances). People will claim dead magicians could be HGAs. There are Thelema-inspired occultists who believe Michael Bertiaux was another channel for Aiwass well after Crowley's death. Bertiaux also has a fascinating, outrageous story claiming a cult helped a dead "anagami" - one more god-birth! - to become an ascended "loa" eventually ruling a small pantheon, to get as out there as you can go...

In Liber Samekh, also known as Theurgia Goetia Summa, (Congressus Cum Daemone), Sub Figura DCCC, emoticon, instructions are given for the Headless Rite alongside theory that could forgive any interpretation, with Crowley's line-by-line analysis of the rite. 

It starts with:

Let the Adeptus Minor be standing in this circle on the square of Tiphereth, armed with his Wand and Cup; but let him perform the Ritual throughout in his Body of Light. He may burn the Cakes of Light, or the Incense of Abramelin; he may be prepared by Liber CLXXV, the reading of Liber LXV, and by the practices of Yoga. He may invoke Hadit by “… wine and strange drugs” if he so will. He prepares the circle by the usual formulae of Banishing and Consecration, etc. He recites Section A as a rehearsal before His Holy Guardian Angel of the attributes of that Angel. Each phrase must be realized with full concentration of force, so as to make Samadhi as perfectly as possible upon the truth proclaimed.

(emphases mine)


He identifies his Angel with the Ain Soph, and the Kether thereof; one formulation of Hadit in the boundless Body of Nuith.
. . . 

He acclaims his Angel as “Himself Made Perfect”; adding that this Individuality is inscrutable in inviolable.

. . .

He acclaims His Angel as having “eaten of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”; otherwise, having become wise (in the Dyad, Chokmah) to apprehend the formula of Equilibrium which is now His own, being able to apply Himself accurately to His self-appointed environment. 

. . . 

He acclaims His Angel as having appointed that this formula of Love should effect not only the dissolution of the separateness of the Lovers into His own impersonal Godhead, but their co-ordination in a “Child” quintessentialized from its parents to constitute a higher order of Being than theirs, so that each generation is an alchemical progress towards perfection in the direction of successive complexities.

. . .

He acclaims His Angel as having devised this method of self-realization; the object of Incarnation is to obtain its reactions to its relations with other incarnated Beings and to observe theirs with each other.


I mean that's great. That details a partly mystical, "emanatory" guru (identifying with Kether, the top lamp in the Tree of Life) interpretation that I alluded to in an earlier post.

If you read the biographies of a lot of Tantric Buddhist masters you'll often see it is stated that they may have been the reincarnation of so-and-so or the "emanation" of male or female primordial timeless buddhas (like Vajrayogini). To pick out just one figure, look at Topabhadra. He was the consort of Machig Labdrön, the two gurus having crazy magical sex generating white and red light, so the story goes. He's supposedly an "emanation of Gautama Buddha?" What? Buddha appearing after his death? There was a controversial, demon-binding (and befriending) Vajrayana teacher in the 11ish century hanging out in graveyards, and she shtups the Buddha? Beyond causation/"incarnation" means no rules, I guess. I read something funny once about Bodhisattvas maybe being like someone playing an RPG hanging out with a character at "Level 99" to help the new players... while the Arahat, having actually finished and seen the end, is just playing on New Game+ mode... with cheats and debugging options available... I digress, but a lot more to say about Vajrayana here.

Stratton-Kent's book on the Headless Rite also touches lightly on the sexual ritual/and potentially Tantric-like aspects of these things. It suggests the HGA ranges over everything from your magical double to a magical law of the universe to a blueprint of your True Will cast from God onto our world etc, in a series of mystical contemplations.

I stated that Crowley came to eventually believe the HGAs are external to us -  spiritual beings doing something on their own.

I have a journal from two years ago that starts with three quotes. Two are from Crowley, and the last is about the HGA from writings near the end of his life (Magick Without Tears).

With a loving mind, cherish more than a child the hostile gods and demons of apparent existence and tenderly surround yourself with them.

​― Machig Labdrön (~1055-1149)
My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.

​―  Aleister Crowley
To attain to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is consequently without doubt by far the simplest way by which you can yourself approach that higher order of being.

That, then, is a clearly intelligible method of procedure. We call it Magick.

It is of course possible to strengthen the link between him and yourself so that in course of time you became capable of moving and, generally speaking, operating on that plane which is his natural habitat.

There is however one other way, and one only, as far as I can see, of reaching this state. It is at least theoretically possible to exalt the whole of your own consciousness until it becomes as free to move on that exalted plane as it is for him. You should note, by the way, that in this case the postulation of another being is not necessary. There is no way of refuting the solipsism if you feel like that. Personally I cannot accede to its axiom. The evidence for an external universe appears to me perfectly adequate.

Still there is no extra charge for thinking on those lines if you so wish.

I have paid a great deal of attention in the course of my life to the method of exalting the human consciousness in this way; and it is really quite legitimate to identify my teaching with that of the Yogis.

― Aleister Crowley, Epistola Penultima: The Two Ways to Reality

# HGAs (Something)

The idea of people possessing a personal genius, daemon/daimon, or guardian angel is old. People can have them, places, and more.

Gordon White's Grimoires course is succinct in that it points out that an influential idea of centering the personal "genius" at the core of contemporary Western magic can be traced to astrologer, philosopher, and Catholic priest Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). I suppose in the spirit of mad animism. Another big influence is Cornelius Agrippa, addressing angels voluminously and topics of identifying or naming them, and he wrote about the benevolent, personal, and the helpful angels who oversee your life, nativity, vocation (that one is changeable) etc. He (/and or at least his readers) are also responsible for some of the modern styles of biases delineating high vs low magic, the idea of ceremony to elevate your soul (but maybe not do anything else), and so on.

The second part of the Ars Paulina, sometimes borrowing a little from Agrippa, also contains the Conjuration of the Holy Guardian Angel. This is smack in the middle of the Lesser Key of Solomon, which is why I mentioned the Lemegeton so much earlier in addition to Crowley working with the first book in the collection. 

O thou great and blessed N. my angell guardian vouchsafe to descend from thy holy mansion which is Celestial, with thy holy Influence and presence, into this cristall stone, that I may behold thy glory; and enjoy thy society, aide and assistance, both now and for ever hereafter. O thou who art higer than the fortly heaven, and knoweth the secrets of Elanel. Thou that rideth upon the wings of ye winds and art mighty and potent in thy Celestial and superlunary motion, do thou descend and be present I pray thee; and I humbly desiere and entreat thee. That if ever I have merited Thy socity or if any of my actions and Intentions be real and pure & sanctified before thee bring thy external presence hither, and converse with me one of thy submissive pupils, By and in ye name of great god Jehovah, whereunto the whole quire of heaven singeth continualy: O Mappa la man Hallelujah. Amen.

A somewhat deviant early 18th century manuscript adds sectional details abstracted from De Occulta Philosophia that Joseph Peterson includes in his printed Lesser Key (in brackets):

The Ancient philosophers haue taught how a man may know the nature of a Genius whether good or bad from the Influx and aspects of the starrs in his Geniture. Porphyrius seekes after it from the star that was Lord or Lady in the Geniture. Chaldeans finde it out from the Sun or the Moon in his Nativity located. Others finde it out from the sixth house in the Geniture, and call the Genius a good or bad genius or Daemon.

A threefold Daemon attends every man on his proper keeper, One indeed is holy, the other belongs his geniture or Nativity. The hole Daemon proceeds not from the starrs but from a supreeme power, even from God who himselfe is the president of Daemons, and descends to the Rational Soul being assigned thereto, and is universall above Natures consception.

But the Daemon of the Birth or Geniture which is calso called the Genius, this Genius doth descend to the Birth from the disposition of the stars their Circuits round the world, who are Conversant in the generation.

The Daemon of the profession or Calling of the Native is given from the starrs to which such a profession or calling is subject to which any man professes, and the Soul shall make choice of. But this Daemon is changed tas any man changes his Calling from a meane one to a more sublime accordingly more worthy and sublime. Daemons are present with us according as we dayly ascend from one vertue to another And these Daemons do successfully take care & defend us. 

This area of the text gives us some excellent grounds for seeing the HGA as perhaps originally presented: an astrological angel, astrological demon, or astrological "daemon." We might be skeptical of this particular source (or say Trithemius). Tables are included and instructions for identifying one of 360 listed angels as your own based on the astrological conditions of your birth. It makes a playful sense that a being connected to the stars/your horoscope has a good understanding of your fate or karma, no?

I think for most people this process in the Ars Paulina would be much easier than traditional Abramelin (if you want to spend 6, 12, 18, what have you months at it), and potentially more deeply traditional than anything in the OTO/Golden Dawn/Thelemic spheres, but requires patience and a little money. For me, the associated talisman for the rite only needs to be made of iron, but steps required of me at the beginning of Scorpio and Aries... that is a little bit of a commitment and takes some planning, but it's not particularly more difficult than a lot of things people care about doing with their lives. Some unlucky people would need to muck up with mercury or buy what I suppose would be $2,000 to $4,000 of gold for the item they need, but if you think about reality is $2,000 really too much money to summon an angel? College tuition can cost 100 angels, and many plane tickets are this expensive or more. White emphasizes in The Chaos Protocols that there's nothing wrong with actual dedication to something that you believe is literally important. If you don't have the money (or at least, the gold), that could be your work first (for some people, many variations on our quests). Every labor is the work.

The notion of astrological angels as foundational to western magic is a rich one. In the Testament of Cyprian the Mage there are analyses of the gods/spirits/symbols of the sky ranging from totemic beasts of the lunar mansions to the thirty-six decans (360 degrees of sky divided by 10 degree arcs). And there in TCM Stratton-Kent observes that in the Testament of Solomon - an early Christian-era legendary work (probably older than at max the 6th century AD by a few centuries) describing Solomon binding demons with a seal  - the early "spirit list" or "demon list" of Solomonic magic includes the 36 "decans." The decans are the Egyptian sidereal gods of time.

That doesn't mean that Christian/Jewish demons, especially the ones in much more recent books, are all Egyptian gods or literally the spirits of the constellations (they are probably everything from later-added/evolved mighty dead, to discovered/newly met and recorded beings of all kinds, to mislabeled fictions, to faeries added in England among other local-to-universalized elementals, gods, and genii) - it's just notable that historically a good number of them were in the Solomonic lore, and we should probably not hypothesize usually that the spirits are anything in particular. It's also trivial for any random writer to pronounce to know what the gods are (bodies of gas, illusions of collective thought, demons pretending to be the dead, the dead who have become demons, whatever) with a complete metaphysics to back it. The Testament of Solomon also includes 'demonic' forms such as Kronos, Hekate, and a Headless One.

White's emphases are at times the same. In the Grimoires course he comments that some of grimoires (like the earlier Hygromanteia) contain elaborate time/astrological tables describing the uses (and ruling spirits) of each hour of each day of the lunar month that apparently generate into easier weekly/daily magical correspondences later. Many gods of time. Time animism? The cycles personified.

The book Star.Ships has as one of its theses the almost universal importance of stars and constellations in magic and religion across culture seen in contemporary comparative mythology (from Pacific Islanders to Aboriginal Australians) and in history inclusive of the Egyptian and older cultures. The amazing Turkish ritual site of 
Göbekli Tepe is fantastically early evidence of organized (probably star) religion and temple-building pre-dating the "city" (further questioning our assumptions that cities may have produced religions). This isn't lunatic fringe stuff: the scientific and academic dating of the site is in phases of construction from 10,000-8,000 BCE. From Wikipedia: "More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock." Without going into more information it's 7,000 or 8,000 years older than Stonehenge, carefully arranged, and an enormous undertaking for "hunter-gatherers." It contains lots of intriguing symbolic art and potentially the proto-Zodiac:

# Final Comments

I'd add that that the Ars Paulina method would also apparently allow the conjuration of someone else's Holy Guardian Angel, which might change what you think that means. There is another excellent new book on Jinn Sorcery by Rain Al-Alim out by Scarlet Imprint I like which contains an even simpler minimalist method to summon your "evil" jinn-like/shadow counterpart (or someone else's), which I've found can take me about only an hour not including added preparation. These are the Qareen, arguably our personal Shaitan. 

I increasingly find the distinctions between practical and non-practical aspects of these things to be artificial. I think getting really into it can seem like all labors are the work, and there's also nothing wrong (and in fact often instructive) with getting some or many of the things you want. I've bothered/tried to bother a couple dozen book-listed spirits, a few several times. The visionary/psychedelia components can be impressive (a human-headed snake in mirrors, a beautiful woman flowing in a green glass, floating purple flaming angel eyes and cross-my-heart physical ravens from who-knows-where appearing at the same time in a graveyard), but not phenomenologically too distinct from kasina visions/siddhi experiences induced by meditation aside from the added structures and different use of intentions/system. I am interested in beauty, wonder, money, love, mystery, time, and helping other people when I can. Trying to shift daily paradigm more and more into not just high-concentration magic world but low-concentration. I think I'm very lucky to have had time in my life like this in this impermanent world for however long I have things this way. Exciting adventures and world to experience. 

Personal summary/additional musing: I grew up with a somewhat unstable home situation (a lot of evictions, some homelessness) and spent ~1.5 years of my adult life as a wandering bum freegan, and four years ago was only making 38k. I think getting First Path was the biggest factor in changing my experience and outer behavior and path, but much of the follow-up has been through what I'd have to call magic. Currently have free time, a lot of love, some good health, and a good low-six-figures job I really like (God-bless) for now, and I find the overall experience of trying this magic stuff to be positive and very transformative. Worst case my butt is kicked emoticon. Maybe, arguably, the kinds of wounds some of us have to heal can benefit from this route, line-of-thinking. I also do believe it is actually literally dangerous. For Buddhists I'd personally limit Western conjuration practices to practitioners with Stream Entry or more. 

I heard a story of a group doing an impromptu intention ritual to help send positive vibes and compassion towards someone who was dying. They were not "saved" physically but their passing was described as improved and peaceful. I think that is beautiful, important, and was probably the right thing to do. Another story I'm personally familiar with is a magician asking seven demons to help their parent diagnosed with a terminal illness that would resist treatment. The parent got treated anyway and is still kicking, at some large other cost to the family. Maybe it helped. I think there is a place for the little miracle of this kind too.

The Thelemite book The Brazen Serpent is glamorously smart, if not my school. It reads like a waterfall of mutating abstraction and fractal symbols. Loads about the HGA. Near the end, amidst discussion of working with or working off Qliphotic shells, there is this that caught my eye:

The main difference between these entities as opposed to astral junk is that they have been invited and therefore have permission from the magician from some aspect of his consciousness. These entities by nature, are bound to the Will of the magician. Angellic beings are by contrast, bound to the Will of God. To place things in perspective, if the Will of the magician is aligned with the Will of God, there lies no difference between angels and demons. It is the fallibility of the magician in performing his Will that allows for the malediction against him and "against God."

RE: Objective benefits of Magick?
4/30/18 8:33 AM as a reply to S..
Excellent scholarship as usual, S. I learned a lot from that and particularly enjoyed your overview of how Crowley's understanding of the HGA evolved over time. When you get right down to it, wouldn't any relationship with and understanding of the Divine have to evolve over time just as we do? It only makes sense. 

Crowley is on my list of Terrible Role Models Who Wrote Useful Things, like Chogyam Trungpa. I used to think you could just separate the works from the author, but changed my mind. Now I think it is inadvisable to try and you will get a much more useful reading of someone's work if you view it carefully through the lens of their flawed humanity. And I think this is a more respectful way to relate to people who are in a teaching role, as if we aren't learning from the lessons of our teachers' mistakes then we are failing in our duty as students to learn as much as we possibly can. The best teachers want their students to eventually surpass them.

I think using the Headless Rite (or really any ritual magic) as a "spiritual depth charge" to go fishing for whatever spirits bite is a neat idea and it makes sense that would work as a sort of magical initiation. Funny enough, I actually see some parallels here with a form of Christian contemplation described in the 14th century text The Cloud of Unknowing. In this case, one "goes fishing" for a particular fish: God, but with no preconceived notion of what that even means. As the quote near the end of your post says, "If the Will of the magician is aligned with the Will of God, there lies no difference between angels and demons." Ultimately, whatever bites will be some manifestation of the Divine no matter what you call it. I'm more of a lumper than a splitter and prefer not to argue about semantics, so I choose to call it all God. Whatever language we use, it takes a lot of courage to just open yourself up to the unknown and in my opinion that courage is a key component of the entire endeavor, perhaps even THE key.

I think your recommendation that Buddhists wait for at least stream entry before diving into Western occultism is a good idea. For one, it can be a major distraction and turn into an interminable rabbit hole that leads nowhere productive. But also, for some people who reach a critical mass of vipassana the magical stuff just starts happening on its own or at least get a lot easier so the effort/gains ratio is more favorable. Might as well see if you're one of those people before wasting time and effort. And then there's the risk of going temporarily or even permanently batshit insane doing this stuff. It makes sense to wait on flirting with crazy until you have a relatively solid baseline of sanity and functionality. I might add that in addition to stream entry, some proficiency with CBT might also be helpful so people will have the tools to keep their shit together and successfully navigate school/work/family/etc. if/when things get really weird. Safety first, kids!