Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Mystic, Magician and Theologian Talk to an Angel

A Mystic, Magician and Theologian meet an angel.

The Mystic asks to be one with God, the universe and everything. With truth. He goes away having become one with the angel.

The Magician demands to direct the power of God, the universe and everything. To create truth. She goes away having directed the power of the angel.

The Theologian asks to know God, the universe and everything. To know truth. He spends the next thirty years talking with the angel and learns nothing.

The obvious message here is don't go to a Magician, Mystic or Theologian for answers. The Magician can give you power, the Mystic experience. The Theologian will give you answers, but you better have thirty years to spare and low expectations.  But my intended topic is Enochian magic and the Theologian's Mistake.


I've systematically and carefully explored the incomplete Enochian system for well over a decade and one fact holds universally true, the Enochian "angels" love to talk.

The best way to get a feel for the Enochian entities is to look at Dee's journals. What you see there are years of promises unkept. The angels promised power, the power that makes empires and tears down thrones. They also promised a complete system. They never delivered on any of it to Dee.
After you have feasted on Dee's disappointments, move on to Crowley's The Vision and the Voice and the collected work of Benjamin Rowe. All else aside, what you will see is what Rowe realized very early on. The Enochian entities are very good at playing up to your expectations and saying precisely what you need to hear to keep you interested even when it's not what you expect. This is a danger in magic in general, but the Enochian entities are masters of the genre.

In a previous post I discussed the occurence of what I called Cosmic Weirdness. Cosmic Weirdness can best be defined as impossible, unlikely or occult events which seem to have a deep or important meaning but which fail to fulfill the promises they imply. Cosmic Weirdness is the natural soil of conspiracy and the dedicated area of study of people like Charles Fort. Fish falling from clear skies, a seeming alien invasion of a military base which never amounts to anything, wild strings of synchronicity, strange patterns to Big Foot, Nessie or U.F.O. sightings - the list of Cosmic Weirdness goes on and on.

Enochian magic has an unsavory reputation. We are told it has driven people mad; caused all kinds of terrible backlashes; is generally accompanied by power outages, fires, lightening strikes, disasters; it leads to the Abyss and either triggers the formation of a Master of the Temple or the destruction of the unwary magician; it always works even if you know nothing about magic (a rather dangerous characteristic). I am of the opinion that much of this reputation is well deserved. Enochian magic is indeed often attended by striking physical manifestations, more so than most other magical systems. It does indeed seem potent irrespective of the practitioner's talent or skill. But much of its poor reputation, particularly the madness and disaster which is claimed to follow upon its use, I attribute to Enochian magic's fundamentally Cosmically Weird nature. 

The Enochian System is deeply incomplete. Each and ever part of it is shot through with holes and inconsistencies. It is a vast worm eaten tapestry, a puzzle missing half the pieces. Most people practice the slight fragments made popular through the Golden Dawn consisting primarily of the Enochian Keys, Watchtowers and Aethyrs. The Golden Dawn created on its own an involved interpretation of the Watchtowers and invented entirely an application of the Keys to the Watchtowers. The rest of the supposed system (a large amount of material) is general left untouched and many people are unaware that Dee was never told, or figured out, how to use the Keys or Watchtowers. Indeed, he never used or had any idea how to use most of the system. The "angels" just promised, on and on, that they would explain it eventually. They never did. The very idea that the Keys apply to the Watchtowers is itself more an artifact of later speculation than a method explained by the "angels" or Dee. 

With Enochian magic it is as if you have less than half a car spread about a garage in all manner of dissemble. People stroll in, use a tail pipe as a musical instrument, a door handle as a bottle opener, a steering wheel as a child's spinning top. But here is where the analogy breaks down. The system, unlike the car, is alive and interested. We don't know what it is, or is for. We don't know what it wants. But it is powerful and misusing the door handle nonetheless works in striking ways. Notice, as a side note, that I am not here jumping on the bandwagon that loves to rail against the dangers of misusing the system. The supposed "downfalls" of both Crowley and Jack Parsons have been blamed on the terrible danger of misusing the Enochian system in one way or another. For example, it is claimed Crowley mispronounced the Enochian Call to the Aethyrs and so was destroyed. Any grasp of the details of the system as delivered to Dee and its history makes clear that one can not use the system without "misusing" it. We simply know almost nothing about its mechanics and seem to be missing most of the important pieces. It can only be approached experimentally, through trial and error, and the system seems to accommodate this use such that even something that in retrospect seems incorrect nonetheless produces results and not, generally, disaster. This is a key characteristic of the system, it allows and responds to "misuse" precisely because, as I said, it is interested. Interested in being used. Interested in your using it. Interested in being interesting. 

Don't get me wrong, like the disassembled car Enochian magic is not noticeably malevolent despite its reputation. But it is, I have found, inherently manipulative in precisely the same way it was with Dee. This is where the Theologian's Mistake comes into play. 

If the mystic comes to Enochian magic he will reap amazing results in terms of transcendental experiences. Notice, for example, the ever growing literature of people working the Enochian Aethyrs. The system has led to some of the most striking experiences of enlightenment the recent history of the occult has to offer. But, to reap these benefits, the mystic must remain faithful to the experience and not the staging. The system will burden the mystic with endless visions, vapid explanations, mundane metaphysics all veiling the actual experience it makes possible.  

If the magician comes to Enochian magic she will find a potent tool for the production of results. She will also find, often enough, unwanted side effects. Talk of power outages and fires are not just gossip and the unintended side effects can go well beyond this. But the point remains, Enochian magic is a tool unlike most others for achieving concrete worldly results. Its incomplete nature makes it hard to "aim", as one would expect from so obscure a tool, but it works and works both fast and deep.

If the theologian comes to Enochian magic, however, or if the mystic or magician slips into the role of the theologian he will run the risk of becoming another Dee. I mean this not in terms of helping to craft a famous and powerful system, but in terms of being led around by the nose for decades and flattered with promises while achieving little of his original goals and having learned next to nothing. One might say that the Enochian system has little to say, but loves to talk, and has little to show but loves to cast picture shows upon the screen of the mind of the magician. It is, in this sense, a perfect example of high Cosmic Weirdness. It causes such weirdness, is almost always accompanied by it, and its message is always in the form of cosmic weirdness. Lengthy speeches on cosmic nature that amount to nothing. The theologian's mistake, then, is seeking knowledge where only experience or power are possible.  

There is a mystical interpretation to be offered of the above point. The realm of knowledge is not the realm of understanding. Knowledge would capture reality in words and images. Understanding, on the other hand, arises from an experience that goes beyond any possible collection of words or images. Against this words and images can, at best, hint. It is, then, perhaps likely that the Enochian system taps into very high or deep realms indeed but these are realms beyond the efficacy of word or image. Despite that, the system very easily lends itself to the production and reproduction of words and images like a factory run wild. Its true value, however, lies beyond these and is obscured or interfered with by the facade of knowledge.  

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful.

    I spent some time with the system around the middle of the last decade with astonishing results. I might contend that 'knowledge' is empty except through the experiences which inevitably arise from dinking around with the system. When asked about the system I can only describe my personal experiences and they resonate with what you have written here. For me the system worked best when I thought of it as an environmental magic, it created manifestation 'out there' in the world around me. Opening the Aethyrs was an act which opened my eye's to the powerful locations and, as you say, the High Strangeness in the world around me. When I attempted to keep the thing focused narrowly, or internally, fires and electrical storms. Random and explosive manifestations as though I was attempting to direct something in a way against it's own nature.

    I came to think of the 'angels' much more as genus loci, or even the faery. Spirits of places and moments of profundity. In some ways, I think that perspective jived better with Kelley's perspective on the daemons of the system which he personally never perceived as especially angelic, then it did with Dee's. All workings I did with the system were never quite 'high' or 'low' magic, always somewhere in between. The transcendental hidden away in the mundane, the pulse of Chinatown or the ecstasy of a good acid trip. As an incomplete system it had the peculiar habit of popping out entirely useful complete things, an evocation here, a personal daemon there. Which would go on to anchor aspects of my work forever after without my ever needing to dip back into the aethyr directly. To this day I toss about the idea of firing them again, mainly just to see what would happen, how they would change my perspective on the world this time.

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  2. Thanks for the comment Ryan! I think what you have said here makes a lot of sense (understanding Enochian in a more environmental sense and the "angels" as genius loci) especially if we consider the centrality of location and place in the system itself. The Watchtowers were originally designated by compass direct and not element, the elemental attributes were largely added later (it is a bit more complex than this, but I'll leave it at that). Then the Aethyrs have a clear spacial feel and they and the Watchtowers both connect to the Parts of the Earth, which are overtly geographic.

    I love the temporal aspect you bring in, which is also a major theme in the system. Originally the Seniors are explained and described in terms of their connection to time and time is probably the most central motif in the Keys (governing time, awaiting a time, preparing a time, holding off and delaying a time, etc.).

    Thanks for offering such interesting suggestions, I am going to have to think a lot more about this.

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  3. Man, yeah. I had forgotten the relevance of time. That was central to my experience as well. The dimensionality of it really fucked with my brain, that to evoke something out of an Aethyr I needed both a time and a place. Essentially, that one doesn't invite someone out for a coffee and specify only one of those two variables and expect them to infer the other. While working the system I began to think of Time as a manifestation of causality, if that makes sense. That as you 'progressed' into the Aethyrs you were increasingly engaging with alternative manifestations of causality (how would things be different if you went left instead of right, bought cornflakes instead of oatmeal, etc.), how that changed your relationship to the space you inhabited. Needless to say, I was avoided during this period at parties.

    I also worked the system from Dee's journals and mostly avoided the Golden Dawn/OTO stuff. I did routinely engage with some of the old school alchemical models, in particular Jacobs Ladder and the tree of worlds stuff from the Merkabah traditions. The Ladder is a hierarchy of 23 spheres and models the interconnectedness of Briah/Yetzirah/Assiah. Knowing that (according to legend at least) Kelley came away from the Enochian work with a mastery of the final stage I looked for parallels there. (Interestingly, the Ladder is constructed of overlapping tree's comprised of the lower 7 Sephirot and if one was to add the final 7 of Atziluth [fire] you get a hierarchy of 30, except I could never quite get that to work ;P). And also, necromancy as I had some experience with that already. Full disclosure, I called Kelley and not Dee as he seemed the more sympathetic to me at the time and (again, according to legend) had dabbled in necromancy himself.

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  4. Interesting. I'm aware of the Tree of Life extended through Briah/Yetzirah/Assiah but I have never heard the legend about Kelley having come away from Enochian having conquered it. In fact, I had never heard any legends of Dee or Kelley coming away with anything much beneficial from the work. It would be nice to read something like, "After the Angels: Edward Kelley after his break with Dee". Of course its just ten years, but an interesting ten years I am sure. So what did Kelley have to say when you spoke with him? Was he very helpful? I've had the spirit of Dee visit our workings once, but it wasn't particularly helpful I don't think.

    I'm trying to think through "time as a manifestation of causality" in the sense you mean it. Would something like "history as a reification or closing of causal possibilities" seem a fair rewording of your point? I'm going to think more on this.

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  5. Kelley had it pretty good up until his death in the years following his time in England with Dee. Accrued some wealth and a few titles, his connection to Bavarian gold and silver mines perhaps had more to do with his reputation to produce large quantities of gold than his alchemical mastery. His imprisonment by Rudolph is often held up as the pinnacle of his fall from grace but truly it wasn't all that much a hardship. Several of Rudolph's children recollect stories of playing with him (and copious amounts of gold) and it is said that the imprisonment itself was to coerce the secret of alchemical gold from Kelley and not an overt punishment, he was a lord at that point after and the Queen sought his return to England. And that was the crux of it, his reputed ability to produce alchemical gold. A by-product of mastery of the Red stage of traditional European alchemy, which in turn corresponds to Atziluth or the Fire of Creation in the alchemical variation of the Ladder. Coincidentally named, the Tower of the Arte by old world alchemists.

    I did find him helpful, most of the perspectives I mentioned at the outset were a product of his interaction. The genus loci thing especially and the perspective of the 'angels' as faery. The faery thing sounds New Age-y I guess but in the 1500's that was a group of beautiful and dangerous spirits intimately tied to physical locations upon the the earth, so its not the most obtuse correspondence ever. They certainly manifest as mighty and tricksy.

    "History as a reification or closing of causal possibilities." Reification, yes. Closing, no. That to me, seemed the real magic of the system.

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  6. Very nice! Connecting the ladder to Kelley's possible alchemical achievements and then that to Enochian is very interesting. I'm with you on the faery connection. The New Age movement has certainly done a job on them, but they perfectly fit my conception of Cosmic Weirdness. People have done some interesting work connecting aliens and faery in a similar way, and some of course connect Enochian and aliens as well. Probably due to aesthetic prejudices the faery angle appeals to me much more than either angels or aliens.

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  7. My personal experience of the Governors certainly resonated with the faery idea. Manifestations of quasi-divine animals and the like, sometimes personifications of the seasons. If memory serves one of Dee's journals had a written account of a dream of Kelley's wherein he see's a kind of motley triumph of spirits which from their descriptions certainly sounded like the fair folk. Can't recall now which of the journals that was in.

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I never got the Ladder to jive quite right with the Aethyrs. No matter how I tried you couldn't just tack on another 7 Spheres and have a complete matrix (and oh how I tried). There is a peculiarity in how they overlap that made adding an extra 7 never quite right. Like I said, I have always intended to make another attempt at it. There was so much good stuff in there.

    The quarters being equated to the compass points is interesting, I didn't realize that but that also jives with my experience working the Aethyrs. At some point you shall have to put some of your experiences and observations of up here for a proper comparison of notes. Not many practitioners have bare-bones-ed it up from the journals. I for one would love to read it.

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  8. Enochian has a strange way of just not exactly fitting traditional models, even when it seems to be based on or appeal to them, that is for sure. I could imagine getting the ladder to work led to problems. I'll undoubtedly share some experiences and observations eventually. My partner and I are still currently in the trenches with it, and are hesitant to do to much with it until we feel we have brought the work to more of a point of completion (even after all these years).

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