Problems With the Grimoire Crowd
***This first appeared yesterday on some lists dedicated to Goetic and Solomonic Magic. Because of time constraints, I did not want to publish it widely, as I would not have time to defend every point ad-infinitum, which is often what is demanded after making statements like this. Since then I have gotten several requests to publish it openly, so…. here we go...***
Hi Everybody. Jake Stratton-Kent caught me vaguebooking this week, twice saying something along the lines of “despite some problems with the grimoire crowd…” than going on to talk about something else without ever listing those problems. Yesterday he invited me to actually write about those problems and to do it here.
First thing I want to note is that I know very well that the Grimoire, or Old Magic, community is not monolithic at all. I am a moderator on Solomonic and am familiar with the range of opinions. Everything I say below will apply to some, but not all. If you are tempted to reply to say “Thats not what I think at all”, you dont have to, because I am not talking about you.
The second thing I want to say is that I am not against the Grimoires, Old School Magic, or anything else. If I was I really wouldn’t bother with any criticism at all. Indeed THE big advancement in western magic since 2000 has been the renewed interest in magic that came before and beyond the English and French Lodge-based systems. The babies that were thrown out with the bathwater by the GD and other groups like it have been a huge boon to the western occult tradition.
That said, a few years into the old school renaissance the Grimoire tradition started throwing babies out with its own bathwater.
For example three times now I have had Grimoire based magicians schedule consults in order to help them see and communicate more clearly with the spirits, but I immediately get told that the excercise I give, which used visualization and energy in the body, must be new age, or GD based crap because it is not “the old ways” or “in the grimoires”. Of course the exercise I was teaching was actually written by Niguma in the 10th century.
It no longer becomes just about making sure that spirit based magic gets its due, but about making sure that people think energetic, mental, or visualization practices are crap. Even in the intro to Skinners new book on the PGM, he goes to lengths to say that magic is done solely through spirits and that energetic or visualized practices have nothing to do with magic. Magic in the 2nd century Mesopotamia maybe, but even then I doubt it…
Just as I was critical of Chaos Magic in the 90s for harping on whatever was new, or even just sounded new because it sounded like pseudo scientific twaddle, I am equally critical of the view that what is oldest is truest. As if there is some golden period of the past and everything that came after is a corruption. In my opinion this is not the case. It is important to go back and look at these traditions, to pick up on what others in the past have missed, or viewed through a distorting lens (theosophy for example), but that does not mean that we should ignore everything that came after. Yet time and again I hear the refrain “Everything from the GD on is crap”. While not a fan of the GD, I do find some worth in Crowley, in Bardon, in William Gray, and others.
In short, its not enough for peoples water to taste sweet. They must piss into anothers cup to make sure that it doesn’t.
Which brings me to results. Time and again I hear people in the Grimoire community, particularly those that are sticking REALLY close to the script with the virgin spun thread and lion belts, talk about how they or other people they like are getting “results” and not “fantasy”. Anyone who knows my work knows I place a heavy emphasis on weeding out fantasy, and focusing on measurable results, but honestly this has more to do with the application of magic than the methods themselves. People in the Groimoire community are rarely really applauding better results than anyone else gets, they are simply believing those peoples experiences because they use similar methods, and not believing others experiences because they don’t.
When someone advances string theory because a demon taught them something new about physics, or makes the news by flying through the air, or gets rich by having gold just show up, I will acknowledge that you are getting better results than everyone else. Till then, do your work and make your contribution. The work of people doing it with the lion skin belts and ebony altars IS a contribution, but it does not have to be presented with a heavy helping of “everything else is crap.”
Now lets talk spirits. In the 90’s I was always finding myself to be the only guy in the room that wanted to discuss spirits as if they were real and not parts of our brain, like the Crowley/DuQuette/Carroll camp pushed. I am elated that things have swung the other way. BUT, its now erring in the other direction. While not “in our heads” these beings are not simple and fully separate either. Multiple pasts, overlapping cultural overlays, manifestations that range of the truly cosmic to the strikingly egotistical, Spirits, Demons, Angels, Gods are not less subtle than we are – they are more. Yet in the zeal to depart from the psychological model, it becomes taboo to discuss these experiences in these terms AT ALL. What you get at the edge of a circle is in fact effected by your own mind, also the mode you called it under, and the place you are doing the working. I think that the Grimoire crowd over-simplifies Spirits to an absurd degree.
Then there is Christianity. On the one hand you have people who approach the Grimoires like they are role-playing a 17th century Priest and commanding the shit out everything in the name of JHVH. Then on the other hand you have people trying to remove Christianity completely and re-paganize grimoire like the GV. Christianity has been here for two thousand plus years now. It is PART of the narrative. The Grimoire scene is very keen on taking ques from ATR’s like Quimbanda. Well, Quimbanda does not feel the need to remove all trace of Christianity. St Cyprian is still St Cyrpian. The Maioral of all the lineages is St Michael – in this there is a great mystery. Kind of like very early Wicca, people want the devil without the diabolic. The whole thing then runs the risk of turning into yet another Pagan re- constructionist exercise.
There is even among some quarters a push to choose the Chthonic OR the Auranic. Like they are mutually exclusive or at war. Quimbandanistas in training are often told to get involved in a “light” path like Santeria or Christian Spiritism as an off-set to the nightside world of Quimbanda. In Tantric Buddhism there is no mutual exclusivity between serving Wrathful spirits covered in blood, bone, amidst darkness and flame and serving Peaceful one represented with silks, jewels floating in pastel clouds and rainbow light. Both are necessary.
Anyway, I could go on, but this is too long as is.
I have never seen a path, system, religion, or group that I did NOT have criticisms of including my own, so take this all with a grain of salt and make of it what you will. I was asked, and I answered.