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Month: June 2022

The Arbatel — Not for Beginners?

Over on the Hermetic House of Life Discord server, someone shared a link to Robert Powell’s post “The Arbatel of Magic is NOT for Beginners” on the Logos of Ophiel blog. It’s a well-written take on things, though I believe there are some foundational assumptions and conclusions with which I personally disagree.

Powell appears to write from a largely grimoire purist perspective, maintaining that it is impossible to separate the Arbatel from Christian notions of piety and purity, and holding that asceticism is required for the practice of Arbatel magic. The author writes about his own experiences which led him more deeply into this stance with respect to the Arbatel, and this insight into the personal history behind the author’s conclusions is both welcome and refreshing. That said, while the author’s opinion is likely the correct one for him based on his own experiences, we have to be careful in this work to draw a line between our own experiences and what’s worked for us on the one hand, and what we deem prescriptive on the other.

Based on my own experiences, whenever I encounter assumptions that certain spiritual perspectives or practices are necessary, or that certain parameters of a grimoire must be followed exactly, I always respond by going “oh really?” My own experiences of grimoiric magic have been much more flexible in contrast, and seemingly no less efficacious for it. While Powell notably speaks from a perspective of experience with the system rather than simply parroting inherited prescriptions, I have found in my own practice that there is often both much more leeway within the systems than is apparent from the texts, and much more flexibility than one might initially suspect. In the end, however, the only way to determine whether a particular component of grimoiric magic is truly necessary is to experiment for oneself. I tend to think these frameworks are more flexible than we often give them credit for, based on my own experiences; but this is one of those things I think every magician sort of has to figure out for themselves in their own practice.

As for the Arbatel being “not for beginners”, that’s practically standard boilerplate in my book. Magic will upend your life, no matter how you do it. If you aren’t prepared to roll those dice you should probably reconsider practicing magic—but that’s true of all magic, not just the Arbatel. As long as you’re prepared for some upheaval going into it, as is normal with any magical practice, I don’t see anything in the Powell’s post which appears to me to be anything insurmountable or which seems a significant disincentive to pursuing that practice.

Consequently, I would invite the reader not to be dissuaded from pursuing the Arbatel based on Powell’s post; but rather to consider it an invitation to (cautiously and deliberately) engage further with the source text and tradition, and to experiment with it. Magic is nothing if not experimental, and we make little headway if we are not willing to experiment and innovate. As long as we proceed carefully and with both eyes open, we can allow our own experiences to speak for themselves.

“The Kybalion’s New Clothes” in Portuguese

Back in 2016, Lucas Moraes translated my Kybalion paper into Brazilian Portuguese. You can find the PDF in the “Articles and Other Writings” section of this website (or simply click here). You can also find mirrors of the translation at the O Alvorecer site or at transaberes. Big thanks to Lucas for taking the effort to translate the article! I wasn’t aware until I did an episode of the Projeto Mayhem podcast on the subject that the Kybalion has a very large following in Brazil, and I very much appreciate Lucas’s effort to ensure the paper reaches a wider audience.

On the Efficacy of Sigil Magic

Someone on the Hermetic House of Life Discord server asked recently whether sigil magic actually works. I’ve worked with sigils for a very long time—in terms of praxis, it’s how I got started along the magical path—and yet I still ask myself that question as well. At least part of the answer for me, however, seems to depend on how exactly those sigils are being used within a given magical operation.

The vast majority of the sigil work I’ve done has been with Agrippa’s planetary squares. And I’ve had some really good results. But those results also came from using not just the sigils themselves, but also prayers and offerings to the planetary spirit/intelligence in question. That’s very different from something like my OTP cryptographic sigil methodology, which I’ve really only demoed for myself as a proof of concept.

My experience with Agrippan planetary sigils has been excellent, when using those sigils as a material basis for invoking and working with the planetary spirits. But that’s different from just charging a sigil and letting it do its own thing. The closest I’ve come to building a body of experience with that latter sort of work has been with pentacles from the Key of Solomon. I haven’t seen the returns on my efforts there that I would have liked, but to be perfectly honest I’m also not entirely sure that I was going about things the right way either—and I was also working with too many sigils at once at the time, so that unhelpfully muddies the waters.

Basically, the jury is still out when it comes to my opinion on sigil magic as it’s commonly understood. From my perspective, the crux of the matter lies to some extent in whether you’re using a sigil as a tool in a magical working (to signify a spirit you’re invoking, to articulate an intent that you’re doing other work around, etc.) or whether the sigil is itself the magical working. My experiences with the former have been a lot more profound and clearly effective for me than the latter.

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