For years I’ve listened to and observed otherwise rational occultists debate one another over the effectiveness of varying systems of metaphysical practices in the occult field. Often these so-called “practitioners” (and I use that term loosely) argue over things such as authenticity or who originated the practice itself. These armchair theorists waste a lot of breath debating such trivialities in their long winded dissertations with one another.
However is it the system or methodology that we really need to focus on or is it the practitioner himself? By that I mean when speaking of the effectiveness of results that are sought from a system, should we continue to have great expectations from a practice such as Enochian or does the effectiveness boil down to the practitioner? I say the system is not the key but merely a map for the practitioner to follow.
Another way of looking at this is via fitness plans. As all of you well know, there are a gazillion and one fitness experts out there each with their own methodology, beliefs and opinions about diet and exercise. Each claims they can help you and surprisingly most can so long as you as follow the regimen with common sense. Now presuming you have that last bit covered and their plan does not require you to do nor consume anything hazardous to your health, you should be able to shed weight and become healthier, right? So is it really the fitness plan that matters or is it the individual?
In the world of the occult, we often seem to give a pass to the so-called practitioners. Why do you think we do that? Think about it for a moment. It really does not make a whole lot of sense to argue that Thelema is better than Aurum Solis, BOTA, SOL, Golden Dawn and other lodge systems is it? What makes one system more acceptable than another? Philosophy? Iconography? Liturgy? Ritual drama? These are all things that are inconsequential and are moot simply because they are aesthetically pleasing to the individual. They do not make the system sound, powerful or accurate in any sense of the word.
So what really comprises a system? It’s people. It’s the same thing that makes an organization who they are or a church, synagogue or temple what it is. You can’t merely point to the philosophy and say, “This is what this group si all about” because that is not the case since the group is comprised of many individuals seeking their own goals form direct experience from interaction with the system. This is why it’s silly to harp on modern or new age systems since there are people using them and getting results from it.
Lately I’ve seen self-absorbed ceremonial magicKians making fun of more modern systems like New Avatar Power, the Necronomicon, Magic of the New Ishtar Power, and other modern grimoire systems yet these self-deluded fools believe it is the system that itself wherein lies the power when it is the individual. Of course we’re not talking living traditions as found in the African Religious Systems (ARS) rather the non-living systems of American and Euro-centric occult practice such as Witchcraft, Ceremonial Magic, Sorcery, Conjure, Cunning Man, and others.
In a living tradition, like Haitian Vodu for instance, you have ancient spirits who are alive and interact with the system’s adherents on a constant basis. Whereas with a non-living system like say ceremonial magic, the practices are often centered around the adherent’s ego and spirits are rarely interacted with unless in rare circumstances or unless you have undergone a ritual to obtain a familiar spirit or your Holy Guardian Angel (which is not the norm).
Modern occult systems more often than not merely coalesce practices into needed chunks of information that allow a person to utilize the information and process it with minimal restrictions thus allowing more freedom for application. Often it is these looser restrictions which bite at the heart of the old guard who jealously snark at the system for its lack of cohesion for stringent rules and protocols of older systems and ages in the past. Therein lies the rub.
I surmise that much of the snobbishness and downright rudeness to practitioners of modern grimoires and systems is due to the desire to remove the complexity which the old guard truly treasures for no other reason than it makes them feel superior to say, “Hey, I went, built a forge and make my own sword” which is all well and good but is it really necessary today? No it’s not but just like in the Society for Creative Anachronism, if you buy your costume/armor instead of making it yourself, your prestige is lessened by several degrees regardless of how nice the armor or costume is. Same mentality with CM’s and their tools.
Every practitioner will blatantly admit that the tools are just that tools to use, and the practitioner themselves are the real repository of magic. The tools are thought to be extensions of the practitioner by the time you are finished constructing, dedicating and consecrating them to your work and yes the grimoires call for the tools so they are not ‘props’ as the ones who believe Magic = Psychology maintain. The notion is that you should also be able to go buck naked out into the woods alone, without any tools and perform successful magic. So there we have a stalemate where the old guard meets the modern practitioner.
The modern grimoires have merely condensed or pared down their systems to use minimal amount of tools to allow the practitioner greater freedom with more flexibility. After all spirits are quite flexible (well most of the them are anyway) so it stands to reason that a system should be as well. This flexibility allows for a person to take a system with them on the road without having to pack and answer why there’s a dagger in their briefcase and a sword in their suitcase to airline security.
If you work a system and fully immerse yourself in said system, which of course includes adopting any philosophies necessary to make the system work, you should be able to get results from using that system’s magic. I know this is why I did not get much in the way of results with my early CM practices myself because I did not fully immerse myself in the system nor adopt the system’s philosophies. I was trying to use the magic from the system without getting IN to the system and that simply won’t work especially with older systems like lodge style ceremonial magicK.
Modern systems like Chaos MagicK and modern grimoires like those previously mentioned, are pared down and devoid of philosophies and dogma. Instead they offer you simpler methodologies that you can adpt to your own personal philosophies and integrate into your busy lifestyle. Further they work which is something else that the old guard is not thrilled with as well. Prejudice is often based on the desire to see others fail and when a Novice picks up a modern grimoire with no training whatsoever, performs a working based on the material and gets the desired results, the old guard seethes with jealous and often ridicules these successes as delusions, coincidences and downright lies. The denial is particularly nasty but necessary for the old guard to maintain their sense of superiority and prejudice.
When pressed to at least TRY one of the new grimoire systems, invariably the old guard will defer claiming they don’t put stock into such ‘new age crap’ yet almost every one of these snobs started out practicing a new age system, i.e. lodge style ceremonial magic such as Golden Dawn, Thelema or even Wicca. These systems most definitely ARE new age themselves and it’s as if the old guard has forgotten and forgiven themselves for their own foolishness for following the idiot Crowley and his blithering cohorts. Yet to anyone else who practices anything that isn’t pre-1800's in origin, it just can’t be real or useful so yes throw the baby out along with its bathwater. Infant not desired.