The Book of Ceremonial Magic
THE ceremonial literature of White and Black Magic has now spoken for itself in the catholic sense of the words. We see exactly what the Rituals had to offer, by the hypothesis of their own claim, to those who followed in their putative practical courses. I presume once more that it is unnecessary to debate whether the Olympic Spirits will make gold in a moment by Magic, transport precious stones, prolong life to several hundred years, teach all arts and provide the operator with ministering spirits in visible and corporal form. These claims merely externalise the cupidity and other desires of the artist. Hereof at least is the domain of the occult working where it happens to suffer the title of transcendental; its entire term and horizon are within the limits of low material gain and pleasure; and the ambition of the Magus was to secure these advantages--firstly- -by the trickery and artifice of the occult world, instead of by his proper activity, and-- secondly--on a very much larger scale than was normally likely or possible.
When we turn, however, to the Rituals which I have classed as composite, we shall find that we are dealing with a much more valued and popular series of handbooks, and the head or crown of all is held in the polite opinion of occult circles to be white by its essential nature and only Goëtic in its accretions. As a matter of fact, it is Goëtic by intention and essence, and white only in the sense that some of its distracted processes might, apart from their sanguinary nature, be termed
harmless. It is obvious, however, from the text that the Intelligences who are the subjects of conjuration are fallen spirits, and that one of the anxieties in respect of their apparition is the hideousness of their native form. The main purposes of experiment are (1) the recovery of stolen goods; (2) the power to go invisible, for reasons which are not less certain because they pass unsaid; (3) the possession of a buried treasure; (4) the seeking of love and favour. Those that remain are more expressly and literally of the order of Fairyland. This is so far concerning what is accepted as the prototype and fountain of the Art. The Infernal Hierarchy of the Lemegeton seems from time to time a promise of things more important, but the diabolism of practical Magic was essentially of a popular kind in the bulk of its documents, and those which aimed too high--as, for example, at logic and philosophy, the liberal sciences, eloquence and good understanding--had comparatively few votaries. To give riches, to kindle love and lust, to discover treasures--
as these were the sum of ambition, so they were the qualifications in chief demand from the spirits. The class of people to whom such considerations would appeal were those obviously--and as I have otherwise indicated--who could not obtain their satisfaction through the normal channels--the outcasts, the incompetent, the ignorant, the lonely, the
deformed, the hideous, the impotent and those whom Nature and Grace alike denied.
This is the category into which the modern psychic mind would enter unwittingly, could I suppose for a moment that, outside such purlieus as Paris, there has been any revival of Ceremonial Magic in the nineteenth or twentieth century. The typical occult student is preposterous enough in his preoccupations, but when he takes the Grimoires seriously he
has usually some assumption as to a meaning behind them--not
that they are allegorical writings, but rather that they are the final issue in abuse and travesty of something that looms to his intelligence like real knowledge. The tendency in this direction has been promoted by that knavish hypothesis concerning occult sanctuaries to which I alluded far back in this work, and to which I must refer again for a moment in these final words.
As part of the root-matter out of which comes the lying art of spirits there stands forth the hypothetical efficacy of adjuration, prayer and ceremonial acts of worship in connection therewith. But in Magic that efficacy can be manifested only over things trivial or abominable, because it is obvious that for any higher purpose we should have recourse thereto through the ordinary channels of religion. If the hypothesis of prayer is true, Magic is out of court on the side of holy things because there is a more excellent way of obtaining the great gifts, the good gifts and the gifts that do not pass away. But if it is not true, Magic is out of court also because it depends from and comes down to the earth with
that false assumption which is at its basis. As a matter of fact, Magic, White or Black, is the attempt to direct the admitted efficacy into evil channels--to compel the infernal cohorts with the assistance of the blessed hierarchies, and to enlist the sympathies of the latter on the warrant of their appeasing invocation in foolish or discreditable transactions. I should add that I characterise as of the essence of evil the desire after power which puts the owner at an advantage over those about him by interventions of an occult nature, against which it would be generally impossible to guard. I characterise the acquisition of knowledge without learning in the same way and for the same reasons. The other ambitions, desires, greeds do not need express condemnation on my part, for they speak too plainly on their own. Out of the
mouth of their proper hypotheses, the pseudo-art or science is that of the abyss. It remains, however, in most cases the abyss of evil intention, as the operator is left with his base, sordid, sorry or fatuous ambition and not with the fruition thereof
It may seem at first sight that I have been breaking laidly worms on larger wheels than would have been required for Gargantua, Behemoth or Leviathan; but I am concerned first of all with the preservation of the Secret Tradition inviolate and with the separation of fungoids and diseased and monstrous growths which have come to overlay it. The magic of the Ceremonial Rituals is no part of the real tradition, it is not in any form that we know it of the veils thereof, nor are they even its debasement. At the same time--and as we have sufficiently seen--they do represent at a very far distance a stream of averse tradition, and it is that of Jewry in the prescription and suspension of the greater and agelong exile. There is no question that the mind of Israel which produced on the one hand the signal mystic testimony of the Zoharic literature did on the other betray the kind of preoccupations which have given us Ceremonial Magic as their last evolution in the pit and pools of thought. And this is their side of importance. It is this only which has
justified the present consideration and the length to which it has extended.
THE CORNERS OF PARADISE, GUARDED BY FIRE-BREATHING URÆ