Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical Language Volume I and Volume II, and his new Essential Enochian Grimoire.
For some time now, I’ve been writing about the “Old Magick”—such as that found in the African Traditional Religions, the Solomonic grimoires, and indigenous folk traditions. I have described the spirit model of magick—which views the gods, angels, and spirits as objective beings—and I have compared it unfavorably with the psychological model, which views these same entities as mental constructs that exist only within the mind.
Of course, if you’ve been following my work, you’re well aware of that. However, over the past weeks it has become apparent that my dismissal of the psychological model of magick might be misinterpreted as a repudiation of the entire subject of psychology. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
While I certainly do not view magick as merely an ancient form of psychology, it is important to remember that this does not rule out psychology in and of itself! The spirits may be real and objective, with their own personalities and agendas, but the human art that we call “magick” has a lot to do with the mind.
The right tools, the right rituals, and even a literal faith in the spirits’ objective reality isn’t quite enough. Your own psychology is vital. How the magick affects you, and how you (your mental state) affects it, is a huge chunk of the Mysteries.
The Socratic axiom that one must “Know Thyself” remains a vital truth to this very day. It doesn’t matter how real the spirits are if your mind is so bogged down with neuroses and complexes that you can’t perceive them. You can’t talk with them if you can’t distinguish your own thoughts from the spirits’ voices. You must know how to engage the passions—the mental “phrensies” described by Agrippa (which we would today call ecstatic states). You must be able to learn the lessons the spirits would teach you, to grow and evolve as a human being and a magus—to “become more than human,” as the Golden Dawn would put it.
If you wish to excel at magick, you must know the contents of your own mind, how your mind works, and how to “metaprogram” it—that is, erase faulty mental programming and write better programs to replace it. You must be able to distinguish between your own desire-driven thoughts and the knowledge being transmitted to you by outside intelligences. You must overcome your personal demons and ascend out of the darkness of ignorance (not just ignorance of the world, but of the Self as well). You must be your own master, in control of your thoughts and emotionsor else those objective spirits are going to have their way with you. If you are not aware of your own secret motivations and fears, then your Work is built entirely upon shaky ground.
This is why self-rectification, spiritual alchemy, etc. are so important. It is why in Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, my book about medieval occult texts, I introduce readers to the entirely modern Leary/Wilson model of consciousness, and discuss the effects of sensory deprivation, entheogens, and prolonged prayer and fasting. I explain Agrippa’s phrensies and how they apply to different magickal practices. I even assert, in no uncertain terms, that the altered mental state is the single most important aspect of any magickal ritual.
Plus, I advise students to seek some form of initiation outside the grimoires—for both spiritual authority and self-rectification, which of course both go hand in hand. Whether your chosen path is through the grades of the Golden Dawn, the degrees of Wicca, a Thelemic lodge, the Priesthood,* or elsewhere, it is very important to undertake a system of spiritual advancement. (* Note that the Key of Solomon urges its practitioners to advance to the “rank or degree of Exorcist” before attempting the magick. That meant to seek out a proper ordination, with all the training, purification, and self-rectification that went along with it.)
So, even if Old Magick practitioners refuse to view the spirits as mental constructs, it is not true that we have discarded psychology entirely. We simply believe the so-called psychological model of magick has taken things too far, having forgotten that spirits are people, too.
Our thanks to Aaron for his guest post! Visit Aaron Leitch’s author page for more information, including articles and his books.