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 Essential Enochian Grimoire.
When the master of the art shall wish to perform his operations, having previously arranged all things which it is necessary to observe and practice; from the first day of the experiment, it is absolutely necessary to ordain and to prescribe care and observation, to abstain from all things unlawful, and from every kind of impiety, impurity, wickedness, or immodesty, as well of body as of soul; as, for example, eating and drinking superabundantly, and all sorts of vain words, buffooneries, slanders, calumnies, and other useless discourse; but instead to do good deeds, speak honestly, keep a strict decency in all things, never lose sight of modesty in walking, in conversation, in eating and drinking, and in all things; the which should be principally done and observed for nine days, before the commencement of the operation.
[Key of Solomon the King, Book II, Chapter 4: “Concerning the Fasting and Care and Things to be Observed”]
The above quote from the Key of Solomon is a fairly typical example of the grimoires‘ instructions concerning ritual purity. Given the Judeo-Christian nature of the texts, it is not surprising to see typical Christian rhetoric about “impiety, impurity, wickedness, or immodesty” and the general concept of “sin.” Taking these texts at face value, it would seem the angels and spirits simply won’t bother to respond if you are a “sinful” and “unclean” person:
Accustom yourself as much as possible to purity of body and cleanliness of raiment, seeing that this is very necessary; for the spirits, both good and evil alike, love purity.[The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, Book II, Chapter 20]
Most grimoires insist on this kind of spiritual cleanliness for, at the very least, the duration of the magical operation. Today, we are thankfully maturing past childish ideas such as “sin.” We no longer believe that a Big Voyeur in the Sky watches us all day waiting for us to break one of his silly little rules so he can torture us for eternity. We certainly don’t accept any Deities who would consider something like sex a “bad thing” (especially after creating it in the first place!). Therefore, it isn’t surprising to see many modern students attempting to work with the Old Magick, while just ignoring the fasting, seclusion, abstinence, and other aspects of ritual purification.
However, Christians and Jews did not invent ritual purity. Shamans and priests were making use of it to work with their spirits long before either of those religions existed. And it was (and still is) used in religions that do not declare human nature, sex, or fun “sinful.” I certainly make good use of it, as it does indeed increase the effectiveness of my magick. This suggests to me that the Judeo-Christian rhetoric about “sin vs purity” was a late-comer to the gamea fundamentalist veneer painted on top of something far older and much deeper. (In fact, the grimoires do that a lot.)
So why, if not because of Christian dogma, would spiritual entities demand such purity in the first place? It would help to answer that question if we first change some of our terms. The concept of “spiritual cleanness” vs “spiritual filthiness” is particularly Abrahamic, but other traditions (like the ATRs) refer to the exact same concept by the terms “spiritual heat” and “spiritual coolness.” Thus, rather than saying one must be clean in order to summon the spirits (thereby bringing all of the dogmatic and religious baggage along with it), we can instead say one must be spiritually cool in order to summon the spiritsand here we have a term that makes sense.
Anything to do with passion causes spiritual heat. Fun, love, parties, games and competition, sex, anger, arguments, hate, strife, worry, etc, etc.from either the positive or negative end of the spectrumall cause spiritual heat. (Or what we here in the modern West refer to as passion.) And that heat/passion can be very disruptive when you are trying to focus upon a specific spiritual force or entity.
Thus, the point of the ritual preparations (aka “purifications”) is to spiritually cool you down. Meditation; contemplation; prayer; seclusion; fasting; baths; cleaning the ritual tools and space; avoidance of sex, meat, and blood; etc. All of these result in a calm and cool body, mind, and atmosphere wherein the magick can take place.
Both the Buddhists and the ancient Gnostics referred to this as a state of “repose”free from the storms of the passions and desires. It is a spiritual state one works a lifetime to achieve, and to succeed is to gain adepthood/enlightenment/etc. Without repose, you are being tossed about by your own feelings and desires, and are thus not in control. However, to work with the spirits, one must first and foremost be in control of the Self. Otherwise you are inviting the spirit to gain control of your relationshipand you! That is, if you are even able to communicate with the entity in the first place, due to your unbridled mind and emotions.
Therefore, the grimiores preserve this wisdom in their instructions for ritual preparationthough they couch it in a lot of needless Christian fundamentalism. The seclusion, fasting, abstinence, etc. should not be skipped as simply “too Christian,” because they didn’t come up with it in the first place. The spirits do indeed need you to be spiritually cool (as far as possible, in any case) in order to properly, safely, and efficiently communicate and interact with you. Yet, at the same time, you do not need to buy into the Abrahamic concepts of “sin” in order to purify and cool yourself.
As a final note, I should address the most common responses I get from students when I tell them about the importance of spiritual coolness: “What about the old adage to enflame thyself with prayer?” or “What about raising energy and the passions during a spell?” or “What about sex magick?” Those are good points, and they are also part of the process. The ritual preparations are intended to cool you down, to remove your body, mind, and spirit from the passions that inflict you on a day-to-day basis. Your anger at your boss, worries over money, arguments or passion with your lover, thrill-seeking of any kind, etc., etc., etc.all the things that will distract you from the magickal goal. Then, once the ritual begins, you engage only those passions that are directly relevant to the magickal goal. Those passions are raised and built upoften over a long period of time—and finally released in a kind of spiritual orgasm that sends your energy and will into the universe ONLY in the direction you intend.
I hope that makes the process of ritual purification more clear. It is easier to understand when we don’t bog it down with silly Biblical concepts of what is “clean” or “unclean.”
Stay cool, brothers and sisters!
Our thanks to Aaron for his guest post! Visit Aaron Leitch’s author page for more information, including articles and his books.