Friday, November 25, 2011

Magical Methodology: Letter of the Craft, or Spirit of the Art?

I have, of late, been working very closely with the Olympic Spirits of the Arbatel and the Planetary Spirits of the Heptameron (as reproduced in the Veritable Key of Solomon, a fantastic book, pick yourself a copy if you get a chance), and this has gotten me thinking (out of both necessity of the operations and academic interest).

I have, until recently, accepted that there seemed very much to be two schools of thought when it comes to ritual magic. The first includes proponents of what I will call "Letter of the Craft" magicians who follow a very rigid interpretation of ancient Grimoires, expecting the practitioner to follow instructions (however convoluted or complex they may be) to their very letter and insist upon that method as the only honest way to perform operations. The second is the "Spirit of the Art" camp who feel that the important part is the will of the magician and all other instructions (however dire and insistent they might be) clutter the magician.

But it has occurred to me that there is a third group which seems to take the worst parts from both (or possibly the best parts, depending on how biased I might be). This group seems to have decided that ancient grimoires include instructions which are unnecessary, however they insist that the magical methods of tradition or of particular orders are absolutely required for every operation, regardless of whether or not they conflict with the instructions of the original source material.

So who's right? That's the question I find myself dealing with. I am unhappy with the rigid structure of many magical systems, but cannot accept the loose philosophy of tossing out unliked instructions, nor can I accept the very strict and often incomplete instructions of some of the source materials. Much of these questions, I suppose, will be solved by experiment and reason.

I just felt the necessity to muse on these for a moment.

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