I never cease to be amazed at how many people will bull-headedly argue that their interpretation of some aspect of magick is “right”, quoting from Abramelin, Agrippa, and Robert Fludd as if that made them correct. I’m leaning towards the belief that there’s pretty much no factoid about ceremonial magick that should ever be debated in terms of “Right” and “Wrong”.
Raphael's location on the Tree of Life is a perfect example.
I got really interested in where Raphael belonged by way of the LBRP. I was reading through a Thelema-based book, and saw that Crowley had once stated that the LBRP puts the mage at the crossroads of Samekh and Pe on the Tree. I thought, great! So I looked at the Tree to see just where exactly that was, since I haven't memorized the paths at all.
Samekh lies between Yesod and Tiphareth, and Pe lies between Netzach and Hod. To understand it better, I wanted to see which Archangels were in the sephiroth. Raphael was attributed to Tiphareth, so you're facing Tiphareth when you do the LBRP. Gabriel is in Yesod, so Yesod lies behind you. No problem. Michael is in Hod, and he's in the south, so that's over on the right. I got a little confused until I figured out you're standing head-inwards into the Kircher diagram of the Tree of Life. It was still (sorta) making sense.
Then I get to Netzach. That's all that's left, but there's nothing about Uriel being the Archangel of Netzach. Ok, sez I, Uriel isn't the Archangel of Netzach, it seems to be some guy named Haniel, or Anael in some people’s texts. What gives? Why don’t we call Haniel instead of Uriel, if Crowley’s right?
My first response was that Crowley must be wrong, no biggy. But if the LBRP isn’t based on the tree of Life, where does it come from? So I researched it until I found that it comes from the Bedtime Sh’ma, a little prayer that Jewish people said before they went to bed at night. The archangels are the four archangels that surround the Throne of God. That’s why it’s Uriel, has nothing to do with the Sephiroth at all.
I was a little disappointed to find out that this banishing ritual I’d been using for years, that had worked wonders at clearing out sacred space, foiling clumsy magickal attacks from the people I pissed off in my bi-polar approach to existence, and banishing a myriad of entities was nothing more than “Now I lay me down to sleep” with some pentagrams thrown in.
But I’d stumbled across something ELSE in my efforts. I ended up going over the attributions of angels to sephiroth going from 777, Bill Heidrick’s Magical Correspondences, on back to Agrippa’s 3 Books of Occult Philosophy and the writings of Robert Fludd, a contemporary of Agrippa. Bill Heidrick pointed out that the attribution of Raphael and Michael flip according to the source, and I figured if I went back far enough, I’d find a definitive answer.
But no one had an authoritative basis for their claim. It was all hearsay. Agrippa recorded in one set of books what was available to ceremonialists of his time, but it was based on hearsay more than practice, and he says at some point, if you find I’m wrong, by all means, go with what you find.
Eventually, I figured I’d just evoke Raphael and ask him. I started with the LBRP, then “drew” his name in Hebrew letters the way you “draw” the pentagrams in the LBRP, and waited for him to show up.
When I told someone how I was doing the ritual, they said I was tainting my results by doing the LBRP first, and I should just do a straight evocation, with no prejudice. For three or four nights I did this, and got really wonderful visions from Raphael explaining where he belongs.
(Hod, by the way. He directs the flow of the energies of Mercury into Malkuth through Yesod.)
So what I learned from all this, besides where Raphael belongs, is that it doesn’t matter who said what, or what logical paths people have put together to get to the conclusion that Entity X “IS” in Sephiroth Y. You can’t trust anything in print to be the bottom line truth, and anything you find out on your own is subject to being only as much of the truth as you really need to know at the moment.