I really enjoy Devi the Danforth Witch's Queen of Pentacles Blog. Her recent article, Shortcuts to Evocation? Yes and No provides an interesting take on what it takes to begin conjuration. She has 11 steps that she recommends to noobs looking to conjure their first spirit. She offers a great deal of really good advice for the prospective conjure magician, and she talks about the kinds of things that will make a magician successful with their conjurations.
While I agree with the advice she offers in most of her points, there are some differences in our approach that I'd like to point out to prospective conjure magicians. I'm one who happens to believe that all magic is a form of conjuration, from the most basic prayer or lesser banishing ritual, to the most elaborate conjuration. I've found that some of the things she recommends doing before conjuring a spirit are actually best provided by conjuring spirits.
In this post, I'm only going to talk about the things I disagree about. Anything in her post I don't specifically mention, I am in total agreement with. I think most of her points are valid and important for successful conjure magic, and I suspect the differences in our opinions are based on our areas of study and our experiences. Mostly though, she still believes, I suspect, that there's a difference between "evocation" and "invocation." I've ranted on that bullshit before, so I won't go into again, but suffice it to say that anyone who thinks that you can do one without the other is in for a rude awakening at some point in their conjure magic career. There is no difference in the actual magical act. The only difference is what part of the effects of the conjuration the magician is focusing their interpretation on.
1) Some Form of Psychic Seership - While this is a handy thing to have, the idea that it is necessary keeps a lot of people away from conjure magic. Seeing the spirits is nice, but it isn't necessary for the magic to work. Even those of my students who never see the spirits benefit from their Work. Most people are not psychic when they start doing magic, but if they start conjuring spirits (sanely), they'll develop all the psychic skills they could ever hope for.
Most people don't trust themselves, or their ability to differentiate between their own thoughts and the thoughts of the spirits. The sad fact is that nothing prepares you to do this, nothing but experience. You have to screw up and think that spirit telling you, "Yes, you WILL win the lottery today" was really Bariel, lose, and then realize it was your own wishful thinking. You have to ignore a spirit's advice thinking it was your own "ego" a few times before you learn to recognize a spirit's instruction. It's part of being a magician.
More importantly than all that, conjuration of the spirits is what changes a magician, enabling the development of psychic seership abilities. Each time you conjure a spirit, its "vibration" affects your own, changing it by creating a resonance to its own powers in your sphere. It's a natural thing, like a tuning fork at a note will make a string tuned to the same note vibrate. Only the spirits are actually tuning your sphere so that it will vibrate in harmony with their spheres. The Archangel Gabriel is an excellent spirit to conjure to develop the skills Devi recommends. Carrying its seal, meditation on its name, and ritual conjurations made with the appropriate candles and incenses that include a request for the development of these abilities is the most effective means of acquiring them.
I agree with points 2-4. Excellent advice that I wish I followed more consistently in my practice. There are a ton of mistakes that could have been avoided in my Work if I'd done these things. I think they should be seen as works in progress, and you shouldn't wait to "master" any of this before conjuring, because the spirits can teach exactly what she suggests you need. Take these points as things to Work on with your Genius or Supernatural Assistant.
5) MASTER SPIRITUAL CLEANSING, PSYCHIC PROTECTION, AND RITUAL BANISHING!!! - Sigh. I think this is a good thing to have, but is not a requirement.
Spiritual Cleansing is a nice thing to know how to do, but once you figured out how to light a sage bundle and waft its smoke around, you've done enough to start conjuring. The floor washes and baths and such are nice things to know about too, but if you can sprinkle Holy Water, you've got the same thing. Pretty much. And again, the spirits will teach you how and empower you to do all this stuff. One of the things that shocked me while reading Pow Wow and Hoodoo recipes is how much they look just like the kinds of things the angels of the planets and their spirits tell me to do on a regular basis.
Psychic Protection - I think this is newage bullshit. Remember when I talked about the spirits changing your sphere's vibration? Working with each of the planetary and elemental rulers takes care of whatever psychic protection you need. They energize your sphere, opening up channels of power and teaching methods that look a lot like the things people talk about when they talk about psychic protection. Devi recommends mastering several techniques for psychic protection, and in my experience, it's overkill. In the time it takes to master the imaginary special effects most psychic protection provides, you could have taken over the world conjuring spirits.
Banishing rituals - This one really annoys me. How long will people continue to believe the LBRP is anything but a conjuration ritual? It works because most of the crap that we accumulate spiritually doesn't like to be in the presence of the Four Angels Ruling over the Corners of the world (Agrippa, Book 2, chapter 7). The LBRP cleanses space because it is a conjuration ritual. It really sucks the way it's tauhgt, in my opinion, because it doesn't actually do anything once the angels are present. You should be telling all the nepheshim, wandering spirits, hungry ghosts, and any other spiritual entity to be gone in the names of the Archangels, and charge the Archangels to keep all unwanted spirits away. Otherwise, the spirits may leave while you're seeing imaginary stars, but the angels aren't going to do much for you to keep them away. It's good to have in your pocket in case you're ever under attack, don't get me wrong, but treat it like the conjuration of the Four Angels of the Corners of the Earth that it really is.
Hermetic Conjuration rituals like the ones described in renaissance accounts of magic are the very best form of banishing you can hope for. Drawing up the Table of Practice from the Modern Angelic Grimoire, for example, is the creation of a talisman that does everything the LBRP does, and more, because it includes the powers of the seven planets in addition to the four elements. If you create a Magic Circle like the one in the Lemegeton, you'll have nothing to fear from any of the spirits. The physical creation of that Circle is a form of kinetic meditation that results in an initiatory experience, granting you the authority to do the magic you're trying to do.
And once you get into conjure magic, you'll realize how a "banishing ritual" can actually be something that interferes with your Work. The Key of Solomon provides a technique that includes nine days of fervent prayer leading up to a ritual. In those nine days, spirits in harmony with the intent of your daily fervent prayers are drawn to you like moths to a flame. They gather, awaiting the Charge. Then you do the ritual, and using a talisman of an archangel, you put the spirits that gathered to Work on your behalf. Throw in an LBRP designed to banish away all spirits, positive and negative, and you've just ruined nine days worth of Work. The same is true of the Lem's Goetia. As soon as you start sketching the seals of the spirits, you've started gathering their awareness of you. The banishing rite disperses the power that's been built up, and you end up with weak results.
Devi's next point, Point 6, is one I've made a few million times in my writing. Your relationship with the divine needs to be the foundation of your magic, imo. However, it is something that grows and matures as you practice conjure magic. I think having the intent of discovering your relationship to the divine is enough for you to start conjuring spirits.
Point 7 is another point I strongly agree with. I see making the altar to Michael and developing that relationship with the spirit as a very good first step. I personally believe the HGA or Supernatural Assistant is the best place to start. As soon as you start making an altar to a spirit though, you are conjuring that spirit.
Point 8 is another great chunk of advice. I have nothing more to say about that.
Overall, I agree a great deal more with the points Devi makes than I disagree. I think I just look at things differently. I've benefited a great deal from learning to see all magic as a form of conjuration. Even doing things that some people consider "energy work" from the perspective of "conjuring up my own spirit's powers" has helped me a great deal.
I also want people to begin to see conjure magic as a valid form of magic that doesn't require all these hoops to jump through before you get started. Pointing out that most of the preparation people advise is either already conjure magic, or is best accomplished through conjure magic is a start.
I do believe it's best to start slow and work your way up. I use the Emerald tablet as the primary model of the Work. You start with the Abramelin Technique, you attain K&C with the HGA or Supernatural Assistant, or Genius, and then you Work with that spirit to get the basic skills and experiences you need to take the next step. You Work your way up through the spheres and then back down. You gain a deep understanding of your relative position, your "relationship" to God, the Source, all the spirits that are manifestations of that Source, and all the physical things and people in your life. Once you've got that perspective, and the authority that comes with it, you're ready to start Working the sub-lunar spirits to take Right Action as necessary in your physical life.
Every step in the process, as I see it, requires conjuration for full effectiveness. Waiting until you've got everything ready to start conjuring spirits is like getting cleaned up to take a bath.