Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Armchair Initiates

The oft-maligned armchair magician, our Sunday-Morning quarterbacks who read the grimoires, or at least the For Dummies versions of whatever system they're trying to be Subject Matter Experts in at the moment, or even those who spend twenty or thirty years reading about magic without ever stepping into the Ring are the subject of today's thoughts.

I've bashed these losers in passing for years, in part because I was one for many years, and in part because they seem on the surface to know what they're talking about, and I ended up wasting a lot of time arguing with them about details they didn't really have a framework to comprehend. I loathed them for many years.

But recent events have caused me to reconsider my stance. You know how to conjure the Ruach of a dead magician to teach you the finer points of something they've written? It's fairly simple, really. You simply take their written materials and use that as a talisman, and you call on them in the names of the Intelligences of the Moon. You go on an astral journey to a meeting ground in the lower heavens, a sitting room beneath your astral temple, or a preserve in an astral national park.

They teach you in dreams, or in inspirations or conclusions reached while reading their books. They help you understand the meaning they were pointing to while writing.

You know how when you as much as look at a seal of a spirit with intent, it starts seeing you back? I've noticed it while practicing sketching seals of demons and angels. They're closely tied to the patterns of squares, lines, circles, crosses, triangles, and all the other geometric shapes that make up their images. You can't really read about a spirit in detail without it noticing a flicker of a disturbance in the force.

Now think about these armchair magicians... not the really annoying egotistical asshats that only read magic books to be able to proof text their way into looking smart by tearing apart others. Their surface knowledge of a system leaves them woefully inept at attacking people with experience. Ignore these knuckle dragging dweebs.

But the serious student of occult knowledge who reads and studies and discusses the principles of magic, have you ever thought about what's going on inside their spheres over the years? The Great Work is the art of amassing the ore that contains the Stone, and then treating it through pressure, heat, time, and various chemical purification processes until it is refined and rarified. These armchair magicians are absorbing tons of occult material that sits percolating in their spheres, being affected by the stresses and pressures of life. It makes an egg, and it incubates, waiting the signs and signals that it is time to be hatched and revealed.

A friend of mine thinks he's not much of a magician because he's studied more than he's practiced. Yet his insight and understanding exceed my own in many ways. Practical work is necessary to attain initiations into the spheres, you've got to conjure the spirits to Work with them consciously and attain the full benefit of their influence, but there is still Work being done in the spheres of the Armchair Initiates that is valuable and worthwhile in ways they won't appreciate until later.

The animosity towards armchair initiates in general leaves them feeling embarrassed, ashamed, I think, and less confident in their results than they should be. I think it's about time for scholars of the occult to be given a little slack, and a lot more encouragement than they've gotten in the past.


  1. Thanks for this. Very valuable on a number of levels.

  2. There is a reason that alchemists make their students learn so much by heart before being allowed to actually do lab work---

    I like to compare the study of esoteric subjects to physics. There is the theoretical part, the objective part, conventions, and then actual lab work-


    We need scholars and lab-assistants, sure, but what we really need more of are those who are both.

    Speaking of nepheshim, remind me to talk to you about fun uses of the ruach "offlist" sometime.

  3. That makes a lot of sense and explains a lot, actually. Thanks for the insight!

  4. There's definitely power in the written word. I find that with esoteric subjects, I'll read on and on out of passion and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and wisdom, and that what I read does integrate into my perspective, mindset, emotional condition through many nights sleeping on these subjects. In fact, after imbibing some serious study, my natural inclination is to go straight to sleep on it -- it fully integrates somewhere in that time.

    But this post gives me a sense of peace for those gaps in my Work where the most I can do at the time is keep my mind, heart, and spirit on the subject. So thanks for what you have to say regarding this.

  5. The exhaustive research, reading and the mastering of theory, of course it will permeate the subcouncious of the armchair magician; and this is not different from any other profession, since someone might read hundreds of boks about computer programming, for example, but this does not make a person a programmer.

    An armchair magician might read and understand everything about the Archangel kammael and even he might know things a practicioner still doesn’t know; but he will not have the bare idea of what’s he dealing with. It is not the same thing to know all the correspondences, secrets, theory and whatever information about Kammael than really have this Archangel in front of you while your body have chills when the Archangel talks to you.

    It is not the same to read and memorize the bornless ritual, if the person doesn’t face the doors of hell facing problems and issues when they arise, just before attaining his/her HGA.

    If the intention of this post is to encourage the armchair magicians to do the work, I also do it; otherwise, besides the respect a person deserves for knowing that amount of information, there’s nothing else to admire about.

    What I just said, it is not a matter of ego, is a matter of getting the hands on the job and do the experiments.

    Peace profound

  6. VL, I'm saying that studying Kammael and reading the Bornless does, in fact, create a minor form of initiation. It's not the same as doing the work, but it is more than doing nothing.

    People are too quick to write off students of the occult as "armchair" magicians, and it's damaging to those writing off as well as those written off. People can have spirits appear during conjurations and have no fucking clue who or what they're dealing with.

    Your first example of reading books about programming not making a person a programmer is a good example of what I'm saying. The person who studies coding will be able to figure out a code issue, often better than someone who programs for a living. Programmers develop habits and make assumptions, use code idiosyncratically in ways that almost work right. Theorists reviewing the code for logical structure often reveal poor practical applications of the theory that eliminate bugs down the line. Happens in my line of work all the time. That's why they have code reviews.

    Of course combined study and practical application trumps pure research, but this is magic, and symbols and words are alive in ways that people don't understand. If someone thought the spirits only come when conjured, they'd be grossly mistaken. I've had Agrippa drop by unexpectedly while reading his book, and I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't done necromancy before and developed the skills to sense his presence. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't have stopped by anyway. Same with Angels, demons, Intelligences, and all forms of Spirits. They're coming and working on the spheres of the armchair magicians.

  7. I have not had the chance to partake of your courses yet. I would like to ask if the material on Goety that is being edited out will become its own course or book later. Please say 'yes'. LOL

  8. @Manic:

    After a great deal of thought on the subject, I've pulled the Goetic Grimoire from my list of things I sell, and I'm not going to be including any course work that involves teaching people how to conjure demons. I will continue to teach other aspects of Goety, including Spirits of Place and necromancy. I will teach my experiences with the demons, but I will no longer be providing information on how to conjure them. Doing so would be irresponsible, considering my overall experiences. I hate doing that, because demons are where the money's at, honestly. Everyone wants to conjure demons, and thinks that THEY will be immune to the negative consequences, or they figure it's worth it. After careful consideration, I figured I wouldn't teach my kids to conjure demons, so why would I consider teaching paying students who trust me to have their best interests at heart?

  9. Some excellent thinking. Personally I think whether one is stronger as a theoretician, or stronger as a practitioner is less important than the question of whether one has a confirming spirit, or a questing spirit.

    One with a questing spirit is always seeking to understand the Is and the All. Whether they do it by reading and thinking, or by practicing seems at a certain level to become almost irrelevant.

    On the other hand one with a confirming spirit seems largely to be concerned with being seen as being proven correct. These are the theoreticians that can argue over nits until they are twice their original size, and practitioners that never seem to create, anything, ever, but instead are masters of replication, always of someone else's work.

    Now I will admit that I prefer for myself to seek a balance, between theory and practice, but if I have to choose as to conversation and company I tend to prefer an armchair Mage, that I can talk about underlying theories with, than someone who might be magickally potent, but really doesn't know why they do what they do, they only know it seems to work for them.

  10. Wow, the last comment left me speechless, in so that way, that I think that debating over that is a waste of time.

  11. VL, yeah, this is a weird topic, and I've gone through a lot of changes about a lot of things recently; this is a manifestation of that.

    I'm just tired of seeing people who know more than me be apologetic about correcting something I've got wrong. I can see both sides of the issue, and armchair magicians with an attitude who've never done the Work are annoying as hell, but the ones who study with intent are different.

    Intent matters a lot more than I used to think. As a result I'm cutting a lot more slack on the whole than I used to.


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.