Sunday, February 24, 2008

Generic system of magic--part one

One of the recent trends in the ceremonial magic is the removal of all specific names (God names, Angels, etc.), so that the tradition is opened up to a wider audience. Two examples of this on the internet are Magical Order of Golden Dawn and the newest material to come out of the Thelemic Golden Dawn.

While I agree that we need to attract more people (especially struggling lodges with low membership numbers like the one that I belong to), I am not sure if producing generic “Oh, put any god name you feel like here” systems are the way to go. For one thing, most people who start out have not a clue what god name fits where in the system; if they did know, they would not be looking for a system to learn.

And those who are comfortable with the “Fill in the blank” style in my experience do not need any encouragement--they will soon be messing up people and doing their best to be a petty god without any encouragement from the rest of us. This type of person is knee-deep on the internet.

Furthermore, this type of work results in those who are engaged in it being in danger of being permanently isolated from other workers of the mysteries.

Last year, I did my first Open Full Moon. It was mainly improv, with just a few sentences printed out for those who ended up calling the quarters. The person who did the Fire and Water purification did it from memory; the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram was done from memory. And the lecture was a variation of one that I have given before.

Basically, it was done on the wing. And the reason it could be done that way was that we had some standardization. We didn’t have to debate what god names were used. (Ok, I did explain that I probably used a different set of fine-tuning names for “the lords of the watchtowers.”)

I have been present at gatherings where everyone was operating from a “fill in the blank” perspective. No work was actually accomplished. Why? Because the group spent longer arguing about what names to use than anything else.

One of the reasons that Golden Dawn became one of the most influential systems is that students of Golden Dawn did not have to spend hours discussing what names to use when they get together to work--they can just get down to doing the rituals.

This “fill in the blank” style may serve a purpose, but it might end up creating an even weaker community than we had before.

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