Today I had a rare opportunity to sit and read some of the blogs I enjoy, having found some unexpected time to myself. Among the many interesting and insightful posts my fellow bloggers have shared was one entitled Some Issues Regarding Grimoire Magick, which, as one might expect, piqued my interest.
In this article the author explains his views on the subject of Grimoire Magick, positing that there are three sorts of practitioners who undertake to work from these ancient handbooks of Magick, to wit, Traditionalists, Re-constructionists and Revisionists. Rather than repeat his definitions of each here, I recommend the article be read in its entirety, as it is a well written and engaging. Thee author's take on the subject of Grimoire Magick set me to thinking about how dramatically my own feelings on the subject have changed over the last decade as my own practice has evolved.
As the reader will no doubt remember from my work as outlined in Crossed Keys, I have been in positions where strict adherence to even the smallest detail of a given Grimoire's SOP has been, quite literally, impossible. In such situations I have willingly and eagerly made improvised tools, at times from the most common of materials such as pencils in lieu of a rod and melted soap fashioned into candles. Despite this drastic departure from the strictures prescribed by our predecessors, I have experienced a large amount of success, particularly in the field that the Grimoires (and myself) hold to be the highest form of Magick - True Evocation.
This being the case, never will there be an argument, however lucid and well presented, that can convince me that improvisation, substitution and modification of Grimoiric rites are impermissible. However strongly someone may feel to the contrary, however diligently they present their evidence in support of the theory that the Grimoires should be kept to completely and without deviation, you will never sway me, because to me it is not a matter of faith or belief, but rather of knowledge and first hand experience. I have been there and done that, and achieved results I'd be comfortable stacking up against any man's, and I did so with a freakin' magazine perfume insert for incense. The results come when the Magus is ready to experience them, and when he has done absolutely everything of which he is capable to make his act of magick come to fruition. In my case, the paltry instruments of the art of which I availed myself truly were the very best of which I was capable at the time, and I put more effort into carving symbols and divine names on to that damned pencil than many aspiring magicians put into their world class, by the book and accurate to the letter Solomonic sword, and I honestly believe THAT is why I succeeded.
I believe it is more about how much of yourself you put into it than what materials you use. If you are financially stable and well off, and therefore certainly able to spend the money involved in obtaining materials to craft the original tools and weapons of the art and choose not to do so, instead deciding to use that same pencil I did not out of necessity or because its truly all thats available but because you just don't feel like going to the trouble of procuring the real deal, well then lets be honest, your heart isnt in it and regardless of what you're using for materia, you're probably not going to succeed.
If, however, you are not in such a position, and spending large amounts of money to obtain your tools in compliance with their original design is just impossible for you, or the item for which the Grimoire calls is impossible to find in the modern world, what gets you results and brings about your success is that you sincerely put your all into making do with what you had, and the requisite devotion it takes to do so. At the time, when those shabby tools were all I could obtain, sitting in that cell, I succeeded in work that others rarely if ever achieve, and I am convinced it was due to the fact that I wanted it with my whole heart and everything I had. It was my every breath. It was what I fell asleep thinking of, dreamed about at night and my first thought upon waking, and occupied every bit of my conscious thought in between.
Now, however, being once again among the free and having the world at my fingertips via the internet, I endeavor whenever it is at all possible, regardless of the level of effort required or expense to which I must go, to arm myself with tools of the trade befitting a King. Not because it is an absolute necessity, but because if I am capable of it and choose not to simply because of the effort or exertion required to do so, then I am just half assing it and not giving it my all. Its like showing up for a job interview wearing shorts and unshaven, not because you lack a dress suit and razor or the means to obtain them, but because, well, who cares. You get out what you put in.
One other point the author of the aforementioned blog post makes is that he believes the authors of the Grimoires we be more than happy to experiment or incorporate aspects of other systems and traditions. I not only "believe" this, but I find it to be fact. As is evidenced by the frequency with which we see Grimoires of one era or genre making clear use of older traditions or those far removed from itself geographically, the fathers of the Grimoires were the very definition of syncretists at times. If Agrippa, Abraham of Worms, or pseudo Alibeck the Egyptian had access to the internet you can rest assured they'd have been as diverse in their praxis as their present day counterparts, despite their (Abraham's primarily) admonitions that forms of magick outside those offered in their writings were spurious.
The author also mentions the group of modern aspirants whose idea is that the Grimoires of antiquity were all the product of master magicians, expert in their craft, and should therefore be kept to completely. For evidence that this school of thought is foolish we need only look to the present day. Right now more "grimoires" and working manuals of magick are being released than at any time in history, and magick is as popular as ever it was in the days of the grimoires. And yet of 100 books released, 90% are likely pure fiction, wrapped in silk and masterfully marketed as "the next big thing". We have more frauds and con men selling wolf tickets and making money on those naive enough to buy their pseudo-knowledge than serious practitioners offering genuine instruction. Are we really foolish enough to think there were no such charlatans in centuries past and that every Grimoire was the true and faithful relation of a master of his craft?