In recent weeks I have been in the final stages of publishing my fifth book, The Sword & The Serpent and my focus has necessarily shifted from the work of writing the book to that of publicizing it. This has entailed trying to explain the contents of the book to my prospective readers (all of you) and so, after years of considering the details of The Sword & The Serpent I have had to turn to considering the book as a whole.
In the simplest terms it is a book of magick but not the sort of magick that would be familiar to most people as one of the dark occult arts. Mention magick to most people and it conjures up images of darkened rooms lit by tallow dips filled with clouds of noxious incense smoke where eccentric occultists mutter obscure conjurations in forgotten barbarous tongues as they call the spirits listed in some medieval grimior to their service. The Sword & The Serpent does have a certain element of this aspect of ceremonial magick but it describes a kind of magick that seeks to reveal the secrets of our spiritual nature which makes it more of a work of mysticism rather than straight magick.
In the past year I have been lucky enough to have made the acquaintance of many magickal people around the world and most especially here in my hometown of Melbourne. With very few exceptions almost all of these occultists are witches rather than magicians and, while our differing forms of magick have common origins there has been such a wide divergence between the two main branches of modern magick that for the most part my style of magick has been almost totally unfamiliar to them. Thelema is even more obscure and misunderstood amongst my new witchy friends even though modern witchcraft and Crowley’s New Age creed have a great deal in common.
This has all caused me to think deeply about the similarities and the differences between the most common practices of ceremonial magick and the style of magick that is practiced by most of these witches. Even though there are several points of commonality, like the use of the elements and their corresponding magick weapons as well as the application of pentagrams and so forth, the main difference that I have been able to discern is the objectives of the different disciplines.
Aside from the ritual practice that is associated with the celebration of the Sabbats and full moons that are central to the religious aspect of witchcraft and which are almost totally lacking in ceremonial magick the objectives of the practical magicks that are operated by the two disciplines is usually very different. Most practical witchcraft seems to have some material objective such as healing, finding love or wealth or some other equally earthly outcome. While there is this aspect to ceremonial magick it is a very minor part of the practice which is generally focused on more spiritual objectives. Whilst witchcraft is religious Hermetic magick is Theurgic.
theurgy– [ad. L. theūrgia, a. Gr. θεουργία sorcery, f. θεός god + -εργος working.]
1.1 A system of magic, originally practised by the Egyptian Platonists, to procure communication with beneficent spirits, and by their aid produce miraculous effects; in later times distinguished as ‘white magic’ from goety or ‘black magic’.
2.2 The operation of a divine or supernatural agency in human affairs; the effects produced among men by direct divine or spiritual action.- O.E.D.
In its original modern form ceremonial magick was a very catholic practice but as the qaballistic system of magick evolved and western spirituality developed along more mystical lines it became less orthodox and more orthopraxic. This led to the spiritual development of the individual becoming the central focus of the path of initiation through the various schools of ceremonial magick like the Golden Dawn, Crowley’s Argentium Astrum and the Ordo Templi Orientis. Especially in the AA system of magick that was developed by Crowley, Theurgic methods became the focus of the Great Work as is evidenced in his masterful opus The Vision and the Voice as well as his divinely inspired Holy Books like Liber LXV.
This development changed the basic nature of ceremonial magick so that it became a working tool for plumbing the darkest depths of the Self. There remained a certain element of practical magick like talismanic magick, evocation and other, often traditional operations of magick drawn from the medieval grimiors that had originally inspired the Victorian occultists to systemize occult studies in the first place but the emphasis of modern magickal schools shifted away from these simple sorts of sorcery to more Theurgic objectives.
It is this Theurgic ceremonial magick that was the inspiration behind my latest book, The Sword & The Serpent. In 1996 I used a simple Hermetic technique to explore the Paths of Sepher Yetzirah, the qaballistic principals of the Hebrew letters as they are expressed in the Tree of Life, and the resultant experiences formed the story of my progress through the compendium of Hermetic symbols that are used in ceremonial magick generally. These take the form of the visions of the Paths of the Serpent, experienced by astrally projecting into each of the paths using the Tarot Trumps as a doorway and then passing through the plane that I arrived on and interacting with the entities that I encountered there. This sort of magick is referred to by most ceremonial magicians as being ‘white magick’ simply because it is totally focused on the Great Work of the magician.
The evolution of modern ceremonial magick from a medieval practice of conjuring demons to point the way to treasures into a discipline for connecting with the highest Self and its main focus is now on more conceptual works like the Invocation of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. This sort of magick has a history of producing interesting, challenging and enlightening results like the work of Jack Parsons and other magicians that follow the A.A. system of magick. It also seems likely to be the source of most of the new development in what is a largely orthopraxic discipline.
The Sword & The Serpent is available now from:
for $19.99 and as an e-book from:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/242061 for $2.99