That’s a really interesting criticism, I thought. That’s an honest sentiment from when I started Enochian, too. “Look at these beautiful tables and strange symbols!” After we got the demons out of the neighborhood at great personal cost, I decided I better hit the books. For me, the approach to ceremonial magic was “lets start at the top” and then after a quick fall and a hard stop at the bottom, I decided I better learn everything else first.
But, there was a second ramp I didn’t quite realize was there until much later – by tracking down Dee’s books and material, and trying to follow around Crowley, there was a ridiculously broad exposure to classical literature. This was stuff I maybe, might have read under great derision in high-school, but certainly never with a critical eye. Sure I remember the stories of the Greek myths and such but somewhere, instead of presenting the stories as morality plays and as science projects, they simply became stories. Who knew Plato’s Republic was really commentary on the soul of man? If you’re asatru, you might end up at the Republic through Tacitus who wrote about runes. The path is not unique to ceremonial magic per se, but the classical era I think has the broadest exposure. Even if someone doesn’t read Roman or Greek works, the Medieval period right before and through Protestantism in Christianity enjoyed a revival of interest.
I don’t normally put videos on the blog, but History Channel’s Vikings has just been fantastic. It follows the Ragnar Lodbrok story and while chasing that story line, it puts a historically accurate face on the history. The [Roman] texts are saved because (what would become) Protestant Europe is interested in conquest, so they’re interested in the old Roman empire, and the only folks who can read are the religious classes. Of course, they translate materials from the time of Christ looking for commentary on their religion and end up enriching the entirety of Western Civilization in the process. This is entirely relevant to the current age – the previous age married religion (or mystical thought) and science. The current age is all for the separation of church and state. The schism was Protestantism which sought to remove the dogma from the religion and in the process threw the baby out with the baptismal water because politics crept in, but at the same time produced thinkers like Giordano Bruno who might never have put quill to vellum were it not for the cultural and intellectual mix of the period.
To actually get here, however, we have to start in the beginning. I think that the last class generated the “You’re starting in the middle” comment because I really start looking at magic around 1000AD or so and come forward. The assumption (and this is the same pitfall Crowley makes) is that the readers are at least as well read as I am. This is poor form, but more importantly misses a very important problem: If I can’t answer a question on the origin of an idea, how can I teach it? Did I not just accept something on faith? And so the bones were laid for the next class – starting with Aristotle, talk about classical ideas of elements and alchemy, link that up with contemporary Qabalah so people have something to relate it to, go back and talk about Pythagoras and his ideas on numbers, then investigate the first six scales.