I got about halfway through High Magic’s Aid again before hitting the “bad writing” wall, I think there’s distinctly a place in the book where Gardner must have hung it up and resumed writing at a later date. I ended up reading it halfway in almost one sitting because I was stuck in an airport. To that end the irony isn’t lost on me from the hecklers around “why didn’t you just ride your broomstick” or “why didn’t you teleport?” Maybe in the next life.
To that end, there’s a few things in the book which really stick out to me this go-round. For one, Gardner acknowledges the presence of freemasonry in the book. He also gets into the solomonic system and he’s clearly familiar with it more than in passing. He also continues what I observed earlier where objects and things take on their roles due to their placement. This becomes important later in the actual system.
The solomonic treatment is easy enough: When constructing the tools they’re made in a certain hour on a certain day. This is taken from the Lesser Key, and it’s pretty standard solomonic stuff. X tool constructed on Y day in Z hour lets you make A tool which is supposed to be constructed on B day in C hour and so on. And before long, you have a complete kit. Planetary influences are curiously enough not acknowledged in the book save for mentioning the ruler of the day and hour. To that end, we’re back to a system of magic which requires the use of one’s five senses and what they can perceive rather then throwing astrological charts. Gardner firmly believes that power comes from the individual, and in the preparation of the tools this is expressed. He acknowledges that making the tools is circular:
Instruments!” gasped the horrified Olaf. Jan gave an impatient half-gesture which bade him to be silent and not-interrupt.
“Without them there is much danger. Firstly I must make a circle with a properly consecrated sword.”
“How may one come by that?” asked Jan.
“It can be made, but the means are lacking, that is the trouble. To make the sword I need the burin, to make the burin I must have the
consecrated white-hilted knife, the witch’s athame. They in turn must be made by the burin.”
Jan drooped hopelessly on his seat, sitting
hunched with bent head. Thur looked compassionately at him. “‘Tis all in a circle, and I know not the way in.
So we learn two things: To properly perform this magic, you need to use the proper tools and they must be properly prepared, and no ordinary tool will do. We also see that power again might reside in things, but the exercising of that power lies in people. Therefor something like an almond wand cut at dawn and so on might have power unto itself, but that power is latent and not expressed until the wand is used properly. Later on in the book we see that our heros sit down and fashion some tools themselves using a set of properly prepared tools, which means that Gardner acknowledges the power inherent in things, and that power can be purposed even by people who don’t identify with a particular cult, but ultimately we’re left in a situation where people either have the mojo or they do not. Even at the very beginning when barbarous names are being used – they’re not merely spoken, but they’re spoken as “resounding as a gong”, which tells us that both the operator and the person perceiving the operation are equally beholden to raising power.
This is evidenced later in the book where a spell is cast with a harp. Morven has implicit power, but a harp isn’t something in the solomonic system. Because Morven has power unto herself, she can use that power. What is Morven’s power? She’s sexy. (Not kidding, read the book). She’s described as quite attractive and in this way can manipulate people. It would be easy to write that she just played people for their wealth like some sort of gold digger, but the fundamental unit of power in Morven is that she’s attractive. When the heros are trying to be discreet, they instruct their women to dress as boys. When Morven is playing the harp, she’s described as attractive. It’s safe to say that being attractive makes someone influential, and this shows up earlier in the story where the question about our heros traveling as husband and wife or uncle and niece comes up. Husband and wife implies a sexual component, whereas uncle and niece implies there is no sexual component. (They pick uncle and niece). This particular bawdy sexual power comes up when one of the soldiers requests a hymn, and she instead chooses her own music. This is to inspire sexual energy, and she then uses it to get the drunken soldiers to fight. The core component here is sexual polarity, something Crowley also went after in the OTO.
Is this the only power? Absolutely not. Gardner also gives a nod to the role of awe in magic. Here we see a friendly treatment of Freemasonry when our company comes upon a city:
From the heights of Hampstead they looked across the fertile valley to the splendours of the great cathedral, revealed sharply by the crystalline air of that clear day, its surface glistening here and there as the sun caught upon some facet in the newly-cut stone. They gazed at it in awe and wonder that man could devise and raise such an edifice, for in grandeur of conception and beauty of craftsmanship it had not its equal anywhere. There it stood, softened by distance and the peculiar English atmosphere to a pearly hue. It rose a mass of piled and carven stone. So solid … yet appearing airily poised as it soared into the intense blue of the sky, so that it indeed looked like the very throne of God himself.
“It is a marvel!” breathed Morven, breaking the silence into which they had fallen as they feasted their eyes. “It is the very symbol of God. Why cannot Mother Church be as holy and gracious in her deeds towards men as she manifests herself in that great temple?”
“‘Tis not Church!” jeered the elder Bonder with supreme scorn. “‘Tis themaster-mason and the men who build under him. ”
“Nay, there is more. ‘Tis the eyes with which we see, and the grandeur, of vision in the mind of the master ere ever he begins to build.”
Jan stared at this, uncomprehending, while Thur smiled in satisfaction and Morven nodded agreement.
I believe the wording choice is intentional and the emphasis is my own. There is a theme in the book where Christianity itself isn’t treated in particular contempt, but the Roman Church is bad at practicing magic. Somehow it’s lost it’s power. Now, the church cannot have sexual modes of power – lust isn’t something it could harness. I have deep seated political speculations that the church did rediscover this power and it manifested itself in some unhealthy ways but I would prefer to avoid the topic. That being said the notion of the Master Mason comes up and the word choice is quite interesting. Freemasonry itself sits upon ritual as it’s backbone, and ritualism in this form is devoid of sexual practice. Garnder, in so choosing to include a reference to Masonry in his book, also hat-tips us to the Masonic influences in Wicca of which there are many. To this end, his commentary on the inspiration in magic – the power of awe – is held here. A lot of my own personal Enochian experience is rooted in the notion of awe, I deeply respect Dee and I think the visions recorded are absolutely beautiful. I also appreciate the masonic temple in my own home town and it’s inspiring grandeur. Here, power comes from the ability to inspire. Not just sexual energy. The company laments that the mother church has squandered this. Surely, if the church used this, it would be accused of idolatry, and a lot of Protestant thought revolves around things like icons of saints and reliquaries being exactly that. However, I think Garnder would be generally accepting of both of these as reliquaries, especially ones properly prepared in the day and hour, would cover both the inherent nobility of the items power and the preparation requirements in the solomonic system. Gardner is – in my mind – extremely open minded when it comes to magic. Less important is the hows and whys, and more important is that the magic itself is respected.
Lets now talk about the depth of that respect. There’s a discussion in the book around the literal nature of magic and the figurative nature of magic. In the book, the discussion is around probably the most talked about charm in the solomonic books which is the one which makes the operator invisible.
Again you mock, but you should make some small spell for Jan’s especial safety … a spell of invisibility.”
“So?” said Thur, amused.
“‘Twill soon be the hour of Venus, and her day, Friday. Make the figure of wax and write the spell on the skin of a toad. Thus do we witches, ever bearing in mind that invisibility is not a lack of sight in all beholders, but lack of observation. Any but the blind may see, but he who carries the spell is not marked by all about him.”
“Your witchcraft, it seems, is very much a thing of the mind … the dominance of the witch’s mind over her surroundings. ”
“Truly. A thing of much accurate observation, and knowledge of what people do, and may do in certain events. The witch holds the mind of those she would influence. ‘Tis simple. An old woman with a load may come and go unnoticed, so long as her behaviour is that of an old woman with a load. ”
“So if she hurry, or stop to glance about her, she would be marked?”
“Yes, always one so disguised wears the charm of the talisman with such confidence that she knows none may note her. As she sees herself in her own mind, so do others see her. But if she trusts not in the powers she wears, and lets fear taint her mind, then does she impart fear to those about her They see her furtiveness, mark her,
remember her, question her, and take her.
Here we have the concepts above wrapped up into one unit: Objects have inherent power and must be prepared to enhance or unlock that power. The operator is the one who actually uses that power – but in Wicca this power is channeled into the operator. This makes quite a bit of sense since the operator would be preparing that power. There is an investment into the object and then a divestment of that power into the operator. Finally we have the power of emotion which is the real dynamo of living power, and the power is the dominance of the mind over the other factors.
Finally how do we know the system is solomonic at all? (Aside of Gardner writing the system into the book explicitly…)
I see,” said Jan, dejectedly. He had based all his hopes on Thur and now found him a broken reed. “But, Thur, is there no way at all? I fear
not to risk my life; must I, as the monks say, sell my soul?”
“That is but a priestly lie,” said Thur. “The God whom the magicians invoke is the same One that the monks pray to, but we are taught to pray differently, that is all, using the methods of King Solomon, of whom the Lord said, ‘I have given thee a wise and understanding heart so that before thee there was none like unto thee, nor, ever shall arise.’
Solomon performed many wonders and great deeds by the use of the knowledge that the Lord had given him,. but when old age came o’er
him’ he wrote to his son, ‘Treasure up, oh my son Roboam, the wisdom of my words, seeing that I, Solomon, did do and perform many
wonders, and I have written a certain Book wherein I have rehearsed the secret of secrets; and in which I have preserved that hidden. I
have concealed also all secrets whatsoever of magical arts of any masters, and I have written them in this key, so that like a key it openeth a treasure house … so this key alone may open the knowledge of the magical arts and sciences.
“‘Therefore, oh my son, let everything be properly prepared; as set down by me both day and hour, and all things necessary, for without
this there will be but falsehood and vanity in the work.
“‘I command thee, my son Roboam, to place this key beside me in the sepulchre.’
“And,” continued Thur, “it was so done, but in time came certain Babylonian philosophers, who dug out the sepulchre, and they. made
copies of the key, and with them worked many marvels.
And so there we have it. Not only do we have a confirmation that elements of the system are in fact solomonic but we also have the freemasonry connection once again that there was a lost word and the word was recovered, and the word may be learned once again.
Part 2 to follow next time I’m stuck in an airport.