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Taxonomizing Magick

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.magick.folk,alt.pagan.magick,alt.magick.order
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Taxonomizing Magick (was Re: WHAT ARE THE "SYSTEMS" OF MAGIC?)
Date: 21 Jul 1997 16:11:43 -0700

49970716 aa2 Hail Satan!

lotsa AOL people in this thread. (GoddesHera):
#> ..."systems" of magick.  What are these systems and what books are 
#> available that I might read and have a better understanding of them.  

since there is no central organizing hierarchy in charge of arranging the
knowledge base surrounding magick and the occult arts and sciences, the
thing has grown organically and is more complex than can be constrained
to a formulaic reproduction of a cookie-cutter system-model.  some like
Crowley have attempted to fabricate a universal symbol-system association
schema, but this is a working tool, not a thorough delving.  more below.

#> Please note that I am very much a novice so any books with terms 
#> that I have yet to know, might confuse me even more and make me 
#> drop the whole thing.

if you are a novice, please see the alt.magick FAQ, which will point out
to you that the question you have asked is a FAQ, more or less, and that 
you can find many responses (not the only ones obviously) to this type 
of question in the Archives:

it is not an error to ask FAQs, it just helps us all if you can become
familiar with the history of discussion behind some of the oft-asked Qs. (kingsword):
# Let's try for four catagories in Western practice:
# (1) Solomonic (Goetia, Alamadel, Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon. 
# dark mirror, crystal ball))
# (2) Abramelin. (The Holy Guardian Angel system)
# (3) Enochian (Dee and Kelley. Watchtower Tablets and Calls).
# (4) Bardonian (Franz Bardon. Visualization training).

these are all Hermetic categories.  that is, they fall into a SINGLE
categorical system of magick-working as I understand it, being of a
ceremonial, mystical and syncretic derivation.

# ...Richard Cavendish's *The Black Arts*. considered by many of us 
# to be the best practical primer on ceremonial magick yet written. 

it is?  I don't notice alot of practical material in it, and some of his
assertions are inaccurate or poorly substantiated.  in general I think
very fondly of Cavendish, but not really for practical details of history
or ceremonial.  taking into account that I am not a ceremonial mage by 
most standards, I understand that Kraig's _Modern Magick_ or even some 
of Regardie's texts are of superior quality.  how about F.King? (JasNBama):
# ...Every culture on earth has devised its own system of magick, usually 
# with multiple variations. In the west, especially in America, nearly 
# all of them are practised. 

that is the illusion which Americans like to promote.  I think that there
are few beyond the Hermetic which are seriously practiced with any
degree of prevalence, perhaps excepting religious magic like that of
Voudoun or Catholic folk.  the rest appears to be Neo-revisionism and
fashion without real substance.  I'm skeptical, show me more.

# ...the term "system", in relation to magick, can be taken in more 
# than one way. For instance: One such "system" is Ceremonial Magick.
# There are various branches of CM, such as The Golden Dawn system of
# magick, Thelema (Aleister Crowley's system), The magickal system of 
# the Aurum Solis, Chaos Magick( more of a metasystem really), and 
# quite a few others, including individual creations, new slants on 
# old systems, etc.

that is correct.  it is entirely the difficulty in regards 'rounding
up' the fiend of magick and the occult arts and sciences: there isn't
one language or linguistic set that is being used to describe it yet.
therefore what has to happen is that a 'reader's manual' (glossary)
must accompany the best texts with any depth unless there is little
concern about mistaking the intent (such as in grimoires).  this was
done by people like Crowley and Grant, for example.

#      Then there are the various subsystems: Enochian magick, talismantic
# magick, Evocation, etc., that are practised within the framework of the
# various systems mentioned above.

you're mixing up a lot of different categories here, perhaps intentionally.
Enochian is a self-contained system of ceremonial magick largely surrounding
the person, character and works of one Doctor John Dee.  talismanic magick
is a technical conglomerate including the mechanics and stylistic fabric
of making and using talismans to magical effect.  it appears to be favored
in ceremonial magick tradition.  evocation is a complex term utilized 
popularly to describe anything from invocation to evocation and trance-
possession.  literally, 'evocation' means a 'calling out', and this can 
apply to all manner of unorthodox process or event (e.g. calling spirits 
out of the aeythers, calling demons out of the Underworld or out of 
oneself, etc.).

#      And we haven't even gotten into a discussion of Wicca yet.; )

leave that for alt.religion.wicca, unless you plan to talk about the
magick, in which case also Xpost to alt.pagan.magick.  in any case,
Wiccan magick is a derivative of ceremonial magick and, to a lesser
extent, old ideas about witchcraft (largely reflections of anthropologists).

#      There are several good beginners books on these various systems, but
# I have yet to find anything on systems in general that I can unreservedly
# recommend. 

yes, you are looking for unbiased descriptions of the varieties of magical
practice and thought.  few have experience in such a broad reach as to be
able to provide reliable descriptions of this sort, though you can get some
idea of the diversity and depth in this thread and at HEAVEN.

# "The complete book of spells, ceremonies and magick" by Migene
# Gonzalez-Wippler( Whose name I have probably misspelled) isn't too bad,
# though it is too superficial.It is filled with errors, for instance the
# section on Crowley is Completely worthless. It is also very much dated,
# and doesn't come close to living up to it's title(Which would have taken
# several volumes and decades of research to boot). Donald Tyson's "Ritual
# Magick" is worth a look, but again it isn't too deep and his works are
# sometimes marred by his rather prudish attitude.

there are some others who do overviews, like WBCrow, CWilson, PEIBonewits,
and KSeligmann.  most if not all are incomplete.  even Frazer's 'Golden
Bough' and Levi's _History of Magic_ are worth looking into with lots of
critical scrutiny (the latter is particularly unreliable in spots).

#     If you would like, feel free to e-mail me and maybe I can put together
# a bibliography to help you wade through all of this, and try to help with
# your questions in greater detail. This would be more efficient than trying
# to wade through all the bloody spam. On a final note, the web is
# overflowing with articles and research on all kinds of magick.

don't start from scratch.  there are *3* bibliographies in the REF files
attached to the alt.magick FAQ!  learn from the past!  use the work of
those before you!! (Trevor Garrick):
# There are many different systems of magic.  There is magic dealing with tarot 
# (divination) - all forms that I have encountered involved some form of 
# divination.  There are the rune (which I practice).  

divination is best described as a type of activity around which a cluster
of tools have congregated depending on cultural and epistemological
preference.  many of the tools are also integrated into other magical
and/or knowledge-based systems because of historical derivation or 
intentionally constructed to imply a depth of wisdom.  it is a discipline
of the occult arts and sciences but isn't really central to magic in most
senses of the term.

# There is the Christian Mythos - what I call pentagrams and the sort.  

this is convoluted.  all religions have mythos and the Christian religious
complex has a diversity surrounding its god(s).  pentagrams do not feature
centrally in the Christian tradition though there are instances.

# There is Druidic (and other nature ones).  

from what I can tell this is Neopagan of character, and so any magick
they are doing probably resembles quite a bit that derives from Gardner
and the ceremonial magick from what it drew.  I doubt that the masonic
druids are attempting 'magic'.

in general the Neopagan culture seems to derive its magical styles from 
European and Middle-Eastern varieties of spirit evocation (Hermetic), 
and African diaspora spirit possession.  a few have become more interested
in spellcraft and potions, but these are mostly witches and not always of
the Orderly (masonic) sort.

# Too many to list.  

your list is sporadic.  first explain the methodology, then the inclusions
and their qualities.  to go about any real categorization of the systems
of magick one need designate one's biases and the knowledge-lattice upon
which one is placing the entirety.  otherwise it can't be taken seriously
except as a kind of groping in the dark.

# ...the most important thing to remember is that it is all magic.

this is the least important thing to remember and it is usually false.

# Books on each.

[omitted as ill-informed] (Tom Schuler):
# A "system" of magick is a set of interrelated symbols and concepts that are 
# used to produce magical effects.  

here we have the first real statement in the thread: definition of the terms 
of the discussion ('magick', 'systems' being the operative).

# There are many different systems of magick and there will undoubtedly be 
# many more.  Some magical systems are based on a particular mythology, 
# others on folk ways, and yet others on various real and fictitious 
# grimoires.

# There are literally hundreds of books on the various ways magick (or what 
# passes for magick) is practiced.  A brief browse of your local bookstore will 
# probably produce quite a number of them.  Which ones you will find attractive 
# and effective, if any, is going to be a matter of personal preference.

ah, but is there any way to logistically taxonomize magical systems by their
character?  I think there is, and it strikes me as a lacking in the magical
community that we have not yet achieved such anthropological self-distance.

# ...The ability to tolerate ambiguity and confusion, and 
# to persist despite it, is one of the hallmarks of a magician.

wonderfully true.

restating (kingsword):
#> Let's try for four catagories in Western practice:
#> (1) Solomonic (Goetia, Alamadel, Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon. 
#> dark mirror, crystal ball))
#> (2) Abramelin. (The Holy Guardian Angel system)
#> (3) Enochian (Dee and Kelley. Watchtower Tablets and Calls).
#> (4) Bardonian (Franz Bardon. Visualization training). (Tom Schuler):
# These are good labels for different sorts of ceremonial magick, but it
# neglects folkways entirely.   It also excludes chaos magick, sigil
# magick, and a host of other new forms. 

'chaos magick' is not a form in itself, but an approach to magical practice.
'sigil magick' is, like 'divination' a set of practices surrounding the
notion of 'sigils' and to what use they may be put.  I agree that 'folk
magic' is often overlooked by ceremonialist sorts, as is 'shamanic magic'
which may be the same or overlapping.

#> This catagorizing avoids "Golden Dawn vs. O.T.O" because there is
#> too much overlap in that breakdown. 
# Crowley's magical operations definitely arose from the sources you
# mention, yet his philosophy and approach are significantly different
# from that of the Golden Dawn's more "faithful" adherents of the
# present.  The quality of results one gets from ceremonies designed by
# Crowley is distinct enough to merit its being considered a different
# system.

not only this, Crowley was attempting to create a mystical system using
magical means, integrating them for purpose and, within such works as
_Book Four_, attempting to describe all of the magical field in very
expansive yet 'scientific' style.  I think he did a remarkable job, and
have attempted to capitalize on his success myself with _Liber Scire_: (G Leake) responds to KingSword (Poke):
# ...these are certainly ones Poke engages in, but lets start with the 
# ones that are older and more common ok? This person's asking for 
# basic info, so...
# like astrology--divining with the stars (many different forms)

astrology is mainly a divination system, not a system of magic per se.

# alchemy--divinining with things ultimately at the atomic level, and
# ultimately working with vibrations

alchemy appears to be an occult science designed to enhance human
experience and power.  it is thus a specific type of magical enterprize,
both generic (in that it formulates its process) and specific (in that
it renders specific its practical details).  however, there are many
different styles (systems?) of alchemy, so this should perhaps be seen
as a *larger* thematic category than may be contained within any one
magical system.

# incantations--use of directed speech

this is a particular element of a variety of magical and mystical
disciplines (e.g. mantrayoga).  it is not a system of its own.

# necromancy--working with the dead

appears to be a generalization of condemnation-schema regarding certain
types of magick and arcanity which overexcited the repressive Judeo-
christian mentality (also 'sorcery').  in any case the root of the word
indicates its divinatory orientation, even while some magical practices
are associated with it directly.

# ...A really good basic easy to find book is Francis King's Magic: The 
# Western Tradition, by Thames and Hudson. Start there.

lovely suggestion.

in general and in sum:

	the classification of 'magical systems' will best be accomplished
	by those who are honest about their experience and knowledge with
	respect to the traditions they integrate into their models.  a
	sufficient degree of definition of terms is necessary for any
	start-point of discussion as no central Hierophant has regulated
	the discourse.  

	beyond this, the successful taxonomist will describe in detail the
	standards on which such a classification is based and, with each
	entry, sufficient detail so as to discern rationale in designation.

	this desire to 'class' magick follows on scientific lines in the
	same manner that moralistic inquiry motivates us to 'color' it.  
	both attempts are cookie-cutter retro-fits, depending on coherence 
	of expression and consonance of the structure which is being compared.

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