Friday, February 3, 2012

Reply to Rufus Opus

I have for some while been an admirer of Rufus Opus and his diligent efforts to make renaissance spirit-arte in an esoteric Christian model effective for a modern person. Those interested in a story of a modern occultist's work, challenges and changes while dealing with demons and angels should read the back posts on his blog in detail. So I was pleased to see him write about the Court of Brigid work, though a little less pleased at his concerns. Read the comments on his post to see the discussion between us. One of the excellent things about RO is that despite strong opinions he is usually willing to discuss ideas reasonably.

Here's a more specific reply to some of his concerns. It's somewhat snipped so do read the original in its entirety at the above link. RO in italic:

I've been following Ian Corrigan's development of his "Court of Brigid" rites with a great deal of interest. He describes it as an "effort to develop a ritual spirit arte that applies the general principles of Euro-Grimoiric methods using the Druidic Order of Ritual and inside a pre-Neoplatonic, Indo-European mythic cosmos."

But personally, I find the whole thing fundamentally distasteful. In the '80s and '90s, it was really popular to make up your own flavor of Wicca… Ian's up to the same old mischief, only he's gotten rid of the GD stuff and went back further to the approaches of the grimoires.

Just to be clear, my study of Grimoire materials is mainly to get a sense of the outline and structure of the work. I have examined the early modern grimoires and the PGM as well as ATR and other non-monotheistic spirit systems. But mainly, the rites I’ve been working are structured in the Druidic ritual forms developed over the last 25 years as an effort to structure Pagan ritual that doesn’t depend on Gardner, Crowley, Agrippa or even the Neoplatonists. That form is based on Euro-Pagan sacrificial ritual, archeology of ancient religions and on comparative work with Indic and other surviving systems. While that ritual form is brand-new in historical terms it does have two decades of experimental application in several dozen ritual groups. That said, these occult adaptations are my own, and my own fault.

I see a neopaganized version of the kinds of things I've been blogging about for the last six years, and I feel a bit used, and uncompensated. (That may be code for jealous, but I'm not entirely sure.)

Well, I’ll freely admit that the modern fashion for applying grimoire magic practically (and RO’s work is high on that list) is what has led me to attempt to do so for myself. The fact is I’ve loved grimoire-style magic all my life, having participated in fairly orthodox Solomonic evocation back in college (‘fairly’ orthodox – we still called on Pagan gods as the primary authorities back in 1976). But if anyone should feel ‘used’ about all this it’s Jake Stratton-Kent, whose ideas about restoring the grimoires to a polytheistic, animist worldview were the real match to the fuse of my efforts. I should especially thank RO for some really practical things, like permission to print out a table of practice. I print it out in light grey, and go over it in a proper pen...

I don't know if my issues with the approach are based on anything valid or not though. We all adapt stuff to suit our needs and desires…
We're all creating new systems based on the old ones, to varying degrees, but never exactly as performed at any stage in history. We make adjustments, include pieces of different approaches according to our own personal intuition and input from our glorified spirit guides about what needs to go where. …
Hell, I don't think any two magicians have ever performed the exact same rite, honestly. There's always variance.
But there's something about neopagan adaptations that rubs me the wrong way, in the same way that the worst kinds of Chaos Magic rubs me the wrong way. It just has an air of fraudulence,... The Court of Brigid? Really? What Bardic epic points to Brigid ever having a court of spirit assistants that were ever conjured and worked with the way a grimoire magician works with the rank and file of angels and demons?

This isn’t the place to give a lesson in Gaelic myth. Those of us who are called to those Gods do have serious scholastic issues in determining their nature and desires. Hell, even Hellenic reconstructionists with all their resources must in the end fall back on direct invocation and personal revelation, and adapt their work to modern conditions. Those working in a Celtic mythic structure have still less to go on. However, my years and years of devotion to the Gods will not be set aside to satisfy even my own scholastic pique over lack of certainty.

Wasn't she a Warrior Queen or something? Boudica, the Celtic Warrior Princess? Trapped in a tower by an evil Fairy who used her hair for magical purposes, but it could never be cut with iron shears, and then one day she let an errant prince into her tower with her hair, and he raped her while she slept, and the twin babies were lost in a forest when the ravens ate their trail of breadcrumbs or something?

Dude… If you don’t know a single thing about something, just say so.

I'm not real sure what she did, but I'm pretty sure she never had a Court of Servant Spirits, or responded to any conjurations.

Here’s how that goes:
1: Gaelic culture was an Indo-European (IE) culture, closely related to the surrounding cultures, including Latin, Greek and Germanic. Interestingly, Latin is the closest IE language to Celtic languages.
2: In IE cultures we find the Gods as the ruling family of a clan of beings – their offspring, and secondary family members, as well as those who maintain their work. We see this especially in the Greek notion of the daemons – servitor spirits of the Gods who carry our sacrifices to them, and their blessings to us. To judge from world spiritist tradition, from Neoplatonism to ATR to Tantra to Quimbanda, this is how the divine works – it manifests in numerous beings who do the direct work of the Gods in the world. My understanding is that if an educated Hellene had a visitation of Hermes (say) they would understand it to have been a daemon, perhaps wearing the hat and sandals for authority, who conveyed the word and will of the God to the mortal.
3: I applied this model to Gaelic lore based on the notion that next-door cultures with similar heritages don’t generally have totally contrasting cosmologies and worldviews.
4: In the actual lore of the Gaels (and remember, we have zero ‘Celtic mythology’ written down by Celtic Pagans) we find the Gods considered as part of the category called the ‘sidhe’. That category is too complex to discuss in detail here, but it includes the idea of hosts of minor beings who attend and serve the Greater beings (the Gods). While we have no clear depiction of the ideas of pre-Christian Gaelic religion it is entirely reasonable to envision the Gods as Nobles who rule through their various servitors.
The biggest leap involved was equating the daemons with the Gaelic ‘Aes Sidhe’ (people of the mound/seat-of-the-gods). Considering how often Otherworldly beings arrive in mortal places in the tales we must assume that there are non-deific (sub deific…) spirits who interact with mortals. It’s a short hop to seeing them working for their Kings and Queens.
5: Did the Druids ‘conjure’ them? That can’t be told with certainty. Do magicians all over Europe ask the Gods ( or God) to ‘send their spirits’ to do a task? Do shamans go to their greater Gods and ask to be given lesser spirits to aid them? Yes, and there’s no reason to exclude Celtic magicians from that model.
So while I can’t show that Gaelic mages conjured servants of their gods, it seems entirely reasonable to think they did, and to think that I could. That left me to consider how to do it. Being more of a high-church than a folk-magic sort of guy, I gravitated to formal rites of offering and calling, and looked at the grimoires as a model that had persisted from polytheistic times into modern usage. Being what I call a ‘liberal’ reconstructionist, I don’t have to have something be proven to have been used in ancient days in order to put it to use. “Likely’ or even ‘possible’ can be enough if it is something that pushes my buttons, especially if it reflects a usage in some other working tradition.

Incidentally, while I have used the term pre-Neoplatonic, I must admit that the notions of spirit hierarchy in late classical Neoplatonism were an inescapable influence. I haven’t imitated them directly, but their sense of levels of authority is certainly present in my approach in that working.

If he managed a visible manifestation that changed his world entirely, and demonstrated the 16 or so sub-spirits of the system were at least as potent as the saints of the Catholic tradition in meeting the needs of the incarnate, it would go a long way towards convincing me that he's onto something real, something big, and something effective.

Me too. We shall see. This is straight -up experimental magic. The spirits that answered our call (who I don’t see as the only ones of Her court, and not necessarily the most important) are mostly about art, inspiration and healing. The few who agreed to respond to my direct call in the last phase of the work are certainly in that category – more poets than smiths. Do watch el bloggo for occasional reports as I attempt to employ them.
I think spirits usually become powerful through being called and offered to. Getting these beings closely attached to the mortal world and producing direct results may take a while. Also, I’m not working in the ancient world or modern Brazil, and very little spiritist background culture exists to help multiply their appearances. So we’ll see what results we get in what way and at what speed. I know that others who worked the initial rite have already reported insights and, well, life changes as a result of their contact with the spirits.

But ultimately, he doesn't have to prove anything to me. He has to prove its effectiveness and applicability to no one but himself. Regardless, I'm watching what happens because I want to delve into some of the stuff Jake talks about in Geosophia, and I want to do it using the Modern Angelic Grimoire techniques, talk to the Heroes and Sibyls in a Crystal like God intended.

See, when we talk about conjuring Pagan objects of devotion into a containment field using renaissance God names, I get a wave of “Hey wait” that makes me think I know where your original objections came from. Pot, meet kettle…
May we all grow wise in the work.


Rufus Opus said...

I get a wave of “Hey wait” that makes me think I know where your original objections came from. Pot, meet kettle...

Yes, exactly. I'm watching what you're doing because I want to do the same thing, and I'm using your work to work out my own concerns about me doing it.

And I am jealous of your ability within the Druidic context to freely make shit up as you go along and not get taken to task by your peers for it. You're not held to the same level of historical accuracy that grimoire magicians and Christians in general can be when people are being dicks.

IanC said...

Ha! I simply ignore the conservative reconstructionists, and, for the most part, they ignore me.

Any road, it's a fair trade - I get plenty of freedom to experiment and no reliable historical guidance. Wish I had your problems...

Rufus Opus said...

LOL, the grass is always greener...

Jason Miller, said...

"And I am jealous of your ability within the Druidic context to freely make shit up as you go along and not get taken to task by your peers for it."

MAN! You have clearly never been in a room full of rabid pagan re-constructionists. They can make Lisiewski look liberal.

Christopher DeGraffenreid said... gonna get spanked by your Christian Neo-Platonist peers if you successfully build something that hasn't been built before? Afraid of losing your Western Trad cred?

I don't get it. You know the material you are working with. You successfully use the material you are working with. So why not do something that hasn't been done before? You need to be authentic to your path before anything else. If your path is calling you in a new direction who is to tell you no but you?