I promised you a second post this month and here it is.

I’ve written about initiations before. Initiation isn’t just some ceremony that brings you into a group or onto a certain path. Sometimes initiation is a trial by fire. The spirits flip your world upside down to see if you sink or swim, and if you’ve learned anything yet. Sometimes initiation is learning something new and having a revelation that changes your whole world view. Initiation is an interesting thing. It may not happen all at once, and some of the most profound initiations any magician will go through will be gone through alone, within ourselves and in our own minds. We all come to our initiations in our own way in our own time.

Initiation can be welcoming and bring a sense of belonging, or it can put you in a position where you need some time to digest it, or you have to act quickly or perish. It’s not always kind and gentle, nor does it always happen in candlelit rooms with heady incense wafting through the air. You do the work – you are initiated and reap the rewards (or burdens as the case may be) of that initiation.

One of my favorite examples of this is in the movie The Ninth Gate. Balkan may have had all the money to hire others to do the work for him, but it was Corso who was ultimately initiated and allowed to reap the fruits of his labor because he did all the work. You may think you can reap what others have sown, but it’s usually a hollow victory and will only bring frustration and confusion as to why you didn’t reap the same rewards as someone who actually took the journey and did the legwork.

Balkan didn’t understand why the ritual didn’t work for him, and why he ultimately ended being consumed by the flames of his obsession for which he wasn’t willing to get his hands dirty. Corso, on the other hand, after having done all the work – unknowingly even – was the one who had the revelation and benefitted in the end.

So, why am I again writing about initiation? Because in working on Alchemy of Goetia – I went through a profound initiation. I knew what I was going to find (I knew it back in 2010), but I didn’t realize just how relavetory and changing what I found would be, or how my perception would be forever different. It’s one thing to have a suspicion or a hypothesis, but quite another to actually jump into the trenches and do the work, making the fruits of that labor so much sweeter – even if those rewards come with shock and a loss of carefully cultivated illusion (or delusion).

Yes, there is a psychological element to Goetia, but instead of the spirits being parts of the psyche, I think we’re actually looking more at the processes of the psyche for doing the inner work. I still believe that not everyone has to kick their own ass to get that process started. I also hold to my position that the names of God, which are far older than Christianity, and the ritual setup, were used to protect the spiritual alchemists from harming themselves while doing the shadow-work (i.e. self-work), and all the commanding was likely to give the magician courage before embarking on each process of the great work. It also had the side effect of burying the true nature of the manuscript under the guise of the popular religion at the time to avoid attracting the ire of the church. It was also clear that yes, the Ars Goetia does likely have Arabic alchemy origins. This is probably not a myth since there was a rich Arabic alchemical tradition the predates the Western alchemical tradition.

In the Ars Goetia there is an inherent and profound respect for the processes within the text – because in laboratory alchemy – some of these processes and the materials used were dangerous and the alchemist who didn’t heed the warnings could end up dead. Many of the warning statements I found mostly stated: yes – be courageous and embark on the great work, but also – respect the power of the alchemical processes, or if you’re doing alchemy in the real world, respect the raw matter and chemicals you’re working with, or you can end up harming yourself and possibly others spiritually (or physically if you were actually doing laboratory alchemy). Which is why I still believe in respecting the divine intelligences (Daemons) we work with – even if it’s the Daemonic within. The inclusion of commanding and controlling the spirits of the Ars Goetia is more about self-control and exercising personal safety than it is about controlling the process itself. The process simply is what it is. A chemical reaction is what it is. The Daemonic is what it is. It’s how we react to the process and its inevitable reactions, and what we learn from it that matters.

So, in a lot of ways, the actual alchemy of the Ars Goetia has reinforced my views and my personal practice. In other ways – I am forever changed by this journey I’ve embarked on. I’ve been initiated into something that, for me, was rather profound. I admitted to a friend after the book went into editing that I had never really “connected” with the seals of the Ars Goetia or Solomonic magick generally. The actual spirits associated with the processes – sure. They are their own thing. But the seals just never resonated. Now I know why. Because you have to understand the language in the emblems and spirit descriptions of the Ars Goetia (and all Solomonic magick for that matter) in order to really understand what you’re looking at. Once you’re initiated – once you see it you can’t unsee it, and the Ars Goetia (and all of the Lemegeton actually) loses its grand mystery of “Christian” magick, and becomes more practical, more gnostic, and in some instances, delightfully clever. I have a new respect for the early alchemists now, and their sense of humor (because it’s not humorless at all) and a new respect for Solomonic magick overall.

While this particular initiation was a bit of a shock to my system at first (my poor friends Ken, Amanda, and Shae were probably bewildered by all my “Holy shit – you’re not going to believe this!” messages), I am glad I saw the patterns (one of the strange benefits of my neurodivergence) and decided to finally take the time it took to explore what was only a hunch I’d had for more than a decade.

You can get copies of Alchemy of Goetia from the following links. I hope you enjoy journeying with me down this rabbit hole, and I wish you your own life-changing initiations and new perspectives no matter what they are.

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