I talked a little about the ceremonial-hermetic and spiritist circuits in the last post, but made an obvious ommission, the gnostic circuit. This circuit cuts straight through the heart of the coil and provides the backbone for pretty much all initiatory practices. Folks familiar with the Kabbalah will recognize this as the middle pillar, the straight road that joins Keter, Daath, Tifaret, Yesod, and Malkuth. No matter the initiatory circuits favored, the gnostic one will necessarily come into play. Activated, it will activate the entire coil in sympathy. This sympathetic activation is part of what leads to the confusion of circuits. A spiritualist who work activates Hod will have magician-like experiences but without having the tools to manipulate them properly, and vice versa.
If Keter and Malkuth aren’t two different things but two different modes of approaching creation, we should be able to short-circuit the tendency to freight the distinction between ‘upper’ and lower parts of the tree with strong moral connotations. In the coil model, they just describe two different modes of proximity to the world. The different circuits favor one side or the other, but if they engage the primary gnostic circuit will be tapping into both even as they favor one aspect of the equation. The tendency of hermetic magic to disparage the techniques of spiritualism as lacking technique derives, to a great extent, over their inability to appreciate this distinction and so not recognize technique because it is so alien to their own.
Crowley, in Magick without Tears, captures the sentiment well enough:
As for those mediums who possess magical ability, they almost always come from the most ignorant classes—Celts are an exception to this rule—and have no knowledge whatever of the technique of the business. Worse, they are usually of the type that delights in the secret dirty affinities, and so naturally and gladly attract entities of the Qliphothic world to their magical circle. Hence tricksters, of the lowest elemental orders, at the best, come and vitalize odds and ends of the Ruach of people recently deceased, and perform astonishing impersonations. The hollow shells glow with infernal fire. Also, of course, they soak up vitality from the sitters, and from the medium herself.
The virulent elitism is a topic for another time, but from a spiritualist perspective the description is grossly distorted. While there are entities that are toxic (and there are techniques for dealing with them), the spiritualist work is more properly symbiotic. It does seem to reach its heights among those Crowley would have placed in the ‘ignorant classes,’ but it is most definitely not ignorant. Along the spiritualist circuit you find the primacy of Chockmah and Binah which favors the interpenetration of entities as they tend toward the unity of God as well as they become vessels for spirits. Daath also plays a prominent role. In it you find all manner of forms through which the spirits are able to manifest and this produces the peculiar combination of specificity and generality characteristic of a spiritualist’s court, of gypsies, indians, cowboys, priests, and witches. They are a feature of the practice, not a bug.
In presuming that hermetic technique can suitably describe all magical practices, magicians like Crowley not only do a disservice to other forms of work, but they also put themselves at risk when trying to incorporate practices from those techniques on their own terms, at a level inappropriate to them.