Magical History

Very early on in her book on medieval Kabbalism, Marla Segol raises her concerns regarding ‘popular Kabbalism’ in a footnote (the first, in fact). She addresses two prominent and popular figures in specific, the Bergs who run the Kabbalah Centre and Aryeh Kaplan. Her concerns are the concerns of a historian, but they raise an important question for spiritual-magical practitioners who are trying to remain historically informed.

More pointedly, it raises an important question for this practitioner, whose work has crisscrossed both the work of the Kabbalah Centre and of Aryeh Kaplan (much more the latter than the former, but I won’t deny either influence). I don’t take that influence to amount to an uncritical endorsement of either, but the way in which Segol attempts to exclude both from the outset troubles me.

At what points do historical and magical study converge and at what points do they diverge? How do we make use of historical information to inform our personal and communal practices?

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[NB] Reading around in the Key of Mater, Wolf, and Lucifer

I don’t want to leave this place quiet too long, so how about a smattering of what I have been reading and thinking about ?

In what follows, I am going to engage in numerous comparisons that crisscross well-defined cultural and geographic milieus. I want to talk a little about that before we get going, because the comparative modality can both nourish and starve our spiritual wellsprings. In order to nourish our wellsprings, we need to preserve their singularity, their distinctive character in place and time. Think of the network of comparisons like a net of lights lifted up over the spiritual work in which we are engaged. That net of lights isn’t intended to catch hold of anything. If you take away the net, the mysteries they illumine are still there, invisible in the dark.

Don’t get caught up in these comparisons in order to put a name on something. As soon as the comparisons become a tool for pinning down a commonality between spiritual manifestations, we’re starting to head down a dangerous road that will have us worshiping the words on our tongues and the images in our minds rather than the mystery that stimulates both. If you don’t have a spiritual presence with which you are contemplating these comparisons, well, I guess this will at most be a list of historical curiosities.

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[NB] John Brown’s Body

A report of Harriet Tubman’s dream:

“She thought she was in a ‘wilderness sort of place, all full of rocks and bushes,’ when she saw a serpent raise its head among the rocks, and as it did so, it became the head of an old man with a long white beard, gazing at her ‘wishful like, just as if he were going to speak to me,’ and then two other heads rose up beside him, younger than he,—and as she stood looking at them, and wondering what they could want with her, a crowd of great men rushed in and struck down the younger heads, and then the head of the old man, still looking at her so ‘wishful.'”

After meeting John Brown in 1958, Tubman knew the dream to be of him, though she appreciated its import only after the failed raid on Harpers Ferry.

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[NB] Grimoires and Kabbalism

The work with the seal strengthens my conviction that the references to ‘Cabala’ in some of the grimoires isn’t just for show, it isn’t just a word that magicians were dropping in their texts because it sounded mysterious. It seems reasonable to consider that one of the channels opened by the Kabbalistic work (and if not precisely the Kabbalistic strain, then one of its relatives) constitutes for itself the grimoiric world.

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Lords of the Market

[A Story? Perhaps.]

So, okay, the triplicate order post describes a lynchpin of my personal work. If that sounds odd, well here things are going to get even more odd. The work with these spirits qua spirits began amorphously with a series of signs and rites, but has proceeded with increasing clarity to outline a network of potencies that seem entangled with my personal fate and destiny. As the work has unfolded, I can trace hints of it backward, through my early dabbling with magic and into my childhood. I can see it strange fictions I wrote, though inchoately and in odd formations.

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