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Historical Research vs. Modern Explorations

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  • Scott Rassbach
    Hi All, The thread about Whisperings from the Void got me thinking about something: How do we move the technology of spirit summoning forward? All technology
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 18, 2013
      Hi All,

      The thread about 'Whisperings from the Void' got me thinking about
      something:

      How do we move the technology of spirit summoning forward?

      All technology changes as time goes on. Medicine moves from herbs to
      isolated compounds and surgery to nanotech targeted drug delivery systems.
      Engineering moves from Stonemasonry to architecture to 3d printing a house.
      How are we to move forward spirit summoning?

      I am firmly on the side of historical research, but one of the problems
      with historical accounts is Survivorship bias. We have the successes of
      magicians in their grimoires, but not their failures. And analyzing
      failures are the ways in which technology improves. One way to get those
      failure to analyze is modern experimentation.

      So (and I address this primarily to Jake, but welcome other input) what is
      the place of modern innovations and experiments in the wider movement,
      especially with a historical grounding?

      Thanks,
      Scott+


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Jake Stratton-Kent
      Hi Scott, we appear to be grasping for the same thing, as I certainly consider myself a modernising traditionalist rather than a self conscious throwback. ...
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 18, 2013
        Hi Scott,

        we appear to be grasping for the same thing, as I certainly consider
        myself a modernising traditionalist rather than a self conscious
        throwback.

        On 18 June 2013 18:54, Scott Rassbach <fr.rassbach@...> wrote:
        > Hi All,
        >
        > The thread about 'Whisperings from the Void' got me thinking about
        > something:
        >
        > How do we move the technology of spirit summoning forward?

        this is already in hand in large part, one aspect being the interest
        in the ATRs, where such an accessible and 'hands on' form as Hoodoo
        conjure is already adapted to urban living.

        The use of modern tools in the metallurgical side of magic (talisman
        and instrument making/engraving etc); exploration of isolation tanks,
        psychoactives, modern media and so on are already playing or offering
        routes in that precise direction. And we should endorse that tendency
        in general.

        meanwhile however, there are many aspects of spirit work that do not
        much require adaptation, once we overcome certain misconceptions.
        Crowley's efforts (in 'John St. John') to invoke his Holy Guardian
        Angel in Paris, within an urban environment, balancing the interior
        and exterior worlds in an effective way, independent of artificial
        archaic-isms, is worthy of note. Interestingly, Pyramidos, the ritual
        he devised during that period, is particularly well adapted to Goetic
        conjure; involving all the essentials without the background of
        medieval culture necessary to older rituals.


        > All technology changes as time goes on. Medicine moves from herbs to
        > isolated compounds and surgery to nanotech targeted drug delivery systems.
        > Engineering moves from Stonemasonry to architecture to 3d printing a house.
        > How are we to move forward spirit summoning?

        preferably without deleting the requirement for human participation.

        > I am firmly on the side of historical research, but one of the problems
        > with historical accounts is Survivorship bias. We have the successes of
        > magicians in their grimoires, but not their failures. And analyzing
        > failures are the ways in which technology improves. One way to get those
        > failure to analyze is modern experimentation.

        I think this is slightly overstating the case. We do have their
        successes and failures - our employment of their methods will
        certainly give us both. Persistence is the one enduring virtue,
        whether repetition leads to success, or in final exasperation to an
        adaptation which does so, it is persistence that gets us there. It is
        notable that no two grimoires are exactly alike despite injunctions to
        change nothing, and an insistence that they haven't! Notable too that
        fairly major changes attend different historical periods; an important
        example being the 'Paracelsian' influence on the grimoires, as well as
        adaptation to Protestant usages.


        > So (and I address this primarily to Jake, but welcome other input) what is
        > the place of modern innovations and experiments in the wider movement,
        > especially with a historical grounding?

        there is no implicit objection to adaptation and updating, so long as
        they remain in sympathy with the traditions concerned. Living
        traditions are constantly evolving. At the root of traditionalist
        objections - often hard to put into words - is not dislike of
        innovation. Rather it is distrust of superficiality, of work
        avoidance, and - crucially - departure from elements that effectively
        define the tradition.

        These are more philosophical than technological, 99% of the time. In
        short, I don't distrust the dremel in place of the burin; I distrust
        incompatible ideologies appropriating the name of a tradition to which
        they have no claim and with which they are in fact inherently in
        conflict.
        That these differences are not often understood or even considered
        does not diminish the unease felt and the internal conflict implicit
        in mingling the like with the unlike in modern magic.

        Jake

        http://www.underworldapothecary.com/
      • mozlilzom
        Hmm... I think, in speaking of the history of magic and its utility, it s worth pointing out that we can also get at successes and failures of pre-modern magic
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 29, 2013
          Hmm...

          I think, in speaking of the history of magic and its utility, it's worth pointing out that we can also get at successes and failures of pre-modern magic by examining the records left in wider social, cultural, and intellectual histories.

          For example, from the early modern period we have the casebooks of astrologer-physicians, the first-hand diary and memoir accounts of participants in ritual, correspondence networks between practitioners and their clients, good and bad reviews of magical clientwork, and much more. Books of magical medicine are full of accounts of badly timed treatments doing more damage and so forth. Not to mention trial records and so on.

          There are also plenty of accounts of botched ritual if you know what you're looking for - treasure-hunting operations spring to mind especially. See, for example, Owen Davies, 'Popular Magic: ', p. 94 for an account of the 'farcical' failure of John Steward's 1510 attempt at Mixindale Head near Halifax.

          I also think it's important to note "modernising" (i.e. working out how to use the effective techniques, theories and methodologies of the past in modern times and spaces) and "improving" are not necessarily the same thing. We must be wary of the blind optimism of positivist narratives of eternal and automatic betterment.

          Looking to past occult philosophy and magical practice, I feel, should be a way of rekindling our living tradition; it is not, for me anyway, simply about fetishising Olde Stuff. The history of magic offers us real and useful pointers in how magic operated, and what it did for people, with all the rich beta testing of the days and ways of the dead to back it up. It helps us re-establish a vibrant, sanguine set of modern practices, outlooks, and experiments.

          Jake - in this regard I feel I am inclined to accord with your response, mate. Really like that point about the dremel and the burin.

          Historical research can, will, and should inform and nurture modern explorations. They do not have to be antagonistic, and they are certainly not mutually exclusive. Those that claim they are have been, in my experience, escapist re-enactors or rootless fluff merchants, respectively. That's just from my experiences, mind.

          Great thread topic.

          M.




          --- In solomonic@yahoogroups.com, Jake Stratton-Kent <jakestrattonkent@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hi Scott,
          >
          > we appear to be grasping for the same thing, as I certainly consider
          > myself a modernising traditionalist rather than a self conscious
          > throwback.
          >
          > On 18 June 2013 18:54, Scott Rassbach <fr.rassbach@...> wrote:
          > > Hi All,
          > >
          > > The thread about 'Whisperings from the Void' got me thinking about
          > > something:
          > >
          > > How do we move the technology of spirit summoning forward?
          >
          > this is already in hand in large part, one aspect being the interest
          > in the ATRs, where such an accessible and 'hands on' form as Hoodoo
          > conjure is already adapted to urban living.
          >
          > The use of modern tools in the metallurgical side of magic (talisman
          > and instrument making/engraving etc); exploration of isolation tanks,
          > psychoactives, modern media and so on are already playing or offering
          > routes in that precise direction. And we should endorse that tendency
          > in general.
          >
          > meanwhile however, there are many aspects of spirit work that do not
          > much require adaptation, once we overcome certain misconceptions.
          > Crowley's efforts (in 'John St. John') to invoke his Holy Guardian
          > Angel in Paris, within an urban environment, balancing the interior
          > and exterior worlds in an effective way, independent of artificial
          > archaic-isms, is worthy of note. Interestingly, Pyramidos, the ritual
          > he devised during that period, is particularly well adapted to Goetic
          > conjure; involving all the essentials without the background of
          > medieval culture necessary to older rituals.
          >
          >
          > > All technology changes as time goes on. Medicine moves from herbs to
          > > isolated compounds and surgery to nanotech targeted drug delivery systems.
          > > Engineering moves from Stonemasonry to architecture to 3d printing a house.
          > > How are we to move forward spirit summoning?
          >
          > preferably without deleting the requirement for human participation.
          >
          > > I am firmly on the side of historical research, but one of the problems
          > > with historical accounts is Survivorship bias. We have the successes of
          > > magicians in their grimoires, but not their failures. And analyzing
          > > failures are the ways in which technology improves. One way to get those
          > > failure to analyze is modern experimentation.
          >
          > I think this is slightly overstating the case. We do have their
          > successes and failures - our employment of their methods will
          > certainly give us both. Persistence is the one enduring virtue,
          > whether repetition leads to success, or in final exasperation to an
          > adaptation which does so, it is persistence that gets us there. It is
          > notable that no two grimoires are exactly alike despite injunctions to
          > change nothing, and an insistence that they haven't! Notable too that
          > fairly major changes attend different historical periods; an important
          > example being the 'Paracelsian' influence on the grimoires, as well as
          > adaptation to Protestant usages.
          >
          >
          > > So (and I address this primarily to Jake, but welcome other input) what is
          > > the place of modern innovations and experiments in the wider movement,
          > > especially with a historical grounding?
          >
          > there is no implicit objection to adaptation and updating, so long as
          > they remain in sympathy with the traditions concerned. Living
          > traditions are constantly evolving. At the root of traditionalist
          > objections - often hard to put into words - is not dislike of
          > innovation. Rather it is distrust of superficiality, of work
          > avoidance, and - crucially - departure from elements that effectively
          > define the tradition.
          >
          > These are more philosophical than technological, 99% of the time. In
          > short, I don't distrust the dremel in place of the burin; I distrust
          > incompatible ideologies appropriating the name of a tradition to which
          > they have no claim and with which they are in fact inherently in
          > conflict.
          > That these differences are not often understood or even considered
          > does not diminish the unease felt and the internal conflict implicit
          > in mingling the like with the unlike in modern magic.
          >
          > Jake
          >
          > http://www.underworldapothecary.com/
          >
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