Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer. Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively). I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and right now, we’re in the middle of focusing how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made. Last time, we went over the form and design of the pedestal which supports the crystal and which stands on the table. If you need a refresher, go read the last post!
Okay, so we have the crystal, and we’ve got the pedestal made with the engraved plate of gold that surrounds the crystal (or some variation on that, or none at all, depending on the approach you want to go with). With that done, we can now get into the second half of the main apparatus of DSIC: the table upon which the pedestal itself sits. What does this table look like? We have this description:
…the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.
First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…
Let’s break this down:
- The things that are mentioned must be drawn in order.
- The things that are mentioned must be drawn within “a double circle”.
- The things that are mentioned are: “the names of the seven planets and the angels ruling them with their seals or characters”, and “the names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth”.
- A triangle is also on the table, in which the pedestal is placed.
When we talk about “the four kings of the four corners of the earth”, what names are these? Although DSIC doesn’t explicitly say, the general consensus that nobody disagrees with is that these would be Oriens in the East, Paimon (or Paymon) in the West, Egyn in the North, and Amaymon in the South. Joseph Peterson of the very Esoteric Archives itself gives a wonderful note on this topic:
There is considerable variation in identification of the four kings of the cardinal directions. Here are a few: Agrippa, OP2.7 has (E, W, N, S): “Oriens.Paymon.Egyn.Amaymon”, however in OP3.24 he says, “Urieus, King of the East; Amaymon, King of the South; Paymon, King of the West; Egin, King of the North, which the Hebrew Doctors perhaps call more rightly thus, Samuel, Azazel, Azael, Mahazuel,” (See Cichus In Sphaeram Mundi, f. 21 apud quem: Zoroa. Fragm. O104; cf. Salom. ff. 28v-29r; sed addict. K: Reuchl. Arte 3, sig. O7r) MC has: “Bael, Moymon, Poymon, Egyn” or “Asmodel in the East, Amaymon in the South, Paymon in the West, and Aegym in the North”; “Oriens, Paymon, Egyn, and Amaymon”; or “Amodeo [sic] (king of the East), Paymon (king of the West), Egion (king of the North), and Maimon.”
That said, many people use the four archangels Michael for Fire, Raphael for Air, Gabriel for Water, and Uriel for Earth instead of the four kings (as I myself have in the past). What gives? Such a table design that uses the four archangels instead of the four kings is mostly credited to Fr. Rufus Opus; even though Fr. RO isn’t the only one to have done it this way, he is the one who most people attribute this design to. As a result, there’s periodically debate about whether to use the four archangels or the four kings.
Personally, my own work has never significantly involved these spirits beyond a token chat, and even to this day, they’re in this grey area of things that I’m aware are important, but I’m not entirely sure why. Thankfully, Magister Omega of A Journey into Ceremonial Magick posted a wonderful summary of the four kings in the grimoire tradition, and there’s plenty to show how important the four kings can be, especially for goetic magicians, but also for us as far as DSIC is concerned. While Omega does cite GTSC and Fr. AC’s own personal view as well as UPG from the angel Metatron, he also cites the good Dr. Stephen Skinner and a number of other authors (I can spot some of Jake Stratton-Kent’s words in there, too):
The four kings are spiritual creatures (and therefore winged) but they are demon kings not angels…
The Kings cannot be approached in the same way you might approach the Archangels. Start with the lesser demons. Threaten them with the name of their King if necessary. Only after you have bound a few of the hierarchy, then think about the Kings. You can use the Kings name without having previously called him (that is just the way it works). …
The Kings open the Gates, not something anyone should do unless they really know what they are doing. Their names are useful to enforce discipline on the spirits belonging to their legions. But, as Frater AC mentioned, they are not the ones you would choose to personally grant the usual run of wishes.
It’s odd to me that we would need the use of the four kings, then, if we were going to use DSIC just for angelic conjuration, but that’s just it: the way DSIC is written (and, as we’ll see later, the sources that DSIC itself builds upon and pulls from) implies that it can be used for angelic/theurgic works as well as goetic/non-angelic works. In that case, the four kings would be recommended, because it does enforce a sort of authority upon whatever’s being conjured—unless they’re not under the authority of such spirits at all. But, as Fr. AC said, it may not be about authority at all:
As [the archangels and angels] are the vertical, they are the horizontal. They are the morally neutral yet powerful governors between the planes of existence.
Still, it’s not like there aren’t multiple traditions of Western magic and cosmology at play here, nor can we ignore that there are different eras and developments in those lines. It’s simply a fact that many (not all) people haven’t worked with these four kings, needed to work with them, or even had a cosmology that required their presence or their roles in ways that Skinner or JSK or others would describe them, both now and for centuries into the past. Plus, there are also those who have different views on the roles and nature of these four kings and their relationships to the angels; one person’s UPG is another person’s dismissed rubbish, after all. If you work with the four kings or recognize them as important in your cosmology, great! If not, then that’s also fine. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat: there’s no one way to consider the role or nature of the four kings, and no one way to do conjuration (even with DSIC, with all its extant variants).
Now, back to Fr. RO. What does he say about his design that omits the four kings in favor of the four archangels? He explains a bit from RWC, specifically in Lesson 6 of the Black Work class:
The Table of Practice is a symbol of the cosmos. It contains an outer circle with the names of the archangels of the spheres, and symbols of their planets. Within that is another circle, this with the names of the Four Angels* of the corners of the Earth. Within that is a triangle with a pentagram, the Star of David with a Yod, and a Maltese cross.
The outermost circle represents the Seven Heavens and the Intelligences therein. They are the governors of the spheres, and their presence helps ensure you get the spirit you’re looking for when you perform your conjuration. The Elemental Kings provide the gate to the material realm, so the spirits can influence your life materially, if necessary, but they also make sure that any spirit you call up of a terrestrial nature won’t go ballistic and eat your soul, leaving you dead by dawn.
These two circles together represent the meeting of the Heavens and the Earth in your temple space.
The triangle in the center of the circle is rather unique. Triangles are used in conjurations as the place the spirit manifests. In the Lemegeton’s Goetia, the magician stands within the center of an elaborate Magic Circle, and the Triangle is placed outside the Circle. The magician is theoretically safe from the evil of the demonic spirits he’s conjuring because the triangle constrains the spirit, and the circles provide further protection.
In The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, the source book for the Modern Angelic Grimoire, the magician sits or stands within a Magic Circle, but he’s got the Triangle of Art engraved on the Table of Manifestation inside the protective circle with him. The triangle is within another set of circles to protect him, but it’s different from most of the other approaches to conjuration I’ve seen.
I like it better with the spirit in the circle with you for purely practical purposes. It makes it easier to sit in front of the Table of Practice and do the scrying, the crystal can be right there in front of you instead of across the room.
It should be noted that in the Modern Angelic Grimoire, I adapted the Table of Practice from the original instructions. The circles and the triangle are on the Table that you use, but then you’re supposed to build a separate device to hold the crystal ball you conjure the spirits into.
Bryan Garner, also known as Fr. Ashen, has recently written a book on The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals. He created the tools as specified in the instructions, and if you want to see how it’s supposed to look, you can see pictures of what he came up with in his interpretation on his blog. He added in some stuff from his experience in traditional Solomonic Magic, but it still remains completely in harmony with the original manuscript.
I tell you this because the things I do, the things I teach are my interpretation, my “Kabala” or “Revelation” of how the grimoires are to be used by magicians who want to use a system that’s proven really effective to me. I encourage you to go back to the sources. In this course, I’ve provided samples and excerpts, but in support of my approach, to make clear certain points that I have found to be really important.
But I’ve filtered it the way I think it should be filtered, and I’ve had good results, but you need to go back to the sources and read them for yourself, explore them with the aid of the spirits. Invest in Tyson’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, or read them for free on www.esotericarchives.com.
When I put the Table of Practice together, I merged the thing that’s supposed to hold the crystal with the Table of Practice image to accomplish the same functionality as the original design. I didn’t have the ebony and gold to follow the instructions myself, so I made do.
It should probably be noted that this was all done after I attained Knowledge and Conversation with my Holy Guardian Angel. The modifications and adaptations I made were made based on things he had revealed to me as I was studying that and the Scale of the Number 4, and some other things that were percolating in my sphere at the same time.
So it’s not totally made up, but it’s not “by the book” either.
Regardless, it works rather well.
So I put all the symbols where they belonged on the Table of Practice. The triangle is where the spirit appears, and that’s in the center of the Circles.
* Some people say to put the names of the Elemental Kings there, Oriens, Paimon, Amaimon, and Egyn. I prefer the angels, your mileage may vary.
He goes on more at length about the specific symbolism and role of the individual symbols used in the Table of Practice according to his own design, and he sums it up at the end:
Taken altogether, the Table of Practice represents our relationship with the Seven Governors, the Four Elemental Kings, and the Process of Manifestation. It is designed to provide the place where a spirit can manifest, and to give us a shared space between the Heavens and the Earth in which we can work together to accomplish the things we have to do.
Note how he says “Four Elemental Kings” here, even though he’s using the four archangels. This is because of his interpretation of how Agrippa describes the four angels in his Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7) as the “four Angels ruling over the corners of the world”, in contrast to the “four rulers of the Elements” (Seraph, Cherub, Tharsis, and Ariel), the “four Princes of Devils, offensive in the elements” (Samael, Azazel, Azael, and Mahazael), and “the four Princes of spirits, upon the four angles of the world” (Oriens, Paymon, Egyn, and Amaymon). On top of them being “rulers over the corners of the world” (which does match the DSIC phrasing), he might have gotten an explicit “king” notion, I presume, due to their correspondence in the Tarot as the Kings of the four suits: the King of Wands to Michael of Fire, the King of Swords to Raphael of Air, and so forth. It’s not a conventional or historical understanding of the four kings, sure, but it’s not a wrong interpretation, either.
That said, Fr. RO does touch on the role of the four kings of the directions. In his Lesson 4 of the Black Work course, he says:
Then there are the Four Princes. They aren’t nearly as good as the Angels. The astute student will recognize that at least two of them show up in the Lemegeton’s Goetia as Kings or otherwise as rulers of the Demons. Paimon has a seal and a description in the grimoire, indicating he is one of the rank and file of that system, while Amaymon shows up in a description of Ga’ap, who, among other things, can teach you to consecrate the things “under Amaymon.”
But these guys are not demons, at least, not of the type that will come to you and cause you illness and sickness in order to make you suffer and call out to god for salvation. They can do that, of course, just like the angels can, but they are not specifically designed for that.
These four Princes represent the “neutral” spirits of the elements, and they are as far as close as I get to working with demons these days. They are like the worker bees of the elements, in my experience. They, and their assigned legions, are the ones that oversee the manifestation of the elemental directives of the spirits higher up in the, uhm, hierarchy.
I call on these spirits when I’m doing a banishing ritual, when I’m conjuring up some Genius Loci, or when I’m looking for some instant physical manifestations of something in particular. The last type of conjuration, for instant relief of a desire, is where things get sketchy. It’s generally a bad idea to try to conjure on the fly, but having a good relationship with these four princes can be useful.
I also want to note that Fr. RO began using this design of the Table of Practice as least as early as the start of 2007, because he gives an image of a simple form of it in a post from January 2007, though he mentions beginning to write his Modern Angelic Grimoire back in October 2006, suggesting he was likely already using it around that time. However, more recently, Fr. RO put out another version of the Table of Practice on his own Facebook page in a post dated May 31, 2015, pretty much identical (with one exception which we’ll get into next time) except using the four kings instead of the four archangels, with the following caption:
I’m preparing to give the Seven Spheres Live course, and going through the slides, I remembered that I corrected the Table of Practice in the courses, but never bothered to say anything publicly about it. The Table of Practice I put together for the Modern Angelic Grimoire used the names of the Four angels of the corners of the world from Agrippa’s Scale of the Number Four.
At the time I put that together, I didn’t know anything about Goetia, or the terrestrial Princes, and since they weren’t called out specifically by name in the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, and because I wasn’t sure about working with “demons” at the time, I went with the Angels. It was super effective so I didn’t think it mattered when I went on to other things, and even though I am now very comfortable working with Oriens, Amaymon, Paimon, and Egyn, I never bothered to update the graphics.
Jake Stratton Kent mentioned it annoys him to no end to have the Angelic names on the Trithemian Table of Practice, cause it’s not technically right (even though it works fine in practice). So I promised I’d fix it in the course, and I did, but for those who haven’t seen the more accurate version, here it is.
Even by Fr. RO’s own admission, the use of the four kings is the correct set of names to use; it’s just that this version never made it into RWC or even SS due to his thinking and approach at the time. Well, to use his exact words, it’s the “technically right” and “accurate” approach—which doesn’t mean he necessarily agrees with it or that he disavows using the four angels instead of the four kings. He probably does, but as many people who use the four angels can attest, it’s still a workable method, and so it’s not fundamentally wrong in practice even if it doesn’t agree with the DSIC instructions.
However, remember how I said that Fr. RO wasn’t the only one who used this design choice of the four angels instead of the four kings? So too did Fr. Acher of Theomagica, as he explains in his own post on the Trithemian Table of Practice, which he developed around 2009. He explains his own design choices, too (emphasis mine):
On first reading it was clear we needed to amend this design to fit our budgets and purpose. In the original description the whole device is made up of four elements: the crystal, the gold plate, the ivory/ebony pedestal and the table. While we were committed to staying true to the essence of the original, we had to amend the design to match our limited crafting skills as neither of us is a goldsmith nor a carpenter.
After several weeks of study we landed on a design that brought all the carvings together on a horizontal wooden table onto which the actual crystal would be placed. As we had set out to design a table each, we decided to create one fit for a crystal and the other fit for a black mirror.
The actual elements of the carvings are given as follows:
- These 3 symbols inside a circle around the crystal:
- The Tetragrammaton next to or around the three symbols
- Then the names of the 4 archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael
- On the opposite side of the table the “names, characters, etc.” (sic!) of:
- the seven planets with their seals,
- the ruling angels with their seals and
- the names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth
Of course at the end of the day the whole table had to fit on our altar in the middle of the circle of art. After measuring the maximum space we could give to the table it turned out it couldn’t measure more than 13 inch (30cm) in diameter. Secondly, we knew we wanted to create the whole table from wood and carve all seals, characters and names on it – rather than just painting or drawing them on. Thus we tested carving magical seals into wood with a standard Dremel device and the finest drill applicable. This allowed us to understand the maximum amount of elements in our design that would fit onto a wooden disc of 13 inch diameter.
After these practical considerations we went back to the drawing board and came up with the following design:
We clearly took artistic freedom here and e.g. brought together the seals of the front and back of the table as well as the table and the pedestal on one single surface. We also decided to drop the names of the four kings of the corner of the earth; it would have simply congested the design we had in mind. However, we still felt confident as this version created a full magical circle around the actual crystal. This was a desired effect as the crystal would be used as the locus of manifestation and would be placed inside our circle of art on the altar. Thus any spirit materializing in the crystal would be bound by the circle, names and seals on the Table of Practice.
Since Fr. Acher was doing his work with the Trithemian approach in “late 2009”, this design certainly postdates Fr. RO’s own, but the way Fr. Acher writes, it sounds like he may have come up with the design independently from Fr. RO. He might have been influenced by Fr. RO for all I know—I’m pretty sure there was at least some back-and-forth between them over the years, especially as far as some of their Arbatel work was concerned, I believe—but I’m not sure that was the case. And, by Fr. Acher’s own admission, he took “artistic freedom” in the design of the table, but I don’t think anyone would deny that Fr. Acher has gotten good results all the same with his design choices.
Either way, we have at least ten years of people using the four archangels instead of the four kings, and it’s been shown to be another effective approach regardless of how accurate it might be according to the instructions given in DSIC or how much goetic magicians might complain about it or chide others (Al). It’s also important to remember that neither Fr. RO nor Fr. Acher made use of a separate pedestal for the crystal; if they had, then there wouldn’t be an issue, because the four archangels would go on the pedestal and the four kings on the table. Because they dropped the pedestal in favor of convenience and expediency, they combined the design instructions for the pedestal and table. And, importantly, their methods still work without breaking DSIC.
Still, this topic periodically comes up in talks with various magicians, especially as source of debate, as I said earlier. There’s a fascinating discussion from December 2014 in one of the Facebook groups I’m in that went into the topic at length. While I won’t quote specific people (Jake Stratton-Kent, Fr. RO, Jason Miller, Fr. AC, and others got all into the discussion along with many others in a ~150-comment thread), here’s the gist of some of the points that were discussed and brought up for the general consideration of my readers:
- Using the four archangels instead of the four kings can be an unnecessary, unfortunate, and retrogressive sanitization of the grimoire, if not outright being “wussy”.
- Using the four kings seems to have become more popular in modern general practice after Fr. AC put out GTSC, which has a more accurate rendition of the table from DSIC, yet people were still get results with it anyway.
- Using the archangels and not the kings can be seen to (but doesn’t necessarily) erase the option of working with elementals, emphasize celestial entities instead of chthonic ones, and result in an imbalanced spiritual approach.
- Using the archangels may be more appropriate for working strictly or mainly with celestial and angelic entities generally.
- Using the kings can help “ground” heavenly or celestial entities into a more worldly form, which would be better for actually “drawing spirits into crystals” and, moreover, to a concrete or visible appearance.
- Some who have used the four archangels at one time and others the four kings at other times get good results either way, so in some ways, the choice boils down to one’s preference and comfort levels working with either set of spirits, but this may also be dependent upon one’s worldview in terms of which is more useful or whether they’re equally useful.
- Others report that using the four archangels gets results both with conjuring angelic entities as well as demonic, but demonic results always tend to fall short of angelic ones.
- Others report that the general effect of the ritual is different. Using the angelic names facilitate more “astral” experiences, being in the realm of the spirit rather than the spirit being in the crystal, while using the king names facilitate a more traditional conjuration experience with the spirits appearing visibly in the crystal. This might be due to the angels encouraging spiritual elevation and ascension through the spheres, and the kings due to their expansion and facilitation of manifestation on material planes.
- The four kings, from a grimoiric point of view (especially in light of the fact that many grimoires say that these four entities are not to be conjured directly), provide a necessary warden and converter for various entities to be communicated with from the many levels of reality, whether physical or astral or celestial or something else. They are, essentially, neutral powers that moderate exchanges between different planes or spheres.
- Using the four archangels can be seen as redundant or repetitive, considering how several of them overlap with the angels of the planets, leading to the same name engraved in multiple places on the Table.
- If you consider the circle of names from the pedestal to “overlay” that of the names on the table, then the names of the angels would “cover” those of the kings. This suggests a binding, controlling, or thwarting influence to the angels who would be seen in command over the kings. In that light, the presence of the four angels would suggest or imply the presence of the four kings who would be literally and metaphorically “under” them in terms of power or rulership.
- Even if one doesn’t much care about the specific distinction between the use of angel names and king names in this specific case, it can matter when one considers their overall approach to Neoplatonic cosmology as used in Hermetic or Solomonic ritual, as well as keeping in line with the extensive history and current of tradition that’s repeated time and again in grimoiric literature.
The fact is that DSIC (almost certainly) prescribes the use of the four kings Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, and Amaymon on the table itself, but because it doesn’t explicitly give those names, there is a DSIC style that arose with Fr. RO and (maybe) Fr. Acher of interpreting this to use the four archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel for the same purpose with either exactly or approximately similar results. Which DSIC approach you use is up to you—and it’s important to note that, for the most part, most people using either approach tend to omit the use of the pedestal and combined the inscriptions on the pedestal with that of the table, where you need the names of both the angels and the kings. Using either set of names on the table works, but depending on your specific approach, need, and cosmology, one set might work better than the other, or it might not; there are a lot of variables and theories here, and it can be justified any which way. However, if you want to take a strict approach to DSIC, then you’d want to use the four kings on the table and not the four angels, but having the four angels kept using the pedestal. (Or, perhaps, placed somewhere else on the table to accommodate the lack of a pedestal. We’ll talk about that option soon enough.)
The most common approach most people take when using DSIC-based conjuration is that they generally tend to omit the pedestal entirely and only use the table. This means that, unless you’re going to use some sort of unusual combined approach that has both the four archangels and the four kings at the same time on the table, you’re going to miss out on one group or the other. Depending on how you view the roles of either or both sets of entities, you might consider it a loss or you might not. However, I think there’s one thing that we can rule out from the list of concerns raised in that discussion thread from above: that having the four archangels from the pedestal on the table itself is “redundant or repetitive”. For one, the four archangels are not the planetary angels; Michael of the Sun is not Michael of Fire, and Uriel isn’t planetary at all (despite what DSIC might say about him being an angel of Venus). The name might be the same, but DSIC (and a number of other texts) that a both a spirit’s name and office are significant, and the offices of these spirits are different, which effectively makes them different spirits. If this was truly just a repetitive thing, then these four angels as a distinct, discrete set shouldn’t appear anywhere at all on either the pedestal or table, which are meant to operate together as a single overall apparatus. But they do, which means they’re not unnecessary.
For myself? Because I started with RWC, I’ve used the four angels approach, and that has gotten me to where I am today; I don’t think anyone can really say that it’s ineffective, because I’m quite the counterfactual anecdote that it’s not (along with Fr. RO, Fr. Acher, and many others). That being said, if I were to start again knowing what I know now, doing what I do now, I’d probably use the four kings approach, and if or when I make myself another table, I would probably use them instead of the four angels, incorporating the four angels somewhere else, so long as both sets are present. If nothing else, I’ll have another table to experiment with and can draw my own experiential conclusions from that, and perhaps use the two separate tables for different purposes.
So much for the kings versus angel debate. Thing is, this is just one part of the contents of the table; we’ll get into the rest of the fun stuff next week when we talk about the planetary considerations.