Essential Dignity

Being what I am and growing up the way I did, politically speaking, I’m pretty liberal.  I don’t often like to talk about politics, mostly because it’s become to polarized as of late to the point where it’s pretty pointless, but it doesn’t stop me from getting on Reddit (/r/politics/) or Wonkette to read up on current and political events and periodically getting incensed by some of the BS I keep reading, political or otherwise.  It’s gotten so bad that I, horrible at remembering who’s who amongst the talking heads, can pick out a number of politicians or other political speakers by face and name.  For someone who almost takes a perverse pride in not keeping up on pop culture, this is kinda embarrassing.

I’m gay.  I think the government should collect taxes to provide for the people in whatever ways the people agree to.  I think people should benefit each other though a centralized collection agency to distribute funds and resources appropriately for all people to benefit equally from the system.  I think the government should protect one’s ability to choose (birth control, religion, speech, gun control, marriage, etc.) instead of enforcing one of many choices (often from a particular religious standpoint).  These are only a few of the positions I take on current events and issues, and I’m not bringing this up to discuss them here.  I understand that a lot of these positions make a lot of people angry, often irrationally so, and some of these traits (namely the one that drives me to date, love, and fuck whom I will) will also incite violent or murderous tendencies against me, which is really a shame.  And I know many politicians or popular leaders, both in my country and in many others, who claim that I’m an abomination and deserve death for my oh-so-sinful ways because I’m just so icky.

And I look at pictures of these political and public leaders claiming for my death or incarceration, or the politicians trying to legislate that all people follow the tenets of a particular line of a particular sect of a particular religion no matter how draconian they may be, or those who insist on taxing lower-income people at higher rates than higher-income people across the board.  I see them next to the headlines of the awful, bigoted things they say, which makes me angry at their faces and pictures.  I don’t do emotion very well, but anger and I get along nicely, and I indulge myself in that kind of fiery feeling when it comes to policy and politics.  Sometimes, I want to turn their heated rhetoric right back on them.

But then I realize that if I took away the headlines and just had the pictures…well, I’d just see pictures of people.  Older men and women in suits.  Sometimes younger people leading other people.  People who are human, just like me.  People who had a mother and a father with their own problems.  People with their own hopes, dreams, aspirations, worries, and fears.  People who were born and who will eventually die.  People who have illnesses and day-to-day concerns about their health and livelihoods, no matter how fortunate or unfortunate.  People who had an upbringing with experience that taught them the things they know.  People who laugh and cry and get angry and get sad and fall in love and fall down heartbroken.  People who sometimes work and who sometimes relax, who sometimes like getting mired in the world and who sometimes need to escape.  People who have their own set of circumstances, context, and setting to deal with and who gave them the head start or handicap they have.  People who breathe, who bleed, who get sick, who get injured.  People who are human, just like me.

I realize that I and some of the politicians and leaders may have differences of opinion or philosophy, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still people.  Even though our thoughts on the world shape it for ourselves, it doesn’t change the fact that they still have to live and work with other humans.  If I were to swap the names and political views of two politicians, one whom I liked and one whom I disliked, it wouldn’t change their nature from essentially human, with all the dignity and damnation that humanity accords. 

In astrology, the planets aren’t constant in their power.  Depending on where a planet can be found, how fast a planet’s going, or what other astrological factors combine with the planet, its strength or ability to exert force on the world can wax or wane.  This strength is called dignity, which can either be accidental (based on non-locational astrological factors) or essential (related to the zodiac and the planet’s location in it).  Different planets are strong or weak in different places in the zodiac.  However, humans aren’t planets, and humans are greater than the sum of all the planets and elements and all the other forces in the cosmos.  Humans, unlike planets, never wax or wane in their essential dignity.  Humans always have dignity, no matter which human.

I just wish more people could realize the essential dignity of others as well as their own.  I’m not calling for some utopian brotherhood of man for us all to awaken to (though that’d be nice), but it hurts to see other people denigrating others as being less than human.  When you lay invective against the “Other”, making them seem animal or feral or viral or subhuman, you make it easy to mistreat them, even if you don’t believe the invective yourself.  When you forget that other people are still people, you forget that they have a stake in the world just as much as you do.  When you neglect another’s essential dignity, you make it easy for others to neglect your own dignity, perpetuating a cycle of hate and denigration.  And when you forsake the dignity of another, you prepare yourself for committing acts that are themselves inhuman and unfit for humanity.

Please, guys.  If you find yourself making a joke, or a snide comment, or even an unspoken thought that makes some “Other” inferior to yourself, that denigrates them, or that neglects their own personal, human concerns, catch yourself.  I don’t know how many of my readers do this, or whether this little rant of mine will at all affect the greater world, but come on, guys.  Part of the Great Work is to reclaim our race and heritage, which is both divine and human.  If all things are divine, then all things at one point or another are One, and thus we are all equals in the cosmic scheme of things.  Maintain that equality, remember that we all have the same essential dignity.  Treat others accordingly.

I brought up my political views above to make a point about polarization and differences of views not being a difference in essential humanity, not to discuss them with my readers.  That’s not the focus of this blog or this post, and any comments trying to discuss them or incite a debate on these topics will be deleted.

De Conjuratione et Compulsione

A good chunk of the work I do is conjuration: the summoning, evocation, and invoking of spirits to communicate with me and help me out in my Work, either by having them do something for me externally or empowering or educatingme internally for a particular aim.  Conjuration is definitely a primary tool for me: divination, simple energy work, astral sight, and the like all have their place, but I wouldn’t be where or what I am without chatting with the spirits I’ve called up. 

The word “conjuration” means “command on oath” or “constrain by spell”, from Latin conjurare, “to swear together, conspire”.  It’s a pretty forceful term, come to think of it, and it’s not hard to see why.  Look at any text in the Solomonic tradition and you’ll find that the prayers and incantations used to evoke the spirits can be pretty heavy-handed, if not replete with threats, curses, and ultimatums.  (For a real good example of this, check out the Bond of Solomon from the Munich Manual, which is ridiculously long and uses basically every divine act in the Old and New Testaments to convince a spirit “hey you, do this now”.)  Between “behold your conclusion if you do not obey me”, the Spirit’s Chain, and various other orations from the grimoires, it’s not hard to picture the conjurer or magician as someone in charge of an “enhanced information extraction” torture chamber.

Of course, given that a lot of spirits referred to in the Solomonic tradition are demonic or outright harmful to the magician, you probably do want to be stern with them, but are they harmful because of the magician’s threats, or does the magician threaten them because they’re harmful?  It’s an interesting chicken-and-egg problem, not helped any by the fact that most Solomonic magicians in the Western tradition were likely priests or devout Christians who saw any spirit not explicitly an angel of God to be a lacky of Satan.  And, as Fr. MC from the Lion’s Den noted in his Crossed Keys, a lot of these spirits are ancient and benevolent, having only committed the crime of not bowing down to the Judeo-Christian God.  To be honest, I can’t blame them.

Now, a good occultist friend of mine says that while she likes the work I do, she dislikes that I use conjuration to do it.  She’s a big proponent of free will and the ability of choice for all entities (save for predator/prey situations, defense, and necessary facts of life like that), and is barred by her own tradition and powers from doing anything like conjuration.  Instead, she appeals to the spirit directly and builds up a relationship with them to ask for their help and favor, or, if something’s causing a serious issue, she appeals to her own higher powers to take care of it.  From that point of view, I can certainly understand: it’s often better to ask for permission or help than just outright command something you have no apparent connection to to get something done.  It’s more respectful, kind, and appropriate, especially since most of these spirits I deal with are far older than me, my family name, or even humanity, not to mention more powerful.

In other words, it’s as if you worked for a certain company, and I was your boss’ child, and I told you “Get your ass over here and show me this internal report or I’ll tell your boss you done fucked up”.  It disrespects you, disregards your tenure in the company, elides the previous work you’ve done, and assumes that it’s in your purview to even do what I asked (or demanded) you do.  It also presumes that your boss would even bother listening to me, which may not be a valid assumption based on relevance, acceptibility, and how favored I am with your boss.

At the same time, from the Hermetic point of view, that’s actually exactly what’s going on, but in a different light.  From that perspective, we are made in God’s image (ultimate infinite all-encompassing God, not this God or that God) through and through, and even though all things come from God, we’re the only ones to be made like God.  Because all things bear a love for God (even if it’s in some crazy, harmful, or demonic way), when they see us, they see a small part of God, and so will obey us as they obey God, though perhaps not as readily or happily.  However, as we descended through the spheres and gained more and more density, we also gained more and more power from the spirits of those spheres who wanted to help us and empower us out of love for the First Father.

In other words, it’s as if you’re good friends with my parents, and since you like them and I remind you of them, you’d be willing to help me out if I were to call upon you for a favor or request.  It’s really similar to the case above, but phrased and seen like this, it’s not that blatantly disrespectful; I wouldn’t ask you to help me out unless there were already a strong connection and willingness to help.  However, I wouldn’t rightly demand that you do something for me, either, since that’d be taking advantage over you who would only want to do me good; disrespecting you would reflect poorly on me by means of my parents, who would disapprove of the way I’d treat you.

In a recent chat with the angel Michael of the Sun, I asked for his thoughts on conjuration in magic and the Work.  Now, granted, he’s coming from a soldier’s point of view (right-hand man of God, prince of the heavenly host, etc.), but he made a pretty good point:

All things have a job to do.  You can ask them to do it, and if they do it willingly, it is good.  When they do not and their job needs to be done, you need to make them do it.

The cosmos is a complete system where everything plays a part, no matter how minute or how grand it may be.  If something isn’t doing its job, it needs to get a swift kick in the rear or languish about until it finally decides to do it on its own.  In this light, I can see how the efficiency of a well-ordered cosmos would demand the occasional slap on the wrist of a lazy person, but that isn’t always what’s happening in conjuration.

For angels and the like, conjuration’s a fairly straightforward deal.  Supposedly (and I’m unsure how much I buy this idea, but let’s go with it), they don’t have free will but only act as emissaries, mouthpieces, and actors for God, hence their etymology as “messenger”.  If I ask for something that’s absolutely right out of bounds with God, or not in line with the Will of the Father, they’ll decline, but that’s about the only reason they have for declining.  They don’t seem to mind being conjured in the name of God (or in one of the various godnames from the Tree of Life), but that’s because it’s really similar to just directly calling on God and interfacing with a more concrete, non-infinite form of Divinity that’s easier for the human mind to handle and geared specifically for the task at hand.

For other spirits and things that assert their own will and choice, things get a little more hairy.  Sure, being made in the image of God definitely gives us a natural boost in authority, and moreso if you actually work for divine might-makes-right.  However, we’re also pretty young when it comes to creation, and being the favored child doesn’t always cut it.  Personally, I’d always go with an ask-first approach, always paying respect and kindness and understanding to the spirits unless they actively try to initiate harm; in that case, the gloves come off. 

For instance, the first time I met the local nature spirits in my neighborhood, it wasn’t through a conjuration; instead, it was just by taking a walk and calling out to the forest itself, and letting the genius loci appear to me on their own.  In my adaptation of the conjurations from the Lemegeton, I’m only planning on using the first conjuration; I’ll respectfully call upon the goetic spirit (in the name of their rulers and higher powers, yes, but not in an overtly belligerent way), maybe twice or thrice if they do not appear the first time, and after that just be done with it.  At the risk of sounding like a fluffy whitelighter, unless the spirit is being a real prick, I don’t want to bust out anything more offensive than “Hey, I’m calling you here, please come, I have the authority to ask for you”.  I’ve got no compunction against using weaponry when I need it, but until I get more warlike and experienced in this sort of stuff, I’d rather delay the need for them as long as possible until nothing else will cut it.

What do you think?  Do you consider conjuration to be useful for all spirits, even when a polite summons and invitation will do?  Do you find conjuration to be anathema and overly heavy-handed in all circumstances?  Do you use conjuration for some spirits and other techniques for others?