The subject has come up time and again and my utter dislike and diatribe against Michael Ford left me considering some of the finer points of my own resistance to the idea. I should state that as “infernal” as I may or may not be, I have developed some vague and odd respect for the idea of traditions of magick and approaching them versus breaking them down.
To begin: what typically constitutes the Goetia is the text known as the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon and a slew of other writings which center around contact with spirits of an infernal (or at least Church-disliked) nature which vary from dangerous to “not quite so dangerous.” The Grimoires of the Medieval period were roughly catalogs of such spirits with roughly similar methods of contact. Many of them appear to have sprung up during transition periods in the Catholic church, and many bear the Hall-mark of being written by Priests. Not Priests of other religions, but Catholic Priests.
The question is: “why”?
It comes down to power: the previous magical texts, of which there were many, entered into a state of Church-inspired “lock-down” and those that were confiscated by Church officials were not always, as might be expected, burned. Instead in quite a few cases (if you trust scholars such as Richard Kieckhefer and Michael D. Bailey) ended up in the hands of Priests who were going no-where fast. One might postulate from this that they saw them as keys to power which others had used, and in turn began to use them.
In any event, most – if not all – of them were written by those who understand the liturgy and ritual pomp of the Catholic church and it shows through and through. Most of what is written in them is bare-bones basics for operation, but they rarely discuss specifics; it was understood by the authors that if you could make use of the texts then you had a similar background; and this makes sense when one considers that most of the educated populace was educated by the very same Holy Roman Catholic Church.
This is also the reason why it can be hard for non-Ceremonial magicians to make use of the texts, and why they draw such blanks when looking at them. One has to read between the lines, master aspects of trance, and understand basic ritual structures – their construction and alteration – just to use the damn things.
All of the above matters very little to the question of “can we infernalize the texts?” but it gives one a very small bit of background and some sources to look into if it piques their interest.
The biggest drawbacks to dropping the formalized structure of Goetia and the Grimoires as I see it is the metaphysical point of legacy. This was largely lost on me until about three years ago when I began using the PGM's infamous “Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist” better known as “The Headless Ritual.” It took a while to actually look at the contents and what was offered, since my compatriots and I were too busy warping it and bastardizing it every-which way to figure out how each aspect worked. For me it nailed the question of “what do the voces mageia do” (more on this later) down pat and also raised another interesting aspect.
The author of the Stele of Jeu was a non-Christian Greek exorcist. Yet, like many of the other PGM (“Greek Magical Papyri” or “Magical Papyrus of Paris”) have an over-abundance of quite unexpected Christian elements. There was specifically a passage that perplexed me:
“I am Moses your prophet to whom you have transmitted your mysteries celebrated by Israel; you have revealed the moist and the dry and all nourishment; hear me. I am the messenger of Pharaoh Osoronnophris; this is your true name which has been transmitted to the prophets of Israel.”
Now, as I've stated, the author was almost certainly a pagan magician as were the rest of the PGM authors. Yet they continually fall back on this line of reasoning and Christian aspects themselves show up throughout the text. Why?
Spiritual authority and magical authority are assumed to be the same to the authors. By linking themselves, however superficially, with that authority they were creating metaphysical “lines of power.” To the Greek magicians of the period I'm discussing, which is before the rise of the Church, Judaic magic was believed to have worked. And worked well. That's one of the primary reasons that the names of Christ and the Judaic god enter the PGM so often. The same 'grimoire', however, also has spells for Hecate to bring you dream lovers and all sorts of other fun bits. (One section of a spell tells you to drown a cat which some recent magicians have assumed to be a metaphore because Greek pagans were all, obviously to them, sweet and nice characters. No; the text is clearly explicit. If you want the spell to work you're going to drown a cat. Fun stuff. It's no wonder I adore it so. I have yet, however, to have found a need to drown a cat for some marginal material profit. Moving along...)
The Jewish god-names were seen as 'raw powers' to be used and abused as the Greek magicians desired. And this line of reasoning may help us in our search. From a strictly anti-Christian standpoint, “the power of my enemy used against him is an amusing thing.” Spiritual akido, if you will. But I digress. (This is also a point that our good Magister Bleach uses in his “Kabalah for Satanists,” and it's an apt one to make. The belief was wide-spread throughout the classical era, especially amongst lower class magical practitioners.)
To continue I'm going to use some 'Chaos Magick speak'. It'll help cut out some of the bullshit, I think, and also address some of the metaphysical questions I seek to point out.
Forms of magick lead one to inevitably, in the Chaos crowd, discuss “egregores” and “magical currents.” Whether or not these things literally exist or not isn't quite the problem, but they'll help head towards a capacity to discuss the idea of metaphysical flows of power. The egregore is a “group spirit,” or an amalgamation of 'spiritual energies' (I really hate the term 'energies', but it's nicely symbolic and there's no fucking avoiding it) which responds to practitioners. The term itself, in the occult sense, comes from a somewhat little-known group of German magicians called the “Fraternitas Saturni” (“Brotherhood of Saturn”) who came together when they defected en-mass from the original OTO after Crowley took over. They're pretty interesting, but the biggest factor involved in the defection was the fact that they refused to accept the Golden Dawn standard of magick that Crowley brought with him. They accepted “Liber AL” as a manifesto for the modern magician, but rejected Crowley's methods of learning to obtain it. Rather than seek a Holy Guardian Angel, they instead worked with a group guru-type spirit (“egregore”) named GOTOS. I could ramble on and on about GOTOS, 'cuz he's fucking cool, but I'll spare you.
The short factor being that they rejected the HGA as a spiritual authority and instead chose the group-spirit of the egregore.
From a further detached angle, the egregore is the 'mythic expansion and living landscape' which magicians delve into when they jump onto the astral. To be fairly concise with how to view it, “gods are gates.” In other words, spirits (especially “Big Ones” – such as gods) contain their own mythic validity. That's why people write poems about them while intoxicated with their influence, or make chapels dedicated to them. Any system contains mythic symbol-codes which can be hacked, used, dosed on like drugs and ingested (“invocation”), or spit forth to commune with (“Evocation”). They are the nexus and we are but pioneers in their fertile lands.
So, every magical tradition is by necessity then tied to an egregore. Hack the egregore and you can pillage the inner secrets of the tradition.
From this view, the “Goetic” is highly resistant to those changes. That nexus-point of entities and traditions has existed for millenia, and that's a type of power. That's part of the very power that allows one to speak to the entities, period.
This view is heightened by the Voces Mageia used to intoxicate the self just so you can talk to the entities. As idiotic as the members of Joy of Satan might be, they're right about one thing. The god names in certain VM (such as languages like Enochian) matter. They matter because they're actually codes. So they serve a dual function: they break up every-day linguistic reality by being “barbarous,” and by plotting a course like one might while sailing. Rather than being mathematical in nature – such as for typical maps – they serve the function of plotting a spiritual course.
Of course, members of the JoS are also idiots who neglect the earlier mentioned point that words of power are words of power and it's up to the practitioner to decide how to use them. But if you change the words of power bound into the lineage, you're not going to end up in what I'd like to call the spiritual Otherworld of Goetia-ville. You're going to end up somewhere else. Where? Fuck if I know. You find out and tell me. I just know that's how it works. And I know that from personal experience, and having others in my group of madmen do the same thing. We've dicked around with VM enough to make our own entities, hack other egregores, and piss off more than a few Ceremonial Magicians off. It's great fun.
The next factor comes from the oft cited fact that entities in the Lemegeton do, in fact, have pagan names. This leads one to assume you're actually talking to infernalized and demon gods. And if you assume that you're on the wrong track. Those names are meaningless. I don't expect people to actually do something crazy and read Agrippa, so I'll quote him for you:
"The very ardent intension [intention] of the invocator, by which our intellect is joyned to the separated intelligencies, causeth that we have sometimes one spirit, sometimes another, although called upon under the same name, made obsequious to us."
(Many thanks to RO for turning me on to that quote.)
The name doesn't matter. An example here would be that there are 20-billion Joe Smiths out there. But if we want to call up our friend Joe Smith, from Kentucky, who we went to school with we'll have to sort through them... It helps if we have a specific phone number then, right? Well, in this case those that made the Grimoires were clever. They provided us with one.
That's what the entities' seal is. Or, to go back to my earlier analogy, it's the map. And the VM are the coordinance. By the two acting together we have an accord to let us make a magical phone call to Lucifuge so we can say, “hey man, I'd like 1500$ by tuesday. I'll give you a neat plaque for it. You down?”
And if he doesn't feel like being called at 6 AM by a dumbass teenager who's going to ask the magical equivalent of “is your refigerator running?” then he just might decide to end the call with some unkind words. Or thrown objects (since he's actually in your house rather than on the phone). Or who knows what.
Which brings us to the Circle of Arte. The Circle of Arte exists to keep Lucifuge, or Belial, or Asmodai, or whatever other spirit you've called up, from removing your entrails forcibly. Or simply causing you to hallucinate having them removed and harm yourself while you try to stop bleeding that doesn't exist and cut off precious and necessary blowflow to limbs that are actually unharmed. Yes, they can do that.
The circle is typically (once again) names of god, complete with the seals and names of angels of the hour and day. This exists to keep you from being totally fucked up by a raging entity who was about to get it on with one fine-ass succubus, and fuck you for interrupting with your fucking phone call. Now, not all of them react that way. But the few that do pack a punch at you if not for you. And I think that's something to note. If the power isn't flexed outward it can hit inward, and it can send you running for the hills.
The circle of power (along with praying and fasting and other aspects that 'build trance' and heighten authority) is one of the biggest issues faced by LHP adherents wanting to warp Goetia. How do you still construct a sacred space that'll keep “raging entity A.” from obliterating your brain and kill the Judeo-Christian aspects?
Well, you can change them. Thelema lends itself here. Babalon can be a name of power, too. The Angels of the day and hour? We can either warp our viewpoint and see them as “simple spiritual messengers originating from (insert big term for 'The All' here)” or “powers of the sky”. Or we can warp our view so that they're emanations of aspects of being, whether martial strength (Gabriel) or otherwise. But let's be honest? It's still an 'Angel.' And that'll turn some stomachs.
One could posit that you could use other infernal names. But, there's flaws. I'm certain that Lucifuge and Lucifer are two different beings. That said, I don't want to find out that I'm wrong the hard way by using Lucifer's name on my circle. That could, literally, suck ass. As in, I might end up trying to suck my own ass after he's done learning me some manners.
So there you have it. You can change VM, you can change authority, and you can change the circle—but by my token, you won't actually be dealing with classical Goetia and it's egregore anymore. It'll be something new. And in that case—why bother? Why not just craft a new system altogether? After all, with those basics changed and altered you've done just that. Which means you're well on your way to being a badass and getting teenagers to buy your book to be blasphemous.
Since you'll have a new slew of entities, you can also get new names, form a new Non-Christian Grimoire, and have at it. Personally—I figure that's the better option, too.
You may now rip what I've said apart as is expected and I'll do my best to keep answering questions.