‘Authority, Energy, and Power,’ that sounds like some sort of omniscient labyrinthine bureaucratic department in Terry Gilliam’s, Brazil.
I've been thinking a lot about the concepts of authority, energy, and power in magic lately. I think it is important, at least for my own practice, to define these terms and to map them onto the greater magical reality.
The hyperlocal space weather has really messed me up lately. I haven't been right since the last new moon actually. Last night was a partial lunar eclipse and on the 21st of August I am in the path of at least an 80 to 90% total solar eclipse. All of these solar / lunar conclusions have destroyed my rhythm, or at least, have garbled the communication channels I thought I had open with sublunar spirit entities like saints, sigils, and demons.
I've done some asking around my cohort and close friends, but I seem to be an outlier here. I'm told that the full moon in Aquarius is a good thing, that Jupiter is in the house and that is positive, but all I see are shadows. I've read about all the magical plans, charging accoutrements under the eclipsed sun, special timing and rituals to coincide with the event, but it all seems to map back to experimentation.
There is nothing in the hygromanteia about eclipse work, nor in the Book of Oberon or the Book of St. Cyprian. I am of the strong opinion that these are anomalies that haven't been worked in any consistent manner and don't have precedent in the grimoires. There IS some precedent in the ouvre and magical reality of HP Lovecraft, which I will touch on later in this post.
Authority, Energy, and Power; what are they to the magician?
Authority is how a magician carries herself and is primarily concerned with how effective communication between the magician and the spirit world is. The more authority, the more open and clear the channels of communication are.
Energy is the fabric of magic, but it is uncontrolled. It is the washing over of the earth by radiant sunlight. We can shield ourselves from it or bake our flesh in its rays, but the we have no control over it. Energy is there and some can feel it but none can control it. It is the physical interaction of the magic and real, a force untouched by man and governed by things like the movement of the planets, the passing through and shattering of barriers between the real and the spirit world. If someone claims to be an energy worker, I challenge that moniker and that practice, frankly. There is no working with the radioactive, not without a lot of gear anyway, and certainly not wearing nothing but body paint dancing around a bonfire... but I digress too much.
Power, now power is what I am concerned with. Power is the concept I am most questioning. I've spoke about that all over body buzz I get that let's me know that the magic is 'working'. I previously thought that was a sign of communication, a sign that my authority with the spirit world was growing. I no longer think that is the case. I think what I'm feeling there is power. Power is a combination of authority and energy, both of these things are a component of power, but power is the addition of the human the channeling and alchemical transmutation of magical energy as it is put to work by the will of the magician.
Power isn't a new concept in magic, and it is almost always accompanied with the idea of maintaining balance, a balance in the universe. The idea that there is a limited amount of power that can be put to use by magicians is swiftly falling apart for me. Power, in this magical context, is (it has to be) the size of the universe itself. I deeply believe that the idea of one magician, even a dozen powerful covens or every Thelemite on the planet together, the idea that we can somehow deplete or unbalance something as large as the available magical power in the universe is the height of ego.
The HiLowBrow podcast, in episode 13 of their Illicit Objects series, encapsulates the traditional ideas of magical power very well.
Humans are powerful, but we are powerful in our robustness, in our resistance, we are powerful conduits of unlimited cosmic power.
Balance, in this context, also strengthens the false idea that there is an inherent good vs evil morality in the universe. One of the most popular and well understood themes in Lovecraft is the amorality of his Old and Other and Elder Gods. Sure, his protagonists, like the Detective Malone that we will look at below, view the world of the magical other through this binary lens, but that isn't what Lovecraft is saying. He's trying to tell us that we are, or we can be, insignificant in the eyes of these entities. They aren't here on earth to destroy or bedevil us. They are here for their own reasons and we are, largely, in the way.
The below tweet perfectly sums up these ideas in a very relatable format, human / cat interaction. Anyone who has every loved (or hated) a cat will be able to understand the true nature of Spirit / Human relationships.
Once you conceptualize Power using these much more realistic heuristics, the entire nature of magic begins to change.
The best example of this trinity of concepts in the Tarot is the King of Swords.
The King of Swords in the Etteilla deck possess the keyword 'Homme de Robe' or Man of Dress. The surface translation of this is that the card signifies a well-dressed man, perhaps. Looking at the etymology of the word 'dress' however, takes us a bit deeper. Dress is related to the Latin term 'directre', to direct, to keep straight. The Early 14c meaning is the same and in the late 14th c, it means to align a column of troops. A Man of Dress can thus be interpreted as a strategist, an office, one that enforces the rules and bends the rules to his benefit. He is intellectual, articulate, logical, rational, and akin to a judge. He has ambition but is also surrounded by controversy. This card says that the power of the universe is subject to man's rule. Man, ultimately, has the ability to direct, enforce, and change the rules of power at his discretion. Man is, or has the capability to be, the judge that governs how magical power is used.
We see this archetype in Lovecraf'ts tale, 'The Horror at Red Hook', specifically in the protagonist, Detective Thomas F. Malone the (retired) New York Police Detective. This story begin by informing the audience of Malone's Batophobia, or his fear of being around or in sight of tall buildings - in Malone's case, tall brick buildings. His fear is linked to images of collapse, fire, and calamity, a visualization that takes us back to the Tower, which lies on the same path of our memory forest as the King of Swords.
Lovecraft speaks of Malone as having
"The logician's quick eye for the outwardly unconvincing"
But also a
"Sense of latent mystery in existence... always [being] present"
He takes us to very specific places in New York, this neighborhood of Red Hook that he frames in with Clinton Street, Court Street, and Borough Hall. The Tower comes up again with Lovecraft's familiar trope of the horror of a babel of tongues and an order hidden beneath chaos.
Malone is a student of the occult as well as a detective, but only a student insomuch as his need to understand the paranormal as his enemy. Lovecraft references Murray's 'Witch-Cult in Western Europe, which according to ST Joshi's catalog of Lovecraft's personal library, was not a tome that he owned at the time of his death (this is not uncommon and begs the question of where Lovecraft's knowledge of most occult books come from, but that is another post).
This story is an example of what many modern critiques might take as Lovecraft's inherent racism. I will begin to assert here, and further my point in later posts, that Lovecraft used corporeal xenophobia in the same vein as his cosmic xenophobia - as a trope to instigate horror in the reader and not as a sociopolitical commentary.
But back to our King of Swords. Lovecraft further offers us a physicality for our archetype through the mention of the Reformed Church in Flatbush with the 'Netherlandish cemetery' and the home of the antagonist (a kind of anti-antagonist) on Martense Street. The story goes on to include a judge, or the fooling of a judge (following or bending the rules as needed) and reveals the true antagonist of the family, Lilith. He even offers an invocation for her, the first I've certainly seen, that brings me to my brief assertion in the beginning, that Lovecraft's ouvre is actually a type of grimoire itself.
Here is the invocation, the order is garbled so I've aligned it here with a more conventional format, beginning with an appeal to angelic / demonic entities before invoking the famous vampire:
Hel, Heloym, Sother, Emmanuel, Saboath, Agla, Tetragrammaton, Aymros, Otheos, Ischyros, Athanatos, Jehova, Va, Adonai, Sadat, Homousion, Messias, Eschereheye!
O Friend and Companion of the Night, Thou Who Rejoicest in the Baying of Dogs and Spilt Blood, Who Wanderest in the Midst of Shades Among the Tombs, Who Longest for Blood and Bringest Terror to Mortals, Gorgo! Mormo! Thousand-Faced Moon, Look Favorably On [My Offerings]!
Malone, our King of Swords, is set through the entire tale on the destruction or interruption of what he views as corrupt or evil, but in the end this moral assertion proves false. It is clear that the morality is only in Malone's heart and not in the spirits, demons, and the undead that he encounters. The Horror of Red Hook is truly a commentary on the horrors of human-trafficking, bondage, and kidnapping - in how humans bind and restrict themselves.
In the end, we see again the breaking through of a barrier between the real and the unreal when Malone, the master strategist having tracked down and pieced together tiny bits of data from a diversity of sources find himself confronted with a dark and ominous locked door in a fetid basement on Martense Street. He smashes the barrier with raw power and is rewarded with the knowledge and evil that he sought, he is rewarded with visions soaked in goblets of blood and the luminescent power of the antagonists.
I will leave off on this theme for now, but it is one that I must return to, because the concepts of an amoral spirit world, man as a conduit of magic, and magic being an unlimited power in the universe, is proving to - much like Malone's investigation - be a horror that will likely consume me.