Imperial Arts (imperialarts) wrote,

Goetia #1: Bael

(BOL) pronounced "Ba-al"
King with 66 Legions

The conjuration was performed during a day of strong winds. I covered the windows and laid the circle out on the new bamboo floor. If you ever have the opportunity to install new flooring and expect to save money on the installation, just forget it and pay someone to do it for you. The process was very labor-intensive and caused my house to be out of sorts for weeks as I removed the old flooring and prepared everything else.

Further obstacles to the work included persistent illness and stacks of books. Only in the last week or so have I been able to clear the tens of thousands of books out of my house and into our new storefront. Between the books, being sick, working 60 hour weeks, and the flooring, I have had neither space nor time for these conjurations or much of anything else.

Invisibility is one of the most persistent of the miracles of magic, perhaps the greatest practical occult mystery. The average occultist takes little time to give due consideration to the topic of invisibility. It is portrayed as a minor and rarely-useful effect, and it is widely believed that a person cannot become truly invisible, yet interest in the subject has long been a significant component of occult practice, following classic aims like Money, Love, and Power.

Plato presents the idea of invisibility as a moral question in the tale of the Ring of Gyges. So the story goes, Gyges was a shepherd who found a fissure in the earth in which there were the remains of a man from a former age, bearing upon his hand a strange ring. Through the ring, Gyges was able to make himself invisible, so he used this power to seduce the queen and slay the king, taking the title for himself.

Plato uses the tale as a means to introduce the idea of moral accountability. When a person knows he cannot be caught, he is prone to antisocial behavior. We are asked to consider whether a person would do such a thing, even though it is morally wrong, on the premise of substantial rewards and almost certain impunity.

Since it is difficult to cast such a question in terms of magic rings for a modern audience, one might twist the idea a little and ask whether one would act morally even if there were no prisons or police.  A man who wishes to rob someone may elude the police, but assumes an invisible enforcement team will be watching, and so he does not commit the crime. Without the presence of the law, human or spiritual, the robber feels free (if not compelled) to commit his crimes.

The philosopher suggests that we are not bound by a will to do good and avoid evil, but by a fear of great evil being visited upon us in retribution. Invisibility, or indeed any action in which we feel inculpable, is presented in classical thought not as a wonderful magical power, but as a gateway to immorality.

The enduring appeal of this argument has found its way into many other religious and philosophical systems. Fans of Tolkien will probably immediately recognize how the One Ring was used in direct response to the idea of corruption as a result of secrecy. Hidden plots, veiled interests,and actual invisibility are frequently used by Tolkien to demonstrate the way in which evil operates.

This is not a modern concept. Tolkien drew heavily from the Germanic myths, in which invisibility functions in a way very similar to the treatment given to it by Plato. While modern occultists debate whether invisibility is a physical possibility or not, the ancient sages were far more concerned with the role of visibility in the choice of our moral decisions.

Far to the east, invisibility received no less scorn. In Hinduism, invisibility is counted as a siddhi: a distraction encountered in meditation that breaks off concentration and diverts attention to material details. For the average person, invisibility has become a facet of daily life in some respects. I can hardly imagine that anyone reading this journal has not witnessed the effects of anonymity gained by the use of digital appliances. People will say in e-text what they would never say in person, even among friends and loved ones. The effect of this invisibility is evident in the breakdown of families (who has not known at least one man whose marriage was ruined by a cell phone?), and in the growing number of people who are relegated to internet-only communications.

Western magicians of the last 500 years have been farmore inclined toward a practical approach to invisibility than probably any other time in history. The roots of ceremonial magic are such a bottleneck of literary culture that few magical traditions do not make some space for the idea of it. This is greatly owed to the prevalence of such ideas in works of talismanic magic like the Key of Solomon and its numerous offshoots, in which the subject is approached as a an amulet, a cloak, or as the gift of a spirit.

The former two examples, the amulet and the cloak, can be easily found in Solomonic literature. In such instances the process appears as a Solar talisman consecration, and the conjuration of Almiras as the Shroud of Concealment. This latter process appears in the Z documents of the Golden Dawn, somewhat altered. It is clear from the instructions in these cases that the effect is not to provide criminals with a defense, but is suited to some noble purpose. It was my task to decipher what such a purpose might be, and then to achieve it.

The seal above is about an ounce of 24K gold with small but flawless diamonds in the two circles standing on either side. The seal probably depicts a man standing, the face of a cat, and a toad viewed from above.

The spirit asked whether it should teach, or whether we should discuss whatever I had in mind. I suggested that it could teach me, and that we mightdiscuss what was taught. I asked specifically to be instructed in the subject of invisibility, and the spirit resignedly spoke that it had given the means man times since ages untold. He described two methods of practice: one involving a "toad stone" placed in a vessel with the skeleton of a cat, and one with the bones of a man buried in the field. These conjurations are known from occult lore.

The first, involving the bones of a cat, appears in the Red Dragon grimoire, and in popular fiction by T.H. White. The details of this rite were dismissed as superfluous by the spirit, but the essence is a cat skeleton in a vessel of water, sealed along with the elusive "toad stone" which is later removed and placed in the mouth for invisibility.

The second, involving the bones of a dead man, appears also in various occult rites but most famously in the Grimoirium Verum. Of this rite, the spirit said that the function of the rite is "to exchange with the dead who is unseen among the living, as he is dead, and so be seen in your place that you be unseen as the man dead."

I asked several questions to clarify with the spirit whether these bones must be taken for the purpose, and the spirit indicated that it was neither necessary nor desirable to do so. I further inquired as to whether the spells thus performed would render a person truly invisible, or to merely become ignored or overlooked. The spirit was clear that the manner of invisibility wasto be "not seen, unable to be seen."

The rules or prohibitions attached to this effect were few: no crime could be committed, neither any kind of interaction with others, nor taking of food or drink. The existence of the talismans (the toad-stone for example) must be kept a close-guarded secret and returned to their place when not in use. The effect is not a natural occurrence but a power bestowed by the spirit through its inferiors, and it could be retracted if the conditions were not met.

Apart from the spells, I asked for certain favors from the spirit in the form of concealment for people and things for my own personal reasons. The Solar talisman was present to humble the spirit, who being a King has an office of a Solar nature, and it was my hope to avoid any of the difficulties in seeing my directives put into action. It often seems that the spirits are haughty, doing only the minimum required to fulfill my requests, or making things work out in ways that do not measure up to what I should expect from such powerful beings. I noticed no difference at all during the conjuration, nor did I have much of a gauge for whether it was effective, but here it is all the same, the 2nd Pentacle of the Sun in solid gold:

I asked the spirit about itself. It declared itself to be a "Slayer of Men," but responsible also for their exaltation or debasement upon which I have written below. In this I am confident that the spirit is identical to the various Baal deities. It would have men increase their worldly power, giving them prestige or humiliation as their actions warrant, in either case increasing their visibility so that the influence of Baal is known and respected. Its curse is to provide invisibility, a negation of its powers, so that a person might look into the hidden world of others to expose their faults without interrupting them.

Baal, a common title of divinity in the ancient Middle East, is perhaps best known for its usage in the Old Testament. The culmination of its presence there is found in the story of Elijah at Mt. Carmel, where altars are erected to Baal and Elijah sets up his own for God. The 450 priests of Baal, accompanied by 400 devotees of Astarte, are unable to make their own altar take fire. Elijah douses his altar with barrels of water, and his altar takes flame in a great show. I suspect that there was sodium or potassium or some other element in the bull prepared by Elijah, which when in contact with water would catch fire; and I cannot fathom why any of the pagan priests would have entered such a contest, but such is the story.

It is important to realize that there is not one Baal, but dozens, since it is a title of office. Baal is simply "Lord" and can be said to represent any deity who is regarded as singular chief of his pantheon. The devotion of modern Wiccans toward the Lord and Lady is - and is constructed to be - the renovation of the cult of Baal and Astarte, in which the idea of divinity is considered masculine and feminine respectively, and not as Absolute.

This spirit is said to appear as a man, a cat, or a toad. It was my impression that these things represented different manners of invisibility: the toad goes unnoticed, the cat acts with stealth, and presumably the man represents actual invisibility. Crowley's vellum copy illustration indicates something like a monkey or satyr.

The spirit appeared as an old man of swarthy complexion with a long white beard, wearing a hooded white robe of some fleecy material. His brows were heavy and wide, and his look was severe. Beneath his robe, I glimpsed a mail of pure gold in heavily-ornamented rectangular scales with relief images on each scale. His fingers were likewise decorated in multiple gold rings. The general impression of the figure was that of an ancient Chinese emperor without distinctly Asian features.

It is my chief interest here to remark that paganism is "earth-based" in that its aims are material. The priests of the pagans intend to make a person successful at agriculture or business, to make a person respected or punished as they deserve, to exalt beauty and shame weakness, and generally to be focused on the coming and going of things in the observable world. It is rarely cast as such by modern Pagans, who almost never have any of these things anyway.

Yet paganism, if not labeled such, exerts a tremendous influence on society. I meet far more people who are obsessively concerned with having the right position or possessions than with good character, skills, learning, or any degree of virtue. The hypocrisy so often cited among religious types is almost exclusively confined to the same facets of paganism of which their Old Testament counterparts were accused by the ancient prophets.

Our modern society ought to function perfectly for those with pagan values. Make money, obtain an enviable status, seek favor and attraction among the powerful, and disregard all authority that is not matched with earthly enforcement, and you have become a paragon of achievement. The religious or philosophical principles behind such goals are those which support man as a part of his environment, making the most of what is available to him in seeking joy of a tangible nature.

I must be clear on the point that I am not recommending any specific religious practice over another one. I am suggesting that without some decision in regard to moral values, and the way in which these values are relevant, the essential character of a person is weakened. In the case of the spirit Bael, we are asked to question whether an idealized vision of Man is sufficient to represent God. His apparition is an old, virile man, much decorated and given tremendous honor, with keen eyes and a terrible voice. He represents the aspirations of all men, and of humankind as a race, to be exalted in the glorious potential that is Man.

But he is only a spirit, his worship is only the following of an idea. Much of the world has done away with gods of gold and stone, but the gods of the ancient pagans persist as image-lore connected to the progress and development of the human race. A person is incomplete without the proper wardrobe, vehicle, dwelling, and hairstyle suited to his concept in life. There is a demand placed upon him, externally, in which every facet of his character is determined by others. This, and the larger concepts of unaccountability beyond the sight of mankind, are the Baalim of today. These idols in the images of men are cursed, to operate in secret, so that the foolishness and their shame of their devotees will not be exposed.

The spirit was cordial enough, but at one point called my approach "rude," for which I suppose it might be accurate as I had more interest in getting to work than to make idle conversation on the exaltation of man. The figure was evaporated as steam in the wind, when the License to Depart was given, and I have set down the record as faithfully as my memory can provide.
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