President commanding 50 Legions
This spirit is said to appear during the sign of Sagittarius. Crowley indicates that this is the only time during which the spirit can be bound. Whether he ever tried at some other time to conjure the spirit and failed, I am uncertain, but this one is mentioned specifically as the one through which his mentor was restored to health.
This spirit is credited with three primary powers: to teach moral and natural philosophy, to teach the properties of herbs and plants, and to heal all "distempers" in men. The last of these is somewhat obscure, the word "distemper" being currently applied only to veterinary medicine. In short, a distemper is simply a disease characterized by a prolonged or pervasive condition, as opposed to acute trauma or infection where the cause of suffering is readily apparent. This word would have been immediately recognized by anyone studying medicine up to the modern age, when it was replaced by terms like syndrome, disorder, and volumes of similar new jargon.
I felt especially confident that this was the best spirit to conjure at this particular time, and my decision had little to do with astrology. I sought to continue in seeking a measure of wisdom from this art, and to arm myself therewith. I conjured this spirit not only for my own sake, but for the sake of others, specifically to extend my art insofar as possible against the great diseases of our time.
Louis Breton makes an excellent (though absurd) engraving of Buer in De Plancy's Infernal Dictionary, wherein he is described as a pentacle in a wheel. Breton had great technical skill, and some wit is involved in his drawings, but far too often they are taken as literal images of the spirits. They are not meant to be accurate, but only to illustrate the descriptions given by De Plancy. Take for example the image of "Abraxas," showing the Great Archon of Basilides as a naked man with a pot-belly, a big nose, and snakes for slippers. These images are art, and should be taken as art, not as an indication of anything significant to the character or apparitions of the spirit.
Elsewhere it is said that Buer ought to appear as a centaur, though Crowley disputes his own editing of the Goetia and describes his apparition as a soldier. I would concur with his experience, with some reservations. The spirit had the look of a tall and powerful man of youthful build, black as coal and surrounded by a halo of flame. From every angle he seemed to emanate the surface of the Sun, though it cast no light. In his right hand, he carried a long bow with its lower point on the ground.
It spoke in a clear and direct manner: "I agree to do as you request, provided that you only ask for what you truly need. I am not to be trifled. "
I gave a short preamble to my actual requests, to make clear my overall intentions. The spirit seemed agreeable to this, or at least to confirm its offices: "I am here to accomplish your wish. You may never need any but that which you learn from me, and counsel you take from my associates."
By "associates" I assumed it referred to its numerous legions of servitors, for it is said that the spirit gives good familiars. I began with what I thought seemed a good introduction, my desire for a better foundation in philosophy and the pursuit of applicable wisdom. I had plenty of time for this ceremony, and wanted to get a fairly thorough answer.
The spirit was agitated, saying (in effect) that it had just told me not to ask for things I did not truly desire. It accused me of asking this question only to think of myself as the sort of person who would ask that sort of question, not for any real desire to have an answer. Its attitude stopped short of mockery, but not far short, and I was left fumbling over justifications for a request I had presented in earnest. The reply put me into a state of perplexity, and I began to second-guess my original motives.
I tried the same question in a slightly different manner, suggesting that there were indeed genuine questions of morality in the world, and that there ought to be some method by which moral dilemmas could be resolved. Again the spirit threw the question aside, saying that those issues ultimately come down to a conscious decision to behave in an antisocial manner, or pure accident in which case there is no cause for guilt. It made little of the whole subject of individual morality, and I made no verbatim notes on its brief talk.
A third time I pressed the spirit for an answer, this time asking for what it could suggest as an approach to finding a right course of action, something that could be understood and applied by anyone.
"Know who you are. Understand what it means to have your own perspective. You have no choice in who you are, but every choice in what you do as yourself."
The spirit then gave a brief outline of its philosophical concept which was entirely self-centered. Ordinarily a person might be warned to consider others, but instead the spirit advised to consider the impact of actions on the one performing them. A person would be advised to consider what sort of person he becomes by doing something, and to note the change of outlook one gains from the experience. This is a fairly neutral territory as far as moral philosophy is concerned, in that it could just as easily encourage terrible acts as any sort of kindness. I asked the spirit about it.
The spirit talked about how to suffer or to gain was a matter of perspective, but one has freedom to experience or produce either one. Lies, accordingly, were to be seen as traps and the substance of evil, but not to be considered evil inherently since they could be used to protect or to harm the innocent. The spirit insisted that we have no help, that we are all individually responsible for our actions for good or ill. Hope, it declared, was a redeeming factor in that the hopeful seek out freedom, while the despairing abandon all options.
During all of this, the incense was being drawn directly toward the apparition and absorbed by it. Under normal conditions, the smoke will flow smoothly upwards a short distance, then dissipate in a small cloud and gradually diffuse throughout the room. Instead, the whole mass of incense was apparently being sucked inward by the apparition.
To be blunt, the world is incredibly full of misery. Those who stay above it tend to do so through mediocrity, and exceptions are rare. I see plenty of white-collar workers who will put up with no end of demeaning and meaningless toil all for the sake of accounting themselves just that much higher in the imaginary hierarchy than their blue-collar counterparts. I see others who are little better than slaves, whose exploitation places them only a meager step above pure savagery. In every major city in this country (at least), vast areas are inhabited almost exclusively by halfwit mutants with no apparent redeeming qualities. This is a pitiable state of affairs, wherein so many are afflicted by despairing madness and the lash of tyranny.
I asked the spirit if there was any hope for them, these struggling masses. The spirit was again adamant that my concern was entirely in vain, saying that I had no responsibility toward them lest I interfere. Thus far, on the subject of moral philosophy, the spirit had asserted that people are individually responsible for their actions, but only insofar as it affects their sense of identity or perspective, and that we have no responsibility toward others except in that we volunteer for that task.
Far from satisfied, my desire to manifest some form of applicable wisdom from this Art had been met with a frustrating self-doubt. I suspected some error in the exchange. Maybe not an outright deception, but a hidden angle in both my own desire and in what the spirit had spoken. Considering it best to avoid digging a deeper hole, and wishing to find a framework for its odd morality, I asked the spirit about natural philosophy.
"Natural philosophy is an approach to science, not a science itself. The decision to understand ecosystems was the most important judgment of the modern age. That is natural philosophy."
With this preliminary definition in hand, I asked the spirit to describe some aspect of natural philosophy that could be investigated to the benefit of modern science.
"Nature exists in a ratio that is the fulfillment of natural law. You know what the height and reach of a man are in proportion to his area of action, but the grasp of a man and the shape of his hands are in proportion to the shape of what he can produce. That which man can make is determined as much by the shape of his hands as his brain. That which men erect, and ordain as government, are proportionate to his intellectual growth. What can be done or had by all living things exists in proportion to their environment."
The spirit went on to say more about the nature of subtle proportions. Some of this was reminiscent of nodal surface theories, wherein the given factors in a situation produce a finite (but large) number of possibilities that can be affected by a finite number of change-causing internal elements. The spirit proposed a sort of ideal proportion in which things are able to be done, as opposed to contrary conditions in which there is little or no chance of the desired outcome occurring. The spirit was clear that the possible outcomes in a situation could be affected by the intrusion or exclusion of elements which would otherwise contribute to the ideal conditions. In the example of ecosystems (though it did not give this example), toxic sludge could be seen as the intrusive element that unbalances the ideal proportion of a wetland environment. The spirit was also clear that these proportions can be exceedingly subtle.
I asked the spirit, finally, if there were anything beyond these material events, since it had given so much attention to cause and effect relationships. "There is a determined element to everything that is not self-determined."
One might well wonder what parts of a person are not self-determined.
Lately I have become uncannily overwhelmed by requests for relief from disease. Throat cancer, brain tumors, leukemia, blocked arteries, all very serious and life-threatening. I suppose that is better than to field requests for spells of love and vengeance, but it is frightful as flattery. I think of how terrible and frustrating such a disease would be. I know that a few of those whose requests I've read have already spent their bottom dollar on every method known to medicine, that they have tried flax seed oil and "alternative" therapies. Maybe they even went to a professional witch-doctor, chanted something supposedly powerful, or sat under a Rife light, to no avail.
I have no medical credentials whatsoever. I faint at the sight of blood or needles. Still, I am wracked to hear of these diseases. I know that some of them are unwittingly produced by diet or genes, or by conditions of the living environment. I know that some could be simply remedied, but that the means are unknown or unavailable. I know, bitterly, that a great deal of the misery in these plagues is perpetuated by the medical system in its paranoia to avoid litigation and to preserve profits at all costs.
Before proceeding with the latter part of this conjuration, it is certainly time for me to weigh-in on the matter of healthcare. Two points must be borne in mind: that the medical system extracts money from insurance carriers through extortion of patients, and that the physician is ultimately liable for care of his patients. If a person is denied life-saving treatment on account of the cost, he or she ought to hold the physician who denies that service personally liable in equal measure to his or her own risk.
To cut straight to the heart of it, I requested that the spirit bestow upon me, by an agreed sign, the power to heal these and various other diseases. This would have been the easy way to do things, and suitably dramatic.
"Would you hold your hands over them and say 'Be healed in the name of Jehovah?' " The spirit was clearly mocking me.
I responded on a tangent, "How is it that you so freely reference that name?"
"Is it not the name of your God, the one you invoke? You may use it as you wish, but it is only a word."
Returning to the topic at hand, I described the people who had recently come to me. The spirit seemed well enough aware of them without my particular references, and most are strangers to me whose names I do not even know. I requested that the spirit heal them of their diseases. "Choose one," it replied. I did.
For the others, and for all the others whose diseases plague them, this one thing did not seem sufficient, however miraculous it might be. The spirit is credited with the power, so I asked it what could be done. It revealed a method by which a cure could be obtained for any particular person and for nearly any disease. The spirit specified that this would be done through various concoctions whose medicinal value would amount to snake-oil, but that through such potions its servitors would effect relief from the diseases.
Discovery of these formulae involves nine days of celibacy and collative fasting for me along with other prescriptions I would be required to perform, and must be done over and again for each disease to be cured. The cure would be different for each person, whose name would be written and kept hidden along with that of the disease to be cured. I would like to have been given a less austere method, but compared to what the diseased person must suffer I suppose it could be worse. Edgar Cayce had an easier time of it.
Judging my resolve in this less strong than what would be required to solve such a vast problem, I requested further that the spirit bestow knowledge upon the workers of "real" medicine so that scientists would come to understand their botanical solutions and find medical cures for these diseases.
I entered the circle this time with a mind to take the "high ground," and the experience of this conjuration pulled the rug right out from beneath my feet. I cannot say that I am humbled by it, but certainly have gained something valuable in the way of perspective, if nothing else.