I’m a big fan of Mike Cechetelli’s (hereinafter I’ll call him MC, Cechetelli is hard to type) Book of Abrasax. In the Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Hans Dieter Betz left out explicitly Christian material, probably to present to us a more coherent work concentrating on the pagan magical and folk religious beliefs of the late Hellenistic world. With the Book of Abrasax, MC drew on the untapped font of magical rites which Betz left out and presents a working magical system largely incorporating some of those left out Coptic Christian rites, as well as rites from Coptic manuscripts dating from as late as the 10th century CE. Some of the rites mingle the Christian and Egyptian pantheons seamlessly. A few are completely pagan. The result is a rather compact grimoire containing a complete magical system.
The Book of Abrasax is not a work of academic scholarship. MC has felt free to fill in gaps and lacunae in the original manuscripts by finding other manuscripts without the lacunae and as it were filling in the blanks. He also standardizes the spelling of names and of voces magicae (sometimes called “barbarous words”) by using the most common, or sometimes the obviously correct, spelling. For example, the mysterious name ABLANATHANALBA is a palindrome, the same word both forwards and backwards. Thus alternate spellings can be replaced by the correct palindromic spelling. Also MC gives suggestions on how the rites may be modified to suit the needs of the practitioner whilst the rites remain faithful enough to the original that the resultant modification “just works.” —Far from being a drawback — this non-academic treatment of ancient material — it is precisely MC’s filling in of blanks, corrections and modifications that allow the existence of these rites of magic in a form usable by the contemporary practitioner. A more academic treatment would not have resulted in a working grimoire. There are complete rites, for example, in the Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, and it is a treasure trove of magical lore, but it is not a working grimoire.
MC’s extensive research and meticulous reconstruction of magical rites results in a book filled with immense power. As mentioned above, the Book of Abrasax is not a large book, but it is comprehensive. It comprises chapters on the Preparation and Securing of Space, Protective Magick (magick is MC’s preferred spelling), Amorous Magick, Wealth and Prosperity, and on Transcendent magick, often known today as “High Magick”. MC has, by the way, in this last section significantly raised the bar concerning just how “High” magic(k) can go. So the Book of Abrasax is a slim but comprehensive tome of sometimes shocking power and intensity.
You may have noticed that there is no section on the evocation of spirits. MC provides his complete method of evocation elsewhere, in The Conjure Codex by Hadean Press.
All the workings in this book call upon the aid of Gods and Angels and Luminaries. MC himself has stated publicly on his blog that all magic depends upon the intervention of spirits. This a belief I do not share — humans are spirits too and we are quite able to do magic without any external aid. The infamous evil eye or malocchio is an incontestable example of humans’ power to do magic without the help of spirits. So, for example, would be creating a cubical astral construct (the cube is the Platonic solid associated with Elemental Earth), absorbing said Elemental Earth from your environment using the technique called pore breathing, filling the astral cube with same, and then willing it to enter someone’s bloodstream. Or brain. Just one of an infinite number of examples of human-only magic which the clever mind might devise. (Your example wouldn’t have to be evil — you could send the same cube into a broken bone to help heal and strengthen it: my mind tends to travel along dark paths.)
Despite my disagreement with MC on this point, invoking the aid of spirits, especially of Gods, Angels and Luminaries, is or should be part of any well-rounded magical praxis. These mighty beings can warp reality and alter probabilities in ways we humans cannot. Also, working with them is simply a thrilling experience, so much so that maybe the thrill of it just maybe can’t be topped.
I am something of a “primitivist”, spiritually speaking. After losing my Christian faith, I found first that I was already an animist. All things whatsoever contain a portion of what we call life: everything is alive, I realized. Then I met my first spirit, face to face while I was meditating in the woods. I modified my world-view to incorporate the spiritist viewpoint. Then I prayed one night to Hekate and — BANG! — the Distant One was astrally but literally in my face. I then became a polytheist, Gods being basically Big Spirits.
But the Book of Abrasax works primarily with the lesser know Angels, Luminaries and even Gods of Gnostic Christianity. How can a polytheist practice a system derived from a monotheistic religion? Well, for one thing, some Gnostic Christianity was not particularly monotheistic. As mentioned above, some rites call upon Egyptian Gods alongside Angels and Gnostic Christian Godnames. For that matter, just who is Abrasax? He’s quite a mystery, but one thing is clear — He’s not is a monotheistic “One True God”. Still, familiar Angels such as Gabriel are found in these rites. Even the Master Yeshua (meaning Jesus) himself puts in an appearance. Some rites truly seem to call upon the monotheistic God under such names as Adonai, Elohim, and Sabaoth. How do I reconcile my polytheism with this? How do I avoid cognitive dissonance?
My working theory concerning the multiverse is that it is vaster than could possibly be described, let alone imagined. Our physical universe is quite probably infinite in size, extending forever past the 43 billion light-year radius of our visible universe, our “Hubble Bubble” past which nothing can be seen, and there may be other, separate physical universes. Then there is the strange fact of multiple futures: divination will reveal this to you. The best divination is often one that never comes true. It doesn’t mean the divination was incorrect, it means your future was steered slightly and became one of those other futures. Then, given that we did divinations in the past, there must be multiple presents. All time, including time already past, was once the present, so finally there must also exist multiple pasts.
What I’m saying is that I believe the multiverse is big enough to accommodate cosmologies that to us seem contradictory. I’m still a polytheist, and my favored theory concerning “God” is that God is synonymous with what the alchemists call the Azoth, the fifth element, often today referred to as Spirit. That, looked at as a construct built entirely of Azoth or Spirit, the multiverse can be considered as one living more-than-infinite being. That doesn’t sound much like our idea of a person: monotheism requires that “God” be a person. Still room for polytheism.
Even if I’m wrong, even if something like the Gnostic First Father exists, which emanated the fundamentals of reality an eternity ago, it’s still not much like a person. The First Father can be anthropomorphized in our minds, and that’s what I do with the Book of Abrasax. I see the First Father as an anthropomorphism of Something that does not in reality resemble a person much. And if I’m wrong the multiverse is still large enough to contain mutually contradictory cosmologies, theogonies, origins, and ends.
At least that’s my working theory. I could be wrong.
What’s it like to work the Book of Abrasax? Two examples will suffice.
Last night, which was a Sunday night, during one of the hours of the Sun, I performed the Rite of the Kindling of the Four Lights. I called upon the four Luminaries as found in the Gnostic Apocyphon of John — think something like an Angel only … bigger — and on God or “God” to set me firmly over my own realm. Being king, or queen, in your own kingdom is an absolute necessity, and it is not easy. Some help would be nice. That’s the purpose of this rite, to establish you in your own kingdom in wealth and prosperity. I think I’ll repeat this rite every Sunday night for a while, because something happened. My entire body was still tingling as if with very small electric shocks thirty minutes after the rite’s completion. And the Four Luminaries Themselves must have been present, to some extent. I felt a powerful sensation of purity and cleanness like nothing I’ve ever felt before, not even in the presence of Archangels. I’m not a millionaire yet, but even though I have a bad cold today I’m sitting here writing this blog entry, which is better than average behavior for me.
Another time, I’d been threatened with magical attack. By a woman who knew a disturbing amount about demonology. I performed the second rite in the book, the Adjuration of Metatron, followed by the Preliminary Rite of Protection. I used the modified version of the second rite in order to call upon Metratron, the Angel of the Presence, to empower a talisman. —I divined that I was in danger of demonic attack, but no such attack ever happened. Archangelic protection is enough to ward off any demon.
Was there even an attack to be warded off? I’ll never know the answer to that question, I hope, and that’s exactly the way I like it.