Magickal & Virtual Egregores in the 21st Century

by John L. Steadman

The high tech, pyrotechnic sci-fi writer William Gibson, in his novel Idoru (1996) envisions a future in which a virtual media star, Rei Toei, or the “idol”, marries Rex, a rock star, and the two then create a virtual place to live in Tokyo, in an akashic-type locale known as The Walled City, constructed from inverted kill-file software codes.  Gibson describes the idoru as basically disembodied information, though her holographic persona is artificially intelligent and creative, and the presentation itself is beautiful in an otherworldly way, at least according to human standards of beauty.

If he [Laney, who works as a net-runner in the book] anticipated her at all, it had been as some industrial-strength synthesis of Japan’s last three dozen top female media faces…. the formula tended to be even more rigid, in the case of software agents- eigen-heads, their features algorithmically derived from some human mean of proven popularity.  [But] she was nothing like that.  Her black hair, rough-cut and shining, brushed pale bare shoulders as she turned her head.  She had no eyebrows, and both her lids and lashes seemed to have been dusted with something white, leaving her dark pupils in stark contrast…. the idoru smiled, lit from within…[i]

What is most fascinating about the idoru is that since she is a pure form of information, she affects the mind of the onlooker in different ways; one of the people at the table where she is sitting – a very basic, unimaginative man, to be sure-  sees her as only a big aluminum thermos bottle.  But Laney experiences a nodal vision which takes the form of a narrative; the narrative intensifies when he looks directly at her face.

He seemed to cross a line.  In the very structure of her face, in geometries of underlying bone, lay coded histories of dynastic flight, privation, terrible migrations.  He saw stone tombs in steep alpine meadows, their lintels traced with snow.  A line of shaggy pack ponies, their breath white with cold, followed a trail about a canyon.  The curves of the river below were strokes of distant silver.  Iron harness bells clanked in the blue dusk…Laney shivered.  In his mouth a taste of rotten metal.[ii]

Obviously, the idoru can affect all of the senses of the imaginative person who is in its presence; Laney sees a group of images that reflect historical events in the early dynasties of Japan; flight, privation and migration.  The description is very well developed visually.  And, additionally, Laney’s other senses are stimulated; he hears bells; he feels cold, and he has the unpleasant taste of “rotten metal” in his mouth (this is an interesting sensation; metal can rust, but it can’t really rot and so, there seems to be an almost organic quality to this taste).

For the magickal practitioner who is reading Gibson’s description, he or she will immediately think: egregore, and this is perfectly right.  Egregores are magickal constructs, “beings” if you will, usually created by magickal practitioners for specific purposes and then, deconstructed by the said practitioner when that purpose is accomplished.  However, it is important to understand two important facts about egregores: (1) these beings, once created, have an independent existence from the magickal practitioners who created them; and (2) over time, if the egregore is not deconstructed but rather, allowed to continue its existence, then it will grow stronger and more powerful.  In occult literature, this outcome is often perceived as undesirable, since the egregore will eventually reach a level of development where it can no longer be deconstructed; essentially, it ends up uncontrollable.  For example, Konstantinos, in Summoning Spirits (2005), argues: “Sometimes, creating an egregore can be dangerous…. the legend of the golem illustrates this possibility in an accurate, yet allegorical way…. I recommend…a very careful reading of the actual story before attempting this type of magickal creation.”[iii]   I would argue, however, that egregores do not necessarily become “bad” or “evil” entities, unless their creators are bad or evil men or women.  Indeed, I would contend that egregore can be more or less equivalent to the idoru that Gibson describes above, i.e. benign entities that are thoroughly real in every sense of the term except the physical, and which, in turn, evolve over time and actually “learn” and become more complex, viable beings.  In fact, these entities can ultimately become repositories of information which magickal practitioners, in turn, can access and experience, often as narrative, even though these latter practitioners did not create the entity and have no connection with it other than the basic connection of seeing or experiencing it.

As a case in point, consider H. P. Lovecraft’s Great Old One Cthulhu.  This is a fictional entity, created by Lovecraft in the tale “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926).  Over the years since Lovecraft’s death, Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones have achieved a level of independent existence and surely, they have grown in power and complexity, drawing energy not only from the countless fans and readers of sci-fi and horror and contemporary gaming culture, but also from a small but dedicated group of magickal practitioners who work with these entities in their magickal rites.  In the popular mind, Cthulhu is usually perceived as being “evil”; he is seen as a monstrous, humanoid creature with wings, sharp claws and teeth, and a face full of tentacles.  But is Cthulhu really a monster such as this?  And is he necessarily evil?  I am not so sure. Like the rest of the Great Old Ones, Cthulhu is rarely interested in humans or human concerns; his interest in humanity is essentially no different than the interest that most humans have in lower, insignificant life forms such as insects.  This attitude might be considered “evil”, but only from a human perspective.  What I find most interesting about Cthulhu and his peers, however, is that they tend to appear differently depending on the perspective and the cognitive level of the person who “experiences” them.  In fact, like Gibson’s idoru, complex egregores such as the Great Old Ones are best understood as experiences, as nodal visions, and even, at times, as narratives that play out the individual minds and the psyches of the observers.  Lovecraft makes this clear right from the onset in “The Call of Cthulhu.”  When Cthulhu’s sunken city R’lyeh resurfaces due to a disturbance in the Pacific Ocean, Cthulhu, momentarily free, is perceived in different ways by a group of sailors: some of them see him as a monster, snatching them up in his claws; others see him as only a vague, overwhelming shape- “A mountain walked, or stumbled”, as Lovecraft puts it.  And one of the sailors perceives Cthulhu in geometrical terms, i.e. as an acute angle that behaves as if it were obtuse.

Clearly, the affinity between egregores and virtual entities such as Gibson’s idoru demonstrates just how close the line between magick and science is becoming in the 21st century.  Skilled magickal practitioners have always possessed the ability to create virtual beings; the presentation is akashic rather than electronic, but the principle is exactly the same.  Scientists, however, are only now in the process of learning how to do this.   This circumstance is a good thing, since it indicates that the two disciplines, science and magick, will eventually become one in a not so distant future, just as they were in a not so distant past.  And as technology finds ways to bridge- at least electronically- the gaps between different dimensions and the diversity of worlds inside and outside of our solar system, magick will have to be there to serve as a philosophical and metaphysical underpinning, helping the scientist/magickian to interpret and understand rightly the wondrous things that are waiting to be discovered.

[i] Gibson, William. Idoru. New York, Berkley Books, Inc., 229-30.

[ii] Ibid., 230.

[iii] Konstantinos. Summoning Spirits: The Art of Magical Evocation.  Woodbury, Minnesota. Llewellyn Publications, 2003, 5.

John L. Steadman is the author of H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition, a scholar of H. P. Lovecraft and western occultism and has been a magickal practitioner for more than thirty years. He is currently a college English professor at Olivet College in Michigan.

The Causes of Magickal Power: A Brief Essay

by John L. Steadman

Among occultists, there is some debate about the actual causes of magickal power. There are three schools of thought in play here.  First, there is the theory that the source of magickal power derives from the extra-terrestrial entities that are the target of magickal practice. This theory is certainly the earliest theory and can be considered as the “traditional” view.  The rituals used by magickal practitioners prior to the twentieth century were derived from the grimoires and magickal texts of the 13th, 15th and 16th centuries in western Europe, and these practitioners commonly assumed that the extraterrestrial entities, whether invoked or evoked, as the case might be, served as the “causes” of magickal power.  This is evident when we examine the texts of some of the actual grimoires, such as the Greater Key of Solomon, attributed to the historical King Solomon who lived in the 10th century B.C.E., but likely written by one of Solomon’s followers in the 12th or 13th centuries.

In these prototypical rites, the magickal practitioner not only exhorted the various demons or evil spirits to bring about the results he desires, but went so far as to offer prayers and supplications to angels, archangels and even God himself to compel the demons to do so.   As the medieval practitioner, did this, however, he believed that he was working with real, empirically-existent entities- as ontologically real, in fact, as he was himself.  This belief in the reality of the entities was, of course, held by the early church; the Holy Roman Catholic Church cited doctrine that “proved” God, Christ, the Holy Ghost, and the various angelic and demonic entities were actually in existence; Ephesians 6; Colossians 2:17; Job 4:18; Isiah 45:7.  Similarly, the Protestant sects, from the earliest times, accepted the ontological nature of angels and demons.  As a case in point, the great New England divine Cotton Mather, chief apologist for the Salem Witchcraft crisis of 1692, firmly believed that the afflicted girls were possessed by actual devils, and he himself had an encounter with what he saw as a “good angel when he was in his thirties. But Mather was very careful to state that the devils which afflicted the girls in Salem, though real devils, were allowed to do so only by the permission of God himself.  And likewise, Mather’s contact with his own angel was allowable only through God’s will.

The second school of thought about the source of magickal power is the “inner” explanation.  With the advent of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and psychiatry in the early 1900’s, many occultists shifted away from the strictly “outer” explanation towards the belief that magickal power originates in the mind and brain of human beings themselves.  Accordingly, or so these occultists argue, the extraterrestrial entities are not real, objectively existing beings, but rather, personifications of specific qualities and psychic predispositions that reside within each magickal practitioner. Thus, when a magickal practitioner evokes Metatron, for example, an archangel of the sphere of Kether, who manifests in a cloud of blinding white light- much like a conventional image (caricature?) of God, the Father- this being is only a mental construct and has no reality outside the mind of the magickal practitioner.  The practitioner is, in effect, “seeing things”.  In addition, Metatron would be entirely invisible to the physical eyes of any objective onlooker, even though the power of this entity can still be used by the practitioner for his or her own ends.  Therefore, the magickal power has its source in the mental, imaginative powers of the practitioner; the devices used in the ritual, the trappings, the image of the entity itself, etc., are only symbols that allow the practitioner to access inner reservoirs of psychic energy.

The third school of thought provides a compromise between the strictly “outer” and strictly “inner” positions, arguing that magickal power has both an outer and inner dimension. Kenneth Grant, one of the proponents of this third school of thought, acknowledges that there are objectively real extraterrestrial entities present in any successful magickal rite, but he focuses his attention on the inner aspect whenever he describes the generation of magickal power.  Drawing on his knowledge of the East Indian Tantric texts, particularly the texts of the Sri Vidya sect, which he adapted freely for his own use in the Typhonian O.T.O., Grant pictures the awakening of magickal power in terms of the rising of a red dragon, or fire snake, which resides inside the body of the magickal practitioner.  The fire snake, also known as the Kundalini, lies coiled at the base of the spine.  During the course of a given magickal working, the fire snake ascends the spine and charges the chakras, i.e. specific power zones located in the human body.   As the fire snake rises, bodily secretions occur at each of the seven main chakras, the Sahasrana, Ajna, Visduha, Anahata, Manipura, Svadisthana, and Muladhara, respectively, and these secretions then manifest as magickal power once the fire snake begins its descent.  If the magickal practitioner is a male and is performing an act of sex magick with a female practitioner, then there are subtle energy fields in the body of the female, known as kalas, which are also charged by the rite and contribute their own essence or effluvia to the secretions at the point of the chakras.  And this, in turn, tends to intensify the magickal power generated by the rite as a whole.  Grant describes the process in the following terms.

In order to transform sexual energy into magical energy (ojas), the dormant Fire Snake at the base of the spine is awakened…the chakras..the lesser lights glowing and pulsating like stars throughout the ganglionic network of nerves which constitutes the subtle anatomy of man…become fully energized only when the Fire Snake arrives at their several loci during Her ascent…When the Fire Snake emits its luminous venom, it gushes over and permeates the entire body.  The overflow contains ojas, the magical current that electrifies the cerebro-spinal fluid in the region of the sushumna (spinal canal)…Finally, She attains the calm purity of Her lunar-sattvic essence as She reaches the brain, above the visuddha power-zone.  It is on Her backward journey that She collects these essences into One Supreme Elixir and discharges it through the Secret Eye of the Priestess. [i]


The Elixir alluded to in this passage is the combined sexual fluids of the magickian and the priestess, and the “Secret Eye” is, of course, the vagina of the priestess. The fact that Grant’s emphasis here is on sex magick, however, does not mean that the awakening of the Fire Snake and the resultant development of magickal power is confined only to sex workings.  Grant, in Aleister Crowley & the Hidden God (1992), makes it clear that the Kundalini can be fully awakened by ritual magick and, interestingly enough, by other methods which may or may not have any connection with the practice of magick at all.[ii]   In fact, Grant provides a list of methods for generating magickal power which includes such activities as listening to certain types of music, getting high on drugs or alcohol, and even aesthetic rapture induced by the contemplation of art objects, as viable alternatives to magickal rites.

The magickal practitioners who do not engage in sex magick and yet, adhere to the “inner/outer” theory of magickal power, hold views similar to those articulated by Grant, though they usually don’t describe the generation of magick power in terms of the chakras, kalas, sexual secretions, etc.  On average, magickal practitioners still accept the traditional theory that magick works on three “planes.” I am not sure that I accept this theory at all; I tend to hold a Quantum Physics view of magick, which I have articulated in my two books: H. P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror’s Influence on Modern Occultism (2015) and H. P. Lovecraft’s Magickal Persona: The Evolution of an Occult Archetype (2016). Nevertheless, the theory of planes stipulates that there is a physical plane, an astral plane, and a mental plane.  According to this theory, human beings inhabit all three of these planes simultaneously.  In effect, the planes coexist around us, and we have three “bodies” that allow us to move between the planes. These are the physical body, the astral body (which is often equated with the “soul”) and the spirit itself- this “spirit”, presumably, is the purified body that returns to Heaven or to God after death.

Konstantinos, magickal practitioner and well-known author on occult subjects, elaborates on how a magickal evocation is enacted, at least in terms of the three planes, and how magickal power is generated.

In a magical evocation, your calling of the entity is done on the mental plane.  After it “hears” you, it either comes to the astral or physical planes, depending on the type of evocation you are performing.  The calling of the entity is performed on the mental plane because all magic begins in the mind, is powered by the will, and causes change.

Why do evocations work?  Why do entities feel compelled to come to the magician when called?  To answer this question…. When a magician stands in the center of the circle, he or she is able to invoke the power of Divine Providence.  In the Opening by Watchtower, a vortex of power descends upon the magician, which the magician can use to empower the ritual he or she is performing.  Since this power comes from God, the magician can in effect command Holy Energy, granting him or her Divine Authority.[iii]

This is a very interesting statement.  According to Konstantinos, the magickal practitioner calls the entity in his mind; this part of the theory conforms to the “inner” view regarding the causes of magickal power.  But then, the entity answers the call; this, in turn, conforms to the “outer” view.  The  entity, thus, is a real entity, since it can travel on its own volition between the astral plane and the physical plane,  and when the entity manifests, particularly on the physical plane, it’s ontological reality is confirmed.  Konstantinos’ discussion of the vortex of power and the “Holy Energy” is interesting as well; here, he rather sounds like Cotton Mather, essentially arguing that the power of magick is given, or “granted”, by God.  The medieval magickal practitioners, mentioned previously, would certainly concur with this view.

[i] Grant, Kenneth, Cults of the Shadow, New York, Samuel Weiser, 1976, 64-95.

[ii] Grant, Kenneth, Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, London, Skoob Books, 1992, pp.97-8.

[iii] Konstantinos. Summoning Spirits: The Art of Magical Evocation. Woodbury, Minnesota, Llewellyn Publications, 2005, 111-112.

John L. Steadman is the author of H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition, a scholar of H. P. Lovecraft and western occultism and has been a magickal practitioner for more than thirty years. He is currently a college English professor at Olivet College in Michigan.


The Black & White Magickal Dichotomy

by John L. Steadman

In H. P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition, I define black magick as simply magic performed for the purposes of gaining knowledge and/ or power, as opposed to white magick, which is centered on the goal of spiritual attainment.  It is scarcely necessary to observe that this distinction has no connection with any concepts of morality, or with simplistic notions of “good” or “evil”.  And certainly, black magick should not be understood as evil, nor should white magick be interpreted as good.  In Lovecraft’s fictional works, his view of the magickian is definitely black, but not necessarily evil.  Lovecraft’s magickal practitioners perform their craft either to gain knowledge or power; the fact that some of these practitioners end up becoming evil is largely beside the point.  For example, Joseph Curwen, in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927), performs necromancy to raise the spirits of dead persons; this activity is not inherently evil.  However, Curwen also commits wholesale murder; this, of course, classifies him as an evil man. Thus, the goodness or the wickedness of Curwen is based almost exclusively on his behavior and not on his beliefs.

Two prominent magickal practitioners have elaborated on the black/white dichotomy in magick and tried to widen the traditional views of magick by arguing that magickal practice should embrace the whole spectrum of colors.  The late Isaac Bonewits, founder of Ar nDraiocht Fein, the largest neopagain Druid organization in the world, in Real Magic (1993), Chapter Five, “Black Magic, White Magic, and Living Color,” argues that magickal practice can be defined to correspond to the psychic energies fields , or so-called auras, that are presumed to surround the human body. Bonewits’ system of correspondences introduces a variety of different “types” of magick: red magic, orange magic, yellow magic, green magic, blue magic, indigo magic, purple magic, ultraviolet magic (which he further identifies with traditional black magick), and brown magic.  But Bonewits himself rightly admits that magick, in itself, has no color and that his system is merely a series of associational devices.

The Black & White Magickal Dichotomy

As we examine the different types, it becomes apparent that such a classification is an unnecessary complication and elaboration, since each type of magick can be placed into the two categories that I identified in the previous paragraph.  Red magic, for example, involves blessings and curses; this is, obviously, magick performed for knowledge or power.  Indigo magic, on the other hand, is performed to control the weather, or to astral travel; again, this is magick performed for knowledge or power.  Blue magic, unlike the others, focuses on religion and spirituality in part, and thus, this type of magick could be interpreted as white magick.  After perusing all of the different types of magic articulated by Bonewits, it quickly becomes clear that such an elaboration is not necessary at all; the black/white dichotomy, as defined previously, is sufficient.

Peter J. Carroll, author of Liber Null & Psychonaut (1987) and Liber Kaos (1992), and Chancellor of Arcanorium College and Past Grandmaster of IOT Pact, posits a similar system in Liber Kaos, Part 2: The Psychonomicon, Chapter 4: Eight Magics.  Here, Carroll raises the issue of auric energy fields, just as Bonewits did, but then he sensibly drops this issue, seeing that auric fields are largely irrelevant to magickal practice, and argues instead that there are eight different types of “magics”, as he calls them, which can be attributed to the seven classical planets, plus Uranus, and which signify emotional states.  Carroll’s list is certainly creative: he gives us octarine magic (an instinctive drive toward magic); black magic (destruction and entropy), blue magic (material wealth); red magic (combat and aggression); yellow magic (changes to the ego or personality; illumination); green magic (love magic); orange magic (wit and intellect); and purple magic (sex magic).

All of these categories, however, can be placed into either the white or black categories and thus, Carroll’s system is, like Bonewits’ system, an are an unnecessary elaboration.  Yellow magick is clearly white magick, while the other seven colors are focused on black magick, i.e. on power, knowledge, or a combination of the two.

For more discussion of the black-white magickal dichotomy in Lovecraft’s work, as well as a full examination of Lovecraft’s connection with the great black magickal systems in the western world, the Vodou cults, the Wiccan religion, the Typhonian order, the Church of Satan and the Chaos Magick Pacts, please read H. P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition, released by Weiser Books on September 1, 2015

John L. Steadman is the author of H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition, a scholar of H. P. Lovecraft and western occultism and has been a magickal practitioner for more than thirty years. He is currently a college English professor at Olivet College in Michigan.

Our May Titles Are Coming!

It seems like just yesterday we were posting about our April titles, and our May ones are already coming out! By now, you’ve had four months of titles to enjoy. And now for three more great titles for your reading enjoyment.

Sun Sign Secrets: The Complete Astrology Guide to Love, Work and Your Future9781578635610

Amy Zerner and Monte Farber

The bestselling husband and wife team, artist Amy Zerner and author Monte Farber, bring fresh revelations and original psychological perceptions about each astrological sun sign in this beautifully illustrated guide. Their easy-to-understand descriptions of the distinctive attributes of the twelve zodiac signs will provide clear, penetrating and useful insights into your personality and those you care about. Farber offers an ancient history of astrology and its uses, setting the stage for an in-depth description of each sign.

(Weiser Books)

9781578635498The Theban Oracle: Discover the Magic of the Ancient Alphabet That Changes Lives

Greg Jenkins, Ph.D.

Based on the ancient magical writings of 14th-century magus, Honorius of Thebes, the Theban Oracle is a codex employed for centuries as a means of devotion and divination. Used by such masters of the occult sciences as Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Dr. John Dee, Francis Barrett, and later Gerald Gardner, it has remained relatively obscure and elusive to the modern practitioner. Until now.

In this book, author Greg Jenkins, PhD, offers both the complete history of this medieval magical system and a working manual for the modern mage to utilize it.

Prepare yourself to discover the hidden mysteries of the ancients and the magick within you.

(Weiser Books)

Induced After Death Communication: A Miraculous Therapy for Grief and Loss9781571747129

Allan L. Botkin, Psy.D., with R. Craig Hogan

Induced After Death Communication (IADC) is a therapy for grief and trauma that has helped thousands of people come to terms with their loss by allowing them the experience of private communication with their departed loved ones. This is the definitive book on the subject.

Botkin, a clinical psychologist, created the therapy while counseling Vietnam veterans in his work at a Chicago area VA hospital. Botkin recounts his initial—accidental—discovery of IADC during therapy sessions with Sam, a Vietnam vet haunted by the memory of a Vietnamese girl he couldn’t save. During the session, quite unexpectedly, Sam saw a vision of the girl’s spirit, who told him everything was okay; she was at peace now. This single moment surpassed months—years—of therapy, and allowed Sam to reconnect with his family.

Since that 1995 discovery, Botkin has used IADC to successfully treat countless patients—the book includes dozens of case examples—and has taught the procedure to therapists around the country.

(Hampton Roads Publishing)