Medium 9781911597193

The Abramelin Diaries

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The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage is a 15th-century grimoire, or book of magic, that includes instructions on how an individual can make contact with their Holy Guardian Angel. Although the instructions may seem quite simple, few have managed to complete the operation - even the highly experienced occultist Aleister Crowley failed to do so.Over a six-month period in 1977, Ramsey Dukes attempted this Abramelin operation. The challenge was to adapt the ritual to twentieth century conditions, and The Abramelin Diaries is his record of the struggle and the outcome. Looking forward, the book offers practical advice for anyone wanting to attempt this notorious operation themselves. Looking back, the author comments on the operation's legacy: what happened after, how it changed - and continues to impact - him and his life.Is spiritual retirement still relevant today? Or is it just nostalgia for a simpler, more meaningful lifestyle? Why does technological empowerment threaten our sense of purpose? Many intriguing questions are raised as we read of one man's struggle to shape a simple, significant lifestyle routine from the chaos of normality.

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Chapter One: What is the Abramelin Operation?

ePub

CHAPTER ONE

What is the Abramelin operation?

The book as I knew it

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage is a fifteenth century grimoire, or book of magic, that includes instructions as to how an individual can make contact with their Holy Guardian Angel. It was translated into English by S.L. MacGregor Mathers in 1893 and his edition was published at the beginning of the twentieth century and has been reproduced in several editions since. I had a beautiful 1950s reprint of the original Watkins edition and—to be used as a working copy—a de Laurence 1929 edition that was ex libris Order of the Cubic Stone.

In the introduction Mathers explains that the manuscript was in French as part of the private collection of the Marquis of Paulny housed in the Biblioteque de l'Arsenal in Paris. It had been translated into French from the original Hebrew of “Abraham the Jew”. Mathers had not found any other copy or replica of the book—not even in the British Museum's extensive occult collection. Ted Bryant (an ex-disciple of Aleister Crowley who helped me prepare for the Abramelin operation) said that was surprising. In his experience it was more usual for several copies of any grimoire manuscript, with variations, to be found in various collections across Europe, so the existence of just one unique copy was suspicious. George Dehn's later research (see below) confirmed Ted's doubts.

 

Chapter Two: Background—Why i Attempted the Abramelin Operation

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CHAPTER TWO

Background—why I attempted the Abramelin operation

Like most children I was drawn to magic from an early age. Without any books to guide me I used to look up the word “magic” in big dictionaries or encyclopaedias and learn names for the many different types of magic—such as “black magic”, “natural magic”, “spirit magic” and so on. Then I discovered that the public library did have a few books on or around the subject, including books on Spiritism, from which I learned that it was mostly fraudulent.

The nearest available thing to an occult journal at that time was the astrology-based magazine Prediction, which had book reviews and adverts for weird stuff like dowsing pendulums and aura goggles. When I was about eleven I read its review of Watkins’ reprint of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. The reviewer suggested that, amongst all the available rubbish and nonsense, this book was the “real thing”. So I got my brother to order a copy from the Gloucestershire Public Library and I took it to my prep school in Bristol to study. I was only twelve years old, and the book specified that one had to be older than twenty-five to perform the operation—so I decided I would do it “when I grew up”.

 

Chapter Three: What we Should consider before Undertaking this Operation

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CHAPTER THREE

What we should consider before undertaking this operation

Why does anyone consider performing this operation? The main attraction must be its reputation—both as a source of illumination but also, paradoxically, for the challenge presented by its real or imagined dangers.

Once the candidate has been drawn to it in some way, the second attraction is its relative realism. This grimoire does not make unreasonable demands for blood sacrifices, nor for grim paraphernalia (like the tongue of a hanged man or a stone from the skull of a toad), nor for extreme circumstances such as isolation in a mountain hideout. Instead it appears to accommodate itself to quite realistic urban as well as rural living conditions. These conditions accommodate a measure of religious freedom; one can live with a marriage partner; it even allows for the assistance of servants, and so on. In fact, it is tempting to skim through the book and decide that this operation will be an absolute doddle for anyone with six (or eighteen) months to spare.

 

Chapter Four: Notes Towards a Better Understanding of my Diary

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CHAPTER FOUR

Notes towards a better understanding of my diary

A Thelemite's approach to a Judeo-Christian retirement

One big attraction of the Abramelin operation is that the book allows one to adapt the practice according to one's own religious beliefs—Christian, Jewish or pagan. And when it comes to prayer the text advises: “let each one speak his own language”, followed by some very sensible advice about not reading from a rigid script but rather praying from one's heart with conscious intention.

That looks pretty simple until one gets down to detail. There are plenty of instructions along the lines: “place yourself upon your knees before the altar”. These present some difficulty for Thelemites, who are exhorted never to bend their knees in supplication!

A more profound difficulty for me was that my religious inclinations at the time did not embrace any personal deity—I was closest to Taoism and a sense of a universal “way” that directed the course of nature. So, however freely I was permitted to adapt my prayers to my “God”, I was effectively praying towards nothingness. For some people that might present an insurmountable difficulty.

 

Phase One: The First Two Moons

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PHASE ONE

The first two moons

I had built my oratory: a six-foot by three-foot pine shed concealed in the shrubbery. It had the specified windows to east and south and a door opening onto a level space for a sandy forecourt, as required. It was about thirty yards from the cottage where I had arranged my sleeping chamber. The cottage was shared by an old college friend.

The instructions begin thus:

Having carefully washed one's whole body and having put on fresh clothing: precisely a quarter of an hour before Sunrise ye shall enter into your Oratory, open the window, and place yourselves upon your knees before the Altar, turning your faces towards the window; and devoutly and with boldness ye shall invoke the Name of the Lord, thanking Him for all the grace which He hath given and granted unto you from your infancy until now; then with humility shall ye humble yourselves unto Him, and confess unto Him entirely all your sins; supplicating Him to be willing to pardon you and remit them. Ye shall also supplicate Him that in the time to come He may be willing and pleased to regard you with pity and grant you His grace and goodness to send unto you His Holy Angel, who shall serve unto you as a Guide, and lead you ever in His Holy Way and Will; so that ye fall not into sin through inadvertence, through ignorance, or through human frailty. In this manner shall ye commence your Oration, and continue thus every morning during the first two Moons or Months…

 

Phase Two: The Second Two Moons

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PHASE TWO

The second two moons

The second two moons mostly require an intensification of what has already begun:

The two second Moons follow, during the which ye shall make your prayer, morning and evening at the hour accustomed; but before entering into the Oratory ye shall wash your hands and face thoroughly with pure water. And you shall prolong your prayer with the greatest possible affection, devotion and submission; humbly entreating the Lord God that He would deign to command His Holy Angels to lead you in the True Way, and Wisdom, and Knowledge, by studying the which assiduously in the Sacred Writings there will arise more and more (Wisdom) in your heart…You shall also wash your whole body every Sabbath Eve…

I have already given unto you sufficient instruction. Only it is absolutely necessary to retire from the world and seek retreat; and ye shall lengthen your prayers to the utmost of your ability.

As for eating, drinking and clothing, ye shall govern yourselves in exactly the same manner as in the two first Moons; except that ye shall fast (the Qabalistical fast) every Sabbath Eve.

 

Phase Three: Final Two Moons

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PHASE THREE

Final two moons

Things shift gear for the final two moons:

Morning and Noon ye shall wash your hands and your face on entering the Oratory and firstly ye shall make Confession of all your sins; after this, with a very ardent prayer, ye shall entreat the Lord to accord unto you this particular grace […]

Ye shall do this same at midday before dining, and also in the evening; so that during these two last Moons ye shall perform the prayer three times a day, and during this time ye shall ever keep the Perfume upon the Altar. Also towards the end of your Oration, ye shall pray unto the Holy Angels, supplicating them to bear your sacrifice before the Face of God, in order to intercede for you, and that they shall assist you in all your operations during these two Moons.

The man who is his own master shall leave all business alone, except works of charity towards his neighbour. You shall shun all society except that of your Wife and of your Servants. Ye shall employ the greatest part of your time in speaking of the Law of God, and in reading such works as treat wisely thereof […]

 

Phase Four: Consecration

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PHASE FOUR

Consecration

On completing the six moons of preparation, it is time for the day of consecration:

When first ye shall enter into the Oratory, leave your shoes without, and having opened the window, ye shall place the lighted coals in the Censer which you shall have brought with you, you shall light the Lamp, and take from the Cupboard of the Altar your two Vestments, the Crown, the Girdle and the Wand, placing them upon the Altar. Then take the Sacred Oil in your left hand, cast some of the Perfume upon the Fire, and place yourself upon your knees, praying unto the Lord with fervour.

The Orison:

Having finished your Orison, rise from your knees, and anoint the centre of your forehead with a little of the Sacred Oil; after this dip your finger into the same Oil, and anoint therewith the four upper corners of the Altar. Touch also with this Holy Oil the Vestments, the Girdle, the Crown, and the Wand, on both sides. You shall also touch the Doors and the Windows of the Oratory. Then with your finger dipped in the Oil you shall write upon the four sides of the Altar these words, so that they may be perfectly clearly written on each side:–

 

Phase Five: Culmination

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PHASE FIVE

Culmination

We are now arrived at the term, wherefore the following morning1 rise betimes, neither wash yourselves at all nor dress yourselves at all in your ordinary clothes; but take a Robe of Mourning; enter the Oratory with bare feet; go unto the side of the Censer, take the ashes therefrom and place them upon your head; light the Lamp; and put the hot coals into the Censer; and having opened the windows, return unto the door. There prostrate yourself with your face against the ground, and order the Child to put the Perfume upon the Censer, after which he is to place himself upon his knees before the Altar…

There was no child, other than my Inner Child.

Humiliate yourself before God and His Celestial Court, and commence your Prayer with fervour, for then it is that you will begin to enflame yourself in praying, and you will see appear an extraordinary and supernatural Splendour which will fill the whole apartment, and will surround you with an inexpressible odour, and this alone will console you and comfort your heart so that you shall call for ever happy the Day of the Lord. Also the Child will experience an admirable feeling of contentment in the presence of the Angel…

 

Postscript One: Introduction

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POSTSCRIPT ONE

Introduction

What is the reader to make of a six-month spiritual retreat that seemed to fizzle out with a whimper rather than end with a bang?

A sceptical rationalist would find that hilarious: proof enough that the whole exercise was a waste of time. They might even encourage people to read my diary—as a lesson for people still stupid enough to put so much trust in the superstitious religious fantasies of our ignorant ancestors.

If I now say that the ending was for me perplexing, uncertain, but by no means meaningless; that I have never at any time then or since felt that my six months was a waste of time; that even forty years later I still consider it to have been the most significant six months of my life—does that simply confirm my status as a gullible fool?

I have in the past tried to explain what happened in these terms: “what I seem to have achieved was the knowledge of, but not the conversation with, my Holy Guardian Angel”. Apart from a sense of silent presence, stillness, and peace, and an experience of heightened reality, my strongest memory was a feeling that the operation had ended but was not finished: that it somehow needed more time. This was especially interesting to me many years later when I read the Georg Dehn edition and learned that there is another tradition that says the operation should take eighteen months, rather than six.

 

Postscript Two: What Happened after Abramelin

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POSTSCRIPT TWO

What happened after Abramelin

The combination of being told to return to “normal conditions” without delay while feeling that the work was not finished was paradoxical. Was it really time for me to enact Zarathustra's down-going?

To soften the descent, I did continue for some weeks to meditate when possible, but without the full ceremony, and for shorter times—in fact I revisited some of the meditations for years to come. You might not think so from reading the diary, but I had cut myself off from much social contact during the operation, especially the last two months, and so I decided to catch up with some visiting and explain myself to friends with whom I had been out of contact. These included an old friend of my parents who had retired to Malta and had been complaining of neglect. I decided to visit him and some others along the way.

Although I had been out of work for seven months, I had been required to sign on for unemployment pay. If I had not signed on, I would have been forced to pay National Insurance without having any income to cover it. Because of my simple life, vegetarian diet, and growing my own vegetables, I had actually saved enough in those six months to pay for a trip across the channel with my motorbike and to ride down through France, Italy and Sicily to take another ferry across to Malta. That was 1977: I do not think today's social security would ever provide enough money for a trip like that!

 

Postscript Three: Is it now Worth It?

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POSTSCRIPT THREE

Is it now worth it?

By now the reader should agree that, at least for me, the Abramelin operation was undoubtedly significant. It taught me lessons that might seem trivial, but it has left me better able to cope with circumstances and mental states that seem to shatter other people. I see people looking to religion, science or magic in search of solutions to life's problems while, for me, magic is increasingly a means to celebrate life, as well as life's problems. I find it hard to believe, but others sometimes assure me that I am a “good presence” that can provide calm or healing.

I have taken to sharing some of my thoughts on a YouTube channel and am rewarded by people's expressions of interest and signs that they like what I say. But I feel embarrassed when they see that as evidence that I am very wise. It is surely a simple matter of courtesy? If people are to spend precious time listening to me, I owe it to them to try my best. Occasionally I make a start then realise I am rambling, so I stop and re-record a better version. If they saw me during the rest of my day, doing stupid things like singing nonsense to my cats, they would think me an idiot—or at best disarmingly childlike—rather than wise.

 

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