This post and some that will follow are about my experiences of working with the spirit or demon Andromalius, number 72 in the Goetia. (To cut to the chase, yes, I find Andromalius to be a very useful spirit.) Over a few months I have started to forge a working relationship with him, and it has been a very interesting learning curve as well as useful to me. So here are a few thoughts about spirits in general and Goetia #72 in particular.
So what do we mean when we talking about working with spirits? Some magicians use the idea that there are four (or five) basic ways of apprehending magic - Psychological, Energy-based, Spirit-based or Information-based. (The fifth is the meta-way of slipping between those four at will.) That makes a fair amount of sense to me; not perfect sense, but a good contribution to ways we can view our magic.
Now look at those four approaches to magical effects: they aren't all of the same level of cultural unfamiliarity, are they? Or to put it another way, they are not equal in their weirdness, not in the host Western culture anyway. The idea of Weirdness as I use it here is a measure of how far outside conventional expectations an event is. I've developed this idea in Bright From the Well and in my Psychedelic Press essay Solve et Coagula.
Basically, not all magic is equally weird. Some magical results we can understand using fairly mainstream ideas. The four 'paradigms' outlined above are not equally weird. By far the most familiar is the Psychological approach. This bias, this way of thinking I would guess is culture-wide amongst 'Western' civilization. In an oft-quoted passage from Magick, Crowley warns us against investing belief in explanations beyond the subjective: 'By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.'
Robert Anton Wilson wrote of 'multi-model agnosticism', which takes the above passage very seriously. Readers of RAW may have noticed how, after illustrating the many ways in which we can frame an event, he tends to return to models which are basically psychological as a kind of home base.
For me, the next weirdest model was the Energy one. I spent a good deal of my time over the past few decades getting fascinated by and investigating in depth Connected Breathwork and various modes of energy magic. I just wrote a book about it, Life Force.
The Information model is not, I think well-enough understood. Not by me, anyway; it does seem rather vague compared to the others. The best usage I have come across of this kind of idea is Lionel Snell/Ramsey Dukes's Words Made Flesh, a novel which examines the possibility that we are living in a virtual universe controlled by 'higher' levels of implementation. A bit like the 1999 film The Matrix but not as nasty.
This is a very alien way of looking at things, but it does not basically conflict with either intuition or some scientific ways of looking at the world. I would say that it is not as culturally alien as the Spirit model. At least, not to someone like myself who had a scientific education and grew up in a world of science. To those raised in traditionally-flavoured religions such as Catholic Christianity this may not be the case. However, I have to refer to the words of a man who grew up in the Amazon forest; in the course of interviewing visionary artist and ex-ayahuasquero Pablo Amaringo, Donal Ruane asked him if he believed in the spirits all the time, even when not under the influence of ayahuasca. No, replied Amaringo, even shamans can't believe in the spirits all the time, not in the modern world.
In the Spirit model, everything is sentient. You talk to the spirits and make deals with them. It was the model of magic I approached last. Lionel Snell made profound sense of the idea of spirits as ways of personifying many of the issues in your life, in his Uncle Ramsey's Little Book of Demons.
This is not however the kind of spirit magic story I am about to relate. Snell's demons are understandable through psychology and culture; we know (or think we know) what Vandalism is, to use one his examples. Goetia is a different matter.
Back in the mid-1990s I worked on a few occasions with a talented group in Birmingham, raising Goetic demons and asking them to do things for us. I had few successes, compared with other techniques, and I was never quite comfortable with the relationship with these beings. It was too authoritarian, too soaked in fear.
In January this year a good magical friend introduced our little group to Andromalius. Here's the Mathers Goetia passage about him:
'The Seventy-second Spirit in Order is named Andromalius. He is an Earl, Great and Mighty, appearing in the Form of a Man holding a Great Serpent in his Hand. His Office is to bring back both a Thief, and the Goods which be stolen; and to discover all Wickedness, and Underhand Dealing; and to punish all Thieves and other Wicked People and also to discover Treasures that be Hid.'
My friend had summoned him to get a valuable item back. She got it back, in another area of town from where it went missing, under the most improbable circumstances. We were duly impressed. She led an evocation and presented each of us with a rock painted with Andromalius's seal - see above.
She introduced us to a very different way of working with the Geotia than my previous experiences. The attitude was one of forming a good working relationship with the spirit, not ordering him about like some neurotic exorcist. I started thinking about how I could form my own link with this powerful entity; after all, a spirit that helps you find missing things is something I need fairly frequently.
So I looked around for enlightened models of working with demons. I read Jake Stratton-Kent's Pandemonium and this helped a lot; JSK has made much sense of the old grimoires than anyone else I have read.
Then in May I lost something. Something which would have cost both time and money to replace.
I read up on the procedures. I worked out a scheme of evocation.
At midnight I started my Andromalius evocation. (Not because that is necessarily the 'hour' of this Spirit but because that was the way it worked out.) I had the Andromalius seal, painted on stone. Since Andromalius is attributed to the Mars decan of Pisces, I made a suitably-attributed incense. My skrying surface was a small black bead in a glass of water.
I performed the Invocation of the Bornless One. I spoke words honouring the Great Lords and Ladies of the Infernal realms. I gazed into the bead, whilst formulating in detail my request to Andromalius. I made him an offer - a mention on my blog, and links to that from FB and Twitter, plus five stones painted by end of July and given to other magicians. The stones are out there now; this is the blog piece.
His responses were very interesting. After an initial bright start, it seemed like a slow conversation, with me making the running. Anyway, I went ahead and completed the working and started work on the stones.
Three weeks later I found the item. It was in a pretty improbable place. And this was just a couple of days before I'd decided to set in motion the process of getting a new one. So he had left to the last moment the finding of the object.
This was where the learning curve really started. I understood what it was that Andromalius required of me: a token of how highly I regard him. The stones were barely enough. The publicity was barely enough. Neither of these things showed enough ... trust and value on my part. This is all, in the end, about what goes on inside my magical world. About showing to myself as well as to him how much I value his cooperation with me.
This is not the end of the story.