A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spirit-Friendly Approach

It has been a busy couple of months as I've been working on several projects. For those interested you can look for more upcoming texts, a set of email courses, and a hands on workshop.

However, I wanted to take the time to address the trend of the spirit-friendly approach and I call this a "trend" deliberately. Like all things in society, the occult works in trends and waves. Certain approaches, traditions, and modes of thinking become popular then fade away. There was a time when the psychological model was popular, when chaos magic was popular, and now the ATRs are gaining in popularity.

One such trend is the spirit-friendly approach, which some link to the increasing interest in the paradigm and spiritual technology of the ATRs. This approach differs from the purist grimoire approach which can also be said to have gained in popularity almost as a reaction against the increase of the spirit-friendly approach.

As its name suggests, the spirit-friendly methods treat spirits as companions, allies, and beings that should be venerated, given offerings, and worked with in other ways that can be seen as starkly different from the command, threaten, and coerce methods normally associated with the grimoires.

It may surprise many, but I am actually not in the spirit-friendly camp. However, allow me to qualify this statement. My approach to spirits is tempered heavily by the spiritual traditions that I was brought up with, that of Hoodoo-Rootwork and djinn conjuring. Over my extensive career of working from a model that tends towards spirit-centric, I have further confirmed that the perspectives shared by Hoodoo and djinn conjuring is the right method for me.

I prefer to see this approach as spirit-respectful rather than spirit-friendly. While this may seem semantics, it is an important distinction. This is especially the case since, as is common with trends, spirit-friendly has veered into somewhat extreme territories. One finds people who ascribe to these methods in such an extreme manner in that all spirits are seen as potential allies, friend, and pals. To me this is as limiting as the approach where all spirits are classed as either "demonic" or "angelic."

Reality rarely falls into such dualistic camps. There are those that decry all of the goetic spirits as evil and wicked while others have made all of them bedfellows. Both such approaches are based on extremes that are not only potentially limiting, but also based off of limited experiences with such spirits.

It is arrogant to assume that the world of spirit is less complicated than the world of humans, or that spirits are more one-dimensional than us. I have found them to be deeply complex beings with motives, agendas, personalities, and quirks as unique and complicated as our own.

In the traditions I am versed in, the approach to such spirits is no different than approaching a stranger on the street. One is respectful, but cautious. It would be strange if you assumed a level of familiarity with a stranger on the street that simply was not reflective of the fact that you just met. Similarly, it would be strange if you grabbed a stranger (who may turn out to be quite capable of kicking your ass) by the lapel and demanded that they go off and run an errand for you. Why should it be any different with the world of spirit?

There are spirits out there that are quite friendly. These beings are interested in the lives of men, want to be involved in our world, and are very helpful. Some of these beings are serene and others chaotic, but they share the similar motive of wanting to be involved with us. I have met other spirits that are aloof and cold, while not openly hostile they are not easily approachable, either. Furthermore there are those spirits who are openly hostile and virulent. Using one blaket approach to them all is foolish and dangerous.

The approach that I find most helpful is one where caution is taken, but spirits are treated in a respectful and courteous manner. This allows one the opportunity to get to know the spirit and gauge their temperament. This "getting to know" process allows one the versatility to approach working with spirits in a variety of ways and is also more reflective of a real attempt at developing a rapport with spirits and their world. To continue with the analogy above, strangers can become good friends whom you can share a meal with (offerings), who you invite home for dinner (housing a spirit), or in other ways develop a friendship. However there are some strangers that are down right evil and others who are pathological liars. The spirit-respectful approach acknowledges the existence of all of these types of spirits and helps ensure that the magus can tell the difference between them and deal with each situation according to the temperament of the spirit.

An openly hostile approach as some have adopted would alienate potential allies, while a too friendly approach would allow parasites and liars into your home.

In my travels I have met spirits that turned into willing allies and strong teachers and I have met others that required to be exorcised or dealt with sternly. There were yet others that were greatly helpful to me, but due to their temperament needed to be worked with cautiously. To put otherwise, there are some spirits who no matter how friendly, you wouldn't invite into your house for a cup of tea simply due to their nature.

By keeping one's mind open and approaching spirits in a courteous, but respectful manner, the magus is equipped to deal more readily with various spirit temperaments while also grounding his experiences in a more realistic and pragmatic paradigm.


Norma said...

Spot on, a brilliant post. I'm of a similar bent - and on more than one occasion have had a spirit/being want to work with me and been ... nonplussed. In one case I agreed to guardedly make offerings on a very limited basis (the beings are difficult but not evil, demanding but it seems to be ok so long as clear limits are laid out ahead of time), and in one other I had to beg and scrape forgiveness and then firmly back away and say no (that being? is like serving a forest fire it is so hungry and so potentially damaging). If I was excited to be 'invited' and thought these beings were pals just because they approached me, that would have been some BAD, bad times.

Mr Black said...

Well said. I was just discussing this with a colleague of mine.

While I am green to the whole "spirit working" business, this approach (like yours) is what I intuitively followed as it suited my personality and how I approach situations and people.

Nicholaj said...

Important distinctions Ali. As above so below - this world is a mirror of the celestial with all its blessings and maleficas, aspects and relations that challenge and rewards. Some spirits are truly our friends, other our allies, yet others are detriemnt to our well being... Important posting I would say!

ConjureMan Ali said...

@Norma, bad times indeed! It's good you had the discernment you did.

@Mr. Black, thank you for weighing in. I believe that by being courteous but cautious when you are starting out you are saving yourself the trouble most people get into by diving in headlong as if every spirit is just waiting to help them out.

@Nicholaj, I am happy that you posted and honored that you follow my blog! :-). You are so right, our world mirrors the world above with all its infinite complexities.

Christopher Bradford said...

Excellent post, fra Ali! Important for people to understand.

Sister Serpent said...

Guilty as charged! I like working more intuitively with spirits because there's so much about them that's not written in grimoires, but I've also made the mistake of trying to be friendly with spirits that are all business. No long term harm done thankfully, but I certainly had a mess to clean up and a big lesson learned.

Shadow said...

I myself, being Christian by religion, am very prone to accept celestial or infernal nature of spirits, but that does not include all spirits. By researching Demonology and Angelology, older grimoires, we note that Spirits were indeed qualified as good or evil, in/according to them. Which is fine, to me it simply reflects their behavioral tendencies, and some spirits have an open agenda of doing evil, and have no issue of whatsoever of being labeled as such. That does not however, imply that in any case they will harm one. Even evil needs allies, associates and other.

Furthermore, even according to Christian theology, there is plethora of spirits that are neither angelic nor demonic, neither by heritage ( read nature lo l) nor by actions. Many chthonic spirits, pagan deities or even Loa can be seen as such. Uncalled attempt for demonization of such entities by certain members of Christian theocracy can not, or at least should not be taken as "word of G'd", indeed.

As for spirit-friendly approach that You've so insightfully note d, and wrote about, in many cases it has became something that ( and I'll say it ) borders with idiotism. On large occult social networks ( will not add links, for I'm not sure of the policy of Your blog, neither would I like to advertise them honestly ) there are hundreds and hundreds a of members claiming how spirits are friends with them to point of doing downright banal things together such as shopping :S
And to be even more strange, plenty of them will tell You how spirits "obey their commands" and how they call and control them "using only mind" . Speaking of arrogance.

It looks like You have a good point indeed; magick is not immune to trends, or worse cheep popular culture influence and pseudo-philosophy.

Happy holidays and many Blessings to You and fellow readers of Your blog