I have looked over what I’ve written several times, and sadly I can’t find anywhere to divide this post, regardless of trying to make it two, three, or four sections, the ideas are just all too connected on the final point. So my apologies for a long post, the TLDR version is “If everyone who did it one way gets one set of results, and everyone who didn’t doesn’t have the same results, then maybe they’re not achieving the same thing.”
So having discussed some of the reasons on why I think we should entertain the possibility that HGA may be a system specific term and some of the reasons why it might matter I want to cover one more reason why it might matter, but it’s less supported hence separating from the others. Not necessarily what I believe, I’m agnostic on this point, but just giving another piece of the puzzle perhaps.
People ask “Why does it matter?” and specifically frame it in the terms of “Well they’re not hurting anyone, and if they’re wrong then they’ll find out eventually.” Here I jokingly hear in my head Helen Lovejoy screaming “Won’t someone please think of the Abyss?”
Now this idea comes not from the Abramelin text, and I don’t know if it really came up in the later writings on the HGA (that I don’t remember currently) but it did come up in some of my earlier magickal training, and while I haven’t had any revelation from my Angel to say if it is right or wrong, it is something I’ve pondered on. If we were to frame the HGA and K&C in Qabalistic terms we can say perhaps that the HGA resides in Tiphareth, or at least our connection to them does, more likely they’re something of Kether (I also use a Jacob’s Ladder Tree, so this sometimes conflicts with other systems), and to achieve K&C we have to travel the Third Path to Kether, but what’s along that Third Path? Everyone’s favourite dumping ground the Abyss of Da’ath. If you go from Tiphareth to Kether you must pass over(around/under/through/whatever) the Abyss.Now in the system I came from I was taught two things in this regard, first off people that fail to get Knowledge and Conversation with their Holy Guardian Angel end up communicating with a spirit of the Abyss, who claims they are the HGA, acts as them, and lives with the person, while they never see they’re being subtly misled. The second thing is that apparently people who get trapped in the Abyss are stuck there for this incarnation. The second part I have more trouble believing, but I can’t say for sure. If these are both the case, then to me that’s another reason why the way people discuss K&C and the HGA should be reconsidered, but as said, I don’t know what I think about them, and my Angel didn’t give me anything about that idea one way or the other.
Moving on I’d also like to touch on a good point from Polyphanes (he is full of them); it’s hard in many ways to generalize about Knowledge and Conversation. Yet on the other hand I feel the phrase/understanding of Knowledge and Conversation is becoming so generalized as to be useless (oddly makes me think of copyright saturation). I’m not generalizing here based on my experience, I’m drawing on it most definitely, but I’m also drawing on conversations with other people who have done the Abramelin, or written works by such people. So while I can’t generalize, there are patterns that have shown up in the lives of these people and myself, but I see nothing similar from the majority of people claiming Knowledge and Conversation through non-Abramelin means. The revelations will always be different, mine was heavily focused on the marvels of the physical universe. The encounters will always be different, I don’t know anyone else whose HGA decided to play “Moses on the Mount” with them and gave them vitiligo to prove their existence after badgering. (You know what would be better proof? Giving me my pigment back.) But when patterns show up for everyone who did it one way, and they don’t show up when being done another way it makes me question if we’re really talking about the same thing. To go back to the analogy from my earlier post about taking a trip to the beach, if everyone who follows the directions gets to the beach and describes a beautiful sunset, and a person who took a different set of directions say the sunset was nice but the trees were in the way, and no one else mentions the trees, then why would they assume they reached the same point on the beach?
The Abramelin ritual is not just about establishing contact with a specific spirit, it’s about Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel. (Yes, I know the phrase Knowledge and Conversation was termed by Crowley, but Abraham didn’t give a term for the entire operation. I’ll end up using some of Crowley’s language for a lot of this because he did create a good lexicon for discussing the entirety of it. Even though he himself failed to do the ritual.) What’s the difference? Contact with your Holy Guardian Angel is easy. I was in contact with mine in the first trimester of the ritual, and Abraham says in the text itself that you may even have contact with the HGA before starting the ritual as it “will secretly stand by your side and place suggestions in your heart on how you should organize your life and how to follow everything that is written in this book.”
So what is Knowledge and Conversation then? That’s the result of the entire ritual, it’s not just about chatting, it’s about transformation, and not superficial transformation, not life hiccough transformations, it’s about shaking the very foundation of your identity, core, and understanding. “The Guardian Angel will remind you what he has done for you and how you have insulted him in the past. He will tell you how you please him in the future. He will also explain to you about what is the true wisdom, where it comes from, if-and how- you fail in your work, what you lack, how you should behave to control the unredeemed spirits, and how to achieve all you desire.”
“How you have insulted him in the past.” This is a great example of how Knowledge and Conversation differs from simply contact. I have never or heard anyone who achieved Knowledge and Conversation through Samekh (for instance, but insert any non-Abramelin form of supposed K&C here) talk about this. Sure, they may discuss confessions and humbling themselves, but there is a difference between confession and being told every time you have insulted your HGA. While I don’t want to personalize this with my experiences, I feel it’s the only way to make some points. During my Abramelin experience I ended up reliving times I lied before I even started school and having to apologize for those. Confessions and visionary experiences guided for months with hours poured into them a day, and you’re going to experience pretty much every time you failed. I had done confessions and humbling with Mother for years daily before the Abramelin, but they were nothing like what the Angel led me through over that period. This is something I don’t see mentioned by any other method, and I can’t see how you could have the depth of this upheaval and confession in something that takes less time (either per day or in terms of months and years). This isn’t about contact, this is about coming to terms with your nature, your failures, and past. This is showing you the ground from which you grew and where the transformation will be born from.
To turn more Thelemic in language looking at the last part of the quote, Knowledge and Conversation is about having your True Will revealed for you. Now obviously True Will is a really complicated concept, to say it’s what you are to do in the world is an oversimplification. True Will is about being in your perfect place, your Orbit within the Cosmos. This isn’t just about what you do, in terms of a job, this is about everything: your outlook on life, your view of the world, your understanding of cosmology, your ethics and your relationship with external morality, your connection and interaction with other people, your habits, your True Will is everything in your life and all parts of you.
When many people say they’ve achieved Knowledge and Conversation, it’s amazing how little has changed, in fact this observation is what inspired this rant, not a desire for dogmatic adherence to a strange German text. Again being a bit Thelemic about this, I was listening to an episode of Thelema Coast to Coast, when Keith418 was discussing magick as escapism and people being unwilling to do the hard work of transforming the self, and he said something to the effect of “If your HGA isn’t transgressive to your life you probably don’t know them.” This was a moment that if I were in a workshop with Keith418, I might have clapped. Sure most people talk about disruptions that happen as they work towards meeting their HGA, but these are superficial issues that come and go quicker than a Mercury Retrograde. External disruptions are nothing, they often occur with any major Solar working, and any initiation. In fact, while not as widely observed, I’d argue that the Abramelin working tends to cause more internal disruptions than external.
If your HGA isn’t disrupting you to the core, I think it might be questionable, at best. My experience, and essentially every record of the Abramelin I’ve read, talks about this. So when someone says they performed Samekh twice a day for two months, got the same result, and lost a job at the same time, I can’t help but think “Uh…no.” Heck, I magicked myself out of my job by summoning the Angel of Earth. That’s not a major disruption. (In fact, that tends to be a cliche in magick) Remember the HGA brings true wisdom, how you fail, and how to act. These aren’t simple things, remember that list? Your outlook on life, your view of the world, your understanding of cosmology, your ethics and your relationship with external morality, your connection and interaction with other people, your habits, it’s everything. For this ritual not to shake you to the core, to not destroy you and remake it requires one or two things. First, that our modern culture has all of this right, and second, that whatever isn’t right you’ve already worked out for yourself.
I would explain the Abramelin ritual as a massive undertaking in Social De-conditioning. Your outlook on life, as much as you want to think you decided on it with free will, you didn’t, you were given it piece by piece through every TV show you’ve ever watched, every book you’ve read, every song you listened to, everything your parents told you. You took all this, and you incorporated it, you rejected it, you negotiated with it, you synthesized it, you made it into something new and you weren’t aware of it, it’s all unconscious. Think of all the times you say or do something and suddenly realize “Oh my gods, I’m my mother/father” but really most of our thoughts and personalities are shaped by our social conditioning and what we slowly accept and reject over our lives. Now I will not claim I have overcome this, not by a long shot, but my Angel showed me how much of this is there, and has been giving me tools to work on this. Years after the ritual was complete and my Angel is still making me do things to change this world view.
Now I would also like to point out that if you’re thinking “Oh, that makes sense, but I have already dealt with that, noticed it, and my world view is my own” I would like to point out the third-person effect which states that people always think that these things apply to other people but not them, and generally (but here, not always) the people who are more sure that it doesn’t apply to them are actually more likely to be victims of it. So maybe you, or these people actually have actually dealt with this stuff, but never underestimate the human mind’s ability to deceive itself, and this is something I keep right in the front of my mind whenever I think about this stuff. (Actually that’s a good thing to always keep in mind with magick in general)This goes for everything. Your ethics, they’re made up of everything you’ve seen, done, experienced, and if you think the Angel is going to reveal that you won the jackpot and just by chance those 80s/90s (or whenever) cartoons actually instilled the perfect balance of compassion and wisdom and strength into your personality, again, I’m going to doubt it. Your magickal world view, your mundane worldview, your personality is constructed (or shaped) by all of these things. This is what the ritual begins to break down, especially in the last trimester. This is the metamorphosis of the ritual, this is the point, not having a voice/presence stuck with you for the rest of your life, or until it fades away.
These are the types of things I’ve never seen addressed by people who have “achieved Knowledge and Conversation” by another means. Their disruptions are losing jobs, lovers, moving, periods of bad luck, illness, etc., and while all of these can be part of the Abramelin experience, they’re the window dressing to what is going on inside the ritualist. In fact, now that I typed it, everyone I know who lost a job or lover, or had to move, it wasn’t due to external factors, but internal ones. They realized they couldn’t work in that field anymore, they realized they didn’t love their partner, they realized they were attached to the wrong place and had to move, all of these disruptions were due to the internal upheavals. There are major internal upheavals as you go through it, I joked in a surreal way that the soundtrack of the Abramelin should be “Everything you know is wrong” by Weird Al. (Everything you know is wrong / Black is white, up is down and short is long / And everything you thought was just so important doesn’t matter) In my case my HGA challenged everything from my view on alcohol (I think I’m the only person who was told by their Angel to start drinking), to money and the poor, to how reincarnation operates, to how I treat my literal neighbours, to the very words I would use to define myself, those little labels we all think of as “Me.” Years later and I’m still unpacking all of this, years later and I’m still given whispers on things to do to break all these socially conditioned ideas and habits and attitudes so that my “true wisdom” as Abraham calls it, and how I am to succeed shine through. To use a phrase Polyphanes brought up in our discussion, these changes might be sunrise slow at times, but their triggers that break that self are as bright as stepping from Plato’s Cave. To use an unfortunate parallel it’s like being in a car accident while drinking, that incident shows you that you have a problem, but it will take you months, if not years, to come to terms with your alcohol issues.
Now granted, some people might be closer when they start to being in their Orbit, following their True Will, achieving Knowledge and Conversation, so maybe they won’t need as much work, or have to experience the same type of disruptions. Well, as above that’s exceedingly unlikely. Now if I were to completely interject my personal understanding on what Knowledge and Conversation is and does to you, if you came into this life in such a way that Knowledge and Conversation was not a challenge to achieve, and it didn’t or barely disrupted your life or your self, then you came into this life in your Orbit in the way that I would suspect only Bodhisattva/Enlightened figures do, and that just adds again to the unlikeliness to me. (Note: I do not conflate Enlightenment with Knowledge and Conversation, Enlightenment is something far beyond it. What I mean is that for a person to be able to reach their Orbit so easily that K&C isn’t disruptive is something on the level of mythic in my framing, though I admit that might be bias.)
So to bring this all back. I want to reiterate, when I say the Holy Guardian Angel and other potentially similar spirits are different, it’s not a value judgment it’s just a statement. Zomp isn’t better than seafoam (okay, the name is better) it’s just different. I also don’t think that people who have contacted their tutelary spirit aren’t undergoing interesting and great spiritual and personal revelations, I know I went through great things and upheavals when Mother came to me. Though (and here is where the egotism comes into it a bit) I don’t think most of these experiences compare to Knowledge and Conversation based upon the comparisons of these experience. It doesn’t mean they’re not great, but they’re definitely not the same and shouldn’t be labelled as such.