Saturday, 26 November 2011

Saturnian vs. Venusian Magic

Looking back into 2011 there is a single unexpected realization that stands out for me. It is the stark contrast in most basic approaches to magic between German and British magic over the last century at least. 
Having been brought up in the tradition of German magic it took me more than a decade to realize this simple fact: Where much of British magic revolves around a central pole of workings on the inner realms and bringing through of inner contacts we almost find a complete absence of this concept in the German language tradition.
Let me illustrate this point more clearly: within the works of Dion Fortune, W.G. Gray, Gareth Knight, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and certainly Josephine McCarthy we find a concentration on inner works that is nowhere to be encountered in German magic during the last 100 years. What represents at least one of the core elements in one culture's magical tradition is completely absent in the other. Where in British magic the actual physical ritual only seems to be an expression of inner magic which requires manifestation on the outer realms - it is the most basic physical building block in the world where I come from. 
Mistaking the physical ritual for the actual work you set out to do as a magician is no small mistake to make. And clearly German magicians didn't get caught in this trap entirely. Just like in the British magic literature from 1900 until today we also find in German books long and elaborated explanations of the physical, astral and mental realms (or whichever names the author chose to give them) and how the work of the mage can take effect on and influence all three levels.
However, traveling and working on the inner realms in the language of the inner realms is nothing I ever came across in German magic. Even Pathworking never really made it into the educational books of the tradition I come from. Instead building up your tratak skills, bending candle flames by willpower, torturing your eyes until you see a glimmering hint of an aura and spending countless hours painting pentagrams into the dark of a room with the brush of your index finger are the bricks and mortar laid by a solid German Zelator instead...   
Where is the magic - in controlling the solid
or evoking the subtle?
While all the latter exercises are great - and very common Golden Dawn related - training for an aspiring magician they run an essential risk if learned in isolation. And that is to mistake the tracks you are hunting for the actual animal. 

The risk is to become so self-obsessed with the actual training, with the skills you gain, the mental power they yield and the (self-)control you continuously expand that you start to mistake these powers for the goal of magic itself. The risk is to become so self-absorbed with these early yet important stages of magic that you never move on. Because at some point all the hours you sat quietly in your asana, all the magical techniques you taught yourself, all the mechanisms of astral control you perfected, they turn into metal plates on the armor you created for yourself - which now keep from interacting with the living. 
"The magician uses his faith like the surgeon his scalpel." Many German fellow magicians will have grown up with this (in)famous axiom just like yours truly. Positioning total conscious control as the ultimate goal of the magical process seemed like the only possible road ahead... However, this short saying speaks volumes about the technical approach German magic takes on working with spiritual beings still today. The inner or spiritual realm has been degraded to a hidden bypass for affecting changes on the material realm. It has lost any value or interest in itself, becoming nothing but a medium to change matter in accordance with one's will. 
To me - having been brought up in this tradition magically - there is no difference to the way the scientists treat a monkey in a box, molecules in matter or brain waves of a patient from the way such Saturnian mages treat beings on the inner realms. They thrive of and are driven by a scientific and highly analytical desire for knowledge and control over power. The danger, however, is that this type of magic easily turns into the equivalent of genetic engineering: Both spirits and matter lose their souls, their dignitiy as living beings and the basic right to self-determine their course of actions and way of lives. As magicians of this type we will constantly expand our knowledge and power, and yet always remain utterly isolated. (And no wonder we will need some proper sex magick in the higher degrees to come back to life...)
But let's return to the initial question. Why is it that the magic that emerged from the German circles of Mussallam, Quintscher, Bardon, Gregorius, Spießberger, Duval and ultimately Frater U.D. almost completely lost its inner sight and contact? Why exactly is it that the extensive corpus of German language magic - unpublished even in German still in large parts - is of such an extraordinary technical or Saturnian approach to ritual magic? 
Well, let's use our thinking like a scalpel - or sawed off shotgun to be more honest - and throw out a few hypothesis: 
  • It's not only since Goethe that the story of Faust represents the archetype of any magician in German collective consciousness. The uncompromising, relentless strive for knowledge and insight stands as the central motive of the father figure of many German magicians who followed Faust.
  • 1928 Eugen Grosche (Gregor A. Gregorius) founded the most influential German speaking magical lodge to this date, Fraternitas Saturnis. Still going mostly unrecognized and overshadowed by the O.T.O in English speaking countries this lodge became the home and breeding ground for most of the German magical literature to be published in the decades to come. As the name of the lodge indicates its members are united by a strictly Saturnian approach to magic (even though the planet Saturn finds its own interpretation and occult analysis in their works).
  • Since the early late 19th century we can see an unbroken chain of important women in English magic. However, here is a distinct and embarrassing absence of woman in the German language magical tradition. In the entire era before the 1970s there is not a single native woman to be found who would have left a mark on magic in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
  • From a spiritual point of view the Second World War left Germany as destroyed and concaved on the inner realms as its bombed cities on the surface. Not only was the German Jewish tradition completely irrecoverably and utterly destroyed but so were most of the occult currents that had flown openly in the short period from the late 19th century to the 1930s. It's not unlikely that many inner contacts retreated from the land after this devastating experience. 
Clearly there are many more elements that could be called out here. Just think of the general reputation of Germans as engineers. Maybe we just carried on with what we knew best when entering the inner realms? 
May this as it be; it is the last of the bullet point above that gives me the creeps... Just think of the photos from the bombed cities in Dresden, Munich, Berlin, etc. What if on a spiritual level the rebuilding has never been completed - and all the darkness of these years is still stuck within the land? How much further healing work will it take to restore this country back to the beauty it deserves? 
Well, I always like to close on a positive note. So maybe a first small step away from an entirely Saturnian approach to magic could look like this? Each time we engage in magic we have a choice. We can continue to take a Saturnian approach - just like we might be used to as German magicians. Or we can do something new and chose its opposite; for lack of a better word let's call it Venusian
As so often in life it's the bridge between these two poles that will allow new and living forces to come through...


  1. Thats a very interesting post, thankyou. And lots of very important observations. There are threads of that Saturn magical mentality here in the UK, and one or two people have pushed through that to form an outer system that connects to the inner, but that is very rare.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Josephine. I knew I was pretty much generalizing in comparing "the" UK with "the" occult tradition in Germany. Reality is much more textured and layered obviously. However, sometimes painting it a bit black and white helps a lot to see the larger patterns - and indeed the absence of women and visionary or venusian magic in Germany is just striking. - iIt would be a wonderful body of work to analyse how Crowley tried to ridge this gap unsuccessfully in my opinion. Yet, he took a lot of the Grman magic tradition as developed by Tränker, Reuss, Mussalam and Bardon later and merged it into his own type of Magick...

  3. Well, and Bardon had stolen much of it from P.B. Randolph. So it all comes full circle in the end... :-)

  4. Well again, I should have said "used" instead of "stolen"... The days were different back then and I guess the transmission of knowledge depended on these gobbled and entwined ways of sharing and teaching.

  5. Thanks for that insight, I think I see a source of inner conflict more clearly now.

  6. hi layo, thanks - glad it sparked some new ideas...

  7. I just read a book from a german magician who labels visionary magick as " arm chair magick ". Clearly showing that this approach was highly under estimated for a long time in german magic history. I have to admit that i wasn't taking much interest myself in visionary magic until i read Josephine's book and some of Dolores books on visionary magick. Right now i am trying to merry my temple work with visionary magick which seems to be do-able but definitely it is challenging. Thanks for that inspiring post !

    1. how can there be any difference? do you not visualize the pentagrams, hexagrams, sigils etc in your temple workings? that IS visionary magick as much as anything else is. I suggest what seeming differences may exist are only an illusion.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Thank you for the interesting post. It's funny how in these days i'm once again discovering how (my) most effective magic lies in simple things like relaxation, flowing and inner journeying, so to speak. For a long time i tried to understand what the "classical" western yoga was missing (from my point of view, of course) and the answer came quite painfully: flexibility, freedom, silence. Too many words and acts for a very simple purpose: believing in our Godlike nature and in the answers from our inner worlds.

  11. Thanks for sharing these thoughts here, Le Fol. Truly words of wisdom and very good observations indeed. Inwish you all the best on sour journey. It seems like we are traveling in the same direction...

  12. I, too, wish you all the best. Yes, it seems we're both looking towards simplicity. Thanks again for sharing through your blog the landscapes of your path.
    It's banal, but i do believe that every creative journey starts in complexity and ends in simplicity. It's a matter of vision sharpening and self knowledge: we get rid of useless superstructures while our work become more subtle, mature and efficient.
    And our journey is the most creative one, isn't it?

  13. Your writing here was interesting but I see no validity in your words....there is no difference but subtle differences. To assume german mages and magick are totally saturnian and british are venusian is a big assumption....all paths lead the same place....I think you created these differences in your mind only...It is not a reality but it is an interesting theory....