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Book Review:

The Ritual Magic Manual, by David Griffin

Recently, a colleague lent me a copy of a brand new hardcover text entitled The Ritual Magic Manual: A Complete Course in Practical Magick, by David Griffin, for the purpose of review. I have to admit that I didn't quite know what to expect. It was an extremely thick volume, the page number coming to the dubious total of 666. The material inside seemed to be typical Golden Dawn procedure, yet the price was set at $49. My interest was piqued, however, as I read the beginning of the forward. In the very first paragraph, she describes Mr. Griffin as a "magical genius" who is "truly and undeniably capable of staring into and surviving the fires of the gods while not going blind." Indeed! He possesses "such enormous raw talent that only a holy fanaticism indeed could contain such sacred and hungry wantonness for the wildest, most unexplored and deepest of mysteries."

I knew I had to read this book. I had to see this magickal genius for myself. What new and innovative material could be locked within the words and beautiful color plates of this pricey tome? How deep were the mysteries to which David Griffin alone had access? As a mage and a scholar, I simply had to know.

The book's sheer size (i.e.- the time I might have to dedicate to the project) intimidated me at first, but that quickly drained away. Most of the material was genuinely good; its only flaw being that I had seen most of it before. I searched for the innovative genius, but only found excerpts from books already present on my shelf. (I found out later that this was truer than I first suspected.) It explained the Grade Signs, Pentagrams and Hexagrams, Lesser Banishing Rituals, Middle Pillar, Analysis of Keyword, Rose Cross, Greater Pentagram and Hexagram Rituals, and a Eucharist Ceremony. Of course, I had all of these in Regardie's The Golden Dawn (Llewellyn) which retails for less than $30, and contains much more comprehensive info besides.

Matters seemed to go downhill when I reached chapters two through five. It was, in fact, striking to behold. Chapter Two: Elemental Magic contained no less than 66 pages of the greater pentagram ritual repeated- at full length!- 10 times. That allowed for a greater invocation and greater banishing ritual for each of the four Elements, plus two supreme rituals (also invoking and banishing). The only thing that changes between each repeat is the proper pentagrams, names, colors, etc.

Chapter Three: Planetary Magic was similar. It contained 144 pages of the greater hexagram ritual repeated 18 times; an invocation and banishing for seven planets, the two supreme rituals, and an extra two based upon the Seal of Truth.

Chapter Four: Zodiacal Magic revealed 141 pages of the greater pentagram ritual (again) repeated 26 times. That was two for each of the twelve Signs, plus the two supreme versions.

Finally, Chapter Five: Sephirothic Magic contained a scant 116 pages of such repetition, this time offering the greater hexagram ritual (again) 22 times. Ten Spheres, invoking and banishing, and the two supreme versions.

The bulk of the remainder of these chapters (i.e.- the text introducing and explaining each ritual) was largely cut and paste as well. It took Mr. Griffin a total of 454 pages to relate material which has, many times in the past, been outlined from between twenty to fifty pages. I was suddenly "supremely" unamused by the author's attempts to reach 666 pages, and a fifty-dollar price tag.

Of course, it would be unfair to end the review here, as Mr. Griffin does, indeed, offer some new material. For instance, he mentions the Sidereal Zodiac a few times; which is at least unique. However, the rest struck me as largely unimaginative. For instance, his Invocation of the Highest Divine Force (Ch. 2) is a combination of the Middle Pillar and the exercise of godform assumption. That's not useless by any means; however, it's not what I would expect from one who had stared into the fire of the gods.

Some of his further ideas stood out in particular. It is perhaps here that I found Mr. Griffin's true innovation. For instance, he informs us that the use of incense smoke in evocation is actually a "blind". He also has us replace the "dark mirror" of Kraig and Runyon with an actual reflective mirror. The LBRP and other banishings, we learn, will "discharge" magickal tools and talismans! Therefore, our Elemental banishing tools should be consecrated via the Hexagram, and our Planetary tools with the Pentagram. Thus, when you banish pentagrams, you're using a hexagram tool that can not be banished thereby, and vice versa. One is never to use the Lotus Wand to banish. This, I'm afraid, seems to be almost the extent of Griffin's "magical genius".

Eventually, I came to the chapter and appendixes concerning Enochian Magic. This is the specific reason I was asked to review the book, and so I have decided to focus upon it somewhat apart from the above. Like the rest of his work, there was little to be found that could be labeled as "bad". For the most part, it struck me as an adaptation of Pat Zalewski's Golden Dawn Enochian Magic. Like Mr. Zalewski, the author focused upon certain marginally obscure (which, in Pat's time, were absolutely obscure) tables given to Dee by the Angels. He (Mr. Griffin) then added correspondences to each square of the tables in patterns loosely based upon Golden Dawn procedure. He illustrates each of these tables in color plates.

He also did some work on the Angelic Keys- such as adding pronunciations for all of the words. I disagree with some few of his phonetic results, and have not done any research on comparing the rest with my own notes. Regardless, the bottom line is that students must consider all sources, and finally decide for themselves. I do admit that there were some post-Golden Dawn Temples that took their pronunciations a bit far. However, it is also true that Angelic was never a spoken language, and pronunciation differences matter little. Therefore, I can only judge for myself on such a matter as this.

His applications of the Keys, on the other hand, seemed less than useful. It is no secret that I have never been impressed with Mathers' system of applying the Keys to the Watchtowers. I am even less impressed, therefore, with Mr. Griffin's attempt to apply them to the Angels of the Zodiac and Planets. For the latter, he adapts the 49 Angels of the Bonorum- assigning the 48 Keys to Them by repeating the last Key twice.

There was also an attempt to color code the Seal of Truth according to Planetary scale. Of course, this ignores the Angels' instructions to Dee on the matter ("…we have no respect of colors"), but I could look past this in the name of experimentation. What bothered me more was the fact that the colors did not seem to have anything to do with the arrangements of Planetary Names on the Seal. The Only colors that were not actually arbitrary were those of the inner-heptagon (and the corresponding lines of the heptagram itself). These were based upon the scheme of the RR et AC Vault of the Adepti. The only problem is that the small heptagon on the Seal of Truth is positioned point downward, while the walls of the Vault of the Adepti fashion a heptagon positioned "point upward" (or east). Therefore, the sides of the small heptagon do not line up with the walls of the Vault if you place the Seal on the altar facing east. Mr. Griffin's innovation here is to invert the Seal of Truth upon the altar.

Finally, I should once again mention the author's discussions of the Sidereal Zodiac. The rear cover flap of the book proclaims: "In the most significant breakthrough… David Griffin has herein achieved a brilliant new synthesis of Enochian and Astrological Magic." I can't help but to agree with the significance of this new synthesis (on pages 635-639), especially since I published the material originally in the Spring 1998 issue of Eschaton Publishing's Terminal Journal. The essay is entitled A Discourse on the Enochian Watchtowers. The curious reader can obtain back issues from http://www.eschatonbooks.com/ The text itself can be found archived (and discussed!) at the Enochian-L mailing list: http://www.hollyfeld.org/heaven/elists/enochian-l.phtml Also, for easier reference, it can be read on my own homepage http://members.aol.com/kheph777 Unfortunately, you will not find any of these sources in the bibliography of Mr. Griffin's book.

In conclusion, I simply can not recommend that one buy this new publication. At best, you might want to skim it at the bookstore if you happen to find one there- as it is an extremely curious work.

Aaron Leitch (Khephera)
4 / 22 / 99


Copyright © 1999 C. "Aaron Jason" Leitch