I have felt a bit reluctant to write a review about David John Griffin’s The Ritual Magic Manual: A Complete Course in Practical Magic, mainly of two reasons. Firstly, the author is a close friend of mine, and also my teacher. Secondly I was somewhat involved in the process of its creation, albeit of a minuscule nature, i.e. proofreading and drawing certain illustrations (the grade signs). So naturally I am biased and obviously cannot give an objective opinion about this work to an extent which does it justice. This said I have worked with this manual for a decade now. Actually for longer than this, because several years prior to its publication certain portions of this manual was given out to the Temple where I was initiated. So I dare to say that I have a practical experience of the instructions contained in this manual as few have. This experience I believe compensates somewhat for the lack of objectiveness. To state bluntly; I cannot feel dispassionate for this manual as it has been integrated in my personal work for so long. Read this “review” bearing in mind that it is not based merely on opinion from reading it from page 1 to 666 (which it was not designed for in the first place) but expresses my reflections from the perspective of practical application of its instructions.
One of the main reasons that I finally, on the 10 year anniversary of its publication, decided to share with my reflections about The Ritual Magic Manual is that it has received, in my opinion, unjustified critique and consciously bad reviewing since its publication in 1999. It and its author have been accused with plagiarism, repetiveness, containing important errors, or even that it encourages invocation of demons! Some accuse it of being a work of black magic because of the section about demonic evocation and considering the fact that it does contain 666 pages. But we have to bear in mind that most of these reviews have either been written by leaders of other Golden Dawn organizations or in some cases direct statements written on official web pages belonging to organizations openly competing with the organization represented by Mr. Griffin, i.e. the Rosicrucian Order of the A+O. So in the final analysis there actually are very few objective reviews out there regarding this work as so many seems to have an axe to grind with Mr. Griffin. They are making the mistake to confuse the author with his work. Basically it’s about politics and not actual reviewing per se.
But on the other hand there has also been some balanced and I suppose not totally unjustified critique against Mr. Griffin’s development regarding the Enochian magical system, i.e. the Heptarchical and Zodiacal system of astrological magic. But whether this critique is acutally just or not it’s not for me to decide, as I don’t consider myself to be a scholar on the subject of Enochian Magic, as compared for example to the likes of Mr. Griffin (who I know for a fact embraced Enochian Magic as his own speciality during the 1990’s) or Jean-Pascal Ruggiu. But from what I can observe from my limited point of view most of the critique comes from the traditionalist camp of Enochian Magic who considers the Golden Dawn and the early system created by S.L. MacGregor Mathers, and as developed by Aleister Crowley, to be a corruption of John Dee’s and Edward Kelly’s original work. So, basically what people oftentimes have against Mr. Griffin’s personal developments can also be said about the Golden Dawn System of Magic as a whole, because of the fact that Mr. Griffin’s research follows the rationale of MacGregor Mathers’ original work and in fact is true to the Golden Dawn tradition.
The manual has oftentimes been accused of repetiveness and that it easily could have been made into an pamphlet, because of the fact that it gives detailed instructions for all of the forces belonging to the Elements, Planets, Zodiac and Sephiroth, besides giving instructions for the basic rituals of the LBRP, LBRH, Middle Pillar Ritual, etc. They further say that it contains almost no theoretical information regarding the rationale of ceremonial magic. Granted, it is repetitive. It could easlily have been made into a book of perhaps 100 pages instead of 666. Instead of reproducing 88 full rituals Mr. Griffin could have presented the basic rituals plus an example of each of the greater and supreme rituals, and then simply provided with tables of hierarchical information that easily could have been substituted in the actual magical workings. But I know that one of the main reasons for the publication of the manual was that he wanted students of the Golden Dawn “to do the work”, simply put. Note that I have not used the word “book” in regards to this work, but instead “manual”. That’s what this textbook is all about; it is a modern grimoire. Like grimoires of old, it contains minimal theory but rather detailed instructions on how to do magic. Like any manual, you are supposed to take the book from the shelf, turn to the relevant page that contains the force you wish to invoke and then…do magic!
I remember, back in 1990’s, some years prior to its publication, that we all lacked detailed information of how to implement the teachings of the Golden Dawn as contained in Israel Regardie’s two Golden Dawn books, which was frustrating to say the least. To be honest, it requires a lot of research in these old documents of the Inner Order (the Rituals and Flying Rolls) to create a coherent system of magic. Basically the original order documents were created over a span several years and information dispersed between many different papers. Not the least pedagogically organized. I remember how happy I was when I got hold of the first proof reading copy of the manual. At last there was the magical system of the Golden Dawn presented in an easy and user friendly format. No need to search and sort out, and perhaps misinterpret, the information when gathered into a working ritual. I often call it “a lazy man’s manual”. That’s what it is, for better or worse. The good point is obvious, as already stated. The bad point is that manuals of this calibre discourage serious students to do their own research and to learn the mechanics and rationale that lays behind the rituals.
But this being said, the manual has helped lots of students to actually do the work and charge their energetic bodies or sphere of sensations with the magical forces of Elements, Planets, Zodiac and the Tree of Life. Magic is primarily about the work, not intellectual studies. Real understanding of the forces which are invoked are much more important compared to theoretical knowledge of the rational structure of a ritual. But on the other hand I also believe that over time, in working with these rituals, the structure and rationale will over time become obvious for the practitioner.
But the critique against the manual that it contains almost no theory is not exactly true nor is it just. Even if Mr. Griffin has consciously been trying to limit theoretical speculations and theorization it does contain the necessary information that the aspiring magician needs to know. It gives basic information about the nature of magic, why the rituals themselves contains different ingredients, the nature of vibration, etc. It also gives the necessary information about correspondences, how the pentagram and hexagram symbols are structured and attributed, etc. Besides this, Mr. Griffin gives ample scholarly information about his own developments regarding the Planetary and Zodiacal aspects of Enochian Magic.
But is must be said that this manual is not a book about Enochian Magic per se. There are better books on this subject that solely focuses on Enochiana. The Ritual Magic Manual is a textbook about the Rosicrucian system of Theurgy, according to the Golden Dawn tradition. Therefore it contains all its ingredients, both Qabalistic (Hebrew) as well as Enochian integrated into a whole and coherent system. But on the other hand, most of the scholarly research made by Mr. Griffin concerns Enochiana. In my opinion the greatest benefit for the entire Enochian community following the publication of this manual is the full transcriptions and pronunciation system of the Enochian Calls. In this respect Mr. Griffin has made a thorough research in the different sloane papers of the British Museum. It is easy to follow this research for everyone just by reading Mr. Griffin’s comments.
On the subject of pronunciation Mr. Griffin has not limited his research to Enochiana but has also consulted a scholar of Hebrew in correcting the pronunciation of Hebrew words of power. He has even taken care to reproduce the dagesh points with the rituals, even if I personally find this a bit superfluous as they are not to be traced during invocation. But still, the phonetic system as presented in this manual is the best I have encountered as of yet, and differs a lot compared to most other books on the subject of ceremonial magic on the market (i.e. gentiles trying to emulate “Hebrew”). If you are looking for a book with correct pronunciation of both Hebrew and Enochian, The Ritual Magic Manual is the book for you.
Regarding the other developments of Enochian Magic, i.e. Astrological Magic, I suppose there are lots more parts open for discussion and critique. In one of the appendixes Mr. Griffin has expounded upon the Book of the Concourse of Forces originally written by S.L. MacGregor Mathers. Here Mr. Griffin gives detailed information of how he has developed the Heptarchiacal system out of John Dee’s Sloane Mss. 3188 and 3191, and how he was able to solve the puzzle of the divergences between Dee’s notes and the Golden Dawn arrangement of Planets. As I have said earlier, whether this solution is the most optimal is not for me to decide based solely from theoretical considerations. All I know is that it has worked alright for me and my fellow brethren and sisters for several years.
Mr. Griffin has created new Planetary Tablets out of the Table of the Forty-nine Good Angels contained in Sloane Ms. 3191., also called the Tabula Bonorum. They present a workable and beautiful set of seven colour Tablets that are fully reproduced in the manual. He also uses the Sigillum Dei Aemeth as a Planetary “Tablet of Union”, partially coloured using the colour scales of the Golden Dawn. Mr. Griffin has also developed a Zodiacal Tablet out of a diagram contained in Sloane Ms. 3191 called Ordo Israelis Dispersi, hoc Estate 1585, which deals with the positioning of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
As Mr. Griffin points out, there is a great discrepancy between John Dee’s original attributions and these used by S.L. MacGregor Mathers in his paper On the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, based on Royal Arch Freemasonry. Instead Mr. Griffin has used the correspondences of the natural position of the Elements in the Zodiac, which also coincides with the teachings of Henry Cornelius Agrippa. So, basically Mr. Griffin’s way of dealing with this matter is to leave one aspect of the Golden Dawn tradition (i.e. that of the Table of Shewbread) and instead focus on another aspect of the Golden Dawn system accordingly, which more amply fits with Dee’s original intentions. Using this revision Mr. Griffin has simply used the names for the Enochian Zodiacal Kings on the newly designed Zodiacal Tablet, which is more of a “Tablet of Union” as it is used as a general Tablet for all twelve Signs.
Obviously Mr. Griffin’s development of Astrological Enochian Magic has used his own creative genius, which may or may not be satisfying according to taste. But at least he has made a coherent system that integrates well within the whole Golden Dawn System of Magic. The only reserve that I personally feel with all of this is the use of Enochian Calls together with the Planetary and Zodiacal system. I am ambivalent and have in periods discarded it and later put them to use again in my personal work; but I’m still not certain of its validity. The allocations of the calls to the Planets and Signs feels a bit “constructed” in my view, or seductively simplified. But on the other hand, so does S.L. MacGregor Mathers allocation of the 18 first calls with the Elemental Tablets. Also, if it wasn’t for this manual, I believe few of us would even use Enochian words of power in conjunction with Planetary or Zodiacal Magic in the first place. In this respect the manual is indispensable as there are no instructions regarding this in the original Golden Dawn manuscripts, besides some theoretical considerations on the level of Practicus Adeptus Minor. Obviously MacGregor Mathers didn’t complete the Enochian System. The Ritual Magic Manual presents such a completion, or at least tries to.
Besides the Enochian aspects of this manual (which are substantial) I would also like to point out some other poignant parts. Some critics say that the manual doesn’t present any new information, just rehashes of old and already publicized rituals. This argument feels a bit strange in my opinion, especially considering the substantial development of Enochian Magic contained in the manual, but also as most rituals presented in earlier books are flawed in my opinion. Yes, its true that you can find different versions, as for example the Lesser Banishing Rituals or Middle Pillar Ritual, which taken together are able to create optimal versions. But in my opinion you won’t find as good versions of these basic rituals as in The Ritual Magic Manual. They fully integrate movements, grade signs, correct pronunciation, visualization, etc., into a coherent whole that you won’t find nowhere else. Also, you will find good exercises on godform assumption, as well as invocation of the Highest Divine Force, as well as the Magical Eucharist, etc.
Granted, many of these rituals are based on the works of Israel Regardie, especially his seminal little pamphlet Ceremonial Magic. But this isn’t at all strange considering the fact that Mr. Griffin once were the personal student of Cris Monnastre, who in turn was the closest personal student of Israel Regardie (he had several students but not as intimate as Monnastre). Regardie’s take on ceremonial magic was naturally passed over to Mr. Griffin who used his training experience when he wrote this manual. One such example is the “introduction” of the use of banishing daggers, one for the Pentagram (Elements and Zodiac) and one other for the Hexagram (Planets and Sephiroth), charged with Geburah and Spirit respectively, which as a matter of fact was transmitted from Cris Monnastre.
But even with these “basic rituals” (i.e. LBRP, Middle Pillar Ritual, etc.), oftentimes associated with Israel Regardie, you won’t find any of them published with the correct pronunciations anywhere else. But the changes are even much more substantial with the more complex rituals following the “basic rituals” section. Mr. Griffin’s Greater and Supreme Invocation Rituals (see below) are based around Regardie’s good old Watchtower Ritual, but greatly embellished or enhanced; you wont find any of them rituals as much developed and expounded as in the manual, fully integrating the Pentagram and Hexagram Rituals, combined with purifications and consecrations, invocation of the Highest, Hebrew and Enochian, tracing of names and sigils, Eucharist, etc. There is no way of doing mistakes if you follow these instructions to the letter.
Mr. Griffin has also done a fairly good research on Egyptian Godforms and has allocated one for each and every one of the invoked forces as contained in the manual. Even if I am quite sure that a different and alternative arrangement could as easily have been developed, these allocations still feels intuitively correct and – much more importantly – constitutes an essential aspect of Golden Dawn magic oftentimes ignored in other books on the subject, despite the fact that such great emphasis are laid on Godform-magic in the Neophyte Grade and Hall of Maat. As with everything else in this manual, all is presented in a user-friendly manner accompanied by illustrations of each godform. Besides this the manual gives full instructions in the art of Scrying in the Spirit Vision, i.e. of astral projection, which makes an important and integrated part of all magical workings as contained in the manual.
Another important development made by Mr. Griffin is the fact that he has renamed some aspects of the ritual structures. In the old Pentagram and Hexagram documents there only were “Lesser” and “Supreme” versions of the rituals. When doing invocations, for example of a Planet, one was urged to combine both Supreme and Lesser aspects of the Hexagram Ritual, tracing the lesser forms of the Hexagram in the Quarters, etc. Per definition, the Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram invokes all four Elements and Spirit in unison. When doing a invocation of a Element, according to the old instructions, one uses the form of the Supreme Ritual but only traces the Pentagram of the particular Element in the four quarters. Mr. Griffin has remedied this confusing terminology by applying a new term, “The Greater Ritual”. Lesser Rituals are only used in Lesser banishings. Supreme Rituals are always used when invoking the synthesis of forces, for example the five Elements. When doing a invocation of a particular Planet, Zodiacal Sign or Element, the magician make use of the Greater Rituals. So to summarize:
- Lesser Rituals: Generic rituals of a lesser nature, used for general banishing.
- Supreme Rituals: Rituals to invoke all of the forces of a hierarchy toghether into a unified whole.
- Greater Rituals: Rituals to invoke a particular force from a hierarchy, using (in the case of Pentagrams) the Supreme formula for the particular force, or (in the case of Hexagrams) combining the Lesser and Supreme formulas of invocation.
Some critics assert that the instructions are filled with errors and therefore cannot be considered as trustworthy. Well, faults are bound to occur in a book with 666 pages. You won’t get around this fact, and I am partly to blame as one of the original proofreaders. And I have also spotted some errors after publication, but of a minor nature, i.e. of a cut and paste nature. I haven’t yet found any mistakes in pronunciations, correspondences, names, spellings, sigils, etc. – i.e. of a important nature – in the course of regular use for the latest decade. But I don’t have pretensions of being a scholar of dignity; there may of course be some errors that I yet have not spotted. I urge anyone finding any errors in the manual to present them in the comments section of this essay, for the benefit of the public. But to date, I have not seen any actual examples of such errors in the reviews that have made these suggestions.
The manual also has a section on Practical and Talismanic Magic, or Thaumaturgy. This, together with the chapter on Demonic Evocation, constitutes the last sections of the manual, which hiretho has been solely concerned with Theurgy, i.e. the charging and balancing of the Sphere of Sensation of the Magician and his or her spiritual development. Now the student is given clear instructions on how to transform the outer conditions of everyday life with ritual magic in the making and ritual charging of Talismans. Together with all Enochian Tablets the manual also contains detailed and fully coloured sets of Talismans for all the forces that are subject to invocation in the manual. The designs of these Talismans are based on the Golden Dawn system, but not slavishly. They are more to be considered as a proposed development of or expansions on the original Golden Dawn teachings, integrating polygons and polygrams, sigils and letters, and alchemical symbols.
Lastly there is the “notorious” section on Demonic Evocation. I really don’t understand what’s all this fuss about demonic evocation actually is. This kind of practices has always been part and parcel of the Golden Dawn System of Magic. MacGregor Mathers himself was the greatest scholar in this field, as can be seen in all of his translations of medieval grimoares. Even considering the notorious Aleister Crowley, who didn’t hesitate to approach anything which smelled “demonic”, I’m certain that MacGregor Mathers must be considered as the true master of this discipline. Normally, in the Rosicrucian Order of the A+O, this kind of work is solely reserved for the Adeptus Major. But I remember Mr. Griffin’s motivation behind this insertion of Demonic Evocation into his manual being prompted by the widespread popularity for goetia, especially in Thelemic circles. We have to remember that this manual was written for all students of the Western Mystery Tradition, Golden Dawners as well as Thelemites, and also others. Mr. Griffin explained to me that he wanted to present a more workable system of evocation as a service, as many students would dabble with this anyway.
Here Mr. Griffin presents the method of using a mirror as the “Triangle of Art”, which actually was Poke Runyon’s invention, which he fully accredits. All the Talismans contained in the manual are also to be used as lamens during evocation; hence they contain the name and seal of the demonic spirit (which is to be removed when consecrating Talismans). This section also fully develops the psychology behind demonic evocation, which sees “demons” or Qlippoth as repressed aspects of the magician’s self, well hidden in the unconscious. Evocation is here made into a species of self-psychoanalysis, where the magician becomes fully aware of the repressed contents and integrates it under the guidance of the Divine Will and Holy Guardian Angel of the magician. This final rooting out of the shadow of man is the prerequisite for becoming the Exempt Adept. In my personal opinion, this section and development constitutes an equal importance as any of the Enochian developments.
So now, what’s the business with the 666 pages and the last one containing the symbol for the Sun and its kameotic seal, as well as the sigil for Sorath, the spirit of the Sun? Does it relate to the number of the beast? No, of course not, not even remotely. It is a reference to the Sun – Sol. Its kameotic number is 666. The spirit (demon) of Sol further enhances this fact. Basically, the solar current is very strong within the Golden Dawn tradition and egregore. It is also the centre of the entire Tree of Life, and also is a symbol for the Redeemer. This is furthermore amplified by the fact that it is presented together with an excerpt from Revelation 21:6, concerning the Alpha et Omega, the beginning and the end. Anyone well versed in Qabalistic symbolism, especially in Christian Qabalah and also Sabbatian Qabalah, as well as in the Golden Dawn, knows all this. All statements contrary to this is just simple politics.
There is special significance to the fact that the book was published in 1999, the year of General Reformation of the Order. Basically since then students of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, within the jurisdiction of the Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega, are supposed to work with the magical forces corresponding to the Elemental Grades, according to the Sephiroth, as presented in this table:
Neophyte (preparation): LBRP, LBRH, Middle Pillar Ritual, Rose Cross Ritual.For obvious reasons The Ritual Magic Manual has become somewhat of a prime sourcebook for Outer Order students. The manual (or rather the information contained in it) is part and parcel of the reformed Golden Dawn in the Outer. But I know for a fact that Mr. Griffin also wanted to provide a manual for solitary magicians, and as such it was viewed as a manual for “Self-Initiation”. Not self-initiation in the sense of becoming self-initiated into the Golden Dawn, as suggested elsewhere, but initiated into the magical forces of the Elements, Planets, Zodiac and Sephiroth. In this context Mr. Griffin organized the book to be worked with from beginning to end, i.e. to be worked in succession with the chapters in the followning manner:
Zelator (Malkuth): GIRP (Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram) for Earth, Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo.
Theoricus (Yesod): GIRP for Air, Libra, Aquarius, and Gemini. GIRH (Greater Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram) for Luna and Saturn.
Practicus (Hod): GIRP for Water, Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. GIRH for Mercury and Jupiter.
Philosophus (Netzach): GIRP for Fire, Aries, Leo, and Saggitarius. GIRH for Venus and Mars.
Portal (Veil of Paroketh): SIRP (Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram) for Elements, and Zodiac. GIRH for Sol. Further work may include SIRH (Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram) for the Planets, etc.
- Basic Rituals (LBRP, LBRH, Ritual of the Middle Pillar, Rose Cross Ritual, Invocation of the Highest Divine Force).
- Elemental Theurgical Magic.
- Planetary Theurgical Magic.
- Zodiacal Theurgical Magic.
- Sephirotic Theurgical Magic.
- Practical and Talismanic Magic (steps 2-5 albeit with a Thamaturgical perspective).
- Demonic Evocation (the pinnacle of the Great Work).
So, as you can see, The Ritual Magic Manual contains all necessary practical methods as considered necessary for this spiritual ascent. As I said earlier, it also contains some basic information regarding the used symbols in these rituals. But to be able to understand the Philosophy underlying Ceremonial Magic it sadly lacks in information. Hence the need to complement with other sources. Therefore the serious students must read other works dealing with both the Qabalah and Hermeticism, and conveniently enough The Ritual Magic Manual has appended a good bibliography to accommodate the magician for his or her further study.
So in closing, The Ritual Magic Manual is not for the armchair occultist but solely is written with the serious practical magician in mind. But even the practician should have an in depth understanding of the magical system that he or she is working with. For every serious student I therefore recommend detailed study of either book by Israel Regardie, The Golden Dawn (the Llewellyn edition) or The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (the New Falcon edition). Together with these books you will have what you need in your study and work of the Golden Dawn System of Magic. Unfortunately The Ritual Magic Manual has for several years been sold out and is never to be republished. This fact has made the book highly valuable in terms of money. But in my opinion, and I personally vouchsafe this considering my experience, it is worth every penny that you are able to spend on it.