While I was away last weekend, it appears that the much esteemed Pete Carroll wrote something against necromancy, and by extension, ancestor veneration in some senses. I encourage you all to read it here. I\’ve a great deal of respect for Mr Carroll\’s work – my copy of LIBER KAOS is covered in notes, and I really enjoyed his APOPHENION and EPOCH, but I have to say that I once again find myself in genteel disagreement with him. He writes:

If necromancers really could get objective information from the dead then an enormous demand would exist for them in all parts of the world to assist in murder investigations.

Imaginary friends, Tulpas, and various gods and servitors can prove of considerable use and value to the magician, so long as the magician doesn’t fall into the trap of regarding them as objectively real and of uncritically accepting their advice, for then they really do become demons in the worst sense of the word, amplifying aspects of the magicians subconscious beyond their original remit and creating obsessions.

However we now have every reason to conclude that the dead persist only in our memories and imaginations of them. Eliphas Levi  seems to have more or less realised this and tried to develop a theory of magic that depended on some sort of ‘Astral Light’ and the personal efforts of the magician, rather than entirely upon the celestial legions of the dead, the demonic, and the archangelic. The adepts of the Golden Dawn seem to have come to similar conclusions, and Crowley disdained to play around with necromancy.

The presence of the belief in life after death in many ancient and modern religions doesn’t make it so. No attempt to describe a disembodied afterlife in detail really makes any sense at all; (try it), it just makes a comforting (or frightening) contra-evidential belief.  The appeal of necromancy to modern magicians, who should know better, lies entirely in its gothic necro-charisma and dark glamour – the frisson of fear. This can prove profitable in spooking the gullible, but spooking yourself with it just seems adolescent.

Work with necromancy and goetia only really gives personal effects if you persistently invoke the gnosis of fear, and this can upset the autonomic nervous system, leading to the skinny pallor and fidgety persona characteristic of high cortisol/anxiety levels. It doesn’t lead to self-understanding or much in the way of magical ability to interact with reality.

Could not that first line of the quote be applied, not just to necromancers, but to all magicians?

Now, I suspect, from reading Carroll\’s later works, that he does indeed believe in some kind of \’objective\’ reality. Some secret stash of verity waiting to be uncovered, revealed as naked truth which will answer the questions we as humans have had about existence. It\’s a laudable goal. However, much of the language in both this quote and the piece of a whole seems hung up on fear and obsession, traditional Protestant views which have been translated into the Enlightenment project\’s salutation of Rationality for Rationality\’s sake.

It\’s obvious that Carroll is dismissive of necromancy and Goetia as nothing more than psychological projection. And that\’s fine for him. Yet, once again, I question the notion of \’objective\’. Many, if not all, of the things he raises against necromancy can and have been raised against magic as a whole. Further, as usual, the remarks regarding gothic necro-charisma seem to indicate his experience of necromancers and those who honour the dead is extra-ordinarily narrow, as if we are all pale-faced Goths or twitchy fear-junkies. If these are the only individuals Mr Carroll has encountered, I suggest he cast his net further afield – clearly he has a little bit of confirmation bias going on.

Now granted, we both seem to be operating on anecdotal evidence here, but in my experience, while there is a species of folk who are as he describes, the vast majority of folk I know who work with the dead do not, in fact, operate from a position of fear, but in fact one of connexion and wholeness. If there is any fear involved, it is that which is encountered on the recognition of one\’s own inevitable demise, which, through proper use of certain practices, can in fact provide one with a great deal of esoteric knowledge.

If anything, this piece seems to appeal to modern so-called \’traditional\’ Western ideas of death and the dead, ideas, which seem to have their origin in the 19th century, so it\’s unsurprising that the 19th century occultists he cites would back him up!

This is not to say such work is without dangers – quite the contrary – but all magical work contains such dangers as obsession and delusion, so I personally find it quite peculiar that he\’s singled out Necromancy and working with the Dead for such comments.

Very strange indeed.