Conjuration by Lamp
The lamp as a tool of magic is one which has a great deal of mythological and literary prominence and yet it is one that is often left unexplored in magic. Some systems talk about using the lamp as a symbol representing the number related to the spirit and putting lamps of the appropriate color around the perimeter of the circle, and utilizing lamps associated with the color of the spirit's sphere. This is similar to what we see in a lot of modern magic with candles. We approach a particular vibration through the color and we use the shape or number of the arrangement to refine the association to the planet or sphere with which the spirit is associated. This in and of itself is not such a bad idea. In other cases the lamp is simply the temple light, representing the inner light of the magician. In Franz Bardon's approach the lamp simultaneously relates to the inner light of the magician and the vibration of the spirit, in the methods we will discuss the lamp is one or the other, but not both.
Let's begin with exploring the lamp itself before looking at ways it can be used in spirit work. The most common depiction of the lamp in modern Western Esotericism is probably the Hermit card of the Tarot. In the Hermit card the Hermit holds the lamp out before him. He is alone in that he has condensed the forces of the tarot within his experience. He stands alone in the sort of solitude which is created by expressing the totality as a unity, compressed in the singularity of the light of his lamp. His lamp is the light which guides those Fools which follow along the same path that he once began to collect knowledge.
In the A.'.A.'. the lamp is the tool of the Dominus Liminis or the Lord of the Paths. This has in it an element of what is given in the tarot card. The Dominus Liminis brings together and has open to him the paths he has traveled to reach the Vault of the Adepts and the paths which lead therefrom. But he has not condensed them into the singular light. As a Man of Earth, a magician mastering the tools of the elements and learning the basis of the art, the light inspires him to seek it and the knowledge which it illuminates. He sees it in the distance and wishes for it to cure the darkness brought on by the blindness of birth. Upon reaching the entry to the Vault, the gate way to Tifaret he nears to the earthly expression of the light. He possesses it and grasps it in a knowable form. He holds the light in the lamp, and realizes the light is his own inner light, the guidance which has brought him to that point, but he still sees the light as an outer expression, it is still the lamp which illuminates the temple and shows his way forward. Once he masters the paths of the Vault and truly possesses the knowledge needed to fall into understanding he is able to fully possess the light of the lamp and hold it as he becomes the guiding light of the Hermit.
In these cases the lamplight is the inner light, the soul. It is the inspiration of the vocation towards the primordial Truth. Has the lamp always had this meaning though? In Rosicrucian references the lamp seems to have some sort of alchemical mystery that lets it burn forever. With alchemy typically connecting to the idea of removing the flawed false material to reveal the inner truth of the purified substance, and that relating to revealing the golden light of the soul, it is not unreasonable to assume the Rosicrucian lamp has a similar meaning to its expression in the A.'.A.'. and the Tarot. But if we go back further, does the lamp have this meaning in more traditional spirituality?
The everburning lamp is an extension of the ever burning flame or ever lasting light which we see as a symbol most familiarly in Christianity and Judaism. The flame or light is a lamp kept lit in Churches and Synagogues to represent the presence of God. We see a similar symbol in ancient Paganism, and echoed in modern Pagan religions, in which the presence of the Gods is frequently represented by fire. Sometimes that fire is present in a specific ritual context, or in ancient religions, it is maintained in temples or sacred sites, as it is in more contemporary mainstream religions. The divine is something we naturally associate with the light. The presence of light provides for us a similar comfort and change in awareness as that which is provided by a connection to the divine.
In our contemporary systems of esoteric spirituality we recognize that finding the inner light, the connection to the soul or that part of ourselves which is an expression of our divine origin is the first step in that connection with God. That is not only true of contemporary esotericism. In Hermeticism, in NeoPlatonism, in the Kabbalah, in Alchemy, in Gnosticism, we find teachings which show us that our souls are divine, and provide the connection which inspires us, by giving us the road back to the truth of our origin. In all of these systems there is an absolute divinity which is the source from which we stem and our souls are the true nature which is a piece or reflection of that source. By turning inward and finding ourselves, by knowing ourselves, we see the light which shows us the way to the true light, the spiritual center which is reflected in the world as the light of the Sun. The lamp is the gateway to understanding that light.
So when we seek our Holy Guardian Angels we light the lamp representing the kindling of that light within ourselves as a knowable, tenable presence. The light takes a reality within our worlds showing that it is no longer a far off goal but that it is a true and viable piece of our experience. At the center, or perhaps the adytum of the temple or oratory it reflects its place within our lives. The experience of Knowledge and Conversation is one in which we enter the fiery center of the light of the lamp and become connected intimately therewith, emblazoning it as the force of the serpent now wrapped around our hearts. The lamp which began as a symbol of the goal of achieving this intimacy with the light is now an exterior symbol of the inner reality of the divine presence. But at this point in our work that intimacy is not a constant sustained and natural part of who we are, and so in ritual contexts we still have these tools and symbols bound intricately to the spiritual force of this reality. In lighting the lamp we are drawn back to our awareness of the light and our connection therewith. Just as putting on the ring and the robe reengage the sacramental reality of our being.
As a tool of the temple the lamp of inner light represents that divine authority and divine presence which is the Holy Spirit, our our connection to our Holy Guardian Angel, The Divine Wisdom, or the Divine Grace. In such a context the lamp is not a tool of conjuration directly. But it may be what accompanies a simple prayer to God for the benevolence of an angel being called upon for assistance. This model of simply asking for the aid of a good angel was frequently the method of medieval magic which felt that more complex signs and symbols were only needed for demons. The Abramelin also suggests that one who has obtained the Sacred Magic may call upon angels in such a simple method. The lamp is lit along with the prayer so that its light is a symbol of the connection with the divine which allows the prayer to be answered. The lamp could also be lit in a more ceremonial method along with the prayers for Divine Grace or Wisdom to be visited upon the magician so that he may command the spirits. In this case the lamp represents that same connection but more within the context of the connection of the divine being applied through the magician.
If we look back at some of these previous systems of esoteric spirituality we will see that the lamp is a reasonable symbol for reminding the spirits of their relationship with man. For the Hermeticist the lamp represents the retrieval of the awareness of the divine nature of the soul. So for the spirits it is a reminder that man is the beloved brother of the Creator and thus they would serve man as they would the Creator in whose likeness man is formed. For the NeoPlatonist the lamp represents the connection to the manifest expression of the One and the Good, that part of mankind which has the potential to engage in Creation as if a particular expression of the Demiurgos, and thus the spirits particularly as we move through higher levels are called to participate in that theurgical creation to emulate the Good. For the Kabbalist it is the light of Tifaret, the reflection of God in the world and the heart of the body of God around which the forces of creation are ordered. The Kabbalist who achieves communion with Tifaret returns to the state of Eden and thus is able to interacted with the angels and the spiritual world which Eden represents as he stands in communion with that center around whose access the powers rotate. And so it goes on with various systems, that this symbol may be applied with similar logic and purpose.
But what if perhaps we want to explore the use of the lamp to work with one particular spirit or type of spirit? We can revisit Bardon's idea a bit. The main thing I dislike about Bardon's explanation of the lamp is that there is a blurring between the light of the spirit and the light of the magician. Bardon recommends that the magician light the lamp while meditating on it being a reflection of his own inner light. He then says the lamp should be covered with filtration which creates a light that works for the spirit. On the one hand, on the surface, creating a light which has a vibration which is pleasing to the spirit is reasonable and would seem to acknowledge the reality of the spirit, this part is essentially correct. The combination of the light with the light of the magician has an implication that the spirit is perhaps an extension of the magician, after all, the magician is elevating the light above him as he would when representing his guiding internal light, but the light is vibrating so as to match the vibration of the spiritual force being conjured. If the magician is attempting to align himself or invoke a particular force into his personal sphere then the symbolism of adjusting his own light to that vibration is a very clear and potent symbol to use. Coloring his own light to match that of a spirit being conjured, however, seems to imply that the force which the magician is conjuring is a piece of his own internal reality. When you filter a light the pigment of the filtration captures all vibrations within the light except for the color which is allowed through. So if we filter with a blue pigment we see blue light because everything else, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo, Violet, all of it is captured and absorbed by the pigment. If the light is our own light, and we are conjuring Sachiel and therefore desire a blue jupiterian light, we are symbolically withholding all parts of our soul except that part which expresses Jupiter. This does not necessarily mean that we are simply drawing together the jupiterian elements of our nature and externalizing them as a thought form we call Sachiel, but it can certainly imply that. Alternatively, when we conjure a spirit while it is an external reality it is expressed through our internal experience, and the nexus point between our soul, the divine presence, and the environment of the working creates an interaction which allows the manifestation of the spirit in such a way that it mitigates some element of the internal/external question. It is an external reality experienced through a moment of unity that allows that external force to be communicated. Our own light drawn towards the nature of the spirit could also reflect that interaction, or simply reflect the idea that we draw ourselves into a state of alignment to more clearly relate to the spirit.
Side stepping these various questions of symbolism, I prefer a different method for working with a spirit using the lamp. While we may use our personal lamp representing our own connection to the divine light within our conjuration, we may use a separate lamp to represent the light of the spirit. The spirit, like all things, is a particular expression of the divine presence, or a being which radiates a particular cosmic force. In a very similar fashion to Bardon's method we can represent this spiritual radiance through filtered light. For instance, when working with the planetary powers we might conceptualize the light of a given lamp as representing the wheel of planetary rotation, the white light of the lamp representing the harmony of the seven lamps which stand before the face of the creator. If we take away six of those light, leaving only the one, we now represent the light of that particular planetary force. So a lamp which is filtered to allow only blue light therefore is a lamp for conjuring a spirit of Jupiter. If we also paint the lamp with a different pigment that is still complimentary to this particular sphere we can use the seals, characters, and kamea of the planet and perhaps also the seal of the particular spirit being conjured to further shape the light. If working with an oil lamp we can also add herbs and perfumes to the oil that further reflect the spirit or the planetary force of the spirit.
Having set up a lamp then dedicated to a particular force or even a particular spirit we would place the lamp upon the altar just as we would the pentacle representing the spirit. The lamp could even be placed on top of said pentacle or may even contain it. The appropriate prayers would then be used to address and access divine authority, to receive and call the particular spirit in question, and then to interact therewith and release it. The lamp could be used like the pentacle as a focus representing the particular force conjured with its light representing the radiance and presence of that force. Alternatively the lamp could be used as a scrying device for interacting with the spirit. In this way the lamp functions much as would the incense of a conventional conjuration. The method however may be kept quite simple, particularly if working with angels, the prayers do not need to be long or ornate. If the lamp has been used for this purpose or has been previously consecrated by the angel, this again will strengthen the conjuration and allow for use of simple methods.
This same method of constructing and consecrating the lamp may also be adapted for the purpose of binding a subservient or familiar spirit to the lamp as a vessel. In such a case the ruling spirit is conjured and gives the name and seal of the spirit to be bound and commits the subservient spirit for this purpose. Certain elements are added to the lamp and are activated along with a separate conjuration of the subordinate spirit in order to bind it to the lamp. Once completed the lamp is simply lit and the name of the spirit called upon under the authority of the higher spirit in order to call the familiar spirit into service. The oil of the lamp should periodically be refreshed with perfumed oil in offering to the spirit.