Evocating the Gods
Divine Evocation in the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri
by Christopher A. Plaisance
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Evocating the Gods: Divine Evocation in the Græco-Egyptian Magical Papyri offers the first dedicated analysis of the practice and context of theagogy (the practice of ritually invoking a god or gods) within the Late Antique world. The author identifies a nexus of interconnected relationships between the practices of binding curses, erotic enchantments, necromancy, daemonic evocation, and theagogy within the magical papyri and related literature.
This monograph is based on the thesis written towards the completion of the author’s MA in Western Esotericism with the University of Exeter’s Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO).
Table of Contents
- Spells of Binding and
- Erotic Enchantments
- Psychagogy and Necromancy
- Evocating the Gods
Index Verborum Demoticorum
Index Verborum Graecorum
Index Verborum Latinorum
From the Introduction:
Within the extant corpus of Hellenistic literature, there are a small number of attestations of a curious term: θεαγωγία (divine evocation). The use of the terms “evocation” and “invocation” within contemporary discourses on magic exhibit clear technical distinctions — with invocation being an activity proper to the supernal genera of beings occupying a higher place than the operator in the divine hierarchy (i.e. gods, angels), and evocation referring to activities proper to the infernal classes of beings beneath the operator in the hierarchy (i.e. daemons, spirits). From the perspective of contemporary magical practice, Aleister Crowley provides one of the clearest examples of this discourse:
To invoke is to call in, just as to evoke is to call forth or out. This is the essential difference between the two branches of Magick. In invocation, the Macrocosm floods the consciousness. In evocation, the Magician, having become the Macrocosm, creates a Microcosm. You invoke a God into the Circle. You evoke a spirit into the Triangle. (Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice)
In the case that such a fundamental technical distinction exists today, the question is naturally raised: if evocation is something an operator does with respect to the inferior classes, what sense did this late antique term make that refers to the evocating the gods? It is precisely this line of reasoning which informs a par- ticularly memorable passage of De mysteriis, wherein Iamblichus (ad c. 245–325) castigates those practitioners of θεαγωγία, decrying their art as &µαθής (ignorant), &λαζονικός (boastful), and ψευδής (false) — in contrast to the γνήσιος (genuine) and &ληθής (true) θεουργία (divine work) of the philosophers.2 The picture that emerges from this description is that, for Iamblichus, θεαγ- ωγία stands diametrically opposed to θεουργία, both in terms of efficacy and piety, as an illicit mode of interacting with the gods — a distinction which closely mirrors the contemporary distinction made between the modern technical usages of evocation and invocation within discourses on magic.