This review also appears at Earthpages.org
Do you believe in magic? Miracles? Is there a difference?
The answer to these questions will most likely depend on one’s beliefs and experiences.
The Magick of Solomon: Lemegeton Secrets Revealed is an engaging instructional video by Carroll “Poke” Runyon of the Church of the Hermetic Sciences.
The film attempts to integrate a variety of religious and esoteric traditions by demonstrating an elaborate pagan ritual accompanied with a learned commentary.
For Runyon, it seems there’s no clash between his style of magic and genuine miracles, although he and his fellow Church members would probably make a distinction between their form of soul magick (with a “k”) and stage magic (without a “k”).
The DVD is a remastered and enhanced version of the original VHS of 1996, to include some older material from the 1970s and a commentary from 2003.
Runyon holds a Masters Degree in anthropology and begins the video with a disclaimer, warning of the inherent dangers of causally meddling with the potent forces that might be evoked by watching it.
And rightly so.
C. G. Jung, whom Runyon refers to, speaks to the power of the archetypes and cautions that delving into the collective unconscious without the appropriate psychological preparedness to integrate it within ego consciousness could result in mental disruption, perhaps even psychosis.
At the beginning of this movie I, a believing Christian, felt slightly uneasy. I’ve had minimal experience with paganism, only dabbling in Tarot cards in my youth and, years later, watching slick TV programs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.
After the first 25 minutes, however, my unease turned to fatigue. The DVD wasn’t dull by any stretch of the imagination but I probably had to enter the dream state to better understand why it was impinging on my comfort zone.
So I paused the disc and had a nap. On waking I was ready to go and, the second time around, found The Magick of Solomon absorbing but not uncomfortable.
This DVD may not be quite as slick as Buffy or Supernatural, but it does provide viewers with a penetrating look inside an alternative religion.
The temple, itself, is devoted to Astarte, a deity with a long list of analogues, to include the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus.
Its rites are premised on the belief that wisdom may be gained by first invoking heavenly angels, and then evoking lower, possibly demonic powers. The rationale, in keeping with Jung’s model, is that higher angels protect and help the aspirant to integrate the lower demons, which essentially reside within the self.
At this stage Runyon differentiates the terms invoke and evoke. To invoke is to call on heavenly agencies from above and outside oneself, while to evoke is to activate the dark powers of the collective unconscious within the self.
From this we see that Runyon believes in heavenly beings – in particular, the four traditional archangels and their legendary mediators – while proposing that some demons are merely the result of mankind’s subjugation of pagan deities to the collective unconscious.
I found this cosmology a bit confusing because Runyon also treats the lower realm entities with all the awe and respect one would accord a real, independent deity.
Again, this brings to mind Carl Jung’s schema which raises the same question: Do the archetypes of the collective unconscious enjoy an independent existence or do they simply exist as a repressed part of ourselves?
Let’s also not forget that the “unconscious” is just an idea, a point which this video might have more thoroughly explained.
Runyon, himself, is articulate and charismatic. He seems to have a good grasp of the scholarly aspects of magic and esoterica. Moreover, his prior vocation as a salesman serves him well.
I don’t mean this disrespectfully. We live in a predominantly consumer-driven culture and it would be naïve to suppose that most organized religions don’t engage in some kind of promotional activity geared toward the twofold agenda of fund-raising and facilitating conversions.
There’s nothing wrong with fund-raising strategies provided that a house of worship believes in the goods, services and overall message it’s promoting and, more important, it’s not willfully deceiving, harming or manipulating vulnerable individuals.
After all, in liberal democracies we are free to choose.
Another similarity between The Church of the Hermetic Sciences and some traditional Churches becomes evident when Runyon suggests that his magickal synthesis is authentic and safe while a rival sect of former disciples is apparently proliferating dangerous doctrines and engaging in equally hazardous activities.
Runyon then says these former disciples have opened a “Pandora’s Box” of evil that his methods can effectively quell.
Shades of the old Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation?
Whether or not one envisions Runyon’s techniques as a key to psycho-spiritual insight, The Magick of Solomon: Lemegeton Secrets Revealed is certainly different and informative. It should be of considerable interest to those wanting to learn about a new Church that blends ancient legend, belief and practice with some recent concepts from Carl Jung’s analytical psychology.