Exploring the Evolution of Sigils: Robert Podgurski on The Grid Sigil and Enochian Magic

Introduction

I am really happy with this interview. Robert Podgurski has been so generous in not only doing the interview but doing it at a time when he was very busy with personal projects, so huge thanks. In this 5000+ word interview we embark on a fascinating journey with Robert as he shares his magical exploration, influenced by early exposure to poets like Baudelaire and Rimbaud. He looks at the intricate connection between poetry and magic, and how meditation and breath control play crucial roles. He also explains the Grid Sigil—a revolutionary tool in Robert’s magical experiences. Lastly, we gain insights into Enochian Magic’s future direction and the need for a holistic approach.


Robert Podgurski – About | Robert Podgurski

Interview

PAA: How did your early exposure to poetry and literature contribute to your interest in magic?

I suppose it all kicked in when I discovered the works of Baudelaire, and especially Arthur Rimbaud as a young undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. I had no idea that poetry could deal with the extremes of sensation, consciousness, and being in such a lucid and illuminating manner until then. From the age of around eleven I wrote and loved poetry and was transfixed by the power of words to illustrate and convey anything from experience, but it wasn’t until later that I saw what was possible through the medium. Those French decadent poets spoke about everything I could relate to: sex, drugs, and wild abandon. But then around the same time the work of the American poet Robert Duncan came under my radar. RD was mixing the Cabala, magic, and mystical world views into a vast field poetics forming his modernist verse. All the while I was becoming gradually familiar with Crowley’s approach through his Magick in Theory and Practice. That is when something clicked and I was able to see that poetry via phanopoeia (the image casting power of words as Ezra Pound put it) was inextricably bound with magic; that they went hand-in-hand. I also quickly discovered the connection between Pound’s notion of melopoeia, or the enchanting aural qualities of verse, and the Indian term mantram.

I learned that poetry and magic share much in common even at a technical level. With so many manuals for neophytes on magic there has been a consistent emphasis on visualization techniques directly connected to manifesting one’s will. In no time I was able to see the connection between materializing desires and reinforcing egregores or thought forms via visualization, which was something that I’d been doing ever since I was a child. Visualization coupled with games I would play with words when very young helped me to see the connections between repetitious sounds that I would eventually learn were referred to as mantra. Imagining things coming to me by obsessively visualizing them in the belief that this process was made possible through poeia, the greek root of the term poetry simply meaning to make, began to gel before I even knew the terminology. I realized anything that involved creating things could be poetry and so magic, both being one and the same, appeared to be a logical extension of this process based on my earliest intuitions about it all. And over time I have found that poetic language is often best equipped to express certain elevated or mystical states of awareness that defy ordinary reasoning. Poetry takes certain necessary liberties to stretch the imagination that make it ideally suited for magical practices that tend to do the same.

PAA: How do you explain the significance of the dawning meditation and its relation to a receptive state for magical work?

Approximately ten years ago I began to take Crowley’s dictum from Chapter 48 of The Book of Lies, “Neglect not the dawn meditation” to heart. Until then I had always glossed over it and didn’t give the practice much credence until I started to begin my meditations immediately upon waking, hence my preference for the variant, dawning. The main thing is that it’s the easiest way, at least for me, to gain insights, visions, and more because of the high degree of receptivity one is at upon coming alive first thing in the morning. The other reason I refer to it as the dawning meditation is because it applies to more than just the first meditation of the day. This meditation may also take in the evening prior to sleep or at sunset and at other times as required throughout the day. The meditation prior to sleep generally sets the stage for the tenor of the subsequent dreams so in a way those dreams’ magical content dawns during that meditation. Therefore, it’s not necessarily a case of starting or completing a circle in the cycle of the day but maintaining its flow or continuance. This very resolution between sleep and waking is something Andre Breton had in mind with his notion of surrealism being a spiritual movement, first and foremost.

The most valuable outcome of meditations and contemplations is being able to induce a trance. The level of receptivity while in a trance is without compare and allows for a free flow of transmissions from magical rites and operations.

Robert Podgurski

At one point I had to ask myself what is the precise difference between contemplation and meditation and the primary result of this consideration brought to my awareness the fine line between the two. Contemplation can be done at any time during the day by calmly reflecting upon a symbol, dream, intention, etc.. Meditation on the other hand is a more formalized product of artifice; a process with specific breathing, stages of focus, and more. However, contemplation, if one submits to it, time and place permitting, may give way to daydreaming and other perceptual gateways eliciting additional insights. So the more I considered the difference between meditation and contemplation the more I engaged an overlap between them. And that is the beauty of doing a dawning meditation first thing in the morning is that it sets up the mind to be receptive throughout the day to these insights that tend to accentuate contemplation. The same applies to dreams during sleep and other states of consciousness that are invariably enhanced or elicited by meditative practices. I have found that meditation, first thing in the morning, often extends a previous dream or evokes another one in a series. But the main reason for doing this meditation upon waking is that it is probably the simplest way to induce a trance state. The most valuable outcome of meditations and contemplations is being able to induce a trance. The level of receptivity while in a trance is without compare and allows for a free flow of transmissions from magical rites and operations. Without conscious reasoning to run interference, perception in the trance induced revery allows for the purest level of receptivity possible. And often these trances help to prescribe what should be done during a magical rite, how to optimize it, etc..

PAA: What role does breath control and meditation play in achieving a psychoactive condition, as you mention?

Breath control, ie pranayama is the most critical aspect of meditation leading to a trance state. In fact, the longer I work at all of this the more I’m convinced that a focused understanding of breath and sigilization (ala Austin Spare) can supplant the need for complex or protracted rites. Magical efficacy is facilitated by dharana and dhyana, the ability to focus the mind on one thing at the exclusion of all else and open meditation insofar as being able to empty the mind of all thoughts are concerned. For example, let’s consider any magical ritual or operation. The use of incense, oils, chants, etc., are all implements and catalysts for dharana, that help to keep the mind completely focused on the object of that rite. Once the rite is completed then dhyana comes into play so that the more clear and receptive the mind is the better able to receive the desired transmission that rite has to offer without conscious thoughts running interference. Now, I am in no way knocking the worth of actual physically conducted magical rituals. And in fact, according to certain circumstances, going through the physical motions is not just helpful but often paramount in getting a literal feel for the objective. But when time, space and circumstances don’t necessarily permit donning a robe, etc., then a mastery of breath magic is extremely useful for spontaneously generated rites and their reinforcement. However, I’m not suggesting that this type of implementation of breath is meant to supplant or replace the use of visual sigils. It is just one alternative. Breath magic works as an aid for understanding how sigils operate since everything is dependent on breathing and respiration. Furthermore, it adds some variety which can be a good thing since we humans are always craving additional choices.

Sigils, as Austin Spare devised, are eidolon or images that correspond to a desire without necessarily being iconic or visibly representative of the desire. As Spare suggested, sigils are typically more effective the less they look like or signify the desired end result but this is not necessarily so either since symbols may act as sigils as well.

Now, for meditation and trance work I engage in dhyana and clear the mind often by using breath as a somatic sigil. With each breath I may formulate that “my mind is becoming more and more clear with each breath.” Then, as I engage in breathing I repeat that formulation and eventually I allow the verbal mantra to dissipate and in turn I feel each breath expressing this intent silently. Possessed of breath is how I consider it. This method I will then use for each stage of an operation, dawning meditation, etc.. In this way, breath takes on a driving sentience that is unequivocal because it, in essence, infuses with the entire body’s functions right down to cellular activity with magical intent. This process is all dependent on one’s mastery of dharana and dhyana. But the beauty of this method is that it itself may be used to enhance all aspects of meditation. For myself, I have found, the simpler the better. That way I can achieve, with a certain amount of sponteneity during the day, the same results just by breathing through this form of metaprogramming as I could have through more involved rituals. It is so simple as to appear irrationally easy but it requires a tremendous amount of discipline and concerted effort over time to get it right. Now, for some, devising a sigil to represent that initial desire may work better. But for myself, at my stage of work, I’ve found that infusing breath with the mantram often works better than a visual sigil for me because it’s eliminating a step from the process by allowing breath to replace it.

On an even more rudimentary level, to backtrack some, just developing a dialogue with the respiratory process is critical in gaining a foothold in the most basic to the most complex forms of ritual. To take a breath and ask that in-breath of air a question sounds so simple but the results may be monumental. Again, it’s essential to have a basic mastery of dharana and dhyana so that one is receptive to the answers the air has to offer. It may not be a cognitively relayed response, but may just be a sensation or a realization of the connection between the breath and one’s current situation. The main thing is that lust of result has to be sufficiently banished from one’s thoughts so that the practitioner may be satisfied with the air’s response on any level or register. Let’s take it one step further and consider the Enochian Call to the Thirty Aethers. This rite is ostensibly set up to facilitate a dialogue with the aether or most rarefied of airs whereas the simple exercise I’ve just described may be engaged with to converse with the most basic aspect of the air in the formative world. In my estimation, this simple exercise is imperative because the Call to the Thirty Aethers is one of the most advanced forms of high magic in the west. But the problem has always been that no one really has addressed the need for a rudimentary practice that one may use to lead up to this most rarefied form of ritual magic. I have found that my breath dialogue practice tends to fill this gap. The more I’ve worked with this technique the more I have come to ascertain that if a practitioner becomes adept at this practice then it may serve as a means to practically override the necessity for Dee and Kelley’s aetheric call because it is more personalized.

And so to utilize breath to attain a psychoactive trance state is quite simple but may require a bit of discipline. By formulating breath sigils to this end, establishing a dialogue with the atmosphere and listening to its advice, the sky is literally the limit for this type of work. Incidentally, I have addressed this matter of the aethers and breath dialogue in my forthcoming volume of the Sacred Alignments’ series, The Aetheric Alignments.

PAA: How has Enochian magic, with its foundations in mystical history and angelic workings, specifically shaped your magical perspectives and development of “The Sacred Alignments and Sigils.”

As I continue, never really letting up, on developing my perspective I am amazed at how much classical thought has had so much bearing on Enochian magic’s foundations. I first became cognizant of certain aspects of John Dee’s erudition starting in 1990 with the appearance of Julian Roberts and Andrew Watson’s masterfully edited John Dee’s Library Catalogue. I recall getting the book on interlibrary loan at the University of Colorado, and as an impoverished grad student, I went and photocopied the entire thing for future reference. I started off with, and still do from time to time, by opening it randomly and quiz myself about an authority listed in it. More often than not I’m forced to look their work up and background as the majority of these figures have been relegated to obscurity. Early patrician authors, neo-latin scholars, lesser known philosophers, etc., abound and the list is quite a lengthy one. It is simply mind-bending the amount of forgotten lore and information that is still lying dormant demanding our attention to connect it all with Dee’s work. Furthermore, the one thing that has been impressed on me is the influence of neoplatonism in the foundation of Dee’s magical thought and practices. In fact, recently I came across Brian Copenhaver’s, Magic in Western Culture. He discusses at length the predominance of neoplatonic thought in early modern western magic as opposed to what we call hermeticism that was far less consequential as it has been touted for many years now. The Hermetic Corpus had not been widely disseminated, was incomplete, and poorly translated with gaps in the text up to that point. Even though Frances Yates and many others refer to the Hermetic impact in western thought it really is the case that Neoplatonism had the upper hand in forming and reinforcing western magic well through the 17th century.

Perusing the books in Dee’s possession has only served to further confirm what I had been thinking all along about medieval theurgy and the neoplatonists.

Specifically, it is Iamblichus’s magical philosophy, most prevalent in his On the Mysteries that I myself have seen emerge most pointedly in Dee’s thought as well as Crowley’s later on. Iamblichus’ influence has subsequently had a significant impact on my own approach in The Sacred Alignments. Even though Iamblichus was an adamant proponent of theurgy in order to contact daimon’s and spiritual beings, the core of his work tends to revolve and recenter about the notion of an inner being or godhead that is already in touch with these forces. Theurgy, in Iamblichus’s case, is primarily necessitated by our having forgot the connection and so by reascending the nous or elevated mind is able to recall this forgotten but ever-present gnosis. The more carefully one reads Iamblichus the more evident it becomes that working with evoked spiritual guides is for the purpose of triggering a latent awareness of the One and All. His notion of a hidden god is probably nothing new to most of this audience but it would have been a relatively revolutionary concept for John Dee and others’ of his ilk at that time. Within this context, ritual is merely a supplemental activity or catalyst of the illuminative process.

PAA: In what ways has the practice of sigilization evolved over time, according to you?

So, in connection with the previous question, sigils as supplemental or catalytic tools are in harmony with Iamblichus’s train of thought on awakening awareness. Sigils in the west, for the most part, were seen as an interface with the spirit realm for evoking and contacting angels and or demons. Sigils, as they were developed in Arabian culture, were drawn from mathematical squares with numbers corresponding to letters. They were developed out of a predominantly Pythagorean outlook where number and proportion were the unifying substrate for linking the seen with the unseen. By connecting numeration with letters, a square could be manufactured and then lines drawn connecting the letters via numbers, to form an spiritual entity’s name, with the resulting design of the sigil elicited. In this way the invisible spirit realm is given a visible form via the metaphysical geometry of the sigil. Traced in the air the sigil becomes an astral calling card for the appointed entity. Eventually Austin Spare developed his method of sigils as more intrinsically devised and personalized tools that are projected inwardly. Most likely he picked up on this approach based on Agrippa’s method for devising an impromptu sigil for the archangel Michael in chapter 30 of bk III of the Occult Philosophy (as well as Hindu Yantra methods). Agrippa combined the letters of the angel’s name to form a sigil. Spare went on to perform a similar preliminary method in sigil construction but suggested to eliminate the vowels in that combination prior to creating a design from the letters. So, in terms of technique not much has changed, but in terms of developing an underlying theory in support of sigilization, that is where the evolution or our understanding of how these sigils work has taken place.

PAA: So then, what is the Grid Sigil?

The Grid Sigil marks a phase in the evolution of the sigil as magical tool without limits. The Grid Sigil, on the most basic level, is simply a visual or symbolic representation of the 4 elements suspended in time and space bound by the quintessence or aether. This sigil is just another version of the tetragrammaton on that level.

But it acts as a bridge between symbol and sigil because it operates in both realms. Many aspects of it are extremely identifiable such as the Alpha and Omega quadrants. (For the readers who do not have a copy of The Sacred Alignments and Sigils they may access a good general overview of the book, and some pdfs via: https://robertpodgurski.com/the-sacred-alignments-and-sigils/ ). The Grid Sigil also corresponds to the 1st Enochian Call to Spirit. The vision of this sigil was afforded to me via lucid awareness in sushupti or delta-wave deep sleep (that I have eventually come to realize as a manifestation of turyatita or a dissolution between waking and sleep consciousness). I eventually came to learn that this sigil could be used as an amplifier as well as detector of geomagnetic hotspots by using it as a sort of astral dousing rod. A dousing rod is traditionally used to detect water and other things by feel whereas the Grid Sigil does the same thing but by vision, seeing it glow and or increase in radiance and vibration when a power zone is detected by suspending it above or near that space or intersecting ley-lines. Furthermore, this Grid Sigil can be projected inwardly and externally as a way to work with the Enochian First Call to Spirit silently, which is useful when wants to engage with this energy in a space or situation prohibiting the intonation or enactment of the call.

Now, in theory and in terms of the evolution of sigils, the Grid Sigil and medieval sigils for angelic evocation share much in common. Even though sigils based on magic squares are typically drawn in the air using the astral light to evoke spirits this process this method is not strictly an exteriorization or calling forth of an angelic entity. Based on Proclus’s dictum, “All things are in all things, but in each according to its proper nature” from his Elements of Theology, (a text John Dee knew well) this dictum expresses the underlying basis for why one is able to evoke and communicate with spirits. These entities are essentially a part of us, as Iamblichus maintained, and so an evocational sigil is a two-way device in that it calls forth a spiritual being and at the same time it awakens that aspect of that being within us that we are able to identify with. Otherwise, all bets would be off and there could be no communication. The level at which a magician is able to communicate with an evoked spirit then depends on the degree to which one is able or willing to identify with that intelligence and submit to it.

The Grid Sigil in theory as well as in practice is a tool that personifies the nexus between phusis and nous or nature and divine mind.

Robert Podgurski

The Grid Sigil in theory as well as in practice is a tool that personifies the nexus between phusis and nous or nature and divine mind. In this fashion, it acts like a hinge that tends to flex and work both ways between inner and outer, shadow and light, earth and heavens. What this tool implies is nothing really new but rather it has come to exemplify what has been implicit all along in the overall tradition of sigil implementation. Considered along these lines we should probably consider how many visions, conceptually that is, are but re-envisionings of prior concepts. Many times, such visions are more representative of re collections of what has been realized in the past and then subsequently updated. I believe this is a key distinction and something we need to keep in mind: the vision in and of itself coupled with the seer’s implied foundational vision of the world.

PAA: What is the significance of the Grid Sigil to your magical experiences and how has it played a part in spontaneous as opposed to ritualistic forms of magic.

The Grid Sigil has acted as a bridge for me between the process of interiorization and natural magic. Pico Della Mirandola’s statement comes immediately to mind that doing magic is nothing more than marrying the world. And then to further support his view he posits that Magic is the practical part of natural knowledge. So, since the Grid Sigil is something that is sent into the mind’s recesses in the sigilization process it may be simultaneously sent forth to activate power zones, when done in tandem these paired procedures are linked or wedded via the Grid Sigil. In this way the Grid Sigil is the tantra or weaving component. In my experience the Grid Sigil has been instrumental in helping me to understand the underlying principle of ritual procedures, a sort of natural knowledge, in turn allowing for spontaneous work. The purpose of ritual magic is not to merely repeat a procedure, of which there is much value depending on one’s purpose and the nature of the rite, but to learn intimately the mechanism at play behind the procedure. I decided that putting on the robe, burning incense, getting out the magical tools was helpful and part of the fun of magic, but I did not want to be bound to these trappings. Therefore, when I discovered that just by mentally formulating the Grid Sigil I was able to work with the angels of the tablet of spirit, find power places, and attune my awareness while on the job or driving or hiking. Subsequently, I felt as if I had made progress in the right direction by simplifying matters. The Grid sigil, in this manner, has become a sort of theurgical Swiss army knife or all-in-one tool for lack of better words. Furthermore, I feel that the real strength of The Sacred Alignments is not that it touts a new and improved magical tool as much as it elaborates on the underlying principles and notions that inform this Grid Sigil’s underpinnings. As a result, the inspired magician may, after studying this book, be able to embark on developing their own sigilic tools for spontaneously inspired magics.

PAA: Where do you see Enochian Magic’s future direction headed.

The interesting thing about Enochian Magic is that Dee never really codified a core approach or system per se, at least that we know of. All of his magical texts were never produced with the express intent of publishing any of it. The magical books of John Dee are all part and parcel of his memoirs, for the most part. Eventually he did transcribe the initial 18 calls and the Call to the Thirty Aethers separately from his diaries so he obviously had a reason for doing that but there is no indication that he had done so for the purpose of disseminating any of these publicly. For most intents and purposes, the Enochian system was an experiment in progress. With that in mind, I believe it’s difficult and perhaps counter-productive to tout any one single part of Enochian magic as core or primary. When I was first engaging in this form of magic for years, I had assumed that the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram with the invocation of the four archangels described in the Golden Dawn and Crowley’s curriculum was the primary ritual or starting point in Enochian magic. On one hand, I must say that it provides an extremely useful foundation for the entire system extremely well. It is certainly one of the best places to start for the beginner and to return to for the advanced practitioner. But on the other hand, this ritual was contrived centuries after Dee and resembles nothing within the regimen of Enochian Magic as he established it. What this progression tells me is that any extremely experimental system such as Enochian Magic is bound to benefit an aspirant when approached openly and earnestly. There is nothing to be gained by a slavish approach to something that was left wide open to interpretation from its very inception. Furthermore, though, I’ve been concerned with the tenor and form of many recent angelic communications I’ve seen people publish on-line that resemble the diction and content of the Enochian Calls themselves. I understand all to well that the Enochian Calls are a powerful system that may tend to be powerfully overbearing upon the student.

So, when I see younger practitioner’s relaying messages they’ve received from the angelic countenance that mirror the imagery and language of the apocalypse of John I am left to wonder how much of this is the result of saturation and prolonged exposure to Dee and Kelly’s interpretations and its heavily Christianized overtones. The object of the Calls is to gain an awareness of the greater unified being and its overall presence, the One in All and the All in One. Therefore, granted for some, their experience with the Enochian entities may take on biblical overtones, but what these communications ultimately mean in the end may only be revealed through focused and careful observation and meditations. The physio-psychological reactions to this system are often more illuminative of their impact than the verbal transmissions alone convey. At times this was clearly the case for Crowley, especially evident in his descriptions of what occurred to his body when he was working through the 2nd aether, ARN. Our bodies often prove to be our most revelatory skrying tools and really demand our closest attention. Taking into consideration these somatic responses in conjunction with visionary images and verbal transmissions is a matter that too few have discussed that begs further exploration and elaboration. I hope that younger aspiring magicians will, over time, work toward a unifying wholistic approach that seeks to flesh out the connection further between the mind and body with respect to high magic’s objectives. That, and as experience has shown me, there are times when the object of a meditation takes years to unfold. Time is one thing we have plenty of and so using it to our advantage is extremely important in a day and age when everything, including so many spiritual systems, tend to cater more and more to an appetite for immediate gratification. A hurried approach often runs counter to what the soul is most in need of, a slow and gradual ascent to fostering a long-lasting expanded awareness.

In brief, most visions alone, devoid of insightful interpretation, are of little value. The Enochian system of magic is a labor intensive one as a whole and not a system that lends itself well to a one and done approach. That is why, when I engaged with the operation of the Call of the Thirty Aethers, it took me almost 6 years to work through them. For each of the aethers I engaged in dream work, meditation and vision work prior the call, and then more dream work and meditation in the post-call phase. I was concerned to allow the aether to dictate its terms and not the other way around. Over time, every aspect of my life, both waking and sleeping became infused with the process. In fact, I have transcribed these experiences and they are set to be published as part of my study of this system in the Spring of 2025 through Inner Traditions. The tentative title is, The Aetheric Alignments: Enochian Sigil Magic and the Call to the Thirty Ayers. Part of this work stems from my study of John Dee’s heavily annotated copy of Synesius’s work, On Dreams that tackles the neoplatonic conception of the aetheric or pneumatic vehicle of the soul in some telling ways. To the best of my knowledge, no one else to date has written anything on this integral aspect of the magic of The Call to the Thirty Aethers.

Switching gears, in the meantime I’ve just started preparing to edit the first collection of Mary Butts’ poetry for McPherson & Company Publishers. Mary Butts was a trained classicist and gifted story-writer. Among her many accomplishments was advising Aleister Crowley on revisions for his Book IV, Magick in Theory and Practice, which he had to wisdom to follow. She also had a long and fruitful relation with Jean Cocteau, the list goes on and on. But for some reason her poetry has been given little attention over the years so that is about to change shortly.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to discuss my work and research here.

PAA: Thank you very much for sharing so much with us, very generous of you.


Further Information

Roberts Website
About Robert
Roberts Poetry
The Sacred Alignments
Roberts Amazon page
Roberts new book now available

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