'But if man wants to achieve this, he must unite himself with the angelic mind and become alike.'

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✶ Pelagius Eremitæ II Libri - Analysis

 

PELAGII EREMITÆ 
Two Books Of knowledge and
Name of One's Good Angel -
Interpretation & Analysis

{ this research article presents roughly 90min reading time }

 

0. Preface

Memory is a curious thing. Deeply subjective by nature, selective by preference and brittle when aged, it only exists within our individual minds. And yet what else is history other than a string of memories that we were made to believe, retouched and ornamented by either circumstances or political intent? 

Michael Muhammad Knight in his wonderful introduction to 'Magic in Islam' hits the nail on the head when he describes 'the Islam' we often read about in books or newspapers as a hugely artificial construct. Reality, unfortunately, has been and always will be much more messy, coincidental as well as in pockets both beautifully magical and mind-numbing cacophonous. 

'I can't imagine Islam as only a tradition made only by the books that defeated other books in power struggles to become canon. There are also the intellectuals of the past who, for whatever reason, failed to become authoritative for later generations. When we leave them out (...) we present Islam as an unchanging thing that exists outside of time, rather than as the site of contests between competing forces with different ideas about what constitutes the authentic and authoritative, with not a singular canon but a multiplicity of canons that can both oppose and overlap one another.' (Knight, pp.2/3)

What is true for Islam is equally true for our Western Tradition of Magic. Let's just take an exemplary glance at the radical changes the magical 'canon' or 'tradition' in the West experienced over the last few decades. Again, what is of research interest here is not to separate man-made orthodoxy from heresy, but to understand the dynamics that shape our collective experience as members of this community. 

Just like in fashion so also in history, the pendulum of trends likes to swing between extremes. Therefore it is of little surprise that the emergence and rise to popularity of Chaos Magick in the 1980s and 1990s was abruptly killed off in the early 2000s by its extreme opposite: the 21st century Reconquista of magical puritans and traditionalists. 

Now call me naive, but I'd like to make myself believe that this happened not only because we passively follow the ever shifting pendulum of antagonistic trends, but because we - as a community of practitioners - have actually learned something. 

The main benefits of Chaos Magick, as I can see them, were (1) the breaking away from hierarchical structures, an insurgence against a so called tradition that had only been invented in the early 20th century. (2) The newly gained intellectual as well as practical freedom helped to bring overlooked prodigies such as Austin Osman Spare back from the grave and to broader public daylight. (3) Most of all, though, Chaos Magick found and defined a powerful crossroads between recent groundbreaking scientific discoveries and the applied magical arts. Anything that worked was good and faith turned into the scalpel which we aimed to use upon ourselves just as much as on the world around us - like surgeons use it on soft tissue.

What was pushed out into the periphery though and, in my humble opinion, ultimately caused the abrupt end (or was it a casting of the skin?) of Chaos Magick was this: We forgot to honour and respect our pact with the spirits. After twenty years of hardcore experimentation, the Chaos Magick paradigm still proved to be incompatible with core tenets of Animism. Chaos Magick by definition revolved entirely around two core pillars: the (inner) psyche of the practitioner as well as (the outer) physical reality as the touch-down point of one's magical efficacy. What simply didn't feature in it - or eventually as an afterthought or appendix to the practitioner's personal preferences - were the living, breathing spiritual beings that surround us.

In effect, Chaos Magick had been constructed as a monologue, a continuous fight of the practitioner against the boundaries of their own minds and the world. Accepting the reality of spiritual beings separate from ourselves, however, comes with the responsibility to shut up often, to listen and to absorb. It revolves not around how we as magicians affect the world, but what kind of relationships we are able to form. As its most essential premises, Animism honours dialogue and co-creation.

The early 21st century wave of Western enthusiasm for 'pure' Grimoire practice as well as Traditional African Religions, therefore, cannot be understood outside of its context as a wave following the emergence and temporary dominance of Chaos Magick.

The point of this brief excursion into our more recent history is the following: If our present time is already so complex and multi-layered, if it is already so hard to make a definite statement about 'our tradition' for the last few decades, imagine how impossible it should be to do this for people, events and social dynamics that reach many centuries back in time. The only reason why it actually seems much easier - at least for all of us who do not hold a MA in history - is because unknowingly we have settled on one canon of stories and forgotten or deliberately erased the rest. Yes, we stand on the shoulder of giants. But these giants are not our actual ancestors. They are stitched together, retouched and ornamented Frankensteins of our collective past. 

The aim of the present study is to examine one such Frankenstein. And that, I will aim to assert, is the relatively unknown, yet hugely influential person(a) called Pelagius Eremita of Majorca. To do this we will begin by immersing ourselves into some 15th century historic context, then delve into the detailed interpretation of an actual work by Pelagius (II Libri, as first published in English here) and finally return to take a closer look at the place his works take in our tradition.  

LVX,
Frater Acher


 
Angelic existence cannot be proved by reason: but by experience, which passes above all reasons, it can be proved.
— Juan de Maldonado, 1570
 

1. Introduction

As part of the Holy Daimon project we are providing open access to two versions of Pelagius Eremita's critical two volume work on achieving knowledge and communion with one's good angel (1480).  The first version is a critical online edition. It contains a side-by-side comparison of the original German manuscript stored in the Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, its literal German transcript as well as a carefully annotated and modernised English translation. In addition to this, we are also offering an abbreviated English only version which allows for an easier reading experience and omits several lengthy orisons which in Pelagius' own words were only meant 'for the ones who are weak in their prayer and do not know how to go about their prayer (Pelagius, 53a)'. 

In the following chapter we will provide a detailed analysis of the text. Before we proceed, however, we have to provide at least a minimum of historic context both to the peculiarity of the manuscript at hands as well as to the colourful figure of its author, Pelagius the Hermit of Majorca. 


Historic Context

The German manuscript (1710 or earlier) we are about to explore is an authentic copy of an original Latin version dated to the late 15th century. In light of this the text is exceptional at least for two reasons: First, it deals with a highly specialised form of 'daimonic theurgy' which cannot be traced back directly to earlier sources. Secondly, the 15th century author was bold enough to include his own name in the title of this original magical source-text. - Let's take a closer look at what makes these two characteristics of the document so unique.

Up until the late Middle Ages Western magic as a literary genre had been dominated by what Julien Véronèse calls the 'inheritance situation': While there is no shortage of textual evidence, especially from the late 14th century onwards, most of it relates back to ancient tradition. As such the genre is prevailed by compilations of previously existing texts, and it is very hard to pin down original or new contributions (Véronèse 2016, p.1).

Of course, the production process of a Medieval compilation manuscript was not a passive one. Scribes acted as critical curators, creative editors and pseudepigraphic authors. Yet neither of these roles would find expression in their individual signature at the end of the creation process; instead the work would blend into a continuously evolving and expanding canon of related literature attributed to a particular ancient authority.

Such way of working offered at least two significant benefits. (1) It ensured the anonymity of all people who had contributed to a manuscript. This was particularly important for magical literature as a genre which was heavily sanctioned and persecuted by both worldly and spiritual authorities of the time. Thus, working under ancient patronage rather than one's own name, was an essential pre-condition for survival and being able to publish more than just a single manuscript. (2) Beyond personal considerations, omitting one's name from a manuscript also was an expression of how people thought about 'authorship' until the late Middle Ages. Textual traditions were considered 'knowledge reservoirs'. In fact, the situation was not too different from our 21st century controversy about copyright in the digital age. Just like the younger generations today, so Medieval scribes took networked creativity for granted and were deeply embedded in a 'remix-culture': mediated by Latin as their lingua franca textual traditions were spaces of shared co-creation beyond the boundaries of one's present time or location.

Curation, recompilation and pseudepigraphy thus were techniques that provided the basis of an open-access operating-system of knowledge. The anonymous and highly organic evolution of once classical material was not a flaw, but the very mechanism how an illicit genre of literature was able to sustain itself while at the same time being publicly persecuted. Today we speak of the Hermetic or Solomonic Tradition of Magic, even of the Greek Magical Papyri, precisely because none of the magicians who contributed to shaping and creating these critical bodies of knowledge shared their actual names in the first place. 

Pelagius of Majorca now represents a new breed of magician; one which is only known from the late 13th century onwards and still relatively rare to encounter in the 15th century. 

'(Within the field of ritual magic in the 15th century) new developments are essentially due to one man, Pelagius of Majorca, who in the second half of the 15th century does not hesitate to break the common law of pseudepigraphic attribution (to Solomon, Hermes, Toz the Greek and other old authorities) to indulge his own speculations' (Véronèse 2016, p.2)

Nicolas Weill-Parot coined the term 'liberation movement' for the break in literary tradition that we encounter in the writings of Pelagius the Hermit. However, this trend of personalising magical practice and the records left thereof was by no means linear or constrained to our hermit alone. Other protagonists would be Antonio da Montolmo, Thomas of Toledo, or John de Morigny and his Liber Visionum.

Yet all of these authors - who we now know by name and who can be associated with particular contributions to the genre - share similar traits in their works: they are audacious enough to break with the previously prevailing idea of ritual orthopraxy, they innovate and focus their work on achieving specific magical results rather than following a particular path, and of course they do this deliberately and with a personal agenda - as witnessed by including their own names in their work's titles or signing it at the end.

'Not without pragmatism, (Thomas of Toledo) says that it is useless to resort to the long and complex rituals revealed to the Hebrew King (Solomo) when an identical result can be obtained thanks to a compendium of some invocations.' (Véronèse 2016, p.3)

In particular the works of John de Morigny and Pelagius the Hermit share another characteristic though. In addition to personalising their approach to ritual magic they also aimed to forge a third path, next to the ones of 'natural' and 'demonic magic' as they were broadly known in the late Middle Ages. Their aspiration was to reveal to the reader a genuine genre of 'white magic'. That is a set of ritualised practices which did not rely on necromancy, evil angels, demons or other heretic practices according to the Christian Church. Instead they aimed to create a body of practices which were coherent with the Christian faith and still enabled direct personal contact with spiritual beings besides the Holy Trinity or the body of Catholic Saints. 

'And [these teachings] can be defended in the holy Christian Church, [they] do not represent a new teaching, do not contradict the holy scriptures, but are a part of Christian, God-fearing practice, and are being applied by pious people as a Christian doctrine. May the unsagacious speak of it as they want, and even if I am the first who puts down such art in scripture, I am not the first who began and practiced such art; there may be no doubt that the ancient monks in the monasteries in their God-fearing ways of life have prophesied and brought to daylight many wondrous things.' (Pelagius Eremitæ II Libri, p.5b)

As mentioned by Julien Véronèse, in sharp contrast to how unfamiliar the modern reader might be with the writings of Pelagius the Hermit, their influence on later magicians is hard to overrate. Via his student Libanius Gallus they found their way into the vast library of the 'black abbot', Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), from here into the work of his famous disciple Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), and from both of them into the opus of John Dee (1527-1608). It should therefore come of little surprise that we even find copies of Pelagius' manuscripts in the library of Edward Kelley’s personal secretary, Karl Widemann (1555-1637) (Gilly, 2002, p.288). 

But the influence of Pelagius' works - as well as the underlying paradigm shift - extended far beyond the narrow confines of the magical underground. In 1629, a hundred-fifty years after the hermit's death, even a Jesuit Professor could publish a book of meditations in the German vernacular, explicitly mentioning that the entire work had been dictated by his own holy guardian angel, and sign it with his full name without expecting any public retributions (Jeremias Drexel, 1581-1638; 'Die Schutz-Engel Weckuhr', 1629).


Characteristics of Pelagius' Writings

While the actual works directly attributed to Pelagius are rather few, they can be found in multiple versions, as part of broader compilations and in different languages across libraries in Europe. For the most recent overview on the precise document locations we refer to Jean Dupèbe's 'L'eremite Pelagius et les Rose-Croix' (Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, 2002). The following table, however, provides a complete overview of the main works by Pelagius according to the manuscript titles in Leipzig and Paris.

Fig. 1 - Overview of Pelagius Manuscripts in Paris & Leipzig

Fig.2 - Pages of various Pelagius' Manuscripts

Now, unfortunately we do not have a definite chronology of the works of Pelagius. Thus we cannot put them into a confirmed sequence of origin, but instead have to look at them side by side. From such comparative view, however, three striking and yet thoroughly consistent characteristic of the hermit's oeuvre come into the foreground:

  • Even for a magical author of the 'liberation movement' Pelagius writings are markedly self-referential. While Pelagius points out references to his own earlier works, he does not establish links back into earlier works of the tradition. In that sense, Pelagius works can be read as decidedly non-pseudepigraphic and non-traditional. 

'When the master of Mallorca mentions a text, it is always to one of his own productions that he refers to, for instance from De proprio angelo to Peri Anacriseôn, through the Ars Crucifixi and Tabula Veritatis' (Véronèse 2016, p.8) 

  • Secondly, Pelagius has a strong preference for including Greek expressions in his Latin manuscripts. This habit reflects the hermit's particular interest in and significant knowledge of Greek culture. (Véronèse 2016, p.7) 
  • Finally, Pelagius' limited oeuvre revolves around the central theme of establishing communion with one's good angel, or as we like to call it holy daimon. Through the aid of this spiritual being the practitioner is then empowered to perform acts of magical sleep incubation, divination and prophecy or even the conjuration of his magical companion to visible appearance. 

As Julien Véronèse points out, it seems likely that Pelagius started his literary work based upon an older ritual text which he obviously does not reveal. Based upon this fundament and following his own practical experiments in his Majorcan conclave, he continued to cleanse this text as well as the related practices of signs of traditional magical rituals (such as seals, sign and spirit names) and turned it increasingly mystical.

It is this last characteristic of Pelagius' work in particular that stands out from the document we are examining here. And it is also this aspect which creates unmissable links to the famous Ars Notoria and the above mentioned Liber Florum. All of these texts aim to 'purify' techniques that originally were transmitted in the West as part of a magical underground tradition. Similar to the paradigm shift that led from 'goêtia' to 'theurgy' in Ancient Greek, so also these Medieval works aim to wrest spiritual techniques from the darkness of a sinister tradition and to bring them into the divine daylight of a dedicatedly mystical practice. Their agenda was to shape a 'spiritual art' that was not only consistent with the main premises of Catholic practice, but that would help the practitioner to advance further into its mystical depth. 

“(…) it is in itself an important indication of the game that a magician of the second half of the fifteenth century could engage with the traditions he inherited; a game that consisted of respecting the structural rules of magic (asceticism, secrecy, etc.) without applying to the letter the procedures of the ancients, or to show them a sacred reverence. By his undeniable refusal to work as a compiler (even distanced) and his art of letting believe that he is in his field a true autodidact, Pelagius profoundly modifies the medieval canons of magic writing. He even pushes audacity further than many Magi of the Renaissance, who, while denigrating the traditions of the scholastic age, do not strive in general to conceal the debt contracted vis-à-vis antiquity.” (Véronèse, 2016, p.10)


/analysis/biographical_sketch

Biographical Sketch

Now, before we proceed to examine one of Pelagius' original works in detail, we want to provide a brief sketch of the hermit's biography. The significant problem of the absence of contemporary literary sources on Pelagius Eremita is a topic that we will deal with in a separate chapter. For this brief overview it should suffice to say that we really only have one original source mentioning our hermit: This is Johannes Trithemius, who considered himself an indirect student of the 'master of Majorca' through the mediation of their mutual friend Libanius Gallus. It is mainly in the letters of the latter to Trithemius that we learn about the spare detail of Pelagius' life.

According to Libanius, Pelagius Eremita was born an Italian of poor origin in the Genoa region. With nothing by 'alms and his talents' he made his way to Franconia (central Germany) where he first learned about natural and talismanic magic. After falling out with 'envious theologians' in the North he traveled all the way South to Africa, most likely the Maghreb where he spend time with and learned magic from various Berber tribes. Libanius also mentions that Pelagius had already lived as a hermit on Majorca for fifty years, before he first met him in his exile. He then trained with his master for sixteen months before Pelagius deceased on the 10th of July of 1480. This account would put Pelagius arrival on Majorca at roughly 1429. Libanius also confirms that Pelagius in particularly focussed on a kind of theurgic magic dealing with the appearance of a guardian angel in dreams, the creation of a table of truth as well as (in the ‘Peri Anacriseon’ and ‘Ars Crucifixi’) the incubation of visions of celestial revelations. Finally, while Libanius mentions the significant body of work Pelagius had produced - covering all sorts of magic from natural, divine to even diabolical - none of the manuscripts beyond the above mentioned seem to have survived (Véronèse 2016, p.4/5).


2. Foundations

Pelagius Eremitæ II Libri cover.png

The manuscript we are about to examine is part of the 'Grimoire Collection' of the University of Leipzig. Bound as a simple hardcover volume in marbled wax-paper, the manuscript consists of 55 double pages or 111 individual pages. (Note: In the critical online edition page numbers are given as e.g. 21a and 22b to indicate verso and recto pages of the original page numbers.) The manuscript is executed by a single hand, not by multiple scribes, and has been dated to 1710 or earlier. The book is not anonymous but it's author's name is given both in the title and it its very end: Pelagius Eremita of Majorca whose year and day of death are also given as 10th of July 1480. An earlier Latin version of the manuscript, from which the Leipzig manuscript might have been taken, can be found in the French National Library, filed under the signature BnF Latin 7869 and has been dated to the 16th century.


Human & Angelic Minds

As if taken from a series of instructional letters, the text immediately goes to the heart of the matter and starts with an explanation of the difference between the human and the angelic mind. Pelagius' choice of words here seems not only careful, but really quite modern: Instead of an angelic being, he literally speaks of the 'angelic understanding and science' in contrast to the human understanding and science (2b). 

As the original version of the manuscript was written in Latin we have to assume the actual word used for 'science' was the old Latin 'scientia'. Much more than the modern notion of academic research, the word 'scientia' expressed the idea of the acquisition of knowledge, or just knowledge itself. Therefore an more analogous translation would be 'the understanding and knowledge [of the world] as held by the angels'.

Pelagius explains that while the human mind has the potential to grow and develop - just like a child does - the angelic mind is perfected from the beginning. It holds knowledge of all things past, present and future. Furthermore, already on the second page the hermit lays out the core premise of the entire magical operation to follow: Achieving communion with one's good angel essentially is a matter of uniting one's human mind with the angelic mind. 

'But if man wants to achieve this [literally: wants to join into this] he must unite himself with the angelic mind and become alike.' (3a)

What stands out from these opening paragraphs is Pelagius' deliberate use of the non-individual form when referring to the 'angelic mind' (Englische Gemüth, 3a). While the rest of the book is entirely focussed on creating communion with one's personal, i.e. individual holy daimon, these opening pages speak to a collective form - as if all angels held a shared hive-mind or at least had access to the same reservoir of perfected knowledge.

We then hear about the different methods that can be applied to achieve this goal: through uniting the mind with one's angel, through visible appearance of the angel, through dreams caused by intuition of the angel, or through 'a lengthy secret experience' (3a). The latter method is not further specified. Thus the reader is not given an indication if Pelagius refers to the secret experience he is about to explain in Book2 or an alternative approach such as given e.g. in the Book of Abramelin or the Sepher Raziel. 

Irrespective of the path chosen, though, the book continues to emphasise over and over that the key to the operation lies in the gradual assimilation of the human mind to the angelic mind - until both have become sufficiently alike that they can hold a shared space. Only then will the practitioner be able to share their mind with the one of the angel - and begin to perceive the presence as well as the thoughts of their holy daimon.

"For this reason the rules are to be regarded as the highest secret and mystery that one desires from their good angel that he may reveal to us and share his good thoughts." (10a)


Interspecies-Communication

Now let’s take a closer look at this core premise of daimonic communication. Truly understanding what we are aiming to achieve in this operation is of the essence, and much more important than diving headlong into action without clear purpose. It also seems important as even recent critical publications such as 'Conversations with Angels - Essays Towards a History of Spiritual Communication, 1100-1700' (Palgrave 2002) continue to stay so close to the original Medieval texts that they fail to initiate a broader, more interdisciplinary discourse.

“And when Bodin describes the beatitude of those to whom God grants communication with their guardian spirits, he cannot forego ambivalent qualifications. It is not unlikely that God may refuse a man’s request for angelic conversation and simply grant him wisdom and prudence, or the man may never be aware of his angel’s tutelary presence. Yet verbal interspecies communication seems almost as desirable as salvation, and is the preferred means to it.” (Walter Stephens, Strategies of Interspecies Communication, 1100-2000, in: Raymond, 2011, p.34)

The essential question really is quite simple: What are the key requirements for humans and daimones to enter into mutual dialogue? The diagram below leverages some of the foundational insights of communication science to explain the matter. After all, whether we analyse intra-species or inter-species dialogue, the essential parameters for successful communication remain the same.

Luckily, the diagram looks much more complicated than it really is. Let's walk through it together: Everything in Pelagius secret operation revolves around the question how to receive an answer from one's good angel to the particular question one is interested in. Thus obviously the process begins by us, the human attempting to send information to the daimon in form of a specific question. For this to succeed we need a shared channel of communication - i.e. a space where information sent can be received and vice versa.

Now according to Pelagius humans open this channel by immersing themselves deeply into a fervent state of prayer. Whether the prayer is directed to God, Mary, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or the good angel itself is less of a concern. Much more important is the quality of prayer and how it activates us whole human beings.

'One shall also know that one does not have to do the prayers in the length given here, but that one should pray in brief words and with burning passion in this manner. For the ones who pray properly, they pray in their mind and not according to the number of the psalms. Yet if one is lazy and peevish with one's prayers, so one shall arrange one's heart until it catches fire (...).' (53a) 

Obviously this channel is not established by a solid copper cable. Instead it is a fragile, ephemeral state of mind, opened and upheld only by the integrity of our heart's intent as well as our skill to temporarily unite our core magical tools - hand, heart and head - in a single act of devotional prayer. 

For every act of communication noise in the channel is a troublesome but unavoidable reality. Such noise in this case will enter from the human side (being lazy and peevish with one's prayers) just as much as from the surrounding environment: all the way from simple disturbances in one's chamber to other spiritual entities interfering in the process and intercepting the signal.

In addition to establishing a shared channel of communication there is a second key requirement for successful communication. This is what we see in the lower part of the diagram, labelled as a shared set of symbols. The reality of this second key condition is equally straight forward: Whenever we travel to a foreign country it is close to impossible to communicate with the locals (and vice versa) unless we have learned at least some of their basic vocabulary, become able to read their non-verbal clues or found an alternative language that we are both fluent in. The channel is already there (we are standing in front of each other and are both able to speak) but we have not yet established a defined set of shared symbols.

Unsurprisingly, the basic rules of inter-species communication are no different. However, the answer to the question what establishes a truly shared symbol or a character is quite different in this scenario. For an in-depth understanding of the complexities related to establishing a shared set of symbols between us and spiritual beings, we recommend the works of Josephine McCarthy (e.g. either the full free magical curriculum of Quareia.com or The Magical Knowledge Trilogy, Mandrake Press 2012/2013). In the present context it shall suffice to exemplify how such a shared set of symbols is established by means of a few of the methods mentioned by Pelagius:

  • Through Dreams: As highlighted by Pelagius this way of establishing a shared set of symbols between us and the good angel is probably the most ancient. Many species of spirits love to leverage this form of communication: using symbolic images as well as first-hand emotional experiences to imprint new patterns and ideas into our minds. However, correctly deciphering these kinds of prophetic dreams, as Pelagius explains, still remains a huge source of noise and error. So while the channel of our dream consciousness is an easy one to leverage and allows spirits full access to the treasure house of images of our minds (Jesod), ensuring that the information sent truly matches the information received is still a game of chance. And that is why, while magicians have always leveraged the oneiric way of spirit communication, they also always have attempted to set up methods which minimise noise and sharpen the matching of shared symbols even further.
  • Through Visible Appearance: Whether we encounter angelic spirits visibly in magical vision or with our physical eyes, this method of communication holds at least just as many disadvantages as advantages. Obviously it is the most direct, unmediated and intense way of interacting with another species. The ability to visibly see an angelic spirit by definition overcomes almost all of the barriers that normally exist to establish a joint channel of communication: it fully immerses the human being into the encounter like no other stimulus could. However, that is precisely where the disadvantages lie as well: Direct exposure to angelic beings can have all sorts of unintended consequences on the human organism. Considering we are speaking of an ancient species that has been essential in the creation of the visible world, we should wonder if direct exposure to them is such a smart idea after all? Magicians of all times have come up with methods and ways to work around this challenge - and tried to confine the forces that accompany the presence of such beings into the glass of mirrors, the body of flasks, the triangle of the art or luminous stones. Each one of these techniques takes a life-time to master, and each magician on this path will throw their entire life into the scales in the attempt to turn themselves into an adept of such art.
  • Through Thoughts: While by far the most unpretentious and easily overlooked, this form of inter-species communication is the closest thing we have to a silver-bullet. Enabling the good angel to speak through our own mind, allowing them to place their thoughts directly into the vessel of our consciousness is not only the most efficient but also the most gentle way of inter-species dialogue. Only this method of communication defuses both the serious problems of misinterpretation as well as of negative unintended consequences to our human organism. The Achilles' heel of this method might seem to be the human's (in)ability to differentiate between their own thoughts and the ones received through angelic mediation. However, if looked at through a more practical lens, this concern turns out to be void. To the person with a problem it doesn't matter much where the solution came from - either from their own ingenious free spirit or through the mediation of another being - as long as it solves the problem for good. Most accounts of practicing magicians that we have on this matter, speak to a similar level of pragmatism on the side of the spirits: The fact that both philosophically and scientifically magicians remain in ambiguous territory as to what enables their increased levels of mental capability, creativity and learnedness, is of no matter whatsoever to the spirits who co-created the very essence from which we are made.

Organic Attraction

After establishing the methods of the operation, Pelagius continues to explain what kind of 'practitioner' (3b) alone can be successful on this path. The following chapters go into great detail to provide and contrast specific advantageous with disadvantageous behaviour to the operation. Rather than being skipped over as pure moralising scolding, these paragraphs deserve detailed attention - as it is here that Pelagius provides some critical background as to why this operation might succeed so rarely.

'He should be God-fearing and live by themselves so he is not hindered in divine service, and he must pray busily. The more he escapes the trouble of this world the more likes the good angel to be with him, to talk to him, or to appear in his dreams. Yet not with human tongues [does the angel speak] but through a particular intellect, through intuitions in dreams, through visions or other knowledge. And it is for certain, the more lonely the people are the more the holy angels like to live with them. Whoever can leave behind worldly things and who has little hindrance, he will find more skilful [access to] this art.' (Pelagius, 4a/4b)

Aiming to escape not only the hectic business of the world but also its seductive pleasures and allure is given as the most important key requirement. One that cannot be left out or substituted with alternative acts of devotion at a later stage in the process. According to Pelagius, the reason for this is not anchored in morale philosophy, but in organic reality. 

Just like the polarity of a substance has to be right for it to be attracted by a magnet, so our everyday way of life determines the polarity of our soul and thus whether it can create organic attraction of our good angel. Reversely, the good angel has no choice (or free will for that matter) whether to reside close by or far away from their assigned human being. Yet its proximity is determined by the level of assimilation the human has achieved to its own nature. 

It's a basic law of nature that every species requires certain environmental factors - beneficial and attuned to its own make up and preferences - in order to settle in a particular location. If we aim to create a habitat for our good angel in our direct proximity, it's only us who carry the full responsibility to shape the environment, i.e. our everyday lives accordingly. Leading a straight, reduced, simple way of life and mastering the single most important quality, morale integritywith head, heart and hand is not an echo of the 15th century Catholic socialisation of our author, but an organic necessity for our holy daimon to stay and dwell close to us (4a). 

"When someone wants to be taught by their good angel and wants to receive instructions in the art of divination, he has to (...) live pure, chaste and properly, be humble in moments of good fortune and patient [in moments] of tribulations, friendly in their speech, decent in their manners, patient in their scorn, benignant to forgive. He has to show charity to the poor and moderation in eating and drinking, harm or object no one (...)" (4b)

"It is rare to encounter such a man" (16b)


The Quaternary

Towards the end of Chapter III Pelagius inserts a short section on numerology. After having called out in crass language many of the obstructive behaviours to creating communion with one's good angel, he suddenly uses the quaternary of the numbers one to four to provide a much more sophisticated illustration of how the assimilation of human and angel has to happen. This short section is of particular interest; a more sophisticated explanation of the same numerological concept can be found in Pelagius' Peri Anacriseon. For academic researchers today this characteristic use of the quaternary has become a way to trace the influence of Pelagius on later authors who picked up this concept without necessarily calling out their source. Most famously amongst these are John Dee's repeated speculations on the Monas, Binary, Ternary and Quaternary (Gilly, 2002 p.288). Yet other famous authors took from the same source: 

"Among the preferred authors by [Heinrich] Khunrath is first and foremost Hermes Trismegistus (...). However, Pelagius Eremita remains unmentioned, despite the fact that Khunrath (either directly from the Peri anacriseon tõv hypnoticõn or indirectly from Trithemius, Agrippa, Paul Skalichius and Gerhard Dorn) copied his fundamental sentence 'reiiciatur Binarius, et Ternarius, per Quaternarium, ad Monadis reducetur simplicitatem' [If one rejects the binary, then the ternary can be converted to the unity.]." (Gilly, CP 6, 2014, p.146 | see also Schmidt-Biggemann, CP 10,2, p.30) 

In our manuscript now we find the most straight forward explanation the hermit ever gave on this numerological key concept. To illustrate how deliberate Pelagius might have been about the audience of his 'II Libri' versus his 'Peri Anacriseon' we will put the two related sections next to each other. It is immediately obvious that the former quote is made as a pure side-note and directed at an audience of practitioners, whereas the section in the Anacriseon is aimed at a much more learned audience.

"(...) so that therefore the number 1, 2 and 3 may be separated from the 4. This means, God [and] the angel, have to be together in the soul of the man, unite each other, and may not be stained nor hindered by impure life which is [indicated] by the number 4. The number 1 is God, 2 is the angel, 3 is the soul, and 4 is the human body." (II Libri, 5a)

"In order to obtain a distinct revelation of the anacrises, it is necessary that the seeker's intention is firm and constant, and the desire in asking as ardent as possible. The stronger the fervour of the request, the easier it will be to obtain the results requested. That is why each time the mind, thrilled by the intensity of the desire, is carried away, the secrets of the mystery are revealed at once, as all experts of this art have testified: who know how to make the Pythagorean Binary [= the angelic intellect] descend, have drawn the Ternary [= mind, human soul] in the Monas [= divine mind], he will not succeed in extracting the desired purity from the turbid wine. In the Binary the unity is present only once and hardly is it subtracted through the sacred Quaternary [= working of the mind] from the straight line in the subsistent order, it liberates itself and returns to the most pure and finest Monas." (Pelagius Eremita, quoted after Gilly, 2002 p.289) 

For the purpose of the analysis of our present manuscript, we do not need to fathom the full depth of divine numerology eluded to by Pelagius and expanded upon by many subsequent authors. It shall suffice to emphasize that consistent with what we found earlier, the Quaternary is identified as the ‘impure life’ - or more broadly the ‘human mind and body’ - and taken as the main obstacle to the process of achieving communion with one’s holy daimon. Whether Pelagius chooses an organic, a psychological or philosophical lens - his main point remains fully coherent: It is the weakness of the human mind, the subservience to bodily desires and urges that separates us from the angelic realm. Mercy, good fortune or chance have nothing to do with it. Rather it is the very pattern of our mind that we have to take control of, consciously and patiently shape it through observance of deliberately chosen habits, and thus slowly assimilate it to become a working interface into the angelic mind. Anybody who wants to encounter a rare animal in its original habitat, first and foremost - and next to many other things - requires a body strong enough to travel well out into the wild. The same is true for this mystical expedition: anybody wanting to encounter their good angel requires a mind, strong enough and polished by unwavering morale integrity, spiritual perseverance and personal commitment. 

“ (... ) because if the soul is polluted in the body, it cannot have tongues with the angel." (Pelagius, 8b)


Evil Angels

Throughout the two books Pelagius repeatedly uses the term evil angels in contrast to the good angel assigned to each human. The actual combination of the words ‘evil’ and ‘angel’ might be much more unusual to the reader today than it would have been to their 15th century counterpart. 

“Unlike our contemporary English usage, medieval and early modern references to angels did not presume their moral goodness; demons were merely bad angels, or rather angels gone bad, not a different species.” (Walter Stephens, Strategies of Interspecies Communication, 1100-2000, in: Raymond, 2011, p.24)

The importance of this point cannot be overstated - both with regards to its philosophical as well as practical applications. Until the late Middle Ages the word angel was a broad and relatively unspecific term to describe an entire species of spiritual beings. It did not at all imply a moral quality nor a positive or negative intent to help or hinder the human species. The original use of the word angel was just like our modern use of the words dog, tree or rock: they describe ontological realities which depending on the particular circumstances can be of negative or positive effect on our lives. While in the 21st century we have learned not to humanize animals and wildlife in general, this naive mistake is still all too common in the realm of spirituality. 

Looking back into history, it was only in the late 16th century, as a result of the Catechism of the Council of Trent that the idea of a personal guardian angel as a ‘faithful friend’ was broadly popularized (Raymond, 2011, p.37). And with that the term angel, previously as neutral as the Greek daimon or the Latin daemon was slowly ‘re-branded’ to refer to an entirely benevolent and human-centered species which stood in direct contrast to their malevolent counterparts, the demons

So when Pelagius speaks of the good angel he is not creating a tautology. Instead he indicates that he is referring to an individual sub-species within a large family tree of beings. He is being deliberate and specific, and so should we be when attempting to follow his lead and trying to make contact with this life-form that exists according to its own rules. 

Pelagius also gives a pragmatic illustration of the kind of care that is expedient in contact with angels: On pages 11a to 12a he shares the story of the hermit Alphonsus of Salamis and his holy daimon Philaxiel. When the spirit first reveals itself to the hermit and offers his help, the latter’s reaction is one of sober clarity and precaution. Unless the spirit is willing to identify itself as an affiliate of the same Divinity as the hermit, the man is not willing to deal with it. Once they are both identified as servant and angel of God respectively, their student and teacher relationship immediately begins. 

See, being in the presence of a particular spiritual being often is entirely sufficient to initiate a lot of irreversible consequences. Depending on the kind of being as well as one’s means of protection, no additional act, no pact, no signatures might be required to trigger significant change. Pure proximity in shared consciousness is all that is needed. Medieval practitioners knew this very well; and they knew that it was especially true for contact with our good angel

“(...) although magic texts treated conversations with spirits as instrumental actions to further the goals of the operator (for example, offering him increased knowledge of the cosmos), such conversations were also desirable for their own sake and provided possibilities of spiritual elevation, companionship, even friendship and love.” (Sophie Page, Speaking with Spirits in Medieval Magical Texts; in: Raymond, 2011, p.125) “Above all, conversations with spirits were desirable for their own sake.“ (Sophie Page, in: Raymond, 2011, p.139)

The intervention, that pure spiritual presence can be, turns into quite the bittersweet fruit, however, once we remind ourselves of the original neutral meaning of the term angel

The famous German 20th century magical novelist and member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, Gustav Meyrink synthesized much of his deep magical knowledge on this subject in his initiatory novel ‘The White Dominican’. In the disguise of one of his characters, he explains that people really have forgotten how to pray. Instead they have become careless in ‘shooting off the arrows of their prayers’. The problem with that is not that their prayers might not be answered, but the reverse. All prayers are answered, but the hand that catches the arrow in flight might not be the one it was intended for...

Pelagius is reminding us of this very fact when he stresses that both evil and good angels are constantly surrounding us. And that at the end of the day, it is the way we choose to lead our lives what determines which of them can take a dwelling at our side. 

"In particular one should honour the angel who is our own, for not to harm it with our impure life." (Pelagius, 16a)


The Good Angel’s Name

The second part of Book I is dedicated to more explicit astrological as well as ritual instructions. In chapters VIII and IX Pelagius expounds the names and hierarchy of angels according to the seven planetary spheres as well as the revolving system of their rulership according to a single planetary year of 354 years and 4 months. Chapter X continues with the discussion of the twelve celestial signs and their respective angels as they revolve through the twelve houses. 

In Chapter XI we then read about the actual method of extracting one’s good angels’ name from one’s radix. Pelagius stresses that ideally the radix should be calculated according to one’s moment of nativity (i.e. inception), not one’s actual birth. Once that moment is established and the radix drawn up, according to the ‘master of Majorca’, the angel’s name can easily be identified as the name of the angel who is the ruler of the house rising in the ascendant. 

Obviously these instructions are much more straight forward in the 21st century than they would have been in the 15th. Gaining access to someone who was able to reliably calculate one’s radix - or even personally acquiring these skills - was a very different kind of challenge than jumping over to astro.com and simply entering once date of birth or nativity.

However, the instruction provided by Pelagius still seem odd. Previously, on page 12b the hermit went into great detail to explain that indeed every single object of creation had its own angel assigned to it. In fact, particular people might have multiple angels assigned to and guarding over them. Also, angelic protection is not only restricted to organic objects, but also includes man-made ones such as houses and cities.

"For God has assigned to each realm, each city, each village, each house its particular angel, and by the order of the highest angelic intelligences the whole world is ruled." (Pelagius, 12b)

Such deeply animistic worldview speaks of strong pagan and new-platonistic influences on our author. Correlating every single object of creation with its designated spiritual guardian, reminds us much more of the Zoroastrian fravashi than Medieval Catholic orthodoxy. 

This level of personal attention, however, seems to stand out against the highly general instructions to extract our good angels names from our radix of nativity. In fact, Pelagius’ instructions do not direct us to any kind of personal angel at all - but assign one of the twelve angels of the celestial houses to each human being. Consequentially, just like humans share the same celestial sign under which they were born, so they would also share the name of their good angel. Literally, everyone with the same astrological ascendant also would have the same good angel.

At this point we should consider a couple of options: The first one would be that Pelagius meant exactly what he wrote. Juxtaposed with each other we have the concept of an assigned angel to each person (or even multiple ones), as well as the idea of all of humanity not having individually assigned good angels but one out of twelve. From a purely practical perspective, in this scenario we could replace the term good angel with the angel of one’s house of ascendant.

Alternatively we could assume the angel of one’s house of ascendant acts as a patron for the operation to come. While not being identical with one’s personally assigned good angel, this entity would take the role of an intermediary and help the practitioner create communion their actual good angel at a later stage in this process. Despite being a feasible option based upon my own experience, nothing in Pelagius text hints at this scenario.

Thirdly, we should consider the option that what we are reading in Chapter XI represents a conscious compromise the author had to make. From the onset of this manuscript it is clear that Pelagius aims to portray an entirely white kind of magic, a mystical art that at least theoretically could find full approval of Christian authorities. To achieve this any suspicion of leveraging heretic practices such as the use of barbaric names, incantations or conjurations (as opposed to prayers), magical seals, circles, mirrors or robes had to be strictly avoided. Even the mentioning of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s De occulta Philosophia could have been read as a kind of trespassing into territory of the goes rather than the Christian theurgist (Pelagius, 14b). 

The reference to the work of Agrippa will be the focus of further analysis in a later chapter; as the alleged date of death of Pelagius the Hermit (1480) obviously conflicts starkly with the first publication of Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia in 1531/33. With regards to our current question, however, it is important to point out that Agrippa’s magical magnum opus represents one of the most important sources for the calculation of the actual name of one’s good angel. In Book III, Chapter XXVI Agrippa explains in detail various methods for identifying one’s personal angel’s name. And all of the methods presented by the pupil of Johan Trithemius do not result in the name of an already known planetary or celestial angel, but in the original creation of a new letter combination, unique to the practitioner who is inquiring. 

Still, our author leaves out any form of angelic name creation - may they be of Arabic or kabbalistic origin - and refers to the twelve rather well known angels of the astrological signs. 

After all, Pelagius might have been guided by the same vision that his very own work helped to inspire in Heinrich Khunrath in the following century: Different to e.g. John Dee who in his own seal of truth included not only the names of planetary angels, but the actual tables for generating spirit names, Khunrath in his own seal took a much more conservative approach and only included the basic angelic hierarchy as it was known from “Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite’s De cœlesti hierarchia, Duns Scotus’s De angelis, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Conclusiones” (Peter J. Forshaw, Behold the Dreamer cometh, in: Raymond 2011, p.184).

According to Peter J. Forshaw‘s expert analysis in his 2011 study on Khunrath, the underlying intent behind such careful choice of sources was to reconstruct a kind of magic that managed to escape the suspicion of demonic affiliation and instead re-inspired a devotedly Christian path of mystical practice:

“The existence of a magical work so overtly Christian [such as the work of Pelagius the Hermit] must have literally seemed a god-send for Khunrath. It must have seemed possible to imitate Luther’s return to pure scriptural sources by reconstructing a divine magic grounded in scripture’s original language, one stripped of any medieval accretions and exorcised of all demons.” (Forshaw, in: Raymond, 2011, p.184)

The very same reasons might have led Pelagius the Hermit, a hundred years before Khunrath, to omit any more specific instructions on how to extract a more personalized version of one’s good angel’sname. Such an individually constructed letter sequence could have been read to come dangerously close to the infamous barbaric names of the grimoires. 

Finally, and this is presuming we are dealing with an authentic manuscript of daimonic theurgy and an author who himself had practiced the art he gave instructions in, Pelagius might have very well known that the personalized name of one’s good angel actually didn’t matter that much. 

Attempting to come up with specific names for everything we encounter, after all, seems to be much more an obsession of humans than of the myriad alternative life forms we get to encounter in nature. Getting to know one’s holy daimon’sname is an important milestone for many practitioners. Finally they can place a name on something that eluded them before. Finally they can call it by its own name - and through this very means they seem to pull the uniqueness of their angel into the foreground of their own experience. Martin Buber would have said, the individual name helps to turn the connection between practitioner and angel from an ‘I-It’ into an ‘I-Thou’ relationship. 

For many practitioner’s it is in the individual name that their good angel first takes on character, tone and personality. If we look at this process from the side of the spirit though, that is, through the lens of the good angel it is not the individual name, which is passively been placed upon it, that matters. What matter to them, is that most humans are only able to address another being as a living partner once their mind holds on to an individual name for it. At least in the mind of the practitioner, the name provides the individual gestalt into which the incorporeal spirit is incorporated. — But it doesn’t have to be that way.

For a moment think of the person you love most in your life. Now consider that someone, somewhen - maybe it was even yourself - came up with a name for this being. Today it does no longer matter how this happened. Whether it was a moment of chance or whether weeks of hard work went into deciding on that one name. Today the only thing that matters is the love that you feel even when you just think of that name. — It is no different with your good angel. It’s name is the cup given to you, to be filled with your love and vice versa. One day you will drink from each other’s cups. And what you will taste is the substance inside, not the shape that holds it.


3. Ritual Instructions

Book 1

In the opening chapter Pelagius had already clarified that four approaches exist to accomplish communion with one's good angel: through uniting the mind with one's angel, through visible appearance of the angel, through dreams caused by intuition of the angel, or through 'a lengthy secret experience' (Pelagius, 3a). 

After giving instructions on how to determine the name of one's good angel, Pelagius in Chapter XIV stresses again that all approaches to achieve communion by their very nature are devout Christian pathways: 

"No one can master an art in a speedy manner, even less so the art of coming into communion with the good angel and attaining the art of divination and knowing of him, yet it has to be accomplished over a long time and divine service and can only be done in three ways. The first is to lead a God-fearing, pure life (...). The other way is that one has a temper that [by nature] is always and on all paths burning towards God in ardent love (...). The third way is to always hold good and Christian intention and practice according to the Christian rule and order." (Pelagius, 17b)

Now, immediately following this statement, from Chapter XVIII onwards and leading into Book 2, Pelagius begins to provide specific ritual instructions on how to establish angelic communion. Such deliberate prefacing on the explicit Christian nature of this path, before expounding its ritual details, had at least two functions. Firstly, it reaffirmed the intention to show a path that stood in full harmony with Christian teachings. Secondly, the phrase "Christian rule and order" was vague enough to become an access point for Pelagius own ritualised approach: The Christian rule referred to here most likely was not the one given by its official authorities, but the precise instructions the author-magician was about to explain to his readers. 

The first rule provided by Pelagius refers to the foundation for successful dream incubation, a practice that forms an essential part of all of his rituals. The operator has to ensure to go to bed with a positive, curious mood and with their mind filled with prayers for a successful operation. Three things specifically help to achieve such a starting position.

"Therefore pay attention to these three things. A pure, devout temper, a healthy body and a clear sky." (Pelagius, 20b)

The second ground rule is that the operation is best achieved during a time when the celestial sign associated with one's good angel is on the rise (Pelagius, 20b). This can either be achieved by making calculations in one's "astrological laboratory" (21a) or by accessing a high point and looking out into the morning or night sky and identifying the related star constellations.

Thirdly, and as given before, the practitioner needs to know the planet of their ascendant "so that he may know to call his angel and sign after his planet, which is all the foundation of this art." (Pelagius, 21a) 

These three ritual instructions seem to suffice to perform the operation in its basic layout. At the very end of Book 1 Pelagius provides a succinct summary, before going on to explain a much more detailed and nuanced approach to the operation in the opening chapters of Book 2. With this the hermit ensured the first book could stand by itself: It now contains everything from an introduction to the subject, via the technical details of extracting one's good angel's name, down to the essential ritual operation. 

"If one desires to have knowledge and report of his good angel, so he has to look up during the hour and day of his planet, once the celestial sign of his angel is rising and once it holds a good aspect with his angel, so he shall kneel and pray to God, the holy Lord and prepare himself and call his angel by name afterwards, and to speak or read out your question briefly, and to plea God busily that he may grant you to know what you desire in your sleep through the help of your angel, and you should also be alone in your place, and walk alone, so not to be hindered by others." (Pelagius, 21a/b)

Finally, before we continue to the instructions given in the Second Book, it should be highlighted that the First Book also contains details on how to craft a magical talisman of one's good angel. In Chapter XII Pelagius relates the story of a monk from the island of Crete (Greek) who performed such magic for his king. The instruction follow quiet a traditional pattern; however, they only describe the outer process of the craft, not the inner process of magical activation: One has to draw the sigil and character of one's good angel on a small golden tablet, then fold or roll it up, tie it together with a silk ribbon in the color of the planet representing one's good angel and wear it around the neck.

"(...) from this time onwards the king conquered all his enemies and performed great and excellent things, so that one didn't dare to approach him, and in upcoming and future trades he always encountered the best, and in all arts did he receive the most accurate information to his questions." (Pelagius, 15a)

Book 2

Since academic interest in magic was spurred by Frances Yates' original studies on the hermetic tradition, one of its major initial limitations proved to be the cognitive bias that researchers brought to the subject. While attempting to trace narratives of historic continuity or sociological coherence, they overlooked that the very cognitive paradigm from which they approached the subject was inherently opposed to the one of its Late Medieval and Early Modern practitioners.

As pointed out by Pelagius the hermit, according to his Late Medieval worldview every object of creation had its assigned angel. And these beings were not to be mistaken with 'energies' or abstract ideas; they were living beings in their own right, as ontologically real and unique as a stone on the street or a cloud in the sky. Thus creating communion with them was neither a psychological nor a mechanical process, yet one of establishing proper relationship. Pelagius and his fellow magicians lived in a world steeped in animism. That means, to them every object of creation was animated: it held soul as well as cognitive life in its own right. The principle according to which they then orientated themselves in this world was not one of psychological introspection, but one of dialogic encounter. That is why language (and scripture accordingly) was not only of utmost importance, but of a deeply magical nature. In a world where anything could be spoken to and anything could speak back at us, enabling a shared set of symbols, i.e. the ability to share a common language was the key to open the gates of knowledge. 

Sophie Page's excellent introduction to Medieval Magic (in: Davies, 2017) as well as her 'Speaking with Angels in Medieval Magic Texts' (Raymond, 2011) are great examples how far academic research has come in recent decades to be less biased and more mindful of the reality of our ancestors. 

Page is one of the first scholars to acknowledge that for the magical practitioner of the past, there was significant value to be found in their practice beyond the operational goal of the ritual. Establishing direct and conscious contact with spiritual beings was much more than a (forbidden) access route to personal power or fulfilling whatever agenda they held; instead "such conversations were also desirable for their own sake and provided possibilities of spiritual elevation, companionship, even friendship and love." (Page, p.124; in Raymond, 2011) 

The main barrier in this relationship, as we showed above, was to find common ground for communication despite the marked difference in species represented by humans and angels. The former being corporal, time- and place-bound, the latter being incorporeal and often equipped with a much higher degree of time- and space-related mobility.

The solution to this essential problem was found in magical rituals. Their particular preparations, settings, techniques and timings created a doorway that allowed for temporary mutual encounter.

"The similitude of man and spirit created by magic rituals formed a bridge across the physical barriers between species of being and was often linked to the love and friendship of angels." (Page p.128; in Raymond, 2011)

“Two primary methods were to increase the purity of the operator (and hence detach him from corporeal things) or to increase the impurity of spirits (and hence attach them to matter). A third solution was to create a space or use a medium that was less attached to earthly matter and therefore more amenable to spiritual beings.” (Page p.127; in Raymond, 2011)

In actual ritual practice all three of the above methods were often leveraged conjointly: after an initial phase of purification, a particular space amenable to spirits was entered and here the spirit was asked (or often forced) to immerse itself sufficiently into matter so that either direct communication or even visible appearance were temporarily enabled. As Page points out so wonderfully, entering the magical circle was the spirits' equivalent of human dreaming. 

"The magic circle was a demarcated area that constrained spirits within or outside it against their usual freedom of movement. As a special space into which spirits could descend, it was the spirit's equivalent to human dreaming, a fragile and ambiguous context for communication that was not firmly attached to Heaven or Earth." (Page p.128; in Raymond, 2011) 

As we will now see in Pelagius' Second Book such peripheral space on the border between human and angelic realms was not only confined to magical circles. An entire chamber of prayer (or temple) could be established and elevated from the mundane realm according to the same principles.


Preparation

While the First Book has no designated title beyond its chapter headings, the Second Book is titled 'Of the Consecration'. The root of the word 'consecration' derives from the Latin consecrare, meaning 'to make holy'. Thus its program is clearly introduced to the reader: the Second Book deals with rituals and prayers to consecrate both the space of the operation as well as the practitioner themselves.

After a brief reminder of the significance of the operation and the importance of attending to the planetary time, Pelagius provides the following ritual instructions:

  • the consecration is to be performed in the evening, before one goes to sleep (thus the night-time hour of the planet should be respected)
  • the practitioner requires a clean and quiet chamber that will not be disturbed by other people
  • the chamber should be empty except for a bed, a table, a crucifix upon the table and three wax candles in front of it
  • the wax candles should have been consecrated during the days of our 'dear women' (German: liebe Frauen), which is a common folk-expression for Mariä, thus Pelagius is probably referring to Assumption Day, i.e. 15th of August
  • the wax candles should also be inscribed with the following three consecrations (as no technique is specified the words could be carved into the wax, cut out from plates of wax and applied to the candle or simply written on it with ink and brush):
    • First candle: In the Name of the father + In the Name of the Son + In the name of the Holy Ghost +
    • Second candle: In the name of my good angel + and in the name of the 7 planets in the celestial firmament +
    • Third candle: In the name of our Lord Jesu Christi Nazareni + In the name of the holy mother of God Mary + and in the name of dear Joseph and all saints of God +
  • Finally, a handwritten note with one's plea should be placed in front of the cross as well. On the reverse of the note the following words should be written in three lines:
    • In the name of the Father of the Son and the Holy Ghost. I beg you my dear angel, who was assigned to me by God, that you may wish to reveal to me in this night, where my messenger may be and what he [will] conveyed when he shall return.

Before Pelagius shares the first prayer, he still points out that should the practitioner be traveling and not have the wax candles with them, 'nothing should be made of it' (Pelagius, 22b). At the end of the Second Book the Hermit declares the incredibly lengthy prayers to follow of no importance to the one who knows how to pray and to set their heart on fire. Similarly, here at the outset of the ritual we find Pelagius' hint that the following, detailed ritual instructions are of little importance to the one who knows how to turn themselves holy (i.e. to consecrate) through the right conduct of life, rather than a specific rite.


Opening & Invocation

Once these preparations are completed, the practitioner is to sprinkle their chamber with holy water and fumigate it with consecrated myrrh. Then they should kneel in front of the crucifix and speak the first prayer. Interestingly it is easy to overhead how short and succinct this prayer really is: "Come Holy Spirit, Lord God" (Pelagius, 23a). While the prayer continues afterwards, Pelagius interjects it after these five words with the short clause: "and additional one should pray (...)". For the experienced practitioner this would be read as a hint, that nothing much more is needed than what is contained in these first five words. Not unlike a rosary, repeating this call for consecration many times would easily turn it from a simple opening statement into an actual trance-inducing invocation. 

After this prayer the practitioner is advised to confess and a another script is provided for this. Contained in the confession, however, is the call for revelation of truth through the hand of one's good angel.

Following this introduction the practitioner is advised to rise to their feet, to stand in front of the cross and to speak a passionate prayer for communion with one's holy angel (Pelagius 24b-25b). It is important to note that in the entire Second Book this is the only prayer to be spoken standing in front of the cross. To understand the true significance of this we have to recall a particular section of the First Book.

'For God will reason over this and [He] sits on the chair like a judge. But all angels stand in front of God's chair and serve God. The humans, however, they lie in front of God's chair and because of their sins are scattered below. It is reserved for the angels to stand and for the humans to lie because of their sins. That is why man shall rise and become similar to the angels and come into communion. Whoever lies [on the ground] has to rise through the help and mercy of God and whoever stands is being reinforced by the grace of God, to stand firmly, just as there is a difference between standing and lying. In the same manner the angels surpass the humans, and the angels like to dwell with the humans who walk in a pure life.' (Pelagius, Book I, Chapter VII, 10b-11a)

A critical and yet all too often overlooked differentiation in ritual magic is what the practitioner was meant to do in their physical body versus in vision. Here the changing of posture from kneeling in front of the cross to rising in front of it points precisely at such a critical visionary act which obviously remains implicit in Pelagius document. 

After having consecrated the place of operation as well as oneself, after having invoked blessing spirits and confessed one's unworthiness as a human - the actual magical act follows. The practitioner, both in their physical and visionary body, assumes the position of the angel, standing in front of the throne of the Lord. In the physical act of rising from one's knees the act of assimilation with the divine is performed.

 © Roland Gabler, I.M.B.O.L.C., est. 1992

© Roland Gabler, I.M.B.O.L.C., est. 1992

As a side-note it should be mentioned that this symbolism has remained well and alive throughout the last 500 years of our tradition. A random example is the wonderful logo of I.M.B.O.L.C., my former teacher's independent magical school for the lone practitioner. The image represents both a sigil of the word Imbolc as well as an abstract human being rising from its knees to stand tall. 'Drawing out our full potential and height from the seed placed within us' always was the North Star of my teacher's work, as represented so well in this design.


The Prayers

Having spoken the angelic prayer in front of the cross, the practitioner is to kneel again. Here the first Chapter of the Second Book ends, and Chapters II. to VII. commence which purely consist of long-winded, highly repetitive, devotional prayers, which all ask for communion with one's holy angel and - through this beings' help - the revelation of truth to the practitioner's divinatory question. 

The related prayers cover the pages 25b all the way to 49b. They turn specifically to God and the Holy Trinity, to the Holy Spirit as well as Mother Mary. Their underlying magical technique consistently is one of active dream incubation - asking the respective divine hierarchy to intervene during the practitioner's sleep. Equally consistently the prayers relate to examples of dream incubation from the Holy Scripture and use these as precedents to be repeated (Pelagius, pp.44b). Finally, the tone of the prayers often changes from highly devotional and servile to firm and pressing. The former tone is leveraged to highlight the unworthiness and humbleness of the practitioner; the latter to emphasise the commitment and seeming liability of the divine hierarchy to support the practitioner's demand in order to protect the integrity and efficacy of Jesus Christ's ordeal for the sake of all of humanity (e.g. Pelagius, pp.39a).

The prayers in the Chapters II. to VII. are written in a modular fashion, allowing the practitioner to select the one most fitting to their demand. Furthermore, and as mentioned above, right at the very end of the Second Book Pelagius himself declares these long and repetitive orisons as redundant and possibly counter-productive to the entire operation.

"One shall also know that one does not have to do the prayers in the length given here, but that one should pray in brief words and with burning passion in this manner. For the ones who pray properly, they pray in their mind and not according to the number of the psalms. Yet if one is lazy and peevish with one's prayers, so one shall arrange one's heart until it catches fire in the love and passion and Christian devotion; only then the actual orison follows and then in the proper way of praying. And these orisons are written down for the ones who are weak in their prayer and do not know how to go about their prayer." (Pelagius, p.52b/53a | highlights by Frater Acher)


Banishing & Dream Incubation

Chapter VIII. is the final chapter of the Second Book. It begins with instructions on how to conclude one's prayers: Still kneeling in front of the cross the practitioner is given a specific amount of repetitions of the Lord's Prayers as well as Ave Marias, depending on their particular situation. These orthodox prayers are interjected with short invocations such as O Jesus Christ, for you know all things, reveal to me the mystery of my question (Pelagius, p.50a).

Once the last orison is concluded, the practitioner is instructed to sprinkle holy water and speak the following blessing against evil spirits.

"In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit this place shall be purified and hallowed and free and secure from all evil angels's access". (Pelagius, p.50b) 

The practitioner then turns towards the four directions of the sky, and speaks an even more explicit exorcism in each one of them. 

"By the might and the power of the almighty God Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Ruler over Heaven and Earth, I command and order all of you and every impure spirits, that for the sake of the force of the suffering and dying of Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer may you all be far from this place and may you not pollute me tonight with false and wrong images and thoughts. Begone therefore far from here in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Pelagius, 51a)

After the four quarters have been ritually cleansed, the practitioner kneels in front of their bed and calls to their good angel directly.

"You, God's holy angel N.N., who you have been appointed over me by the almighty God and Guard and Protector, for you shall help, guard and protect me, you shall appear to me today in this very night in a sweet vision, [you shall] teach and educate me so I may experience the bright and proper truth to this my question. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen." (Pelagius, P.51a/51b)

As a final act of dream incubation, still kneeling in front of the bed, a consecrated wax tablet is to be inscribed with the practitioner's specific wish and placed underneath their pillow. After laying down, the practitioner is instructed to make the sign of the cross on their head, feet and to all their sides. A last prayer and blessing are spoken, then one is to approach sleep without *"having spoken to anyone and not having touched any other matter with your thoughts." *(Pelagius, p.52a/52b)

"Because by means of the prayer one can achieve everything. Herewith we want to conclude the book of the Knowledge and Mystery in the name of God; and one shall be careful with this art and hold in secret and not make it public." (Pelagius, p.53b)


Summary

In summary the following phases and ritual actions have to be differentiated in the manuscript Pelagius Eremitæ II Libri

The lengthy prayers found in Chapters II. to VII. could be inserted between the phases of Invocation and Conclusion; depending on and in alignment with the ritual aim of the practitioner. However, as we found through the author's own advise, they remain completely optional, forming ritual crutches for the laymen with little skill in inflaming their hearts and operating in vision. 

Of critical importance, however, remains the emphasise that all of these ritual preparations, prayers and acts of devotion will be void and without effect, for as long as the practitioner has not adopted a way of life that allows the angelic mind to come close to and continually dwell in proximity of their human mind


4. Closing

In this detailed analysis of Pelagius Eremita's manuscript of 'daimonic theurgy' we came across a wealth of relevant material for the modern day practitioner's practice.

Rather than relying exclusively on ritual structure or magical artefacts such as a sigils, barbarous names or other paraphernalia, Pelagius the hermit in the late 15th century aimed to show a theurgic path which pivots on the practitioners entire way of life. It's goal is a gradual attunement, an increasing assimilation between the mind of the practitioner and the mind of the spirit they aim to operate with. The practice still culminates in a sequence of ritual acts. However, these are meant to be continued over long periods of time - accompanying and affirming the general change in lifestyle which is marked by abstinence, seclusion, integrity, honesty, humbleness, and benevolence. 

From a historic perspective, the magic portrayed in this manuscript is deemed to form a bridge between the ancient pagan theology and practice and the theology of Christ. While still relying on e.g. the planetary angels as an essential background of its practice, the central idea of the good angel is introduced as a personal guardian spirit, mediating between the practitioner and the divine forces of the Holy Trinity. 

By assimilating themselves to the purity of the good angel the practitioner thus is turning themselves into a mediator of divine forces. The magical act of integrating two minds into one - a human and an angelic one - then forms the theological foundation for all subsequent acts of magic to be performed by the practitioner. It is not the magician themselves who affects change or divines secrets of the future, it is the angelic body and mind they have attuned themselves to, which enables them to act in harmony and synchronisation with a higher, spiritual being.

As we shall see in the next chapter of our research this premise should form the foundation for the demonological vision and magical writings of Johannes Trithemius and many subsequent practitioners (Brann, p.45).

'The mind of a man which has been illuminated is able, without impediment, to strike familiarity with, and to ascertain, marvels.' (Johannes Trithemius, Brann, p.117)

'I have learned these things neither from man nor through man, but through a revelation.' (Johannes Trithemius, Brann, p.101)

'Whatever in the world is knowable, I always desired to know.' (Johannes Trithemius, Brann, p.93)