If you’re an explorer in magick, you may have come across Alexander Eth’s Glitch Bottle podcast. If you haven’t heard his show yet, it’s very well produced and worth digging into! Today, I’m focusing on his latest episode on confession, which I’ll give a quick overview of and then expand on slightly.
Eth’s episodes skew historical and Western, and this fills a big gap the understanding of modern magicians. The original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Enochian magick both reflect a great deal of the groundwork laid by Agrippa, but as Glitch Bottle listeners quickly come to understand, there’s a lot more to what can be broadly called “the Western magical tradition” which isn’t included in Agrippa. It should become clear, after reflection, that the entirety of the magical tradition to that point was all too much to put on one historical figure!
Eth dives into the nature of confession in the magical context. Confession, he explains, restores the covenant between the Divine or the spirits (usually angels) and the magician/supplicant. As another example which Eth gives: any attempt by the entity to undermine the mind of an exorcist by appealing to guilt about misdeeds is nullified in advance by the confession. Intriguingly, Eth mentions that for some practices, magicians are to confess to wrong acts, whether they have committed them or not!
There’s more to the episode, but let me move on to some observations behind the philosophy of magick. Eth alludes to, but I’ll say explicitly, that what’s happening with confession is a means to single-mindedness. Rather than selectively mentally pushing back and forward certain portions of the mind, what one normally ignores (for the sake of protecting the ego) one instead puts forward in confession. As far as the operation is concerned, confession helps one move toward unbiased/nondual mind and minimizes the dialectical monkey mind. In short, confession should some of the same effects as meditation(!).
Returning to the matter of confession to sins one hasn’t even committed: as a human being doing the ritual, one brings all of their potential with them to it. “There but for the grace of God go I,” as the saying goes, which points to the deeper matters of Original Sin, or the broader idea of dukkha. We are where we are in life both in spite and because of our flaws. In this broader sense, we are guilty of murder and every sin because we know that we are capable of it (though of course we strive to not commit such an act). I would also add that as a human being, we come to the ritual as an emissary for all of our fellow humans, whose affairs will be significantly altered by the influence of the spirits we call upon.
So there is a statement of identity and overlooked reality that, within a ritual context, the magician chooses to bring forward before the ritual in order to even it out in the mind with the more typical (and affirming) subjects of thought. This brings the mind closer to a nondual state. Note that this is a rectification of one’s astrological 12th house, “The House of Bad Spirit.” This makes sense: to maximize the effectiveness of magick, one needs to align this house (along with the 1st house, the “House of Good Spirit”) to the ends of that magick. The cost of not engaging with the 12th house, of course, is that it can weaken the 1st house’s effectiveness during the ritual, or worse, be strong enough to overcome the 1st house and lead to backfire during the ritual.
There’s also the matter of the logic of doing magick itself. If one approaches magick with the attitude of “Reality is just fine, I’m fine, we’re all fine here now–how are you?” then why even do magick? But if, instead, one admits misdeeds, though, one is heightening the obvious contrast between how things are and how one wants them to be: “current state” and “goal state,” an idea closely related to intelligence.
Ultimately, my recommendation is to consider confession as either an alternative or supplement to meditation and relaxation before one’s magical practices. Good luck!