Before I get into this, the purpose of this site is not to describe in lurid detail how to summon a ‘demon’. I think the concept is silly. My interest lies in philosophy – defining ‘evil,’ the problem of evil, and the ongoing struggle between good and evil.
Yet I get a ton of inquiries about it. If you’re the type of person who thinks ‘summoning a demon’ to do your bidding will make your life a bed of roses or you believe that ‘God isn’t helping me so I might as well try Satan,’ you’ll probably be disappointed.
The tradition of commanding demons goes back to legends about King Solomon, which is why many of the modern texts claim to be Solomon’s magick. According to the 2nd C. Testament of Solomon, Solomon used a magickal ring to command demons to build the Jewish Temple.
The Faust legend is a cautionary tale about making a pact with the devil. It emerged during the time of the Protestant revolution and the witch trials when there were a lot of accusations being thrown around. One group claimed another was doing the work of the devil and vice versa. Much of the tale warns about the danger of gaining knowledge – and depending on which version you read, Faust is damned or saved by love.
The story is about one human’s quest for knowledge and power rather than the benefits of making a pact with the devil. For the evolution of the Faust myth, start with Christopher Marlowe‘s (published in 1604) and then J.W. von Goethe‘s.
Black Magick Grimoires
Also during this time, a number of satanic grimoires were written. They are incredibly fanciful – you say a few words and you have some demon under your complete control – and were written because people were very imaginative about what they thought happened when witches met with the devil. The most outlandish grimoire is Le Grand Grimoire, but you can also find a number of tomes of black magick on the Esoteric Archives page under ‘Black Magic’.
These books are much too over the top to be taken seriously but if you want to read more, read occult historian, Arthur Edward Waite’s books like The Book of Black Magic or The Book of Ceremonial Magic or Richard Cavendish’s The Black Arts.
Now, we come to ‘summoning a demon’ in modern magick. Whenever modern occultists talk about magick, their language is very floral and over the top. They do this because the subject has been taboo for centuries and they don’t want non-initiates to understand what they are talking about.
When the Goetia discusses summoning one of the 72 demons listed, it’s not talking about a full fledged Buffy the Vampire Slayer demon manifesting in your living room. Sorry – that’s just absurd. Rather, I’ll point you to a few articles for reference:
- The Nature of the Goetic Spirits which explains that the spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain. Their seals therefore represent methods of stimulating or regulating those particular spots (though the eye).
- Magick FAQ and the snippet from Aleister Crowley on Magick
As you can see, when magicians talk about magick, and specifically, summoning a demon, the vast majority aren’t talking about ‘demons’ as one of Satan’s minions who is actively fighting against God. They’re talking about aspects of your unconscious mind.
That’s why, if you follow the ritual in the Goetia, you create a dark mirror (take a piece of glass and paint one side black) and sit it in a triangle. You use the seal to focus – to stimulate aspects of your brain – and, in many cases, you alter your consciousness with pain, sex, drugs, meditation or fasting. I’ve talked about this in the my Nature of Demons article. The use of a seal isn’t that different from using a mandala in Hinduism and Buddhism to focus your attention.
Yes, you will always find some people who claim they summoned a demon into physical existence or that these ‘demons’ are more than just aspects of your mind – just like if you study any religion, you’ll find that a number of followers have had a religious experience. (See William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, for instance.) How you interpret your experience depends on your perspective, your belief system, and what you hope to find.
That said, if you want to read more about summoning a demon in modern occult practice, read Carroll Runyon’s Book of Solomon’s Magick, Don Kraig’s Modern Magick, Lon Milo Duquette’s My Life With the Spirits and other books.