An Interview with an Adept - Master Agrippa on his magical school 'IMBOLC'

Magic and training? Are these two not contradictory and incompatible concepts? Are the two terms not mutually exclusive? Can you be trained in something that according to the general conception and representation is a discipline of self-responsibility, of active self-awareness and thus a process of self-knowledge par excellence, that defies any specified instructions or even preconceptions?
— Agrippa

This is the first and maybe most essential question anyone encounters when visiting the online presence of my first teacher's magical school IMBOLC. Many found themselves wondering over this question - just like I did in the year 2000 when I first stumbled across it. On the webpage he goes on to explain his own view of magic and didactics and what to expect from someone who claims to be teaching magic in the most essential and traditional sense of the word in the West. The metaphor he applies is that of a wanderer who has long been lost in the woods. Magic, according to Agrippa, offers a path not necessarily out of the woods, but slowly ascending up into the mountains. And from there the wanderer will be able for the first time to see the world from above: the rivers and towns, clearings and hills as well as other mountains and maybe the horizon itself.

On this slow ascent up the magical mountain one's own inner middle becomes the base-camp of every magical journey and to which one always must return. Without such stability the wanderer will not be able to sustain themselves - and in the long run fail to survive all the adventures ahead of them.

Therefore true magical training, according to Agrippa, consists of two journeys masked as one: while one leads into ourselves and towards the exploration of our own inner middle or fortitude, the other leads outwards and up the magical mountain towards its ever unknown peak. Now, his role as a teacher is comparable to a scout: He won't be around all the time or hold the practitioner by their hand. However, he will aim to show up when needed, whenever the terrain turns dangerous and will point to blocks, shortcuts or hidden gems along the way. 

In the truest sense of the word IMBOLC is a school that leads to self-initiation, a centre for training and education in the hermetic arts, and a work community whose students are supported in the training of the occult arts and sciences. For ten years it was my magical home - and I could not have hoped to have a better one. (Note: If you want to read some more about the type of training and experiences made at the school, feel free to look up my free report here.)

Agrippa became a very good friend over time. However, he always knew how to maintain the balance between being a friend and a teacher. His own training as a military lone fighter certainly left a mark on his approach to magic. Whenever required he didn't shy away to demand strict adherence to his guidance and training instructions. Many times it was 'his way or the highway'. It can be so hard to accept as a student, that you simply do not know? But in demanding such trust and discipline only when needed - often against my strong protest - Agrippa ultimately helped me to tame my own overly-curious body and mind - and thus built the base-camp of all my magical journeys. 

Good teachers are rare like perfectly round pebbles in a river bed. We start out believing that finding them should be easy. Yet, only after suffering through so many of the useless sort do we begin to realise how hard they are to come by. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have found Agrippa and spent such a long and intense time under his training. He left a mark on me that I am proud of. And he tried to leave many more, which I was smart enough to avoid. Because no one of us is perfect. And the best way towards your own doom as a mountaineer is to take for granted 100% transferability of your scout's advise to your own conditions.

'Sapere aude.' (dare to be wise) were the first words I read on Agrippa's webpage fourteen years ago.  What a wonderful summary of everything magic should be about.

It cannot be repeated often enough: Always keep your inner authenticity, despite all of the other opinions that try to tell you what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ in life. Dare to be a self-reliant thinker and actor. And have the courage to make use of your own ‘intuitive reason’.
— Agrippa

With this little introduction I am very happy to share the following interview with Agrippa. It might be of particular interest for English speakers as all written materials at IMBOLC are currently available in German language only. However, Agrippa is in the process of translating his webpage to English as well and already accepts English speaking students. If you are interest - click here to get in touch with him.

For all German speakers and practitioners of magic, consider yourself lucky. You hold the privilege of full access (in written and verbal transmission) to a magical school that is not affiliated to or biased by any other magical lodge, order or secret society, yet that stands on its own.  All you need is the 'daring to be wise' and maybe the perseverance to cope with your own stubbornness. If I could do it, you can as well.

Frater Acher

Acher: Since when have you been teaching magic and how would you describe the purpose of your school?

Agrippa: With 'teaching' I assume you mean the transmission of knowledge, techniques and practices, right? If so, I founded IMBOLC in 1992 from the 1st to the 2nd of February. That day is pure coincidence. :-)

Acher: Does your school IMBOLC stand in any particular tradition?

Agrippa: Hmm, that's a difficult question. In this regard I see myself proceeding eclectically, to say: take over the proven, throw overboard the dogmatic if bottom line it doesn’t yield results. I.e. I am approaching this very pragmatically, however, never to the expense of ethics and morality - as far as I am concerned. I try to convey this to students; what they make of it ... they are old enough. I'm not a moralist.

But again back to ‘traditions’: the early years of the Fraternitas Saturni, the first ten years of the Golden Dawn, Franz Bardon's system, and Aleister Crowley - they come pretty close to the whole already. However, I am just no friend of this whole fuss with cowls, paraphernalia, theatricality, ‘Great Masters’, ‘Evil Black Mages’, etc. It’s just a ‘man’s thing’ and essentially it functions as a block as it reinforces the ego in a way that doesn’t support magic. :-) It can not and I will not say more on this point.

Acher: How has IMBOLC changed or evolved since its inception?

Agrippa: True magic is timeless, it is not subject to the zeitgeist which depends on the consumer’s taste and makes permanent change and adaptation necessary. So nothing much has since changed with us. Oh, yes: for some years now you can choose between the regular distance course and a private study course with me. The focus of the latter especially is the theory and practice of the Jewish Kabbalah. I am referring to the authentic Jewish and not any Western esoteric perceptions of Kabbalah - according to the motto ‘Everything is Kabbalah’ - that's nonsense! 

Acher: What is driving you personally to teach magic and to help others along the way?

Agrippa: The fact that it works (I mean magic), but not according to popular ideas about the causal nexus. Also I also want to free magic from the negative ballast it has experienced through church leaders over the centuries. In the case of Christianity: Only Jesus, the Son of God may cause ‘miracles'. I am asking: Why? If man can develop these possibilities and properties, they are also ‘god-given’ and not of the ‘devil’ (in which I obviously don’t believe :-)). I would also like to lend again a delicate intellectual complexion to magic - it suits magic very well. One shouldn’t be surprised that today so many academics and well educated people smile when looking on today's esoteric scene and its contents. And by the way: I would smile as well. :-)

Acher: In your approach to teaching discipline and overcoming one’s fears play a major role. Can you explain why you think these two aspects are important for any mage?

Agrippa: Well, magic is - contrary to the majority of today's ISBN literature on this topic - hard work, but should of course also be ‘fun’. Yet ‘fun’ is not to be interpreted here as a hobby. Hobbies are distractions from daily stress and frustration. So whoever practices magic without discipline is actually only compensating.

On the subject of coping with anxiety - let me say it a little bit provocative: How can one ultimately evoke (their) demons, if one doesn’t know their (primal) fears down to the last detail, let alone control them! In most cases this leads to ruin, into closed psychiatry (with megalomania or possession) or to a tree on a rope. This is not to say that one should strive not to be afraid of anything anymore: such a man would be a zombie, no. A healthy level of fear is genetically implanted in us, a fear that protects us from damage of body and soul. One should definitely not try to change this!

Acher: Have you ever had students where the confrontation with the magic lead to mental problems or has reinforced them? If so, how did you handle it?

Agrippa: Yes, but that almost never had anything to do with the magic exercises or rituals, but with the explorations of their own emotional depths (shadow work). You have to deal with such cases in a highly individual manner and certainly cannot follow a standard curriculum which is applied to everybody. If necessary they should be lying down on a couch. Personally I propagate that anyone who wants to seriously deal with magic should undertake a psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, etc. in advance. That supports.

Acher: Who were your teachers? What experiences have shaped you as a young mage?

Agrippa: 'Young mage' *lol. See, you either are magician or you just aren't. But I know what you mean… Up to my 30th birthday I was still a student in any case. But with regards to your question: My teachers were witches from the Allgäu (since I was 14 years old), followed in later years by a GD Grand Master who died long ago. So many things have left a mark on me on this journey that I cannot call all of them out. There are so many important elements. Maybe just these ones: The closeness to nature of the witches and the ‘oneness’ with her, as well as the incredible knowledge of my master about so many things which did not have much to do with magic at first glance. This has baffled.

Acher: You've been a guest in a Bon monastery in Tibet for a while. How did this experience affect your understanding and practice of magic?

Agrippa: Tibet was a completely different paradigm, although still magic of course. The long time I spent there just reaffirmed me that one cannot compare apples with pears, although both are fruits? You understand ? Except for that I don’t want to share more about the Bon here.

Acher: Today, when students begin at your school how do you help them to approach magic?

Agrippa: Very carefully. For example rituals, by definition, only come up after the first year of training. Before that there are plenty of exercises. They are supposed to practice, practice, practice. Every day. I offer them the full diversity and many shapes of magic as well as the understanding of the respective laws as they relate to the various systems and types of magic. Voodoo just isn’t shamanism. And every magical Ism handles its own laws and practices.

Acher: What do you believe yourself, and do you think it is important for a mage to have 'faith'?

Agrippa: The term ‘faith’ doesn’t have any meaning for me - sorry. These are religious implications of longing. I'm an agnostic! :-) Therefore: There is only knowledge that magic (one day) will yield effects, as long as one approaches it in a disciplined way. The students as well as the magician can hope. Am I articulating this too hard for you?

Acher: The 'Great Work' is a term that has found its way into magic via alchemy. How important is the word for you and your own practice?

Agrippa: The ‘Great Work’ is nothing more than a paraphrase for the illumination in every respect (quintessence of the four elements) of one’s own soul.

Acher: How do you think magic will develop (or our understanding of it) in the coming decades? Do you see more significant changes approaching our tradition or rather more continued work in secrecy?

Agrippa: Both, but I do see a ‘fork’: I.e. since recent years I am beginning to see two extremes evolving: on the one hand a continuous dilution of magic by esoteric-literature; on the other hand the partially excellent approaches and implementations of magic in the Anglo-Saxon world.

It seems we German screwed up; the scaffolding would have existed once, however, nothing truly useful came from it. Keywords: the development of the Fraternitas Saturni, the many different Golden Dawn orders, the Rosicrucians, etc.

Acher: If you look at the magical community today in Germany (or more generally in the West) what do you think are the biggest risks for newcomers?

Agrippa: It depends: Some authors write useless crap and then the time investment has just been for the arse. But at least the soul remained intact. :-) It is worse when you submit to an order that e.g. during the lectures of the first six weeks presents material for ‘awakening the kundalini’ (a magical practice for advanced students). *lol In these case the sequence is just wrong and people work by Social Darwinist principles: Good for those who get it. The others are discarded.

Acher: What gives you the most energy and joy in your work?

Agrippa: The eternal quest for gnosis (Erkenntnis) that I gain through the study of Kabbalah.