What is the state of oaths in our modern times? For the goetic magician oath taking is of central importance to the whole philosophy. Whatever one calls it, pact or something else, the oath is one of the things that makes goetic magic what it is. I am of the opinion that if one does not make a pact or take an oath then they are not doing goetic magic and further that the pact concept imposes a goetic context on one's procedures regardless of what spirit or spirits the magician is employing.
But the word pact is too limiting, I think. Oath is so much more broadly defined and carries a gravity that I think is important. It also more accurately describes what I have come to understand as the underpinnings of the relationship between magician and spirit. I admit that my first pact with a spirit, in writing, was really quite weak and mamby-pamby. One of the weakest parts of it was to make its duration for only one year, a decision I made entirely based in fear of what I might have to give up and fear of the consequences if I wasn't able to keep my end of the agreement. During that year I kept up my end of the bargain, making regular offerings of various kinds in exchange for spiritual and material benefits. These benefits did materialize but in a quite underwhelming way. In fact that year was some of the least powerful or impactful time of our working together. We had much stronger interactions both before and after the term. The reason, I think, is my flawed understanding of the pact coupled with some idiosyncrasies in my personal practice.
Among those idiosyncrasies are the fact that I carried the First Character for that spirit around for two years before making the formal pact and that my practice has a meditative mysticism about it as opposed to formal ceremonial evocation. I am much more apt to make offerings and sit in concentrated contemplation than to draw out a circle and recite psalms. Because of this I endeavored nearly every day at the beginning to make that spirit's presence part of my life and, being completely honest, that devotion slacked off once I made the pact. The pact itself, the ritual of making it and the process of fulfilling it over the course of a year became a culmination and a sort of graduation from the process of carrying the First Character. In short it was an ending. This is a huge and fundamental mistake.
What I didn't realize then and am coming to understand now is that, with the creation of the First Character in my blood I was taking an oath. It was an oath to walk the walk and do the work. It was an oath to perpetuate the spirits of the grimoires and to align with them, and foremost the one on my First Character. The ritual isn't portrayed that way in the books and I didn't explicitly think of it that way at the time, at least not consciously. But that is truly what it was. The written pact, made later with specific "I give you this and you'll give me that" details is secondary. Or maybe it is better said that the written pact should be a document of the oath, a confirmation of the oath, and not a separate element of the practice. My weak pact had little to do with my actual practice or the energy I put into it. That is why my interactions with the spirit were and are so much stronger now that the term is expired. That was the big flaw in my thinking.
I continue to do many of the offerings I did during the pact term even though it is done and they are more effective now because I am doing them out of devotion and love and not out of fear of consequences, like a child. Skipping a few days of making offerings, either by accident or even on purpose, is not enough to break such an oath where the pact would have easily been broken because of the details I put in it. Because the spirits are on my mind, in my heart, and on my tongue the oath holds and the spiritual benefits flow. Maybe that is what it means to 'sell one's soul'; to give one's energy and attention in a positive way when others fear that to do so is a violation of Abrahamic law. To break such an oath as the one I made with the First Character would require a counter-oath. Not just a conscious decision but an actual magical act. Loss of power, loss of cognitive abilities and loss of material possessions would all be appropriate consequence for such an act and the very reason why the oath should not be lightly undertaken. But the little minutia of when one might light a candle or burn some incense is not where the power lies.