A cautionary tale about the need to banish and put down spirits and demons after conjuring them . . .
Benvenuto Cellini, creator of ‘Perseus with the Head of the Medusa’ (see below), writes in his autobiography of how he became acquainted with a ‘curious’ Sicilian priest who knew Latin and Greek, and possessed knowledge of necromancy and evocation (one might well ask what business a priest had to know these occult arts!) Cellini confessed an enduring interest in necromancy and tells the priest about this. Well, the priest tells him, if you dare and your heart is stout, we shall go to the Colosseum and conjure the spirits. Cellini, who is nothing if not brave and boastful, jumps at the chance. He has long hoped to find someone or something to “reunite me with my Sicilian Angelica.”
They go to the Colosseum in the evening – it being thought auspicious to perform the ceremony in “a place where someone was killed in old times” – and the Colosseum, site of raw and often unspeakable cruelty and bloodshed, certainly fits the bill! Cellini has brought a comrade, Vincenzio Romoli, a friend; the priest is accompanied by a native from Pistoja. A protective circle is drawn, a fire lit, expensive ‘perfumes’, most likely incense, are burned. The priest begins his incantations. The Colosseum fills up with apparitions of devils and the spirits of the dead. ‘Ask them something,’ the priest, who can barely contain them, urges Cellini. Cellini inquires about his love, Angelica, but there’s no answer. We have to come back some other time, says the priest; and next time bring a little boy, unsullied, of pure virginity.
When the time has come, Cellini brings one of his shop lads, 12 years of age. He is also accompanied by his friends, Vincenzio Romoli and Agnolino Gaddi. They make preparations, draw the circle – the necromancer had “reconstructed with art more admirable and yet more wondrous ceremonies” – and then the priest places a pentacle in Cellini’s hand, and invites him to place the boy beneath it. Next he proceeds with his ‘awful invocations’ and they come: “multitudes of demons who are captains of their legions.” Cellini wants to ask about Angelica, and is told that ‘they’ said that in a month you will be where she is.
Now it is time to dismiss the ghosts – back to Hell – but there are so many more than intended. The necromancer does what he can, burning copious amounts of the pungent-smelling asafoetida, but has a hard time of it. The boy is terrified, hiding his head between his legs, and so are the others. The priest finally takes off his robe, picks up his books and, leaving the circle prematurely, they all hasten home. But on the way the company is followed by two demons, “gamboling in front of us, skipping now along the roofs and now upon the ground. The necromancer assured me that, often as he had entered magic circles, he had never met with such a serious affair as this.” Perhaps not surprisingly, “each one of us dreamed all that night of devils,” Cellini records . . .
“Do not call up that which you cannot put down.” – H. P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
Detail of Cellini’s ‘Perseus with the Head of the Medusa’ (finished 1545)
“Captain Clark welcomes you aboard . . .”
Fully revised and expanded from the original 2011 chapbook – 250+ pages, with 18 pages of illustrations (including photography from Graham Masterton, Baron Wolman, Brecht van Teeseling, and Ruby Ray, and original artwork by Billy Chainsaw, Emma Doeve, and Philip Willey - plus rare archival material) – and a Foreword by David Conway, author of Magic: An Occult Primer, a book that WSB often recommended.
Available NOW through Amazon, or direct from the publishers, Mandrake of Oxford :
The Visible College :
Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th October, 2104
@ The George & Pilgrim Hotel, Glastonbury
“Magicians give back to Academia over two days in mystical Glastonbury”
Mogg Morgan : The Pharaonic Shaytan – Daemons of Ancient Egypt
Geraldine Beskin : Dion Fortune & Aleister Crowley (with a surprise guest appearance from “the monstrous” Marie Stopes !)
Jake Stratton-Kent & Kim Huggens : Duelling Necromancers
Gordon White : An Archaeology of Dragons
Julian Vayne : Strange & Sacred Drugs
Paul Weston : Jung & Crowley – Seven Sermons and The Book of the Law
Mogg Morgan of Mandrake of Oxford and Emma Doeve of WhollyBooks doing their best to avoid pouring rain and stampeding sheep as they arrive at The George and Pilgrim Hotel to check in at the opening of The Visible College . . .
Some thoughts on Mogg Morgan’s The Pharaonic Shaytan – Daemons of Ancient Egypt :
Mogg, as the title of his talk suggested, would engage with Egypt’s darker side, the monstrous and daemonic beings which have ever been part of its glittering pantheon. To mark out a temenos, an enclosure, to ward off evil spirits, is no idle gesture – and, rather fittingly, he asked us all to close our eyes while he Opened with a familiar Banishing :
“Before me in the East, Nephthys / Behind me in the West, Isis / On my right hand in the South is Seth and on my left hand in the North is Horus / For above me shines the body of Nuit / And below me extends the ground of Geb / And in the centre abideth the Great Hidden God . . .”
It is not perhaps well known that many Egyptians today who are interested in their country’s occult history still perform some of the most ancient rituals that can be traced by the trained eye to where they have been recorded on the tombs and temple walls. For Egyptian magic is far from being a thing of the past. Practising magicians in Egypt today are mostly Muslim (but not the kind we have become sadly all-too-familiar with), or else Coptic or Sufi. By going there you can actually witness the survival of these magical techniques that have come down from ancient times . . .
Mogg showed a photo of his Egyptian friend, collaborator and fellow explorer, Ayman, holding up a statue of Seth (Shaytan.) It had been made as a gift and presented to him by the craftsmen, descendants of the original craftsmen of pharaonic times, still living and working in present-day Luxor (once ancient Thebes) – which is called the City of the Sceptre, a symbol alluding to the phallus.
Islamic magic, which is closer to ancient Khem and its mysteries than might at first be supposed, finds much of its inspiration in Islam’s sacred scripture, the Koran, which is considered a powerful book full of magic. To the Egyptian, then as well as now, ‘stuff’ you find in the earth (unless your intentions are nefarious) is magical – your treasure hunt may well confirm Koranic prediction and produce something sacred.
There exists near the Valley of the Kings a holy mountain. Mogg suggested that the man who discovered the texts that we now know as the Greek Magical Papyri, came from there, and that the manuscript should really be called the “Egyptian Magical Papyri” as most of the spells, invocations and rituals are Egyptian in origin. The holy mountain has many tombs in its stony body, where people, in touch with the distant Ancestors of the land, choose to live – or if not actually IN an empty tomb, then on top of one. (Imagine having a pharaonic tomb in your cellar !) There seems to be a greater continuity still with the Land of the Dead and the Spirits of the Ancestors than we here can even imagine . . .*
Since the recent troubles in Egypt, the tourists are staying away – parts of the Valley of the Kings have become deserted and returned to its former, more primitive state, “edgy – like the Wild West.” There was a great chance you might be on your own, in a world restored to its former timelessness. The nights in particular were made more eerie with the absence of lamps (all the light-bulbs having been stolen, apparently !) and the stony valley dangerous, especially if the djinn or evil spirits were wandering abroad . . .
Egypt has very probably been the magician’s oldest and most enduring love-affair, because it has been ever-evolving and still is now, revealing new knowledge and opening fresh perspectives – especially for those who are prepared to not only look to the Past, but see its survival into the Present.
- For more on Mogg’s “Khemetic research in Luxor” we thoroughly recommend his blog, Mandrake Egypt : http://mandoxegypt.wordpress.com/
[ *The subject of Necromancy, its absence from today’s Western Magical Tradition, and the possible beginnings of a resurgence, would be the subject of the Talk by Kim Huggens and Jake Stratton-Kent at the end of the day. More on this to be added soon. ]
Some thoughts on Geraldine Beskin’s Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, and Marie Stopes :
Next up – and needing no introduction, surely (but here goes anyway !) – was the fabulous Geraldine Beskin, Grand Dame of The Atlantis Bookshop, magic(k)’s very own home of history & mystery nestling in London’s literary district of Bloomsbury, just next to the British Museum. Well known as a Speaker with lively and informative presentations on such key figures as Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, the Women of the Golden Dawn, and Manly P Hall, Geraldine was billed as going to give a Talk on Crowley and Dion Fortune – which indeed she did, but with the unexpected addition of “the monstrous Marie Stopes“ !
Announcing the subject of her Talk as being Crowley, Fortune, and indeed Stopes, as pioneering sexologists – then correcting herself with the more emphatic “FUCKologists” ( ! ) – Geraldine gave us a rollicking, whistle-stop, compare-and-contrast about the background and origins of young Edward Alexander and Violet Mary (well-to-do, comfortable, but with eccentric, repressive, alternative spiritualities looming large, shaping the outlook of both) before then both discovering their magico-mystical Path in life and reinventing themselves . . . and with particular attention to the various partners that had served as catalyst collaborator or muse (in Crowley’s case, hordes of lovers of either sex, but with particular attention to his “first gay love” while a student at Cambridge, the female impersonator Pollitt, and then Scarlet Women, such as first wife Rose Kelly and “Dead Soul” Leah Hirsig ; with Fortune, her older male mentors, such as Dr. Moriarty – the model for her “Dr. Taverner” character, and whom Geraldine pictured as looking like the actor, Roy Marsden – and husband, Dr. Penry-Evans, her “Merl” – short for “Merlin”.)
By contrast with these two mystics, who wanted to liberate sexuality, re-equilibrate the dynamics of relations between the sexes, and saw sex as both a magic(k)al power and a sacrament, Marie Stopes – who we were told two or three times was “a monster” who “didn’t have a spiritual bone in her body . . . even if she did have a Theosophist lesbian lover” – wasn’t so much motivated to write her best-selling, controversial, and doubtless world-changing books on birth control out of a desire to throw off the shackles of oppression, or any kind of liberal (yet alone libertarian) impulse, but rather out of a powerful eugenic conviction that the “rickety consumptive poor” should be discouraged from their careless and excessive breeding in no uncertain terms, and that “we” (White Imperial British, etc.) should rather promote the controlled breeding of “fine and healthy, vigorous young men to go off to War” !
Another couple of points about this strange ménage à trois (at least we think so . . .) : Crowley is such a bullish, powerful, overwhelmingly male figure, and with the “solar phallic” dispensation of his “sex-magick” to boot, that maybe Fortune didn’t seem like a strong enough counterweight ? For all her “inner planes contacts” and visionary powers, the exposition of Dreaming True gifted to us in her beautiful, truly magical, novels . . . DF can definitely seem a bit weak – squeamish, even – when it comes to the actual nitty-gritty of real sex . . . Perhaps Geraldine wanted a female figure she felt was as Promethean as Crowley, to put in the balance, so to speak ? And Marie Stopes – for all that she was “monstrous” (or perhaps even because she was) – with her academic brilliance, bloodymindedness, bull-in-a-china-shop force of personality (at one point we were encouraged to imagine “Lucinda Lambton . . . with the brain of Mary Beard . . . and the sheer force of Brian Blessed” !), was more of a match. There’s also a good overlap with their dates (AC 12th October 1875 – 1st December 1947 ; MS 15th October 1880 – 2nd October 1958), their Libra nature, open expression of their homosexual feelings, emphasis on scientific method and approach, but at the same time a practically “messianic” sense of mission or calling.
Lastly, we feel that an important point that was perhaps implicit rather than explicitly stated was that however much the Occult Community feels it owes a debt to the likes of Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune, and that their influence may well have spread via various sub- and counter-cultures to permeate the culture-at-large, we ALL owe a tremendous debt to the pioneering efforts of Marie Stopes : even if the shape that legacy has taken – the many different ways people may have benefited from it – might be quite at odds with some of the beliefs or intentions of Marie Stopes herself . . .
. . . A point that we might meditate upon where all manner of ancestors, guides, gurus and teachers are concerned.
Details of Talks by Geraldine Beskin can be found on The Atlantis Bookshop website : http://www.theatlantisbookshopevents.com/page7.htm
Our genial host and Gentleman of Jupiter Sef Salem introducing everybody’s favourite duelling necromancers . . .
Some thoughts on Kim Huggens, Jake Stratton-Kent, and The Dead :
Jake Stratton-Kent has stressed previously that he thinks that, historically, there has been much confusion about necromancy and nigromancy. Nigromancy, put simply, derives from the Latin niger, meaning “black” (as every student of alchemy knows from the term nigredo), implying “black” magic, or the “black” arts – possibly even originating in “the Black Land” of Ancient Egypt, or Khem (hence, perhaps, alchemy from al-Khem – “out of Egypt” ?) Necromancy, on the other hand, derives from a combination of the Greek nekros, meaning “dead”, and manteia, relating to divination.
If you Google “NECROMANCY” a host of webpages will tell you about the practice of this form of divination, and, almost invariably, it is placed in a context of past religious practice, in a world generally considered to be afflicted by ignorance and superstition, backward-looking and primitive. Theologians in the (especially Catholic) Church not surprisingly hold necromancy to be due to the agency of evil spirits (“the Work of the Devil” !) When occasions of contact with the dead are “real” (as in, not attributable to fraud, mental illness, or overactive imagination), they are definitely seen as demoniacal intervention.
In this part of the world, whether it’s a true account or not, necromancy is usually reported in a climate of fear, ignorance, and repugnance. Yet most, if not all, of the major religions have always evoked the dead and sought communication with them. You only have to think of prayers for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints !
Of course our idea of necromancy in today’s world has predictably been coloured by horror stories and films, wherein it has become the prerogative of the “private detective” style lone practitioner, typically also a magician, who goes to great lengths to contact spirits and exorcise ghosts, or to practice divination by means of The Dead. From the Other Side, the astral corpse must have a very real need or desire to re-join – for however short a time – the land of the living. Very often, it doesn’t end well ; reviving the dead is a dangerous business (but profitable for Hollywood !)
In a lively and informative two-handed exchange, Kim Huggens and Jake Stratton-Kent, each in turn, drew attention to the fact that in Western Magic, the art of necromancy has been largely absent – “the Dead are missing.” Although contemporary practitioners will happily play at conjuring demons – “meddling with the Goetia” – they still seem wary or even squeamish about contacting or channelling spirits ? This has been going on for “about the last 150 years” apparently . . .
It was pointed out that in the Greek Magical Papyri, that great incomparable compendium of magical rites, spells and invocations (“The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Western Magical Tradition”), the spirits of the dead are invoked and conjured.
A Prayer to Helios, at Sunset :
Hear, blessed one, I call you who rule heav’n
And earth and Chaos and Hades, where dwell
Daimons of men who once gazed on the light.
. . .
If you go to the depths of earth and reach
The regions of the dead, this daimon send
To move at midnight hours perforce at your
Commands . . .
But what of one’s own dead, one’s own ancestors, the ones closer to home? There seems no longer to be a sense of continuity between the realm of the living and the dead. A link seems to be broken. A bridge that was once here, can no longer be crossed. Or can it ?
Kim Huggens was at pains to point out that necromancy was by no means all about Goth shlock horror, but that even calling on the Saints, speaking to the spirits of your ancestors, or tending to the grave of a dead loved one, are all forms of necromancy . . .
Performing rituals to ease the passage from life to death, and back – the dead often want to taste some of the pleasures they once knew in life ! – and meaningful exchanges with departed ones, are exercises too many of today’s magicians find difficult to integrate in their practice, but there is an increasing demand – even need – for such expression : perhaps because of the desire for reassurance about continuity, and one’s place in the “great chain of being” ?
Cooking up Rune Soup with the help of some archeological dragons, Gordon White . . .
Some thoughts on Gordon White’s An Archeology of Dragons :
Writer, media whizz, and blogger extraordinaire, Gordon White is probably best known to most for his thought-provoking website, Rune Soup. In his own words:
“Rune Soup is about magic.
“Clearly that’s something of a broad church – perhaps the broadest – so if we were to take it down a level we could say Rune Soup is about practical sorcery, entheogens, synchronicities, ‘alternative’ history, career guidance, graphic novels, the future of media, probability, divination. There’s even a post about Niki Minaj here somewhere . . .
“The magic stuff you can work out from the blog. As for the rest: I work in media and live in London which is exactly seven different kinds of awesome.”
There is also the accompanying series of excellent interviews, Find the Others, in which Gordon talks to a number of leading contemporary author-occultist-practitioners, including Peter J. Carroll, Phil Hine, Mogg Morgan, Peter & Alkistis from Scarlet Imprint, Jake Stratton-Kent, Julian Vayne & Nicki Wyrd, and Paul Weston, all of which can be found either through his website or YouTube, and are thoroughly recommended.
Gordon made a whistle-stop visit to The Visible College before flying off to Australia, to give a talk to us on An Archeology of Dragons. We weren’t at all sure what to expect, but what we got was a lively and entertaining discussion using the dragon as a kind of memetic guide, or thread to follow through the maze of history and myth. We were given an intriguing overview of the different ideas about dragons that have emerged at different times in human history in different cultures – what they may have stood for, why they probably changed and receded, and what that might tell us about our own development . . .
From serpents guarding hidden treasure and Trees of Knowledge, to embodiments of telluric currents and elemental forces – from symbols of Kingship and the Right to Rule, becoming crests and heraldic emblems – to the perhaps inevitable stigmatisation and literal demonization that saw them become as monsters, mighty worms, avatars of the devil – or, alternatively, the Reptile lurking at the base of the brain, or maybe the Kundalini Serpent coiled at the bottom of our spines – even David Icke’s Conspiracy Theories about the Seven Foot Reptile Aliens behind the Illuminati and all the Royal Families – or as envoys from Magonia and precursors of the UFO experience . . . All of which was handsomely illustrated with a well-paced Power Point Presentation of a wide range of artwork, maps, and photographs.
Raunchy, rip-roaring, rollicking – with “Aha!” moments and laughs aplenty – but also, we think, something for everybody . . . much of which will have no doubt continued to surface long after the talk, such was the information-rich and potentially mind-expanding nature of the rune soup that Gordon White cooked up for us. Feed your head indeed.
For more from Gordon White, check out his blog at : http://runesoup.com/
Julian Vayne, On Drugs. (Speaking about them, that is. Sacred, serious, and stirring stuff . . .)
Some thoughts on Julian Vayne’s Strange & Sacred Drugs :
Rather than the somewhat soporific atmosphere one might expect after Sunday lunchtime, there was quite a buzz of expectancy about the next session. Very few subjects provoke emotions, divide opinion, or cover so much widely divergent ground as that of drugs. Stakes were perhaps raised by the repeated notice that this would be the one session of the weekend that would NOT be filmed or recorded – partly because, as both Julian and Sef pointed out, the talk would involve some discussion of certain activities that are at present illegal in this country, and in the hope that because of this, the off-the-record nature of the session might encourage attendees to be more open when it came to Q & A, and perhaps even share their experiences . . .
Julian Vayne got underway by asking “What is a drug?” and then proceeded to recapitulate an outline history of mankind’s involvement with substance-induced altered states and their seeming ubiquity, one way or another, in both the recreational activities and religio-magical practices of most cultures that we are aware of. Indeed, at one point it was pointed out that “drugs” could even be thought of as a very specialised Food Group – and as well as references to mentions of Soma in the Hindu Vedas, or accounts of cactus and mushroom use in the Americas, or the ‘flying ointments’ of the European witches, we were also entertained with accounts of drug-taking behaviour in the animal world: from elephants deliberately seeking out fermented fruit so that they can “get hammered and run riot through villages”, to a story about lemurs rubbing themselves with poisonous centipedes to get high off their venom that sounded like something to give even William Burroughs nightmares . . .
Most of this of course would probably have been fairly familiar to the majority of the attendees – and indeed anybody but readers of the Daily Mail, I would imagine – as was the offered definition along the lines that “A drug is any substance, naturally occurring or made in a lab, that affects the central nervous system.” This may well be some kind of starting point, but it is debatable how useful it is, other than perhaps to diffuse some of the strange glamour that has accrued around that most potent of four-letter-words, ‘drug’.
The main problem in trying to encompass the subject is that we are talking about at least three vast and widely divergent areas, as well as the occasional intersections and overlaps between them:
- The use of substances – usually naturally-occurring (although often requiring modification, either by combination and/or methods of preparation) – in historical, often even ancient historical, or surviving indigenous cultures, but either way not Here & Now in the modern, industrialized, consumerist West, or subject to its current laws;
- The domain of Big Pharma, and the self-appointed High Priesthood of Medical Practitioners, the only people in our culture currently authorised to say which substances people may put into their bodies, what for, and how;
- Everything else – which is either illegal, or probably soon will be.
Julian’s talk was certainly lively, informative, and entertaining. Having written Pharmakon: Drugs and the Imagination, Vayne clearly knows his stuff: he can rattle off the names of the ingredients of Ayahuasca, Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis with the best of them, explain how one ingredient is added because the other is orally inert without the presence of a monoxidase amine inhibitor – when talking about so-called ‘Designer Drug’ like Ecstasy, the proper name, 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, rolls off his tongue no problem – and as the references to hammered elephants and lemurs getting high show, he is more than capable of keeping a serious, information-dense, and fast-moving talk entertaining. Indeed, from the general amused laughter and generous show-of-hands when Julian occasionally asked “How many of you have . . . ?” and “Who knows about . . . ?” it was clear that he was speaking largely to, if not the converted, then at least the liberally tolerant and largely well-informed.
Of course, the real focus of the interest in drugs here was largely to do with entheogens, their traditional use as sacraments, and their possible use as tools of self-exploration. Like the priests who see wine as a sacred and vital part of the ritual of Communion, who would by no means equate their “use of drug-of-choice” with the potential horrors of alcoholism, I’m sure most of us at The Visible College weren’t thinking particularly in terms of addiction – but almost inevitably, you cannot expect to have a discussion about drugs without that particular spectre turning up, and needing to be addressed.
After the fast-paced and fairly light-of-tone first half, a question from the floor about the perils of addiction seemed to us to shift the mood somewhat . . .
Julian sought to effectively banish the demon of addiction and all its attendant grim realities by the almost apotropaic mention of ‘Rat Park’ – a study that was carried out in Canada in the late 1970s, wherein a bunch of lab-rats who had been deliberately addicted to morphine were then removed from their cramped, distress-inducing cages and put in a large, open environment, with plenty of food, toys to play with, and a selection of potential mates; it was found that “for the most part” once the rats were moved to their new environment, they declined the morphine-laced water in favour of ordinary drinking water, and exhibited little in the way of comparable signs of what might be termed “addict behaviour” (although the study did confirm that they showed “some minor withdrawal symptoms . . .”)
This was considered proof of the research team’s hypothesis that:
“. . . drugs do not cause addiction, and that the apparent addiction to opiate drugs commonly observed in laboratory rats exposed to it is attributable to their living conditions, and not to any addictive property of the drug itself . . .”
Now this may sound all very well and good on paper, but I would suggest that Rat Park – like most other animal behavioural studies – is a pretty crude tool from which to extrapolate human behaviour involving a whole complex of biological, psychological, sociological (and dare we say even spiritual?) issues.
To my way of thinking, this leads us down a similar blind-alley as most arguments along Nature/Nurture lines – in this case the options being either
“The cause of addiction lies in the drugs, and if only people were sensible enough not to meddle with them, there’d be no problem”
“The cause of addiction lies in the people and their problems (i.e. anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, social deprivation, etc.) and if it wasn’t drugs it would be shoplifting, sex, junk-food or bingo.”
Surely it makes more sense that the causes of addiction are a spectrum in which a combination of such factors are at work, perhaps somewhat along the lines of the model of endogenous and reactive depression?
Some, but not all, individuals with family histories of addiction may have a predisposition, as with many illnesses. It seems likely that the research identifying the gene transcription factor ΔFosB and its crucial function in the way that mechanisms of pleasure and reward are mediated in the human brain may go a long way to explaining this – as well as possibly being a contributing factor to the next category:
Some, but not all, individuals who take drugs to ‘self-medicate’ are more likely to become addicts, at least unless or until the underlying problem(s) they are seeking to ‘cope with’ can be meaningfully resolved.
Some, but not all, individuals who experiment with drugs will find something they just like too damn much and keep taking it beyond all reason, and have a real problem trying to stop – which is equally true of a whole range of risk-and-reward behaviours that most people can manage fairly well most of the time, but that some individuals will develop crippling compulsions over (sex, gambling, and food being the most obvious examples.)
And of course:
Some, but not all, individuals may actually be able to use certain substances carefully and judiciously, whether simply for pleasure, recreation, or spiritual exploration, with a consistent respect and restraint that avoids almost all of these concerns.
To the best of my knowledge, the rats in the aforementioned experiments did not know that they were taking morphine, or what it would do to them, and so could not meaningfully be said to have actively sought it out. If I hold you prisoner and give you nothing but water containing morphine, you have not chosen to take the drug, and therefore risk becoming addicted.
To the best of my knowledge, there does not exist among rats such a thing as peer pressure, nor an extensive and influential counter-culture of outsider transgression that might predispose certain rats towards thinking taking drugs was a cool or desirable thing to do, nor youth or criminal subcultures that might esteem antisocial or criminal behaviour as a rite of passage – all factors which can certainly play a significant part in a large amount of human (non-medical) drug-taking.
But of course, the fallacy here is that however much all mammals may have in common on certain essential levels, most human beings and their issues and needs are not quite as simple as those of lab-rats. And, finally, where the comparison of lab-rats with those suffering in the ghetto – or any other form of post-modern dysfunction – who might seek to self-medicate through drug use, or at least engage with drug-related crime to earn much needed money, or attempt to elevate their status, or fit in with some outsider peer group – breaks down completely is that we all know that no Kind Scientist in the Sky is going to lift all these unfortunates out of the ghetto or their otherwise unhappy lives and miraculously transport them to a groovier, more fun environment, with lots of opportunities for interesting activities, nice toys to play with, and appropriate potential mates.
The jury is still out on just how much of addiction is down to genetic factors, hereditary predisposition, and the like, however much the ΔFosB research mentioned above may be suggestive, but even though it might please us to think that intelligent people with enough to do with their lives need not fall prey to the perils of substance abuse or addiction, I think we all know that it just isn’t as simple as that.
It may well be true that a large number of people will turn away from addiction if they are just given the chance to do something better with their lives, it may well be true that there will always be a certain percentage who just “age out” – or no longer continue taking drugs once the underlying distress that prompted their usage in the first place is resolved [perhaps comparable to the medical patients who require long-term treatment with potentially addicting drugs for the management of pain from organic illness or injury, but once recovered are able to discontinue often powerful narcotics with little or no apparent difficulty or distress.]
But the wilful perversity of human nature being what it is, no doubt the tiresome and tragic roll-call of those who apparently “had it all” and yet still wasted years battling addiction, or chose to destroy themselves with substances of abuse, will continue to grow for some time yet.
Let us hope that efforts such as Julian Vayne’s, and the possible dialogues resulting from them, can, at the very least, begin the process of differentiation – and the elimination of both denial and disinformation – so that we can begin to take greater responsibility, both individually and collectively, for new ways forward. We certainly need them.
Julian Vayne contributes regularly to The Blog of Baphomet, subtitled “a magickal dialogue between nature and culture” : http://theblogofbaphomet.com/
. . . And rounding it All off – at least for now ! – Our Man In The Know : gnostic psychogeographer extraordinaire Paul Weston . . .
Some thoughts on Paul Weston’s Jung & Crowley – Seven Sermons and The Book of the Law :
Paul Weston reminded us – if we needed reminding – that there have been times in history that have been particularly significant and charged in terms of occult and spiritual meanings. “But then history,” as he told us, from early on had “felt like a mighty weird affair.” If only we could see history in its totality, “the rise and fall of empires, monarchs, and messiahs” – if only we could have access to, and see with, the eyes of the Time Spirit [ literal translation of the German “zeitgeist” ] – then “previously hidden or neglected historical tales” would be revealed, and a new perspective opened up.
To showcase these ideas, Weston transported us back to the start of last century and key events that occurred in the lives of two of the greatest personalities of the period: Aleister Crowley and Carl Gustav Jung. What could have connected these two men, who never actually met? Human beings touched by the same under-currents are not always afforded such opportunities in the ‘real world’ . . . One possible way of approaching this question meaningfully is put forward by Rudolf Steiner, whose system of anthroposophy proposes that “particular groups of people reincarnate together at various crucial historical moments.” (Cometh the hour, cometh the man? Or indeed woman?)
In their different fields of research, both Crowley and Jung had, quite naturally, been drawn to Gnosticism, a current which was experiencing a massive revival as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth. Gnosticism, in all its many-and-varied forms, had flourished during the first centuries of the Christian era, including both people who considered themselves Christian as well as Pagans. Its disciples believed that the material world was a prison and must be transcended for redemption’s sake. It has generated already latent dichotomies in the human psyche that are still with us today. Concurrent with Gnosticism we have Hermeticism, a rich ground for cross-fertilisation and exchange of esoteric and occult ideas that found a uniquely fertile climate in the city of Alexandria.
The enigmatic twentieth century has been an age full of horror and yet, right from the start, it also “unleashed an explosion of knowledge and energy.” Aleister Crowley was certainly riding on the latter. In 1904, in Cairo, he received “a holy scripture for a newly dawning epoch, the Aeon of Horus.” This was, of course, Liber AL vel Legis, or The Book of the Law. Its alternately explosive, visionary and prophetic material can still astound and trouble today, and the story of how all this came about was told fluently in Weston’s talk, as indeed it is in his book, Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.
Paul asked whether Crowley was alone in “his belief in the end of an entire epoch of civilisation in 1904, along with the return of ancient spiritual forces. Did anyone else of note likewise describe stirrings of what we could recognise as the Aeon of Horus?” (Or was this just the dawning of the Age of Aquarius by another name?)
During the First World War, between the summer of 1916 and February 1917, Jung, struggling with a “psychotic episode” received visions over three consecutive evenings which resembled Crowley’s Book of the Law experience:
“The Dead came back from Jerusalem, where they found not what they sought. They prayed me let them in and besought my word, and thus I began my teaching . . .”
Jung distilled what was manifested to him into a deceptively slim work called VII Sermones ad Mortuos, or Seven Sermons to the Dead [ which was first printed in a small edition by John M. Watkins, founder of the Watkins Bookshop, for Jung to distribute privately among carefully selected colleagues and friends. It was not actually reprinted and made available to the public until the year of his death, 1961. ]
Both men in their individual way received a strong intimation of the resurgence of a god-form known as Abraxas, and for comparison’s sake here is a snippet of the kind of thing they each received:
‘O all ye toads and cats rejoice! Ye slimy things,
Dance, dance to the Lord our God.’
‘He is the lord of toads and frogs, who live in
Water and come out unto the land, and who sing
Together at high noon and at midnight.’
As a coda to his talk about Crowley and Jung, Paul Weston told us a tale of his own encounter with Abraxas. It involved a recently disinterred medieval bishop, expelled because of undisclosed activity (most likely sodomy), who was found wearing a ring with an image of Abraxas. In 2002, Paul and his friend Andy Collins entered the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey to attempt to invoke Abraxas, choosing New Year’s Day in the hope that there wouldn’t be too many tourists around – and also hoping that the Company of Avalon would not be on to them for “doing a wrong ‘un” (as Paul characteristically put it!)
These are the words that he read aloud:
‘Abraxas is indefinable life itself, which is the mother of good and evil alike.’
‘He is the brightest light of day and the deepest night of madness.’
‘He is both the radiance and the dark shadow of man.’
‘Abraxas generates truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and
Darkness with the same word and in the same deed. Therefore
Abraxas is truly the terrible one.’
‘He is the monster of the underworld, the octopus with a thousand
Tentacles, he is the twisting of winged serpents and of madness.’
‘To fear him is wisdom.’
‘Not to resist him means liberation.’
Paul’s research and Psychic Questing uncovered the occult spirit-bodies of the gods that rule our world. The subject of his talk was outlining their presence and describing the process of how they were re-awakened – but as he said, it was only the tip of the iceberg. We would thoroughly recommend his book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus (from which most of the above quotes were drawn) for the fuller story.
For regular updates on Paul Weston‘s writings, researches, and appearances, see his blog : http://www.paulwestonglastonbury.com/isis-of-avalon-glastonbury-full-moon-vision/
We would just like to say Thank You to Sef Salem for organising a really successful session and inviting us to be a part of it, and to All the Speakers for making it such a high quality, thought-provoking and varied program. Here’s to the next one !
(6th April 1917 – 25th May 2011)
Typically, in The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky, when the author writes about his meeting with Leonora Carrington, whom he rightfully calls “A Surrealist Master,” he obfuscates the time that this takes place … There is confusion about chronology: but then, mere linear time does not really count for much in what he wants to communicate about his encounter with Leonora. It breaks the rules and conventions of time. There is, however, one significant factor: she is an older woman.
It is his friend and Zen Master, Ejo Takata, who suggests to him that he visits the artist:
“She is the being appropriate for you. Let her give you the inner woman who is so lacking in you.”
Jodorowsky’s grounds to respond are what matters here, even though he puts the words in his friend’s mouth, instead of his own. He reveals a painful truth about his life and consequently himself. The sins of the father were visited upon the seven-year-old child Alejandro in an appalling way: his mother was raped, by her jealous husband – after seeing her flirt with another man (or at least so he thought) – the rape making her pregnant, resulting in Alejandro. She has hated his father ever since, and cannot love the son she bears. The meaning of the age difference between Carrington and the much younger Alejandro begins to disclose itself. Feeling deprived of motherly tenderness, “the archetype of the cosmic father has dominated his actions.”
The little that Jodorowsky knows about Carrington has come from reading André Breton’s Anthologie de l’humour noir. She is richly eccentric and likes to break moral rules and codes, actively rebelling against her wealthy upper class family background (she is the daughter of a Lancashire textile magnate and his Irish Catholic wife.)
Witness the almost legendary story (and there are others!) of her covering her feet with mustard during a dinner in a prestigious restaurant, while keeping up a conversation. She has been the mistress of Max Ernst, who was 26 years her senior. After he was imprisoned in Spain by the Franco regime, she suffered severe psychosis, and afterwards wrote an account of it (on the instigation of the anthropologist and writer, Pierre Mabille.) It is known as ‘Down Below.’
The Leonora Carrington Jodorowsky writes about is mostly a figure of his own imagination. He gives “the inner woman so lacking in himself” a voice through the woman he meets, who becomes a mouthpiece for his own inner female self, the ‘inner woman’ who was there all along.
She gives him her blood to drink, obtained from a wound on her calf after removing a scab. Granted, it is not done the ‘vampire way’ – she mixes a teaspoon of it through his tea, and obtains a lock of his hair and some of his finger nail clippings, so he will return. She then gives him the key to her house and he departs as she sends him off with another of her sorcerer’s statements:
“I am nine doors. I shall open the one on which you knock.”
Later that night, unable to sleep, he penetrates her dwelling and finds her seated on a wooden throne, whose back is carved with the bust of an angel, “naked except for a Jewish prayer shawl.” She stares, fixed of gaze, unblinking, but continues reciting – “the words poured out of her mouth like an endless river of invisible insects.” And here comes the clinch:
“She had left the world of the rational … there was little left of any individuality in her. She seemed possessed simultaneously by all women who had ever existed.”
This is Jodorowsky’s fantasy speaking – but at least the words he attributes to her have an authentic invocatory power :
“I, the eye that sees nine different worlds and tells the tale of each.
I, Anuba who saw the guts of the pharaoh, embalmer, outcast.
I, the lion goddess who ate the ancestors and churned them to gold in her belly.
I, the lunatic and fool, meat for worse fools than I.
I, the bitch of Sirius, landed here from the terrible hyperbole to howl at the moon.
I, the bamboo in the hand of Huang Po.
I, the queen bee in the entrails of Samson’s dead lion.
I, the tears of the archangel that melted it again.
I, the solitary joke made by the snow queen in higher mathematics.
I, the gypsy who brought the first greasy tarot from Venus.
I, the tree of wisdom whose thirteen branches lead eternally back again.
I, the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt despise no being.”
We will never know how much is true of what is written about Carrington in Jodorowsky’s vivid account. It may well be very little, and mostly a projection, of the ‘anima’ variety.
Leonora Carrington once said she “didn’t have time to be anybody’s Muse.”
She was “too busy learning to be an artist.”
Nevertheless, she did continue to inspire other artists, such as Jodorowsky, unwittingly acting in a muse-like fashion to their creativity (and, quite possibly, psychological issues.)
[1.] Leonora Carrington, portrait by Alejandro Jodorowsky
[2.] Painting by Leonora Carrington, The Giantess, also known as The Guardian of the Egg (c.1947)
[3.] Sculpture by Leonora Carrington, Nigromante (2008)
[4.] Painting by Leonora Carrington, The Chair, Daghda Tuatha dé Danaan (1955)
[5.] Alejandro Jodorowsky production, Penelope (1957), costumes & design by Leonora Carrington
The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi on the slope of Mount Parnassus in Central Greece is probably the best known example from the Classical World of a centre of collective, communal worship based around – and seeking confirmation, expression, and inspiration in and from – the personal ecstasies of possession and prophecy.
What is probably less well-known than the splendour that was Delphi – described only recently by Classicist Dr. Michael Scott as being like a combination of Disneyland, the Vatican, and the Olympics, when he was struggling to convey the sheer enormity of the community that had sprung up around the shrine – is the story of how the area was chosen in the first place . . .
A number of stories had grown up to account for the origin of the location’s significance, one being that when the great god Zeus wanted to determine the exact centre of his “Grandmother Earth” (=Gaea), he sent an eagle from the furthest points East and West, and where their flight-paths crossed over Delphi, the omphalos or navel was found.
Another version has it that the site was guarded by a giant dragon or serpent, the chthonian Python, who was then defeated by the Olympian god, Apollo. Although Apollo set up his own shrine in place of the former cult-centre of Gaea, the priestesses of his oracle would become known as “Pythia” from the Greek word πύθειν or pythein, meaning “to rot” – a reference to the fumes rising up from Python’s rotting corpse, said to be the source of the legendary vapours that inspired the prophetic utterances.
A more down-to-earth explanation is that a goatherd was tending his flock on the upper slopes of Mount Parnassus, and noticed that they began to bleat and move strangely when they got near a certain chasm in the rock: investigating, he bent over the crack himself and soon discovered sweet-smelling, intoxicating fumes.
When they began to dig in Delphi – Gaea’s navel – it had been buried hundreds of years and a village built on top of it. Excavations began to reveal forgotten treasures.
The famous Pythia’s often ambiguous oracular pronouncements were produced from a trance which we now know was the result of the sweet-smelling gas ethylene in the naturally occurring vapours issuing from a fissure in the earth that ran under the whole site. The eventual decline of the oracle may in fact not have been solely the result of the rise of Christianity but ironically due to seismic shifts cutting off the supply of the gas . . .
[ . . . to be continued . . . ]
Illustration: Zos dancing with a Kia bird, by Austin Osman Spare (1904)
Spare chose the name ‘Kia’ as the best possible expression for something which is essentially unknown, a concealed mystery. Origins – it has been suggested – may well be Kabbalistic: ‘Chiah’ (> Kia), in Hebrew, means an “illimitable, indefinable idea.” In the Kabbalistic World there’s a word indicating ‘Atziloth’ – incomprehensible God. This is only the tip of the iceberg though. Spare would differentiate the Kia within the context he happened to be using. In The Focus of Life for instance, or The Book of Satyrs, Kia has a more reptilian connotation, and of course Kia is also used in compound form, such as ‘Zos-Kia’ (for another, see below.)
Continuing to muse on Spare’s inspired and inspiring borrowings, references, and transformations – with particular attention at the moment to all-things-Egyptian – and finding that the Two Grimoires [Starfire, 2011] richly rewards a closer reading (and that goes for the images as much as the excellent accompanying essays by Messrs Wallace & Pochin!)
Prompted by a recent discussion of the Kia-bird and the pre-dynastic vulture goddess, Nekhbet, I found myself reconsidering this image from The Arcana of AOS & The Consciousness of Kiā-Rā.
Nekhbet, a tutelary deity of Upper Egypt – referred to in the Book of the Dead as “Father of Fathers, Mother of Mothers, who hath existed from the Beginning, and is Creatrix of this World” – was often depicted hovering, wings spread, over the pharaoh, frequently holding the shen ring symbol in her claws, representing eternal protection. Her shrine at Nekheb was one of the oldest oracles in Egypt, and her priestesses – known as muu, meaning “mothers” – wore robes of vulture feathers.
Is it too much of a leap to see the shrouded figure in the accompanying picture as analogous to the initiate – submerged in the “sleep” of la petit mort/mystical trance/Death Posture, going down into Amenta as the mummiform Osiris – being watched over by the Kia-bird, an avatar of the goddess?
Hermopolis Magna (Khmun in Ancient Egyptian), the once opulent city sacred to Thoth, now lies mostly in ruins. Still, some traces remain and one of the most impressive is the tomb of Petosiris, high priest of Thoth – Hermes to the Greeks – who lived in the 2nd half of the 4th century BCE.
He was also a Magician, because it was not enough to have wisdom, good intentions and the full knowledge of religious observance. There was no real separation between religion and magic, anyway. Petosiris would also have been an initiate to the mysteries.
On the walls inside the tomb are paintings which combine ancient Egyptian and Roman deities of the time. There are fair-haired Roman-nosed figures in ‘Pharaonic’ poses; there are curly-haired angels. There’s a zodiac on the ceiling and a bearded Janus figure. In a curious amalgam of Egyptian and Graeco-Roman symbols, the owner of the tomb is featured standing on a turtle and holding aloft a snake and a fish. It marks a time of transition – it is the time of the Greek Magical Papyri!