Marjorie Elizabeth Cameron Parsons Kimmel
(23rd April, 1922 – 24th June, 1995)
better known simply as
‘We are Stars and herald alien laws outside the Solar Wheel invading natural systems of the Earth.’
‘Mockery is the punishment of of the Gods. What fiendish laughter.’
‘Mine eyes are terrible and strange but thou knowest me.’
‘We dance a geometry of wizardry and wind the threads about our prey.’
‘We traveled Stellar webs to darker Worlds within the Lunar mirrors of Suicide.’
‘Death has been thy lover. Is there else to fear?’
‘Up the swirling scarf of smoke rise our invocations.’
‘In this hour I decide between nothingness and creation.’
‘And the hag with lizard eyes embraces shadows . . .’
Prior to the recent Cameron: Songs For The Witch Woman exhibition at MOCA Pacific Design Center (October 11, 2014–January 18, 2015), the largest survey of Marjorie Cameron’s artwork was The Pearl of Reprisal, a retrospective at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in 1989. The exhibition spanned thirty years, from the notorious Untitled “Peyote Vision” of 1955 to later pen-and-ink drawings that lent insight to the artist’s psychic state at the time.
Before the opening reception, Hedy Sontag introduced a program titled An Evening With Cameron: The Pearl of Reprisal. Sontag screened two films that feature Cameron: Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) and Curtis Harrington’s lyrical documentary The Wormwood Star (1955). After the screening, Cameron emerged barefoot to give a dramatic reading of her poetry by candlelight.
This rare footage, courtesy of the Cameron Parsons Foundation, has been made available by MOCA on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKHALUlObgQ
Curtis Harrington’s The Wormwood Star (from which all the quotations above were drawn) can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlmQxOw__yk
Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron by Spencer Kansa is still available in a revised & enlarged edition from Mandrake of Oxford: http://mandrake.uk.net/wormwood-star/
I met a dreamer from the land of Albion and this was what he told me:
“I saw a shaven-headed, robed priest standing over a shallow, wide bowl of some lustrous beaten metal, spread low in front of him, filled with water, glinting by torchlight. He spread his hands, making fulsome incantations as he passed them back-and-forth across the brazen vessel – his voice likewise, as the Words of Power ascended and descended the scale from sonorous to guttural and back again. Somehow, with an almost imperceptible turn of the wrist he managed to prick the thumb of his left hand and, as he did so, squeezed out thick, heavy drops of dark blood that he scattered across the surface of the water. At the same time – and with his other hand, the right – he drizzled a thin stream of green-golden oil1 from a delicate alabaster vessel that he had produced from deep within the folds of his robe . . .
“The two fluids overlap, intersect and collide as they trace strange diagrams across the surface of the water, and then sink slowly below. In his attempts to read them, he pictures to himself with some other sense-that-is-not-sight the veins and arteries coursing through the body of The Great Dragon. In doing so, he knows that he has scried the Life Lines of the Land, and also how they must be marked and honoured. The stones will be laid in such formation as to honour the waxing and waning of the Great Moon Mother – marker of the mysteries of woman’s cycles of fertility, also echoing the horns of the cattle2 sacred to Her – as we do when we raise our arms in salute of these Powers . . .”
Then the Dream was gone, buried with the Rising of the Sun.
- At this time, olive oil would have been presumably a rare and precious commodity – having to come all the way from the Mediterranean – thereby making its sacrifice all the more valuable (along with the priest’s own blood) in the hope of receiving the gift of Vision by exchange.
- A species of wild cattle called aurochs roamed Britain more than 7,500 years ago. Fully grown, they stood 6ft at the shoulder and became extinct in the UK around 4,000 years ago.
7th September 2015 – Breaking News:
“Stone monoliths found buried near Stonehenge could have been part of the largest Neolithic monument built in Britain, archaeologists believe.
“The 4,500-year-old stones, some measuring 15ft (4.5m) in length, were discovered under 3ft of earth at Durrington Walls ‘superhenge’.
“The monument was on ‘an extraordinary scale’ and unique, researchers said.”
Curiously, whereas most of the well-known monolithic sites (such as Avebury, Callanish, and Stonehenge) are clearly arranged in circles, it would appear that, before being deliberately toppled and buried, the stones at this newly-discovered site were arranged in a crescent . . .
For the full story, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-34156673
REVIEW : ‘The Black Alchemist’ by Andrew Collins (Revised 2015 Edition.)
“The Black Alchemist is a real account of terrifying true events. The nightmare begins when Collins and his friend Bernard G. visit a secluded churchyard on the Sussex Downs of southern England as part of a psychic quest . . . they uncover a stone spearhead, inscribed with magical symbols. Through further investigation they discover it has been concealed as part of a dark occult ritual by a character they dub the Black Alchemist. Collins and Bernard are then thrust into a series of horrifying confrontations as this sinister figure attempts to put a stop to their unwanted interference.
“Then, in the aftermath of Britain’s first hurricane in nearly 300 years, the Black Alchemist initiates the next phase of his great work—the creation of an antichrist, a second Adam, taking the form of an unholy child of unspeakable power. Even though Bernard now wants out of this dangerous affair, Collins convinces him it is something they cannot ignore, setting up a final psychic confrontation on the Sussex Downs.”
- From the back cover of The Black Alchemist (Revised Edition 2015, ABC Books)
Ah, The Black Alchemist – psychic quester Andrew Collins’ self-published account of occult goings-on in South East England in the mid-80s, “a real account of terrifying true events” that clearly caught the imagination of the moment, going on to be a runaway success when the author self-published it in 1988.
Now comes this new edition, in part catching the wave of the anniversary, but also as tribute to the man at the heart of it, the author’s dear friend, psychic Bernard G, who has now passed away. Although Collins is undoubtedly the author, in many ways the book is the story of his friend as much as it is his own – as he writes on his website :
“Bernard features in my books as a psychic of unequalled ability, picking up on everything from the nefarious activities of the Black Alchemist to the search for the Egyptian Hall of Records . . . He was what I referred to as a direct information psychic – someone who has the ability to pick up information containing names, dates and places on a regular basis. I had worked with a few such people before, but the accuracy of Bernard’s ability intrigued me from the outset. What is more, Bernard and I shared not only similar interests, but also a passion to uncover the mysteries of the past. We also liked a drink, and a smoke. After meeting at the church, or on the green in front of it, we would always retire over the road to The Griffin pub, where over a pint or two we would discuss our latest research and talk about his latest dreams or visions.”
Photo : Lullington Church, where the unexpected saga begins . . .
Whilst psychic questing in an East Sussex churchyard in 1985 on the trail of the fabled STAVE OF NIZAR – allegedly an ancient Egyptian artefact brought to England at the time of the Crusades – Andrew Collins and Bernard G instead uncover a stone spearhead covered with magical symbols. Bernard senses that “black magic” has gone on, which literally sickens his stomach. No Egyptian relic is found, but this unexpected discovery sets them off on an investigation which, as the blurb on the back of the book says, “thrusts our two questers into a series of horrifying confrontations as this sinister figure attempts to put a stop to their unwanted interference.” It is as if the exotic nature of their quest brings into their lives an exotic presence all of its own, one they had not bargained for.
Photo : slate ‘Fixing Marker’ with one of The Black Alchemist’s ‘corrected’ monads
The villain-of-the-piece – quickly dubbed “The Black Alchemist” – never really becomes tangible. We never learn his name, we never see his face; he remains a tantalisingly shadowy figure. Information about him is scant, sporadic. A house he may have lived in swims into view in one of Bernard’s visions (or is it a dream? Sometimes the distinction is unclear) – it’s “somewhere on the South coast” (Eastbourne is a possibility) – it’s a bleak cold place, squalid and uncared for as an abandoned squat, serving only as a bolthole and laboratory, a place to work in in private.
The account moves up a gear during the infamous hurricane that struck the South East of England in October 1987. The Black Alchemist now has a female assistant (the “Black Sorceress of Arundel” no less), a priestess or witch with affiliations to the goddess Hekate, apparently. The story opens out and we are introduced, however briefly, to a cast of characters who are all marked by its effects in related ways: during the storm many have strange and troubling dreams and visions about the goddess Kali, or about she-wolves, animals associated with Hekate. With the help of his associates, The Black Alchemist somehow taps into the dark, destructive energies released in the hurricane. He is conducting his operations outside, exerting his will over the environment, working a perversion of the principle of microcosm and macrocosm.
It seems to match the magical currency that also forms a rich part of the story: we hear of Zosimos of Panopolis, gnostic and alchemist, who wrote the oldest known books on the subject, famed Elizabethan magus Dr John Dee and his monad, which the Black Alchemist – Collins writes – is tinkering with, even daring to assert (via psychic contact with poor Bernard) that “John got it wrong” – and the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri, all three fundamentals of the Western Magical Tradition. And this is where it starts to become apparent that our two psychic questers are somewhat in over their heads. It probably doesn’t matter to most readers; it clearly hasn’t hampered the success of the book.
Photo : the Monas Hieroglyphica of Dr. John Dee
The unholy connection Bernard feels with the Black Alchemist may best be illustrated by the rather slapdash way he and Andy consider some potentially valuable communications received by psychic means: Zosimos is heard of as “Zozzimozz” – Zosimos had a sister, THEOSEBEIA, although Bernard incorrectly hears “Theosopia.” Impressive for information received psychically, you might say, but when does a ‘near-miss’ become simply a miss? And how far does it matter if historical figures are completely – and negatively – re-interpreted?
In reality, Theosebeia had lost her husband and feared she would spend the rest of her life alone – but Bernard tells Andy this “Theosopia” was of the Dark Side: she symbolised Zosimos’ Shadow.
The real Theosebeia consulted one PAPHNOUTIA, a priestess of Hekate, who was truly skilled in the Occult Arts. Bernard tells Andy she is called “Paphotia, Winder of Snakes”, a crone, like an old woman – a “foul virgin – a sort of opposite to the Virgin Mary” who Theosebeia becomes possessed by, he tells him. To top it all, Bernard has a “sickening nightmare” – a vision of chthonian horror that is positively Lovecraftian – wherein he meets a woman at the mouth of a cave, once again surrounded by eel-like black snakes, whose face he never sees (she’s wearing a black cowled robe), and who is pregnant:
“…she slowly slid her hands over a swollen belly to emphasise that she was pregnant. ‘Soon he comes,’ she rasped with a self-gratifying sense of pleasure.”
This vision of hag-like horror is, Bernard tells Andy, Maria the Jewess.
In fact Maria the Jewess (Latin: Maria Prophetissima) – who appears in the writings of Zosimos, and lived between the first and third centuries AD – was a woman credited with the invention of several kinds of chemical apparatus and has been called “the first true alchemist of the Western world” [Raphael Patai, ‘The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source Book.’ Princeton University Press, 1995.] She would have visions as a result of her alchemic processes – the kind of internal alchemy that is perhaps closer to that in the Ayurvedic Medicine of India, Bön-po Shamanism of Tibet, and Taoism in China.
For Bernard – and, by extension, Andy – to interpret this pioneering Jewish female alchemist in this clearly pejorative way is somewhat startling, to say the least.
Despite his apparent gifts (which were not inconsiderable, if Andrew Collins’ account is to be taken at all at face value), Bernard does not come across as someone who has been particularly transformed by his experiences, nor even as someone who wants to be) – and he certainly does not strike us as a candidate for initiation. We would offer the suggestion that in another time, another place, he might have had the makings of a shaman – with all that would have entailed, including the ‘shamanic crisis’ during which the initiate would have to suffer a process of death, transformation and rebirth. On some intuitive level Bernard might have sensed this, and it is part of the reluctance he feels at times. It has no place in his ordinary human life. The startling ease with which he receives his psychic information – as well as the mental and at times even physical discomfort it causes him – are continually undercut by the emphasis that he is just a regular guy, a married man with a family and “a proper job” whose perception of all-things-occult is surprisingly pedestrian and pejorative.
There is nothing particularly structured about the information Bernard receives during his ‘remote viewing’ episodes. Still, some of his dreams and visions are terrifying to him, and clearly leave ill effects. You wonder if the sense of dread that threatens to overwhelm him – and at one time almost does, when he is in danger of possession, but for some quick thinking and liberal use of Holy Water on the part of Collins – really stems from the Black Alchemist or Bernard’s own psyche (or even the interaction of the two.) His communications, as the story continues, are more and more filtered through his own increasingly alarmed mind. Rituals are automatically construed as “black magic” before we have any sense as to who performed them or why – a stance that is not once countered or corrected by Collins. Despite apparently having esoterically-informed friends and colleagues to call on like Caroline Wise, Paul Weston, David Rankine, Terence DuQuesne and Chesca Potter – and a passing reference to his own “ritual magic days” – apart from the odd Qabalistic protection visualisation, Collins comes across as surprisingly obtuse where the performance of ceremonial magic is concerned, yet alone the intent behind it.
Photo : Bernard stands beneath the horse chestnut tree in Danbury churchyard
Truth be told, real Satanists are probably far too busy getting up to their nefarious jollies in well-appointed – and no doubt private – ritual chambers, and it is only really the deluded or the delinquent who would think there is anything remotely empowering about desecrating a churchyard in the middle of the night. [ One only has to think of David Farrant, Sean Manchester and the whole tawdry ‘Highgate Vampire’ fiasco – or, conversely, Charles Walker’s fruitless search for the ‘Friends of Hekate’ in Clapham Woods these past decades. ]
Curiously, the only press reaction given in this new edition is from the New Musical Express – a music-paper rather than an Occult or even New Age journal, of all things – who hail it as “a cult classic.” There is no doubt of the book’s success, but among what audience, exactly? One wonders what the Occult Community made of the whole affair? Although the book contains a startling roll-call of esoterically-informed friends and colleagues – some of whom attest that the whole experience was “quite an initiation” that they still find valuable nearly 30 years later – there seems to be little response outside the circle of those who were directly, personally involved.
As with all Journeys of Initiation – whether under the guise of ‘Psychic Questing’ or OtherWise – maybe it cannot help but be thus, what record as is left behind at best serving as an inspiration or spur for those who come along afterwards . . .
This new, remastered edition of The Black Alchemist is much expanded with various new chapters, and a completely new ending, along with a reprise in the current day showing that the Black Alchemist affair is by no means over.
Each copy of the special edition of The Black Alchemist, limited to just 276 copies, contains a blood-red Monas hieroglyphica stamp on the pre-title page, and the edition number and author signature also in blood-red ink.
It is available from :
Above : ‘The Black Alchemist’ as he appears in the special anniversary edition of the DC Comic Book ‘Green Arrow’ (penned by actor Mark Ryan – best known as ‘Nasir’ in the TV series ‘Robin of Sherwood’ – who came to befriend Andrew Collins and join his psychic questing activities.)
At last the long-awaited issue number 9 of CHAOSPHERE magazine is available, courtesy of our friend and ally Stateside, Frater Nicht. He informs us that this will also be the last issue. Frater Nicht has been a keen supporter of our work for some time now, and we have been happy to take part in the journey that has been CHAOSPHERE, seeing our contributions appear in each issue from Number 3 onwards, alongside such varied contributors as Ray Sherwin, Julian Vayne, David Lee Grind, Babalonshi Biab Od Micma, Dante Miel, Michael W. Ford, Peter Carroll, Arturo Royal, alongside many others, as well as of course Frater Nicht himself.
Our contribution to the latest issue was the discussion, MASKS OF BABALON, a short taster of which can be sampled below. Continuing on a theme, Frater Nicht contributes an Invocation of Babalon and an article on Inanna and the Underworld, as well as Reviews of Ray Sherwin’s VITRIOL and the recent Women of Babalon anthology, and there is also a fine visualisation of our favourite obstacle-smashing elephant-headed deity, Ganesh, by Matt Kaybryn that looks like it wouldn’t have been out of place in his collaboration with Peter J. Carroll, EPOCH. Other favourites at first glance include newcomers Edward Pittman, with his article The Daemonic Invasion, and the full-colour cover-art from Matt Baldwin-Ives.
MASKS OF BABALON :
Emma Doeve talking to Matthew Levi Stevens
It seems strange of course that the resurgence of Babalon – a goddess of female empowerment, after all – should come to be known through men. The first instance was none other than Queen Elizabeth I’s “noble intelligencer,” Dr. John Dee, and his skryer, Edward Kelley. Famously, they had a vision of a goddess clad all in gold – bare-breasted, like the Minoan snake-goddess found at Knossos – the “Daughter of Fortitude,” who declared:
“I am deflowered, yet a virgin; I sanctify and am not sanctified . . . I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not . . .”
It is also interesting to compare and contrast the transmission received by Kelley and Dee with the early Gnostic text, Thunder, Perfect Mind – a significant part of the Nag Hammadi library, which makes similar explorations of such paradoxical themes:
“I am the honoured one and the scorned one, I am the whore and the holy one, I am the wife and the virgin . . .”
Dee and Kelley had enough trouble over their researches, even with Royal patronage under Elizabeth I or Rudolph of Bohemia, so one can only imagine what it would have been like for some poor woman trying to announce Visions of the Return of a Pagan Goddess! Undoubtedly there were some who did indeed receive Visions – one only has to think of Hadewijch of Brabant in the 13th Century, or about a century earlier the better-known Hildegard von Bingen – but even they had a tremendous job trying to modify their Visions so that they could be accepted or even just heard within the prevailing Christian paradigm, and stay one step ahead of the Inquisition.
Then, of course, in the 20th Century, it’s Aleister Crowley who picks up the baton, as it were, after skrying the Enochian Aethyrs with Victor Neuburg in the Algerian desert in 1909. As we might expect from Crowley, the imagery gets raunchier, and plays into-and-with his whole ‘Scarlet Woman’ fantasy of a suitable consort for The Beast:
“Lo! I gather up every spirit that is pure, and weave him into my vesture of flame. I lick up the lives of men, and their souls sparkle from mine eyes. I am the mighty sorceress, the lust of the spirit. And by my dancing I gather for my mother Nuit the heads of all them that are baptized in the waters of life. I am the lust of the spirit that eateth up the soul of man. I have prepared a feast for the adepts, and they that partake thereof shall see God.”
Crowley’s work is the catalyst for Jack Parsons, of course, his ‘Babalon Working’ – a rather dubious collaboration with the even more dubious L. ‘Ron’ Hubbard – which may not have invoked Babalon to actual physical incarnation (Marjorie Cameron notwithstanding), but certainly had all manner of side-effects of some sort or another . . .
. . . At the same time as The Beast and his would-be followers were trying to pursue the Logos of the New Aeon of Horus, the Shakti of the Age, Dion Fortune, was trying to call back into Being an older, more primeval female force that she believed was sadly lacking in our Modern Age:
“I was of the Cult of the Black Isis, which is very different to that of the green-robed Goddess of Nature to whom the women prayed for children . . . the Black Isis is the Veiled Isis, upon whose face none may look and live . . . Some equate the Black Isis with Kali, and say that She is evil; but I do not think She is, unless one counts elemental force as evil, which I do not. She is indeed the Breaker in Pieces, but then She sets free . . .”
It is clear to me that Babalon is of the lineage of Sekhmet – also of the likes of Astarte, Inanna and Ishtar, who were Goddesses of Fertility and Love and Warfare – and in this She is closer to the primordial Black Isis of Dion Fortune and the Nu-Isis of Kenneth Grant, than She is the all-embracing Mother of the New Age . . .
CHAOSPHERE #9 – FULL CONTENTS :
Poetry Babalonshi Biab Od Micma – Interview w Barry James Lent incl.his paintings and photography – Unholy Union by Clive Cutter – Invasion by Edward Pittman, Live Human Vessels and Basic Prey by Eian Orange – Images of Ella von Cosel – Emma Doeve talking to Matthew Levi Stevens about MASKS OF BABALON – Evocation of Babalon, Grand Meditation of Baphomet, and Inanna and the Underworld by Frater Nicht – Photography, Hymn to Ahriman, and an article on Lilith by Frater Ragana – Photo of Hannah Haddix – Poetry by Lux Occasus – Cover art by Matt Baldwin-Ives, Artwork titled Dance by Matt Kaybryn – The Fall of an Angel by Kether Creations; Model Ziggy Dez – Review of Ray Sherwin’s VITRIOL or The Moving Finger A Very Chaotic, Autobiographical Scrapbook – The Demigoddess Hermaphrodite Adoring the Crown of IsisThe Esoteric Function of Labels & Art as the Means of Articulating Magikal Gender (and) Rev. Panik EVlynn Bedlam – The Gates Of Santa Murte by Seti Belial – Review of Women of Babalon: A Howling of Women’s Voice
AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM :
VITRIOL or The Moving Finger, A Very Chaotic, Autobiographical Scrapbook is the latest offering from Ray Sherwin, doubtless best known to most for his key role, alongside Pete Carroll, in originating Chaos Magic and co-founding the Illuminates of Thanateros. As publisher of The New Equinox magazine and later Chaos International, author of such key texts as The Book of Results, The Theatre of Magick, and (pseudonymously as ‘Paula Pagani’) The Cardinal Rites of Chaos – as well as publisher of the first ever edition of Carroll’s Liber Null – Sherwin was certainly one of the prime movers. In more recent years he has also produced a couple of CDs of music, and written an aromatic and magical memoir, Strange Smell In The Car, which concentrated largely on the career he had built from his lifelong passion for aromatics. A fascinating compendium of information about essential oils and incense, their histories and usage (therapeutic and otherwise), it also gave us one-or-two snapshots of the beginnings of his magical interests, meeting with Pete Carroll, and the Leeds occult scene of the 1980s, all told in an avuncular, conversational, easy tone that was totally in keeping with Sherwin’s reputation as the ‘Mr. Nice’ of the occult world.
VITRIOL is quite a different offering, however: even just a first glance at the book’s title and cover-art – with its not-quite-subliminal anarchy sign in a pentagram, V for Vendetta/Anonymous Guy Fawkes reference, and two fingers up (to whom, exactly?) – invite a sense Ray has come out fighting this time. Turn to the index, and it is immediately apparent the gloves have come off to get to grips with some of the Big Issues of today’s ills: global conspiracy, political corruption, international banking and Zionism, 9/11, Big Pharma, vaccination and health scandals, institutional child abuse – it’s ALL here.
The book opens with an Author’s Note giving definitions of his use of such terms as Hebrews, Israelis, and Jews as they relate to the situation in Palestine, and clearly placing Zionism centre-stage for at least part of what is to come. Next up is a more personal Introduction, and let no one say that Ray Sherwin does not have a sense of humour. Straight away he disarms the reader with his candid picture of the ageing male body, of what it is to be man of a certain age, succumbing to the unnerving forces of gravity and the earlobe drooping horror of “elastin-depletion.” It has not, however, made him ungrateful and say, with the likes of Bob Geldof, “Is that it?” His approach – as he says almost casually – has been more in the spirit of Aleister Crowley’s acronym, Visita Interiora Terrae, Rectificando Invenies Occultem Lapidem (‘Visit the Interior of the Earth, by Rectification you will find the Hidden Stone.’) Sherwin calls it “an agreeable mantram.”
It is only a prelude, though, for what is to follow, the real meat of VITRIOL.
After the preamble, the book’s first chapter (subtitled in a nod to Austin Osman Spare ‘Another Sermon to the Hypocrites’) poses a conundrum: why should one of the founding-figures of Chaos Magick and the IOT be so obsessed with Control? Control, and in its wake, Conspiracy, are everywhere, it seems: they are the villains of the piece, and exist at all levels. One would have to make a closer study of which aspect of CHAOS in particular Chaos Magic embraced, but presumably it does not stand for ORDER by any means. However, as Alan Moore has said with regard to Conspiracies: “Yes, there is a conspiracy, in fact there are a great number of conspiracies that are all tripping each other up … The truth is far more frightening, nobody is in control, the world is rudderless.” Is it perhaps more reassuring to fight an evil Control than have no Control at all, to have primarily Disorder, not to mention Chaos?
Nevertheless, in a territory where ethical conduct is entirely down to the individual and his or her conscience, people who do not labour under such constraints will take what they can if they can get away with it: for a start, world politics is riddled with ‘Control’ and the Zionists are singled out as being top of the list – banking alone is controlled by them to such a degree that no fewer than “four heads of state were executed on [their] behalf.” And the state of Israel is – of course – “based on a fiction.”
After the massive first chapter of over 110 pages on the deplorable state of world politics, next up is the one that we suspect most of the book’s potential audience will want to read it for. Entitled Chaos Magick, it tells us of the origins of Ray’s esoteric interests (like so many true seekers, beginning with spontaneous experiences in childhood, as it turns out) – seeking out and collecting occult books, discovering the works of Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, and reprinting rare material in the journal he published, The New Equinox, through the selling of which he would connect with the Atlantis Bookshop in London and The Sorceror’s Apprentice in Leeds – and, even more significantly, come into contact with one Peter J. Carroll, who became a significant contributor. There follows an account of the first meetings between Pete ‘n’ Ray, bonding over beer, ether, homemade explosives, magic mushrooms in the woods, and plenty of talk about magic – hatching plans for a new kind of non-hierarchical, non-masonic order – which is certainly more detailed (and down to earth) than any that have appeared previously. It gives a glimpse of the enthusiasm and camaraderie there must have been at the beginning, but shortly after, what emerges is evidence of a disgruntled falling-out between the two Founding Fathers. Sherwin writes that in spite of him and Pete getting on “like a house on fire” to begin with, he “nevertheless had an inkling that any group of people which gives itself a name will eventually succumb to the individuals who seek to control it and that a hierarchy will, sooner or later, begin to crystallise.” It brings to mind the fate of cult rock bands that split up over ‘musical differences’ – with inevitable fallout like a bad divorce, and arguments over non-existent royalties.
As for the ‘naming-of-names’ – anticipated anxiously in certain quarters and with a prurient glee in others, no doubt (“Sherwin was there – he knows where the bodies are – is he gonna dish the dirt?” etc.) – if anything, it is all a bit of an anti-climax. The harshest possible criticisms that emerge in VITRIOL are of a certain poor taste and two-facedness, such as when Ray alleges that in a recent email, Pope Pete of The Pact confided in him: “I have very little to do with the UK IOT at present as it seems to have fallen into the hands of third rate people that I wouldn’t invite to lunch.” If these are the worst skeletons all concerned have in their closets, they’re not exactly anything to lose sleep over …
Moving on, Health is a big issue, as it should be. More’s the pity, then, that most of us are far too easily led by what the large pharmaceutical companies tell us we should take for our myriad ills and aches and pains, and worse, so they can become hugely and grotesquely rich. An evil belief system – complete with ministry – stalks the land, and many are literally buying into it: “We have been deceived into believing that we are the victims of our genes and that the pharma priesthood is the only way to change our biology.” Vaccination in particular is singled out for severe criticism, the suggestion being that its machinations act more as a cause than protection against the illness it is supposed to prevent. Sherwin himself was a martyr to various complaints when young: asthma, hay-fever, severe eczema. We get a melancholy portrait of him hobbling about with sticks, his legs bandaged from ankle to groin, presumably because he had scratched his itchy skin till it bled. He tells us there are photographs of him up to age sixteen looking miserable, with eyes streaming. Ray writes himself that many health problems stem from the emotions. He may well be right. One wonders at the emotional climate surrounding him as a child to cause such ailments and suffering.
A harsh note is struck in Health – during a discussion of smallpox and the pros and cons of vaccination – when Ray suddenly shares:
“I remember hearing the news that smallpox had been imported from Pakistan. At that time, every public bus stank* of Pakistanis. This is a comment on ethnicity – not a prejudiced one. The smell, which I’ve never detected since the late 1960s, was overpowering and immediately identifiable, even though, to this day, no-one, including Pakistani friends, has satisfactorily explained its component(s). I have never smelled anything similar in North Africa, Palestine, India or anywhere else.”
The asterisk, by the way, is to a footnote that reads:
“*I struggled with this word for a while – it seems pejorative. However, it is grammatically correct. The word smell is a noun and, strictly, is not applicable here. I eventually decided to go with the grammar and not the political correctness. As an aside, I remain perplexed by that smell.”
We know that uttering any opinion on race-relations, no matter how calm and considered, runs the risk of becoming an instant target – no matter what! – but we have been told that East Asians in North America think that African Americans all smell overpoweringly of beef, and that, likewise, Japanese people find most Western Caucasians have a ‘sour dairy’ odour about them. When we have eaten nothing but Indo or Thai cuisine for a week, our friends can certainly smell it on us. All to do with diet. It seems strange that a man so aromatically aware (at least on previous showing) would not apparently think of the possible bearing that simple dietary factors might have had – especially in an immigrant population trying to adjust in an environment where their usual foodstuffs might not have been readily available?
The North of England where Sherwin was born and bred, like most of the country, underwent a process of severe and deep change after WWII. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine Ray’s parents and grandparents having seen their world alter beyond recognition, and not for the better either, in their opinion. Unfamiliarity, particularly if tinged with a sense of economic and social injustice, can breed fear. It can also bring out the Little Englander. VITRIOL may go too far for some in the chapter Multi-Culti? What the F***? wherein blame for “traditional communities [which] have been deliberately destroyed” is laid at the doors of policies of racial equality and multiculturalism which were intended to protect “the incoming population which was forced onto my community … from an industrialised region of Pakistan which appears to have little traditional culture of its own but which becomes more bellicose and ridiculously militant with the passing of each year.”
The subsequent chapter, Scientology, but not as we know it. A personal experience, gives us a unique insight from Sherwin’s time working for the church as editor for their in-house magazine. It is perhaps as well to remember that when Scientology was first created by former pulp sci-fi writer and self-styled explorer and adventurer, L. Ron Hubbard, for a while – at least in certain more radical, forward-thinking circles – it was considered to be a potential breakthrough into a kind of self-empowering, liberating, accelerated analysis, and was not initially perceived of as the “mind control cult” that it is seen as now as a consequence of endless tabloid speculation about troubled Hollywood celebrities. It is this present (and some would say all-too-deserved) image of the movement that causes such difficulty regarding almost any discussion of or reference to – well, pretty much anything to do with Scientology – but it is at least interesting to get a glimpse behind the curtain, so to speak, from someone who’s been there and come back.
In an interview for Chaosphere magazine (Volume 3, 2011) Ray remarked:
“I went there originally because Her Majesty’s Government was giving Scientology a hard time which indicated to me that there was something interesting to be discovered.”
He was clearly intrigued enough to see what use he could get out of the methods, or ‘tech’ – and indeed, in his The Book of Results, made interesting and original use of ideas sourced from Dianetics about engrams and the Reactive Mind with regard to sigilisation – while intelligent enough to remain independent from the personality cult around Hubbard and its various intrigues [as he certainly should have been, being someone who “became a member of Mensa at the age of fourteen with an IQ of 178” as he obligingly informs us in the same chapter.] His decision to turn down an invitation aboard The Apollo – the flagship of Scientology’s elite ‘Sea Org’ and Hubbard’s seafaring sanctum – because it clashed with the chance to play support at a Hawkwind gig turns out to have been the parting of the ways, a smart move which raised a chuckle to read about.
In addition to all of the above, there is a closing chapter covering Ray’s adventures making music – most recently with long-term collaborator Nigel Mullaney, with whom he has produced a couple of CD albums, first as Best Before and, more recently, as Mazmoneth – a helpful Appendix on How to extract cannabis oil for health and, lastly, his Review of the recent anthology, Women of Babalon.
VITRIOL will certainly challenge a lot of readers’ preconceptions, we don’t doubt, likewise test the limit of many a comfort zone: the Grand Wizard Morton Press has taken a look at the state of the world today and, frankly, is not happy with what he sees – but then, who would be? In VITRIOL he attempts to outline what he considers to be the worst of the many ills facing us, examines probable causes, and looks at possible solutions. As such, VITRIOL makes for difficult reading in places – unsettling, even – but how could it be otherwise? There’s a fair bit of history explained, the links in the chains of a lot of sinister, murky business looked at unflinchingly, and a certain amount of setting-the-record-straight. It is also by turns entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking.
Emma Doeve & Matthew Levi Stevens.
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