Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Beltain Bash

Beltain Bash happens every year around this time. That's the end of May rather than beginning so as not to clash with the eponymous religious festival. It's really kym's thing as I'm not into shopping as much as she. But even that has lost some of its lustre since the retirement of Zia, mistress of 'Seven Veils', to the fleshpots of Spain. Zia really was one of the best robe makers and her creations were used in BBC Scotland's Crowley doco 'The Other Loch Ness Monster'. Another unexpected sun seeker is Freya Aswyn, whose gothic looks wouldn't seem to imply a love of the mediterranean sun.

Anyways - we arrive for the second and what turns out to be the quieter of the two days. Lots of familiar faces, some not so. Professor Ronald Hutton is due to speak on sexuality and paganism - so we sit through the Daughters of Gaia, (who have a website) - and have somehow managed to turn some of the slightly overdone pagan chants such as 'we all come from the goddess' etc into new age torch songs. Not quite to my taste but the audience seem to like it. For me it adds to the slightly faded quality of some pagan events these days - they hardly seem cutting edge and I wonder whether they ever did?

Ronald's talk was as entertaining and comprehensive as we've all come to expect - which is amazing considering he is recovering from quite a serious illness AND has to run a large university history department. Makes me feel quite lazy. Some of the ground covered in his talk is familiar to me from my own researches for Katon Shual's slim volume 'Sexual Magick'. I.e sooner or later we all have to face up to the fact that some classical pagans, eg the Stoics, were every bit as puritanical as their Christian nemesis. Although I'd still say not all good things are the gift of the modern pagan. The lifestyle of the high culture of Egypt shows some of the same predilection from 'Sex, drugs and R&R.'

Time for a breath of air, outside I bump into lots of old pals in the smokers circle - and suitably refreshed - I can face an hour with 'Scots' Mary in the incredibly stuffy Bertrand Russell, or is it Mani Shinwell room? I should say that 'Scots' Mary is one of the alumni of Alex and Maxine's 1970s magical coven - so respect. But the talk is hardly rocket science but twenty years ago I would have appreciated this kind of thing - but I'm wondering if the younger members of the audience are impressed? Actually twenty years ago i would have been a bit of a bolshevik and might have protested or even have asked what is it that wiccans actually do with their wands? Or as my friend Alex says, was Gerald Gardner smoking behind the bike-shed when that particular topic was discussed in the Hairy Potheads skool for wizards?

Two lectures under my belt I can safely head for the pub where all the other cynics have decamped for a gossip and another smoke. After an hour I decide to take a look at the valedictory rite more as an anthropological exercise than anything else. It's billed as a two hour psycho-drama based around the mysteries of The Wizard of Oz. The whole crowd of 'munchkins' sighs ahhhh in unison as the high priest enters in his Toto costume - you get the drift. I suppose one shouldn't be too sniffy. Levanah Morgan regularly lectures on the occult symbolism of this and other Hollywood films. Perhaps Julian Vayne is right afterall, we are all Chaos Magicians now. Many moons ago I walked out of an 'Erisian' ritual based around the energy of football - among the other lurkers on the threshold I met my future wife and partner - so chaos magick can't be all bad. - mogg

Sunday, May 28, 2006

In Frequently Asked Questions about the Occult (i-FAQ)

Vowel Chanting

J writes: 'I have been looking through tantra sadhana again, as I have been using a form of the opening ritual mentioned in the text. As an extension to the opening ritual you mention vibrating the vowels whilst drawing invoking pentagrams. I have come across this idea of vibrating the vowels in both the works of Jan Fries and Peter Carroll. I was wondering if you could give me some tips as to the origins of this method?

For my personnal practice I also use a combination of the elemental tattwas and vibrating of the vowels as a method of getting energy to flow through the chakras that correspond from the root to the neck.

Is there a relationship between the Sanskrit Bija mantras and the vowels? I also thought of it having a more mystical origin, but perhaps someone found pronouncing english more practical and simple?'

Dear J
The issue of the seven vowels is quite interesting - the seven vowels are those of the greek language but of course like all vowels they are part of the universal nature of speech - so will be constant all over - approximately 2000 years ago the egyptian religion went through a great reformation - and the seven greek vowels and attendant mysteries were incorporated and accepted into the mix - it was either because it already had resonance with egyptian practice or that they recognised the value of this part of the greek tradition (despite their dislike of their greek colonisers) Contemporary reports say that egyptian temple musick was essential vowel chanting - It seems natural enough to extend this idea to the hindu realm - which was also in contact via alexandria etc - and also acknowledged the power of mantra, sound and vowel chanting.

The physical postures are i think the sevenfold heptagramme rite of egypt - which has parallels as part of the international language of magic of the classical world.

love and do what you will


PS as the research continues, one project you (and others) might like to add to yours is the whole business of lunar observation for omens - ie observe the moon and note and phenemena such as halos, patterns, unusual colours etc - these are collated for lunar omina.

'Most descriptions of rituals I have seen involve having the altar at the centre of your working and generally moving around it, but what happens if you haven't got space? However in the "House of Life" you say "be content with the corner of your bedroom, this is what most of us use and it's perfectly adequate". In such a setup the altar would be outside of any circle created with say the LBRP?'

The problem for me with some descriptions of GD rites is that it leaves me wonderering if the folk are really doing it? It's part of a specific tradition that has its advocates - but there are other, equally valid streams of thought. 'House of Life' is closer to the tradition of a domestic shrine or altar - as attested in religious belief from the beginning. Another possibility is some sort of 'shrine box' fixed to the wall. All these things act as a focus but i'm not sure its such a good idea to always have something in the centre of your 'circle' or sacred space. In some outdoor rites, people build a fire then do the ritual around it. However that then gets to be a bit too focussed on one thing - the centre. I've found it handy to move the fire to a place outside the circle - where it is still available for useful things like keeping warm but leaves the circle a clear space to move, dance etc. It also preserves night vision and lets one make things such as veve etc.

In 'chaos magick' there is an idea that all magick is much more about intent than getting the details right. The circle is a virtual space really - and wherever you are, it's always going to be more of an idealised space than a real one - after all most people's rooms are square not circular - so what happens to the folks next door?? See Now That's What I Call Chaos Magick for discussion of this kind of thing.

Mogg (18.3.6) 'Red Moon on the day of Rams'.

Are Kenneth Grant's 'typhonian' books, and indeed other sabbatic titles really worth the premium prices being asked on the secondhand market? Is there another way for the beginner to learn more about this important new current?

I understand the problem. And yes I agree the prices for some things are stupid - and I suspect those books don't quite 'deliver' as promised - as you say - its about 'grass is greener ' complex as much as anything else. The best KG book is probably 'Aleister Crowley & The Hidden God' - but even that commands a very high price on the secondhand market so i'd say do as you're doing and read in a good library or via interlibrary loans. Take advantage of the availablility of stuff when it first appears at the normal price - eg you won't regret that - (for example look at those ebooks editions of Francis King's Secret Rituals of the OTO' (see mandrake Speaks (archive) for details). Are books such as the "Secret Rituals of the O.T.O.," by Francis King, one of the occult’s ‘banned books’ worthy of $25 for a pirated electronic copy? I’d say definitely worth it if you want to read that book – as its pretty much impossible to find otherwise and enormously expensive if you do. Whether there are any real secrets in there - that can't be found elsewhere is a moot point. At least you will have the background to the debate - and for $25 it could work out a lot cheaper than the grade fees you might pay only to find all that glisters is not gold.

I also think that some of the newer books in the 'sabbatic' and 'typhonian' tradition can be equally enlightening - if not in some cases better - eg try Nathaniel Harris' 'Witcha: a book of cunning' and indeed my own books: 'Tankhem: seth and egyptian magick' & 'The Bull of Ombos'. Check out Jack Daw's Cornish witchcraft site - for much info on that current and indeed get a copy of Paul Huson's 'Mastering Witchcraft' before that disappears again. I know I'm recommending lots of my own stuff but I have been involved in various aspects of this mythos for a while now and think you will find important aspects of it in our list and websites.

How do you feel about Kenneth Grant's notion of the 'Tunnels of Seth'?

tankhem has turned out to be a short work more on certain themes that will be
elaborated as time goes by - hence the exploration of temple of Sety I ends
at the shrine of amon ra - kind of homebase - but if you work more with the temple you will in fact discover there is a real live 'tunnel of seth' - (personally i think each individual as they work will find these tunnels individually in different locations within their own 'erotic landscape' - ie not always in the egyptian mythos.

The idea of the klippotic tree is related I guess - also the tankhem mythos is more about the roots that lie behind the tree - but one theme i have noticed is the dialectic between 'plurality' and 'unity' - the equivalent of 'Kether' in the nightside tree, is, I believe called 'thaumiel' - meaning duality - and this is set against the unitary aspect of kether - it's interesting to compare this with ancient (egyptian) kingship - where at various times to ideal situation was thought to be dual rulership - rather than one unitary or despotic (Horus?) king - i think people are led to believe that a good strong solitary leader is better than a collective
entity - but i wonder if that is really true??

Is a 'guru' really necessary in order to learn magick,
especially the 'tantrik' variety?

The Hindu intellectual tradition has several different points of view on this - although one tends to hear the most recent. The personal teacher or mentor is pretty essential although it's obviously possible to get by without them - most people have no choice but to plough on without one. A good teacher can speed one's progress long the path. I'm not sure if the institution was ever meant to be a permanent relationship. People in the ancient world changed gurus as they needed more specific information. The invention of the book in the pagan world, shook things up a lot. The book becomes the teacher and the student is released from the need to memorize text. If the tantrik texts are insufficient without the guru - then why did those teachers bother writing them in the first place?? It's like those modern practitioners who insist they are giving secret knowledge, but if so, why do they put it in a book?? Max 'Moksha' Muller once criticized the Theosophical Society for saying there was a 'secret doctrine' - he maintained there was no esoteric tradition in India - its all there - in the text - the trick is in making it work - doing the practice.

An Indian friend once gave me a little Sanskrit phrase that for me puts the whole thing about teachers and paths into perspective - in my own words I have this as:

Footsteps of the Gnostic Sphinx
‘One foot from the teacher comes;
A second from others on the path;
A third from your very own self;
Lastly through the passage of time.Â’

The Book of Shu

A little bit of fun but there is a truth in it - ie the teacher is only one quarter of the conditions necessary for spiritual growth - the others parts come from other students, from yourself or just through the passage of time.

Drugs (Etheogens) and Magick

'I am currently reading Visual Magick by Jan Fries. I really like it. Also it really resonates with me due to myself also being an artist.What intrigues me though - and this is the reason i am inquiring of you, having searched internet for some feedback about this - is he seems to not value hallucinogens. This is confusing to me, mainly because of my own experiences iwth hallucinogens which have been the most profound experiences in my life, but also from research I have done regarding their significance in shamanism worldwide, and other forms of spiritual movements.

I have also read from various sources that Mircea Eliade, who first claimed that hallucinogen use withing shamanism was a decadenct developmment coming later from non non-hallucinogenic ritual. A view it's claimed he changed in the later stages of his life. I also have read Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda by Dan Russell, who argues the world-wide prolific use of hallucinogens within shamanism and for spiritual inspiration, also influencing mythology--much of the hallucinogenic-plany symbolism being 'hidden' in the mythiologies. So, can you see why i wonder why Jan Fries doesn't seem to take this history into account?

'Its not true to say Jan doesn't value the use of etheogens etc - its just that, IMO, he is just as interested in how people learn to produce these drugs inside their brains by ritual, dance, seething etc - there is a lot more discussion of the things in Seidways - shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries, especially the chapter 'the cauldron of ceridwen' - its not the drug its the trance that is important surely - hence there is quite a lot on plant drugs in this book - but also some powerful physical techniques to replicate the experience that can indeed initially be opened up by drugs.

Varieties of useful meditation techniques

In your 'House of Life' document Mogg (p21 I think), you mention that you practice a Buddhist sitting meditation. Is this something likeinsight or vipassana meditation? I am familiar with this and would tend towards using it daily, although most occult guidence which I have seen seems to favour pranayama. I find pranayama better for concentrating my mind, but vipassana more beneficial all round.

I think at that stage I had in mind what to do whilst preparing for the more specifically magical meditation/visualization -I found at least three buddhist meditation techniques useful:

1. 'mindfulness of breathing' - which could be seen as a form of pranayama anyhows -

2. 'being compassionate' (vipassana)

3, 'just sitting' when you do a visualisation its often the way that you run out of mental stamina at some point- hence unless you want to just stop - its handy to have something up your sleeve to do until the 'visuals' restart or the time runs out - Not too many people favour ACs techniques these days although they probably do have their uses and certainly help to build mental stamina - he seemed to favour a kind of 'one pointedness' technique and that won't suite everyone - so its best, IMO to let it mutate into a targeted vision - or oscillate between various types.

Perhaps all these techniques lead to the same place - ie 'one pointedness' tends to mutate into lurid visions - and vice versa. Magick requires a good imagination - perhaps the tankhem ideal is closer to the tantrik 'overload of the senses' scenario - ie you try to form quite elaborate imaginal worlds - its what been called a 'rule governed creativity' - a middle way between absolute chaos and a blank

What can the ancients do for us?

Whilst reading Tankhem, it has become glaringly obvious the extent of the intricacy of the ancient mind. I have never been crass enough to assume that the scientific mind is superior, or even that it can draw parallel to the ancient mind, but I have been left in awe at just how far the ancient mind excels its modern contemporary. It just leaves me inquiring to the extent of their knowledge. Just how much and what did they know? More importantly for me, is how did it all start and is it possible to trace a genesis point of such thinking?
Tankhem only scratches the surface - more is coming all the time. The technology of the ancient world was far more advanced than we think - but was destroyed in one of those taliban moments starting, to be fair, just before the Christian story. Imagine how it would be if we had built on that base with no gap of 1500 years until the renaissance? In medicine alone it was only in the nineteenth century that physicians began again to wash themselves and their equipment before touching the patient!! We have caught up and overtaken now in most areas but probably not in the domain of consciousness and secrets of the body –that, IMO, is where there is still much to play for - imo

Why are the Abrahamic faiths so convinced they are right?

Why do they see themselves as so superior?
It is quite clear that the bible is opposed to polytheism, but why? Why do they consider their god superior? It may seem that I have started down the magickal path for the wrong reasons (that being to oppose my early conditioning) just by reading that last paragraph, but I am only asking that question because even though I was christened, I know little about Christianity.

As to Abrahamic religions – they too have a hidden history of things like polytheism (see Patai: the Hebrew Goddess) But its the old story of the victor's writing the history - perhaps its also a bit of ethnocentric bias - the way we see things from the western metropolis - Asian scholars find it hard to understand how such a confused theology is given such a positive PR. It claims to be monotheistic yet has a singular male god - true monotheism would require an abstract principle. Besides Hindu scholars long worked out that polytheism was a more reasonable theistic approach to the prolix nature of reality.

Is the Necronomicon and its contents genuine?

To borrow some words from the historian Michael Woods – its fake but also real'.

What is 'Occult Crime'?
As I write this a self-styled ‘satanist’ is in the news at the conclusion of his trial for the slaying his girlfriend. It is unlikely to be the last time such as crime is in the headlines (The Guardian 22 Jan 05). Coincidentally it is also the week when a picture of prince Harry, an heir to the British throne is also on the front pages. His photograph in Nazi uniform together with friends, one dressed in the white sheet of the Ku Klux Klan, another as a ‘black and white minstrel’ has made quite a splash. I leave it to you to sort out what the theme of the fancy dress party might have been. Of course no-one ever thinks to link those kind of ‘occult’ images with violent crimes. But shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, that’s another story ain’t it? Psychopaths exist in all societies. Restricting the discussion of taboo issues such as sacrifice and cannibalism will not, in my opinion make the world a safer place. Afterall we’ve had the way of restriction for a long while now and the results are every where to be seen. So called ‘occult’ crime has its own causes one of them being ignorance. That’s why I’m particularly keen to discuss this material in an informed way. We may not be able to stop violent crime but perhaps we can discourage the psychos from traducing the ideals of magick. The Hidden God and some taboo practices is undergoing something of a renaissance. The stream of thought leads to the contemporary magical conclusion that there is no need for violent sacrifice. The most powerful of all magical sacraments is freely given and does not involve harm to the donor. - mogg