the work

As I’ve said before, I want to write more on Richard Gardner‘s work, and I feel I really need to, like I’m being pushed to do this. This is a start on that.

Richard classed himself as a “metaphysician”, and was deeply interested in human consciousness, and the nature of consciousness itself. He is in many ways a voice from another age, and I think even more valuable for that.

Richard studied the tarot and wrote a number of books on the subject, from the point of view of the teaching he saw preserved within it, rather than for its “fortune telling”. In it he saw the working of consciousness for its evolution, and he considered the evolution of consciousness to be the driving force of life, and of ourselves as part of life.

He also saw the elements as key to this, and love as I think in many ways the great work of the evolution of consciousness. Love, with its great drives, and its promise of bliss and perennial dreams fulfilled, and the despair engendered by its frustration, was at once the most direct, subtle and luminous of instructors. Richard considered the understanding of sexuality and sex to be very important in this.

He used to write that in the tarot, “God” was most clearly represented by The Fool, the unconditioned, pure Life Force, and this also represented what he termed “super-consciousness”, which he considered miraculous. This card is either unnumbered or numbered “0”, and he likened it to the Divine Androgyne. Richard’s God was not a god of authority and rules though, but a god of life, love and pure adventure, divine play, rather than personage, for it was in and through everything.

This isn’t a “religious” philosophy in any conventional sense, indeed it isn’t philosophy as such, but a metaphysical teaching to be experienced, an attempt to get us to experience and live life more consciously and fulfillingly, and understand what drives us.

tarot_de_marseille_major00_fool

Tarot de Marseille Fool – By Nicolas Conver (http://www.wischik.com/lu/tarot/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

bad girls and crimson lads

Astrology can be a very rewarding study, as it deals in a psychological language that subjectively correlates with our inner and outer lives. It does this in a way which is not rationally explainable, but due to its potency it seems to dig down into Nature. For the receptive astrologer it can illuminate principles that structure experience, and elements of identity in a luminous manner. It is not a science, nor a rational study, but it is real in the same sense that poetry and artistic meaning are. Its archaic interaction with our lives is one of the reasons I consider it akin to magick and divination. Magick and astrology both inhabit an intermediate, ensouled world between matter, body and psyche.

Astrology uses the planets and other astronomical bodies, and associates these with principles which it links to the gods of mythology (most commonly, though not exclusively Roman). These might not be understood in the way that a hard polytheist would, but they nevertheless carry an influence which can follow mythological themes and structures, in poetic recombinations. This is why exploring your natal chart can almost seem like the discovery of your own, personal sacred themes, as if you were discovering an unwritten mythology, which yet resonates with larger themes, but without absorbing or replacing the individual life and its meaning.

I’ve had some interesting experiences with this kind of thing. One of the challenges in my own chart lies in a square (90° aspect) I have between The Moon and Venus (the latter being on the IC). The square is generally consider a “difficult” or challenging aspect, as the planetary energies have conflicting modes of expression, due to the signs they are in. So for instance one may express impulsively and spontaneously, and the other express cautiously and sensitively, but being linked, they have to learn how to get the combinations of their energies “right”. In the case of the Moon and Venus, these are both archetypally feminine energies, and very compatible simply as energies, but the square aspect creates an awkwardness, with my responsive and reflective, receptive Moon nature being independent and spontaneous, and my more romantic, sensual and relating nature being protective and nurturing. I’m very Moon-Venus by nature, but it takes work to understand my own awkwardnesses and sensitivities, insecurities etc.

The challenge is further elucidated by my Moon being conjunct both Eris and Black Moon Lilith*. It’s important for me to be able to reconcile both my Venus (which is also my chart ruler) and the complex of Moon, Black Moon and Eris, for me to be myself most deeply, and have a full life where I fulfil my nature and “purpose”.

Recognising the necessary relationship (for squares are powerful relationships, and as necessary as any other) between Black Moon Lilith/Moon and Venus has itself been very important for me in understanding myself. Darkstar Astrology says the following about the conjunction:

“Moon conjunct Lilith fuses two ‘moons’ together. So we get the mother and the anti-mother in one being. I think it becomes rather like the Black Madonna, it is extra potent and a Virgo archetype. This combination has to successfully merge the paradox of the virgin and the whore or the very worst manifestation of Lilith can surface. At its best this is sheer priestess and occult ability at the highest level. The conjunction can work as a hard or soft aspect, so when it is good it is very good, but when it is bad it is terrible”

Darkstar Astrology

Yup, I get that. In fact it’s been one of the themes of my life, first surviving (in my earlier life), and then understanding this, and its meaning for me.

The connection with this in perception came about after I had come to relate to a deity that isn’t found in astrology at present though, the Thelemic goddess Babalon. This itself was accompanied by events in my life, which led me to search inwardly. Our lives are driven from deep within us at crucial points. Babalon is based upon a reinterpretation of The Whore of Babylon, and she is both a Venusian goddess, and also a transformative spiritual agent with “demonic” (or daemonic) associations. The above mentioned merging of “the paradox of the virgin and whore” is apparent in her qualities, for she is both deeply sexual and powerfully spiritual, and evokes Virgo’s self-possession, but with Scorpio’s transformative and taboo inheritance thrown in.

I knew Babalon was important to the person I most deeply was, and knew I had to become. Now I can see it in my natal chart, and the patterns fall into place still more. Love, nurturance, sexuality, spiritual transformation and the most raw forces of life and desire are all called forth, to confront shadow, and truly love.

Virgo and Scorpio are placed either side of Libra, the Venusian sign most associated with relationship and balance. In terms of astrological rulerships of signs, we have the planets Venus and Mars, combined under the auspices of Mercury/Hermes.

Babalon is an archetype of the “Scarlet Woman” in Crowley’s system, but this same energy can and does manifest through males. I like to call the male counterpart “crimson lads”, but that’s just a little poetic license.

In astrology, if you follow intuition, feeling, instinct and creativity, you can come to listen to its language more personally. At the right time, this can help to illuminate our authentic experience and natures.

septagram1

Star of Babalon

* I’ve written before on the subject of Black Moon Lilith, and this “imaginary Earth” is a fascinating astrological point that can resonate on many levels.

the satan in the sunshine

UK_road_A666

It’s almost a year since I became a Satanist (call it first thing on 1st May as the real anniversary) and the identification has settled down nicely. It really comes into its own when dealing with life, dealing with the world, and when in action, even when that action is internal. The contemplative and relational aspects of spirituality remain largely the same. The ethical enquiry is sharpened inwardly, and more circumspect and tolerant in terms of outward expression, but it plays essentially the same role in personal orientation, though it hinges very explicitly upon personal responsibility. It’s in action, in doing and becoming that Satan seems to show most brilliantly.

I said a good while ago that to me “Satan” was the principle of individualized consciousness, and that remains a good indication. Maybe you should say “The Satan”, as you would say “the weather”, or “the force of gravity”. Different people see it different ways of course. It does in any case represent one of the mysteries of consciousness. In these associations there is something I would describe as “solar” in characteristic, both astrologically and magickally, just as the number 666* possesses. You can trace some of this through Crowley’s work, and find such lines as the following in Liber Samekh:

“O breathing, flowing Sun!”

“O Sun IAF! O Lion-Serpent Sun, The Beast that whirlest forth, a thunder- bolt, begetter of Life!”

“Thou that flowest! Thou that goest!”

“Thou Satan-Sun Hadith that goest without Will!”

Liber Samekh

and:

“Thou spiritual Sun! Satan, Thou Eye, Thou Lust! Cry aloud! Cry aloud! Whirl the Wheel, O my Father, O Satan, O Sun!”

“Thou, the Saviour!”

“Silence! Give me Thy Secret!”

“Give me suck, Thou Phallus, Thou Sun!”

“Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust! Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust! Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust!”

“Thou self-caused, self-determined, exalted, Most High!”

Ibid.

It is Crowley’s personal religious iconography of course, but the associations between Sun and Satan are spiritually sound for me. Selfhood, the deeper root of will, the light of conscious being and becoming, the crux of individuation.

Here it comes …

* the number being connected to the magic square of the Sun

deviant moon tarot

Wulf Rose

I’ve been doing a lot of astrology posts recently, so I thought it would be nice to get back to a rather purer form of divination, but with a lighter focus. So I’m going to take a look at my favourite tarot deck, the Deviant Moon Tarot.

I’ve chosen 10 cards from it, on impulse, to look at, to try and show what I love about this deck. The photos don’t reproduce the colours richly enough, and they are not perfectly in focus, but they should give an idea.

The pack has fantastic art work by Patrick Vanenza, and has a nocturnal or twilight feel, a somewhat gothic but fairytale world peopled by freak families, mutants and hybrid people, finding their way through. The artist used graveyards and deserted mental hospitals as inspirations, and the characters seem to wander this strange world making up their stories, or discovering them…

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octopus

I had a nice “surprise” the other day, in the form of seeing an old video of Grant Morrison speaking at a Disinformation convention in 1999.

He talked quite a bit about magick, time, being, “individuality” and culture, and mentioned Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, as well as the work of Terrence McKenna and Stan Grof. The latter two were real inspirations for me in the 90s, and there was plenty of times during this talk that I just thought “were we all reading the same stuff, and thinking the same things in the late 90s?!”. It was pretty delightful.

Terrence McKenna was a neo-psychedelicist, a playful and visionary thinker, and a beautiful mind to behold. Catch up on True Hallucinations if you get the chance. Stan Grof is a consciousness researcher with roots in psychedelic psychiatric therapies, who with his wife Christina pioneered Holotropic Breathwork, a technique I credit with freeing me significantly near the end of my thirties.

I found both these writers after I had gone through my own breakthrough at the beginning of the 90s, where I came to experience the Oneness of Being, and the inversion (or suspension) of conventional ideas of causality, and of temporospatially located being. It’s not so much a long story as a big one that isn’t conventionally describable, but it was one in which “the heart” became central. A lot of things opened up for me after that, because my understanding was so utterly different at a certain level. Grant Morrison really reminded me of that.

At one point he talks about how if you were a two-dimensional being, and someone stuck their fingers through your plane of existence, you would not see four fingers of a hand, you would see the four separate circles formed by the intersection of those fingers with the plane you existed on. And we, with our normal idea of being are that far from the higher dimensional reality of being. We see slices through time and we think “we” are “here”. And Grant exclaimed that same, common perception that  has occurred to so many people, that we are all the same thing. And that being is way more stretchy, continuous, and non-local than we imagine.

Contrary to what people sometimes think, this is not some kind of religious propaganda to divest you of your individuality. The propaganda comes into the limitations of repeated langauge, and how that gets used, but the perception is entirely original and experienceable. And when you experience this, the hilarious enigma of “how can I seem to be here in this body, experiencing myself as really separate?!” presents itself very naturally. It’s a complete mind boggler.

How I came to see “being” (ontos) was as the conscious content of what could be described as tunnels (the fingers of Grant’s “hand”), fractal tunnels that spiralled and branched, in the sensing of my inner imagining. In our identification with the separative body-mind we were right at the tip of these tunnels, and when we are squashed right down the end of these tunnels, we get into all kinds of claustrophobic problems. We struggle in a game that is already over. What we need to do is ease back, to a less cramped, more spacious part of the tunnel, were we can experience a greater bandwidth, and a greater range and inclusion of consciousness. We then find parts of our mind which we weren’t conscious of. Eventually we find that our being is greater, more multiple and more inclusive than we could have imagined. Eventually the tunnels join on to greater tunnels. I can also imagine this as being like an enormous sea creature of consciousness, a massive octopus. We’ve lived in the tips of this creature’s tentacles, as that is how we come to feel (maybe). But as we get to ease back, to inhabiting the tentacle, and not just the tip, and then the branches that the tentacles branch off of – are the tentacles “extinguished” in the whole? No, of course not. It just becomes more intelligent.

Grant was aware of the paradoxical place of “individuality” in this, as it can be identified with the constricted, troubled, tip of the consciousness tentacle. But I think individuality is still important here. If you are talking about conditioned ego and its primate compulsions, then yes, of course it is just a means to an end. A means that cuts us off from our own life in Big Squid (or whatever you want to call “it”). But here’s the conundrum. You need the tip, and the tentacle and everything; and the life of Big Squid is just what we feel in ourselves as living individuals. I don’t think the individual is, as Grant thought, just “scaffolding” for building this other thing. And remember as well, Big Squid is not in time the way that we are. It’s a very enigmatic scheme, which we can mainly only intimate, as it is itself the stuff of which our consciousness is made. Like a language that writes itself, and writes its own reading into its very texture. We are the implicit stories and meaning that emerges from this self generating langauge.

You might ask where is the Satanist in all this, and I would say right in the magick, in the paradox, in the exploration. I’m not so much a mystic, as a marine biologist here, albeit part of the animal. Most Satanists acknowledge “Nature”, albeit as including those things we pretend to be “against Nature”.

Magick itself needs both perspectives. That is why I love both the underestimatedly trippy work of Marion Weinstein, and the original (but more oppositional or poetic) brilliance of Crowley and Austin Osman Spare. Big Squid is just about everything, and the “extended being” experience does have applications in both magick and healing. But the paradoxical condition of the lights being on and someone really being home is down to you, just you. You, that unique, ruthless, tentacular beauty. Otherwise you are not writing the part of the langauge that only you can write, and you are reading the wrong script, acting in a film you are not included in. And how could you possibly enjoy that? You absolutely need both, and you’d be right to not want to be hoodwinked into being part of a film that doesn’t even have a director. You are the only director for your film. You just don’t realize how big and deep “you” is. That’s why Grant in the video was so insistent that you try this stuff out.

You could do so much with this.

Octopus vulgaris by Beckmannjan at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons - digitally altered

Octopus vulgaris by Beckmannjan at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons – digitally altered

a gloomy Saturday and a different time

It’s a chilly day and grey, and we are seemingly in the pall of Autumn now, though only a day or two ago it seemed warm and sunny enough for mid September. Today though, I have closed all the windows and doors, and I am in cocooning mode. We are also post-flu-shots, in that immediate ghost virus phase, like we’re stumbling round a film where we play two people who actually have colds. It’s oddly pleasant, in a drunkenly Winter welcoming sort of way. The tiny ash sapling in the garden has gone all golden, and the amaryllis is foolishly thinking it is Christmas and trying to bloom.

I got a reminder this week of the Pagan and occult communities, and why I love both books and the internet. Some people still assume that if you are Pagan, or an occultist, or witch, that you will be part of a world of groups and orders and covens. They still think that is “the real thing”. They really haven’t caught up with how things are nowadays. That might apply more to the UK than to places like the USA where Paganism has been more community and festival oriented for almost 50 years. Here Paganism has always seemed to be more rooted in the occult and in recognized orders and traditions, something which I think only started to change significantly in the 90s or 00s. You had to find occult bookshops, specialist magazines, find out about rare conferences or symposia, buy fanzines and books and write off to people.

And it’s quite true that we owe a debt to the people who wrote the books, and got together to do things, but since the advent of the internet the majority of unrepresented and unacknowledged people who bought the books and found inspiration in the romance of occultism and Paganism have found their own representation. The independents have come into their own. It started in the 80s really, when things like DIY witchcraft really started to take off. Actually, way before then with the likes of Israel Regardie publishing detailed “how to” books, and before him Aleister Crowley with his own works spilling the beans. It was all part of the “new age” (before the commercial version), the “Age of Aquarius”, the dissemination of “ancient wisdom” to a new world, freed from the constraints of secrecy and hiding.

There’s no question really that both the publishing of magical material, and the democratization of DIY participation catalysed by the internet are both consistent with that “Aquarian” ideal, but the resistance seemed to be considerable, in the resentment and contempt expressed by elements of the “old world”. But times have changed, we’ve moved on, and the orders and covens and traditions can’t speak for people at large, and can’t define who is or isn’t part of “it” anymore. The idea that a bounded group can have the obvious authority to define a spirituality better than an individual now seems … not so obvious at all. Defining validity through which group you might be seen to belong to is an idea that is just falling apart. In that sense, I feel we do live in a more Satanic time.

And about time too. The figure who was the greatest single inspiration to me was the artist-magician Austin Osman Spare, a truly wonderful man with a superb, unique vision. He belonged to no group for any amount of time. He shunned both the art world and the occult world. He was a genius in both areas. Things like Chaos Magic claimed descent from his ideal, but they never caught his spirit, his poetry, his unique flight to the imaginal Sabbat. He had gone.

Don’t drop into the mundanity of groups and qualifications, if what you want is more. Don’t fall from individuality. Fall, or stray, from that unvital consensus. Don’t listen. Your night is young.

Go on.

detail of self portrait of Austin Osman Spare, sceeen capture from video by Alan moore at https://youtu.be/sjtK7vQdgEg

detail of self portrait of Austin Osman Spare, sceeen capture from video by Alan moore at https://youtu.be/sjtK7vQdgEg

late Summer reflections

Beautiful day today, warm and sunny, lovely. Good life to be truthful, back door open, fan on, blue sky, diverse things getting done, but really enjoying a long, late Summer, for as long as it lasts.

I still find myself coming across the odd writing by someone involved in occultism or similar fields, that gives the impression that there is a way, a program, a course you go through, and there you are, eventually, mystically cooked, or self mastered, or whatever. Whether shining and independent, or contritely qualified, it’s so very well paved, so defensively certain, so very much in the head, so very, very young.

There are of course many things that can be achieved by systematic, schematic work, and there is without doubt a need for consistent work and practices, and for some degree of self-discipline. But the majority of that is doing work on repairing and tuning the car, and then familiarizing yourself with other people’s maps, and travel tales. None of that is going to get you anywhere in itself. That is why people with no intention whatsoever of following any kind of spiritual or mystical paths actually get to cross the territory, even if with the accumulation of some scars, while professional spiritual students can get to be just the social furniture of a school or philosophy. That’s why art sometimes works better than mysticism, and why no one actually really knows shit about anyone else when it comes to it.

There are lots of things you can pick up, lots of things that prove useful and insightful, but study never got anyone a real experience. It can help get you skills, knowledge, opinions, and loads of mental stuff that can help or hinder, and more rarely it can communicate something from a very unusual person that actually changes something for you, or fills in a part of the puzzle.

But someone just walking down the road is actually walking, while a car enthusiast is becoming a more experienced car enthusiast. And no one actually has the answer, just an answer that worked for them. That should be really obvious, in a world as brilliantly fucked up as ours.

To really live is something.

Dust Road by Jeff Attaway from Dakar, Senegal (Dust Road) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons