all the cake

Changing times, but change within a consistent pattern; that’s what it feels like to me at the moment. Renewal, growth.

It’ll be Chinese New Year on Monday, which I always like. We actually live in what was the original China Town of London, of the old docks and sailors, and opium dens, the one before the bustling, touristy one of the West End. It’s long gone of course, though there is a surviving British-Chinese community a little South of here. Phil actually has a very little bit of Chinese blood, going back generations, along with loads of other things.

It feels as if I may actually be doing work in more conventionally “spiritual” areas, such as energy healing, readings and spirit communication, though I will be keeping up the demon exploration and hopefully the art this year.

Connection and relationship are not things you can avoid, and one has to find one’s relationship with the whole, even as a Satanist. That’s always been so in fact, but while I’d say 90% of magick is relationship and working with holisms, there is that core work with the self which is irreplaceable, and which I took many years to tackle. The latter is a taboo subject is some regards, as I consider it to be necessarily satanic, in essence if not necessarily in name. To put it another way, it is negatory as compared with The Whole.

Love and relationship remain the greatest things for me, though the authentic work with the self is completely necessary. I am a Pantheistic polytheist, but I haven’t forgotten the lessons of the Great God Set.

So, life goes on, in its sacred smallness and richness.

Have it all, cake and eating, and wine and flowers too, and beasts to love each other forever. It can be done.

antoinette

Marie-Antoinette with the Rose (detail) by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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

union or relationship?

Without going into too much detail (because the subtleties and variations really are a bit more complex), as a broad generalization, people characterize the spiritual goals of Right Hand Path and Left Hand Path in fairly diametrically opposite fashions. The Right Hand Path tends to get characterized not just by the control of things like desires and pleasures, and service to “the greater good”, but by the mystical goal of “union with the divine”, sometimes characterized as annihilation in God, or other forms of transcendent extinction. The Left Hand Path tends to get characterized not just by the acceptance and even indulgence of desire and pleasure, but by the development and ultimate realization of the individual self in godhood. The Right Hand Path involves union, the Left Hand Path involves (at some level at least) the fulfilment of separation and separate existence, though I would personally modify that terminology on the basis of the distinction between separation and individualization, and union and relationship*.

From my point of view, it is really not quite as simple or polarized as sometimes presented. However you want to envisage the Greater (or transcendent) Whole with which we supposedly achieve ultimate union (according to much orthodox mysticism), it seems clear to me that we actually are already one with it, but without loss of individualization. We might not be aware of it, but it is so. Of course, I do not believe in a “creator God” myself, but whatever it is which is referred to here, we are in a sense already part of it, albeit individualized, and capable of self-realization. I could never see why we would come from something, only to disappear back into it. There are all kinds of stories about God gaining experience in separation and multiplicity, but the most consistent of them that I am aware of make us the conscious ones, not “God”. But really, why go  through this just to go back again. It is all stories, but the more abstract they become, the more childish they sound to me. Yet there is a greater whole which we can find connection with, and benefit from, and find our place within (just not a pre-ordained or subsumed one). There is relationship. But it does not abrogate our individuality or our freedom, far from it.

Which brings me to the goal of Left Hand Path “mysticism”, which is the realization and liberation of the self. Here there are few stories, because rather than  stories, there is life, and moreover the life that you, and only you, can create.

My suspicion is that in the reality of mysticism and magick (rather than our definitions and thought structures around these things), there is only one basic thing, with immense freedom as to what the individualized consciousness does with it. It is not that “all paths lead to the same goal”, in the rather facile, greetings card way that is usually presented. But I suspect that anyone who has actually realized a truly deep mystical goal has got there by straying from every path except their own, whether their “tradition” allowed it or not.

screen capture stills from

screen capture stills from Invocation of My Demon Brother by Kenneth Anger on YouTube

* this might seem a bit academic, but I like words to have emotional as well as rational resonance.

first thought – your thought

I have ripped the title of this post off from an old saying of the beat poet Allen Ginsberg: first thought, best thought.

In Allen’s case it referred to a principle of poetics, that you could trust original creativity, and that to over work, self censor and re-craft your work could detract from the direct process and its purity. It was not an absolute rule of course, but it was a kind of maxim, a reminder, a freeing talisman, a bit like William Carlos Williams’ “no ideas/but in things”. And it was also a distillation of a method.

In my case, this isn’t about poetry, but about how you approach things like magick, the sacred, the gods, the mystical. And I could re-phrase it as “don’t ever lose your personal perspective, your independent vision and relationships, your own intuitive perception and idea”. Because you are right. You honestly will come to know the feel of “right”, in all its subjective substance.

I say this because in 40 odd years of reading, listening, watching, and especially of observing and meeting people in groups concerned with things like the esoteric, the occult and Paganism (and I have mainly been socially very peripheral in that time) I have come to see how easy it is to lose original perception under peer pressure, or simply under the domination of a certain atmosphere within a social milieu, or under intellectual fashion, or the common place swagger of local consensus. And then you have to find it all over again, and find you were right all along, before you gave it, or put it away.

So please do yourself a favour. Enjoy the carnival, but come back home to you.

That’s where the real carnival is.

Carnaval de Lazarim by Rosino ([1]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

straining at the bit

Summer is certainly licking at the frost at the moment, with some clear skies, and warm enough to walk round the garden in T shirt and sweat pants. And things are thawing in other ways too, and in a much more long term sense.

One of the messages I got at the spiritualist show at the weekend was relating to my creativity, which the spirit was very complimentary about, saying it was unique and unusual, and that I needed to stop hiding my light under a bushel. My attitude to creativity and artistry is democratic and individual, and pretty much still informed by punk. Everyone is royalty as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a lineage of one and one only. A democratic aristocracy of deviance (yes, I do have Sun conjunct Uranus in Leo). I could think of the spirit message as relating to a number of things, such as my writing which I do take pleasure in and care about. But where the arrow actually hits is with painting and drawing, visual arts, which I have done since I was a child. In my early twenties that was my primary creative focus, which I combined with magick and self-exploration. My patron saint in those days was Austin Osman Spare, the magical artist that was considered by many to be a strong part of the 93 current of Thelema, and an inspiration to Chaos Magic.

I had a lot of things to do in those days that led me away from painting and creativity; the job of finding a life basically. That led through quite a few scary experiences and situations, though there was a beautiful clear spell in the Summer of 1987 in which magick resurfaced and I was looking again to chaos magic, going to Psychic TV gigs, and I found a band called Coil that spoke to me more perfectly than any I had found before really. Horse Rotorvator was the soundtrack to my beautiful summer of darkly psychedelic love. Another that I really remember from about this period was “Swastikas for Noddy” by Current 93. By sometime in 1988 I was nose diving towards breakdown though, but that is another story. I had to find my life, and that would only really start to happen after January 1990. Eventually it would all lead to coming out properly, finding the bear community, and finding my husband.

Creativity was shelved; it was too psycho-active, too transformative, too shape-shifting. I needed earth between my toes. It makes complete sense to me that I would need to find a husband, more than anything else. That’s the person that I am. But now that I am married, and retired and looking after my husband, it also makes complete sense that creativity has returned as an opportunity. I imagine some would have a similar need to raise a child and focus on that, before they can get back to their creative nature. I could quite understand that. Creativity can be essential to a person, but some things have to come first. But that doesn’t make creativity any less essential.

I feel a bit like I was back in that clear spot of an island in 1987, cradled by the daemonic, in the sunny, dappled eye of a maelstrom. But here, now, there is no storm. Now I am in charge, in a way which I could not be before I found my mate. And I’ve returned to Crowley and Thelema in my own way (what other way is there?), and the enchanted freedom of an individual. It’s pretty wild, and at a certain level that is the only way to be.

On a cold Summer night in east London, you can still catch the smell of Pan, amongst the trees.

Man posed on rocks, nude, playing pipe (Pan) – by Frances Benjamin Johnston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

hymn to an outsider

When it comes round to February and most Witches are thinking of Imbolc and ewes and Brigit, my thoughts turn to Pan. Not that I don’t love all those candles, but consistently it is Pan that returns to me at this time of year.

Pan meant an enormous amount to me when I was younger, and was de facto the god of my devotions as a young Thelemite. I was I think the recipient of a tradition of Pan veneration which weaved its way through the aesthetics and esotericism of a time running from Romanticism through the Decadents and Symbolists, through the time of rebels such as DH Lawrence, Aleister Crowley, through to the mid twentieth century. Pan trailed not just a nascent promise of neopaganism with him, but the aura of censored artists, persecuted sexuality, forbidden magic, the excluded and the “mad”. He was a devil of a god, whose shadow reared up to heavens emptied of the bible’s One Deity, and led down to whispered mysteries. His reputation was not just pastoral and natural, but also dangerous and very personal.

I was probably about 11 or 12 when I first saw a picture of Pan, and I was mesmerized by this half goat, half man god. He came to represent all that I searched for in the magical mysteries of “the Pagan”, all that I swore ran through my blood and my pre-teen sexuality, as it led down into adolescence. Any depiction of a satyr in a museum would become an icon and a little place of pilgrimage for me.

In esoteric hearsay, stories of Pan’s invocation were accompanied with cautionary tales, supposed immorality, foolhardiness, and magicians left gibbering and naked in the morning. I wonder if that still gets trotted out nowadays? I didn’t really consider Pan in quite that light, he was my favourite after all, but there was a coldness and a darkness that could accompany the goat foot god, both a loneliness and its answer, along with experiences which might get stereotyped as “enchanting” and “ecstatic”. For one period of time in my twenties I would get hurled out of sleep, like out of deep water, in a state of terror. My sister swore, years later, that she had once awoken to hear a large animal on the landing outside our bedrooms, breathing heavily in the middle of the night. It was quite an extreme time in some ways, though very creative.

One of his myths has him rejected at birth by his mother, on account of his ugliness. He was anything but ugly to me, but that theme touches something I don’t hear often with respect to Pan. That rift, that ostracism, that exclusion. The combination of his creative and inspiring nature with his conventional vilification (in stories he often repels those he pursues) also I think make of him a stand in for the daemon, the individual genius which is so often misunderstood or feared. He seemed to be the dark, hairy, libidinous underground, lit with an invisible electricity, where we would find the True Will. He was, in a lot of ways for me, The Beast in my young Thelema. He did indeed seem to have a special place with Crowley. “Into my loneliness come the sound of a flute” begins one of my favourite short pieces by Crowley, and it was Pan that Crowley and Victor Neuburg invoked into the latter in the North African desert in their sexual magick.

Of all the gods, it is probably Pan who was taken as a model of The Horned God by the creators of the early twentieth century Witch Cult in England. His place really was pre-eminent at a certain time in our recent history, romantically speaking. Doreen Valiente, in talking about the pentagram, refers to the “two points up” version as emblematic of the goat face of the Horned God, and of spirit buried within matter, but this brings in another theme.

The picture of the goat face within the pentagram has become emblematic of Satanism (and some kinds of heavy metal), having been launched into mass awareness by Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan in 1966. He did not invent this image though, for as far as I can tell it originates with the 19th century French poet and Rosicrucian, Stanislas de Guaita. The image wasn’t meant to depict Pan explicitly, and probably referred to an imagined “black magic” or “Satanism”.

design published by de Guaita - image in public domain

design published by de Guaita – image in public domain

The goat image even gets slapped on the wrong animal, such is the attachment to this beast as a carrier of a condemned message. “The Goat of Mendes”, beloved of old fashioned occult, pot boiler authors, was actually a ram, and needless to say, a legitimate religious symbol, just not a monotheistic one.

Pan arrives in our time, a very long way from Arcadia, having picked up some unusual tailoring along the  way. Having shut him, and all he represents, away in the cellar of a Christian and then rationalist subconscious, he has emerged in poetry and art and magic, modern folk lore and counterculture.

Why, I wondered, would he come back for me in February? Well, always in the sign of Aquarius it seems, a sign ruled by both Saturn and Uranus. Uranus has some kind of association with him, though not an at first obvious one. It is the exclusion, the shock and the reaction, the tendency to absorb a blackened image and just burn brighter all the same, the origination of creativity, and also the absolutism. Pan is the lunge for wholeness that propels us beyond reason and sense, beyond self preservation. He haunts the root of our individual godhood. Thanks to the journey he has taken, he also carries a healing for the excluded. We need to understand him if we are going to understand ourselves.

If you want a ride, he can give you a ride. I look on him with gratitude and love, and a wonder which I still feel.

Idyll (Pan Amidst Columns) by Arnold Böcklin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons