I think this should tie up the loose ends of the recent series of posts and videos on magick, Qabalah and occult Satanism*.
I have always (as in going back almost 40 years) found the sephira of Yesod both fascinating and key.
It is the sphere of The Moon on the tree of life, and the most visual, tactile part of the astral plane, shifting and reforming, where one thing becomes another, and time is different, and whose flux maintains the stability of the world we see with our senses. Change in stability, stability in change. It is also a sphere much associated with sexuality and deep, atavistic desires. It appears to me as a kind of magick mirror, in which we can glimpse the signs of our True Will, our deepest desire, for thelema translates to a term closer to desire than to our mental sense of “will”.
This is also our first gate into the subconscious, and the area where magick most essentially happens.
Back in either the very late 70s or very early 80s I would look at Eliphas Levi’s illustration of the Sabbatic Goat as Baphomet, the well known androgynous figure.
Levi says of the goat figure:
he makes the sign of occultism with both hands,
pointing upward to the white moon of Chesed, and down-
ward to the black moon of Geburah. This sign expresses
the perfect harmony of mercy with justice
Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual
Now though the directions of the Moons seem the wrong way round for the Northern Hemisphere, I took it that constructive Chesed would be associated with the waxing Moon, while martial Gevurah would be associated with the waning Moon. Where then would the Full Moon be? The obvious answer seems to be Yesod, which is primarily associated with the Moon, while the gateway to the astral is said to be open at the time of the Full Moon.
Though no mention is made of it in Levi’s chapter, it then left it open to me as to where the New Moon would be placed. Associated with what? The answer that came to me was that the New Moon (the dark of the Moon) would be associated with a place in the Abyss, with the sephira “which is not”, ie Da’ath. The eleventh sephira, “Knowledge”, eleven being the number of magick.
In fact, come to think of it, the way Levi describes Baphomet, Chesed is to his right (our left), and Gevurah is to his left. This is the opposite of the placements we would see if Baphomet were in front of the Tree of Life (or if we ourselves were performing a qabalistic cross for instance). Likewise the waxing and waning Moons are shown in mirror image (given that Levi would probably have never seen a Moon waxing towards the right, as occurs in the Southern Hemisphere). So in this depiction Baphomet is actually sitting with its back to the Tree of Life, facing the other way (unless this is simply accidental).
In fact I followed this association of the New Moon and Da’ath in my practice back in the early 80s, and when doing my art work I would often find that inspiration for a painting or drawing would dramatically come through at the dark of the Moon. If the Full Moon funnels down the light of Tiphareth and Kether from the astral of Yesod, then the dark of the Moon opens a gate from Da’ath, to the new, the alien, the “infernal”, and the truly individual. You have to be without judgement to work with this, and it is ecstatic, creative and liberating, but it can also be taxing, so you do have to look after yourself.
As I pointed out in my video, the hexagram arrangement on the Tree of Life marks out polarities linked to the planets and sephiroth, and one of the polarities is between Da’ath and Yesod, and between Saturn and the Moon.
Given that it has often been said that it is the “astral light” that is being worked with to make magick, I think it makes sense that Saturn and Da’ath come through here as key agents in both the shaping and the disruption of the astral, to bring about magick.
Continuing with the theme of eleven, the number of magick, the eleventh sign of the Zodiac is Aquarius, originally ruled by Saturn. Atu No 11 of the tarot is “Strength” or “Lust” (in the Crowley deck), showing Babalon riding The Beast, and is the path connecting Chesed and Gevurah. This shows the conjoining of opposites (of whatever polarity) which is involved in magick.
The number 11 however does not seem to indicate a natural union (without any sense of value judgement attached to “natural”). The 11° OTO originally referred to the use of anal intercourse, and in Grant’s reworking involved (non-procreative) heterosexual vaginal union during menstruation. Aquarius is ruled by Uranus in modern astrology, and Uranus is famous for its capacity to powerfully deviate from the “norm”, whether in terms of genius, self-expression or atrocity.
On this point I am reminded of a question which posed itself to me a few years ago. When looking at the wheel of the zodiac we can see that it divides in two between a broad Summer and Winter (which swap over in the Southern Hemisphere).
Summer starts with a sign ruled by Venus, progresses through Mercury to a union of the Moon and Sun at the heart of Summer, before leaving via a Mercury and then a Venus ruled sign.
We then enter Winter through a Mars ruled sign, travelling through a Jupiter sign, before we get to the combination at the heart of Winter; two Saturn ruled signs. We then exit Winter in reverse order, through Jupiter and Mars.
I always wondered, what was the union of Saturns? In one sense I think it is a union across worlds (or universes). In fact the “unnatural union” requires this, for it is a union of sames (Saturn-Saturn) whose polarity must involve another dimension. So there is a trans-dimensional quality to this magick. In fact, this is spirituality in the raw. The congress of and with spirit.
The two signs involved are Capricorn and Aquarius, the 10th and 11th signs. 10 + 11 = 21. The 21st Atu of the tarot is The World (or The Universe), the card of success and fulfilment, ruled by Saturn (again). It is the path that links Yesod to Malkuth (the material).
Here I believe we do see a formula of magick, mapped out in the Qabalah and the zodiac. Yesod is the magick mirror, capable (necessarily) of reflecting both the repetition of the natural and the incursion of the supernatural. It is a mirror that we can tilt towards this world or the other.
Saturn is the key planet, and Da’ath the key sephira, but of course there is a lot more to life than this, and plenty to enjoy and work with in the realm of Nature. For some of us though, other kinds of work also seem to be pushed upon us.
Some blessings are strange indeed, and some strangenesses a blessing.
Love, and do what thou wilt.
* and this post
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.
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.
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.
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.
* this might seem a bit academic, but I like words to have emotional as well as rational resonance.
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.