saints, healers and beasts

I have written on this subject before, as well as about my limited experience of contributing to a certain kind of art.

I have great respect for porn, and for sex work, and sex workers. I view the latter as having a sacred function in a world that has trouble according Nature its due, and the former (potentially) as art that exists below as well as above the belt. And that’s probably why it is taboo, because we are all both vulnerable and blissful below the belt, and our society has a long standing stake in dividing our natures against themselves. That may be religious in origin, though its puritanism has been vigorously taken up by identity politics, or it may be an underpinning element of a wider authoritarian mind-set.

So I am very interested in the overlap between “pornography”, art and artistic creativity, and magick. I consider this to be a sacred form of art, one which certainly may not be achieved (or aimed for) in all porn, but it is implicit in the territory, just as a form of sacred service is implicit in the field of sex work.

We have a long way to go in living free lives as the human beings we are, though many people are bravely attempting to do so in their personal and private lives, while others are hoodwinked by politics into propping up more forms of division and fabrication. I thank anyone for honestly trying to be themselves at this deeper level of sexuality, being and relationship. Pornography and sex work are not ends in themselves (anymore than other forms of art or vocation are), but services towards the wholeness of life. Extrapolated to magickal spirituality this area has many resonances in our lives, beyond pornography, sex work, or indeed literal sex. This is some of what I was alluding to in my post on Babalon* also.

The real work is our being human.

painting2

landscape, person or art?

This post is dedicated to Freya, Babalon and Set.

* indeed Babalon might be one of the “saints” of the title of this post.

29th October 2016: post edited

a step in identity

As I have indicated before, I have increasingly little time for the constraints of modern labels on human sexuality.

The label of “gay” has never sat easily with me, and judging from the reactions of a good few gay men I’ve come into contact with, the gay mainstream would share that opinion of me. Which isn’t that surprising now, as I’ve come to the conclusion that “gay” really is an artificial and forced construct (as opposed to any form of sexual or emotional desire, including the homosexual and homoerotic). Or maybe it just isn’t me, and it was a case of mistaken identity.

I believe in a sexual humanism, in human beings relating as humans, with varying needs for relationship, emotion and sexual fulfilment with men and/or women. It’s individual and it’s human. That’s how I see things, though we tend to be prevented from that purity of honest relationship by social pressure to be purely heterosexual, and the condemnation of homosexuality, as well as the coercion to be strictly monogamous. On the other hand we are equally distorted by the forced reaction and rebellion against those things.

I always identified as “gay” as that was the best available description, especially when seeking to find a way in the world as it is. But at this point I have divested myself of the term, except for the purposes of brief, pragmatic communication. My desires, sexual and emotional, for deep relationship are overwhelmingly for other men, or rather for certain kinds of men, and certain individual men (at this stage it is individual men). It’s an energy thing, a thing of the psyche, but also a thing of the body. But if I am to be “put in a box” and categorised, I feel the best term to attach to myself would be bisexual, not because I have felt the need to have sex or an intimate relationship with a woman (and I am now 58 years old), but because it would be disingenuous to pretend that I was absolutely 100% purely and only homosexual in possible desire or sexual behaviour, given the right person and circumstances. That is just silly in my view, bordering on phobic. Men really are my thing, without a doubt, but this great divide, with all the assertions and assumptions attached to either “side”, is I think false.

So better call me bisexual, if you must. If anyone wants to know more, well they better ask. But better still, just call me human.

mercuriuskopergravure

Mercurius KoperGravure by Matham Jacob (naar tekening Goltzius) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

scandal, tolerance and “rights”

Today I was watching a snippet of daytime TV with a friend, and the subject was a discussion of a “scandal” that had peeked out of the political establishment, of the old fashioned politicians and prostitutes type. I tend to find the reactions to these things puerile and moralistic, often deeply disingenuously so. It’s like virtue signalling, but made in the threadbare image of the Edwardian era.

In this case the politician was a “family man” who it has emerged had been consorting with male sex workers, and he’s now resigned.

The daytime TV program (Loose Women) had some varied opinions, the one I sympathised with most defending the politician on the basis that this really was not a public issue, and he had not acted hypocritically when measured by his stated positions on things like sex work, and we should just stop this kind of media circus. Others felt more critical, and one of the issues (aside from the public service angle), was the issue of the moral aspect of his “cheating” on his wife.

One person said she thought “in this day and age” people could be openly gay, and they should be able to live openly, and this kind of thing should not be happening. But I really think this misses the point of how far we have to go in bringing about real, meaningful freedom for people, not in terms of gay rights, or anything that can even be primarily tackled by the whole “militant” rights type of thinking, but in terms of how many people aren’t free to live as themselves openly. This man might not be gay, and sexuality is far more subtle and nuanced than ticking one of three boxes. He might specifically gain a certain kind of fulfilment from liaising with sex workers, as people have for thousands of years. He just isn’t the idea of a “family man” that people have. We don’t know, and it isn’t our business, and aside from maybe conjecturing that he and his wife might or might not have some communicating to do about their respective needs, no one knows, or should know, anything there either.

It really points out to me how our society has and hasn’t changed. Yes, we do have equal rights for gay people, and that is something to be proud of and grateful for. Honestly, we have it good. But there is a great deal else to question with compassion and openness, such as why not polyamory, validated sex work, alternative relationship forms, and a release from this whole thing of gay, straight or bisexual, stamped and sealed or else (get judged as something shady, confused or dishonest). This isn’t the stuff of politics,  it’s the stuff of hearts and minds. How much greater could we be, if we appreciated the real tapestry of human nature, sexual and otherwise?

What we need is a sexual humanism.

The Great American by Jasenlee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Great American by Jasenlee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Babalon

Everyone comes to their own understanding of spiritual principles. For me the place of love and sexuality in spirituality has always been a key question, and one which I knew had crucial answers.

Certain faces of “the feminine” are very important to me, in that they coincide with my deeper nature, and the meaning I carry within me. Thus they carry an intimate and very personal meaning for me.

To be a man who loves men is not always an easy circumstance, for it really has nothing to do with being “gay”, and to be all that you are, often without social guidance or validation, and find true relationship, can be a challenge. But life is miraculous, and if we are true to ourselves, we can be taught directly, and find our loves.

Babalon is a modern Thelemic goddess, based upon a positive interpretation of “The Whore of Babylon” of the Book of Revelation. I used to find parallels between her and the Hindu goddess Durga, but I find it better to look at her uniquely now. I would particularly like to focus on the “whore” or prostitute aspect, and its relationship to a certain kind of feminine individuation¹.

The Roman Venus was a patroness of many things, but amongst them were prostitutes and homosexual men. The link between homosexual men and prostitutes is really quite long and abiding, probably because we are both manifestations of the feminine (at some level) that goes beyond the “respectable” and socially acceptable, or at least beyond the procreative family. In both our cases there is something conventionally “missing” or mismatched, but on a deeper level there is also something that convention cannot provide. Also, we both tend to find our meaning in a form of service (I think that is a reasonable if inevitably non-comprehensive generalisation*).

When I say homosexual men, to be historically (and maybe psychically) valid, I mean men who primarily love and desire men in a devoted and receptive way, as there are many men who are able to have active sex with another man without being “homosexual” or “gay”, and who may want to for many reasons. This kind of homosexuality doesn’t necessarily have outward feminine characteristics though, it being a much deeper and instinctive orientation within someone who is male, and little to do with superficial appearances. These of course cannot be definitive generalisations. Our modern categories are just overly controlling and inaccurately labelling.

Love engages all of us. Body, heart, soul and spirit. This kind of love is a fire that brings us alive and burns down our constraints, transforms us, and offers us the chance of both ultimate fulfilment and complete destruction. You have to be courageous to take up such a challenge, such a risk, but to not do so is to never live.

In my own life Babalon is an exemplar, of how to live from my heart and soul. And of how to have the strength to truly love, even beyond need, and beyond calculated safety. This same great force leads people to love purely and with absolute “fidelity” (which can mean many things), and to the madness of obsession if our own needs and blocks are not burnt up for the sake of love. Only through this fire do we understand the nature of union, and how we love with our whole body and soul, following our true meaning, with those we are truly bonded and intimate with.

tattoo of Leilah Waddel, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley - by Rosa Laguna

tattoo of Leilah Waddell, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley – by Rosa Laguna

¹ meaning individuation along a feminine pattern of experience, whether for a woman or man.

* it is striking that homosexual men do tend to end up in service occupations, whether it is retail, health care, counselling, mediumship, therapies or sex work. I think this is in many cases an instinctive orientation, rather than that we are “better with people” etc.

21st August 2016: last paragraph edited “needs” to “needs and blocks”.

the end of gay and straight

I have really got to the end of this whole sexual identity thing. I no longer see what it has to do with humanity, love or human reality, emotional or sexual.

I think it’s very true that most people have a marked need for partners of one sex or the other, and that need means that many people, as a generality in their life, will be overwhelmingly heterosexual or homosexual as a rule. But people can have exceptions too, and I have come to believe that Tammo de Jongh was right when he said that people are essentially bisexual. Except that we don’t yet have an understanding of that, because we think in categories, not real descriptions, so we imagine “bisexual” is a box someone ticks, and you then put them in that box, but that’s not how anyone is. If everyone is bisexual, it includes all the people we think of as gay and straight as well. But this is not a statistical, demographic, outward reality, it is an inward, implicit condition of being human.

Moreover of course, it does not mean that everyone is adaptable, malleable or available. Everyone is human and individual. It means everyone is just who they are, and the categories we have don’t constrain love and desire.

I’ve had enough of being “gay”. Not of being homosexual in relationship orientation, which despite the unpleasantly clinical nature of the term, at least describes something. No, I was made for loving a few men utterly and completely, every fibre of my being says so, but I’m not “gay”.

We need to stop judging, and start listening, if we are interested in people, rather than ulterior motives, or the demands of intellect and politics and conformism. We need to look to the inward, and stop listing the outward. We need to respect the deeply personal, life and death nature of real, deep love, from the body through to the soul. You only have so many chances in your life for this kind of happiness, and you need to take them. And I still think that Tammo’s understanding of this is a key.

***

I knew I was deeply attracted to men and maleness since I was about 11. Between 11 and 16 I came to terms with being “gay”, despite finding nothing I could relate to in what I saw of the “gay world”. I got my inspiration from Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter. I’ve thought of myself as gay ever since, despite finding inexplicable antipathy or incomprehension from a great deal of the gay mainstream when I came into contact with it. I was always the one that got told I “wasn’t really gay”, or “gay enough yet”, or that I was “bisexual” (really, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that, but I’ve never been interested in sex with women). I looked on camp and drag with tolerant disinterest. I found terms like “butch” and “femme” described nothing of real masculinity or femininity, rather they seemed to elevate fabrication and artifice over essential nature. The “gay world” I all too often met seemed to have a revenge against depth and innocence lodged within it. A revenge against human nature. A bitter disbelief in love.

And I say this because I have seen so many deeply unhappy, dysfunctional and destructive people in the “gay community”, who appear to be trapped in the socialization they have undergone within that ghetto. I can’t say they have been served well by the constraints of the category of “gay”. Any human being deserves better than that.

I still can’t stand it when people see a straight man or woman have a relationship (or just sex) with someone of the same-sex, and immediately they’re seen as “bisexual”, or “gay but can’t decide”, or “bi-curious”, anything other than the human being they are. What box can we put them in? Where can we put them in our world? How can we use them to back up our world view? Truthfully, if anyone has that reaction, they didn’t deserve the privilege of knowing. Not one bit.

An end to this. We are human, and we need to show some humility and respect in the face of the possibility of love and life.

Gay is over.

And just think on this: if you are gay as the world says it is, then you make up a maximum of 1 in 10 of the population (probably less). There are only so many people you can have a deep relationship with, because indiscriminate, or just conveniently available sex is not a source of deep fulfilment, and neither is convenient relationship. It is something else that makes it real. So if you are 1 in 10, then out of all the people you could find fulfilment with, 9 out of 10 won’t want you if it works like people say. Add to that the constraints of dogmatic monogamy and, well we’re not talking about a recipe for fulfilment.

I don’t believe it works like that though. Because it is actually about a profound experience of energy that flows through our relationships, where we become our true selves and also help to transform one another and our shared lives. It is something deep, personal, but also bigger than us in a sense. And people will surprise you, because that is what love does. We need to dissolve the taboos and condemnations of same-sex relationships so that love can find its way, and we need to also become open to the real nature of love for everyone, and things like real polyamory  (not indiscriminate open relationships), for us to find the honest way of allowing people to have fulfilled lives.

But we don’t need the prison of categorised sexual identity. We’d do better to understand our energy and what fulfils it in our case, and really believe in love.

magic circle

photo of design from “The Future Will Be Green” by Anelog and Brother Sebastien https://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-Will-Green-Guidelines-New/dp/0952912007/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463670064&sr=8-1&keywords=the+future+will+be+green – electronically decorated

11th June 2016: very minor edit to 8th paragraph to clarify meaning.

sacred ass

You can’t really have any contact with modern Paganism and avoid the selective religious blessing given to the body and physical existence. That there is any perceived blessing of the body is a good thing. We’ve had so much condemnation of the body and the flesh from religious sources over many, many years, that it’s high time the blessing was brought back.

Yet we seem to hang on to old sentiments and old prejudices when it comes to the flesh. How long did it take us to rush to worship at the altar of procreation? No time at all, for it was right there in the anthropological and psychological fixations on “fertility cults”. Back then it looked like the good wannabe noble savage was gonna have to get down to baby making, or at least going through the motions with spiritual intent. And what was the one form of sexuality traditionally endorsed by the Church? The one leading to childbirth. Admittedly with other controls and binds and dogmas attached. But if you are coming down to sexual nuts and bolts, what the Church approved of was heterosexual vaginal sex with a reproductive outcome. Which kinda makes them a fertility cult as well really.

I don’t think that Pagan revivalists meant it, or saw it quite that way though. They just inherited a sensibility, and poured their counterculture into it. But the fact is it’s there. And they were trying for a kind of liberation, and hopefully found what they were looking for. We don’t get most places in just one leap, after all. But neopaganism as a whole has I think got stuck with the inheritance of sacralizing procreative sex above all others. We want people to have choices, but we still put it there at the middle. We justify this by linking it to birth and life and saying well, isn’t that what Paganism is about? We ameliorate it by cultivating tolerance. But really I don’t think it washes well enough.

I think we need to push this a little further, because we will never understand or experience sexuality fully and freely unless we decouple it from procreation, and it does not help us if we iconize sexuality as the procreative process. I think babies are awesome, wild things – it’s like looking in the eyes of an astronaut that just went through the most gut wrenching re-entry, but that’s about them, not about sex and sexuality.

The “what we need to look at” sexually is I believe everything that isn’t the procreative process. That will include all such  sexuality (including the majority of instances of heterosexual sex), but will also put it in the “condemned” category in old Church teachings, and the “class B” of neopagan iconography. Where such sexual expression is intentional, you could sum it up in the traditional term “sodomy“, in the broader meaning of the word. In fact sodomy is a word with a fantastic, almost piratical ring to it. I suggest we reabsorb some of its positive and life affirming content.

At various times the term sodomy has meant a range of religiously or legally prohibited sexual acts and behaviours, that separate sexual intention from procreation (in addition to other “vices”)*. I’d say that it is exactly the intention to separate sexuality from procreation that we actually need. Sex is no reason to have kids. Procreation is not what makes sex sacred. It’s time we broke the equation, especially given how appallingly overpopulated the world is. We don’t need to add alternative sexuality around the edges of “sacred procreativity”. We need to accord the non-procreative its own place of supreme sexual honour. I say supreme, because we then don’t confuse sexuality and reproduction. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with …….. sacred sodomy!

Of course, when most people hear the word sodomy they think “anal intercourse”. Now penetrative sex of any kind is not everybody’s thing, but the anus is indeed an interesting door to our relationship with sex and the body. There are few parts of the body quite as despised, yet also commonly desired, and like it or not, it is a sex organ (and guys, whether you know it or not, you do have a g spot up there). In itself it is neither male nor female by nature, which is to say it is common to all sexes and genders.  Not only is it a sex organ, but you’d also die without it (surgical stoma formation apart). Put simply, if the penis and the vagina may be accorded iconic religious status (and they historically are), then so can the anus. If we talk about the sacred lingam and yoni, then we should talk about the sacred anus too.

In fact where we tend to find it more is in demonological and apocalyptic illustrations, where its taboo and despised qualities are maximized and given a nightmare edge. It does turn up in the kama sutra, but that tends to be glossed over in public reputation. And then there is the “obscene kiss” of the Witches’ Sabbat, where the participant must kiss the Devil’s behind. It betrays a potent power over the cultural psyche, but it is not exactly roses and light. I would argue though that a rose is still a rose, and the hidden light can be the most enlightening.

illustration of the

illustration of the “obscene kiss” – image in public domain

Interestingly anal intercourse as a magical formula was attached to the XI degree OTO by Aleister Crowley, while the heterosexual (and non-reproductively intentioned) practice of intercourse during menstruation was associated with this degree by Kenneth Grant. As some people have noted here, 11 is the number of magick and the “passionate union of opposites”. It is not the number of reproduction in the ordinary sense. To some traditions the number is viewed as “evil” because it goes beyond the “perfection” of 10, tipping it into the unbalanced and “demonic” (and here we see the features of some traditional anti-gay arguments reanimated and twitching to life). In actual fact, balance does not come from abstractions and maintenance of taboo – rather the opposite. 11 is also viewed as a “master number” in numerology. It is as well the number of the sign of Aquarius, and the Age we are meant to be heading towards. Its component parts are equal, and it indicates a union between two levels of being (seen either as 5 + 6 or 1 +10). There is in its form a reflectiveness, a symmetry and a balance, yet also a presence that is more than the sum of its parts. But it is a departure, into one’s own direct experience. Katon Shual gives a nice reflection on some of these matters in his book “Sexual Magick“, and a good deal else besides.

Of course, sacred sexuality and sexual magick need have nothing to do with the anus or penetration, and there is much else besides, and much to be explored and discovered with an open mind and a clear heart. We have so much to unlearn, and so much to explore, with love. But I would like to give the anus its place of honour, as a representative of so much that could be, need not be, and could be otherwise. In Nature’s sacred vocabulary, it needs no introduction.

Here’s to the ass, and the many colours and tastes of love without conception.

By Klearchos Kapoutsis (Flickr: Santorini's donkey) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons - image electronically altered

By Klearchos Kapoutsis (Flickr: Santorini’s donkey) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons – image electronically altered

* from what I can gather the accusation of “sodomy” has been used primarily against men, but the quality of deviance (or creative inspiration) that it traditionally embodies can be taken to include women in its moral sweep, especially when it comes to include non-procreative, unsanctioned sexual behaviour.

roses for southpaws

I’ve been through what is quite an awesome journey since last Winter, in terms of personal unfoldment, and accepting aspects of my own path and nature. None of this would have been possible without my husband, who is so much the better half of my world that he really is my path. In some sense we always journey together, and his acceptance of me is all the validation I need. Whereas I measure and process and craft and test (and think too much), he seems to just go straight to it and be there already. I’ve learnt to listen to him and his way of being. I used to think I was listening already, but I wasn’t aware of how much of me didn’t, so I’ve learnt to listen more consciously.

I guess I’ve been working on something in myself, back and forth, since the Summer of 2009, when I had a resurgence of appreciation of Thelema and Crowley. Phil was right there, encouraging me, and liking The Beast for his own direct reasons, in his own way. I love Phil, not just ’cause he’s my husband and my life partner, but because I feel so proud of everything he is. He doesn’t care what people think, and he does what he wants, and he knows he’s as good as anyone. I have to learn that lesson, but I’ve really been working on it. The kind of Pagan Phil is, it’s the perfect antidote to all the “court mentality” of some of our imaginary kings and queens and priestesses and politicians. No big deal (kinda the point really), but it’s really good to be free.

Last October something did come home when I wrote this entry to my blog, looking back on the episode of Maat magick which had preceded my breakdown and break through spiritually in 1990. It isn’t quite done to admit any kind of mental instability in magic, and indeed you need to be pretty strong and resilient to go through some processes, but at the same time there is an undoubted kinship between the two areas which may leave some people very uncomfortable. While you do not want people to suffer the awful losses of mental illness (and any responsible person will guard against this for both themselves and others), it remains that there are areas of both which can only be distinguished from each other by where they are going, rather than what they are. “Facing the shadow”, or encountering the “dark night of the soul” are experiences of  failure as profound as anyone could subjectively imagine. They are not symbolic dress rehearsals but, as spiritual experiences, the manifest beneficence which underlies them makes of them a healing and refashioning which defies description. It’s appropriate in some ways that I wrote that blog post after I had completed the elemental reflections that I was engaged with last Summer, ending with fire, as the crisis can be compared to the crowning of elemental existence with spirit (even if the process felt like you were going off the rails and dying!).

The first magical operation I did after my breakthrough (as far as I remember) was a little Hoodoo ritual of Michael Bertiaux’s, which was quite trippy and opened me up dramatically at a certain level, but I had to say a friendly goodbye to the spirits involved after about three nights of strange sleep, crystal clear inner visuals, and the sight of astral black fire which to this day remains one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen, due to its dense blackness and fluid flame motion. Second chakra felt kinda sore by then. It felt entirely benevolent but apparently wasn’t right for me. An intentional and affectionate goodbye, and the spirits were gone on their way.

Both Nema’s Maat Current and Michael Bertiaux had turned up in Kenneth Grant’s “Cults of the Shadow”, a book I had come across while working in a warehouse in Limehouse in 1979 (literally, I was packing the books for mail order). Kenneth Grant had been a deep but mystifying inspiration to me throughout a good deal of my twenties. His exposition of Crowley’s work in “The Magical Revival” was an epiphany for me, and his introduction of Austin Osman Spare through his “Oracles and Images” book was immensely liberating. He also introduced an illuminating exposition of what he termed “the left hand path”¹, a term which was often used elsewhere in a condemnatory sense (an esoteric cross between degenerate, pervert and criminal) but which Grant validated and took back to its Indian tantric roots.

The main reason I bring up Grant is because, along with a renewed affection for the person I was in my early and late twenties, I’ve come to remember how important a vision of the Left Hand Path was for me, and how much it has shaped me spiritually. I had not followed a conventional path by anybody’s criteria, the central part being art with magical intention or inspiration, a very personal practice that sought to both explore the self and its inward worlds, and open doors to other places. Spare was my biggest inspiration, but I also felt a great kinship with the Australian artist Rosaleen Norton. That was buttressed by Crowley and more conventional material from the likes of Israel Regardie.

I was in a position though where I needed to explore conventional (“right hand path”) material to gain psychological strengths that I lacked (to “grow up” basically), but “the way” was clearly left hand path to my view and sensibility. This was further complicated by the fact that, as a gay man, conventional right hand path material could not help me reach psychological strength and maturity, as it did not accept my valid existence. Grant’s presentation of the left hand path, for that matter, seemed to skirt my existence also in his overwhelming focus on heterosexuality and an objectified vision of the magickal power of “woman”. How dated that use of the term “woman” seems now (and it was irksome then), but I believe it can actually be seen to underly quite a few physical gender obsessions within neopaganism, like we never got past 1960 or something. I believe in “Cults of the Shadow” at one point Grant also puts forth a theory to explain homosexual oral and anal acts in terms of chakra imbalances. There was so much fascinating material and inspiration, but nowhere to stand. One of the reasons I felt so close to Spare was that with the ecstatic content of his work, there was no judgement. Also, with both Crowley and Spare the individual was sovereign, and there at least there was sanctuary, and an exultant one.

Of all the gods I saw mentioned in my readings of Thelema, the one that stands out is the Egyptian Set. You couldn’t find a more demonized figure to western esotericism really, as the later myths that came down cast him as a cosmic Cain, and what he does to Osiris there is a kinda Sweeny Todd study in  mythological forensics. But the ambiguous, complex figure of Set is much older than that story, and he was indeed worshipped and accorded great honour in his time. He could never be quite kicked out anyway, as he remains on the solar barque at the crucial moment when Ra is threatened by the serpent monster Apep, and there Set is, the only one capable of defeating the monster and letting the Sun go on to rise again. It looks like later ages couldn’t live with him, but they couldn’t quite live without him either.

My feelings for Set have proved to be deep and abiding, sleeping at the back of my being like the peaceful, low hum of bees at rest, waiting for over twenty years for me to turn around and notice. Words do fail me here, but I can add that this is another place where Phil has just understood immediately and without question. There is a beautiful and tantalising exposition of the nature of Set in Katon Shual’s “Sexual Magick“, as a god of ambiguity and confusion, sexuality (especially non-procreative sexuality) and sexual magick, and the many formed reality (and unreality) of gender, as well as being a god of foreigners and frontiers. This book has some wonderful treasures within it, such as the account of Moses Long’s experiments as a 17th century conjuror in the field of sexual magick in “the conjuration of Angels”. There were things in this, the latest, revised edition of “Sexual Magick” that had me laughing with recognition, and the author treats the subject with great kindness and humanity. I recommend this book very highly.

The chapter dealing with “The Mysteries of Seth” features a section which takes on the form of a communication from the god in response to questions, and I was really struck by how much this reminded me of some of my old inspiration Richard Gardner’s writing in books like “The Tarot Speaks” and “Evolution Through the Tarot”, where he tried to let the images of the cards speak through him. Richard, like Katon Shual, rated Wilhelm Reich, and though the time he was coming from had a strong sense of the gender binary, he would have been the first to throw off anything that he saw as closing people’s minds to the realities of sex, sexuality, love and consciousness. Richard had enough of the benign trickster to him to be a little god of confusion himself, but reading that section of Katon’s book, I almost felt like I was hearing the same voice at times.

Inevitably, if you follow the path of magick, you follow a road to a place which has been culturally outlawed for a very long time. We sometimes persuade ourselves that we have come a long way since the Victorian era, but our collective life still cherishes ignorance and a repression of love and sex under so many of its polished, professional or sentimental surfaces. But still people have the courage to follow that other call. It can be done, and anyone who has the heart and soul for it should follow their heart.

Some of the things I remember from Kenneth Grant’s exposition of the 93 current² and its aquarian implications were the shift in the formula of magic from ritual (Virgo-Pisces) to direct astral magic, and especially the use of sexuality and the sexual current (Leo-Aquarius). The other was the sovereignty of the individual. Grant could sound rather daunting and clinical at times, rather unfeeling, but I’ve come to understand that the actual work is anything but that. I am neither the thelemic hero nor the scarlet woman, and the stereotypes don’t really speak to me or my experience. I am exactly the post-punk hippie tree hugger that I am, with a husband that means the whole world to me, living happily in our home in East London. But I actually now recognise that, as the person I am, I have largely followed this path, through an emerging predisposition rather than conscious design. With my husband, and in completely idiosyncratic ways, I have left behind ritual of all but the simplest form, and focussed on sexuality and eroticism, natural trance states arising from the body and emotions, and congress with our beloved deities and spirits. And that is a very loving, practical, authentic and nourishing experience.

Of course terms like “left hand path” and “right hand path” are categories in our heads, but I’m happy to acknowledge the strange, beautiful and liberating garden I once found under the left hand sign. Though the path has been a long one, I realize I still live in that garden, and you can live in that garden with love.

photo of altar with votive figure of Set animal, hand made by Nicholas from Shadow of the Sphinx (http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/shadowofthesphinx). He now has his own altar :0)

¹ a reasonable jumping off point discussion of the terms “right” and “left hand path” can be found here.

² ie of Thelema