Comments on this site are welcome but generally I will delete those made anonymously or any posts if they are seen to attack anyone.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

One important thing to stop doing if you are Pagan

An article was posted on Pagan Wiccan About   with the title Ten Things to Stop Doing if You're Pagan.
It has a list of things which Pagans should stop doing, now that they are Pagan and most of it makes a lot of sense. Things like stop trying to fit your new religion into your old one (read Christianity);   Stop assuming all Pagans are the same etc.  All good stuff, but then it got to one which stuck in my craw a bit.  “Stop Being Silent.”
Its argument was that many Pagan traditions follow a guideline that includes the idea of keeping silent.  Yet it complains that pagans use this as an excuse not to speaking out when injustice is done.
“As Pagans, we’re in the minority, in the United States and in most other countries. That means that when things happen to other minority groups - even those that are not Pagan - we should still be standing up for those other groups.”
Firstly there is a problem here.  The statement evokes the statement “pagans are a minority” while this is true, it is creating the climate of the ghetto.  It is saying “we are this… they are something else” we need to stick together for protection from a big bad.  Ghetto mentality though creates inbreeding of ideas and isolation from the rest of society.  It is self-marginalising because it takes the religion away from the rest of the world where they remain misunderstood  It is better that any new religion sees itself as part of the world working within it than against it.
But there is another problem.  Paganism, however it is defined, is not an automatic banner for political activity.   That is not to say that Pagans should not be political, quite the opposite. But tying politics to beliefs is exactly the mistake which has blighted religions for millennia.  You end up with Crusades, Fatwas and Wars of Religion.  One of the few things I agree about in the American Revolution was that it separated Church from State.  Political activism enshrined in religious beliefs puts it right back there creating a Taliban mentality.
It is one thing to say my religion focuses on nature and ecology; it is another to say “my god tells me to stick poisons in supermarket meat.” It is good to say “my religion emphasises the importance of animal life” it is another to say “my religion orders me to blow up scientists who experiment on beagles.”  Religion might inspire political activity but it should never direct it.  You can argue that the first is theoretical and does not mean anything, while the other is active and brings about change, but at the end of the day one is political and the other is not.  
The other thing I didn’t agree with is the statement that speaking up should bee used as a reason to link with other minorities just because “they are minorities like us.”
Such a concept rapidly becomes silly.  For example the KKK is a minority group, does that mean that pagans should ally with them? Is it a good idea for your wiccan circle to join in activities with the local Raelian Church, Scientologists, Heaven’s Gate, or the Unification Church just because they are minorities too?
The article probably means “other minority groups”, but who decides which minority groups pagans are supposed to ally with?
It is better that paganism provides the inspiration for change.  Pagans join what political causes they like as the mood, or convictions take them.  Then when the reporter comes to interview them after they have their victory they can get an interesting story about how the connection to their god or goddess moved them to make this change in society.
Neo-paganism should be different from other religions and should not repeat their mistakes, or try to be similar.  It also should be applying 21st century thinking rather than the age old “us and them” rubbish.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Shadows of the Infinite

Magic once seemed black and white. My teachers made it clear that you should not work with demons or dark gods and only needed to emphasis the light.  It pre-supposed that such black magic existed, but it needed to be ignored.  Concentrating on such forces was not only unbalanced, but it led you to all sorts of problems and mental instability.  Their case was re-enforced by the fact that the only people who apparently wanted to touch such magical systems were kids or those who were desperate to shock their parents.  The only notable advocates of such systems, such as Kenneth Grant and Aleister Crowley, were scary.  Systems also required the use of techniques which were pretty disgusting, with ritual equipment, such as human fat, which you were not going to find in your local branch of Boots.
Boots has not sold Human Fat for some time.
Then I was magically attacked by an old friend who believed that he was saving the world from me.  This person was acting out of the goodness of his heart. He had used angels of light to build a particular curse which was only triggered whenever I tried to do something that he did not want.  It was so low power, it went unnoticed, until years later which gave it considerable time to work in my sphere of sensation. This person had not intended to do evil magic. The astral fingerprints of the attack showed he had used Angelics.
But I had done nothing wrong. The person in question had been misinformed and misunderstood a rumour about me. He was wrong and yet the Angels of Light had done his bidding anyway as if I was guilty.  More to the point, they had committed an evil act against an innocent.  This should have been something which as alien to their nature.  While it is understandable that a human might go off half-cocked on a rumour, an Angel should have been more reasoned, and indeed it should have been impossible to interfere.
Jake Stratton-Kent
Quite by accident, I met with a writer Jake Stratton-Kent  on his web group.  He had come recommended as one of the few people who used goetic magic in a correct manner and I bought three of his books.  The first is a double volume set called Geosophia which looks at the history of goetic magic and the second was his translation and notes on the Grimorium Verum (True Grimoire), which was dubbed by AE Waite as a handbook of black magic – the sort of tome I would have historically given a wide berth.  While online the black magic kiddies praise Stratton-Kent’s work for explaining why you don’t need to skin a sacrificed goat to create they magic Book of Spirits, what they are missing is that he has provided working magicans with some extremely important answers. What follows is my notes on those answers, so they may, or may not, be the views of Stratton-Kent.  I fully recommend that you buy or read his books for yourself.
In the beginning of magic there was the concept of the underworld, which was under the ground and where people went after they died.   The underworld was populated by all sorts of other beings including retired Gods, and other creatures.  Sometimes these escaped from the Underworld, or refused to go there in the first place, other times necromancers could visit them and obtain information.
There were elements of the underworld which were not nice, but there were also things there which were fairly important.  Because of the connection to the earth, material wealth was associated with it.  In the Greek underworld, Hades was said to be in charge of money.
As humanity grew, so did the ideas about what was in the underworld.  The Ancient Egyptians had some very good ideas which they structured within their religion and wrote down in their so called Book of the Dead. Likewise we have the works of Homer to describe what the Ancient Greeks thought of the place.  These changes in ideas were accompanied by changes within society.  While the underworld existed, there was a concentration on the celestial gods rather than their Chthonic counterparts.
Then there was another evolution, probably inspired by the Ancient Egyptians, to place the underworld in the sky.  It was said to be “under the moon.”   This did lead to some confusion with the various godforms of Greece, but at the time did not cause many problems.
When Christianity appears on the scene and the underworld becomes hell and only the bad people go there.  Anything that happened to be in there, whether it was good or bad, was a demon.  After all anything good was going to heaven to have tea and biscuits with Jesus for eternity.
But necromancers continued their work.  After all, someone still had to talk to the dead and the beings of the underworld.  If you think this idea is odd, it is the central idea behind the Theosophical idea of masters and spiritualism.  In those systems you go into the underworld, find a dead person, and ask them to teach you the secrets of the universe.  If you are really lucky, you get to serve that spirit without question.  Given the “astral sex” visions of more than one of the teachers of this system, necromancy can also become necrophilia.
What the necromancers did was adopt a more Christianised approach to the underworld.  Instead of being populated by a dark triad of the dead such as Nephysis, Osiris, and Anubis it was occupied by Lucifer, Astatoth and Belzebuth (the last two are corrupted Canninite gods)  and their various legions of demons.  But while these demons could do what we consider to be “evil” actions, they could end up doing a lot of useful things too.  Some of the things requested could even be considered necessities when living on a material earth.
The fact that these guys were literally demonised, meant that the darker side of magic could be applied to them, also any fantasies about evil magic.  For example the idea that you signed a pact with the devil is connected to the “book of spirits” which was essentially a Filofax of the necromancer’s contacts and the various signatures they used.
What you are left with is the idea of a legitimate branch of magic, which was a bit shadowy in the first place, which has become corrupted over time.
But at the same time it occurred to me that some elements of this “underworld” magic is pretty much what you are doing within the first order of the Golden Dawn.    In fact it could be argued that all the grade rituals are taking place within the Egyptian underworld.  It is only once you arrive that the second order you are dealing with the less Chthonic celestial forces.
Also in the Golden Dawn you are shown diagrams of the Qlippothic forces as a balance to the celestial forces.  This gives a very different impression from those who always told me to accent the positive side of the universe.
Coming up with a philosophy which holds all this together comes up with some initially scary ideas.
Firstly the One Thing created the universe as a reflection of itself.   It was physically stable, but it was not perfect, and had things within it which were less developed than others.  When it created the spirit of humanity in its image these darker aspects manifested within us.   We were part of One Thing’s evolution.  Just like a psychological neurosis in humans there are many things of the One Thing which are bound up in these shadows.  When they are approached, these powers are liberated for use by the whole.  These are stored within what the ancients called the underworld.
The Golden Dawn said that the underworld was part of the cabbalistic world of Assiah. Assiah contained the material world which we see with our physical eyes.  But this realm also included the plane contiguous to and below the Material Universe.   “This was the realm of the Qlippoth which are the “unmanifest Daemons of Matter and the Shells of the Dead”.
This idea is shown in Christopher Marlow’s Faustus, where the demon Mephistophilis is how he is out of Hell, to which Mephistophilis replies: "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.”
"Why this is hell, nor am I out of it."
So the question then is if our material existence overlaps with that of the Underworld, then our obvious first interaction is with beings within it and not the celestial beings above it.  Indeed it is a moot point if these beings can directly interact with us.
When we do a ritual, or pathworking, it is very rare that we escape from our astral or underworld images.  What we are communicating with are shadows of those celestial beings reflected in the murky astral waters.  Those shadows are tainted by human desires and perceptions.  Some, more developed souls, might see these beings with a clearer image than others, but for most of us we are looking at a crystal darkly.  To interact with the material world, these celestial beings are forced to use these shadows, because the material universe cannot handle their divine perfection.
If we were to abstract this further, and perhaps Christianise it, we could say that the holy trinity was manifested in matter through its shadow -- the unholy trinity.
Luicfer (thanks Wikipedia)
When my former friend summoned a spirit of Saturn to bind me, he might have called Zaziel, but his intentions really dialled up the darker aspects of Zaziel’s underworld shadow.  This shadow probably has a name in one of the goetic hierarchies, but my former friend would not have dreamed of invoking it.  From a magical perspective though, the positive aspect of Zaziel is sympathetically bound to his demonic counterpart.    This is one of the reasons why Zaziel could be used to control or balance his shadow self.
This also explains why some magic does not work in the way we hoped.  Say, like 99 per cent of kiddy magicans, we invoke Anael to get a girlfriend.  Because we lack a love, our obsession causes us to invoke Anael’s shadow instead and that particular demon is not going to bring us the love of our lives.  But knowledge is a powerful thing in situations like that.  Instead of just invoking Anael, you would invoke her and her shadow to resolve your issues of lack between them.
This is fairly tricky magic, and I am not sure that there are many out there who would be up for it.
But the Underworld does not just contain “demons” there are all sorts of different beings in there which are not evil.  There are human ancestors, forgotten gods, masters of wisdom, mythical creatures and lost Amazon parcels.  In accident times the necromancers, shamans, and magicians would be visiting to make their connections and gain power and guides from doing so.  It might be that magic has lost a lot by fleeing from such a place out of a fear of Christian demons.
Stratton-Kent’s research does bring up a lot of questions and ideas for the modern magician. These are directions which could be taken for further research and are actually part of the Golden Dawn tradition.  Remember the Golden Dawn did actually give Qlippoth diagrams to be studied, presumably for that reason.
If we reject the Christian/demonic hierarchy for hell and the Underworld we end up exploring God’s (and humanity’s) shadow side.  What Stratton-Kent suggests is that there are techniques within Geotia and other so called demonic grimoires which could give us clues about how to approach this.  While some of the ancient techniques might still be a bit too visceral, they might still be modernised to assist in the evolution of the One Thing.

The Underworld
A lot nicer than Los Angeles Airport 

Additional note
It is a moot point if the Qlippothic forces belong in the underworld. Stratton-Kent points out that they are a late development of a more pessimistic Judaism. Even so, only two Qlippothic forces are actually considered damned.  In contrast Underworld, is not divided from our material universe the way the Qlippoth are in Judaic lore.  Stratton-Kent told me that in earlier traditions not even Asmodai lived in Tartarus, or even visited the place.  Clearly there were better hells, such as Los Angeles airport, to hang out in.
Perhaps a reason for this is that Qlippothic represent more “unbalanced force” rather than the shadow force of the underworld.