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 27 July 2013

The myth of the perfect teacher

There is a myth in esoteric orders that the teacher of any esoteric order is perfect and knows everything.
To prop up the fantasy when it is fairly clear that teachers do not know anything, or even can’t tie their own shoelace, there has come about backup plans.   These plan b’s include things like secret chiefs, contacts or anything else a group leader can blame for not knowing the facts.
You will find that when pressed, such a leader will say “it is below your grade” or “I am pledged to keep that secret.”
Honesty is not something such leaders can cope with.
I get into all sorts of trouble because I ask questions.   Now as a leader of an Order, I am supposed to know everything.  In fact I will make this clear:
“I do not know everything”.
I do have to ask other people who are specialists in various fields, I sometimes have to ask other magicians for help.
But you know what….
I am ok with that.
I do not have to pretend to be some bullshit expert on everything.  I do not have to pretend to be a superman.  I can just be myself.  Nor do I have to put my own development on hold simply because I run a group.
Sometimes I will ask questions to play devil’s advocate, but other times when I am working along certain lines I need help and do not have any problem with asking for that.
But what is interesting is that other magicians ask me for help and I am cool with that too.   It is when people build a closed circuit which shuts them out from the rest of the world that you know that they are trying to prop up their own egos.
Now I have an ego.
I don’t have a problem with that.  In a world that people are trying to prop up their egos with lies and deceit it is fashionable to claim that you do not have an ego.  In fact the people who claim to be modest, and call for the death of the ego normally have an ego which is so big that the British Royal Family can take a well-deserved skiing holiday on its upper slopes.

I realised that ego was important in my portal when I suddenly realised that I could not stop myself telling the truth, even when it was not in my own interests.    It also meant that I could not play the “game” of being an occult leader. If you are an occult leader you are supposed to spend your time avoiding calling someone a cunt, when they clearly are, because that is not spiritual. 
“Being spiritual” also means that you have to sit while some leader speaks absolute shit about themselves and a system which you know better than them. Being spiritual means not calling a spade a spade. 
The price of being spiritual is that there is no change in any system.   Call your self a teacher and you are supposed to remove you from any new teaching.  There is no one who is brave enough to tell these fuckwits that they are not even doing magic.  Being spiritual means you have to smile while some loon tells others how important they are because they have some piece of paper which they bought from a library.
It would not matter so much if these idiots kept their mouths shut and just tried to convince their brain dead followers that they were Jesus, but the irritating thing is that these people are often the loudest- shouting their superiority from the roof-tops while keeping their “teaching” “so secret” because they do not dare it reaching public scrutiny.  
As a result the Golden Dawn is now associated with such types.   There are not many of them, but they are loud enough.
So as a result when Jake Stratten-Kent made his claim about the contamination about Golden Dawn orders with masonic thinking and war on “spiritualism” techniques he was absolutely right. He was not right about MOAA, or even HOGD, but there are a lot of Golden Dawn Groups out there who are doing exactly what he says.
There is even  GD groups out there which bans psychics and people who have had mediumistic experiences. Because they claim bogusly that was what was intended by the original GD oath!
 FFS that means I could not be a member of the Golden Dawn and neither could Mathers, Felkin, Brodie Innes, Farr, Horniman, Dion Fortune, Crowley, Case or anyone else who is a significant player in the GD.   Such ignorance of magic should not be allowed.
Psychic stuff is exactly what the Golden Dawn was all about.  At the higher grades you are spending all your time doing the same things that mediums and spiritualist were doing. Arguably they were using better techniques, but they were still the same thing.
Jake also does not like the idea that we are all closed in and don’t experiment. He is right. There are a lot of groups out there who don’t.  They rely on the fact that their members will not get to the higher grades and don’t bother.  Or, worse, they pretend they have lots of secret teaching which is mysteriously missing when they get to those grades (which few ever do).
In MOAA we want our adepts to work on areas they like and develop them.  They are given assistance by the order to do that and that provides a body of work for others who follow them. This makes magic a science and the GD something living. 
Jake is interested in classical Geotia and so am I.  I am working on this, but I am sure that there will be other 5=6s who will be working on areas that interest them and will train others. 
As a teacher, I can only do so much.  So I will rely on others who are soaked in my system to research and come up with new avenues of magic for future generations.
That way, I am not limited to having to be a jack of all trades, but can focus on the things that interest me, while promoting those adepts who know what they are doing in particular areas.
Again this has to mean that I admit that I do not know everything. Occultism will move forward when it ditches the belief in a perfect teacher, and the need for teachers to pretend that they are.
 BTW I am not referring to one order here it is a general concept.  If you think this is talking about you and your order you need therapy and are part of the problem.

A Godwin’s Law for Occult discussions

Mike Godwin (thanks Wikimedia)

In 1990 Mike Godwin stated the Internet adage that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.
Although he was mostly talking about Usenet groups, he thought that given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis.  These days the law is evoked to end a discussion when a Nazi analogy is made.  The writer who made the analogy is usually ruled as having lost the argument.
Over on Facebook Níall MacSiúrtáin suggested that there should be an occult addendum to Godwin’s law to cover esoteric discussion.  Some of the list below I have nicked from that conversation.  Unfortunately it lacks Godwin’s concise nature but if you are thinking of setting up a yahoo group you might like to post this.

A conversation about esoteric subjects shall be deemed over and lost by a person who:
1.    Says that [vital] information is secret and they are forbidden to tell you, but at the same time insists that they have to be believed.
2.    Says his or her Secret Chief told them that [contentious] information.
3.    Says they would like to give you proof but you are not in their Order.
4.    Claims that information is “above your grade”.
5.    Insists, against all evidence,  a person is a spy of [insert some implausible order], or a fundamentalist Christian who is trying to corrupt the [insert your tradition] from within.
6.    Argues that their neo-pagan god worship is more “historically accurate” than another's neo-pagan god worship.
7.    Refers to themselves as being a victim of the sort of persecution that created the “burning times.”
8.    Uses impenetrable anthropological, NLP, alchemical, New Age jargon to answer any magical question.
9.    Tries to trump the conversation with their Reiki master’s certificate or experience in martial arts.
10.    Claims to be a reincarnation of a famous historical figure.
11.    Names their grade, title, or generation removed from Gerald Gardner as a way of claiming seniority.
12.     Publicly claims that they have lineage of any sort from anyone.
13.    Tries to back their case with a long quote with no explanation of how it backs their case in the home that people will just assume they are right.
14.    Is outted using sock-puppets to agree with their ideas or bolster the thread.
15.    Threatens to magically attack someone who does not agree with them (unless as a joke).

Anyway put your suggestions in the comments box.

Friday 26 July 2013

Book review Graeco-Egyptian Magic – Everyday Empowerment

 The Egyptian Papri provide us with very important authentic magical techniques.  The only difficulty is that they are hard to approach from a modern mindset. 
The biggest issue, besides having to drown some unfortunate street cat, or endangered species, are the names of power which are a mixture of Coptic, Middle Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Hebrew.  Most of them are pronounced using a form of classical Greek.
Graeco-Egyptian Magic – Everyday Empowerment  by Tony Mierzwicki provides a way into this really interesting system of magic.  Mierzwicki calls the book “intermediate level” and while I would hesitate to call it a book for beginners it has a few things which rule it out for advanced use.
The bulk of the book is taken up with invoking the seven Aions or the seven planets.  Mierzwicki gives an interesting opening and closing and then a series of rituals to make a contact with those Gods.
This is an excellent idea and I decided to follow it as an experiment.  Mierzwicki provides you with the tools you need to pronounce the barbarous names of power but you have to really work it out for yourself.  In the ritual he will give you the word OUKRA and give you the pronunciation in the back (OOK-RA) with the R slightly trilled.  It would have been more useful to have the pronunciations in the actual rituals he gives.  But hell, an author should not have to do all the work.
The opening rituals is not bad but will take some getting used to if you are from a Wiccan, or even Golden Dawn tradition.  It works by invoking the unknown Aeon of Aion into your circle.  This is extended by using the Greek Vowels to open the six directions of space.  The Aeon of Aion energy is then divided into two by vibrating two different “male and female” names of power. 
There then comes a very long “blasting open the portals” by using the vowel sounds.  Four weeks into my experiment I gave up on this and replaced it with supreme pentagrams.  I could not make the vowels do much other than give me a sore throat. Mierzwicki ’s logic I really liked.  These were the names given to the Aeon of Aions at the quarters.
There then followed some interesting adaptions from the Egyptian Papyri to complete the opening.   What I found was that the Aeon of Aeon tended to be Thoth energy… in other words Thoth in his guise of the head of the Ogdoas and the creator of all.   That worked for me but I didn’t think about it until a bit later.
Then you chose the god you want to bring into your life. Mierzwicki uses invocations from the Orphic and Homeric Hymns as general invocations and then spells from the Egyptian Papri to bring the godform in.
There is not much unity between the different godforms.  For example, Mierzwicki gives you alternative forms for each of the main godforms which you are expected to visualise.  However in some of the godforms he does not give any.    This weakened the ritual for Aphrodite considerably.
The other issue was that Mierzwicki appears to have assumed that the targets of the papyri were Greek gods, rather than the more exotic Greco-Egyptian mix.  This belief lets him down completely in the “Ares ” working because, as he points out, there are few spells connected to Ares in the Papyri.
To get around this problem he uses a love spell which is supposed to bind Aries and bring him to you.  Not really something I would want to do.
In fact the Papyri are full of Ares gods forms, just not under his Greek or Roman name.  The role is taken up by Typhon or Seth and there are numerous spells too him that will get him to show up without having to bind you with love shackles.
In fact the famous “bornless ritual” which is beloved of GD and OTO magicians uses a composite Set- Bes figure to perform an exorcism.  
There appears to be an idea that you can use some of these spells and the names associated to them for other purposes.  I am not sure that is entirely correct.  In the Ares case shackling the god as if he is a love object is not the same thing as invoking him.
I also think that Mierzwicki played down some of the underworld aspects of these godforms and I would have liked to have seen his take on that issue.
This might seem like I am being hyper-critical and I am not.  I am still working my way through this book and am having valuable insights.  It is also invaluable as I work my way through the Papyri to come up with my own system.   
There is some very useful material here which can save you hours of internet research.  To find out the meanings of some these names you have to do a lot of research to find out what you are invoking.  Some of the names are actually lost to time, so you can waste a lot of time chasing dead ends.
What I also find valuable in this book are the examples given from Mierzwicki ’s workshops of people’s actual experiences so you can see the sort of effects the rituals have with others to compare them to your own.  I think I will attempt to make this a feature of my own writing on esoteric rituals to provide guidelines.
Anyway I think this book is very important and well worth buying if you are interested in approaching this fascinating field of magic.

Addition  which did not make it through the comment checking system (being too big to fit)
Jake Stratton-Kent replies:

Though I haven't read this book, I've seen it discussed elsewhere - and responded positively. Looks like I better grab a copy when the opportunity arises. Anyhow, I've been familiar with the PGM (and
before that Goodwin's 'Fragment', and the Leyden Papyrus) for a long time, and any modern look at them has to be welcome.

That said, there are some interesting issues to be examined here, which may sharpen up PGM studies.  The first is, recasting the papyri as planetary magic retrospectively is probably not the way to go (the difficulties with Ares and Aphrodite reflect this 'non-alignment');
the papyri are not the Heptameron or the Grimoire of Turiel, and should not really be approached as an alternative way of looking at these methodologies.

Astrology was certainly the main model of magic of this period, however, the decans, lunar mansions, celestial pole and other details are at least as significant as the planets. Reference to Hellenistic astrology would also be useful in a book of this kind, I don't know if
that is addressed, but at intermediate level and with an astrological context, it is certainly required.

Also there is much in the PGM that is not specially astrological so much as concerned with this or that god specifically, not to mention the very large role of the dead. I echo the earlier comment about the all embracing importance of the Chthonic realm in the implied cosmology. The author's response to the earlier comment appears contradictory. In any case, the underworld is so important to the
overall conception that it requires addressing from the beginning of  any approach to the papyri - *before* we ever get to intermediate level. This requirement might be lessened considerably were there not widespread ignorance of the real import of the term 'Goetia'; as addressed throughout my writings for Scarlet Imprint.

As a grimoire magician of sorts, problems surrounding use of animals and other exotic items is something I'm more used to solving than a Golden Dawner - though there are also contextual angles (like drowning = deification, and the legend of Osiris). I don't support cruelty to animals  and can look to Orphism to traditionalist support for finding alternatives (also applicable to later issues of the same kind). There is also a section of the PGM which 'interprets' such uses in terms of
plants, a good place to start.

I agree with the author about Aeon, he is distinct from Tahuti - more similar to Sabaoth and Zurvan, as god of eternal time (thus distinct from the 'extra-cosmic' deity of Platonism, normative Judaism and of course Christianity). The relevance of such a deity to a 'Late Pagan' astrological context is fairly plain, and does not actually tail off there. This may be legitimately reprised - IMO - by those operating later planetary magic ala grimoires and other sources. These are issues I will be addressing further in the near future.

My campaign regarding the Headless One reaches back some decades, with earlier blanket rejection of my thesis gradually giving way to 'what everyone knows' being reassessed; but the case is not yet closed. He is not a suitable candidate for an Ares 'stand in'; there is a quite distinct astro-cosmological context which is not planetary in nature. See Hadean Press for a pamphlet approach to this important figure, and even more so the forthcoming 'Testament of Cyprian the Mage' from the Scarlets.

>From my perspective the PGM are no more suitable for an unreformed Golden Dawn approach than is 'Archaic Goetia'; indeed as things currently stand Goetia (properly defined) and the PGM are compatible mainly with each other. Both are badly served when transferred to ANY context involving the supremacy of a transcendental deity and demonisation of the underworld. Such problems may be overcome, but the Occult Revival requires some serious rethinking, some 'ecumenical' or 'meta' models and proper appreciation of its roots in order to achieve this. We should take our collective time over this and do it properly - reaching outside narrow focus peer groups to wider interactions to
achieve it. Quick fixes should be avoided.

In the meantime I recommend both the Solomonic list and in particular the Grimorium Verum list on yahoo for discussions in and around some of the issues - including reassessment of Archaic Goetia as the root of the subsequent Western Tradition, in which the PGM and the syncretic period play a major role.

Jake Stratton-Kent 

Thursday 25 July 2013

Purging masonry from the Golden Dawn

Jake Stratton-Kent

Today the Goetic magician Jake Stratton-Kent posted an interesting statement on his Yahoo group where he derided ritual magicians tendency to form masonic style groups.
Like many of us he find the 'Masonic' model a dead loss in the many, areas of modern magic where it applies.
He said that the masonry was only any good when non-attendance at Anglican church was an imprisonable offense in England and there needed to be somewhere to go for freethinkers.
Stratton-Kent thinks that the Secret Society model is not only unhelpful, but actively counter-productive. It is the principle reason why so much energy is expended fighting tiny little wars between factions (between witch groups, between rival Golden Dawns, between thelemic groups etc etc),” he said.
I have shedloads of sympathy with that, but I can only take it so far.  The only use for a masonic style approach is in the concept of an initiation.
However I do not believe that an initiation should be done in a masonic way. 
A masonic approach is to have a ritual which is performed without scripts and designed to have an effect just by performing it.
This does work to a limited extent.  You have a psychological effect and sometimes you get energy or an atmosphere off it. But there is nothing new about this. You can have a similar feeling seeing the performance of a life play.
But a real initiation is more than just that.  Firstly it is a form of psychic surgery on the candidate’s sphere of sensation which enables them to have different esoteric experiences.  This is done, not just by the performance of the ritual, but also through the complex interactions between godforms and the divine entities which are called to participate in the rite.
This is where the ritual meets something akin to Stratton-Kent’s methods of working.  The reason that it never sees the light of day is that it is not talked about much.  Many modern ritual groups do not know about it, and the only written details can be found in hints in Crowley and the Z documents of the Golden Dawn.  What has been written down is only hints.  Each group has to find its own way through those magical processes in an initiation.  Pat Zalewski has printed some of his in his Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries book.
Looking at the Magical Papyrus you find these different techniques used for initiations but they are very often self-initiations.  However what the masons taught was that the use of drama by a group could add a powerful spin on these techniques.
What the outer order of the GD does is open the way for a person to become a magician.  Once they reach that point,  the second order should be a group of magicians meeting together to conduct the same sorts of experiments that Jake is talking about.  The fact that they did not, is really not the fault of the system, so much as the people in charge of it.
In the second order of MOAA for example you are given your tools and told to charge them.  After some training you go on to experiment and develop the material.  The only onus is you share the results of your experiments with other people in the order and try to train people in them.   The reason that approach has not made much impact on the wider world is that we are still working on  getting people to the point.  It is coming close though.
In this framework a group can provide support and prevent a person going completely barking if one of their experiments gets out of hand.  A solo magician has no one who can perform an intervention for them if they start thinking that they are talking to secret chiefs who claim that they are important.  Of course semi-masonic orders are full of chiefs who are trying to do the same thing, in that case there a lot of group members who might engineer a coup they think their chief is talking bollocks.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Offending the Secret Chiefs

One of the dangers of having a system based on Secret Chiefs, either internally or externally, is that you are able to offend them. In this respect they certainly are similar to Godforms.
There are cases where people are said to have lost their contacts or Secret Chiefs often for the strangest of offenses.
Dion Fortune
Sometimes it is because you leave a group.   Dion Fortune regarded her Golden  Dawn contacts lost to her until she joined the Bristol Temple of the Stella Matutina.  Interestingly she regarded these contacts as the same ones she met when she joined the AO.  It would appear that as far as she was concerned, the AO and the SM had the same Secret Chiefs.  If this was true it would be deeply embarrassing for those who claim that the AO was the only true GD and the SM did not have any blessing of the Secret Chiefs.  Personally I think she was mistaken, but it was an interesting comment.
You could also lose a contact or Secret Chief because you angered them by revealing some big secret or had carried out some evil magic.  Most of the sources for this myth are fictions.  Dion Fortune was supposed to have lost a contact after she published Mystical Cabbalah and yet there is nothing in the Dion Fortune collection that suggested any of her Secret Chiefs had abandoned her.
Obviously if your secret chiefs are physical there can be any number of reasons why they might break the link with you and your order.  You might have offended another rising star, you might have failed to come up with some promised cash, or you might simply be a public embarrassment.  These are the sorts of things that anger physical chiefs who are bound by their egos, but probably not astral ones.
Indeed Astral contacts to appear more aloof and reasonable by comparison.  I say by comparison because I have seen Astral secret chiefs give some fairly rubbish and insane advice. 
Once that I was told by one contact that I would not work with him any longer and that he was not really my “secret chief” in the first place.   I could not say I was surprised, I never really thought he had been.  But what followed was a long period of me ignoring the idea of Secret Chiefs and Contacts completely… physical or otherwise.  Part of this was because I started working exclusively on the Golden Dawn tradition.  Sure I met inner plane beings, but nothing like the level expected for a contact.
This dumping of the contact was not so much because I had offended the early Secret Chief.  It was simply that I was no longer working along those guidelines and could not pick him up any more.  The same probably applies to those who do some type of magic which is not in tune with their Secret Chief.
I do not teach people to look for contacts or Secret Chiefs.  As Chic Cicero once told me “You do not need to go looking for Secret Chiefs, if you do the work they come looking for you!”   He was completely right.  
My physical chief challenge was based on squashing an important myth, that physical secret chiefs are a 19th century marketing gimmick.  So far I have not seen any evidence that they ever existed, or that they exist now.   I remain open minded until August 5, but if they don’t show up the onus will be on those who claim that they talk to physical chiefs to actually prove it, because there is a body of evidence which says otherwise.
In this series of articles I have looked at what the secret chiefs might really be, rather than their literal, somewhat out-of-date interpretation.  In my view they are the sizzle and not the steak of occultism.  You can get through your entire esoteric career and never need one. 
There are those who are like dogs chasing their own tails on this question.  Rather than seeing the secret chief as an extension of their own intellect or wish fulfilment they keep chasing an idea which takes them nowhere.  Then they have the gall to say to the world “look we are superior because we are contacted with a secret chief.”   Chances are that it is their own arses which is leading them rather any real Secret Chiefs.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Physical secret chiefs in a modern world

Needless to say no physical secret chief has knocked on my door or arranged any appointment.  Still the door is open for the supermen to prove they exist.

One of the statements that relate to the concept of physical secret chiefs is that they may not be supermen.  They may simply be adepts from outside the order, who only talk to the senior members of of an order and might what to remain secret.
As someone who is involved with running a group there are certain problems with this idea which might not be obvious to those who have not tried it.    There is nothing wrong with taking advice and teaching from outside your own group and working it within your group’s framework. 
But new systems or occult information is not necessarily the panacea a group needs.  This is particularly true of the Golden Dawn system which interlocks on different levels.  If you change or add something at one level, it breaks something else on another.  This is why if you make one change you have to go through the whole system and changing others.  The relatively minor changes we made in MOAA for example meant going through all the course material and rituals and making sure it all still  worked.
An outsider, however good they are, will not know about how each order really works.  Even if they have all the course material and rituals in front of them, they cannot know the true impact of some of their ideas.  This is one of the reasons why a chief of an order is supposed to know their stuff.  A secret chief, or one not connected to the group, has no chance of having that level of training in that system.  They might be able to turn lead into gold, but if they don’t know the grade signs they will be largely useless.
If they teach a chief their techniques, say for turning lead into gold, then the chief has to translate their techniques into those of the system.   If it does not work, then the technique, however well it works for the Secret Chief and his students will not work for other orders.
This precludes the Secret Chief talking to anyone in the order other than the Premonstrator or teacher.  In fact the Imperator’s role is to make sure that Secret Chief teaching does not contaminate the body of teaching on offer.
The second order is not a place where you can shove any old rubbish from the dustbin of esoteric history because it looks nice.  It has to work within the Golden Dawn system too. 
But there is also a magical reason why using a physical outsider to provide you with teaching is a bad idea.  This person, however good and friendly they might be, is still outside your order.  To give them the role of a secret chief places them in a position of seniority within your group which is not earned.  Again they might know the secrets of the Philosophers Stone but if they have not suffered the fall outs of a 1=10 and can’t to a lesser ritual of the pentagram they are of no use to anyone.  It may sound harsh but, for example, an alchemist is not a magician, and neither is a mystic.  They can be experts in their fields, but not good at your system.
That is not to say that at group has nothing to learn from outsiders, but the question in a group must always be… “If our secret chief is so important, why isn’t he running our group and why can’t I ask him questions?”
This question thing is very important in any order.  Questions might be irritating to the hierarchy but the path of magic is about asking questions so they have to do it.  So if you enshrine a physical person within your group who does not answer questions then you are automatically creating something which is anti-magical.  It seems unfair that if the secret chief issues a paper which says “All elephants are pink” and a student asks “elephants are grey” that the head of an order has to defend the secret chief’s thesis.  The fact that secret chiefs are placed beyond an order by virtue of their secrecy means that there is something wrong with the system.
Under the definition of “non-supermen” secret chiefs, it obvious that MOAA has lots of “secret chiefs in the flesh”, it has also meant I have acted as a secret chief to a number of different groups. These are people who I ask questions too and they ask me. I am an experimental magician I make no attempt to claiming I know everything and sometimes I have to ask experts.  Sometimes their advice works within my terms of reference, sometimes it doesn’t.  None of these people have status within MOAA, or are they called Secret Chiefs.  They are just people I respect.
If you belong to an order which enshrines physical secret chiefs who no one else is allowed to see, then you have to question why that is the case.  The whole idea is that a secret chief is, er secret.  In fact it is much better that the group shuts its mouth about their existence.   It leads to an obvious question.  If your chief is outsourcing his teaching to an outside body, then what is he or she doing there?  Admitting that they have handed over the task of teaching people to secret chiefs outside the order, means that they can’t do the job themselves.  If the secret chief is providing teaching, then the head of the order has nothing to teach and is basically a glorified administrator.   
The only way you can get away with saying that your order is directed by physical secret chiefs is if they really are supermen.  That would certainly be novel.  But if they are not going to come out of the closet and reveal themselves to ordinary members, then they will remain an order myth.