Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Magical Gnostic Eclesia - Magical Layers

Magic as layers of prismatic energy structures.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie Shrek goes like this:

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Shrek: No.
Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs.
Shrek: NO. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.

The magical workings that I perform have many layers of prismatic energy structures, one on top of the other, arranged from the foundation to the most intricate final pieces. Because I work with a vortex energy container I can build up these layers over time instead of having to do it all in one evening’s working. I have previously written about the vortex and its qualities, and you can find that article here.

The vortex allows me to perform a working in parts and thereby build up the complete structure in stages so that it achieves the final climactic working at precisely the right moment. That might take a whole weekend, or it might take a few weeks in a row. This characteristic allows me to carefully build up an overall working and focus on a strategic stage that is one of several parts of it. The result is an accumulation of all of the previous workings integrated into a holistic composition of prismatic energy structures, symbolic meanings, themes and occult ideals. Magical formulas are used to tie and bind all of the disparate parts together functioning like matching seams, uniting both the individual sections performed at a single night’s working as well as the overall working that spans days or even weeks.

As far as I am aware the use of the vortex and the unification of layers and stages of a magical working are unique methods. Even so, I didn’t invent this ritual technique from nothing. I did use other ritual examples as the model for this technique and evolved it over time. The source model for this kind of magic can be found in the Golden Dawn ritual for the Rose Cross and the formula for LVX. This was a simple rendition used in a specific ritual instance that I experimented with so many years ago, and I discovered that it could be integrated into any ritual and used to unite all of the parts. It functions as a kind of summary or recap that recapitulates the whole ritual in a simple formula. Yet studying that original Golden Ritual I came up with a more complex hybrid technique that I use today. It allows me to have many levels or layers to a ritual complex, but it integrates the various parts into a whole structure. Without it, the layers would easily become disassociated and break down into distinct processes separate from the holistic working.

While the vortex functions as a centralized container that holds all of the layers together, the various formulas at each stage, and the grand formula at the end ties everything together and fosters a powerful singularity of energy that functions as the overall core of the ritual working. I have presented this methodology in greater detail in two previous articles posted in November of 2010, and you can find them here, and here

However, allow me to quote a couple of paragraphs from the second part of that two-part article on Sacred Geometry in the Energy Theory of Magick, which succinctly (although a bit redundantly) describes what the magical formula does when deployed in a magical ritual.

Formula letters are specifically used to pull the points of the ritual structure together at the terminus or ending of that magickal event. This is done in a process that is called “Analysis of the Keyword” as found in the Golden Dawn ritual of the Rose Cross. Therefore, the formula letters (often in Hebrew, but also represented by Greek, Latin, Coptic or Arabic) are used to build the keyword, which acts as the touchstone for the entire ritual structure. How this is done is that the letters of the keyword are intoned at the associated points in the magick circle, along with the devices, declarations, signs (gestures) and visualized colored energies, and then when the ritual structure is complete, the formula letters are intoned together to form the keyword and a final declaration is made in the center of the magick circle.

In this manner, all of the points of the ritual structure are fused into a single keyword and a single declaration. The analysis of the keyword construct can be performed at the end of each ritual structure, and it can be performed at the end of the final ritual structure in a functional ritual. By establishing a synopsis of the fully functional ritual and the ritual structures that are contained by it, a powerful resonance of union and fusion is produced, representing the perfect expression of Spirit within a ritual magickal construct. Having this element throughout a ritual causes a subtle emulation of the spiritual essence of the godhead to be manifest in the working. This factor will ensure that the rite produces a transformative effect when it is performed. ”

I might also add that the formula employs the Qabalistic method of Notaricon, which is used to generate and explode formula acronyms. I can also use the method whereby the letters of a formula are matched against specific Tarot cards and also Pathways on the Tree of Life. Of course, I have to comparatively create analogues for the Hebrew letters if the formula happens to be based on a language other than Hebrew, such as Greek, Coptic, Arabic or Latin.  

Anyway, all of these various structures that I employ in the creation of a ritual working function as mechanisms to express and establish energies structures and also to integrate all of these various structures into a seamless whole. It might seem very complex and even cumbersome at first glance, but when breaking any of my rituals down to their essential structure and associated elements, it is actually quite simple, elegant and efficient. A magician can expand such a ritual so that there is quite a bit of declarative verbiage that has to be expressed, or it can be kept to a minimum so that the ritual actions and expression are emphasized instead. It really comes down to the tastes and esthetics of the magician who is authoring the rite. Some magicians are minimalists and others are quite verbose, and still others like to establish a balance between these two extremes so that others may participate in the ritual and not miss any of the subtle and important meanings and significance expressed with it.Too little verbiage makes a ritual cryptic and idiosyncratic, and too much verbiage makes a ritual lifeless, dull and exceedingly boring.

However, there is also an element of the sacred that is an important and strategic part of my more elaborate and ordeal based magical workings. How I employ the sacred in my workings, besides the obligatory assumption of Godhead, is to build a very special sacral magical foundation into every important and strategic magical working. This is done whenever I employ the magical mass to energize, empower and sacralize the working. Immediately after I perform the circle consecration rite, I will perform a magical mass (to generate sacraments and partake of communion) and then I will perform a kind of simple benediction rite, placing charged and consecrated host fragments to the eight nodes of the magic circle and the central altar. What this does is to consecrate, sacralize and greatly empower the magical environment. I call this basic foundation the Magical Eclesia or Sacred Magical Domain.  

The established magical circle will contain the sacred power generated by the mass, and the very magic circle will be charged with the holy sacrament, making it inviolable. It also ensures that the magical working that is performed within that sacred container is blessed and sanctioned by the holy spirit and the various deities functioning through the media of the magical mass. Therefore, the magical mass rite has to be associated with a specific pantheon, and it must also focus on a specific godhead within that pantheon that represents the sacrificed deity. The reason why there has to be a sacrificed godhead is that such a deity then becomes the embodiment of the sacramental wine and bread, and without such a deity attribute the whole mechanism of the mass is invalid. Perhaps this explains why the Christian church glorified the crucified savior and made it central to the mass communion rite, since the emphasizing the Roman method of executing a seditious prisoner seems so odd to outsiders. However, in the context of the mass communion rite it makes perfect sense.

So the theme and pantheon associated with the magical mass sets the entire spiritual tone for the magical working. If the theme happens to be gnostic, then the spiritual entities and forces will be related to a specific system of gnosis. This is also true if the theme is pagan, theosophical, thelemic, Enochian or related to some other spiritual-magical system. However, when I use the term gnosis, what I am really referring to is the process whereby a person directly and intimately encounters Spirit in whatever form it is perceived and sensed. This encounter with Spirit is important because it reinforces the magician connection with the Godhead and also opens up the world of spirit for magical operations.

This technique of using sacraments to perform feats of magic isn’t new, since it was until recently an important trope of the Catholic church. In fact, I picked up the idea from both Michael Bertiaux and Bill Schnoebelen, and I suspect that while Michael merely talked about it, Bill was the one who actually made use of it. What I did was greatly expand on the idea and incorporated it into the core rituals for the intermediate and advanced magical systems of the Order. I can also recall that Stephen Hoeller reacted with outright horror so many years ago when I told him exactly what I was doing when performing a mass. While other traditions, including the Catholic, approach the mass as a central rite and vehicle for maintaining a tangible connection with the espoused spiritual pantheon, I have advocated using the mass as a purely magical generator of power, and secondarily as a media for spiritual communion. I believe that my approach to the mass is rather unique amongst the adherents of the Western Mystery tradition. It is also likely that my approach would be mildly shunned or outright condemned by the other traditions.

Unfortunately, I have written only a couple of articles on the topic of the magical mass and the use of sacraments in magic, as well as magical relics and reliquaries. I have two articles that I wrote for members of my Order, but these have not yet been released in their current form to the public. Therefore, the two articles that I have posted to my blog will have to suffice in giving my readers a general overview to the topic of performing a magical mass and using the sacraments to empower one’s magical rituals, and you can find them here, and here. At some time in the future I will endeavor to publish the other two articles, probably along with the material associated with invocation and evocation.

The Magical Eclesia is the sacramental foundation for all magical ordeals and the practice of higher invocations and evocations in the Order. The use of the wine and host to initiate the quickening process of spirit manifestation is built into the rites of invocation and evocation as practiced in the Order of the Gnostic Star. Combined with the vortex and other specific magical techniques, the Magical Eclesia produces a profound and transformative impact on the ritual workings layered through it, generating an occult process whereby thoughts become symbolic form and symbolic form becomes spiritual manifestation. Using such a mechanism as the Eclesia allows the powerful fusion of the energy techniques of magick to merge hostically with the spirit techniques of magick, producing a hybrid that is greater than either one alone.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I Rejoined the O.T.O.

Recently, after much thought and consideration I have decided to re-activate my membership in the O.T.O. I have been an inactive member since around 2003 because I just decided that I didn’t want to progress any further in the degrees and felt that the organization really didn’t have much to offer me. I am unfortunately rather lukewarm towards the philosophy and theology of what I call classical Thelema and I am just not into acting as if Aleister Crowley was a defacto prophet of the coming age. The various religious tenets of Thelema just didn’t over-awe me compared to what I saw other folks dong and feeling when they were engaged with it. I was, in my own mind, something of a “partially disaffected” Thelemite. I therefore had no reason to continue to belong to that organization, or so I thought.

However, what I might not have really understood is that many Thelemites question Thelema and feel that it is their right to agree or disagree with what Crowley wrote, or to interpret the Book of the Law in a manner that appeals to their sense of logic, justice and overall rightness. There isn’t sacred cannon (although there is a tradition and sacred writings) and members are encouraged to use their own powers of critical thinking to determine the nature of what they believe and how they practice those beliefs. In other words there isn’t a right or wrong way and there definitely isn’t a sectarian power to keep the faithful believing in strict accordance with an established creed. In fact, there really isn’t any dogma in the O.T.O. or in the theological speculations of Thelema.

What the O.T.O. does have is quite an impressive collection of magicians and speculative occult experimenters that covers the whole spectrum of occult studies, both West and East. Most, but not all, of the cutting edge magical practices and perspectives have come from individual practitioners who are either actively associated or who once were associated with the O.T.O. It would seem that in re-activating my membership I am just affirming an association with a peer group that represents, in my opinion, the best of breed for modern magick and occultism.

This means that I can belong to this organization and I have the freedom to engage in a local body if I choose as well as attend any Order sponsored events. I can also contact other members of the order and I believe that they would be more likely to help me (even if I were a complete stranger) because I am a brother initiate. I also have the freedom (as well as the responsibility) to interpret Thelema however I wish and thereby practice it in a manner that would seem to be in accord with my True Will. Others may disagree with me or how I interpret Thelema, but as long as I comport myself within the basic guidelines (bylaws) of the order and the local body, I shouldn’t have any difficulties.

While other organizations are quite binding and exclusive, tying the individual members to an organization and its leader, the O.T.O. has no such rules, limitations or boundaries. I can be a Thelemite, an Alexandrian Witch or even a Gnostic Bishop (outside of the EGC) and no one will either comment nor seek to excommunicate me from the order. I have quite a bit of latitude to develop my beliefs and to practice them however I feel inclined. There are, of course, some boundaries, but they are quite wide and represent ethical as well as legal responsibilities.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for me to re-activate my membership is because there is such a large population of highly competent and knowledgeable magicians and occultists in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota who also happen to be members of the O.T.O. I would like to associate and also work with them to help develop my own practices and beliefs. This seems like a good group of men and women who could act as a peer group to judge what I am doing and how I am doing it. While I could probably do this as an inactive member, I would still be barred from participating in any local body activities as well as the various conventions, such as Noticon. 

It seems like such a trifle to reactive my membership and thereby gain all of the benefits that such membership affords. I have often said that having a peer group is very important for an aspiring student, and that is also true for a long time practitioner such as myself. Even a senior adept is not immune to hubris or erroneous assumptions about magic and the occult in general. If this group of local magicians can inspire me to greater heights and also curb my more egregious flaws then such a group is worth joining and maintaining.

Anyway, while this event has touched off a lot of thought on my part regarding Thelema and the O.T.O. another author had previously come to quite the opposite conclusion. She had decided to quit the O.T.O. The author of that article, which appeared in a recent edition of the eZine Spiral Nature (June 18), wrote about her objections to the O.T.O. and cited the rigid and inflexible beliefs and practices held by its members as one of the several reasons for leaving the order. This, according to her, was particularly to be found in the area of gender representation in the ECG ritual vehicle, which is the Gnostic Mass,. You can find that article here.

I find it curious that the author, who calls herself Psyche, would pick apart the one ritual in the religious branch of the O.T.O. that has rather strict traditional roles associated with the primary celebrants. While it is true that you might not be able to find a situation where the Priestess would be portrayed by a male, or the Priest, a female, there have been plenty of women body masters and officiants of the O.T.O., and I might add, even a few Gnostic Bishops. In fact, I can attest that the order was something of nearly all-male kind of occult geek club back in the 80's and early 90's, but it has since greatly changed. This was due in part to a more rigorous change in the bylaws that made the local body as well as the Grand Chapter more equitable and gender neutral. However, those changes are not yet reflected in the actual rites of the ECG, and that could be because it is a kind of religious tradition.

It is also a mystery to me that something which is deemed part of the “tradition” of a spiritual and magical order would be expected to rapidly change and mutate itself in accordance with the current trends. I have not found this to be the case in British Traditional Witchcraft, although the inclusion of members of the LGBT community has occurred rapidly (and recently) over the last couple of decades. Still, traditional witchcraft stipulates that a woman initiates and man, and a man initiates a woman, and that rigid gender biased versions of polarity are taught and used in rituals and ceremonies despite the sexual orientation of the members. I know a number of gay and lesbian folk who are quite happy practicing traditional witchcraft, and they have no qualms with what passes as tradition. Gender based roles are not exclusive to the BTW or the O.T.O. for that matter, they can be found nearly everywhere in our social institutional organizations.

Should we be open to experimenting with gender roles and magical sexual based polarities? Of course we should be open to anything that can expand our consciousness or help us to evolve as human beings. However, something that is part of the core “tradition” of an organization might be beyond the bounds of experimentation even though it could still be an effective and relevant trope. This doesn’t mean that such boundaries are to be deployed for any or all rites, most especially those that are written up for the purpose of experimentation. However, traditional rites and practices aren’t typically subject to experimentation.

Anyway, I find Psyche’s reason for leaving the O.T.O. to be curious because she took such exception at what is a traditional practice or rite. Traditional rites do change, but they usually change slowly over time, not rapidly due to new trends or social conventions. Even so, there is a place for having a completely experimental based magical and spiritual organization where every variation can be tried and tested.

I have belonged to a couple of groups in my occult career that did a lot of experimentation. In fact one of them started out with no traditional rites at all - they had to be written by the group. What was established in those groups, however unique, experimental and cutting edge, became something of a tradition in its own right over time. The really successful workings were brought into a kind of common practice and the ones that bombed were either analyzed to death or quickly forgotten. I believe that the better organization is the one that can be completely experimental, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some O.T.O, bodies out there that have the capacity for changing gender roles or experimenting with polarity. Still, we shouldn’t expect a tradition to break its own tradition. Someday, I will seek out the company of a few like-minded individuals who are driven by curiosity and a desire for pushing the envelope, and together we will discover some whole new vistas in the area of magic and occultism. For now, however, I will content myself with being a member of the O.T.O. 

Psyche says at the end of her article that she is still looking for a magical and spiritual community. In my opinion all she has to do in order to find like-minded individuals is to be engaged with the greater alternative spiritual community in which she lives. Forming a loose confederation of equal individuals (what I call a Star Group) is not particularly daunting, and once established, then the group can decide what is important and significant to them, writing up their own rituals and ceremonies to experiment and discover what works for them. I can’t think of a more challenging and equally fun project to engage one’s time, but it does require a maximum amount of creativity, research, flexibility and a good ritual writing ability, and, I might add, a fair amount of time and patience.

What seems likely is that Psyche doesn’t have the time, the connections or maybe the dedication to form her own group, at least not just yet. Perhaps in time, she will gather together a small group of magicians and occultists and start her own organization. That’s how I did it, and it was worth the time and effort to make it happen. For the rest of us who have neither the time nor the inclination, there’s always the traditional groups and organizations already set up with their established traditions, and I might add, biases and boundaries. At least with the O.T.O. you can, to certain extent, pick and choose what you want to practice and believe.

Frater Barrabbas

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dark Side of Madison Avenue - Perspectives on E. A. Koetting

One of the most vilified magicians on the internet today is found in the personage of Eric Koetting, who goes by the moniker E. A. Koetting. He is ridiculed, called names, vilified by the hosts of Western based occultists and magicians. He is also called a complete fraud, hoaxer and all-around poster child for what is supposedly wrong with the nefarious Left Hand Path. I haven’t seen a week pass without someone ridiculing his marketing hype or launching personal attacks on him. There is even a Face Book page devoted to ridiculing Koetting and disparaging his various claims. 

If it weren’t for the fact that I have had some conversations with this man and can claim to know him a little I would have to agree with those who decry his excessive marketing hype and his diabolic teachings. I happen to know that Eric isn’t really a fraud, that he does know how to successfully work his form of magick, and he can also teach others to use it, too. Eric isn’t a genius and some of his ideas and pronouncements have been shown by others to be quite false, particularly when he talks about subjects outside of his purview. Whether you hate what he is saying and promoting through his internet marketing persona or disagree with this methods, I am certain that to some people, particularly disaffected millennials, Eric is a valuable resource for learning and mastering a form of LHP magick.

Eric claims that he can teach anyone who is willing to apply himself to become a “living God” with all of the powers and perquisites that such a vaunted state entails. In promoting this kind of quick path to total fulfillment, one must assume that Eric is selling a system that he has used himself to become a living God. Since we live in a fundamental Christian religious based culture, making such a claim is strikingly inflammatory and goes deeply against the grain of the basic values of our Christian heritage. Making such claims can only be couched in forms of Satanism, since to claim to be a living God is to abrogate that status from the supposedly true God of Christianity. The rule of thumb is that if you oppose God and set yourself up as his replacement, then you are modeling the behavior associated with Satan himself. You are, in a word, emulating the Devil. Of course, from my perspective, replacing one autonomous absolute monotheistic Deity with another one, even if it is yourself, is merely perpetuating what I think is inherently wrong with monotheism itself.

Still, I am certain that this outrageous claim gives some particularly young and disaffected men quite a thrill to contemplate becoming a living God (and thereby overthrowing the religious status quo), but it also very likely to be misunderstood. If all you know about religion is what you rejected as Christianity then any contrary religious claim can only be perceived as a form of Satanism. So, it is easy to label what Eric is selling as over-the-top Satanism to rebellious, puerile and immature youths who are often enough disparaged and labeled as archetypal “losers.” Can Eric help these young men out of their cultural rut? That, of course, remains to be seen. He is reaching a group of people that other occultists aren’t as successfully acquiring.

In contrast to Eric’s marketing is the rest of the magical community who either finds some amusement in these media broadsides, or who are astonished, outraged and quite put-off by anyone making such ridiculous claims. It is apparent to me that the self-satisfied and smirkingly arrogant cast of the occult and magical opposition to Eric’s claims were never the intended audience for his advertising hype. Even so, they none-the-less engage in ridicule and ad-hominem attacks instead of soberly examining what Eric is really selling, and how his message is both a boon and a problem to the occult world as a whole. I am also quite certain that Eric couldn’t care less what these members of the various competing occult schools think of his marketing tactics and messaging, since he appears to be quite successful at acquiring a fair number of adherents to buy his classes and engage in his teachings. If these marketing ploys weren’t working then I suspect that Eric would have changed them so that they would be successful. What I or any other number of magicians and occultists think is really completely irrelevant. Eric has his market pretty well defined and amongst a certain set of individuals, he is a “rock star” and someone to emulate.

Unlike some of his most virulent detractors, I have actually read some of Eric Koetting’s books. While I have found them to be pretty much rudimentary and based on LHP themes and tropes, it is also apparent that he has acquired his knowledge the old-fashioned way - he has experimented and worked magic for many years. Even so, Eric’s knowledge of the occult and magic is evolving, and there are a number of things that he has stated which I know are erroneous,  incomplete or superficial. Perhaps that is the nature of writing things down or the fact that Eric is learning as he progresses through his spiritual and magical process. I know that I have made mistakes and have written things that I later found out were wrong, so I can’t condemn someone for making analogous mistakes or writing something erroneous.

So the question is whether or not Eric is completely off-the-wall and a total fraud, selling his lore to low information millennial magicians, or that perhaps his ideas have some foundation in modern occultism. Since I already know that Eric Koetting is not a fraud and that his knowledge has been earned by a long period of experimentation and practice, I will not join the bandwagon to condemn what he is doing or ridicule him. I won’t do this because what he is presenting to his defined public arena comes awfully close to my own perspectives and practices. There are many differences between what Eric and I do as functioning magicians, but essentially there are more points in agreement between us than differences. I found this out when I talked with him a while back, and I happen to know where we are in agreement and where we are divergent. So, rather than ridicule or vilify Eric, I will, instead, explain in my own terms why he is proclaiming the things that he does in his internet persona and how that impacts the rest of us who also work magick. I think that this is more productive because there is a bit of Eric Koetting in all of us, and that is why he provokes outrage from so many established practitioners.

What Eric has done is to simply conflate four topical areas that are typically kept distinct and separate from each other. It is the nature of that conflation and the associated marketing excesses that has produced the internet persona of Eric Koetting and his training regimen. Eric is the exemplar of a kind of dark-side or night-side Madison Avenue promotion. If P. T. Barnum were alive today he would have highly approved of Eric Koetting’s marketing style.

The four topical domains that are being conflated by Koetting are:

  • Tales of Power - these are the out of context stories that magicians tell each other about their paranormal experiences and exploits with strange powers, spirits and Godheads.
  • Self as Godhead - it is the objective for all magicians to ultimately assume Godhead, and both the right hand and left hand paths have their own methods of obtaining this sublime state.
  • Advertising Marketing - anyone who is in the business of selling their teachings will use some kind of marketing and advertising to reach potential customers.
  • Left Hand Path Perspectives - these are the ideas, practices and overall theology of the left hand path. Often, the rhetoric displays a high degree of antinomianism, inversion of basic cultural values and anti-establishment sentiments.

Most magicians engage in some or even all of these topical areas, since they represent the cultural domain of ritual or ceremonial magick. Most of the magicians I have met engage in telling tales of power. All magicians are seeking some kind of union with the Godhead, however they might define that entity.

Any magician who is selling their teachings will engage in marketing, and at the very least will promote their path and methodologies over those of other magicians. A good salesman will promote themselves without denigrating others, but as we all know from watching media based advertising, this is hardly the typical form of promotion. I suppose it’s all too easy to add a bit of hype to one’s marketing message so that instead of an honest (and boring) promotion for a product or service it becomes the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Additionally, left hand path magicians often engage in talk that sounds quite strange to those who are not part of their antinomian perspective. This is where demons are good, angels are bad, performing nefarious forms of supposed black magic is good, successfully summoning and constraining demonic spirits is an important challenge, and amplifying the self as Godhead over any other creed or deity is a basic predilection. For those who are not so disposed to the left hand path rhetoric, such claims and beliefs must seem quite foreign or even diabolic.

As you can see when these topical areas get conflated with each other then the message also gets quite distorted and mixed up. This is particularly true if the need to aggressively market one’s methodology and public persona pushes the envelope for maintaining a certain degree of factual balance and realistic representation. When you take the Left Hand Path’s left-over perspectives on elevating the self to the status of Godhead and you add a considerable layer of marketing blitz cheese to sell your ideas and yourself, and sprinkle over it a fair amount of tales of power and season it with a distinct peppery flavoring of left hand path diabolism, then you will get a marketing recipe identical to what Eric Koetting is currently doing.

None of what Eric is saying when he is selling himself and his teachings is inherently wrong or fabricated; but taken as a whole, it is quite misleading, distorted and even harmful. In elevating himself in such a manner, Eric has unwittingly become one of the magical gurus that he has talked about needing to kill in order to achieve one’s goal. The irony here is that in telling his erstwhile disciples that they need to kill their gurus, he is setting himself up as a target for his own students. In order to truly grow and achieve their potential, Eric’s students will have to overcome his amplified persona and overly hyped methodology and find their own path at some point in their magical careers.

One would assume that Eric expects this to happen, that is, if he doesn’t believe his own PR and remains down-to-earth. However, the problem with creating such a powerful public image is that it becomes all too intoxicating and seductive. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so the saying goes, and many a public figure has succumbed into believing that they are indeed the exalted personality that they are promoting. I hope that Eric doesn’t succumb to this fatal flaw, but the odds and human nature are against him. Still, the overly inflated claims that Eric is making and his various You-Tube discussions about black magick, supposedly killing people, invoking a demon that gets out of control and possesses his wife, and other such tales of power could be construed as proof that he is losing control of his marketing hype and overly identifying with his media persona. Only time will tell what will happen to Eric and his overly ambitious program, but from my perspective, the future doesn’t look particularly good.

I think that one of things that Jake Stratton-Kent said about Eric Koetting and his media blitz is that the only thing a person needs to do in order to begin to master Goetic Magick is to select one or a few of the more reputable copies of the traditional grimoires and then begin to practice and experiment with the rituals and mechanisms found in those books. Over time, a periodic and steadfast practice will teach the erstwhile student magician more than joining or engaging with any of the much vaunted traditions, organizations or reputed teachers.

While I am also a proponent of the self-made magician, I do believe that exploring other groups or individual teachers is not inherently a bad thing. As long as students understand that their path and process belongs solely to them, and that organizations, teachers and even books are a temporary aid that they can engage with (or not) to help them accomplish their end, then they will be able to maintain their freedom and continue to achieve their ultimate goal. Getting seduced or side-tracked by some overly inflated magical master is one of the major pitfalls that all magician students face as they follow their path. 

A good teacher will tell his or her students that their special relationship is temporary and subject to limitations, and additionally, leaders of a good organization will tell their members that when they are no longer learning or growing within that group then it is time to leave and move on to other possible paths. A bad teacher or leader will insist that their way is the only way and that meek obedience is the only acceptable behavior.

So, as a final note, we should ask the following question. Is Eric Koetting a bad teacher? I can’t really answer that question because I haven’t been one of his students. When I have talked with him he seems to be quite down-to-earth and never talks about how great he is or how powerful his magical system is compared to others. That may be because he is talking with another experienced magician and not a beginner, or it might be the way Eric really thinks and behaves outside of his persona.

However, I believe that everyone sees Eric’s marketing blitz and media persona as problematic, particularly if such a ploy backfires and makes Eric an adherent in his own cult of personality. He has sensationalized Left Hand Path magic which doesn’t need any more hype than what the misinformed public has already given it, and this will cause many of us who are magicians and who follow our paths discretely to look like fools. We will probably be painted with the same brush in the eyes of the public, even though we are practicing and promoting ourselves in a very different manner.

Runaway marketing knows no boundaries nor limitations, so it is only a matter of time before Eric becomes noticed by more mainstream media and thereby manages to make us all look bad. Think of the impact if or when Eric Koetting is interviewed by FOX news, or when they do a program about him and his teachings. Of course once that happens, Eric will be quite the example of evil black magicians to the Fundamentalist Christians. No matter how it is spun it won’t look good at all, and for those of us who are public figures we will have to answer a lot of stupid questions that we would rather not answer since the truth is actually more complicated than the general public would be able to understand. I, for one, don’t look forward to this likely future event, and I hope and pray it never really happens.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, June 6, 2014

Losing My Religion?

I have engaged in some further discussions about the topic of the Dark Night of Soul recently on Face Book. What has come out of this discussion is a more refined definition of the Dark Night of the Soul that magicians as well as mystics might experience. According to those who disagree with me it has to do with the aftermath of experiencing a powerful but momentary union with the Godhead, in all its glory and majesty. The resultant sense of loss after such an experience, also temporary, produces in the magician the archetypal Dark Night of the Soul. Tomas Stacewicz has responded to what I wrote with his own article, and you can find it here. I have also read with interest what he has proposed as comments on one of my Face Book status postings,

While I would never say that it is impossible for a magician and initiate to experience pain, darkness, doubt, fear and even despair while undergoing a powerful transformative initiation (in fact I have stated that this is very likely), I wouldn’t necessarily equate that intense experience with what a mystic undergoes through the Dark Night of the Soul. This is because a mystic nakedly approaches the Godhead by faith alone, whereas a magician is armed with faith based on the experience associated with magical experiences. There is also something decidedly masochistic about how a mystic deliberately prepares for this occurrence. Christianity does emphasize the suffering of Christ on the cross (particularly in Catholicism), and so a Christian mystic should also experience a similar level of suffering in order to be considered legitimate. Also, as I indicated in my article, the Dark Night of the Soul is nearly a constant companion for the mystic, but it doesn’t seem to be something habitual for the magician.

Tomas seems to have ignored the details that I presented in my article about how a monastic adherent seeks to undergo union with God and all that it entails. Based on what I have written, it makes more sense for mystics who have diminished and emptied themselves so that only the naked and unadorned psyche is still extent to have these kinds of experiences. How could worldly magicians who are still full functioning and participating in the mundane sphere be capable of having this kind of experience unless they themselves were reduced to nought?

I think that Tomas is actually engaging in a romantic association and a glorified identification with the mystic path, even though, unlike a mystic, he is still functioning in the world. He has a job, material possessions, property and social obligations. A true mystic would have eliminated everything in his life that might have interfered with achieving union with the Absolute. Tomas seems to believe that because he has experienced what he thinks is the archetypal Dark Night of the Soul that all such experiences must be the model and foundation for all other magicians. In fact he goes on to point out that experiencing the Dark Night of the Soul as he defines it represents an important mile-stone signifying one’s true level of development and achievement. In other words, if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, then you couldn’t possibly be an adept, or for that matter, an initiate. He is quite adamant about this belief, and there seems to be no middle ground. Here are Tomas’ words to that effect.

However, my own experience [of the Dark Night of the Soul] and the experiences of other initiates proves beyond any doubt that it is possible and even constitutes a requirement to become a successful Magician or Adept.”

I suppose I should be insulted by what Tomas has said (since it excludes me from being a magician or even an initiate), but I won’t take it personally. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Tomas and I believe that he feels the same way about me. Despite the narrow definition that he has flatly proposed, we have agreed to disagree. Still, I felt it important to respond to some of his points to more clearly define the nature of my own tradition and magical perspective. Tomas seems to believe that I omit the importance of the Dark Night of the Soul in my magic because I define matter and spirit, and my pagan path, differently than he defines his spiritual path. He sees it as a difference in our paths, but I think that it is merely a difference in semantics.

While I agree that our paths are somewhat different, it is difficult for me to accept that they are that much different. My reply to Tomas is that he might be conflating the Dark Night of the Soul, which is a very specific phenomenon in Christian mysticism, with a difficult and particularly harsh transformative initiation. Of course, this is matter of opinion, but I felt that it would be constructive to contrast how we see reality and perhaps get a glimpse of the truth behind our passionate beliefs.

In my previous article I did state that painful transformations can and do occur, but if and when they occur they usually represent something specific about the individual and their own spiritual process, and they are not necessarily archetypal to all such experiences. The cycle of transformative initiation is something that is constantly repeated and it has lesser and greater cycles, so there would be a periodicity to experiencing intensely powerful and difficult changes regularly in the life-span of a magical initiate. While magical initiates follow the cycles of light and darkness and that this is feature of their path, the experience of darkness that a magician undergoes is not same as the Dark Night of the Soul. It is has neither the intensity nor the depth, and this is because it is just one phase of the initiatory cycle.

Another point that Tomas has made in his article is that modern pagans cling to the material world and are unable or unwilling to detach themselves from it in order to truly experience the manifested glory of the Godhead. Here are his words:

All spiritual paths and the followers thereof distance themselves from the material world to a certain extent, Theurgy as well as Mysticism

As I pointed out in my article, a modern pagan doesn’t differentiate between spirit and matter, rather they consider them to be fused into a holistic structure that can’t really be separated except through the artifice of the mind. Modern pagans don’t “cling” to the material world, they in fact embrace and fully live in it, and they celebrate its various wondrous mysteries and manifestations. We perceive that spirit and matter are conjoined in union so that life and the material reality becomes something sacramental. Thus, to a modern pagan, every living thing is a sacrament!

I also find the term “pagan reconstructionists” be somewhat misleading regarding my own beliefs and practices because as a modern pagan what I do has only the barest and rudimentary relationship to ancient pagans and the paganism of antiquity. Granted, there are pagan reconstructionists, but I am not one of them. That is why I call myself a Modern Pagan and not a reconstructionist. Even so, what I am doing is celebrating a religious tradition, although it is a very modern and newly developed one. Our work as Modern Pagans and Witches is not yet complete. In fact, we have only begun our spiritual and religious adventure. However, all magicians are more or less modern, since the cultural context and consciousness of even a few hundred years ago is irreparably lost to us.

Because I have equated the transformative cycle of initiation with that of the Hero’s Journey, I have also shown that a complete cycle includes both a descent and an ascent. The initiate undergoes a total shattering of the self and then a reconstruction and a reintegration. Such a process is often painful and difficult, perhaps even profoundly so. Still, the purpose of this cyclic process is for the initiate to psychically die and be reborn so that she might evolve and succeed in integrating the archetypal cosmogonic cycle with the temporal world - in other words, to achieve her individual and her collective destiny. In order to play a part in the destiny of the world, the magician initiate must be fully engaged with that world. It is also important to be balanced enough to avoid the extremes of material imprisonment or material corruption. Therefore, to be a magician and an initiate it is important to be able to function in the material world so that she might help to change and transform it. A magician is not detached from this world, in fact, the world in its spiritual and material manifestations is the great teacher, guide and even the harsh mistress of trials and life threatening challenges.

Tomas also discussed in his Face Book comments that the Dark Night of the Soul was analogous to losing one’s connection to the Godhead and then experiencing the darkness of doubt, loss of faith and the miseries associated with suddenly being bereft and abandoned. While I don’t doubt that this is a real phenomena that an initiate can experience, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is the same as the Dark Night of the Soul. The process of the transformative initiation cycle reaches its highest point when the initiate experiences a complete breakdown and shattering of the self. Would that kind of experience also produce the same feelings that one might mistakenly think is the Dark Night of the Soul? Certainly it would be painful, perhaps even agonizingly so, and it would seem that one is deserted, alone and without any advocates or assistance. As I have stated previously, when this happens in a successful initiatory cycle it is just one of many stages. So these feelings, however intense, quickly pass as the initiate experiences the next stage, which is union with the opposite and hidden dark-self and a complete revitalization and restoration.

When I have undergone this process I have experienced the pain of the breakdown and shattering of the self, but it is always followed by the joy and celebration of rebirth. I could indulge in the pain and attempt to prolong it, but I see no reason to do so. The natural cycle consists of a shattering and a breaking down of the psyche into the rudimentary parts, and then a corresponding powerful regeneration and rebirth. Why would I attempt to block or halt this natural process? I suspect that doing so would distort or even cripple the transformative process, making it like a regressive fall into madness. Yet the tendency to rebirth seems to be much too powerful to resist.

My case is that a magician experiences a total shattering and destruction of his psyche instead of experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul . He might believe that this experience is the Dark Night of the Soul if he is so romantically inclined. That is what I think is being described by initiates and magicians who believe that they have experienced this phenomenon. I don’t either doubt or dismiss what they have experienced, but I choose to frame it differently because to me the whole context of the experience is a magical process, and it is startlingly different from what a mystic undergoes. 

Still, the question remains that Tomas has pointed out in his Face Book discussions. Can one loose their connection to the Godhead and still be a magician? This statement reminds me of that song by REM “Losing My Religion.”

Consider this
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Flailing around
Now I've said too much” REM - “Losing My Religion” (part of the lyrics)

When it comes right down to it I suppose anything is possible in the various experiences and phenomena of magic; but losing one’s connection to the Godhead is a peculiar one, at least in my opinion. Let me explain why I think that this is so.

I have defined ritual magick as the methodology that incorporates the practice of godhead assumption as the fundamental state of consciousness for all magical work. So, that means that an initiate who performs magic is doing so under the aegis of his or her personal godhead. If that is a prerequisite then it would be difficult to lose connection to the greater Godhead and the One because the personal godhead is synonymous with the greater Godhead. There is no difference except in one’s mind and perceptions.

As the initiate progresses through the transformative processes of initiation, the apparent differences melt away and the initiate becomes more aware of the Godhead Within and the greater Godhead Without, and that they are one and the same. Is there any possibility that one might lose their connection with the personal Godhead? Perhaps in the beginning when it is a new experience which hasn’t become an integral part of the magician’s innate nature; but once it does, then any kind of spiritual disconnection is unlikely to occur. It wouldn’t be impossible, but such an occurrence would represent a catastrophic setback. It would be a total nullification of one’s entire initiatory process.

In all of the years that I have practiced ritual magick, I have never experienced this kind of loss of connection. I am aware of my inner godhead and often it resonates in a synchronous manner with the greater Godhead. Sometimes my mundane life has most of my attention and at other times my magical and pagan religious work are my primary focus. I also need to manage and balance living in the material world with being a pagan, witch and a ritual magician. I am focused on world events, thus making me worldly, but I also am keenly aware of magical and spiritual processes within and outside of me as well.

As a magician, I am seeking to be a master of both the material and spiritual world, since from my perspective, they are one and the same. What this means is that I experience a cycle of magical and mundane occurrences, and both of these occurrences are part of the overall process of conscious evolution. They are just part of a greater continuum that reaches from my unique individual experience and perception of life and its meaning all the way to the absolute levels of being. In my opinion, the road to self-mastery is where these different levels become unified into just one level all within my overall perception. Perhaps the one Tarot card that epitomizes that whole process to me is Atu V, the Hierophant.

Anyway, I have never been in a situation where I have not had, in some manner, a connection with the Godhead. For me it is only a matter of precedence, intensity and focus. I have never lost my “religion” since it is completely integral to my being. I know the nature of Spirit from my experiences with it, but I also know that it resides wholly and completely within matter, and the truth is that there is no distinction between them except in my mind. My beliefs and my faith are based on my experiences. From these experiences I seek to derive various maps, rules and doctrines that encapsulate what I have experienced. This is an evolving process, so what I hold to be true today will undoubtably change tomorrow. It is quite a different process than holding particular truths and doctrines based on faith alone, which is the starting point where the mystic begins his or her path.

Someday, perhaps in the future, I hope that I will be able to completely eliminate the distinction in my mind between spirit and matter, and when that happens, I will know what it is like to be a man and a god simultaneously. Until that time, I will continue my work and strive to realize the mystery and nature of the Godhead within me, and by outward projection, to know it in the world.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Depression, Dark Night of the Soul and Magick

The last couple of days I have had some interesting conversations with some of the more insightful magicians who are my friends on Facebook. They are discussing the phenomenon of the Dark Night of the Soul, and that feelings of desolation, despair and a deep depression which can occur to anyone who is following the initiatory path of magick is also analogous to the classical definition of the mystical Dark Night of the Soul. There seems to be the consensus that all magicians at some point retire from the world (and in a sense, renounce it) and undergo the mystical rigors of the Dark Night of the Soul while seeking union with the One.

Strangely, I seem to be one of the few who finds issues with this kind of explanation and I have respectfully disagreed with those who have espoused this perspective. I think that it has more to do with a mystical approach to the Godhead than a magical approach, and there are also the issues of chronic or situational depression, isolation and despair that have really nothing to do with spiritual ascension. In clinical depression, removing oneself from the world is a common symptom and strong feelings are often replaced with a feeling of numbness, stasis or apathy.

The real question then is whether or not the iconic Dark Night of the Soul is real for mystics and magicians alike. Some have also questioned whether there is a difference between the two paths since they seem to lead to the same ultimate place. (I intend to answer these questions, hopefully once and for all, later in this article.)

Don’t get me wrong, since I am far more of a theurgist than a thaumaturgist, I do cultivate mystical experiences and encounters in the magical workings that I perform. However, there is a vast difference between having mystical experiences within a magical context and functioning as a mystic. They are not at all the same thing, in my opinion, and I believe that some magicians seem to confuse these two very different processes. Magicians can and do have mystical experiences, but they are not mystics. This is because a magician’s whole spiritual purpose is quite different than that of a mystic. This differentiation leads me to make some theological considerations regarding the context through which the Dark Night of the Soul occurs, both from a monotheistic and a pagan perspective.

From the perspective of the Abrahamic religious traditions (and also, to an extent, within Western metaphysical philosophy) humanity is in a fallen state and requires some kind of redemption in order to be spiritually fulfilled. The first step in finding redemption is to renounce the material world, since it’s the source of all that is fallen, separate and distinct from the Godhead. The physical world and all it contains is, therefore, unredeemed. Thus the seeker of spiritual redemption first realizes the fallen state of humanity and also the abject condition of the material world and thereby renounces it, but once this is done then he or she will undergo and experience probably the most difficult and bitter isolation imaginable in order to begin the process of achieving redemption. Let’s keep in mind that this is the particular mystical path to redemption (union with God) and not the general path to redemption (blessings and forgiveness of sins) open to all faithful adherents.

Yet in order to achieve redemption and salvation, mystics must transcend all that binds them to their physical lives, egocentric sentiments and their material circumstance in life in order to truly realize the hidden presence of the Godhead. Only by employing this extreme degree of self-sacrifice and world rejection is redemption possible, for without it, the seeker can’t cross the boundary that separates humanity from God, which is the sole objective. (Of course, there are other ways that the layperson can receive a certain kind of redemption for their faith, such as being redeemed through the intercession of Jesus Christ, nevertheless, the path of the mystic is the most onerous and difficult to undertake.)

However, in my opinion, a modern pagan has no need for any kind of redemption because he or she doesn’t subscribe to the belief that there is some kind of separation of Spirit and Matter, or that matter is in a fallen state along with humanity. Pagans don’t believe in original sin, so they don’t need to be redeemed. In fact the whole Lurian Qabalistic legacy doesn’t make a lot of sense to someone who is a modern pagan since the idea that spirits are trapped as “sparks” in the dross material world has the same kind of antinomian quality associated with theologies that reject the divine nature of the natural world (such as sects of Gnosticism, Fundamentalist Christianity and Neoplatonism). Since pagans embrace all material life and consider it to be sacred and imbued with spirit, then there is no need to somehow either elevate or reject matter.

To a modern pagan, Spirit and Matter are unified in emulation of the One, which is the nameless source of everything. Matter is imbued with consciousness and everything is therefore connected together. If one wishes to experience the divine, then nature is the principle place that one should focus their attention. I have found this philosophy to be an important remedy for the disease of duality that appears to plague most Western religious and philosophical systems. Also, there is no division between Deity and humanity, since the individual God/dess Within is also synonymous with the Cosmic Deity. If there is no fall and no original sin for modern pagans, nor any kind of division between the Godhead and humanity, then redemption is quite irrelevant and so is the Dark Night of the Soul. All that is required is for one to learn to see and experience the world as a holistic fusion of spirit, mind and matter, resolving itself into the One.  

The term “Dark Night of the Soul” was a phrase invented by the Spanish poet and Christian mystic St. John of the Cross and given to the title of a series of poems he wrote (La Noche Oscura del Alma) even though the process he describes was certainly not his invention. The poems he wrote depict the archetypal process or journey that he underwent when he sought a more perfect union with God. It is called the “Dark Night” because it symbolizes the ordeal that the soul encounters when in that intermediate state between renouncing the world and reaching the illuminating presence of the Deity. It is an experiential process that can and does happen for years, and in some documented cases it is only intermittently resolved. According to St. John of the Cross, this process has two stages; the first is a purification of the senses, and the second and more difficult, is the purification of the soul. The purpose for both of these ordeals is to eliminate all irrelevant and worldly things from the senses, mind and soul of the seeker and thereby to become worthy of union with the Absolute.

Purification of the senses is accomplished through a form of deprivation, where the mind and body are put in a situation where all sensory distractions are slowly attenuated until the life of the monk is one that is regulated by religious services, prayer, meditation, contemplation, work, and the basic needs of plain food and drink, rudimentary shelter, austere clothes, and little or no creature comforts whatsoever.

Purification of the soul is accomplished through strict forms of prayer, meditation, contemplation, and the enforcement of disciplines such as silence, isolation, self-humility, surrendering one’s self completely to God and the stripping away of all personal pride and self-definition. After a long period of this kind of rigorous discipline (and others even more inventive) the mind, and therefore the soul, will be purified of the distractions of the ego, personal vanity, and even one’s sense of identity. In the end, all that will remain is the nameless human being stripped of all extraneous things and naked and humbled before God. It is in such a state while waiting for the manifestation of God that the darkness reveals itself, filling the monk with doubt, fear, terrible and tormenting visions and nightmares, hopelessness, and the despair of failure - of being unworthy. If it were not for the brief but overpowering experience of union with God that uplifts and transforms the monk then this process would produce nothing but self-destruction. However, it is a deliberative process and also one that is voluntary.
From the standpoint of Christian mysticism, and even other forms of religious mysticism, it would seem that this process is quite relevant and necessary to achieve spiritual maturity and the realization of Spirit within and transcending all matter. However, there would also be a corresponding negation of the material world and its various trials and tribulations. Overcoming the Dark Night of the Soul would at least confer on the mystical seeker a certain amount of freedom from the travails of the world, since such a person would be functioning temporarily at a transcendent level of being. Such exalted states of consciousness are difficult to maintain even for someone living a secluded life in a monastery, so the Dark Night would be something that would periodically reoccur, again and again. According to the various writings of the Christian saints, including modern ones such as Mother Teresa, the Dark Night of the Soul is an almost perpetual companion for the mystical seeker.

However, would such a process as the Dark Night of the Soul that I have described above be something that a magician might encounter if he or she were following an initiatory path within a pagan-based system of ritual magick? That’s an important question, and I believe that it is definitely not part of the magician’s initiatory process - at least for a pagan. Why do I think that way? Is there a real distinction between the magician and the mystic? I have already dealt with this issue in a previous article, and you can find it here. There are other possibilities, such as a Christian magician who is following a path that alternates between the paths of being a magician and a mystic. I would find this confusing and perhaps even contradictory, but given the predilection that monotheistic religions have for antinomianism, it is possible.

A magician does have specific ordeals and issues that he or she must successfully resolve in order to achieve a stable level of spiritual maturity, but the Dark Night is not one of them. I have also written up what I consider to be the pitfalls of following the magical path and you can find that article here. However, this doesn’t really answer the question as to whether or not a magician can experience or even succumb to despair and internal darkness while undergoing what I have called transformative initiation.

Transformative initiation is not to be confused with ceremonial initiations that confer certain privileges and obligations on a member of an esoteric organization. A spiritual transformation is never something that is controlled or contrived by the magician, but it is something that can be triggered by specific magical activities. A spiritual transformation follows the pattern of the Hero’s Journey as associated with the seventeen stages of the cycle of transformation and the five stages of the cosmogonic cycle. I have written about these stages and how they typically impact someone who is undergoing them through a powerful spiritual transformation. While this is an archetypal process, it is also very specific to the development level and needs of the individual undergoing it. It is, in word, a rebirth, which is both archetypal and quite unique.

The cycle of transformative initiation consists of two halves. The first half of that cycle is the descent into the dark underworld of the deeper soul where the former egoic identity is shattered into fragments and later recombined into a completely new psychic structure. The successful completion of the supreme ordeal is where the initiate gains the vista of the cosmogonic cycle and realizes his place and role within it. These stages of shattering and reintegration are extremely difficult, painful and can produce the most extreme sensations of loss, despair, darkness and stasis for the initiate. However, these emotions are followed by joy, realization, ecstatic union and illumination. The second half of the initiatory process is the ascent out of the underworld and reintegration into the mundane and material world. However, the vision and the revitalized self are also reintegrated into the world and so the previous life of the initiate is now dead and replaced with a whole new perspective and life directive. Of course, that is the case when a transformative initiation is successful. There are cases where an unsuccessful transformation could produce regressive effects, but this is typically indicative of unresolved psychological issues.

If there is a possibility for darkness and despair then it will be experienced when the magician initiate is deep within the underworld, having experienced a complete shattering of the self into its most rudimentary parts. However, this period doesn’t last long and it soon replaced with the opposite feelings of joy and illumination. In this case, the underworld serves as a cocoon preparing one for transformation.  It is also possible that the magician initiate could experience a kind of depression after having successfully completed a very difficult spiritual transformation as a kind of “let down” after the fact – as if there should be something more. Yet even this state shouldn’t last long. Still, if a transformative initiation should fail then what I am saying here will not be what the initiate experiences. There are many possibilities, but the real issue here is whether or not the initiate is balanced and relatively normal, or whether he or she is additionally afflicted with some kind of psychological issue.

As you can see, the entire cycle of transformative initiation and its overarching purpose is to reintegrate the initiate with a renewed self-image and sense of purpose in the mundane world. According to the creed of ritual magick, the real work is to integrate Spirit and Matter, first within the self, and then in the world at large. Magicians are the teachers, initiators, leaders and social transformers, using a combination of religion, science and magic to change themselves and the world as a whole; to bring to fruition the cosmogonic design as coauthored by the Godhead. In other words, to fulfill their own destiny and the destiny of the whole world simultaneously. That objective can’t be fulfilled if the magician has renounced the material world. He or she must be immersed within it, but neither imprisoned nor corrupted by it.

Then there is the metaphorical beast of depression itself, and this is something that lies beyond the actual process of spiritual ascension or magical transformation. Whether the state of depression is situational or chronic, it can be quite a formidable opponent. People need to understand (if they don’t already) that depression is a medical condition. Even if this is an individual and personal ordeal, it has greater social and even psychological implications. I would never recommend to anyone that they not seek out proper help when faced with an insurmountable and unresolvable problem. I, myself, cannot speak to depression as a chronic malady, although I have experienced it in a situational context from time to time.

However, there are many ways of dealing with the malady of depression and the magician or mystic must deal with it (or any other psychological disorder) to achieve spiritual maturity. Chronic depression is a clinical disorder that can be mitigated with mood altering drugs and/or lifestyle modifications to balance and enhance brain chemistry; but situational depression sometimes requires the ability to detach oneself in order to accurately assess one’s situation and truly realize positive attributes of one’s circumstance.

I really do believe that there is always a way or a path that can lead one to a more healthy and happier mind-state, sometimes the difficulty is just finding it. I also have little pity for someone who persistently indulges in their internal pain and depression and doesn’t seek any kind of help, counsel or even some temporary diversion to drive the gloom from their mind. There is a stigma in our society that prejudges anyone who acknowledges psychological issues, so admitting them and seeking help can be intimidating. Still, this is one barrier that a person must overcome in order to find relief. You can find more information on chronic depression as a disease on the NAMI website here.

Sometimes we just need a pep talk from someone outside of our situation to get us out of a slump, or perhaps some coaching to remind us that we do have resources and abilities to change our lives. A loved one can remind us of why we are here or even a beloved pet can do this when we are assailed by doubt and despair. Still, we are not completely helpless nor are we without any means at our command to change our lives in such a manner as to give us joy and happiness. This must be realized as an important truth in order to motivate ourselves into finding a solution.

Obviously, this is a very difficult condition to overcome, but it can be conquered. In fact it must be conquered if we are going to achieve anything in our lives. That fact alone can often help someone overcome their situational depression, since doing nothing will ultimately achieve nothing except prolong that dark and seemingly endless night. Break up your life patterns, try something new, get moving and then see what happens. Often, having something important to do will help you forget that you are feeling blue.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said in his book, ‘The Crack-up,’ “In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.

Frater Barrabbas

(With editing assistance an clarifications on depression from my lady, Grace.)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Building A New Geomantic Elemental Oracle

Over the next several months I will be slowly and incrementally writing up the 256 octagrams that make up the Geomantic Oracle that I have invented. As I have previously stated, it is based rather loosely on the classical system of Geomancy. The Geomantic Elemental Oracle is a complete and comprehensive system of divination and magic that incorporates the ideas and structure of the I-Ching while maintaining a more western and elemental approach to this type of divination system. You can read my previous article here, and this should give you a pretty good background to what I am proposing to do with the Oracle.

I have to admit that it’s quite exciting to give birth to a new Oracle. I am not just following what has been established by tradition, even though there is a precedence for me to create such a divination system. Certainly, there is a need for it, and I feel a special calling to build it, even though it will take months or maybe even a year or more to complete. I believe that this massive project will be well worth the effort since the result is already turning out to be quite compelling. What I have decided to do is to share a completed octagram Oracle chapter here and in future articles so that you can see the results of my work. I think that you will be as excited about these fascinating octagrams as I have been in deriving and writing about them. Each chapter contains the Octagram, its attributions, keyword, and then a description, judgement and finally, an image. When completed, there will be 256 of them, and I suspect that they will run the complete spectrum of all possible human experience.

Here is the first one which I thought was interesting enough to share with you. If you have a moment, feel free to let me know what you think of it. Others will follow from time to time, but of course, you will only be able to find all 256 in a forth-coming book.

Frater Barrabbas

#30 Earth of Fire base qualified by Water of Water. Keyword: Seeing Deep Visions

Seeing Deep Visions indicates that a doorway has opened up so that the querent might be able to see deeply into the intrinsic nature of things. This is a very auspicious time that can have a momentous impact upon the querent. Many things have lined up in such a manner that the sage has a clear view of what lies far below, but this view is very temporary. Seeing must also be accompanied with perceiving, recognizing and understanding. It is important that what is seen is carefully examined over time, and it is even more important for the querent to seek out the guidance and counsel of other insightful minds, since what is seen may be obscure or even allegorical. The sage must persevere to fully realize this great gift of deep vision, and it will require effort and diligence to build that understanding and so not waste the momentous gift of seeing clearly and fully. 

Judgement - Seeing Deep Visions is a great gift, but it makes the sage responsible for understanding what is revealed. Thus, it is a gift and also a great challenge. Careful perseverance brings great good fortune, but wasting such a gift is the height of folly.

Image: Seeing Into the Well of Souls - thus the sage is given the boon of seeing into a greater depth than any previous insight. With this boon is also a challenge; will the sage take the vision as a blessing or as a curse? Only careful examination will further the blessings of wisdom thus acquired, but impetuousness will spoil the view.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thoughts on Wealth and Magical Power

Spring has finally come to the Great White North, and the leaves are starting to bud. It is looking a lot nicer since the browns and greys of winter after the snow-melt and rains have become green with the promise of warmer weather and a verdant rebirth. Still, there are cool days and a quite a lot of rain, but at least it’s rain and not snow. Despite the fact that the warmer days of summer are approaching us again, I find myself overloaded with work, so I can only gaze at the wondrous changes through my window.

Presently, I have begun the arduous task of transitioning from my old job and role to one that is new. I need to focus on mastering new skills, dusting off knowledge and techniques long stale and getting up to speed with a completely different technology. These are delightful things for me to do because I always love new challenges and learning to master new technologies. I am grateful that my company is giving me this opportunity to re-tool, but I can hardly blame them. Finding people with my business knowledge is quite difficult, since what I do isn’t just limited to knowing how to use fancy technological applications. The fact that I also know how to write is also somewhat unique to an IT professional, so I can see the practical reasons why my employers want to give me the opportunity to retool. It’s far cheaper and faster to allow me to extend my abilities than it is to hire someone with all of the abilities that they require.

Thus, my work related on-the-job training and the massive workload will keep me busy for quite some time. This is why I haven’t been writing articles for my blog lately and why I am not likely to write much in the future either. I am just too busy making certain that I can continue to function as I have done previously in my career, and so manage to continue getting a good paycheck to put a roof over my head and food on the table. I am not wealthy but I am also not poor. I have been quite fortunate and I am grateful for what I have been able to accomplish in my life so far.

I know all too well that things can and do change, and the fickle finger of fate can just as easily afflict one with misfortune as it can seemingly award one with good fortune. I would like to believe that my magical abilities have helped to shape my fortune over the extent of my lifetime, but it could have also been my ability to periodically reinvent myself and to be fairly practical minded when it came to money and career choices. I like to think of myself as a man of magical power and arcane ability, since I am a witch and a ritual magician. Yet when it comes to talking about magical power and how that mysterious quality can impact one’s temporal and material reality, then things can become murky or even a bit confused. Allow me to explain what I mean by this statement.

There are essentially two basic kinds of magical workings that most ritual and ceremonial magicians might perform, and these consist of the works of thaumaturgy and theurgy. Thaumaturgy can be defined as essentially making things happen in the material world based on a combination of magical and mundane steps. Thaumaturgy is therefore mainly concerned with producing material effects regardless of the medium (such as energy, spirits, psychology, etc.). Typically, a thaumaturgical operation will be able to “bend” probability so that something that has a distinct possibility of occurring can be “willed” into becoming manifest. Theurgy, on the other hand, is concerned with spiritual insights, wisdom, occult knowledge and conscious illumination. Therefore, when magicians talk about influencing events through the application of magical rituals, they are usually talking about thaumaturgy. When they talk about transformations and transcendence, they are talking about theurgy.

In my book “Disciples Guide to Ritual Magick” I have discussed the nature and quality of the concept of magical power. I have maintained that it is a subjective phenomenon that has more to do with the experience of magic and its apparent meaningfulness. A powerful magical ritual is one that has profound meaning and significance for the magician. Magical power is therefore a metaphor for the emotional experiences of meaningfulness, profound significance, and insightful synergy that accompanies a successful working.

Of course, a working that fails to produce the desired effects could also appear similarly ground-breaking, but magicians typically remember their successes and try to mitigate or even forget their failures. I often refer to a magician recounting his or her exploits and successful magical workings as “tales of power.” They have a tendency of magnifying over the years and with the many renditions. (I suppose that the failed workings and misadventures would be called the “tales of folly.”)

A powerful magician is one who can not only get the desired results that he or she is striving to achieve, but does so in an obvious and profound manner. This is to say that really good magic always produces far more than just the desired outcome. It teaches, instructs, guides and ultimately leads one to a greater level of being than what might have been otherwise. What I am implying here is that thaumaturgy can and does lead the magician to theurgy, although not always and certainly not immediately.

Even so, magical power should never be confused with real power in the material world. While it is possible that the archetypal magician should be materially successful, perhaps even wealthy and widely influential, this seldom ever occurs. Why is this so? Why are magicians to be found in mostly the middle or lower classes and not amongst the wealthy elite? Shouldn’t magical power be synonymous with material power?

Anton Lavey once drily stated that real occult masters and men of magical power should reside in a station of life commensurate with their magical prowess, that is amongst the elite, and if they didn’t, then they were just a bunch of deluded frauds. I read this bit of hyperbole in Anton’s monthly periodical “The Cloven Hoof” and I can see that some folks have taken it to heart over the years. This belies the fact that Anton himself passed away leaving a very modest and meager estate behind him. He was also something of a steadfast atheist and didn't believe in any "occult powers."

Needless to say, I have often sensed a bit of snobbery and a sneering quality of prejudice from the quips and comments made by middle class white male magicians who like to look down their noses at those who are materially below them, including those men or women of color who are not part of the supposed elite of middle class magicians. Of course, whatever material stability one has these days has been bought dearly for the price of actual material freedom, since the typical working stiff can’t afford not to have a job and a career in order to survive. There are some lucky few who make a living offering their occult services for a fee, but the rest of us have to work a mundane job in order to make a living, and that takes us away from what we would rather be doing with our time. However, those magicians who are doing well money-wise have managed to leverage their middle class roots and privileges into a stable material existence, but this could change at any time. Misfortune occurs every day and happens to everyone at some point, but those who are rich and powerful are less impacted by it.

Additionally, look at the general population of the U.S. and see who is most engaged with the practice of magic. The number of middle class magicians and their potential middle class clients is quite small compared to the rest of the population of middle class folk. This is not so in the lower classes, particular the ethnic minorities and non-white people living in urban areas. There are far more magicians operating in these communities and people who will engage them for a modest fee than in any other community or class. When you think about it, doesn’t that really make sense?

When upper class people seek retribution for a wrong that they experienced at the hands of someone else do they go see a magician or a root conjuror? No, they go see their lawyers and sue the crap out of their would-be perpetrators, or they pull some influential strings and cause all sorts of woe to those sorry bastards who have wronged them. They don’t need any magic because their money and influence is all the “magic” that they ever need, and it usually protects and empowers them quite well. They can afford to be rich assholes when we would never consider behaving in that way. The rest of us poor schmucks have to make do with intimidation, physical threats and perhaps even violence, and if that can’t be done, then we either have to lump it or perhaps engage in some magic either on our own or by hiring a magician, witch or root conjuror.
For this reason, the very powerful, well connected and wealthy elite have viewed the practice of magic, particularly thaumaturgy, as disdainfully irrelevant. To them the religious status quo has always been an integral part of their outer social image. They might be interested in oddities or attracted to novelties, but in most cases, when they indulge in such matters they are just considered harmless wealthy eccentrics. They actually don’t deviate too much from social norms because it’s bad for business. So for this reason magic has always been and always will be the proclivity of poor and powerless people because they don’t have the means of throwing their weight around, whether by material power or by the threat of violence. They are, in a word, the little people that the rich and powerful treat with indifference or scorn. I count myself as part of that faction of “little people” regardless of my paycheck, since misfortune could easily take away everything that I have materially achieved in my lifetime. There is little difference between the urban poor and myself, at least when compared to the mega-rich, so I should always consider my material interests when voting. You can bet that I don't vote for Republicans or Libertarians.

Do my words bother you? Do you feel the need to dispute what I am saying because you think magicians should be powerful in all areas of their lives? Well, then, here’s a little test. Compare your vaunted material power and swagger to that of the Koch brothers and see how it stands up. I am certain that you will handily lose that comparison. They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to buy the supposed democracy that we live in, and they are gradually succeeding. For instance, instead of talking about what we need to do about climate change and how we should mitigate its dire effects, we are instead talking about whether or not it is real. The scientific consensus is that climate change is practically a fact, agreed to by over 97% of scientists. The global ice caps are melting at an unprecedented pace and it is obviously due to the high levels of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. How did so much carbon-dioxide get into the atmosphere? Simple, from the massive burning of fossil fuels. Heavy mechanized farming has also greatly contributed to the green-house gas effect. Still, we have the majority of conservative politicians and media pundits denying that climate change is even happening, and all too many people are foolishly agreeing with them.

This is only one of several conservative themes that are completely absurd yet nevertheless are being seriously played out in our country, pitting lies and hyperbole against scientific fact. Modest gun control as a form of second amendment abrogation is one, Obamacare as a national disaster is another and voter fraud is still another. Not to mention the supposed fake scandals that are being acted out by the Republicans in Washington against an administration that is boringly bereft of scandal. Why is this happening? Does the fact that the Koch brothers own a major share of the fossil fuel industry have any bearing on why the conversation about climate change is stale-mated by those who outright deny its reality? As Bob Dylan sang: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

Progressive policies tend to assist the many for the sake of taxing the wealthy few, and so they are a method smoothing over social and economic inequalities. They don’t in any way discourage anyone from becoming wealthy, and in fact, they greatly assist in social and economic mobility. However, such policies have been demonized by those who wish to enlarge and expand economic inequality. Want to guess who is pushing such ideas into the political consensus? The Koch brothers and their mega-rich allies!

To humorously misquote Ronald Reagan, let me boldly tell my fellow Americans, “Rich people aren’t the solution to our problems, they are the problem!

We magicians and witches are natural subversives working against the established order. Whatever you have is just waiting to be taken away by the .1%, so struggling against the system, whether clandestinely or openly, is the only way for us to survive. Thinking that we have powers to directly influence the world that we live in is a time honored illusion indulged in by middle class magicians. We can, in the end, only influence ourselves, and even then we are not immune to misfortune. So, don’t be fooled into thinking that you are safe from economic calamity, because you aren’t.

Even great magicians have their ordeals, difficulties and times of hardship. Misfortune has always been the true test of one’s character, personal strength and personal empowerment. Therefore, it is better to admire the magician who comes from a poor family and succeeds than to admire some arm-chair magician who has never had to struggle and fight for what he has.

Frater Barrabbas