Monday, March 31, 2014

Peregrin’s Reply to Christian Magicians

Peregrin Wildoak responded to my article that took issue with his article about Why Christians Make Better Magicians. His response was rather harsh, but I expected that. I suppose that anyone who disagrees with Peregrin, according to him, must be mentally deficient and not up to the task of proposing an alternative perspective. He was not interested in posting his critique on my blog because he felt that I have provided a hostile environment for him to present his ideas. While one commentator on my Face Book link to the article I wrote did disparage Peregrin, I didn’t refute or delete what he said. I didn’t agree with it, but I felt that everyone has a right to their opinion, and that is also true of Peregrin himself. For that reason I decided to post and comment on Peregrin’s response so that all opposing views to what I may say or think are herein represented. It also allows me to clarify my points, but what Peregrin wrote doesn’t in any manner change my opinion about what he or I originally wrote. I agree to disagree.

What does seem to be operating here is a clash of different perspectives based on geography. Peregrin lives in western Australia and I live in the midwestern US. Australia, Canada and Britain are probably three of the most non-sectarian areas in the world. Other areas that are so blessed are Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, not to mention Japan. There are probably a number of countries where being an occultist, pagan or even a Christian magician has no cultural stigma or much cause for concern. However, that is not the case in the U.S., as a perusal of the daily news will easily reveal. I live in a nation that is polarized by sectarian differences and where Christians routinely bitterly remark about how they are oppressed by the secular government and various institutions. Some even go so far as to blame the decline of the US on liberal attitudes towards gays, pagans, witches and occultists. We do not live in a liberal culture, although there are pockets of liberality that still exist in this nation.

Occultists, magicians, pagans, witches and other minorities are typically discrete about their activities in the U.S. Some have come out of the closet, but this is still a nation where individuals can lose their jobs or their children because of their religious affiliation. From Peregrin’s perspective, religious organizations and churches have little political power and the overall religious climate is sane, peaceful and highly tolerant. In the U.S., the opposite is true. Churches wield considerable political power (even though there is supposed to be a separation of church and state) and there is an ongoing cultural war that is sectarian and religiously intolerant. There are liberal areas in the U.S. where religious toleration is allowed to thrive, but there are also many other areas where religious intolerance, bigotry and racism still thrive, even violently so. My world is one where it is better to be discrete than open about one’s personal spiritual perspectives, particularly if they are quite outside what is generally accepted as orthodoxy in this nation.

So, what we have here are two very different perspectives, and the glaring differences between them can be shown to have their origins in the cultures from where we differently speak. Anyway, allow me to present Peregrin’s rebuttal to what I previously wrote. 

Frater Barrabbas has responded to my deliberately provocative MOTO post, ‘Why Christians Make Better Magicians’ If you are at all interested, have a look – though I will admit I had to muster up some effort myself to read through it all – other fish to fry, I guess?

I’m not gonna respond on Frater’s blog, as that has proved a hostile environment to sensitive little moi, and his Facebook post has folk summing up the weight of the arguments by simply declaring me a ‘freak’. So here are just a few points and then I’m done with it

The main thrust of Frater’s argument is the question of being able to be an openly practising magician and a member of an established (not esoteric, new age or ‘Gnostic’) church. Well of course this is not possible in many circumstances, and of course very possible in other.

Two words: Gareth Knight. Another two: Peregrin Wildoak; the priests and laity of my church are fully aware and accepting of my magic. Oh, more words: Anthony Duncan; a Canon of the Church of England. I’d even wager these two: Bob Gilbert. And two more: Whare Ra, which included Priests and a fucking BISHOP in its ranks. It all depends on the time, culture, magician and church.

Now ALL of these very faithful and theologically accepted, folk practised magic just fine while being involved in mainstream church life and duties. So I really am unsure what Frater is on about. As for the Catholic catechism – well, anyone who has ever spent time with Catholic priests and nuns knows that this is often simply a background while they get on with activities and ideas contrary to it.

I am unclear, but it seems Frater has not actually read or understood modern Christian magicians like Gareth Knight, nor the theology of people like Canon Anthony Duncan.

Frater writes: “It is my opinion that an esoteric or occult version of Christianity is the only kind of spiritual faith that would allow for a simultaneous practice of magic; but esotericism and occultism are not limited just to Christianity. Esotericism and occultism are, by definition, pan-religious, so someone who is an occultist or an esotericist would not be confined by Christian theology. They wouldn't be considered even nominally Christian, either.”

Thanks for your opinion, Frater, but it does not cohere with FACTS. There ARE Christian magicians who are members or CLERGY of mainstream, non-esoteric churches. In fact from the view of traditionalism, espoused by Guénon and others an exoteric, regular, mainstream and outer practise of our inner and esoteric faith is ESSENTIAL.

To declare “someone who is an occultist or an esotericist” not “even nominally Christian, either” is a bit presumptive. Again, there ARE plenty of Christian magicians – and these people ARE accepted by others in their church as being REAL, not nominal, Christians. I’m a case in point. So really telling me my lived experience is wrong, and that of my parish friends too, is just … well I’m not sure what it is.

Frater’s statement, “Even Catholics have been steadily removing the magic from their liturgy and practices since Vatican II.” is interesting. Clearly he is using his own terms here to describe Catholic liturgy, not that of the Catholic’s themselves. Not sure what to call that either. Of course, NO orthodox catholic theologian and few Catholic or Christian magicians would say there was ever ANY magic in Catholic liturgy. I think what Frater means – and which he erroneously calls magic – is liturgical ritual and symbolism. However, this is not and never has been magic. And Christians magicians are generally clear on the difference between sacramental and magical ritual, which again is one reason why many can a happily be an exoteric Christian at church and an inner esoteric Christian on their own or in their practise group. If one is not clear on the difference, please read Antony Duncan and Gareth Knight.

‘Nuff said? Thanks

Now that you have had the opportunity to read Peregrin’s response in its entirety without any interrupting rebuttal from me, I would like to respond to a few of his comments here.

First off, I have indeed read nearly all of Gareth Knight’s books. I have found him to be one of the most pagan friendly Christian occult authors and I can readily see that he and I have many points in common. However, having read Gareth Knight’s books, I can say that his perspective on magic, Qabalah and the occult is suffused with Theosophy, Western Occultism, and even a kind of nascent Paganism bundled together with a Christian spiritual perspective. While Peregrin might consider Gareth Knight to be a mainstream Christian, I have a problem with what seems to me to be obvious themes, such as his belief in a feminine spiritual element that he has called a Goddess, which is contrary to mainstream Christian doctrine. Mr. Knight may consider himself a Christian, but because his works are so accessible to Pagans it would seem that his teachings would have to be classified as occultic and esoteric. I have classified Gareth Knight’s writings as such and I can say that some of his ideas have certainly shaped my thoughts and perspectives on magic, even though I am not a Christian.

Peregrin then goes on to say that there are indeed occultists and magicians who are members of the clergy of some very liberal churches. There is also a Theosophical Christian church called the Liberal Catholic Church. I have never denied that this was a fact. I even possess one of these lineages that link me to the Old Catholic tradition in England. He has stated that some of these clergy magicians are Christians in good standing in their respective churches. Of course, we are talking about the Anglican Church of England, which has become quite liberal over the decades, just as the Unitarian church in the U.S. has been a bastion of liberal religious perspectives. All of this is true, even though the Anglican Church has specific cannon laws against practicing magic, divination, paganism or occultism. These laws are obviously not enforced, but that is not true of Roman Catholicism and many other denominations. This is also especially true in the U.S., where such activities would be grounds for a clergy member’s dismissal.

The point that I wanted to make in my article is that if you carefully examine the Old Testament and the New Testament there are plenty of verses that condemn magic, divination and witchcraft and any extra-theological derivations. We can start with Exodus 22:18 “Thou shalt not suffer a sorceress to live.” and work our way through the entire Bible and build a pretty strong case against magic, divination or occultism. Then there are the church cannon laws that specifically condemn magic, occultism, divination and the like and compare them to “Satan’s works and pomps” as renounced in the Baptism rite. When I said that a true representation of mainstream Christianity was opposed to magic and occultism, this is represented by what is in the Bible, cannon law and even in the liturgy. 

While I never disputed that a Christian could perform magic and occultism, I did state that it would represent a contrary direction to many mainstream churches, and that to deal with this dissonance, a Christian often becomes more aligned to esoteric and occult doctrines to alleviate this dissonance. (By comparing himself to Gareth Knight who presents himself in his books as an obvious mix of Christianity, Theosophy, occultism and even paganism is to make the case that Peregrin’s Christianity is not pure and canonical.) 

However, Peregrin is correct in assuming that if a church and its members have no qualms about either lay members or clergy being occultists and magicians, then there would be no external stresses whatsoever. This should be understood as being more rare in the U.S. than it might be in Britain, Canada or Australia. Even so, it behooves one to be discrete in the U.S., and likely other places in the world where there is a lot less religious tolerance. (I would love to see Peregrin visit the U.S. and be quite open about his beliefs and practices to the congregants of a Southern Baptist church. He would very likely be ejected with a certain cold hostility usually associated with dangerous apostates.)

I found this remark from Peregrin rather astonishing. He said, “As for the Catholic catechism – well, anyone who has ever spent time with Catholic priests and nuns knows that this is often simply a background while they get on with activities and ideas contrary to it.” I have spent some time with Catholic priests (but not with nuns), and while they are all human beings subject to human frailties, I have never heard them talk about occultism or magic, or for that matter, indicate that they took their vows and responsibilities lightly. As representatives of the Catholic Church, those that I have met are quite straight laced and they always talk the “church party line.” 

Peregrin seems to be hinting that priests and nuns engage in illicit activities, but I would find that highly unlikely. Of course, I haven’t met any Catholic priests in Australia, but here in the U.S. they represent a strict regimen of observance, despite the fact that a minority have disgraced their “cloth” with criminal activity. About the most controversial thing that I have ever heard a priest talk about was his study of Teilhard de Chardin, whose ideas he admitted as being uncanonical but still rather Catholic. I wonder what Peregrin has gotten up to himself that he would know what priests and nuns are doing when not engaging with their duties? (Sounds to me like sectarian slander.)

Peregrin is also correct that Christian theologians have never admitted that their liturgies were ever magical, but even so, they have quietly worked to remove the possibility of anyone working “magic” using their church liturgy. The symbols and ritual actions are still there, but the Latin language has been replaced with the vernacular and there is far less an emphasis on a literal interpretation of the Body and Blood of Christ as having actually and physically been transubstantiated. They would call it a “superstition,” which is the canonical Catholic perspective on extra-liturgical practices. However they would find my use of the abandoned Tridentine Mass as a specific and powerful magical rite as a vile and vicious blasphemy. I do see these liturgies as being suffused with magic and I have not been beyond appropriating them for that purpose. Since a number of the old grimoires employ church liturgy in the blessing and consecration of tools, and even in the five steps of performing an evocation (not to mention the actual invocation verbiage), I would have to state unequivocally that liturgies have been used as magic rituals for centuries.

This brings me to his final pronouncement “And Christians [sic] magicians are generally clear on the difference between sacramental and magical ritual..” which I feel is either patently naive or simply a lie. All anyone has to do is examine what is going on in Voudoun, Santeria, Palo, Hoodoo, and (drum-roll) Michael Bertiaux’s magical occultism to see that there is a profound blurring between religious liturgy and magic. I suspect that this kind of revisionism and mixing of forms will continue to occur into the future whether or not Peregrin admits it. It should also be noted that this is a natural phenomenon that has been going on for millennia. Religious liturgies are one of the more important source materials for personal magic. It has always been so and probably always will be so. This is why there is so much expropriation going on within religions and across religious boundaries. While Peregrin maintains that he and other Christian magicians know and obey the boundaries between their magic and church liturgy, there are many more who have and continue to cross this boundary without any qualms or trepidations. I would have to include myself in this crowd, so I have to refute Peregrin’s last point as being completely false.

Anyway, let it not be said that I don’t give opposing views a proper place in my blog. That being said, I did find Peregrin’s critique to be rather pompous and arrogant, as if the rest of us are sadly below his intellectual prowess. He has made some legitimate points, but overall, I would say that he really missed the whole point of my previous article.

Frater Barrabbas 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Do Christians Make Better Magicians?

Back in December, Peregrin Wildoak wrote an article in his blog “Magic of the Ordinary” where he argued that Christians make better magicians. You can find it here. Reading it kind of reminded me of the old joke that used to get passed around (and found its way onto lapel buttons) that expressed something like  “Italians Make Better Lovers,” and you could put whatever ethnic group you wanted into that expression to make yourself feel proud of your ethnic tribe. I think that Peregrin has used the same approach in his article and while some of his arguments are interesting and thoughtful there are some profound flaws in his arguments as well.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in his article to lump all Christians together into one big massive group and not to differentiate them. Still, I suspect that Peregrin had a mostly esoteric brand of Christianity in mind when he wrote up his article, or at the very least, that the Christian magician would have to be broad-minded and of an esoteric cast in order to practice magic in the first place. Christian magicians would have to adopt this perspective so as not to succumb to the cognitive dissonance that they would experience when exposed to the many pronouncements in Christian churches and organizations against such practices.

While Peregrin opines that the Christian magician must go against the basic grain of Christian theology and social consensus in order to be a magician, he also ignores the fact that most of the Christian population would find such a digression to be very troubling. He says this little statement to bolster his argument: “You are flying against the wind in both contemporary egregores and you have to be pretty clear and be able to examine, refine and explain your point of view, beliefs and practices really, really well.” Of course the obvious response is that to be considered a good Christian and allowed to worship unmolested amongst one’s peers, a Christian magician would be better served to not explain his or her point of view to anyone. Here’s where keeping silent has its advantages and it should be adhered to for some very good reasons.

Peregrin also dismisses the established boundaries between what would be considered orthodox laws and beliefs about magic and occultism in Christianity. According to what he wrote adopting an obvious heterodoxic extension would allow a Christian magician to acquire a peaceful coexistence between these two conflicting perspectives. About these boundaries, Peregrin says: “The general exoteric Christian doctrines are so limiting and many of its spokespersons so stupid, to be able to accept Christianity AND be a magician is no small feat.” So basically, to lay his foundation for a general acceptance of magic and occultism within the body of the Christian teachings, Peregrin refers to those who would passionately disagree with his basic premise as “stupid.”

What that means, according to Peregrin, is that there are a lot of stupid Christian spoke-persons who have preached against deviating from accepted doctrines and tenets down through the ages and into modern times, beginning, I believe, with St. Paul himself. (Such as what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4.1: “We are expressly told by inspiration that, in later days, there will be some who abandon the faith, listening to false inspirations, and doctrines taught by the devils.”) Perhaps St. Paul anticipated Peregrin’s arguments for being a Christian magician. Still, it’s my opinion that to cavalierly dismiss these objections in order to practice magic and adhere to an orthodox Christian faith is to sweep quite a large number of important objections under the rug as it were. I imagine that it would be difficult to walk around such a metaphorical room and not trip over that huge mound of objections protruding from the center of the carpet on a regular basis.

A couple quotations from Catholic Catechism should pretty much set the standards for how mainstream religions reject magic and divination, even though this is something of a mild rebuke. You can find the source document online here if you really want to check whether I am fabricating these claims or not.

Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.”

All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.”

A better approach, in my opinion, would be to admit that a Christian magician is going against basic doctrine in order to find greater truths, even though such a divergent path is fraught with spiritual dangers and warnings from the scriptures themselves. Magic and the occult are not topics that a good Christian lightly undertakes, and cherry picking those elements in the doctrine and scriptures that are encouraging while ignoring the many warnings and condemnations is nothing short of fatuous. The truth is that Christianity is principally against the practice of divination and magic, or for that matter, the adoption of occult philosophies. Some practices (like astrology or healing through the use of sacraments) are considered grudgingly acceptable, but adopting any kind of philosophy or spiritual practice that would inherently contradict Christian doctrine would be considered completely unacceptable.

A modern Christian magician walks a very fine line between what is an acceptable magical practice or one that is specifically condemned. Some churches are more open minded and accepting of external practices and beliefs (such as the Unitarians) while others are quite strictly against them (such as Protestant Evangelism, Mormonism, Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity, Lutheran and Episcopalian Protestantism, etc.). Even the Church of England has made strict pronouncements against the practices of magic, divination and occultism, although they might not be strictly enforced. Thus a Christian magician not only moves against the grain of the foundational Christian faith, but he or she also ultimately stands alone (or in a distinct minority) and if prudent, silently so. This is why most Christian magicians that I have heard about or know espouse a Hermetic or Esoteric/Gnostic Christian religious perspective, since their practice of magic is typically unacceptable to most mainstream Christians.

That being said, this revelation appears to collapse Peregrin’s arguments that he has made because Christian magicians are not part of the mainstream variety of Christianity. They can use the themes and tropes of Christianity in their magic (as can many of us who aren’t even Christians), but they are really outside of the faith from a mainstream perspective. Therefore, they can’t claim to have solidarity with the established Christian faith nor reap the riches of its centuries of religious heritage and thereby gain its inherent spiritual grace.Solidarity is a two way street, and mainstream Christians would reject being bedfellows with Christian magicians.

Christian magicians must become revisionists and apologists for their practices and beliefs, since the body of Christian scripture and thought condemns their practices. Only a few centuries ago Christian churches would have accused magical practitioners of being heretics or apostates and would have dealt with them severely. This is no longer the case, but there is an inherent stigma for anyone who professes to be a Christian and practices magic, at least as far as the mainstream churches are concerned. It is my opinion that an esoteric or occult version of Christianity is the only kind of spiritual faith that would allow for a simultaneous practice of magic; but esotericism and occultism are not limited just to Christianity. Esotericism and occultism are, by definition, pan-religious, so someone who is an occultist or an esotericist would not be confined by Christian theology. They wouldn't be considered even nominally Christian, either.

There was a time, however, when magic and Christianity found a common but tenuous thread. Back in the Renaissance and even somewhat later, Christian magic was well represented by the traditions associated with the grimoire manuscripts and a handful of published works. If we examine this material, both the manuscripts that are now being published and the republished works from that time we will see a form of Christian magic that was pretty much comprehensive. While Europe waged terrible sectarian wars between Catholics and Protestants, the grimoire tradition was based ostensibly on Catholic traditional magical ideas and practices.

What was omitted from most of these works was the world view of Catholic magical practices that included the Mass, Benediction, votive offerings, idol worship, the basic methodology of discursive meditation and the whole of the monastic tradition of prayers, fasting, purification and consecration. It could even be conjectured that vestments, talismans, magical tools and special character sigils written on parchment (or etched on metal) were all extensions of the basic sacramental systems that were a normal part of Catholic practice. I have also shown in a previous article that the basic spirit invocations employed by magicians (and written down in the old grimoires) was based on a reverse application of the classical rite of exorcism.

It would seem that Catholic rituals and practices provided a basic foundation for the corpus of ceremonial magic, even though such practices would have been condemned by church authorities. While some like Ficino and Bruno sought to bring in the old Gods of Pagan Hermeticism, perhaps to augment or even replace Catholic theology, others just added them to the accretion of practices and beliefs that were already in vogue at the time. A case in point is the 16th century incorporation of the Olympian Spirits into planetary magic, such as was done in the grimoire, the Arbatel.

Therefore, with this in mind I can make the case that the origins for ceremonial magic are to be found in Catholic liturgy, since these rites and beliefs were available to nearly everyone, whether they were Protestant or Catholic, during the epoch of the great grimoires. However, the minds of the individuals that practiced these rites and wrote the grimoires of this period were not those of the progressive free thinkers of their time. This is particularly true since the intelligentsia of the 17th and 18th centuries had already passed over the practice of magic and considered it a quaint superstition when it had reached its zenith of popularity.

Since most of the oldest copies of the grimoire manuscripts in libraries and museums today were actually produced during the 17th and 18th centuries, we can conclude that this time period represented the high water mark for the public’s preoccupation with ceremonial magic. This interest lasted into the first half of the 19th century where it became the proclivity modern occultists. However, I can say with some authority that the spiritual demand made upon those practicing ceremonial magic at that time was to engage with their base religion in an extremely pious manner. Magicians from that time period would have represented the most conservative adherents of their religion on one hand, and the most daring, arrogant and hubristic practitioners on the other hand. Even so, it was not until the late 18th century that magicians were completely safe from persecution for practicing Christian magic, and by then, it was already becoming a dying tradition.

How ironic it is today that only the most esoteric and free-thinking religionists would ever consider performing the rites of ceremonial or ritual magic. This should indicate to everyone that the times have certainly changed people’s beliefs and spiritual practices. It would also seem to indicate that the time of the great grimoires is long past and it is likely that the mental context that these individuals employed to practice their art is also extinct. What we have left is a massive collection of various materials all of which have lost their cultural and religious context. Those who practice magic today, whatever they think they are doing, are actually in the process of creating something new that didn’t exist at all in the epoch of the great grimoires.

If magicians consider themselves Christian magicians, or Pagan magicians, Witches, Theosophists, Thelemites, Demonalators, or whatever, they are actually representing something that bears little or no resemblance to what was practiced anywhere from three to five hundred years ago when ceremonial magic was culturally relevant. Because all modern magicians had to recreate and redefine their magic so that it would function in the post modern world, they have all started at the same place, which is a veritable ground-zero of materials, practices and beliefs representing countless ages of accumulated knowledge. Still, all of that knowledge is useful only to a point, since to build a working system of magic requires the facile ability to experiment, adapt and to create.

Thus, no one magician, whether Christian or Pagan, has any kind of advantage and cannot represent themselves as a continuous line of initiation and practice drawing from the very source of their religion. The heritage of magical practices of the past belong to everyone equally today and no one can exclusively claim them as belonging to their religious creed. 

Modern mainstream Christianity is a religion that has rejected magic as unacceptable and it has also intensely resisted any theological revisionism based on esoteric perspectives or general occultism. Even Catholics have been steadily removing the magic from their liturgy and practices since Vatican II. Magic and Christianity can no longer be considered analogous spiritual systems, and we who are practitioners should understand and accept this fact. Whatever our spiritual foundation, we will never be accepted by mainstream adherents of Christianity. They will always see us as being antithetical or even completely hostile to their accepted traditions and theological tenets. Of course, this should not be a surprising revelation to anyone, particularly we who are magicians.

While Peregrin can talk about his solidarity with mainstream Christians and how he stands in alignment with the greater heritage of Christian belief and practice, the truth is that we who practice magic are all completely at odds with adherents of mainstream Christianity today. We actually have more in common with each other than differences, and certainly we have far less in common with mainstream Christians. So if we are wise we will join together in solidarity despite our minor theological differences to protect our inherent rights and civil liberties. Only in this way can we guarantee that we will be able to practice our beliefs without interference or persecution, as well as advancing our art for the coming age of trials.

Frater Barrabbas

Monday, March 24, 2014

Most Important Lesson in Magick and Witchcraft

Once a student has mastered the basic regimen of practicing meditation, casting a magic circle, undergoing trance, raising power for basic kinds of workings and performing the simple liturgies for Sabbats and Esbats, then the next and most important step in learning to be a witch and ritual magician is to master the rite of godhead assumption. In my system of magick a godhead assumption is an essential practice that everything else is based on. If you are working a system of ritual magick that employs immersion as its central tenant and foundational mechanism (such as the one that I have proposed in my writings) then you had better know how to automatically assume a godhead in order to protect and also empower yourself while practicing this type of magick.

According to my teachings, a godhead assumption is the key to the mysteries and the primary mechanism for fully experiencing the five mysteries in all of their awe, majesty, glory and power. I believe that this technique is so important in my system of magick that it is one of the major topics taught to a student, and once it is mastered, it should become an automatic process. An experienced ritual magician should be able to shift into their assumed godhead automatically when undergoing the preparatory work for a ritual working.

Even before the student considers mastering the simple ritual of godhead assumption, they must first determine which God or Goddess they are going to assume. When they have made this determination, then they need to develop a relationship with that Deity using regular forms of worship, adoration, focused meditation, devotions, votive offerings and other liturgical operations. Yet the technique of discovering one’s personal godhead is neither an easy nor obvious process, or at least it shouldn’t be. The mystery of being a human being is that we simultaneously possess a material body, a mind and a spirit, and that makes realizing something that is completely spiritual and intangible more subtle and complex than it might otherwise be. To enter into the very core of our spiritual being requires an undistracted effort that our body and mind will all too easily thwart. The layers of flesh, emotions and the mind can even obscure one’s internal godhead to the point where it is invisible. Our internal godhead is the supreme unifying point within us, but we cannot be fragmented (distracted) into our various parts if we are ever going to realize it.

Finding this internal godhead can be easy or it can be quite difficult, but it depends on the person and how psychically dense they are. Even highly spiritual individuals can lack a certain internal sensitivity, through no fault of their own. Sometimes the elected godhead changes over time or the deity attribute mutates into a personal hybrid that can’t be easily classified. One might expect this to happen at some point if the person performing the godhead identification and assumption changes over time, too. (After all, we are the reflectors of our own internal godhead, and that must be completely understood if this process is to make any sense at all.)

In Carribean forms of magic, the process of finding your personal godhead is called “finding the god of your head.” I believe that this phrase is quite apt for what the erstwhile ritual magician and Witch should undergo to discover their internal godhead. Once students begin this search then dreams and portends will lead them to find the right godhead. What this means is that the first impression or obvious choice should be carefully and cautiously examined over time to make certain that it is indeed true. The first choice may be an incorrect one and only later will the proper godhead be revealed. This search is an important magical process in itself and it is also a mystery, since it represents the first veil that hides or obscures our true God/dess Within. Once discovered, our internal godhead becomes the foundation for more advanced magical workings, such as the invocation of the Bornless One or the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal.

I can give you an example from my own experience to clearly illuminate this point. For many years I was more focused and fixated on the Goddess (although I will not reveal her name, of course) and saw myself as the godhead consort to that feminine Deity. I could assume a number of different names (and their associated imago), but the mythic thread that I was following was that of the mortal lover (with the God within) of the immortal Goddess. After some years, this situation was augmented by a deep and personal engagement with the Egyptian God Set, and I began to assume that godhead when working higher and more intense forms of ritual magick. I found that assuming the godhead Set was very helpful in warding and protecting me from the various spirits of the underworld that I sought to evoke. There were also a number of other Deities with whom I had developed a personal relationship and from those relationships gained insights and knowledge about many obscure things. For instance, I was shown a whole new method of performing an invocation through my dialog and relationship with the Goddess Lilith.

However, all during this time there was some unknown Godhead that was assisting me, revealing profound magical insights and guiding me to new heights of magical knowledge and ritual capabilities. I tried a number of times to determine who this Deity was and so understand the source of this assistance. Even so, this knowledge was kept from me for many years until the Deity finally decided to reveal itself, and then I quickly learned through that revelation that it was the composite deified form of Hermes-Thoth Trismagistus. Having undergone that revelation I also discovered that this Deity was also so intimate to me and my magical and occult workings that it was always present whenever I assumed my personal godhead. This knowledge was kept from me for whatever reason for many years, but it would seem that having achieved a certain level of knowledge and development that I had earned the privilege of knowing the identity of my greatest sponsor and Godhead backer.

Even though I evolved through the process of determining the nature of my personal godhead and that attribute has undergone change over time, at some early point in my career I began this process. For me, it was my passionate relationship with the Goddess that acted as the catalyst; but the typical student can pursue a more direct and obvious path to determining their personal godhead. What this means is that I went through a more circuitous and convoluted process because I lacked any understanding of what I was attempting to do or where it would lead me. If a student takes a more deliberative approach to discovering their personal godhead then it would probably be resolved in far less time. Still, the search for one’s personal godhead is not a simple matter, and as I have shown, it can and does change over time and sometimes the knowledge can be obscured or even deliberately blocked.  

How one begins this search for the God of one’s head is to start with a daily meditation where the seeker implores the greater powers and intelligences at large to reveal the specific God or Goddess of one’s innate being. This meditative search should be performed with as much emotional desire, curiosity and passion as one can muster, and the emotional tension experienced should increase over the period of this operation. As the days progress, seekers should note their dreams, insights, visions and thoughts particularly when they appear to identify a specific Deity. This process is an ordeal and should be conducted as one, so anything that the seeker senses that might be relevant should be noted down (in their magical diary) and carefully examined. The seeker might also engage in divination, either performed by herself or performed by a helpful outsider.

Over time, and this period will vary, a series of dreams, imaginings, insights and visions will coalesce that will clearly indicate that a specific Godhead is operating in the life of the seeker. In fact it is possible to determine more than one Godhead when performing this search. Even so, the next phase of this operation will help seekers to choose which Deity is appropriate to their present level of development. Students will have to choose the one Deity (and no other) that would greatly empower their spiritual and magical identity once it is assumed into their personal godhead. Students should also know that any Deity which takes a personal interest in them (and is revealed in this search) should be given a place of honor in their magical work. Thus it is natural that they will accumulate multiple Deities of varying importance over time as part of their personal pantheon. These additional Gods will be made part of the magician’s personal shrine and spiritual lineage, and they will also require periodic service, devotions and offerings along with one’s personal godhead.

How students make the final section of a specific Deity to function as their personal godhead is part of the overall mystery of this ordeal. Certainly it can’t be done without a period of meditation and developing a preliminary dialog with the elected Deity. This means approaching the Godhead and talking or praying to it, and carefully noting how one feels and what impressions one receives by doing this activity. There will be the evidence that one has collected through various dreams, visions and insights, but there will also be another highly important factor, and that has to do with how one feels about this Deity compared to any other possible candidates. If the Deity that one is considering appears to have a powerful positive impact on one’s emotions and feelings then it is likely that it is the correct God or Goddess for one to assume at that time. I can’t really tell someone how they must make this selection because it is so subjective and unique to the individual. What I can say is that the right Godhead will elicit the same kind of powerful attraction that one would feel when meeting a prospective lover for the first time. The choice should be unequivocal and decisive for the seeker. If there are doubts or hesitancy, then the elected Deity that one is considering is not the right choice.

Once a Deity is identified then the ritual magician and Witch will begin the next stage of this work. The seeker will need to develop a deep and personal relationship with this Deity, and that will include researching everything that is available to seeker in order to build up a cultural context, persona, characteristics and expectations associated with that Deity. He or she will assemble and write devotions, appropriate offerings and also write various liturgical rites that help to build a powerful spiritual alignment with that Deity. This might include acquiring a statue or pictorial representation of this Deity. Idolatry is a key practice in pagan ritual magick, and it should be actively pursued along with all of the other objectives since it helps to build up the image or imago of the target Deity. I won’t get into the art of statue animation, but that could be a later part of what magicians do to enliven their personal alignment with their chosen Deity.

These collective activities that a magician will perform are invocations, oblations, paeans, lunar and solar observations, meditations, special offerings, communal meals, and ultimately a full godhead assumption. In fact these activities could be seen as a kind of powerful emotional love affair between the seeker and the Deity, since love is the ultimate “glue” that causes them to become aligned and eventually, spiritually one.  Establishing a deep and meaningful alignment with a Deity is a lot of work, but it is so important that it could be considered a major part of the Great Work that a ritual magician and spiritual seeker must ultimately achieve.

I have already written a few articles about the actual rites and methodologies about Godhead Assumption, and the erstwhile student can find them here and here. I have also written up a critique about how Witches and Pagan typically assume the Godhead of their group or lineage, and also what can be done to make certain that this process is free of regressive psychic manifestations. You can find that article here. I believe that this preparatory work is critically important to anyone who considers themself to be a ritual magician and a Witch or Pagan. These lessons, however, go far beyond what one might be taught in a coven or a grove, but they are standard fare for anyone who seeks to work higher forms of magic within a Wiccan or Pagan spiritual and magical context. It is what I teach everyone who seeks to be my student and learn to work magick the way that I have done all of these many years.   

Frater Barrabbas

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hollywood Drama and Real Spirit Encounters

One of the things that really bothers me about the culture I live in is that so many people actually believe what they see in action, drama or horror movies is somehow true. This is especially a problem when it comes to encounters with spirits. These rather highly graphic and CGI enhanced images shape people’s expectations and how they perceive entities within the domain of spirit. The typical person that I have met doesn’t quite believe in God or necessarily goes to church regularly, but they do indeed believe in malevolent spirits, demons and perhaps even the Devil himself. How odd it is that someone could believe in spiritual evil but not believe in spiritual good, or in some kind of Deity. How indeed can one exist without the other?

I guess the perpetrator of all these strange assumptions and beliefs is Hollywood, which has produced a lot of horror and suspenseful movies about the Devil, demons and other evil entities. These themes have found their way into other media, too, such as video games, D&D, novels and anime. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be entertained by these various media, but I don’t allow such tropes to influence how I see the spiritual world. Coincidentally, these various movies and media have focused very little on the opposite forces of good, and the spiritual or magical power used to generate positive effects that would counter negative threats. That makes the threats seem overwhelming, and the means allotted to mere humanity to fight against them seem weak at best, or pathetic at worst. It all appears rather pessimistic to me, but then again, I just enjoy the stories and don’t try to use them to either explain occult truths or allow them to bleed into my perceptions of the real world.

Of course, as a Witch and a Pagan, I don’t subscribe to any kind of spiritually polarized or dualistic world view where the forces of good and light are arrayed against the forces of darkness and evil. In my opinion the world is quite neutral and so are the spirits that populate it. This is hardly the dramatic stuff of evil pitted against good as employed in Christianity, Islam, and to a lesser extent, Judaism. Yet you would think that people (of the Abrahamic faiths) who have been taught at least something in their respective places of worship would subscribe to the view that evil can be successfully combated by good. I suspect that cynicism is also playing a part, since the rich and powerful in our culture often seem to get away with committing heinous crimes while the lowly slob usually ends up heavily penalized. Add together the unhealthy qualities of political cynicism, post-modern Hollywood induced superstition, various conspiracy theories and a moderate disbelief in an active force for good and you have the special toxic cocktail of ignorance made to order for the rationally handicapped people of our post-modern age. I am glad that I am not one of those individuals so afflicted by our post-modern malaise (or so I think).

Needless to say, the three basic questions that everyone who would actually like to engage with spirits and spiritual beings without being paralyzed with fear are: how do we experience them, what do they look like, and in what world do they exist. I would like to take a moment to answer each of these questions separately and hopefully that will make things a lot more clear. These are good questions to consider whether one is an experienced magician, a beginner or someone not even trained in the magical arts.

How Do We Experience Spirits?

First and foremost, spirits are all around us and live in a domain that is coexistent and contiguous with our own. However, despite that proximity, nearly everyone can’t see them without some kind of special conditioning. A few rare individuals don’t need any preparation to see spirits, but they are usually highly gifted psychics, spiritual or magical masters, or acute psychotics. The rest of us, and that also includes myself, must perform specific meditations and trance techniques in order to shift our conscious mental states so we can perceive spiritual beings and even get a glimpse of their world. The necessity of acquiring a powerful altered state of consciousness in order to see spirits indicates that there is an excellent barrier between the domain of spirit and our mundane domain. It means that I can focus on something like my mundane job without being distracted or disturbed by some spiritual entity that, for whatever reason, wants my attention. It doesn’t mean that I am completely insensitive, but it does demonstrate that I can focus on mundane things unless something really critical or important enters my field of awareness.

Therefore, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for someone whose psychic sensitivities are always turned on. It must be highly distracting or perhaps even maddening if one weren’t able to turn it off and focus on other things. I have compartmentalized my world so that there is a time and a place for spiritual and magical workings, and there is a time and a place to function in the mundane sphere as well. The two typically don’t intersect, but when they do, there’s usually a very compelling reason for it. This allows me to function in both worlds without being overwhelmed by the differentiation or adversely afflicted by otherwise unseen forces and beings.

Why do I need to adopt a rigorous altered state of consciousness in order to perceive and communicate with spirits? The answer is quite simple. Spirits, if they have a material substance at all, are extremely subtle and not part of our normal perceptions of sight, hearing, smelling and touching. My theory is that spirits exist as beings embodied in pure consciousness, therefore, they don’t have any kind of physical body or at least none that we could scientifically measure. That means that spirits don’t occupy space and time the way that we do. They live in world that is also purely within consciousness, and that world is populated with all sorts of mythical creatures, deities and ghosts as well. I will talk more about this world when I answer the question about where spirits reside; but for this particular question, I can say that spirits are so subtle and nearly invisible to our senses that almost everyone will neither be able to sense or perceive them without aid.

The most sensitive and untrained psychic might feel a chill or sense something unusual when encountering a spirit, but otherwise, the rest of humanity walks around the common topography of their lives without sensing any spirits whatsoever. What most people believe about spirits and then when they claim to have encountered them are perhaps based on an almost imperceptible sensation that is amplified greatly by their imaginations. And that imperceptible sensation could be triggered by a natural phenomenon. Often our imaginations make up for what we really can’t see or perceive, and that makes many supposed supernatural experiences nothing more than just spurious interpretations of naturally occurring phenomena. It doesn’t mean that spiritual phenomena are non-existent, only that they exist in a highly rarefied world that is mostly imperceptible. It also means that human nature dislikes any kind of unknown or vague occurrence, and so it fills in the blanks making use of our a volatile imagination and our hardwired flight or fight instincts. 

If what I am claiming seems to question or even invalidate what people typically declare as the basis of their beliefs in the supernatural and their encounters with spirits then why do I and most other occultists need to adopt an altered state of consciousness in order to be able to perceive and encounter spirits? Wouldn’t a naked perception of a spirit experienced by someone completely skeptical or untrained indicate that such a spirit has a physical reality that can be filmed, videotaped, or otherwise measured or captured using scientific tools? Even the most audacious reality TV show that claims to hunt and capture ghostly activity often comes up with nothing more than ultra-subtle evidence that could be just as readily interpreted as the results of a natural phenomenon. The extremely faint whisper, the bizarre reflection of light or even the strange air temperature fluctuation cannot be used to prove conclusively that ghosts exist as objective physical entities.

So, it would seem that very subtle cues are being interpreted by individuals who don’t have the training and experience to know a real manifestation from one that is spurious. Even the expert psychic or a trained occultist isn’t infallible when supposedly encountering spirits. Everything that is experienced regarding spirits and their domain must be rationally evaluated and examined in order to determine if it is real, and then, relevant. Even some of my experiences with spirits have proven to be valid occurrences but spurious because what was revealed by them was nonsense. This happens more often with earth-based spirits (like the spirits of the dead) rather than more evolved and intelligent beings. We must, as occultists, carefully examine and qualify any and all spiritual encounters to make certain that they are real, meaningful and significant.

After many decades of practice and engaging with spirits I might be able to easily slip into the altered state of consciousness needed to sense them without the lengthy or arduous process of meditation and trance induction, but often what I sense under these conditions is very subtle and indeterminate. Only when I perform the classic methodologies used to achieve the correct mental state, and confined in the sacred space of a temple or grove, will I be able to “see” and “hear” spirits without any doubt or the need to aggressively question and rationalize what I have perceived. What that means is that an impromptu adoption of this mental state outside of sacred space can cause me to misinterpret what I am sensing almost as readily as it does to the untrained. It means that even I am susceptible to the same subtle cues and sensations that might give other people the “creepy” feeling that something spiritual is active when in fact it is only a natural occurrence.

Let me give you an example from one of my many experiences over the decades with spirits. I was visiting two old cities in the southeast, namely Charleston and Savanah, some years ago and when I was wandering with the rest of the tourists around the old brick docks of the port of Savanah, I sensed something disturbing despite all of the distractions and people, sights and sounds. I felt sensations of fear, sadness, pain, anger and bitter remorse. It was just a feeling that came and went, and I couldn’t figure out why I felt those emotions, since they are not typical for me to experience. My lady and I went on the obligatory ghost tours in both of these towns, but all of the supposed tours visited the graveyards and antique homes of white people. Wouldn’t such a place be haunted by the ghosts of all of the slaves that lived and died in that place as well? 

I briefly wondered about that and then forgot about it. Later on when we visited Tybee Island, we talked with a person who was studying to be a root doctor and he said that the old parts of Savanah were full of the ghosts of slaves, and that the ghost tours of white-only locations was a sham. I then remembered my strange emotions and sensations and told him about them, He concurred that I was probably picking up on the many ghosts of slaves who built the old town and the port area of Savanah, often suffering and even dying while they labored. The old town was built by the sweat, blood, tears and bitter suffering of black slaves, and it is likely that a real psychic would be able to sense that perturbation in a much more pronounced manner than that of the white privileged owners who gained immense wealth from their efforts. Did I sense the ghosts of departed slaves who were earth bound and seeking some kind of peaceful release denied to them over the centuries? I believe that I did sense them, but I have no concrete proof. I only had the brief sensations that seemed not have any kind of origin within me as a type of subject verification. 

How does one assume the proper altered mental state to sense spirits and the spirit world? It is done through a medium level trance state inducted from a deep meditative state. The simplest method for assuming a trance state is to stare at a fixed point for a period of time, such as a Yantra, diagram, wall painting or anything that is stationary or cyclically oscillating. Thus, a revolving light or shining object can also be used. The subject performs this type of trance induction once a deep meditative state has been achieved after performing many minutes of assana, breath-control and mantram vibrations. You can find these techniques in many books on meditation and trance, or you can fully read chapter two of part two (starting at page 204) in my book “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick.”  The assumption of a moderate trance state is the foundational state that I use to sense and perceive spirits and their world.      

What Do Spirits Look Like?

Here is where the imagination comes into play, since without it, the many spectacular visions of angels, demons, ghoulish ghosts and other kinds of spirits would be subtle and unremarkable occurrences. What this means is that without any embellishment of the mind a spirit will look like a transparent egg-shaped sphere of light. The color of that light varies, of course, depending on the quality and vibrational rate of the spirit’s conscious being; but this is hardly the stuff of myth or imagination. However, a spirit, when it is perceived and encountered by a human being, can and does assume different shapes in accordance with the expectations and the imagination of the seer. In other words, a spirit can project an image of itself in a completely imaginary form within the mind of the seer, and it can also speak and produce other phenomena (music, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, etc.), but all within the mind of the seer. This means that what is perceived by the observer can’t be captured by a video camera or other measuring device, since it is not an objective, physical reality. Not only can the observer sense the spirit, but also a good seer can see the world (or the specific occult symbolic context) in which the spirit resides.

An effective seer experiences a spirit as a fully immersed occurrence, which includes that specific entity and its domain. All sorts of visionary imaginings are triggered when encountering a spirit, and often powerful visions occur as well. If we expect to see a terrible and grotesque entity stinking of sulphur and brimstone when evoking a demon then that is what we will experience. Since magical practitioners of different spiritual persuasions experience the evocation of a spirit differently, and sometimes even radically different, then we can rationally assume that our expectations play a powerful role in what we experience. This is yet another indicator that spirits are not physical beings like us simply because of the variety of impressions and experiences that many magicians have had when evoking them.

It might even be said that magicians experience something unique when evoking spirits, and that no two such experiences of the same spirit are identical. Spirits reside entirely within the fields of consciousness so they can be perceived in a myriad of imaginary forms. I would suspect that even the egg-shaped point of light is imaginary, except that it has the precedence of accepted modern occultism to back it up.

So, what does a spirit look like to the apparent seer? It looks like whatever they think it should look like. That would at least inform the would-be magician to be quite clear and also careful with his or her expectations when planning an evocation. It wouldn’t do to get the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man when attempting to invoke the spirit of a demon or a revered spiritual ancestor.   

In What World Do Spirits Reside?

As I have said, the domain of spirits is all around us and contiguous with our own world, except that we can’t normally see or perceive them, or for that matter, their world. Since I have proposed that spirits reside in a world that exists entirely within the domain of consciousness, then all we need to do in order to see them is to change our conscious state using some ecstatic technique. This is also how one would enter into their domain, and that ecstatic technique has been part of the magician’s repertoire since the days of the shaman.

Because the domain of spirit is entirely within consciousness, it has a completely symbolic quality to it. Basically, the spirit world, which I might add is contiguous with our own world, has three basic levels, and each level is populated by different kinds of spirits. These three worlds are also found in classical shamanism and therefore, represent a kind of fundamental representation of the human experience of consciousness itself. These worlds are the heavens, the underworld and the surface world (where we reside). Spanning these three worlds is a device that connects them, which could be seen as a tree, ladder, pole or stang, or similar bridging mechanism. Let’s quickly examine each of these worlds and speculate about the kinds of spirits to be found in each.

Spirits of the Heavens

This is the place of stars and planets as well as the celestial Gods of the sun, moon, wind, clouds and storms. It is also the place of winged spirits who appear as birds or even angels. When considering the three worlds of spirit we should keep in mind that it is all based on symbology that has only a small bearing on the real objective world. This view is based on our subjective experiences of the world and the inner psychic structures that these experiences create.

Even though science has explained all of the natural phenomena seen in the sky during the day and night, our subjective and mythic experiences are still real and valid, based as they are on our collective perceptions, beliefs and culturally determined conscious topography. We can still think about the “Man in the Moon” even though it is deemed by science to be an impossibility, it has stubbornly resisted scientific explanations and retained its mythic value in our culture. The same is true about the apparent constellations of stars, whose outlines represent merely our subjective perception and interpretation of stars and galaxies from our earthly vantage point. The spirits of the heavens have a more macrocosmic perspective, and so they are remote from the events and occurrence of human activity, of course, with exception of those who function as messengers or intermediaries.

Ritual magicians are interested in the spirits of the sky because of their ability to see things from a lofty vantage point, and they often are able to give excellent long term oracles and also understand the world from the vantage point of the cosmogonic cycle. What they are not particularly good at is giving concise oracles about individuals and short-term events, since that is something that a remote viewing would be unable to discern clearly. 

Spirits of the Underworld

This is the place of darkness that lies under the surface of the earth, and so it symbolically represents all of the things associated with that domain. The spirits of this place are subject to the chthonic deities of the underworld and their intermediaries. The underworld is the place of our departed ancestors, both genetic and spiritual. Anyone who is dead and not trapped on the surface world is to be found in the underworld. However, the underworld is not confined to just a repository of death, darkness, coldness and things inimical to life. Indeed, the underworld is also the place of fertility, birth, a reservoir of the life-force, underground aquifers, streams and even rivers, as well as the treasures of gold, silver, gem stones and other precious or semi precious stones and metals. The underworld is also the well of souls to be born and the potential of everything that is manifested into physical form. Underground localities, such as caves, gorges, or man-made barrows and graveyards can represent symbolic and actual entrances to the underworld, but to engage with the spirits of the underworld only requires the right mental state and the ability to enter into the domain of darkness, death and rebirth.

As you can imagine, the spirits of the underworld are more intimate and relevant to our surface world than the spirits and deities that reside in the sky. If you want to acquire a material thing or objective, then the spirits of the underworld will be much more helpful and immediate in their aid than will the spirits in the sky. This is because the underworld is the true repository of everything material, including life itself, and it the place where everything that lives, returns. It is also the place where a ritual magician would go to learn about his or her specific destiny or about a short-term possibility. Oracles involving the dead and chthonic deities are often very specific and unambiguous, but they are less capable of perceiving the long term or the greater destiny of a people or a nation.

Spirits of the Surface World

The surface world is filled with spirits as well, and these are often associated with a specific places or geographic features. A large and unique looking tree, a lake, stream or river, hill or mountain, forest, fields, giant rocks - anything peculiar or interesting. It can be man-made, such as sacred locations (churches, temples, ancient ruins) or even villages, cities, town or massive urban locations, or it can a pristine natural and inaccessible location.

Spirits are everywhere in the surface world (and so are deities, yet not as populous), but they are mostly invisible to humans. Even so, it is easier to engage with spirits in remote locations than in the middle of large city, for the obvious reasons of distractions, noise and people. However, I have experienced spirits in a city late at night when distractions are at a minimum, and it was just as thrilling (and unnerving) as the same kind of experience in a natural setting. The spirits in such locations are quite different, since the location and the geographic context does have some influence on how such spirits appear and function, although the imagination does the real embelishing.  There are also wandering ghosts on the surface world who have not found their peaceful place of repose (although they are more rare than some people would believe), and there are swarming numbers of entities that are associated with the confluence of geographic features, ley-lines and other kinds of grids, both natural and man-made.

Therefore, it is just as possible for a city shaman to engage with distorted human-created paramentals in an urban setting as it is for a hedge-witch to engage with nature spirits or to walk the ghost roads of the ancestors in some remote location. Either approach is similarly valid, and it represents the fact that spirits are uniformly everywhere. All we need to do is to develop the methods and techniques of being able to see and engage them. Out of that experience comes the structures and systems of the occult and the spirit matrices of practical ritual magick.

What this article informs us is that spirits are everywhere, and that they can assume a shape based on our expectations and beliefs. However, spirits are nearly impossible for most people to see, experience or in any wise engage; so for most of humanity they are the stuff of myth, media and religious belief and not particularly real. Only the preternatural psychic, trained occultist or acute psychotic can see and engage with spirits, and of these, only the first two are likely seeing what is really there. 

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Winter of My Discontent

I wrote this article in early March when it was still unseasonably cold outside. Although things have changed somewhat, the issues that I faced then are still very much active today. Therefore, I thought that I would share this writing as the Vernal Equinox has arrived. Winters are harsh up here in the Midwest tundra, and this winter was more harsh than typical. It makes me long for warmer climates and less hostile weather.

"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried." 
Richard III - William Shakespeare

Another day of sub zero cold, snow, ice and just miserable freezing weather. When the sun shines, it is too cold to even go outside and observe the day without being heavily bundled up and wearing a ski mask. We are teased once in a while with a slight thaw, only to be hit a day or two later with what the weather geeks call a polar vortex. One scientist has hypothesized that extreme weather is caused by warmer than usual air displacing the frigid air currents over the pole and pushing them further south, thereby causing the jet stream to loop north and south instead of maintaining a northerly transit over the North American continent. Some might joke that what we have here is more like global cooling than global warming, but it is in fact warmer air currents in the poles that are causing the shifts of extremely cold weather. Alaska is having a very warm winter and the Midwestern Great Lakes looks like a scene from the last glacier. Extreme weather will continue to become more extreme, and everywhere in North America is being afflicted by it. There is no refuge except in the southern most states and the Carribean. So, here we are, getting punished by one of the worst winters in recorded history, and all I can do is just endure it and hope for an early spring. I stay indoors as often as possible, and I don’t travel much, becoming even more isolated in my household hermitage. If I am grateful for one thing, it is that I don’t have to commute to work in the hostile frigid weather.

You have probably noticed that I am not writing as much as I used to. Articles are being posted perhaps once or twice a month. The reason why is that I am avalanched with work from my day job, and by the time I finish up the day, my brain feels like mush. Since part of what I do all day long is to write up responses for business bids from the various States, I am engaged in writing a lot. I am also writing UNIX scripts, SQL scripts and performing various other system analyses. I am in a world of work, and besides that and my ever important relationship with my lady, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do everything that I want to do. I haven’t been doing much with my spiritual studies and practices other than the rudimentary meditations and minor offerings in my temple. There are no big workings planned because there is so little time to plan and perform them.

While it is true that I am in a bit of a rut that I need to climb out of, I haven’t had the inspiration or been able to build the initiative to do so. Winter has not only frozen the land that I live in, but it has also frozen my spirit and brought all spiritual and magical progress to a standstill. Perhaps there is hope since I am now starting to write articles for my blog, and I am starting to look over my notes and attempting to jump start my research projects. I have cleaned up my temple area and have organized it, but as of yet, little has been done in that space. I have made some plans to perform some workings in the near future, but we will see what happens. The harsh winter is having a paralyzing impact on me, and I need to break the spell that it has cast over me.

Even though I am doing quite well in all of the areas of my life that really count for a lot, such as my career and my relationship, I am still dissatisfied with my lack of initiative and achievements in the spiritual and magical areas of my life. I have book projects just sitting around and not being worked on yet and I have to do something about that stasis which seems to be pervading my work. I can blame it on the winter, and perhaps it is having more of an affect on me than I realize, but still, there really are no excuses. I just need to focus and get moving again. And so, I keep promising myself that I will endeavor to persevere, whatever that means. Hopefully I will be able to break through this frozen and static period of my spiritual and magical life, but I believe that things are only going to get more busy at my job. I knew that this day was coming when my job would once again take up the lion’s share of my time and efforts, but I seem ill prepared to deal with it.

Sometimes I envy those who are singularly dedicated to their art of magic and who can spend whatever time is needed in order to teach, write books and practice magic without any interruptions or distractions like having to make a living. Maybe someday I will have this kind of freedom, perhaps when I finally retire, but until then I can sense that my career is about to really take off and engulf me with a massive workload. If my company wins this project that I have been working on, helping them to build up technical responses and exhaustively answer questions for the State, then I will get my wish and be made part of the team working on a long term project. This large-scale project will fully engage and challenge me on all levels. It will be exciting and challenging to work on this project, and the company will earn quite a large amount of money for achieving it (and so will the team members). But I believe that my occult studies and practices will correspondingly suffer, since they will have to be put on the back burner while I toil away at my job.

Luckily, I happen to love the work that I do, but there is more to life than work, or so I am told. All I know is that I must push forward and take whatever opportunities come my way. Unlike some people my age, I don’t want to loose my job and become underemployed doing something for a living that I hate . It is my burden and my good fortune to have to spend the majority of my time working at my job, which is probably what many other people go through each and every work day. I should be grateful for having such a demanding and rewarding job, but sometime I would rather play the flute, work magick, read and research new ideas and concepts and not have to deal with the everyday stresses of an IT type career. Of course, when payday comes around every two weeks, I forget about what I would rather do and instead feel relieved that I can pay all of the bills and have a little left over. I am lucky to have this well paying gig, and I know it, but still, the winter goes on day by day, and I wonder what other possibilities there might be for me to have my cake and eat it too.


Spring is coming, and the first thaw has already reduced the amount of snow on the ground, although it has snowed again since and carpeted the ground with white just as it was beginning to look like some kind of transition in the earth was really happening. I have sensed a number of changes already occurring, and I know that this year will be quite different than any other year. I don’t exactly know why, but I sense that changes (and I might add, good changes for me and those close to me) are immanent. I want very much to get really deep into my magical work, and I hope that one of the changes that will occur is that I will get this sorely needed opportunity soon. As the Vernal Equinox is nigh upon us, I am hoping that I will be able to once again re-engage with my magick and spiritual discipline. Sometimes life just becomes so busy that everything else takes a back seat until that busy time has passed. I understand this fact, and it is one of the issues that any magician who has to work a regular job, keep house and manage a relationship will have to resolve in order to have the time to have a spiritual life.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Corporate Dystopia Clouds Our Future

Magicians are often not very politically motivated since they have their feet in both the physical world and the spirit world, and attempting to manage both can be an arduous challenge at the very least. This might not be true of all magicians, but it is probably true of many of them, and this includes me. However, sometimes I find that I do stir from my self-absorbed catalepsy of occult ruminations and take a hard look at the world around me. I have to say that I often don’t like what I see going on in the US, or for that matter the world. It might even make me want to disengage and go back to my little private world. Yet sometimes I just have to express my outrage at the mendacity, moral myopia and ethical dyslexia that seems to be shaping our collective future from behind the scenes, that is, unless the common people wake up and realize that they are being slowly and certainly enslaved by greedy corporations and the wealthy power-elite.

The middle class of this country is being rapidly eroded and weakened to the point where it might even disappear. Even though I have a good paying job, I still don’t have the purchasing power that my father had when he was my age. This is the first time since the end of the depression where the sons and daughters of working class families have achieved less than their parents. I cannot even begin to talk about some of these changes because they are so sufficiently complex, subtle, long-term and so overwhelmingly ubiquitous. Most of these changes do not bode well for the middle class.

Pensions, which once were the financial foundation ensuring that those who had retired would be guaranteed to have something to live on, have become nearly extinct, and corporate sponsored healthcare benefits are merely insurance policies against catastrophic illness, if even that. Our much ballyhooed 401K retirement investment accounts, which were supposed to replace pensions, were not the protected assets steadfastly accumulating for our day of retirement. Once pensions became market driven retirement “investments,” they became nothing more than ready cash for the ultra-wealthy Wall Street power brokers to use in their greedy manipulations of the market. The debacle of the 2008 real-estate bubble collapse caused trillions of dollars to evaporate from those investment portfolios, leaving the common masses with little or nothing. The bankers were bailed out by the government and never prosecuted, and we, the little people, were screwed out of our retirement investments. Many of us will not be able to retire until we are older than 65. I am not planning on retiring until I am at least 70 in the hopes that I can regain what I lost and keep myself out of poverty when I am no longer employable. As a contrast, my father retired early when he was just 60, and is still living comfortably off of his pensions and retirement accounts. (I will turn 60 next year, and I am far from being able to retire.)   

What many of us younger folk have forgotten is that what built the middle class and empowered people of modest means were a combination of the unions spearheading the labor movement along with a government that was friendly and aligned with them. This relationship was cemented in the FDR administration during the great depression, and it was that relationship (via The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938) which gave the workers a five day, 40 hour work week, paid vacation, overtime pay, pensions, health benefits, and most importantly, a living wage. When I was a child, the unions were considered the “good guys” who kept corporations from rolling over and dominating the working class. Sometimes the unions seemed too powerful and a few of them became quite corrupt, having been infiltrated by organized crime syndicates. Yet despite these problems, the unions were once so important that both the Democrats and the Republicans courted them and sought their help in electing their anointed politicians.

Now in the 21st century, unions are steadfastly declining, and so, I might add, is the ability of the working class to negotiate with large corporations. I might also add that whole job categories that were invented after WWII have been able to omit any union representation. This is particularly true of the IT profession, where whole companies could exist without any union representation whatsoever. It may have seemed superfluous during the boom years of the 1990's when IT pay advanced more rapidly than nearly any other job class, but that boom ended later in the next decade when whole company departments were off-shored to China and India. Suddenly, scores of IT professionals became part of the hosts of the chronically underemployed, and those who were lucky, sufficiently advanced in their career or too invested in business processes to be off-shored managed to survive. Would unions have made a difference in what happened? Probably not, but the unions of the 1950's and 1960's would have been able to beat back the trend. Unions today have been successfully reduced in power, prestige and have lost many of their allies in government. 

Corporations are responsible for the demise of the unions, that is, corporations and their bought and paid-for allies in both the national and local governments. Some States in the US have enacted “right to work” laws that have helped corporations destroy unions and keep non-union factories and businesses from forming them. They are using propaganda, fear of job loss, or sometimes just simply off-shoring an entire manufacturing plant to Asia where the labor is cheap and unions non-existent. Corporations have rigged the economic system so that they receive massive subsidies, legalized tax evasion schemes and even compelled their labor force to augment their earnings with food stamps and Medicaid. They have also made it more difficult for individuals of modest means to join their ranks. The great upward mobility of the 1950's through the 1980's has essentially ended. Some might still make it, but only at the behest and inclusion by the corporate power-brokers. The rest of us are locked into a system that keeps us from ever being able to better ourselves. We are blocked from attending the prestigious high-priced universities and colleges because of the crushing debt that achieving these higher degrees now entail. The various avenues of mobility that once existed no longer exist. We live in a time that is differentiated by the consolidation of the “haves” at the expense of the “have nots.” Correspondingly, income inequality is now at an all time high not seen since the late 19th century.

Do you think that I am making all of this up just to attack free market capitalism and thereby show my socialist underpinnings? Just read this article, part of which I have quoted here, and see the evidence that large corporations are gaming the system and engorging themselves on government subsidies. They, instead of the poor, are the real welfare queens. You can find that article here.

Good Jobs First shows that the world’s largest companies aren’t models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they’re propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.

Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full ‘three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations’—not to the small businesses and startups that politicians so often pretend to care about.

In dollar figures, that’s a whopping $110 billion going to big companies. Fortune 500 firms alone receive more than 16,000 subsidies at a total cost of $63 billion.”

Mitt Romney told a heckler back in the 2012 presidential election that corporations were people, and the US Supreme court seems to agree with that sentiment. The implications of that cultural shift are pretty easy to understand if we think about them long enough. We are becoming a nation where the corporations rule and we, the people, are made powerless and disenfranchised. One billionaire recently suggested that the ultra-rich should be given more than one vote commensurate with their wealth. Maybe some day the wealthy elite will decide that democracy is too messy and unpredictable, and that laws, policies and decisions that affect the local as well as the national arena should be made by the ultra-rich and the corporations, and not the common people. If you listen to what some of the wealthy plutocrats are saying as well as what the corporate backed politicians of the Republican party (and even some of the Democrats) are promoting then it doesn’t seem far-fetched that a corporatist take-over of this country is not only possible, but is, in fact, already occurring.

One of my favorite TV shows is playing around with this idea. It’s called “Continuum” and even though it is basically a low budget science fiction series, it has some pretty interesting ideas. Here are a couple of quotations taken from Wikipedia that give an overview and an outline to the basic plot of this series.

The series centers on the conflict between a group of rebels from the year 2077 who time-travel to Vancouver, BC, in 2012, and a police officer [Kiera Cameron] who accidentally accompanies them. In spite of being many years early, the rebel group decides to continue its violent campaign to stop corporations of the future from replacing governments, while the police officer endeavours [sic] to stop them without revealing to anyone that she and the rebels are from the future.”

Every episode begins with the plot of the show narrated by a voiceover from the point of view of Kiera Cameron.

    ‘2077. My time, my city, my family. When terrorists killed thousands of innocents, they were condemned to die. They had other plans. A time travel device sent us all back 65 years. I want to get home but I can't be sure what I will return to if history is changed. Their plan, to corrupt and control the present in order to win the future. What they didn't plan on was me!’

City Protective Services (CPS) law enforcement officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) lives a quiet, normal life with her husband and son in 2077-era Vancouver. Under the corporatocratic and oligarchic dystopia of the North American Union and its ‘Corporate Congress’, life goes on in apparent freedom under a technologically advanced high-surveillance police state.

When a group of anarcho-socialist self-proclaimed freedom fighters known as ‘Liber8' escape execution by fleeing to the year 2012, Kiera is involuntarily transported with them into the past. Joining with Detective Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster) and the Vancouver Police Department, and enlisting the help of teen computer genius Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen), Kiera works to track down and thwart Edouard Kagame (Tony Amendola) and his followers in the present day while concealing her identity as a time-traveller from the future.

Kagame and the members of Liber8 plot to alter the past to avert the rise of what they see as a dictatorial and Orwellian corporate regime to be stopped at all costs. Meanwhile, Kiera learns that Alec is none other than Alec Sadler, future corporate mogul and head of SadTech, one of the mega-corporations that dominate the world in 2077.

Fighting to return home to her family, Kiera finds that her presence in 2012, and that of the members of Liber8, may be no accident at all.”        

The really odd thing about this series is that the character Kiera is initially shown as being the typical good cop fighting despicable and evil terrorist bad guys. However, as the series moves along, it becomes clear that the future world that Kiera is fighting to preserve is really a terrible corporatist dystopia, where the working class has been completely absorbed and enslaved by corporations that hold absolute power. It is an artificial world where consumerism is captivated and kept solidly in place while the disempowered common working classes are forced to stay in line by an overpowering police state. Does this seem like a far-fetched science fiction fantasy or does it seem like a warning of what might happen in the next century? If we give up our rights for security and a piece of the economic pie then the future will be a lot like the TV show “Continuum,” but probably even darker.

Even though an occultist and a ritual magician has to balance two worlds against each other, and often seems to be absorbed in arcane studies and practices, it is important to also be aware of what is going on in the world. It is important for the erstwhile occultist to never give up his or her rights and privileges that made the middle class a great power in this country in the first place. Whatever you do in your studies and practices, make certain that you also stay tuned to what is going on around you and also vote in every election. Keep engaged with the world around you. Remember that even one vote might make the difference between a positive future outcome and one that is doomed. Otherwise, why would the rich and powerful be so adverse to any form of democracy? Because it is our one last power that we can collectively use to shape our own future.

Frater Barrabbas