Monday, May 24, 2010

Off to Kansas City - for Heartland 2010

I am in the final preparations today for my departure to the Heartland Pagan Festival 2010 in the Kansas City area. I will be leaving tomorrow morning and won’t return until early next week. So I won’t be writing any blog articles for the duration. This is, happily, a paying gig - one of my first. I am also going to visit some of my friends who I still have some connections with both prior to and immediately following the festival.

Some of you might be wondering why I am going on about Kansas City. I have a lot of history with that area. I have many fond memories for what happened there in those times and there were many important friendships that I started, some of which are still active today. Oddly enough Kansas City was a hotbed of Witchcraft, paganism, ceremonial magick, heathenry and Celtic music and culture. Some of those activities are still going on, even though I have gone since 1989 and have to rely on the anecdotal reports of friends. Kansas City is also where the Order of the Gnostic Star had its birth and origin. There was a functioning temple that survived probably for at least several years after I had departed the town for Atlanta, then Tallahassee. It was a time rich in discoveries and the development of a system of magick that is unique in the arena of the Western Mystery tradition. Much of what was done at that time is still relevant and useful today, so that should show anyone how really important and deep all of that work actually was. Kansas City is a major center for American Jazz and was the birthplace of Charlie Parker.

Kansas City is truly an amazing place. First off, there are two towns - Kansas City located in Missouri, and Kansas City in Kansas. They aren’t separated by much of a geographic barrier, so there are some streets that border both states, where one side of the street is in Missouri and the other side is in Kansas. This was a feature that bootleggers took advantage of back in the 1920's during prohibition, since often jurisdictions began and ended at the state line. Kansas City also boasts that barbeque was invented in that town during the prohibition days, although that may be an urban myth. Kansas City has an amazing blend of old and new, from Crown Center, to the Plaza (modeled on the Alhambra in Spain), the gothic facades of the old train station, to the renovated and ultra-modern buildings of the downtown business section. Kansas City is also supposedly famous for having the largest population of beautiful redheaded women as well. There are places in the town that look nearly like they did back in the twenties and thirties, and other places that have constantly mutated, like the famous West Port area, where some of the buildings actually weathered a massive civil war battle, but whose facade has become something of a trendy tourist trap. I found the people in Kansas City to be friendly, down to earth and very hospitable. Some of the best friends and closest associates that I have ever had in my life were from that locality.  

I was relocated to Kansas City as part of a corporate move in 1983, which took me from my native soil in Wisconsin and transplanted me in Missouri. I lived there for six years, and they were probably the move important years of life, since they established my credentials in paganism, witchcraft and ceremonial magick. Those who helped me found the Order of the Gnostic Star were a unique group of individuals. They were brilliant, creative, talented and deeply insightful and I could not have succeeded in building the Order without their help. They gave me a compelling reason to translate my personal magickal system into a system that many could use. That opened me up and forced me to be less insular and spiritually isolated. From that moment on I began to lay the foundation for what would become not only a very successful magickal organization, but also my future as a writer. It was in Kansas City that I began to put together the materials that would eventually become the series “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick”, since the ritual lore of the order was considered a steep climb for most students. What was needed was a bridge document. I have been writing bridge documents ever since, and I will soon be starting up another project that will attempt to simplify even more my thoughts and practices in the arena of ritual magick.

I don’t mind writing bridge documents, but all during that time I had lapsed in fully developing the lore of the order. There are a lot of notes and other archived materials that need to be fully vetted and written up so that others may be able to examine and make use of them. The bridge documents, therefore, don’t represent the cutting edge of what the Order has in its ritual practices and occult philosophies. I have been accused by pundits who have examined these bridge documents as attempting to reinvent Wicca, but actually, the bridge documents are closely related to the lore of the Order. Unfortunately, this lore has not been published or disseminated much, so the pundits wouldn’t know that all of the bridge documents are really based on the rituals of the Order, and I can tell you quite factually, that the lore of the Order is not at all about the reinventing of Wicca.

A lot of lore that was produced, especially after the time when I had moved away from Kansas City, had its origin in the creative sharing of ideas and insights that the Order had established. It is only now, after nearly twenty years, that I am starting to assemble all of the notes and journals on the Enochian system of magick that we produced back in the early nineties. As time moves on and I am able to type up and edit this material, some of it will be made available on this blog for you to read, examine and consider. Eventually, there will be future books that will be produced from this material - but that event is still a few years away. However, I am very pleased to note that I am finally getting a chance to go over all of this material, editing, organizing and bundling it together to form a rich source of new information that has never been seen by anyone outside of the Order.  Yet I owe all of this lore and amazing discoveries to my friends and associates in the town of Kansas City - it was the best of times!

So, next time you are in the south Midwest and you would like to visit a richly diverse place and soak up some history, maybe meet some very friendly folk, I would recommend that you visit Kansas City - both of them.

Also, here is my schedule at the Heartland Pagan Festival - it finally arrived over the weekend.

How It All Began - Back in 1985?  - Friday May 28th 12:15 pm - 1:15 pm in the Pavilion

22 Steps of the Cycle of Initiation - Transformative Journeys - Saturday May 29th 12:15 pm - 2:30 pm

Elemental Magick - Using Energy Theory of Magick Sunday May 30th 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

I’ll let you know how these workshops turn out, how the festival went and perhaps have even a few pictures. If you are attending this festival, feel free to engage me in conversation and ask me for a cup of homemade mead.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, May 21, 2010

Main Speaker Gig at Heartland Pagan Festival 2010

I will be one of the featured speakers at the 25th annual Heartland Pagan Festival, which starts May 27th and continues through the Memorial Day weekend until May 31st. This pagan festival is located in Kansas as the Camp Gaia spiritual retreat, a large campground owned and maintained by the local pagan community. Not too many groups can boast of having a pagan spiritual retreat that is owned and operated by local pagans, so it will be interesting to see how this site has been maintained and developed. I remember this site when it was first brought into use, some many years ago, and it needed a lot of development then. From what I have heard, a lot has been done to make this site more hospitable. I will write up a report about the festival and my perceptions of the event and the retreat site - hopefully, there will a few pictures as well.

The schedule of events has not yet been released, so I have no idea when exactly I will be giving my workshops. I believe, as a main speaker, I will be conducting my classes in time slots that are exclusive, so they should be well attended. You can find a link to the festival website here.

Classes that I am going to conduct for Heartland 2010 -

Title:  22 Steps of the Cycle of Initiation - Transformative Journeys
When & Where: Unknown
Description:  This lecture and discussion group will examine Joseph Campbell's 22 stages Hero's Underworld Cycle and compare them to the 22 trumps of the Major Arcana of the Tarot. This comparison will illuminate both the meanings of the Tarot as well as power of the Hero's Journey as it applies to individual spiritual transformation. We will also examine the Feminine Cycle of the Heroine, based on the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

I have already presented this information in a previous article, although not the in-depth analysis and exposition that the attendees of this class will be getting. However, knowing that the Tarot trumps can be perceived as being the stages of transformative initiation is a very important tool that helps one to build and facilitate initiation mystery rites for oneself or others.

Title:  Elemental Magick - Using the Energy Theory of Magick
When & Where: Unknown
Description:  This lecture/discussion group will examine the definitions and nature of the energy theory of magick and how it can be applied to produce more advanced methods of magick. We will examine the Vortex, Pyramid of Power and the Octagon as magickal mechanisms of empowerment.

The workshop will go over the basic structures and mechanisms that underlie an advanced use of the Energy model of ritual magick. The goal of this class will be to thoroughly cover all the things that one might need in order to put together a ritual to invoke Elemental spirits. I will be handing out a class outline with the ritual pattern to perform this kind of magick. Hopefully this material will be well received and there will be some who might even put together a ritual based on this pattern. That is my hope, so we shall see how well I present this material and what kind of questions or communication problems occur.

Title: History of the First HPF 1986
When & Where: Unknown
Description: This lecture/discussion group will talk about the first Heartland Pagan Festival, how it was started and what happened. This is a kind of history lesson, but with lots of amusing things to share and recollect. I have notes and other media sources that we can read together and examine. Sometimes, in order to know where you are going, you need to know what has happened in the past. Since I helped start the HPF tradition, it’s suitable for me to discuss what happened and who was involved.

Here are couple of snippets from the workshop - keep in mind that all of this happened in Kansas City back in the ‘80's:

“The First Heartland Pagan Festival was held the weekend of June 27 through 29, 1986, at the Camp Hammond camp ground facilities. The hosting organization was called Council of the Southwind, which had been formed as late as the autumn of 1985. The original name for this festival was called the “Midwest Pagan Festival”, but that was changed in the early process of organizing this event.

It all started on a cool somewhat rainy Sunday, August 18, 1985, at Antioch Park by the lake. This was the site of the Rune Picnic, one of several to come. I had met both Mariel and Misraelia (their magickal names) at Mike Nichol’s classes on Modern Witchcraft. Anyway, someone was talking about PSG and how it was so far away, making it unlikely for many of us locals to be able to attend. I dismissed PSG and said, “We should just put together our own pagan festival for the local people.” I believe that Misraelia said rather dryly, “Then why don't you do it.” I was taken aback somewhat, then I remember thinking to myself (which I did out loud), “Yeah, we could do it. It can’t be that hard to put on a festival for maybe two or three nights.” Little did I know that what I was suggesting was actually a lot more difficult than I had any idea about, having never done anything this large before.”

There is so much history in the wiccan and pagan movement, which started in the fifties and sixties of the last century. Sharing this information with younger members is vitally important in my opinion. The past should be preserved by the telling of tales, so that’s probably why I have told such long winded tales about my past. Some day I should pull them altogether and publish a kind of biography.

Frater Barrabbas

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tales of Wisdom and Folly

This is the fourth installment of my biographical story and it continues with my exploits in the early Summer of 1973 to the winter of 1975, just before I was initiated into an Alexandrian Witchcraft coven. This was a time when I made some really disastrous choices for myself and experienced quite a bit of personal conflict, all of which led me to learn some important lessons about who I was and what I really wanted to do with my life. I also began to deal with reality in a more mature manner than I had previously. By the end of 1975, I was on the right path and truly learning some important magickal and spiritual truths. It was a time of wisdom and folly, with an emphasis on folly - at least at the beginning.

It was the middle of spring in 1973 that I seemed to partially wake up from my self absorption. This was because I had to take important and strategic actions in order to ensure that I actually graduated from high school. Truth be told, the freedom to do whatever I wanted, even avoid coming to school and being productive, had taken its toll on me. I had to scramble and work pretty hard to justify getting enough school-based credits to graduate. Not long after my eighteenth birthday in January, I had decided to seek out a career in the Navy, so I went through the recruiting paperwork and physical and signed up for a program where I would be trained as a nuclear machinist’s mate, which was a guaranteed six year program. That meant that I would be raised to the grade of E-4 after graduating from the first class in the training series, which was the basic Machinist’s Mate school. I had opted for the deferred program so I didn’t have to report for basic training until almost the end of June, after I had graduated. Thus, graduating from high school was suddenly a very important achievement, whereas before, I was just getting by with a meager attendance of classes and productivity. I had managed to paint several paintings, but I had other requirements that I needed to satisfy to graduate. Luckily, I managed to pull everything together in time, but for a while it was a panic induced paper chase with an uncertain end.

During the long winter months, I had acquired (from my father) some inexpensive and thin composite board and painted a magick circle on it consisting of three tightly concentric rings with magick sigils written between them, and a septagram segmented and painted with a graduated color wheel, varying from black, dark brown, violet, purple, blue, green, to red, orange, yellow and white. I carefully nailed this circle to the tile floor of my bedroom. I also constructed a low wooden altar, which I placed in the center of the circle, and I had collected a few other tools, including a short sword purchased from Sanctum Regnum. Scott had supplied the candle sticks, but I also crafted wooden candle holders for the four watchtowers, using cut pieces of a tree branch affixed with plywood bases and topped with a colored glass votive candle holder. I painted and decorated them with more of the Atlantean sigils, of which I seemed to have an endless supply. I also decorated the various tools as well. With the room completely dark and the candles lit, the resultant temple was quite excellent and very fulfilling. I was also integrating Qabbalistic techniques into my magick as well, so everything was proceeding to my satisfaction.

Since Scott had left town, I became the undisputed sorcerer supreme of my high school, reigning over a small clique of students attending Walden III. I had re-focused my magickal workings with my friend Bob, who had become a kind of surrogate for the loss of Scott. Bob, whose full name was Bob Pietkivitch, had exclusive use of a dull red 1965 Rambler American, which we decorated with Atlantean runes and other oddities, both inside and out. Bob and I would frequently go places and do things in the winter that I could not do otherwise. I had only the exclusive use of my antiquated Harley, or sometimes I would occasionally get to borrow my father’s car. We were frequently together and we became very close friends, although I pretended to be superior to Bob because I was the “experienced” occultist. He obligingly took on the role of my assistant. Bob quietly put up with my egotistic outbursts and callous disregard for anyone’s feelings because I was probably the most unusual and interesting person that he had met so far in his short life. I was still on a massive ego trip from the previous autumn and probably thrilled him with my delusional stories and eccentric opinions about nearly everything. Being my confidant, Bob learned all about what had happened to me over the last couple of years and seemed to be genuinely fascinated by what I was doing. He had asked more than once to join me, so I allowed him to do so, yet I never treated him with the same respect and awe that I had treated Scott. Bob also introduced me to his cousin, Mark, who also wanted to be allowed to work magick and hang out with us, so he became part of the pack as well. The fact that both Bob and Mark’s parents could barely stand me probably made me even more attractive as a friend.

Looking over my occult workbooks from that time, it appeared that I was very busy not only attempting to systematize what I was doing, but also adding a lot of new material from classic occult sources, including some material from the Greater Key of Solomon and the Goetia. I even did some goetic conjurations, although what happened was pretty spotty and never fully documented. The methodology that I used was slim on technique and high on imagination. However, I was probably fairly delusional, drunk on my own power trip and quite disconnected with reality. Because of this, I was probably able to do pretty much anything, so long as it didn’t require any kind of actual material manifestation. I wouldn’t learn the rules of how to perform real earth and material based magick until at least a few years later, after I had joined a witch coven and got some proper training.

One episode that occurred which sticks in my mind happened in a place where we would go for an adventure while in the highly suggestive and altered states of marijuana intoxication. We would get really stoned and pile into Bob’s car and then he would drive off to some odd part of town that he had previously checked  out, and we would get out and explore it, as if we were in another reality altogether, which in a manner, we were. One place that was very magickal was a drainage ravine, which ran through an old neighborhood, down so low and so heavily wooded that it was completely obscured, even in the middle of winter. I think that this was off of Spring street near Lincoln and Horlick parks. The Root river runs through that area and even splits off to form two separate rivers, and this valley was probably part of a natural drainage area. No houses were built down there, of course, but houses lined either side of the gorge, which was probably around thirty to forty feet high. The area of the gorge was heavily wooded and filled with undergrowth, but a small creek wended its way through the center of the valley where no trees or undergrowth grew. It was like a fairy den or ghost road in the middle of the residential area of town.

We often went down to that place to explore and hang out - we could walk for a few miles uninterruptedly along this ravine. It was accessed from a children's playground (where our adventure started), but we would climb a fence and carefully follow a pathway down into the magickal grotto. I recall specifically that one time we were down there, quite smashed and experimenting with extracting magickal power from that place, I began to summon a great power into myself, using a combination of potent sounding nonsense words of power mixed with some Enochian. It was a spontaneous occurrence, but I remember feeling the power fill my body and soul. My friends engaged in this activity with me, and I believe that they felt the same thing as I did. Then I said to them, “Run with the power and let it lift you and fly!” So we all ran, with me in the lead. More swiftly and rapidly down the narrow corridor of the valley we flew. I almost felt as if I was about to get airborne, as if the wind that was blowing against my back was about to take us all into the air, when I tripped and fell face first into the mud. My friends also fell, probably tripped up by me, and we were all piled together in the mud and the water of the tiny stream. Once I caught my breath I started to laugh, but I really wanted to cry because I had failed to fly through the air, even though I felt I had come so close! I wrote it off as just a test of our abilities, but it was a clear sign that we were too much into our imaginations and nearly delusional in our relation to the real world. I have carried this memory with me to this day. I had not flown into the air - instead I crashed into the mud like an idiot. It was a sign of what was soon to pass for me in my real life.

These kinds of crazy adventures, not to mention getting a reputation of being really weird and even scary to our peers, became the stuff of our personal legends. We didn’t care what anyone thought of us and we weren’t about to stop what we were doing, either. Even the dark and bitter experience that I underwent with the terrible murder of Tina Davidson didn’t bring me out of this delirium. What sobered me up real fast was leaving my friends, family and home, and traveling to the Navy basic recruit training center in Orlando. There I truly crashed to earth, since without any outside influences or the aid of friends to project my fantasy of having occult powers, I had to make do with my wits and learn to be like everyone else. It was a terrible shock, but I adapted quite well and managed to graduate. My father and mother even traveled to see my graduation ceremony in Orlando. I was dressed in my white sailor uniform and my father was dressed up in his white uniform as a senior chief petty officer in the Naval Reserve. He was quite proud of me, but even though I briefly enjoyed his praise and warm regards, I was quite unsure of what the future held for me.

Oddly enough, being in the Navy didn’t end my magickal career. I got to come home for a two week leave and then went to school at the Great Lakes Naval station, just north of Chicago, and within easy driving distance of my home in Racine. So while I attended school, I could visit home every weekend unless I had to remain on base for guard duty or janitorial duty. As a graduated recruit, I was a well trained first rate janitor. This was true with all low level enlisted men, who were expected to mop, clean and polish, paint and maintain all government buildings and other assets. This would also turn out to be true when I got posted to my first duty station - we were always either mopping and cleaning, chipping paint, or painting. I also knew that sooner or later I would be stationed on a ship. As one of my instructors at school was so fond of saying, “Sailors belong on ships, ships belong out at sea.” However, I was getting paid for my first job, so like a fool with his money, I bought a brand new Triumph Tiger 750 cc motorcycle (instead of a car). While it looked great, it was one of my many follies. The place where I bought it managed to screw up the clutch so badly that when I finally sold it, just several months later, the buyer had to have it completely overhauled to get it to work properly.

Another album was produced by Jethro Tull, and of course, this one also seemed to function as a form of prophecy for me. The album was called “Passion Play”, and it seemed almost as good as “Thick as a Brick.” There was even a reference to a “Fulham Road”, which was one of the main roads that ran through the Great Lakes Naval training center. A lot of the cryptic lyrics allowed me to interpret them into aspects of my own life, so I enjoyed listening to the music and attempting to determine the nature of my great destiny. Another album that was important to me at that time was by Emerson Lake and Palmer, called “Brain Salad Surgery.” A couple of the songs had very apocalyptic themes. This bolstered my sense that the world was going to end in the near future, of course, with me being elevated by fate to the level of some kind of messianic magician who would save the world. This was really silly stuff for a grown young man to believe in, perhaps even a bit crazy. However, later on I would encounter other people who had temporarily come to similar conclusions when listening to certain rock tunes. Ambiguous lyrics lent themselves to being re-interpreted by teenagers suffering a mono-mania, causing them to see the world in a decidedly egotistical fashion. They were all desperate to find some kind of meaning in a world that was rapidly being drained of its meaningfulness and ideology. In the end some would convert to fundamentalist Christianity, some would become atheists, and others would either end up institutionalized or mature into rational and insightful occultists. Luckily, I was one of the latter group.

So all during the autumn, I managed to continue my occult studies, since I now had the purchasing power to buy some really good books and do some deep studying. I invented a system of working magick without having to use a temple, which I called Indarelim Sortus (indirect sorcery), and I had even more experiences with astral projection, which I had perfected during the terribly boring days spent in the recruit training center. The original garden of four seasons that Scott had shown me was joined by a number of other mythic and archetypal locations. I even drew pictures of these places and later painted them in water colors or other medium. It was a very creative time for me, but all of that was soon coming to an end. The true gritty reality of being in the Navy was about to manifest itself to me.

In late November, after graduating from MM school, I got my orders shipping me out to a temporary assignment on a rusty old refrigeration cargo ship, the U.S.S. Rigel, AF-58. I spent a total of almost three months on that ship. It was like a living nightmare for me, since the ship was in poor operating shape and had many more cockroaches and rats on it than it had people. I can remember one time attempting to lead a group of crew members extracting debris and junk out of the bilge area, which was located at the very bottom of the ship, below the engine room.

After being lowered into the that area with a work light, I held it up to illuminate the area, seeing first the curvature of the hull of the ship, filthy with sea water, condensation, oil, metal scraps, paint chips and other junk. As I held the light up I also noticed that there was quite a few rats down there as well. The reflected light from their many eyes greeted me as I took in the creepy and abject horror of that place. There were probably quite a large population of bugs down there too, even though the ship was fumigated at least a couple times of year. Often in nooks and crannies where machinery had to be accessed, one would find dead rats or piles of dead cockroaches - they were part of the environment. I also discovered that a ship this large had a lot of places to either hide contraband or oneself. A number of shipmates would go off into secret locations and smoke marijuana or hashish. How the ship managed to function under such circumstances is beyond my understanding even today. Anyway, some of the areas of the ship that I had to access were very cramped for space, being full of pipes, valves and machinery, dirty, fouled with spilled oil and old paint chips. Having to work in these tight enclosures made me fairly claustrophobic, and they gave me nightmares even months after I had been discharged.

While I was living aboard a ship that was at the end of it’s life span, I had no idea that peculiar religious beliefs and practices, such as witchcraft or any other non-mainstream religion, were not tolerated in those days. Navy culture for enlisted men was quite homogenous, so there was little room for eccentricities or strange behavior. I didn’t know this, but I was engaged in beliefs activities that could get me discharged if ever I revealed myself to the right person. I was quite unhappy being on that ship and felt like I was going to be forced to stay there forever. I was not competent in my work and had a rank that far outstripped my ability, causing resentment from other crew members. Several of my acquaintances were also trying to get out of the service, becoming alcoholics, obvious drug users, declaring themselves conscientious objectors or pretending to be queer. Once fully ensconced in the military, attempting to get out could cause one to experience a great deal of peer pressure, punishment, and perhaps even some jail time.

My ship had recently come out dry dock and was being readied for duty, although so much of it was in disrepair, that it seemed like maintaining it was a waste of time to me. However, before my ship was ready for service, I went to visit an acquaintance of mine who was attempting to get out of the service by pretending to be crazy and an alcoholic. He certainly was a heavy drinker, but the rest of his supposed maladies were clearly faked. He did end up in the base hospital, so me and couple of other crew members went to visit him. I had also hurt my hand in some minor mishap (nothing serious), so I was seeking a bit medical assistance as well.

Anyway, as luck would have it, I walked past the office of an on-call psychiatrist sitting at his desk, writing a report. I asked permission to talk to him for a moment, and then when he courteously had me sit down at his desk, I revealed my whole story of being a witch, sorcerer and potential messiah. He was kind, compassionate, listened to all of the embellished nonsense that I was saying and wrote down copious amounts of notes as well. When I was done, and had basically thought that my intention of finding a way out had failed, he encouraged me to stick around while he called together a couple of his colleagues. I complied, and told them pretty much the same story, with perhaps even some more embellishments.

Most of what I said was true, but all of it was steeped in a deep occult context that the average person wouldn’t begin to understand. So these three psychiatrists conferred with each other and then unanimously decided that I was quite mentally ill. I thanked them for their attentions and said that I probably had to head back to my ship. They told me that wasn’t necessary, that they would see to it that I wouldn’t ever have to return to that ship, and in fact, I only returned a few days later to pick up my already packed seabag to leave. I was taken instead to a hospital ward and given a bed (in the geriatric ward, of all places), where I was to wait for the processing of new orders. There I witnessed the depressing end of the lives of several distinguished military men, now in their complete dotage and cared for by the orderlies of this base hospital. It was a sad and eye opening experience. One ancient old man (probably in his nineties) had been an interpreter for General Pershing in the First World War. Back then he had fluently spoken several languages, but now was reduced by dementia to being barely able to speak English.

I must have made quite an impression on those doctors, and they in turn were quite convincing to the commander in charge of the base, for in less than a week I was fully discharged from the Navy. They even made me walk my own papers to the various functionaries to hasten the process. In the middle of February (1974), having served only eight months total of active duty, I was discharged from the Navy as being unfit for military duty. I even had a re-enlistment status of RE-4, which meant that I wouldn’t even be drafted if World War III came along and the military needed anyone it could find. However, I was happy to gather my seabag and travel back home via military standby one more time. My father was very unhappy with my failure, but I suppose that he believed it was somehow his fault and felt deeply sorry for me. He decided that I was a complete failure and wondered what was to become of me. I wasn’t sorry in the least, and seldom ever regretted having been discharged from the service. Military life was not my cup of tea, nor was it my destiny. So now I had to figure out what to do with myself, since by now childhood was officially over.

By this time, my friends Bob and Mark had gotten some part time jobs and also acquired a connection to procure a form of LSD called Window-pane, where tiny liquid droplets were deposited and dried on small pieces of acetate. I dropped acid the first weekend I was home and had a terrible trip. After enduring all that I had endured while in the service and experiencing my father’s rejection when I came home, I was probably very close to being psychologically afflicted, enough so that the psychiatrist’s evaluation of me being a borderline psychotic probably had some truth to it. Anyway, I managed to get through the experience, and my friends did try to help me out when they realized that I wasn’t having a good time being out of my mind on drugs.

For a time I refused to take any more hard drugs and went through a period of completely drying out. Instead I focused on smoking hashish, Thai sticks and high quality pot - this, I believed, would help me sort out what I was going through. Later on I was able to drop LSD again without having a psychotic incident, but I tended to pace things with that drug, since it caused me to be somewhat debilitated for a couple of days afterwards. During these times of being high or hallucinating, we would work magick at Bob’s place. I had transferred most of my occult equipment into Bob’s room before I had left for the military. My father had reconverted my bedroom back to what it had been before I modified it for working magick, so there was little magickal working done in that room. However, we did hang out and do drugs there, talk and collectively fantasize. There was a cheap stereo and an old black and white console TV, which we occasionally watched. But the occult activity was centered at Bob’s room, whose walls by now were painted black, and the windows were blocked out. The magickal circle and altar were installed and so were a lot of my pictures and art work. It became our functional temple, even while I was gone and serving in the military. Bob was the beneficiary of my years of occult collecting and building, but he was careful and gracious in handling my stuff.

I sought out employment here or there, but couldn’t manage to find anything that suited me. I was quite untalented at whatever I tried my hand at, except maybe art and music. During this time I returned to Walden III as a visitor and a graduate, and joined a group of musicians led by a friend of mine named Ralph, who was something of a piano virtuoso. Our group was a mixture of black and white musicians, and we played blues, R&B and jazz-rock. Being in this band and playing my flute was a form of excellent therapy for me, even though the members of the group frequently argued and sometimes even broke out into fist fighting. I truly enjoyed playing jazz flute and had even managed to acquire an electronic synthesizer to bolster my sound. I had an extra flute head that had a transducer welded to it, and a wire connected the flute to the small synthesizer pack that was clipped to my belt. This was a happy-sad time for me, but at least I was no longer in the dreaded Navy.  I was free to chart my own future and go wherever I desired without having to answer to anyone, or so I thought.

Sometime that spring, I got a brief visit from Scott Malueg, who had come back for a short time and was staying with his friend Grant. Scott told us how great life was living in the Colorado Rockies and he invited us all to come out and live with him. So naturally, both Bob and I were quite enchanted with the idea of moving away and living in the Rockies. It seemed like the next big thing to do. We would become occult vagabonds and travel around the Southwest and discover ourselves, as many other kids were actually doing at that time. I managed a few odd jobs to gather together some money and so did Bob.

By the time Summer rolled around, we had enough resources (so we thought) to begin our epic journey. So we packed a few important items, and Bob in his old Rambler, and me, on my Triumph motorcycle, split one early June morning for Colorado. Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far. Before we hit Chicago my motorcycle began to develop some severe problems with its clutch, so we had to drive all of the way back so I could drop off my bike at my parent’s home and continue with our trip. I was profoundly disappointed that I couldn’t drive my motorcycle and would become dependent on Bob to provide transportation. Bob didn’t seem to mind, in fact he actually appreciated having me along inside the car, not only for the company but to share in the ordeal of driving.

We drove on and on until we were both completely exhausted, even though we had been taking shifts at driving while the other person slept. Eventually, we crashed for a few hours in a rest area on the side of the freeway somewhere just across the border in the state of Colorado. The next day we drove through the Rockies all the way to Glenwood Springs, and then off of the freeway past Carbondale to a small country village where Scott and his family lived. We had arrived at our magickal destination, both of us were elated to be finally reconnected with Scott, who acted as our magickal and mystical tour guide for all that was cool and trendy about life in Colorado.

I remember one of our early first nights in Colorado quite vividly. We traveled to a remote nearly deserted canyon. The night sky was pitch black and even the dimmest stars could be seen. We watched the stars slowly spin around the Pole Star while getting a lot higher on pot than I have ever been. Yes, even the pot seemed better in Colorado! We were also drinking Coor’s Light, only available in the West, as if it were some kind of nectar of the gods. There we were, in a lonely valley, seeing some shooting stars, and Bob pulled out his favorite cassette tape of “Tree Music”, which was probably the strangest album that I had ever heard anywhere. It was a really very unusual scene, and for us, thoroughly magickal.

Another day found us trekking to the peak called Snow Mass, where we walked nearly to the summit while clouds were scudding past our feet - as if we were angels walking on the mists of heaven. We started our ascent with a large can of Coors Light each, and as we performed our ascent, we would drink the beer, getting higher as we went. We also visited a place called Marble, which was an old ghost mining town. We walked up the road following the path where the old narrow gauge railroad had run, ascending to the giant mine shaft that had been carved right into the side of a mountain of pure white marble. All throughout this area there were thousands of pieces of white marble, in all sizes and shapes. It was a monument to what the miners had done to the environment, raping the earth for needed minerals, but covering the area with scars and debris. This would not be first ghost mining town that I would see in the Old West. Carbondale itself had been a coal mining town many years ago. Every where we traveled, we saw mysteries and amazing sights, jagged snow covered mountains, awesome sunsets, starry nights and unpolluted streams, creeks and sparkling pure air. All of these adventures were amazing and very magickal for us Midwesterners, but we also needed to make some money. We performed a temporary stint as general laborers for a condo construction site outside of Vale, but it was a lot of work for just a handful of money, and it wasn’t enough to live on.

After we had spent a few weeks in Colorado, it soon became obvious that there were few decent paying jobs around the area for us. We weren’t carpenters, cabinet makers, masons, plumbers or electricians, so all that was left was general construction labor, which paid very poorly. We also weren’t independently wealthy, so our limited cache of money would soon be depleted. It had become apparent to both of us that we would have to either go back home or move forward. Bob had an uncle that lived in Orange County and after calling and talking to him, it seemed that California had a lot more opportunity than rural Colorado. So we decided to move on and continue our trip to the West Coast. We said goodbye to Scott, packed up the Rambler, and headed west, while dreaming of finding our destiny.

While we were in Colorado, I began to notice something that had started to bother me. Bob and Scott got along too well together, and often when we were doing stuff, I felt that Bob was ingratiating himself with Scott at my expense. I am certain that I was probably hard to be around day in and day out, especially with such a large delusional ego as I had to support at that time. I felt that Bob and Scott were not being respectful enough towards me, and that Bob started to think independently, creatively, to challenge what I knew and believed. He was no longer my chela, and because I was dependent on him for transportation, I believe that he thought that I was not sufficiently grateful and thankful for his support. Our friendship began to become frayed and we seemed to get on each other’s nerves a lot. By the time we got to Bob’s uncle, I began to realize that there was soon to be a parting of the ways between us. We celebrated the 4th of July with Bob’s uncle and aunt, but I became distinctly aware that Bob’s uncle was making critical comments about me behind my back.  He was more than willing to help out his nephew, but he didn’t think too much of me, and wasn’t obliged to help me out at all. So I had to contact my uncle who lived in San Diego and ask Bob to help me (one more time) to drive to my uncle’s house and leave me there. It was obvious that Bob and I could barely stand to be in each other’s company - we were no longer the good friends that we once were. I took it all quite personal, but it seemed that Bob blew it all off. He went back to stay a while longer with his uncle and then went back home. I was more tenacious and decided to stick it out.

I ended up on unemployment (courtesy of the Navy) and had to live in the local YMCA because I had soon wore out my welcome with my uncle. He was an overbearing anti-intellectual man who was something of a Christian fanatic and a stickler for all that was traditional. Therefore, he found my opposing religious views to be very troubling, since he didn’t want his son (who was younger than me) to be influenced by them. Because I needed to find some kind of paying job as soon as possible, I decided to join the Job Corps and get trained as a carpenter. I figured that it couldn’t be too demanding and it included an easy induction into the carpenter’s union when one completed the training. I had to live two weeks in San Diego waiting for the papers to be completed and then to be transported to the Job Corps center in Oregon. While I waited, I studied my occult books, wrote copiously, pretended to look for work, and would occasionally engage in some socializing. It was at that time that I went to see the movie, “The Wicker Man”, which was showing at a theater in the downtown area. I loved that film and wanted terribly to be somehow transported to Summer Isle. I was also aware of the news at that time, since this was the summer when Richard Nixon resigned his post as President of the U.S. I was actually quite delighted by this news, so were a lot of other young folks.

Soon I was put on plane to Portland, then afterwards, I traveled by bus to the Job Corps camp, which was some miles past the nearest town of Estacada, near a conservation camp. There I lived for around two to three months before I finally had to leave, being helped to escape by a dear friend that I had made there. He had graduated soon after I arrived and had a job in Estacada as a mechanic. As a Seventh Day Adventist, he was probably the most generous, compassionate and kind person I had ever met. When things got bad at the camp, he actually rescued me, helped me gather my things and drove me out of that place. He let me stay at his home for the few days it took for me to get money to buy a ticket home. If I hadn’t left when I did, I would probably have been beaten up to the point of having to be hospitalized.

The Job Corps camp was run by individuals who were very conscientious and who didn’t believe in any kind of tight discipline. The camp should have been run like a military camp, but it wasn’t. This might not have been so bad except that the kids who occupied it (all under age 21) were probably the most vicious punks ever assembled in an isolated rural camp. These were kids from the ghettos of Watts, Oakland, East LA, and numerous other urban locations. Since there was little discipline, these hoods covertly ran things, and I found myself mixing with gang bangers of the most severe kind. I learned all about the Crips, the Bloods, the Brims, the Esse’s, and their associated call signs and signal apparel. White kids were a distinct minority, so we had to learn to hang out in packs and never do anything alone, otherwise we would fall prey to other groups of kids. I swear that things were so bad that one white kid was beat up until he ended up in critical care in the hospital, just because some other kids tried to roll him for two dollars. Theft, vandalism, assault, male rape and even race riots between black and brown kids erupted on a frequent basis. The only salvation for us white kids was the strange fact that the urban punks were terrified of the forest. The camp was surrounded on all sides by a massive forest of Douglas Fir trees that were around 120 feet tall on average. They thought that Big Foot and other monsters lived in the forest, and we white kids helped stoke their fears by telling tall tales of what we had seen in the forest. To find some solace from the terrible living conditions and the endemic violence, we would frequently spend our free time in the forest, where none of the urban punks would dare to traverse.

Even though life in the camp was kind of hellish, walking in the Mt. Hood National Forest Preserve was an incredible experience. I absolutely adored the forest, since there was a highly variegated environment, from cascading hills, shallow creeks and wash beds, dry stream beds and lots of wonderful berry bushes. Since this was very early autumn, I happened to be there during the dry season. There were lots of wild berries to eat and the water from the streams was unpolluted and quite refreshing. A friend even showed me a special trail to a place that was a couple miles from the camp, deep in the woods. It was a natural circle clearing where some trees had fallen and a thick carpet of moss had grown over the entire floor, like some huge living room. The fallen trees made natural tables and chairs, much of it padded with the thick covering of moss. It was a place where I could read, meditate or even work magick alone, unmolested and unnoticed. I spent many hours there during the day when there wasn’t any work, or on weekends. I could almost forget the harshness of my living situation after spending an hour or two at this sacred place. I read books and continued my studies, but also developed my meditation skills as well.

During this time I was avidly reading the books written by Carlos Castaneda and trying to put those ideas into a workable system of magick. No matter how hard I tried, it always seemed like there wasn’t enough information to accomplish this task. I was also intensely reading and studying the book, “Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, by John Allegro. With this book I had greater success, since it was filled with all sorts of fascinating information, including a kind of proto-language that I attempted to use as a magickal language, with some success. Bob had been very interested in the Castaneda books as well, but he was able to find more useful information in them than I was. Later on, when I actually took some anthropology courses and discovered the true practices and beliefs of Southwestern Native Americans and Mexican Indians, I found that Castaneda’s books seemed even more hokey to me, since I had found the real deal as opposed to something that was obviously contrived.

Eventually, though, I had to leave the Job Corps camp in a hurry. I was held up for a dollar, and then one of the camp counselors talked me into reporting it, which I did. Not only did I not get my money back, but the kids were simply verbally admonished, promised not to do it again, and then told me afterwards that my ass was dead that evening. I could expect a blanket party, and when that happened, typically one could expect to be hurt pretty badly. So I left that day with some help from my friend, then contacted my parents asking them to send me some money for a bus ticket back home. In late October, I boarded a Greyhound bus and traveled all the way back home, a grueling trip with an untold number of stops. I had failed to find a cool new place to live, but I had a lot of life experience, which helped ground me and make my aspirations more real.  I returned to my parent’s home more sober, realistic and definitely over my power trip. I realized now that life was hard and whatever advantages one had in the way of intelligence or ability should be utilized. I decided to go back to school and learn a trade. Thankfully, my father appeared to realize that I had made some progress in maturing and was helpful and encouraging towards my desire to go back to school. I still had to work, but I could also take advantage of my limited GI Education Bill.

When I got back, I reacquainted myself with Mark, his girlfriend Cathy, who had also become one of my best friends, and even Bob. However, while I was still away, Mark and Cathy would write and tell me that Bob had returned home and was acting very weird. The old friendship between Mark and Bob had also become quite strained. I guess that I had sensed something shift in Bob when I was with him in Colorado that others were now witnessing as well. The letters that I got told me that Bob was behaving strangely and had declared himself one of the hidden messiahs. He was talking about me in a fairly derogatory manner and he was treating his cousin and friend Mark, as well as Cathy, in a very condescending manner. It would seem that while I had been grounded by the harshness of the reality and lessons of life, Bob had instead been pulled into a massive ego trip. Of course, I was hardly one to judge anyone for being on an ego trip. I had just recently ended my own massive ego trip, which I am certain annoyed the hell of everyone around me - including my friends. Yet where my mono-mania was at least grounded in solid occult teachings, Bob had come up with his own occult system seemingly unrelated to anything, so he had an ego-trip that was based on nothing but hyperbole.

I tried to talk to Bob after I had returned. It almost seemed like either he had really gone off the deep end or was pretending to have great occult powers and insights, perhaps just to mock and belittle me. After a while, I decided that it was a little bit of both. Mark and Cathy, who had become very close friends with me when I had returned, had also found Bob’s behavior unacceptable, unsettling and even obnoxious. For some reason, Bob focused a lot of his angst on Cathy, talking and acting in a very rude and condescending manner to her. Another thing that happened was that Bob found himself a girlfriend who was just as strange and bizarre as he now was, and who also believed that Bob was some kind of hidden messiah. Even though I felt estranged from Bob, I began to re-acquire all of the magickal stuff that I had helped to outfit his temple. Bob seemed to be relieved to get rid of the stuff and helped me move it all back to my parent’s home. Some pieces I destroyed, some got refurbished. Later on, I moved it to the temple that I helped build at the old country house outside of Racine where Mark and Cathy lived.

After trying for a few months to deal with Bob and to work out our issues, I decided that it was just a waste of time. Mark and Cathy felt the same way, so on a winter evening in the early part of the year 1975, I asked Bob to come by my place and bring the magick key that I had painted for him. Mark and Cathy were there with me - it was our last attempt to work things out with Bob. I took the key back and we tried to talk things out with him, but to no avail. We had him come back a few days later and announced that we were no longer interested in either being his friend or having anything magickal to do with him. I returned his key to him, but I had burned off all of the paint, so that it was nothing more than a piece of wood with a blackened surface. Bob was obviously quite hurt by the rejection that we handed him, but he seemed more puzzled by our behavior, and even more confused because we failed to see him as he saw himself. His new girlfriend saw this great masterly potential in him, but we didn’t. So we parted ways and I can’t remember ever seeing him again after that night.

Bob was a odd character, although he had been a very good and faithful friend. Perhaps I could have been more compassionate with him, realizing that he had the same affliction that I had. Bob was a quiet person, he often would be silent for long periods of time. He was often courteous to others (especially people who he deemed were important), but just as often, he would make fun of individuals who were different than others, finding a joke name for them and mocking their affliction. So he could also be cold, calculating, uncompassionate and very selfish. If you were Bob’s friend, you could do no wrong and he was faithful and consistent with his friendship, but often it seemed that Bob was expert at manipulating people around him. He would often tell stories of how he had defrauded people just by not being sincere or open to them. Bob had quite a powerful dark side, but then so did we all.

Life went on for us and we all found our various niches in life. I moved away from Racine in the summer of 1975 because my father got a new position where he worked and had to report to an office that was a lot further away. So he sold the old house and bought a new one in a suburb of Milwaukee, and I followed him there, helping with the transition. I also enrolled in college and began my college career. Mark and Cathy moved in together and then later, got married.

My rapacious acquisition of knowledge, aided now by being enrolled in the university, took off in an accelerated arc. It seemed that I had been intellectually asleep my whole life. In addition, I finally completed the magickal system that I had been assembling for some time and I began to perform it at Mark and Cathy’s home. Everything seemed new and absolutely incredible. I also felt as if I was finally on track with my destiny. I was still single, but I already had some encounters with women. I was learning and growing up to be an adult. Occasionally I would hear from Mark about Bob and what he was up to, but I never bothered to try in get in touch with him or try to rebuild our broken friendship. Mark never had much good to say about Bob, which made seeking him out seem like a bad idea. I forgot about Bob, and I suppose in his way, he forgot about me.
The next period that I experienced on my occult path was the four years that I spent with the Alexandrian coven from Hell run by Christopher Synn and Alexandria Pendragon (the infamous Schnoebelens). I have already written about this story, including the events leading up to it and afterwards.

From the little snippets that I heard from Mark, Bob got into the high tech industry and became a security technician at Bell Labs. Later on he become a software engineer. He also got into the web when it was in its infancy and started his own bulletin board and email ring, dedicated to the occult and new age beliefs and practices. Later in the ‘90's, Bob founded and created the Nagual Network Website, donating it as a free space to anyone who wanted to communicate about the occult with other like minded folk. (You can see a link to this site here.)

Sometime in December 2002, Bob died of a sudden physical malady that took him and his family totally by surprise. I had heard about this sad event from my friend Cathy, but knew then that there was nothing left to be done. Perhaps I treated Bob poorly and maybe I even betrayed my friendship with him, for no other reason than to bring him down the way I had been brought down. I would feel even more guilty about how I treated him if had not been for both Mark and Cathy deciding to break their friendship with Bob as well. I know that Bob was impossible to talk or reason with at that time, so there was probably nothing to be done other than what we did do. Yet the fact that he is now dead means that I will never be able to talk to him and see if we had both finally outgrown our childish ways and could really deal with each other as true human beings.

Sometimes an occult life does have moments of regret - not everything that happens is miraculous or special. Sometimes it’s only an indication of our insecurities and the never ending folly that is our life.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, May 14, 2010

Laws of Magick?

The Question About What is Real or Is Magick Wiggly?

[Frank the Rabbit - from Donnie Darko]

“Pooka. From old Celtic mythology. A fairy spirit in animal form. Always very large. The pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature. Very fond of rumpots, crackpots...and ‘How are you, Mr. Wilson?’”
Mr. Wilson, reading the definition of “Pooka” from the dictionary, in the movie “Harvy.”

[This is actually a very effective definition of how magick works.]

“Often times, everything that we think is consistent or subject to laws and rational perception, only conforms to that perception out of a deep seated vicious sense of humor, whose irony shows us from time to time how our laws and perceptions are deceptively thin and full of holes. This is especially true when attempting to define laws about magick, mysticism and the paranormal.” Frater Barabbas - discussing the characteristics of Uncle Wiggly to friends.

Recently, I have found on the web that many practitioners of magick appear to have fully embraced the three laws of magick, which were popularized rather ignominiously by James Frazier in the late 19th century. Although the source of these laws originally came from Neoplatonic writings, Frazier believed that magick was a superstition practiced by primitive people whose poor grasp of causality caused them to believe in the efficacy of magick instead of science. Frazier believed that science was the correct and modern apprehension of causality, stating his opinion that magick couldn’t possibly work. Since that time, many of Frazier’s theories have been shown to be inaccurate, and that his use of evidence to support these theories was highly flawed and misrepresented by a kind of subjective ad hoc methodology. In short, Frazier ironically violated the very premises of science that he sought to glorify in contrast to so-called primitive modes of thinking and acting.

However, subsequent anthropologists, psychologists and philosophers have used many of Frazier’s initial theories to judge all magickal activity, whether done by supposed primitive peoples or by sophisticated modern western practitioners, as an unscientific causal reasoning that proposes ideas such as the mind has power over physical reality and that correlation is mistaken for causation. (You can find a good article on this subject here.) These kind of irrational thought processes are called by scientists “associative thinking” or “magical thinking.” It’s a thought process where symbols have an inherent power, and the use of metaphor, metonym and synchronicity is used to give correlation, personal meaning and significance to events that are coincident and produced by random chance. It would seem, then, that a practice of magick would entail a defective and even delusional perspective of causality and the belief in how physical phenomena occurs.

Since I am a modern practitioner of ritual magick living in the western world and not some supposedly primitive tribal witch doctor, then I would be doubly condemned without excuse, as being either overly romantic with my subjective notions or just plain deluded with psychotic tendencies. I, therefore, have to explain my practices in a simple and rational manner or admit that I am quite absurdly irrational and living a lie, as I pretend to have some kind of power or impact on the world with my supposed magickal abilities. Or do I?

So it might seem that I have two choices. I can embrace the supposed laws about magick that Frazier and Neoplatonism proposed or I can come up with a completely different approach and explanation for what I do. Unfortunately, a number of magickal practitioners have opted to embrace these laws and find a way of rationalizing them without examining any corroborating perspectives from science or thinking about any other alternatives, which I find quite troubling. Doing so only makes occultism in general, and magick in the specific case, look like something that the scientific community can point to as being an unforgivable modern obsession with gross superstition. In other words, embracing these laws without giving them any kind of nuance makes us look like idiots to the rational and empirical world of science, not to mention the general public. (Since these notions could likely be shown to be false in a laboratory.) I also have a problem with having anything to do with James Frazier, and I find it odd that Aleister Crowley lionized his work, even though Frazier would have thought Crowley was a lunatic.

Much has changed in the scientific world since the turn of the 20th century when Frazier’s theories were considered laudable. The advent of quantum mechanics, string theory and chaos theory have profoundly changed the way that scientists perceive the physical world. What was considered impossible in Frazier’s era could now be perceived as not only possible, but even highly plausible. The fact that magick does appear to work, although not all of the time and certainly not to the consistency where it could be shown to be an empirical fact proven in a laboratory environment, needs to be explained. This fact alone would show that whether we are talking about a supposed primitive witch doctor (whose beliefs and praxis are hardly either simple or primitive), an urban witch practicing in the U.S., or a Golden Dawn ceremonial magician practicing in some European town, the methods and techniques that they are employing do produce physical and psychological results. Such practitioners are neither deluded nor suffering from a distorted sense of causality. So there must be a reason why the empirical model of physical reality fails to explain why magick and mysticism are operationally valid.
Frazier proposed three objective laws used by those who practiced what he called “sympathetic magic and contagion” - these are the laws operating in a mental process that is called “association.”  He then spent quite a number of pages examining these three laws in great detail, to show how they were steeped in erroneous and superstitious beliefs and practices. These three laws were called the Law of Similarity, the Law of Contagion and the Law of Opposites. I shall briefly state these laws, distilling what Frazier put down more than a century ago.

Law of Similarity - or like causes like. The basic premise of this law is that appearances equal reality. This means that a magician may, by manipulating a symbol or simulacrum, through the power of sympathy, also manipulate the very thing it represents. This is the basis of sympathetic magic. For instance, it was once considered bad luck (or good, depending on the situation) to whistle while on the deck of a sailing ship at sea, since a person whistling was analogous to a fierce wind whistling through the sails. The belief was that whistling would cause a gale wind to unexpectedly blow, causing harm to the ship and crew. Similarly, a shaman could pour water on a sacred stone to make it rain, or imitate the sounds and qualities of a storm to make one actually occur. In a more modern usage, a magician can manipulate a symbol of something or someone and cause analogous effects or changes to the target.

Law of Contagion - once in contact, always in contact. The basic premise of this law is that there is some mysterious essence that is associated with a person or thing, that if that person or thing has contact with an inanimate object, that object possesses the quality of that thing or person, even when separated by great distances. Contagion is what is operating when one uses personal attributes, such as hair, nail parings, blood, etc., to build what I call a gross link to affect that person in some manner - the ubiquitous fithfath or voodoo doll.

Law of Opposites - causes are the opposites of their effects. This is analogous to the Law of Similarity, except it has the opposite effect. This means that if you want something to happen, do the opposite. This practice typically occurs more rarely, except when dealing with children and juveniles, then it is called reverse psychology.

Curiously, the most obvious of these laws found in a modern society is the law of contagion, which appears to have been bolstered by the scientific revelation that microbes are the cause of diseases. However, contagion can also manifest in an irrational manner, when individuals refuse to wear a shirt that has been worn (and subsequently washed) by a serial killer. Yet even before science had confirmed microbes as the cause of disease, the supposed irrational fear of clothes and belongings that had belonged to individuals who died of an epidemic was very much in evidence, even when medical doctors erroneously assured people that there was nothing to fear. So it would appear that part of this aversion was based on intuitive survival instincts, which turned out much later to have a scientific basis. Yet in many situations, science does not have any explanation as to why such behavior persists, even in a post-modern culture.

Strangely, the most basic concepts taught in any form of operational magick are the use of symbols, metaphors, metonym (to represent real objects), and the associative structure or mechanism of the contagious (magickal) link. The link presupposes that all material things are in some manner joined into a union, so there is a cosmic web of infinite relatedness. From the perspective of the ritual magician, all things are connected, and under certain states of consciousness, the symbol of something is that something. So you can see some basic laws of magick operating in these practices and phenomena, and they could be the laws of similarity and contagion. However, in all of these basic concepts of magick, a fundamentally altered (exalted) state of consciousness makes it true. This is a critically important fact in the belief system and practice of magick, and we will examine why that is so later in this article. Suffice it to say that in order to test these hypotheses, one must be able to adopt a higher than normal state of consciousness.

If we consult the latest theories that are currently considered in vogue by physicists, both the laws of contagion and similarity seem to have some basis in the areas of quantum mechanics and quantum biology. Quantum mechanics is the study of the behavior of particles at the sub-atomic level. It has been shown that particles actually exist in an indeterminate state until they are measured, representing that all possible variations are present until the act of measuring forces one possibility to manifest. This theory, which is well represented by the mathematical equations for Wave-function produced by Erwin Schroedinger, would seem to indicate that reality consists of fields of probability until an observer makes a determination, and then only one specific possibility arises, which would seem to say that the observer determines reality. This perspective produced the famous theoretical analogy of Schroedinger’s Cat, which we won’t get into here, but other oddities were also discovered as scientists continued to fathom the mysteries of quantum mechanics.

Another discovery was about something called “quantum entanglement”, where when two particles interact with other in such a manner that the spin of one is the opposite of the other, that they will produce exactly the same probable outcome simultaneously when just one of them is measured. One could also factor in that the expectations of scientists as well as what they choose to measure (or not) may also powerfully influence the outcome of an experiment.

Quantum biology is currently engaged in a controversy about something called the “non-trivial” role of quantum mechanics involved in biological systems, which would explain such phenomena as bird navigation (sensing magnetic fields), the circadian rhythm and other behavior related factors. Certainly, with these new discoveries in science over the last century, it would seem that attempting to explain how and why magick works would not be so outlandish. Quantum biology has successfully explained such phenomena as photosynthesis, the conversion of chemical energy into physical motion and brownian motors in cellular structures.

Yet science is still working out all of the details of these various theories, building up a large body of laboratory proof that would seem to verify them. How quantum mechanics would affect probabilities on a large scale has yet to be completely explained, although there is no shortage of theories and controversy. Science, despite these unusual discoveries and seemingly illogical theories, requires the verification by measurement and repeatability. If there is nothing to really measure and the results are highly variable, as they are with magickal phenomena, then science is reluctant to engage in any kind of theoretical speculation, since it would be impossible to falsify.

All of these laws, whether philosophical or scientific, seem to successfully explain a single aspect of magick and its associated phenomena, but fail to explain all of the other phenomena. In fact, I have found that many laws, models and theories of magick come up short. They seem to explain some things, but can’t be applied to explain other things. Perhaps it may be that psychology, philosophy and science have not achieved the level of advancement required to make sense out of this complex and variable phenomenon. Or, it might be that any theory or explanation, no matter how advanced, will never be able to explain something that is intrinsic to human nature. It would like attempting to understand and predict the qualities of love in human nature by examining brain chemistry alone.

In short, I am of the opinion that the reason that these disciplines are unable to effectively explain the nature of magick is because magick is actually a sentient field, not a thing, but a being itself. There is another law that has been popularly disseminated around various intellectual circles, and that is the Law of Intelligence, which is defined as any energy pattern of sufficient complexity will act sentient if it is treated as an entity. What I am proposing here is that magick is not a physical phenomenon that can be measured or consistently tested in a laboratory, although it can produce such phenomena, and the changes it renders can be noted anecdotally. It would seem that magick is a kind of being, but what kind of being it would be is the real question. This leads me to my definition of Uncle Wiggly and the belief that chaos does indeed have a face, although it can be a frightening one, large, furry, with twisted rabbit ears, bug eyes and large rodent teeth - perhaps a lot like the fairytale Pooka.

When I work magick, if the results are highly unexpected, even uncanny, perhaps strange and a bit scary, then I have successfully produced a magickal effect. If what happens is completely expected and totally within the script of the ritual, then I have probably not connected to the level of realizing true magick. Also, if I have managed to enter deeply into an alternative state of consciousness, then the effects of the ritual will be more pronounced, as if magick resided like some disembodied entity at the upper end of the spectrum of consciousness. Some have proposed that merely having the barest of outlines for a magickal ritual allows for the greatest inclusion of the unexpected. I have found that elaborate or simple rituals can work equally well, producing results that are startling and even astonishing. Not every ritual that I perform works and never are the same results produced each time. Often magick seems to have a mind and will of its own, and sometimes it manifests in a decidedly ironic and satyrical manner, whether the individuals involved get the joke or not. There are a lot subtleties to how magick operates, in fact, subtleties within subtleties. The more deeper in you get, the more sentient and strange it seems to become. (Much thanks to Frater Julian the Apostate for clarifying these thoughts.)

These realizations have led me to propose what I and some friends have called the Uncle Wiggly Law of Magick, whose basic premise would be stated as such:

“Whatever laws, models or theories that you propose about magick, there will always be something that will occur while working magick at some point to not only falsify that law, but will show itself to have a very nasty sense of humor, the least of which will be irony or satire, the worst of which may even take your life. Never assume that you have all of the answers or have all of the contingencies of magick covered, because shit happens!”

Blessed Be the Wiggly Way -

Frater Barrabbas

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Continuing Education for Everyone

I never bought into the old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I have found that even when one is a middle aged adult, expanding your horizons with education is a very important activity, especially when you are an aspiring ritual or ceremonial magician. I must say that I am constantly learning things from life, as well as habitually hitting the books and broadening my perspectives. As a youth, I developed an insatiable curiosity about almost everything, which took me out of the torpor of my youth culture and its inherent anti-intellectual perspective and put me on a track of learning to be literate and knowledgeable in a number of different fields. I must also say that loving to learn new things helped my career and my practical approach to life as well.

Because of this, I am happy to say that I have a reasonable amount of knowledge on quite a number of diverse subject areas. I am not an occult nerd, a person who knows a lot about occult subjects, but knows hardly anything else. Believe me, I have met this kind of person often in my travels and life experiences - being too specialized has some real risks even for the average person, not to mention the occultist. These days, for every book on occultism or magick that I read or study, there are at least several other books on a wide spectrum of subject matter that I also read. I try to leave no stone unturned, and I have found history, archaeology, philosophy, science and psychology as some of the many topics that I am continuing to investigate.

Another thing to consider - nobody knows everything there is to know about all pertinent topics that one might encounter in the pursuit of occult wisdom and enlightenment. There’s always room to learn something new that powerfully enriches one’s overall perspective and intellectual grasp of things. Being exposed to someone elses perspective may actually stimulate one’s own creative activities and cause one to examine a topic or area that one might not have bothered to examine without that stimulation.

I will illustrate my point by telling about some courses that I am taking through the internet as well as some workshops that I recently attended.

First of all, I attended two courses put on by Lon Milo DuQuette at the local occult book store in town (Magus Books). Lon taught several courses, but I could only attend two of them, so I chose one on Goetic Magick and the other on Enochian Magick. I must admit that I already have some knowledge of these topics, and in some cases the knowledge is extensive, but I wanted to get someone else’s opinion on the topic, and Lon is known to be an excellent instructor. He has the knack of artfully mixing humor, personal experience and occult philosophies and practices together into a narrative that is both entertaining and insightful. I only wish that I had his skill for being both hilarious and deeply insightful. If Lon comes to your town to give any of his famous lectures, I would highly recommend attending them. Even if you are an experienced occultist, or a novice, you will gain something from his discussions. I would also recommend reading his books, since all of them have something to offer, even to a supposed old hand such as myself.

So I guess you might be wondering what did I gain from Lon’s workshops? First of all, Lon’s class on Goetia was centered on him regaling us about the first time that he evoked the demon Orobas. He spent almost an hour describing in detail his calamitous ordeal of attempting (and succeeding) in this working, despite the fact that it happened more than thirty years ago. It was funny and also insightful, teaching how Lon perceives these entities called Goetic demons. At nearly the end of his talk he discussed some of his opinions about this system of magick that neatly dovetailed with my own opinions. During this class, I had an inspiration for a new ritual, so I hastily put some notes and a ritual outline while simultaneously listening to Lon’s lecture. (That ritual is now completed, and waits for me to test it, which I am looking forward to doing very soon.) The fact that Lon looks at things in a similar manner to how I view them was very interesting and powerfully corroborating for me. The class was really worth far more to me than the mere fee that it cost.

The second class focused on the basic structures of the Enochian system of magick, it’s sources and how Lon and his associates use this information to work some basic forms of Enochian magick. We even spent some time performing a demo rite where the audience chanted the Enochian letters and then the spirit names associated with the Holy Table, Sigillum Angels and the Table of Naluage. While we performed these tasks, Lon intoned the 19th Enochian Call to invoke the 30th and lowest of the Aethyrs. Once completed, we were all quite buzzed by the energy released, and many of us had some kind of visionary experience. What it did to me was compel me to re-examine all of the Enochian material that I had read and examined years ago. I guess you could say that it’s time for a refresher course for me, since another cycle of looking over and studying this material would probably help me gain new insights and practical uses of some of the material that I have not included in my current working regimen.

In addition to attending Lon’s course, I have purchased a course on “Mansions of the Moon” by Christopher Warnock. I will getting into this course very soon, since I am interested in expanding my current knowledge of this astrological topic, since it fits into what I have previously devised as a system of talismanic workings, using the 28 Enochian Seniors and Kings as well as the Olympian Spirits to define these powerful and useful entities. Using the Mansions of the Moon ties a potent temporal factor into this working, which I have found is very important to the working of practical magick.

Christopher Warnock has a number of online classes to choose from, including ones that comprehensively instruct one in practical and magickal Astrology. They are a bit pricey, but seem to be worth it. The package for a class includes one or more books, an interactive CD Rom containing the class guidelines and even a some free software. I have already installed the software that calculates the timing of the Lunar Mansions, which is pretty tough to do by hand - trust me on this, I know from personal experience. I am also planning on taking two more classes of his in the future, and these are on the 36 Decan Faces and Astrological Geomancy, which can be used as an alternative to Horary Astrology. I am also planning on taking the course on Elective Astrology at some future date. You can find his online course list here, I highly recommend them. I believe that it’s important for a ritual magician to be knowledgeable about practical astrology. You can also find his blog here, where Christopher discusses many interesting and obscure magickal astrological topics.

I have also discovered that my local community university has quite a number of courses available online. Of particular note are classes that teach one to be a more effective writer and communicator. There are at least several of these classes that I intend to take over the summer, since they are only $99 a class, which is pretty cheap. Classes are taught by experienced writers who also have the gift of teaching as well. Since I am very weak in the area of fictional writing, and because I have at least several fictional projects that I can’t even attempt to begin with the writing skills that I have, I will be taking these courses so that I can expand my writing ability to include not only nonfiction, but also fiction as well. There are a lot of other courses, too, and over time I expect to take advantage of these relatively inexpensive offerings. I would highly recommend that anyone who is serious about mastering the art of ritual magick should continue their education and expand their horizons. Be like me and leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of knowledge and experience.

So even though I have been a practicing magician for over 35 years, I don’t know everything, and of what I do know, there is much room for improvement and refinement. I may be a middle aged magician who is looking forward to geazerhood, but I am not yet ready to just rest on my laurels, as it were. There is still a lot to learn and know in this world, and my curiosity has not yet become sated. Hopefully, it never will.

Frater Barrabbas   

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beware of the Evil and Vicious Aliens

This article is probably a bit off topic for this blog, but it does present a point that I feel has been profoundly missing from all types of conjecture and discussions about alien races. That life in the universe may be quite horrific and deadly for us, sort of like that proposed in the movie “Alien” or “Predator.” This theme is used extensively in many science fiction stories, movies and TV shows. Even Star Trek, as enlightening as it is, shows the teaming galaxy to be full of threatening alien races, many of whom are also star faring, just like the Federation of Planets. Of course, then we get bombarded by episodes of Star Wars, which shows us how even a highly advanced galactic wide culture often succumbs to wars, rebellions, assassinations, planetary genocide, tyranny and many of the ills that plague our world today, only amplified through a more advanced technology. In fact it would seem that in these stories, people are the same as they have always been, only the technology has changed.

Now to add to all of this speculation comes Stephen Hawking, who warns us not to talk to aliens, because if they ever found out we were here, they would come to plunder, rape, pillage and kill us, perhaps even causing our extinction. I guess he is saying that we should shut down our attempts to contact intelligence life through the SETI program because a successful contact could be quite disastrous for us.

I will quote the article in which Stephen Hawking made his opinions known, which will be a series of TV programs about his life’s work, called “Stephen Hawking’s Universe.” You can find it here.

“He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: ‘We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.’

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is ‘a little too risky’. He said: ‘If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.’”

OK - so now one of the greatest minds in the 21st century is proposing that intelligent star faring people whose technology had achieved the nearly impossible feat of traveling the vast distances of outer space would act like the Scandinavian Vikings or the Mongolian Golden Hoard, peoples who existed on our planet over a thousand years in our past. If we stupidly contact them, and they learn where we are located, then they might come to plunder, destroy and murder instead of parley. The contagious image of Star Trek’s “Borg” come to mind.

However, I have this theory about how technology affects the mind and culture of a people, and that the more advanced the technology, the more refined the culture.

One might conclude that there isn’t much difference between the way we are today, and the way our ancestors were two hundred or three hundred years ago. The technology has certainly changed, but the people haven’t seemed to have changed that much. But on further examination, you can find that the culture has changed quite a bit as well. Even in the 19th century, it was a popular pastime to attend a public execution. In the 18th century those who were punished for serious crimes, such as treason, would be hanged, eviscerated and emasculated, and then beheaded, with the rest of the body cut into four parts (called Drawn and Quartering). Even the guillotine caused a massive spurting of blood once the head was cut off. Common folk who attended such executions usually found them to be quite entertaining, seeing the suffering of another person (who was usually a stranger) as just a form of high amusement. Today in the West, prisoner executions are no longer public events, and even the methods used have to be considered humane so that they don’t cause undue suffering. This would have been seen as absurd by our ancestors.

Many countries in Europe have outlawed capital punishment altogether, showing how much has really changed. One could also point to the fact that human life seems more dear in many cultures and countries than what it was just a couple of hundred years ago. Things have changed, and it is probably quite true that due to advances in technology, medicine, politics and social awareness the sanguine tendencies of our ancestors have been evolved out of the post modern world. This is not saying that terrible things can’t occur, they do! It’s just that we are no longer as tolerant of carnage, suffering and humans behaving like beasts as we were a few hundred years ago.

I would assume that if our world does indeed survive and is able to continue the evolution of technology and culture for the next few hundred years, the world might not even possess nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction at all. The world of the 26th century might actually be one that is peaceful and have eliminated all of the more terrible consequences of human existence, such as war, famine, disease, poverty, lack of opportunities, etc. Perhaps even natural disasters could be determined and mitigated before they even happened. Certainly the world would have a balanced population of human beings living in near perfect harmony with the earth. Of course, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. It would be the only way of living, where the human species had found and developed survivable niches in the world that were sustainable. I may be speculating on what the future would be like, but we are facing a lot of transformative issues in the current age, and if they can be resolved, we may very well build for ourselves and the remaining flora and fauna on this planet an ecological utopia. If we fail to do this, then we will kill ourselves off and all of the life on our planet long before we will develop to the point where we could migrate off of it.

So what I am proposing is that there is a balance between technological development and social and spiritual evolution of a given species. In this equation, technology may be running ahead of the social and spiritual development, but ultimately, all of these factors merge together to dramatically change human nature over time. The human race will probably discover that it must change socially, psychologically and spiritually at a greater pace than at present if we are to survive the next several hundred years. If we do survive, then we will have found a certain level of cultural and spiritual enlightenment to go along with our highly advanced science and technology.

To be a star faring race, we would have to evolve our science and technology perhaps more than a thousand years in the future. It might take even longer to overcome the limitations of relativity and quantum mechanics and discover how to travel through some kind of manufactured worm hole. The energy required to accomplish this task could not be generated on this planet, so we are talking about harnessing the power of a star itself. If you could imagine what our various cultures and the race of humanity would be like a couple of thousand years in the future, it might even be conceivable that we could have genetically altered ourselves, or we might be in the stages of becoming a collective conscious mind, having merged through the artifice of machine intelligence and vast neural networks. Certainly, we would have become nearly god-like in our capacity to understand the past and map the future, having the knowledge to even re-engineer the planet to be like it was before the advent of mankind. I would imagine these beings, if we could still consider them as such, to be benevolent, omniscient and evolved to levels of consciousness that only the greatest yogis or saints could have ever imagined.

Even a completely alien race propagating a totally alien technology would still have to go through these stages of conscious and social evolution that we are facing, regardless of how different they are from us, or how different is their planetary environment or genetic source. A race that had achieved the almost miraculous level of technology required for becoming star faring would also have acquired a commensurate degree of conscious enlightenment as well. If we made contact with such an advanced race, they would certainly function on a level of being that would be far beyond us. It would a like comparing a lower primate to a human being, except that the human being would completely exalted in regards to consciousness. They might choose not to communicate with us at this time, which would be wise and far sighted. Or they might decide to guide and aid us, but only in the most unobtrusive manner. What they wouldn’t do is invade our planet and plunder and destroy our civilization. While there may be alien civilizations in the galaxy that are barbaric (besides our own), they would also lack the ability to travel the stars. They would be stuck on their own world, or at most, in their neighboring planetary sphere until such a time that they would have advanced to much higher levels of technology and civilization. If they survived and didn’t succumb to self-immolation, then they would be far removed from their barbaric past.

Therefore, with these thoughts and theories in mind, I believe that we should encourage the funding and development of SETI, since if we did succeed in contacting a star faring race, they would be our salvation - like the coming of the gods in their chariots of fire.

Frater Barrabbas

Anatomy and Organization of the Star Group

This is an article that ran in the online magazine, Rending the Veil, so I thought that my readers would like the raw article before the more intensive editing shaved it down a bit.

Ever since the advent of Masonry, individual occultists have sought to unify and organize themselves into a collective to facilitate group ceremony, study and collaboration often using the Masonic lodge as a model. A Masonic lodge has temporary leadership roles and Masonic brothers are considered to be equal no matter their social status, degree or role. Perhaps this is why many of the founding fathers of western democracies were members of some kind of Masonic group. Masonic lore seems to perpetuate the ideal that all men are created equal, despite the fact that initiates and cowans (outsiders) are treated differently. Yet a spirit of egalitarianism seems to pervade Masonic organizations even to this day. This is especially true in the more basic Blue Lodge, which promotes only three initiatory degrees and a rotating hierarchy.

Grand lodges and larger aggregated organizations seemed to forgo this spirit of equality and produced a hierarchy of individuals vested with various degrees of authority and power. The “Soc Rose” and the Golden Dawn were based on this later kind of organization, and other groups, such as the O.T.O. also sought to invest certain individuals with authority to ensure that the local bodies as well as the grand lodge had a certain number of trusted individuals to maintain continuity and stability. These larger groups may have been modeled on special groups formed within the Catholic church, such as the Jesuit order. The precursor to the Masonic lodge may have been the monastery, although without the permanent authority figure of the abbot.

Today, many occult groups have modeled their organization loosely on the model of the Masonic blue lodge or grand lodge, and others have found other kinds of hierarchical organizing structures as well. Some have deviated quite remarkably from the Masonic belief in the equality of all members. However, Masonic lodges have shown themselves to be capable of extreme longevity, withstanding changing times and still operating long after the death of the original founders. Fraternity and equality probably play an important part in their endurance. 

In the various religious groups of Wicca and Neopaganism, there is a trend where a grove or coven is headed by an autocratic leader or a small group of elites ruling a larger group of novices, often with no checks on their authority and little accountability. I have personally experienced the  kind of abuses that can occur within Wiccan covens, but the fault can be found wherever groups invest their leaders with near dictatorial powers. This is true whether or not these individuals have the qualities and experience to be good leaders. If leaders are gifted and good at leading, then a kind of benign aristocracy is formed, otherwise the worst kind of cult of personality and autocracy can develop. The fact that ritual magick and godhead assumptions can be practiced in such groups makes the effects of bad leadership even more damaging.

This is probably why many ritual magicians prefer to work alone and retain their autonomy despite the benefits of belonging to a group. Many magicians may have started out belonging to some group or organization, but they seldom stay for more than a few years. Being alone and completely isolated is not a good idea, either. Regardless of the religious or spiritual background of magicians, they tend to branch out, discovering that performing magick for its own sake is more rewarding than belonging to some cult or creed.

The purpose of working magick within a group is because all magicians need peer review, objectification and solidarity, which are critically important to one’s spiritual growth. There is nothing more stultifying and potentially dangerous than to practice complex and intense forms of ritual magick in complete isolation. While working magick alone is at times necessary, a magickal practitioner should have recourse to a peer group of other magicians to balance the intensely subjective nature of ritual work. Having a group of experienced and knowledgeable friends to judge one’s work is very important. In fact, it’s probably the only way that a ritual magician can maintain balance and objectivity. A peer group keeps individuals honest with themselves and helps them to understand their spiritual and magickal processes in an objective manner.

Since ritual magicians are not common, such a peer group will be small and intimate. It may not even be centrally located in one’s own community. Because of Facebook, Myspace, blogs, email and Yahoo! groups and chat rooms, the social network of a ritual magician may be entirely virtual. Yet it’s important for a practicing ritual magician to have friends and fellow magicians who live in the physical neighborhood so that he or she may periodically meet them and have intimate conversations about various personal, spiritual and magickal topics. I maintain that a virtual community, although helpful, can never replace real social contact between individuals. Much more is communicated through phone conversations and face to face to meetings than what could be written in blogs, chat rooms or email. These same close friends will share common ideas, swap books, look over rituals together, examine excerpts of each other’s magickal journal and perhaps even perform some rituals and ceremonies together. When a loose confederation of ritual magicians starts working magick together, then some kind of group organization will naturally develop.

Rituals magicians, like many occultists, aren’t known for their social skills, diplomacy or empathetic abilities. They are usually very self-absorbed in their own practices and perspectives and they generally despise authority figures within their own discipline. They don’t like being ordered around or told what to do. They are very independently minded and probably even a bit anarchistic, eschewing any kind of formal group dynamics. So this is my question and the central theme of this article. How do you get a group of ritual magicians to function as a creative, sharing, objectifying and harmonious organization? The answer to this question is to use what is known as a “Star Group” model.

What is a Star Group, one might ponder, and how does it differ from other kinds of groups? First, a Star Group is an autonomous egalitarian collective where each member is an equal and respected partner, functioning as an integral facet of the whole group. A Star Group is particularly sensitive to the phenomenon of the egregore, also known as the group-mind. The leadership roles in a Star Group are temporary and carry little or no real power or authority. The true authority is vested in the group itself and all decisions are determined by a process of consensus.

I define consensus as a mutual agreement that for any given decision, a majority of the members of the group are for it and no one is against it. An objection from any one of the members of the group will force that decision to be either shelved or altogether abandoned. This kind of rule by consensus ensures that a majority will not override the objections of even the humblest member. All individuals are heard and decisions have the backing of nearly everyone. The person who presents the idea or direction to the group has the responsibility to sell it to everyone so that no one finds fault or objects to it. Getting a small group of ritual magicians to agree nearly unanimously to a given plan of action is no small matter, but it can be done. In fact, it must be done so that everyone feels that they have been intimately involved in the decision making process. When the group makes such a decision by consensus, the outcome is guaranteed to be satisfactory to all of the members. Leaders are essentially facilitators with all of the responsibility and none of the authority. Thus no one person can abrogate the power of the group and the equality of everyone is fully protected.

I can almost sense the eye-rolling from my readers after proposing this kind of group. The first objection is that such an organization will not be able to accomplish anything substantive if there isn’t someone who makes the final decision and acts as an overseer. Hierarchical groups seem to be more efficient, goal directed and practical. Anything done by committee is guaranteed to be mediocre at best, and terribly disjointed and chaotic at the worst. It often ends up representing the untutored whims and creative hubris of the least capable in the group. I have seen rituals constructed by committees and I would agree that they are usually ineffective. Yet a Star Group is deliberately small. The execution of consensus agreements incorporate the best abilities of the most able members.

What does that mean? It means that a Star Group is not driven by ego gratification, since everyone is a respected and valued member. Each has a role and a part to play. In such a situation, the group will vest an individual with certain tasks that they are best equipped to accomplish, incorporating other members to aid and assist them as required. People work together and cooperate jointly to produce the best product that they can. A Star Group is an egalitarian team with objectives and goals, and they work together with the powerful commitment of having unanimously agreed to do a given task.

Suppose a Star Group decides to perform some elaborate theatrical rituals that require props and even some sets. One person who is a gifted artist may produce the sets, another who is a writer would write the script, another who is a musician would assemble the music, an electrician would provide the lighting, yet another might be a costume maker and would design and sew the costumes. One individual might be chosen to act as the director and to direct the others to take on various parts in the ceremonial play. None of these individuals would act alone, since all of their contributions would be screened and examined by the whole group. Everyone would contribute materials, time, labor and money. The net result would be the combined efforts of gifted individuals working together as a group. The quality of such an effort would be far greater than what one of the members could do alone.

Would there be disagreements and sometimes heated discussions? Certainly, since that would be part of the dynamic of such a group. However, the overall objectives and goals of the group would have been set up early in its formation, and the members would be motivated to work out their differences in a peaceful and cooperative manner to get the work done. It might take longer to complete a project, but the level of group satisfaction and the quality of the work would be very pleasing to everyone.

Contrast this same effort as applied to a hierarchical group. If the leader is smart and knows how to motivate people, sensing their needs, strengths and weaknesses, then the assignment of roles may show a high degree of wisdom. It may also show a high degree of favoritism and cronyism, since those who are favored by the leader would get the best roles in such an undertaking. It would be guaranteed to be done in a lot less time, but it probably would not be satisfying to the whole group unless the leader used good judgment to correctly and accurately call the shots and make the best decisions.

If the leader is an autocrat, then the outcome of any project may be just as disorganized, poorly contrived and executed as it would be had it been done by a committee. In such a situation, the hard labor would be delegated to the least favorable members and the best jobs reserved for the favorite members. A skilled seamstress may be completely overlooked because the leader’s girlfriend wants the job. Similarly, a gifted writer may be forced to do carpentry work because the leader either doesn’t know about her skill or purposefully ignores it to favor someone else. Often the leaders reserve the best parts for themselves. When the overall project fails to be fully satisfying, he blames the least favored members for failing to do their jobs. Other members who know what is really going on will resent the leader’s biased authority and either leave the group or eventually force a confrontation. A hierarchical group may have to contend with a leader’s ego inflation, unethical conduct, exploitation of other members, favoritism, despotism, incompetence and outrageous behavior.

Of course, not all hierarchical groups are dysfunctional and certainly large groups can’t function without a hierarchy. Large groups use bylaws and formal procedures to ensure that leaders are accountable, so despots or incompetents can be removed from their positions of authority. However, we are talking about small groups with less than twelve members. In such a group the temptation to acquire and hold power over others is just too great. Magicians don’t have much stomach or tolerance for such blatant examples of hubris and ego inflation, but with a Star Group, there is an alternative that is useful and capable of accomplishing goals and tasks with everyone fully engaged. This is much more satisfying than what might occur with permanent authority figures.

The qualities of a Star Group can be summarized by the following points:

  • Egalitarianism - each member is treated equally, valued and respected,
  • Consensus - each decision is made through the process of consensus,
  • Leadership roles are temporary and frequently rotated,
  • Sensitive to the formation of egregores,
  • Authority and power is vested in the group, not any individual.

An example of the bylaws used to organize and run Star Groups in the magickal Order of the Gnostic Star can be found at the following web address.

Frater Barrabbas