Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Portends of the Coming Autumn

During the last full moon for the month of August, I slipped into my temple to do some meditating. My father was visiting me, and I wasn’t interested in doing any magick while he was there. Since way back when I was a teenager, my father has been strongly against my interests in occultism, not because he was a Christian and was offended by my occult practices and beliefs, but because he was an agnostic and nearly an atheist. My father thinks that all religious practices and beliefs are a sign of ignorance and superstition. I didn’t want to engage in a conversation about occultism and spiritual beliefs since he had long ago given up any pretense of being a believer in anything spiritual. A substantive discussion about religion and spirituality was definitely out of the question, and I rediscovered that fact when we had a brief but taunt discussion about Islam. So for that reason, I decided to let my spiritual practices become internalized and dormant for the last couple of weeks of the month.

Anyway, during the evening of the last full moon I snuck off to my temple after my father had gone to bed. I lit some votive incense, gave offerings to the various Gods and Goddesses of my personal pantheon and sat down to meditate. I also took out the specially charged ring from my HGA working, put it on my finger, recited the special magick word three times, and then meditated on the secret name of my HGA. As I did this, I could feel a powerful tingling traveling down from my ring finger to my hand and then down my arm. My ring finger and my hand felt numb with the energies coursing up and down it. I also felt the presence of the HGA come and envelope me in its powerful aura. I felt immediately blissful, full of hope, inspiration and awe. I sensed that something truly great and wonderful was soon to be revealed to me. The autumn was coming, I could feel it in the air, and with it new and more engaging magickal workings and occult discoveries. The coming seasonal change was going to bring with it many changes, all of them inspiring and profoundly good. I felt a very strong sense of optimism, renewed clarity and insightfulness. I didn’t exactly know what was actually going to happen, but I knew that it would be auspicious and monumental.

The feelings of well-being, bliss, happiness, and a buoyant sense of optimism pervaded my being for a long period of time. When I completed my meditation and took off the ring, returning it to its pouch, I still felt the positive energies within me. I went to sleep a bit later full of peaceful repose and my heart joyous at the promise of the future.

Since that evening, things are beginning to manifest in a fashion that I had not previously suspected. I was having revelatory dreams where various things that had stumped me in the past were being shown to me in their fullest clarity. A case in point is the Grimoire of Armadel, which I have puzzled over for thirty years, ever since it was published in 1980. I had been unable to use this grimoire for much of anything, but marveled over the various sigils and characters that it contained. Just the other day the whole mystery of that grimoire was totally lifted from me. I understood how it could be used in its entirety, although it would require a complete rewrite. This revelation happened in just a couple of days, and there are other ideas and inspirations starting to emerge through what must be my creative genius – something that everyone has within them, but only some can actually access. This is just the beginning of a very important time for me, and it will turn out to be an important time for others as well. While some are being affected by the supposed Mercury retrograde, I am experiencing a personal and internal awakening. There is no problem with communications, electronic devices, or anything else, for that matter.

These are the portends and auspices of an autumn and winter magickal renaissance for me and my associates. I have to admit that I am excited by what appears to be happening to me, and I am looking forward to the future. Since I am an author and a teacher, I will be also seeking to share this new knowledge and experiences with my students and readers. The very first installment will be posted soon, where I will reveal what I have discovered in regards to the Grimoire of Armadel. Many other articles and discourses are planned as well. For now, I must look deep within myself and determine the nature of the magickal workings that will occupy me for the next six months. Winters in Minnesota are long, snowy and typically cold, so there should be plenty of time to work out the details for future ritual workings, and then execute them over the long winter months. I need some time to meditate and to think some very deep thoughts without any distractions – hopefully, that will happen soon.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reasons for Practicing Ritual Magick in the New Age

The following article was a chapter that was completely yanked from my book “Disciples Guide to Ritual Magick” although I have found that it is still relevant and an important piece even today. I wrote it back in around 2005 when the nation was mired in two wars, economic uncertainty and extreme political polarization. Even though we have a different president in the Oval Office today, not a lot has actually changed. I don’t fault the administration for this lack of real progressive progress - it seems to be more an affliction of our nation and its media than who is president. Be forewarned, the following is something of a rant, which is why it was pulled from the book.

So here we are in the much vaunted twenty-first century, a time that heralds a new age of technical and spiritual enlightenment. We would expect to find a high-tech utopia, with space exploration just another means of traveling and human outposts in orbit around the Earth and on the Moon. We would also expect to find talking computers that think, particle beam weapons and hand-held laser rifles, robots and androids, and a world-society virtually clear of disease, famine, disaster and war. The fruits of automation should have made the problems of poverty and social inequality obsolete.

Yet the new millennium that has recently started has not materialized any of the promises made by the high tech prophets of the sixties and seventies, nor has it actually succumbed to the total destruction of the doomsayers of the same period. Every age has its prophets of utopia and doom, and every age is lived in the usual manner. The results of this crooked progression seem to indicate a staggering course somewhere between utopia and doomsday. However, in the present era, we are engaged in a period of change that will prove to be more daunting than at any other time. It is a time where we should approach the world and its mysteries open minded and unprejudiced if we are to ally ourselves with changes that are required to ensure our survival as a species. It is now becoming obvious that we can no longer live our lives in the banal and oblivious manner that has been done in the past, and that we need to fortuitously adapt to new pressures and plot a new course based upon our accumulated knowledge and wisdom if we want our future progeny to be able to see the next millennium.

We, the people of Earth, have entered the twenty-first century with hardly an acknowledgment that anything has actually changed in the last half century, other than our technology. We have made this lintel-crossing so distracted by the past that it is almost as if we had made it facing backwards. The proof that we seem to be regressing rather than evolving can be found in the events of any day, printed in the local and international news, seen on satellite, cable television or the internet, or even heard in the biased and ignorant pronouncements of our peers.

Thus we might appear to others outside of our troubled world. We are prone to fighting bloody wars amongst ourselves, perpetrating acts of extreme terrorism on innocent victims, practicing forms of ethnic genocide, engaging in sectarian strife, economically and politically exploiting minority populations (colonialism), living in self-absorbed shells, callously indifferent to other people’s suffering (except in the event of natural disasters, when we become ridiculously generous), and in all, behaving sometimes more like barbarians from an earlier age than a maturing planetary culture.

We must, of course, grant that only a minority of individuals are behaving in this manner and getting all the press, but the rest of us have not yet really become cosmopolitan or world-conscious, either, even though we live in an ever shrinking world, dominated by the engineering phenomena of a sophisticated science. Our world is buffeted by a media storm that produces a blizzard of information. We have become unwitting captives of an ever advancing high technology driven by avaricious multi-national corporations, whose only devotion is to Mammon. It would seem that our humanity is something that can be easily misplaced in the hurry to adopt modernity and throw out the old ways.

Media saturation has caused us to be aware of everything that is happening anywhere in the world, no matter how trivial or irrelevant, and this saturation has caused us to become cynical, cold and indifferent. Despite our startling wealth of advanced technology, we have not really changed as a people. We still can act in an unenlightened and brutal manner. These are strange and terrible days that we live in, and the utopian hopes of the future, that were so much a part of the millennial fortune telling of the sixties and seventies, seem so foolishly optimistic and naive today. The world appears more dangerous now than it ever did during the cold-war era. However, these are the stresses of a changing world; the future is still indeterminate and needs a great deal of compassion and open-mindedness to become what the utopian prophets predicted decades ago.

In such a stressful changing world environment, it would seem unnecessary, even silly, to talk about occult metaphysics, and practicing ritual magick in particular, when what seems to be needed in the world is a dire perspective of sobering realism. The study and practice of magick appear more like activities of the distant past, an anachronistic romantic belief system held over from the high middle ages, and not a cutting edge new world paradigm. Its relevance today in our chaotic post-modern world seems laughably small, and perhaps, as Carl Sagan would have had it, we would be well served to leave behind all of these erroneous philosophies and embrace the completely rationalistic world-view of science. If such a movement occurred, they say, the world would be a much brighter, more enlightened and better place.

Pundits can point to religious sectarianism and fundamentalism as the sources of what ails our age, and throw in all of the esoteric studies and quaint beliefs of the New Age with them, consigning them all to the dust bins or trash heaps of the ages. But I believe that the pundits are quite mistaken, and that the late Carl Sagan and his crowd do not understand the spiritual issues of the human soul nor its needs in these troubled post-modern times. Albert Einstein once said, "We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking that created them." Thus science and analytic thought will not solve the problems created by science, they can only be solved, in my opinion, by Gnosis.

The reason why so many people are seeking solace in the more conservative religious ideologies today is that they find themselves at a cross-roads, facing a great transition, and there appears to be no great wise men to help make this passage safely. The nature of this transition is that humanity is undergoing a major progressive shift in consciousness, although many people are not yet aware of it. Many more people live in the same impoverished and unrealized state that their ancestors endured ages ago. The steady and tenacious changes brought on by high technology are invading and changing even remote areas of the globe, overturning family traditions and tribal identities in its wake. Now that this time of change has arrived, many fear it, for many different reasons. Although they cannot understand what is happening to everyone and everything, they feel very uneasy about it and what the future might bring. Old ways of living and thinking are being altered and even destroyed on a global level, and little, other than the high tech crass consumerism offered by the West, is proffered as an alternative way of living.

We are afflicted by the loss of graceful naivete, and no matter how hard we strive, we cannot regain our lost innocence nor those times of past glory. It has become ridiculously obvious that we must change as a species in order to survive. We must fulfill the next level of conscious development that is unwittingly upon us or perish. We have entered a very dangerous period of human development that seems almost completely dysfunctional, and so the troubadours of the 60's rock and roll groups (King Crimson) are shown to be prophetic, for they called this time the age of the “21st Century Schizoid Man.”

However, modern occultism has shown an alternative perspective to these troubled times, and it dismisses them as merely the disturbances of an inner awakening. We had no idea that the genii unleashed by modern high technology, without an associative high tech spirituality, could cause our eventual extinction. This is truly along the lines of the myth of Atlantis and the rampant soulless technology that caused its demise supposedly ages ago; but ironically it is actually a myth of our own near future. We should heed this myth and learn to moderate our technological prowess with spiritual understanding, compassion and a willingness to adapt both our material and spiritual expectations to the realities of the post modern world.

Perhaps becoming spiritually conservative in these unstable times appears to be the obvious antidote to the crisis caused by this newly emerging nemesis that is slowly and subtly spreading throughout the world. World change is profoundly upsetting the various orthodox sects of the status-quo and threatening life as we know it. Yet adopting a neoconservative religious ideology is but a short-sighted solution, which in the end causes more problems than it solves. There is another way to co-opt these changes into one’s spiritual life, and that way is through practical occultism. Because unlike the ultra-conservative and orthodox creeds, the disciplines of practical occultism do not advocate narrow and exclusive opinions about the nature of Spirit, nor do they encourage any kind of dogma or religious superstition. They also do not strip away the spiritual dimension from human nature, as the secular humanists and followers of scientism seem to advocate. They actually follow a middle path, which is to include spirit with science and technology, along with personal devotional practices and techniques for acquiring higher states of consciousness. In a word, occultists represent more clearly what this new century will become in regards to religious practices and beliefs about the nature of Spirit.

The source of the chaos in our world today stems from the disintegration of the old systems of religious thought and spiritual faith. The old religious systems can’t even begin to deal with the issues of the post modern age, and human nature, being what it is, requires some kind of spiritual system of belief. So the old religious systems, as a method of self-promotion and survival, are manifesting themselves as a counter movement to the threats and fear produced by a very natural progressive evolution of consciousness pushed forward by high technology. The current world religions, many of which are now undergoing a conservative redefinition, cannot survive the on-going spiritual change occurring in the human species, and so if they are to aid us in our future quest, they will most certainly have to be represented in the future as esoteric religious systems, or they will have to be discarded as archaic and irrelevant. Surely the esoteric Christian, Jewish Qabbalist, and Islamic Sufi represent more advanced and benign versions of their faiths, as Zen, Vajra and Vendanta, represent more advanced versions of the creeds of Buddhism and Hinduism. One has only to examine the more fundamentalist versions of these religions to see how inappropriate they are in the new millennium.

In the western world there are new religions that are being created. They are derived as modern forms of ancient earth-based spirituality, most notably, Wicca and Neopaganism, and they promote the teachings and practices of self transformation and self realization. When the old systems of religion have finally passed away, especially in the West, then these new religions will be able to grow, allowing humanity to finally emerge into the dawning of a new age of spirituality. Until that time, we have entered a dark age of spiritual transition that forces us to exist in a dangerous, precarious and tenuous relationship with each other, made all the more worse by the incendiary actions and beliefs of a minority of religious extremists.

My reason for stating that these esoteric versions of the various orthodox faiths represent a more advanced, sophisticated and futuristic spiritual path is that they promote self-transformation and spiritual transcendentalism. As a people, the residents of this planet are nearing a time when the only relevant religions will be ones that advocate personal development and the fulfillment of the full-potential self, rather than sectarian exclusivity or literal interpretations of religious scriptures.

If we cannot make this transition, then the world is on the long painful path to destroying itself. This is obviously true, since esoteric religions promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and the orthodox faiths preach intolerance and sectarian strife. Although there are many cultural and spiritual differences between people living in different parts of the world, we are one species of humanity. We must learn to respect one another and live together in peace, where every person is allowed to pursue their spiritual vocation, either in large organizations, in small groups, or alone, in spiritual retreat. The old orthodox religions are unable or unwilling to allow this kind of peaceful coexistence or flexibility, so we must either evolve out of those creeds or they will ultimately destroy our world. It takes little imagination to conceive of a scenario where some extremist sectarian group would use nuclear or biological weapons to eliminate others who did not share their beliefs, or to deeply scare the rest of the world into adopting their limited vision.

It is ironic that this scenario of nuclear or biological world terrorism is more likely to occur today than at any previous time in the last century. We see today that religious extremists are involved in combating world-progress, calling it the evils of the liberal secular society, even as this very same world-progress attempts to eliminate social discrimination, poverty, disease and the devastation caused by natural disasters. These same groups, who talk of preserving the heritage of their spiritual values, also perpetrate astonishing acts of mindless and cold-blooded violence, or even worse, cause the world to quietly regress into a feudal stupor. Even during the “coldest” period of the cold war, the world was not so terribly dangerous as it is today, since in those times, sensible pragmatists and realists held the atomic triggers of world destruction. Such are the times we live in, that religious fanatics and sectarian madmen might be able to wield those triggers today instead of those cautious men in the past, who managed to avoid the extremes of the cold war legacy - total world destruction.

So it would seem that occult philosophies and practices are strangely more relevant today than at any previous time. It is the obvious long term solution for integrating the expansion of consciousness that is beginning to emerge in the human species. The progression of conscious development will no longer be something to fear, nor will it be the exclusive property of a small privileged elite. We should embrace these changes, and with the shift of consciousness that they promote, forge a new creed and spiritual philosophy for each and everyone. The direction of this movement, as fostered by the perennial philosophy, has been determined by the new faiths of the Western Mystery tradition, which has its roots in Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Alchemy, Astrology, the Qabbalah, and ritual and ceremonial Magick.

The practice of ritual and ceremonial magick represents the technology of gaining those higher states of consciousness and using them to change oneself and the world. A magician practicing such a regimen will experience a constant periodic immersion in these higher states, and this will also cause a continual transcendental transformation to occur. A regimen such as this will eventually cause the permanent establishment of super-consciousness. A practitioner of magick experiences a series of transformations that cause him or her to evolve from the normal adult level of mental-egoic consciousness into the transcendent levels of psychic, subtle and the causal states of consciousness.

Magick is the method of achieving transcendental enlightenment in the Western Mystery Tradition, as Yoga is the method in the Eastern traditions. There is also a differentiation made in the West between the path of the Mystic and the path of the Magician. Both paths use the same methodologies, but their objectives are completely opposite. We will need to identify what is the Western Mystery tradition, what is the perennial philosophy, and also define what is magick and how it is used, to prove our previous statements. The urgency of such actions cannot be said with greater emphasis - we need to change our whole way of looking at the world, and how we see ourselves living within it.

After two thousand years, we are still deeply haunted by this tenet, and it causes us to live with a guilty conscience, where pleasure and material satisfaction are somehow sinful or indicative of ungodliness. Even now we are seeing a battle between secular humanists, who advocate accepting physical existence as the only reality, and orthodox sectarians, who believe that physical existence has no real value. Both perspectives are correct, as far as they go, but also wrong, in that they both miss an important point, that the duality of spirit and matter is actually an illusion. It is the earth-based spiritual systems that bring spirit and matter together into a unified perspective, which allows for an intimate experience of spirit within nature. This appears to be the best approach for our post modern era, and if it is allowed to grow and evolve past its infancy, it will assist the West in progressing to the next great conscious evolution.

The future holds many promises and challenges, and perhaps the greatest challenge of all is the necessary change to our economy and way of life. Our economic world is based on the premise that there will always be an abundant supply of cheap oil. This assumption will prove to be false, since we have already used up all of the oil that is more easily acquired, and what is left will require ever greater resources to harvest. We will be forced to shepherd our resources in a manner not seen in our current age or the previous, and this will create a whole new spiritual perspective, too; for no longer can we use the resources of the world as if they are ours to dispose of whatever the cost.

Also, Western Christianity, particularly the more fundamentalist kind, has always turned a blind eye to ecological concerns and conservation, since what is in the physical world is devalued compared to the spiritual world. This attitude is also found in Islam, as well as other religious systems of the east and west. It would benefit the world and humanity specifically for all of us to develop a more spiritual perspective that included the ecology of the planet, so that material things are put into the proper perspective and no longer devalued except as commodities to be exploited. This also means that we will need to be more cautious about our future development, weighing the long term costs against the short term gain - something that we seem to be completely unable to do at the present time.

If we fail in this important endeavor, then the predictions of the doomsayers will come true, and our world will collapse into a post technological apocalypse. We will need to be creative, open minded, very resourceful, and visionary in order to overcome the challenges of the next hundred years. It would also seem that our spiritual perspective also needs to be adjusted as well, since the current spiritual status-quo has little to guide us in regards to the proper management of planetary resources. An earth based spiritual tradition would probably be the best solution, since it would change our minds in how we view the earth and our place within it.

Thus our world is faced with profound changes, whether we seek them out or not, and we will have to change and adapt with the times if we are to survive. It is important to consider that we will need to not only change our way of life, our manner of governing ourselves and the way that we live and make money, but we will also need to change our spiritual perspectives. The old times and their religious creeds have become spent and there is little left in those bankrupt ideologies to help us make this great transition. What is required for this lintel age are the new faiths, based on earth spirituality, and a new way of living and being. It is time for us to gain entrance into the domain of Spirit. In that sublime state we will be able to express the joy of that transition as a paean to the new millennium. Yet the tool we will use to gain that entrance will be the practice of a new transcendental magick, used to drive a new age and a new era.

Frater Barrabbas

Monday, August 23, 2010

Best of Lovecraft and the Occult Extravaganza

Many years ago, when I was just starting my college career, I discovered the short stories, novellas and novels written by H. P. Lovecraft. Since I was something of a terrible occult nerd, I consumed all of the stories written by him and his associates in a matter of weeks. I learned to love and revel in what had been called the Cthulhu Mythos, named after the great aquatic god of that dreadful pantheon of elder deities.

I already knew a fair amount about the occult, particularly in the areas of magick, paganism and witchcraft, so I understood that these tales, as fun as they were to read, were never to be taken seriously. The pantheon of elder gods was wholly made up, and so were many of the terrible grimoires mentioned in those stories, especially the premier book, the Necronomicon. That grimoire had a truly awesome name, but the various quotes from it, it’s supposed author and historical context made it an obvious fictional creation. I knew about the real grimoires from that time period and afterward. I even had copies of some of them, too. So I never got too excited about the various stories and their supposed pseudo occult lore. It was all too unreal for me, especially the deadly pantheon of elder gods who were inimical to all human life and the craven and corrupted evil folk who served and sought to bring them back. It was all in good fun (and bad taste) and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The serious occult work that I engaged in was focused on subject material that was real and historically authentic. Yet the Lovecraft stories were fun, goofy and amusing, in a kind of tangential sort of way.

A few years later, two books appeared on the scene, both reputing to be translated versions of the “actual” Necronomicon. You can imagine how dubious I was about such a claim, but I purchased these books anyway to see what all the hype was about. Of the two, the Simon version was the most interesting because its contents had been plagiarized from actual translated material whose source was Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, most notably from Babylonian and Assyrian collections. The Colin Wilson version seemed to be more of a melange of various obscure occult ideas mixed together with a lot of creative imagination (as I make a “voorish” sign to protect myself).

I even went so far as to test the systems of magick found in both versions, and found the Simon edition to be more capable of producing results. However, as a student of Semitic languages and ancient beliefs and practices, I had pretty much deduced the sources of the reputed Simon Necronomicon. It was, after all,  an object lesson in how to create a complete magickal system using various antique source materials. Neither of these books were authentic or represented any kind of “real” Lovecraftian occultism. The world of humanity was safe, at least for the moment, from being eaten and tortured by the elder gods once they returned.

Not too long after those books were first published, a system of occultism called Chaos Magick, appeared. It was based on the premise that any system of mythology could be used to fashion a magickal system, so it was proposed as a kind of “meta-system.” To show how this worked, the fictional mythological system of the Cthulhu Mythos was used to create a legitimate magickal system. I suspect that this example was used to demonstrate that the contents of a magickal system are not as important as the structure and nature of all systems. However, for reasons both absurd and perhaps even a bit ridiculous, the idea produced a cult following. Now, all of a sudden, there were a bunch of chaos magicians who used the Cthulhu Mythos as their magickal system, and of course, the Necronomicon became quite vogue again. The real point was that any mythological system could be used, but for some reason the message got muddled, and instead, there were a collective of magicians who were seriously using this mythos (and no other) in their magickal workings.

While I was impressed with Peter Caroll and other writers who were trail blazing magickal systems development with this new perspective, I was not impressed with how some chaos magicians were practicing their new magickal system. Instead of releasing occultists from hide-bound traditionalism so they could craft unique and fascinating new systems of magick, it seemed that some chaos magicians were happy to produce magickal systems based on the most absurd concepts and notions. This was particularly true for those who invested the Cthulhu Mythos with far more serious development and detail than any previous fiction writer had deemed worthwhile. These days, when someone talks about worshiping the elder gods or invoking Azothoth, Yog Sothoth or Nyarlathotep, I find myself smiling and shaking my head. In my honest opinion, there are far better sources of material out there to be harvested and used to build a new magickal system. The Simon Necronomicon is a good example, since it used very obscure but esthetically pleasing Mesopotamian sources, making it a real exercise in post modern occult creativity.

This preoccupation in making the Cthulhu Mythos into a legitimate occult system was not solely invented by the chaos magicians. Anton LaVey and Kenneth Grant got there first, with the publication of the Satanic Rituals and Grant’s later books (beyond the Typhonian Tetralogy). The ritual known as the “Ceremony of Nine Angles” was a brilliant example of taking literary sources and ideas and fitting them into a neat and tight ritual working. It’s rumored that Michael Aquino was the probable author of that work, but it stands as one of the really creative endeavors in that genre. Kenneth Grant, after writing and publishing five brilliant books on magick and occultism, devolved into complete absurdity when he published the book “Hecate’s Fountain” and its ridiculous forays into the “Mauve Zone.”

However, many occultists and magicians bought these and other books, and it became a fairly popular preoccupation. One has to look no further than the pulpy pocketbook edition of Simon’s Necronomicon to prove this point, or the recently published Necronomicon Tarot deck. Needless to say I was quite discouraged and even a bit annoyed by all of this foolishness. There was so much legitimate work that needed to be done, and too many people were spending their time preoccupied with a completely (and poorly) made up mythological system.

H. P. Lovecraft was a writer of pulp fiction stories, and not a particularly gifted one at that. What he lacked in literary style he more than made up in imagination, uniquely joining science fiction horror with gothic and occult horror genres. Admittedly, he was the first to craft this new genre, and he spawned many literary followers, who were far more gifted and prolific as writers than he ever was.

However, his literary works are still fun to read to this day, and I have turned to them again and again to amuse and titillate myself.  Perhaps one of my favorite stories in that mythos is the famous “Haunter of the Dark.” My imagination was completely captured by such plot devices as the long lost and defunct cult of Starry Wisdom and its infamous abandoned church on Federal Hill (in Providence) and the shining black trapezohedron in a golden box moldering in the darkened steeple room bell-tower. Others actually went so far as to attempt to emulate the supposed occult lore obliquely mentioned in that tale, but I just really enjoyed it for what it was, a good gripping story. Yet despite the fact that it’s just a story, the Temple of Set places great significance in the mythos and lore associated with the “Shining Trapezoid.” I can’t say as I blame them much, since that story does use some compelling imagery.

Even though I was a fan, I judged all of the various stories that Lovecraft wrote as just fiction and nothing more. Yet one group of stories did actually inspired me and fired up my personal imagination. I didn’t go off and produce a full blown magickal system from them, of course, but they did influence some of my ideas, and I fully admit that here. These stories were part of a series known as the Dream Quest, and they included the following short stories and a short novel.

These stories were not considered to be the best that Lovecraft had produced, in fact they are believed to be poorly edited, structured and rather meager fare. The short novel was never published during Lovecraft’s lifetime, and the others found their way into pulp magazines. Anyway, here is the list of stories that are my favorites.

  • The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath
  • The Silver Key
  • Through the Gates of the Silver Key
All three of these stories revolve around the protagonist named Randolph Carter, who was something of an occultist, dreamer, philosopher and erstwhile writer. He was also independently wealthy and came from an old New England family. This series of stories was not considered to be a part of the Cthulhu mythos, even though they borrowed some elements from it. Robert Bloch has guessed that Randolph Carter was a literary version of Lovecraft himself, or how he would have liked to have lived. Lovecraft wasn’t wealthy nor did he come from some blue-blood New England family, but I suppose that if he could have picked the kind of life that he was born into, he would have been a lot like Randolph Carter. The most singular talent that the character Randolph Carter had was the ability to dream up fabulous places, and to travel on amazing dream quests while in that lucid state.

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath was the singular quest of Randolph Carter, an adept dreamer and master of the dream worlds and their peculiar geography, who sought to discover what had happened to a fabulous city that he had dreamed up. He was able to briefly acquire this dream scape three times before he was denied entry into it altogether, for reasons completely unknown to him. Randolph Carter wanted to know why he was being denied entry into a wondrous city that he himself had created. In order to obtain the answer to this question, he was told that he must travel to the farthest hyperborean world of the gods themselves, and therein to petition them directly.

It’s a truly fun and marvelous tale, written in a style reminiscent of Lord Dunsany, whom Lovecraft attempted to emulate for this tale. According to critics, his pretentious literary attempt with this short novel was far less than satisfactory, but I personally loved it and it became one of my favorites. One of the most incredible, zany and all-together fun events in the story was when Randolph was rescued by an army of cats from Ulthar. He had been kidnapped and taken to the moon as a prisoner in a black galley. After defeating his kidnappers, they bunch around him in a furry mob and then leap back from the moon to their home in Ulthar, bringing Randolph with them. Where else could you find a scene described like that one?

The second of these three stories in the Dream Quest series tells the tale of an older Randolph Carter who has lost the key to the world of dreams, having given up dreaming as a consequence of middle age and the unwitting affectation of worldliness. However, he does have a dream where he is told by one of his ancestors the location of a strange and ornate silver key kept in a strange wooden box. There is also a piece of parchment in that box written in hieroglyphs of some completely unknown language.

Randolph takes the box and travels to the old homestead, which is shuttered up and in a state of advanced decay. He takes the key out of the box and proceeds to a hidden cave (called the “snake den”), which is located on the old property. Yet before he can access the cave, he hears the voice of an old servant, Benji (now long dead), calling him to come in for supper. He discovers that he has crossed the void of time and is now around 10 years old and staying at his Uncle Christopher’s home, but he still has the silver key. Benji forces him to abandon his quest for the day, so he follows him home, eats his supper, goes to bed later on, and wakes up the next morning ready to resume his quest. After breakfast, he finds the cave’s entrance and squeezes into its narrow confines.

What happens after that is not told, but the child Randolph Carter thereafter appears to have changed and has become something of a family prodigy and seer, talking about things years before they ever happened. The middle aged Randolph Carter disappears without a trace, although his automobile, the box and parchment are later found. Here the second story (The Silver Key) ends, and it was some time before Lovecraft wrote the final concluding story, with assistance from one of his writer friends, E. Hoffman Price.

The third story (Through the Gates of the Silver Key) begins with a conference held in the French Quarter of New Orleans, where four men meet to discuss the proceedings of the final breakup of the Carter estate. Randolph has been gone now for four years, and due to the urging of distant family members, represented by a zealous lawyer (who is also a relative), they meet in the home of a Creole occultist and visionary named Etienne-Laurent de Marigny. At that meeting is one of Randolph Carter’s outspoken friends and fellow visionary and occultist, Ward Phillips, the antagonistic lawyer, Ernest K. Aspinwall and a swarthy stranger dressed as a resident of Benares, whose given name is Swami Chandraputra. The story of what has happened to Randolph Carter is narrated by the mysterious Swami.

Meanwhile, in the background of the antique rooms of the French Quarter mansion that are filled with various antique oddities, are tripod braziers burning olibanum incense and a coffin shaped clock mounted on the wall (which tells no earthly time), whose many turning hands and oddly syncopated ticking marks it as yet stranger still. These peculiar elements add a dimension of the bizarre and the preternatural to the proceedings.

Aspinwall can hardly contain himself as this strange tale is spun out, since he and his constituents have waited for four years for the reading of the last will and the divestment of the Carter estate. However, de Marigny is the executor, and insists that the Swami have the opportunity to tell his tale, which he does.

The narration begins where the previous story left off, with young Randolph kneeling in the cave and retrieving the silver key that he had taken with him into his past. Using the key, he opens a portal into a world that is between worlds, residing at the threshold of the greater gateway, which is Randolph’s sole objective. In that world between worlds, Randolph Carter discovers the other-worldly guide named ‘UMR AT-TAWIL - the prolonged of life and his circle of ultra-high adepts, who welcome him as a member of their group.

Just so I don’t give away too much of the story, I will stop here. However, I can say that Randolph joins this circle of heavily robed extraterrestrials, all who are sitting upon stone pedestals, adorned with strangely shaped miters and holding long scepters. There is a pedestal reserved for him, so he sits upon it, holding his silver key as a kind of scepter. Thus mounted, he enjoins the strange rites that are now performed for his benefit.

Randolph Carter then becomes aware that he is a multiple faceted being existing simultaneously in many different time periods, in many different worlds and perhaps even different universes. Armed with this extended multi-faceted being-ness, he is able to pass through the greater threshold into the domain of pure dream, or perhaps even the domain of the meta-structures behind dreams. Unfortunately, he has left the parchment behind, which was a crucial part of the magickal process, and this creates for him all sorts of difficulties. I won’t go any further - if you want to read the story for yourself, I can’t be blamed for spoiling it. Hopefully, I have done nothing more than whet your appetite for more. (However, I was somewhat disturbed by the occurrence of Lovecraft’s not so obvious racism, since his character Aspinwall does use the “N” word in the story when confronting the Swami as a fraud.)

The reason why these stories have so powerfully resonated with me is that like Randolph Carter, I was an inveterate dreamer when I was a youth, so much so that it took me years to ground myself in material practicality. I don’t regret that lost time, since it has left me with a fantastic imagination, an important tool in the repertoire of a trained ritual magician.

The riddle of the Silver Key and what happens when it’s used has many ramifications in my own personal magickal workings and discoveries. The ordeal of the Silver Key is probably one of the most authentic pieces of actual occult lore that I have found in all of Lovecraft’s stories, although it is much adulterated with literary inventions and other aspects of a fictional work. The Nephilim, who I have contacted and communed with on a number of occasions, exist in a kind of interstice domain between worlds, and they are the guardians of a grand threshold that leads into worlds that we can only vaguely guess about. (A system of magick, called Spiritual Archaeomancy, was developed to enable one to pass beyond that threshold and enter into those worlds.)

In my opinion, the last of the three stories contains a ritual working that might assist one in gaining complete consciousness of all of one’s various facets in time and space, although the details are sorely lacking. Needless to say, this story fired my imagination like nothing else in the fictional world that I have read prior or since. I am, in a sense, searching for my own “silver key,” and I have actually managed to find clues here and there in my own magickal workings and research.

Randolph Carter disappeared from the world when he was 55 years old, so that at least gives me some hope and incentive that I may yet be able to follow in his fictional footsteps. Not that I am looking to leave this world, but I am seeking to master it and the multiverse as well. As time goes on and more pieces are revealed to me, then I may even share some of that knowledge with my readers, or maybe not. All I can say is - read the stories for yourself.

As a final note, I will admit that I did like Lovecraft’s other stories as well, such as “At the Mountains of Madness,” “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” and “The Dunwich Horror” and many others, but none of them had quite the impact on me as the story “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.”

Now that you have labored through my article and have absorbed my ideas, I will end with a quick note. You may need some refreshment, so for those who are true fans of the Lovecraft stories, may I recommend one of the more peculiar coffee drinks served at the Black Light Coffee House. I can assure you that there are many guilty pleasures awaiting you there. You can find a copy of the menu here.

Or you can just chill out with the music of Dark Moor, listening to the tune “The Silver Key,” which was thematically inspired by all three of the Dream Quest stories.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Invoking One of the 49 Bonarum

I have decided to occasionally post some of my past magickal experiences as written up in my electronic journal. So from time to time, I will edit and post one of these journal entries to share with my readers. Hopefully, these experiences will demonstrate what a real magickal working is like from the standpoint of the magician.

Back in the autumn of 1991, while I was living in Tallahassee, Florida, I performed a series of workings that invoked seven of the 49 Enochian Spirits called the Bonarum. I have classified these spirits as binary-planetary intelligences because they consist of two planetary intelligences fused together into a bypolar unified conscious entity. A binary planetary intelligence is extremely useful for any kind of magick ordeal since it has the ability to powerfully resonate with the psyche of the practitioner, causing him or her to experience a powerful cathartic clarification. These spirits also make very potent talismanic generators, so they can be used in that manner as well.

This working was part of an eight part working that invoked seven of these spirits and Camara during an intensive eight week period. I invoked one of these spirits during the weekend for nearly a two month period. Needless to say, the results were spectacular and through them I gained a lot of additional previously unknown Enochian magickal material. The full set of journal entries and other lore will encompass the second volume of the Book of the Nephilim.

Keep in mind that I am still editing and refining these journal entries, so what I am posting here is something of a rough draft. I am doing this so you can get a very good idea about the actual raw experience, unadulterated by later edits and verbal refinements.

Here are the notes from the fourth invocation in that series.

Notes from the Invocation of Beta-Nuaspeol

The invocation of Nuaspeol represented the fourth in the series of Binary Planetary Invocations. This working had all the intensity of the first, but none of the angst or psychological distress. An archetypal entity appeared yet remained obscure and nameless, its message was of greater importance than the strength of its appearance. This work consisted of the joining the planetary intelligence of Mercury to itself, so the doubling of the Mercurial energies might have caused the working to be very intense, perhaps even scattered and and disordered, as Mercury can sometimes be. However, the outcome of the working, which was generated from the the Zodiacal sign of Gemini, was neither overly verbal or high strung in its expression. In fact, the manifestation seemed very dark, bringing out the characteristics of Mercury as Psycho-pompos, the Guide of the Dead and Judge of the wicked. True to its reputation, though, this Binary Intelligence produced a great deal of information of a technical and highly occult quality. However, that information was imparted only after the invocation and its associated manifestation.

As with previous workings of this sort, the forces generated from this working were experienced prior to its actual performance, once again producing a quality of clairvoyance in the rite. The phenomenon occurred in the magickal bath, where I experienced a profound awareness that one of my female occult friends had embarked upon a path of darkness. I still loved this spiritual sister, so the awareness of this fact was quite surprising. This occurrence established that evening's fundamental issue, which is the judgement of light and darkness upon all those who travel the initiatory pathways of the adept. Unfortunately, my initial prejudice would cause me to condemn my sister's deviation from the path as negative, perhaps even as a manifestation of true evil. I prayed for her, knowing that as she both loved and maintained a personal bond with the Great Goddess, she would be saved from all harm by the power of that Deity. Yet I felt very uneasy, even afraid for her because of the change in her path, and because of the fact that I still felt very connected to her. It even caused me to question my own integrity and direction. However, what I discovered through all of this was that to judge another too quickly and harshly might well be highly prejudiced, and therefore, unwarranted. I found that I lacked a critical understanding of the darker aspects of occultism; even though some might very well judge my beliefs and practices to be dark or even evil.

These thoughts and feelings fought within my mind and emotions, and I had not even begun the invocation yet. I was still taking my magickal bath! Yet the theme was established, so what I experienced was very auspicious.

The archetypal image of Nuasapeol quickly manifested once I completed the invocation ritual, and it seemed that its spirit had already been silently present, just waiting for me to complete the process of manifestation. It appeared as a brooding shadow, a nameless darkness that was heavy with foreboding, but confident in its bearing. I realized that it appeared to act much like my own psychic shadow, but more evolved. I heard a voice speak, or rather, whisper, and I noted down what it said as it spoke. This is what it said to me.

The Power of Absolute Truth

If thou art quick and nimble, the fire will not hurt thee! So too shall the truth not hurt thee if thou dost desire to know, even for the sake of knowing.

[The Spirit was referring to an incident that occurred during the consecration of the magick circle, where I managed to dump the contents of the thurible on the carpet. A very hot glowing chunk of charcoal began to burn my rug, but I nimbly picked it up and put it back in the thurible, and then put out any residual sparks on the carpet with my hands. In all, I received not one burn, nor did the burning charcoal feel hot in my hands. Yet I held the charcoal in my fingers for nearly 3 seconds.]

Truth, truth, truth; the three-fold Truth shall baptize you in the Fire of Absolute Purification. If you are not in error, you shall not be burned, and the revelation shall not cause you pain. Thus, then, know the truth, especially the truth that lieth in your fiery heart; for that is where mortals are usually burned most terribly. These symbols, which I reveal to you, shall unlock this mystery; but they themselves are a mystery. I reveal them, but you must discover their true meaning.

You are the archetypal teacher. You have accepted this role and perform it well, inspiring others to spiritually grow and evolve. But you must become more attentive and self aware. Listen and perceive the truth in each person who comes to you seeking knowledge. Be still and come to know their soul, for their words and deeds shall assist you and whisper this knowledge to you, if you have the ability to be inwardly still and to carefully listen to others.

You should summon your Higher Self to witness a person's true will, but summon inwardly and without prejudice, then meditate in perfect receptivity. By invoking my spirit again, I shall give you the power and knowledge to communicate your true desire. Recall the ritual of the Power of Petition, and the Volition of Acquisition; one cannot find fulfillment without both, and Mercury doubled is the Key. You must be a diplomat and also a thief. If you do not seek as a strategy, then you shall not find your heart’s desire. Through this methodology you will discover the ultimate magick through seeking, finding and becoming one with the sexual sacrament in the bliss of fulfillment. This is the Food of the Gods, and as they are fed by the multitudes, so shall you be fed if you can but receive their bounty. Thus, you must ask in order to receive, and having requested your heart’s desire from the cosmos, so you shall find it. In this there is no blame, since moving in this manner you will emulate all of life.

The Philosophy of Darkness

Now I must move into the darkness to speak to you of words that are heavy with truth and knowledge; for we must always tread the dark twisted pathways of our great dark selves in order to be redeemed.

In the reality of darkness one must always be the illuminating light. This is the only law which you must follow. Even to travel the deepest and darkest paths one may be whole and yet also good as long as the secret light guides one’s steps.

The image I present to you is like the Hermit who guides the way through labyrinthine pathways, which are like the endless coils of the cosmic serpent. This lantern shines with the light of love and compassion, thus illuminating all the dim corridors of mystery and dispelling the fear of the unknown. You are a keeper of the dark-wisdom and, therefore, you must ensure that the guiding light is always lit. Remember that the obscuring darkness is a relative quality. As you have judged others as dark, so I judge you now as being such (and all of your kind as well). Be not surprised of this fact, for a wielder of the Dark Wisdom is both rare and honorable. This is a strange mystery, but you must keep the guiding lantern always burning.

In the image of the Hermit, the flame of the lantern consists of the two triangles forming a beautiful hexagram through their union,. These triangles are known as Love and Compassion, and they are the triangles of spiritual love entwined.  The triangle of Love is the realization that all beings are connected through the union withthe Absolute Spirit.  Therefore, being self-aware, in its truest meaning, is to know the love that unites everything into a singular unity; to know this love is to become one with it!

And the triangle of Compassion is the desire and the motivation to give that which shall cause the greatest good for another, knowing that such a gift will be a reflection on one’s self; through the unity of all being. This gift of goodness is given freely without any expectation of return, since it is really the greater good of all. It symbolizes a form of self-sacrifice, spiritual service and ultimately becomes the agency of ascendency.

These two triangles joined together to form the blessed Hexagram represents the synergy of these two ethical realizations based upon spiritual love. This is because love is the Star of the Light of the Spirit that illuminates the seeker upon the dark pathways. The maintenance of this flame, which is practiced as a discipline of the heart of the adept, ensures that he or she is always balanced, ethical and mature in the execution of spiritual works. This is the established discipline of the High Adept.

The light of the lamp shines out to those seekers who are prepared to open and commit themselves to the Light of the Higher Adepti. Those who are thus opened become themselves the light. In this manner, the initiation and recognition of the Avatar of Light (the Ultimate Source) begins the revelation of the higher degrees, and so the initiate steps into the worlds of spirit and the Inner Planes.

The Hermit also holds the light aloft from a distance, and from a distance it is perceived as an illuminating Watchtower (the Watchtower of the Spirit), whose shining light drives away the darkness and defends the pathways of the Mysteries. It also acts as beacon, showing the way to those seekers who are lost.

If the light goes out by negligence or even by mistake, then the bearer of that lamp becomes a creature of the darkness if that lamp can’t be relit. So if the light is not relight, since it is always easy to do so at first, then progressively, over time, one shall loose the precious alignment to the Higher Self, and thus, to the Godhead. A child of the spiritual darkness, as he or she has become, will also lose possession of his or her soul, becoming a container of empty and powerful hungers that grow more negative and self destructive as time progresses.

Only the light of truth can save a child of the spiritual darkness. Yet by this time, the darkness shall cause that one to lust for illusions and be filled with the corruption of personal power, which is also an illusion. As long as a child of the spiritual darkness is so deluded, then shall the pain of the revelation of truth become ever greater, and the desire for illusion correspondingly greater. However, the simple revelation of the light of truth can light again the lantern of wisdom, but it must be applied directly to the illusion of self-hood, the petty ego. This illusion must die in order for the self to live. Yet denial becomes to power that maintains the inner darkness, causing one to revel in blindness and ignorance.

Those who learn to delight in the darkness, who experience ecstasy in its illusions of power, and particularly those who enjoy harming others, they will transform themselves from a mere child of spiritual darkness to a truly evil spirit made flesh. Thus, they will embody the darkness and ignorance of the Archons, like the great devil Choronzon, and become trapped in the world of the flesh (Assiah), soul-less, spiritually dead, and without the hope of redemption. Eventually, even their spirit decomposes and eternally dies, giving birth to new forms from the corruption of their demise. Then, in its elemental constituents, the fragments may be used in the formation of a new spiritual being - a promise of hope and ascension renewed.

It is now necessary to continue revealing the lore of the Enochian Qabbalah. Know that the Enochian Tree of Life has 32 paths, 10 more that the Hebrew Tree of Life. The 10 additional paths are represented by the traditional Arabic numerals 0 through 9. The 10 numbers represent how the 10 Sephiroth are experienced by the individual seeker within the cycle of initiation. Keep in mind that  the five additional Sephiroth of the Enochian Tree of Life are hidden and unknown to the individual. The 32 paths, the 15 Sephiroth, and the hidden Angles (Aethyrs) are the building blocks that define the 18 dimensions of the Spiritual Qabbalah, which is the ultimate state of the Inner Planes. Your task is to enter into the dimensions and unlock their secrets.

These are the parts of the magick lore that you must devise and use to bind together the foundations of the Enochian System of Magick. There is first part that is the Alphabet of Desire of the 16 Elementals. These must be revealed to your associates, and the spiritual genius of magick shall assist you. Then there are the Seven Rays (with their symbolic alphabet, and this you already have), which represent the waves of the consciousness of being. Next in this lore are the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet and the 10 numerals of the Arabs. These are the 32 trumps of the Enochian Tarot that assists the adept in crossing the Greater Abyss. I will presently reveal to you the whole of the structure of the Enochian Tree of Life, including the definitions of the new Sephiroth and Paths.

[I then received and diagramed the entire Tree as revealed by the Binary-Planetary Spirit. This material is included in a document devoted to this subject.]

Ritual Comments

The working was started at 7:50 PM EST. with the consecration of the circle that locked the Planetary hour of Mercury on the 23rd day of November, 1991. The Moon was in the sign of Gemini, and it was void course and two days from being Full, so it was waxing. The Moon entered the sign of Cancer at 8:15 PM, but the circle consecration rite locked the corresponding astrological aspects of the previous hour, so it only  had a potential impact. No other aspects occurred during the ritual. The working ended at 11:00 PM.  Continuous manifestations occurred throughout the week, especially the revelation of the Enochian Tree of Life, which occurred 3 days after the invocation.

Frater Barrabbas

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Once Upon A Time There Lived A Witch

There has been a long tradition in modern witchcraft to spin the origins of that religion, to make it seem antique and ancient. When I became a witch many years ago, we called it the Old Religion because it was believed to be traceable all the way back to paleolithic times. Witchcraft was the supposed religion of our prehistoric ancestors, or so we thought. Most of the books published on witchcraft back in the those days had this historical perspective, and we all bought into it, believing that it was an obvious truth. Yet over time this whole perspective changed dramatically. This was due to the intrusion of real academics and historians who scrutinized our historical claims and beliefs, attempting to determine if there were any real historical antecedents to modern witchcraft. They found nothing to indicate that modern witchcraft was the rebirth of humanity’s oldest religion. We were guilty of unwittingly perpetuating an urban myth. Modern witchcraft was not the Old Religion after all.

Not everyone in the various craft communities have taken the opinions of the historians to heart. There are still many individuals who believe that witchcraft, as an alternative pagan religion long suppressed, existed since the beginning of humanity. They believe that it survived through the dark ages and the reformation until the present times. What the historians have actually found out is much more complex and a lot less romantic. Modern witchcraft is a modern religious invention, while ancient witchcraft was a system of performing magic that incorporated many cultural and religious sources.

I am referring to specific pagan religious beliefs and practices when I use the word “modern witchcraft.” It would consist of various religious practices and beliefs, such as the worship of a Goddess, God, cult initiations, communal religious practices mixed with various occult beliefs and magickal practices. I believe that this melange of beliefs and practices is obviously modern, perhaps no older than the turn of the twentieth century. Certain phenomena had to occur before individuals or small groups could consider building their own religion based on researched, presumed or even fantasy based information. It took an affluent and moderately educated middle class to produce the phenomenon of modern witchcraft. These are my opinions, of course, but let me attempt to quickly pull together some interesting facts to support this theory.

Archaic witchcraft had little or nothing to do with any kind of religion or the worship of the old pagan gods; it was exclusively a system of magick, plain and simple. Those who practiced it were called cunning folk, both men and women, and these folk, for a small fee, helped their impoverished neighbors cope with the harsh realities of life in the country. Cunning folk were almost always good Christians who went to church just like everyone else. It would have been considered quite bad not to be a Christian and work apparent miracles, since popular opinion would define that as diabolical, something a cunning man or woman would assiduously avoid. To be called a witch in those days was to be labeled a malefic practitioner of wonders, all of which would be considered works of the devil. If cunning men or women were called witches and they were not able to quell such gossip, then they were not long for this world either, since their neighbors would not tolerate someone working ill in their midst. Justice would be swift, final and quite lethal.

This is because witchcraft was considered evil magic, and witches were those who perpetrated such crimes against their neighbors. There are many folk tales and stories about witches, but few if any of them could be used to propose that witchcraft and witches worshiped the old pagan gods.  In fact, popular belief from those times held that witches were inherently evil, since they never profited anyone, but cursed and caused malicious mischief to nearly everyone. They were the enemies of all that was good, just and positive. Cunning folk were often hired to nullify the spells and bad luck caused by witches. Yet it was more likely that such individuals existed only in the minds of the ignorant peasantry, since they functioned as society’s scapegoats and bugaboos. If something bad happened, it was because of the evil magic performed by witches.

We have examples of that kind of archaic thinking in our language today. The term “stirring up trouble” comes from the metaphor of a witch stirring her cauldron to cast evil spells on unsuspecting simple folk. So witches, up until modern times, were considered supernatural beings. They could be caught and killed, but often eluded capture and identification. They could fly in the air and were the cause of catastrophe and disasters, great and small. When unfortunate individuals were captured and tried as witches, they were more often cunning folk or innocent victims who had been turned on by their neighbors. In that time of Christian dominance, there were only two theological possibilities, being a good Christian or being in league with the Devil. No one considered reintegrating antique pagan beliefs into one’s religion except the various savants of the renaissance, such as Ficino or Bruno, who wrote their scholarly opinions in the Latin language.

So for many centuries, witchcraft was synonymous with diabolism and malefic magic. That didn’t change until the middle of the 18th century, when the age of enlightenment began to pervade the thinking of the less educated and less affluent masses. At first there was a movement to classify witches and witchcraft as a form of superstition and ignorance, and to contrast that against a world that was rational, humanistic and ruled by immutable physical laws. Then those who continued to proclaim that they had supernatural powers (or were persecuted by those who did have those powers) were considered not just ignorant, but delusional and even afflicted with madness. After many years of this relentless campaign against superstition, belief in witches all but evaporated. Governments that had previously persecuted witches and executed hundreds of poor victims now repudiated what been practiced in the not so distant past as the product of mass hysteria. Finally, witches were only to be found in fairy tales, costume parties and childrens' make believe fantasies.

So how did witchcraft go from being considered a superstition to becoming a modern religion? I believe that it had to do with changing attitudes, an intellectual curiosity about the older pagan religions and a powerful dissatisfaction with Christianity, whether of Protestantism or Catholicism. This could not have happened until certain events had already occurred in Europe and the United States, and these events were:

  • A stable literate middle class (with some time for leisure),
  • Availability of higher education, all written and taught in the local vernacular,
  • Exposure to foreign religions and beliefs,
  • Disenchantment with the religion of the status quo,
  • Availability of books on antique religious beliefs,
  • Popularity of folk religions and a nostalgia for the past.

If you look at the above list, you will notice that these factors could not have existed either in the U.S. or Europe until at least the 20th century. It’s not surprising that historians can’t find any evidence of there being any kind of manifestation of a religious based form of witchcraft until the advent of the 20th century. Until the above factors were present in a culture, then it could not be expected to formulate any kind of new religion such as modern witchcraft.

If a society doesn’t have an educated middle class, then the status quo religion will dominate and prevail, since the lower class folk will be too busy trying to stay alive than engage in idle religious speculation. The powerful impact caused by a literate middle class has to be weighed as a significant factor, since books written about foreign people and their exotic religions have become available to the masses only in the last 150 years. These books, and later on, actual exposure to foreign lands and peoples, would have stimulated thoughts and speculations of a religious nature. When all of these factors are present, then alternative religions have the possibility of either being created or appropriated from other cultures.

This model has its limitations, of course, since it couldn’t be used to predict such religions as Haitian Voudoun, Carribean Santeria or Brazilian Macumba. In these cases, individuals were ripped from their indigenous cultures and forced to adopt European colonial values and social practices. The resulting melange of African and European cultural beliefs was allowed to coexist due to the economic segregation, racism and material impoverishment that was forced on these people. However, these religions are not a seamless continuation of older or antique beliefs, but represent a new religious syncretism forged in the crucible of oppression. In some ways this model is represented by the inverse of the one presented above, yet it still produced a new religion.

Another exception is found in Italy, where the perpetuation of beliefs and practices from pagan times could have survived the complete immersion of Catholic Christianity. These beliefs and practices would have involved the veneration of the lares, penates and the genius, which were spirits of the ancestors, family and the home. Italy was also place where modern people lived tooth and jowl next to the ruins of pagan Rome, representing a constant reminder of the past. These beliefs and practices, although frowned on by Christian authorities, could have endured in some of the older and traditional families and homes. In most situations minor household deities would have been replaced by Saints, who would have functioned in the same manner.

Roman Catholicism could also be considered a religion that was steeped in the pagan past of antiquity, making the Protestant claims of it being a form of paganism mixed with Christianity quite valid and correct. Roman Catholicism was a religious system that was deeply rooted in Italy, being a direct offshoot of older pagan cults. It should not be surprising that the reformation failed to have any impact on the peoples of Italy or how they practiced Christianity.

While there is plenty of evidence of the practice of magic as a form of witchcraft or cunning craft in Italy, and the possibility of the survival of older beliefs and practices, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that a religion of witchcraft existed prior to the 20th century. This is evident despite the discovery by Leland in the late 19th century of a “Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches” or the “Vangelo,” as it was called. Historians have found no corroborating evidence that the Vangelo existed prior to it being “discovered” by Maddalena, one of Leland’s indigenous informants and researchers.  It would seem, therefore, that the advent of Stregheria, or Italian religious witchcraft, would not have occurred until the above cultural factors had been met. Such factors, though, would have had to combat the powerful hold of Roman Catholicism on the people, which would have been embraced by the populous as a continuation of the older pagan belief systems.  

All of these different religions that we have talked about are new and represent the seemingly never ending process of human spiritual creativity. Do these new religious systems use anything from the older religious systems? Of course, they are actually a combination of old and new, of old rites and beliefs packaged or used in a different manner, or sometimes they represent something truly revolutionary. Often, these religions change and mutate rapidly until they become stable, which sometimes can take many decades or even a century or two.

Does the stigma of a religion being new invalidate it or make it somehow less authentic or legitimate? Not at all! In fact, I believe a new religion has many advantages over an older one. For those who are engaged in a new religion, old patterns can be broken and new methods and techniques can be attempted. I believe that modern witchcraft is just such a new religion. It may borrow and take things from many sources, some of them quite archaic, but it is new and still being formulated. I consider that an exciting and rewarding perspective. We are still in the stage of discovery and experimentation, so new liturgies can be created and new methodologies can be discovered. It is my hope that this time of religious co-creation will continue until an entirely new way of perceiving spirituality is finally determined.

To some, these revelations about witchcraft may be old news, but others may also find it hard to accept. I have expressed my opinions on this subject, but I am sure that some will passionately disagree with me. However, the historians have spoken, and continue to speak in many volumes of academic papers and books. I can’t refute their words, so I have instead co-opted them. But in doing so, I am allowing my religion to be flexible, so it can change and evolve. Perhaps ultimately it will be the final answer to humanity’s spiritual quest in the universe at large, but I doubt that as well. Religion is a human creative endeavor, and every age forges its own religious perspective and practices.

Frater Barrabas

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Passing of a Giant 08/12/2010

This morning, Isaac Bonewits passed away from the world of the living to the place of our honored ancestors. Although I was not a great fan of his writings, his books often encapsulated the very essence of issues within the pagan community, both small and great. I met him several times in the course of the years, and had many interesting and engaging conversations with him. He was supposed to be at this year’s Heartland Pagan Festival, acting as one of three keynote speakers, along with Oberon and myself. Alas, he was too sick to attend, and that was the sad truth. Isaac had been one of the keynote speakers at the very first Heartland Pagan festival, ironically pairing him up with Star Hawk. I will always remember that first event, and the wonderful wit and grace that motivated Isaac in his dealings with the mass of attendees, all 275 of them.

I recall being the facilitator for all workshops, lectures and discussion groups, and in that role, I required all of the presenters to fill out a form. That form was used to describe the workshop and the presenter, which we used in the festival brochure. It didn’t matter how well known any of these presenters were, I still requested and got the information from each on this form. Isaac had demurred to fill out one of these forms until I cornered him and made him complete it while I waited. Later, when I was examining the form, the one question that I had in it to help me determine the qualifications of the presenter was worded like this: “What experiences, training or education do you have that qualifies you to give this presentation?” Isaac put down his answer in quite a humorous fashion: “I am Isaac Bonewits” That seemed to be all that was required by Isaac to present his credentials to me or anyone else. I laughed and almost fell off my chair when I read it. I had never intended for that question to be an issue, and I guess that Isaac had sort of thought the same thing.

I also remember talking to Isaac one year at pagan festival about the recent apostasy of Bill Schnoebelen, probably some time in the late ‘80s. He wanted to understand what had motivated Bill to write all of his screed, condemning witches and pagans alike. I believe that I helped him understand the nature of the source of that criticism, so that he was able to readily dismiss Bill and his diatribes.

There were other times that I met Isaac at some gathering or another. He often showed up, representing his brand of paganism and druidism to the public at large. Isaac was probably only five or six years older than me, so I had assumed that he would be around for a long time to come. I never thought that he would get sick and die while I was just hitting my stride as a writer, witch and ritual magician.

Isaac Bonewits was a controversial figure and often both delighted and infuriated his peers. However, his contribution to our movement is both singular and profound. He will be greatly missed by all of us who are pagans and witches. Whether you agreed with him or hotly disagreed, his loss is irreparable for our community.

May the gods assuage his spirit and may he live in our hearts and minds forever.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Triangle as the Magickal Gateway of the Mysteries

“The gates of Hell  are open night and day; 
smooth the descent, and easy is the way: 
but, to return, and view the cheerful skies; 
in this, the task and mighty labor lies.”

I have previously discussed how the Cycle of the Hero is also the transformative process of transcendental initiation, and you can find it here. The fact that the twenty-two stages which Joseph Campbell assembled to illustrate this worldwide mythic template also matches the twenty-two trumps of the Major Arcana of the Tarot was a major revelation for me. As you can imagine, I have found all sorts of uses for that comparative analogy. However, my next objective is to show how this process can be integrated into one’s magickal workings, thereby acquiring the ability to trigger the process of transformation.

Keep in mind that transformation is not something that can be thoroughly controlled or contained. One can unleash it, but then it finds its own resolution. Transformation is still something that occurs practically unbidden, but often happens to the candidate when he or she has surpassed and outstripped what was known and accepted, and enters into the domain of the unknown and the unexpected.

Yet if we are to ritualize this process of transformative initiation, won’t the twenty-two stages be kind of cumbersome to use in a working? Yes, it would be quite cumbersome, plus it has the simple shape of a circle that represents a cyclic process, but not necessarily a gateway threshold. What must be done to reduce this process down to its most basic expression is to make it into an effective operational ritual technique, and this is what I have already done.

There are four major stages to the Hero’s Journey, and these are: Call to Adventure, Underworld Trials, the Cosmogonic Cycle, and the Return. If we remove the Cosmogonic Cycle from this process, since it is more concerned with the world at large and not the individual, then we have just three stages. These three stages could be condensed down to three animated aspects - the Guide, the Guardian, and the Ordeal itself. Implicit in the Ordeal are the various trials, including the final trial, which is the Return. The Guardian can represent both the threshold guardian of the entrance and the exit gates of the Underworld. The Guide represents the various helpers who assist the hero in achieving his object, both before and even within the Underworld.

So the entire cycle of twenty-two stages can be reduced down to just three aspects - the Guide, Guardian and the Ordeal. Having three aspects is not a coincidence, since they are arranged to form an equilateral triangle, which I call a trigon. A trigon has many qualities, but chief among them is that it symbolizes a doorway. If we draw a triangle and use it in the context of a magick circle, then we are defining a symbolic doorway between worlds. This is why the ceremonial magickal focus for a Goetic evocation is a triangle, always placed just outside the protective sanctity of a magick circle.

However, because witches and pagans use a system of immersion for the basis of their magick, then a triangle of evocation couldn’t be placed outside of the magick circle. This is because of the fact that anything outside of the circle is part of the mundane world, not a gateway to the spirit world. A witch or pagan either has to adopt a ceremonial magickal system so such a tool can be used, or drop its use altogether. Yet a third possibility arises when the trigon is made a part of the magick circle, and this is the solution that I choose to use.

How would this be done? That depends on the direction and destination of the gateway. If we stand in the South and face the North, then to our left hand is the West, and to the right is the East. It would be intuitively obvious to have the underworld gate reside in the West, because that’s where the sun sets, and conversely, the exit gate resides in the East. I refer to the exit gate as the “gateway of ascension.”

The passage from the West to the East represents the passage that the sun makes during the night, when it disappears from view. In truth, the earth is spinning on its axis, but from the perspective of apparent motion, it seems as if the sun is traveling around the earth. Some ancient people, like the Egyptians, believed that the sun actually traveled through an underground passage under the earth in order to appear in the East at the next morning.

If we can accept this as a mythic structure, then the passage from darkness to light symbolizes the passage from sleep and dreams to wakefulness that human beings (and nearly all animals) seem to experience. It’s called the diurnal cycle, also, the circadian rhythm. It functions as the entire basis of both the transformative cycle of the individual and cosmogonic cycle of the material universe.

That leaves the question about the other two cardinal directions. What would a gateway aligned to the North or South produce? After some experimentation, I have deduced that these two directions represent the two extreme points of seasonal changes rather than the diurnal cycle of night and day. The Southern gateway would be the gate of summer, or the summer solstice, and the Northern gateway would be the gate of winter, or the winder solstice. These twin gateways could be construed as having to do with the powerful processes of life and death, so they would be important in some workings as well. For instance, I would imagine that the Northern gateway would be important for workings involving necromancy.

We translate the West to East passage in the magick circle by establishing a trigon within the magick circle, incorporating the Western Watchtower and the Eastern Watchtower as central foci for both gateways. That leaves the four Angles for determining the other two points of the triangle. The Western and Eastern gateways would have the following structure:

Western Gateway Trigon - Underworld Gate

Facing the West from the East -
Northeast - Ordeal
West - Guardian
Southeast - Guide

The guide is to the magician’s left hand, his most vulnerable place, giving him aid and protection. The ordeal is at the magician’s right, where he may face its threats and challenges from a position of strength. The magician stands before the guardian (his opponent), with his back to East, the place of light, so he may better face the revelation of his greatest flaw and weakness.

The three points are drawn together to form the gateway trigon of the underworld, with the actual gate threshold located in the West, warded by the guardian who must be overcome. Once the three points are defined and established, the magician proceeds to the Western watchtower from the East, and before it performs the opening portal gesture. Once the portal is open, he then turns on his axis and proceeds in a descending passage to the center of the circle, where the nadir is achieved in the underworld passage and the mystery of the ordeal revealed. That mystery invariably involves joining the darkness and the light together within the deep soul of the magician. (You can find this information explained in greater detail in my latest book, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Greater Key, p. 79 - 81)

There is also a fourth point in the threefold structure of the gateway. This fourth point can be placed in either the nadir (infra-point) or the zenith (ultra-point), making the gateway a three dimensional structure or a tetrahedron (inverted or obverse). The fourth point in the gateway structure is where the process of the ordeal is resolved in a higher dimension of the self, which is achieved at the conclusion of the transformative process.

Eastern Gateway Trigon - Gate of Ascension

Facing the East from the West -
Southwest - Guide
East - Guardian
Northwest - Ordeal

Here the structure is reversed from the underworld gate, where the guide is at the right hand side of the magician and the ordeal is on the left hand, and the guardian is placed before one as before. In this scenario, the guide represents the powerful and transcendent helper who aids the magician in coming up out of the underworld. The guardian stands before him and blocks his exit because the underworld experience and its processes is incongruent with the normal waking world. It represents the greater challenge that the magician must translate the underworld experience so that it is intelligible to his waking mind as well as the world at large. The ordeal is behind him, so it occupies the place at his left hand, representing the menacing forces that he must leave behind in order to achieve the ascent out of the underworld and into the world of light.

After these three points are defined and established, the magician proceeds to the Eastern Watchtower from the West, and before it performs the opening portal gesture. Once the portal is open, he turns on his axis and proceeds to the center of the circle, ascending along the way until a great summit is achieved, where the light of a new dawn floods his being and symbolizes his awakening and total realization. The mystery has been absorbed and translated, bestowing upon the magician a powerful tool that gives renewed meaning and significance to life. (You can find this information explained in greater detail in my latest book, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Greater Key, p. 81 - 84)

The Western and Eastern gateways represent a complete cycle; the passage down into the darkness of the underworld and then the ascension up into the world of light. A complete cycle incorporates both gateways, representing the fact that transformative initiation requires two gateways, or a double gateway.

The three or four points in the gateway ritual structure are ritually defined by specific ritual actions, consisting of a number of symbolic expressions and declarations. These can be as simple as making an invoking spiral at that point and a verbal declaration. More complex operations can use a handy device called a trapezoidal cross (skewed diamond), special talismanic gate keys, as well as a formula letter, word and one of the twenty-two Trump cards of the Tarot to act as a powerful qualifier. The declaration is often an expression of what that gate node means in the context of the ritual where it is executed.

Forming a gateway ritual structure in a magickal circle while using various layers of vortex based ritual structures has a particular affect. All of the preceding ritual structures and their intrinsic energy fields are pulled together and fused into union, where the expression of the gateway represents a resolution to a higher and unified magickal expression. The gateway, when it is incorporated, formulates a unified expression of all previous ritual structures, energies and any spirit that happens to be summoned within those energies.

This is a very important feature in the system of magick that I teach, because it is instrumental in the operation of invocation and evocation. Uniting all of the previous elements of a magickal working would pull together the energies (defined through four concurrent Elementals) and the qualities of intelligence (defined through all seven of the Planetary Intelligences) to formulate, generate and manifest the targeted spirit of a given operation. This is why the third and the penultimate tier in an invocation or evocation in my system is presided over by a grand gateway, known as the Gate of Revealing.

(I also use the sacrament from a magickal mass to quicken and assist in the process of manifesting the spirit, but that’s another topic altogether.)

In addition to formulating a unified expression of all previous ritual structures, energies and entities (if any), the gateway opens up and reveals the domain associated within those fused elements. In entering into the underworld gateway, for instance, the magician also enters into the underworld domain of the associated forces and entities that are encapsulated by that work.

What this means is that the magician magickally and symbolically fully enters into the magickal world of spirits and forces, experiencing it as a form of total immersion. So whatever is invoked or evoked must be dealt with fully and completely, since there is no safety zone or place of protection where the magician can avoid being exposed to an entity or forces and manipulate it at a distance. Therefore, a magician had better be prepared for whatever he or she generates in a magick circle, since the only defense or recourse is the godhead that is assumed as part of the preparation of the magick - the ultimate guide.

So the operational use and methodology associated with the Eastern and Western gateways is integral to the system of magick that I teach and work. It functions as a technique to unify the previous elements of a magickal working, and to acquire a higher level of immersion as it opens the magician to the actual domain of the spirit or energies generated. The gateways, when used together, can facilitate a form of internalized transformative initiation, depending on the mystery presentation that is expressed and activated in the center of the magick circle.

A gateway can be a trigon structure or a three dimensional tetrahedron, producing either an inverted tetrahedron or an obverse one, depending on whether the ultra-point or infra-point are used. Each of these tetrahedral gateways have a diametrically opposed function. The obverse tetrahedral gateway could be construed as the gateway to heaven, and the inverted tetrahedral gateway would be the very gateway to hell itself. This is, of course, something important to consider when working with these prismatic energy shapes.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Family Feud

Battles royal between various factions of occultists, neopagans, witches and ceremonial magicians has been a feature and a staple of these groups for many years. Some of these disputes and conflicts have been going on for decades, some, with little or no sign of gaining any kind of armistice or peaceful coexistence. We are like a close knit but highly dysfunctional family, and it would seem that conflict occurs with little or no provocation. Factions fight each other tooth and nail, yet they are really fighting their brothers and sisters. The damage that they inflict is often deep, hurtful and seemingly unforgivable. Yet we are united by our interests and allegiances to practices and creeds to an extent that goes beyond the appearances of mere squabbling differences. Such wars only hurt the members of the various factions, others are either not engaged or merely amused or horrified at the spectacle. I often wonder as I read about these terrible wars on the internet, why it seems impossible for us to just accept each other and get along in harmony.

Fighting only benefits those who are truly opposed to us, and in the end, gives them opportunities to either mock and make light of us to the public, or to crush us with accusations and misinformation. If we could but stand together, we would have a greater collective power and say in the larger world, but alas, so far this ideal seems incapable of being realized.

I don’t have to name any names or identify any specific organizations in this article. We all know who they are, and many of us know more about the details than we would want to know. Everyone is imperfect, flawed and has failings - this is an inescapable truth. Yet everyone also has virtues, talents, and experiences moments of perfection and pure genius. I would rather celebrate the positive elements of individuals and groups - the negative aspects can be kept personal and intimate. We have much to celebrate, but we also have a lot to learn, perfect and master in ourselves.

I am reminded of a poem that my mother would recite to me as a child. She only remembered the first stanza and maybe a few lines from the last, but it was an object lesson that I learned at a very young age. You can fight your family members in the most awful manner possible, but in the end, no one wins, everyone loses.

The poem was written by Eugene Field and is called “The Duel.” I am reproducing it here for you to read as a somber consideration for everyone to note. I would love to see all of the feuds ended and the hatchets buried, but I know that human nature and the intoxicating power of the ego will ensure that this probably won’t happen. They’ll go on until no one is left standing. I really hope that my cynicism is misdirected, and that perhaps one day, we will be united by our common interests and pursuits. So here is the poem that I promised you - enjoy it!

“The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
      The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
      Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
            (I was n't there; I simply state
            What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
      While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
      Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
            (Now mind: I 'm only telling you
            What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
      Employing every tooth and claw
      In the awfullest way you ever saw---
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
            (Don't fancy I exaggerate---
            I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
      But the truth about the cat and pup
      Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
            (The old Dutch clock it told me so,
            And that is how I came to know.)”

Frater Barrabbas