A Response to Fascism within the Chaos Community

Recently I unfriended several occultist Facebook contacts. I do not regard unfriending as a particularly significant gesture, but their posts sickened me: calls for racial segregation; eugenic purging of the poor and the “stupid”; the economic futility of educating women; alleged conspiracies of Moslems and Jews… Accuse me of living in an echo chamber, but I cannot have this trash in my newsfeed. By all means suggest that I am rejecting “alternative viewpoints”, but my considered rejection of these views makes me what I am, and I will do all I can to stand apart from ideas like these.

The most upsetting aspect was not the views themselves – their reasoning was risible – but how they were being spread by people whose company I have enjoyed.

Young men operating a mortar wearing t-shirst with an eight-rayed motif.
Neo-Eurasianist fascists in Russia, led by Aleksandr Dugin, have unfortunately adopted an eight-rayed motif as their emblem.

So did I call them out in public? Have I expressed my feelings in person? The answer in both cases is “no”.

The activities of the magickal organisation to which they and I belong are private. Any political differences between members – if these existed, or, indeed, the lack of them – remains also a private matter between individuals. Chaos magick by definition is a broad church. But I have noticed how the reaction from the chaos community to these posters on-line is frequently a seemingly deliberate silence.

This ought to tell the posters something important about the on-line friends they are so fortunate to have. Refusing to challenge noisily such extreme views might seem at first disingenuous, or an abdication of responsibility, but it could also be seen as allowing the poster some space to immerse themselves fully in the belief-system they have chosen.

Typically, a chaos magickian would not engage in magickal action against a sibling – indeed, I imagine that many would not engage in magick “against” anyone – but contradicting a magickian’s choice of belief would be tantamount to this. If the principles of chaos magick teach us anything, it is that we do not adopt beliefs without experiencing their consequences or results. For instance, believing that a minority or ethnic group is conspiring to make your life a misery will simply ensure an experience of this being the case. It should be considered carefully by the magickian adopting such a view whether this is really the kind of reality he or she wishes to inhabit.

It can be no accident that the people I unfriended were male, white, and may have been finding life recently – for all sorts of reasons – difficult. Opportunities for living a comfortable and meaningful life are shrinking across the board and young, white men are confronting perhaps a sharper check to their aspirations, because formerly those aspirations were disproportionately accommodated in relation to other social groups. Regardless of who we happen to be, a question that faces us all is how we deal with frustration and disappointment. Finding an object outside ourselves to hate offers psychological relief, but at the harsh price of stranding us in a world populated by those hated objects.

Perhaps, like me, you sometimes feel powerless. Perhaps, like me, you consider yourself a magickian. If so then your life, like mine, is a means of manifestation by which beliefs can come to be realised in the world. In that case, what beliefs will most effectively transform your reality into the world you want? First, a chaos magickian contemplates this, and then makes his or her choice.

A Guide To Sigil Magick

An hubristic title for this piece, which should really be called “Boffo’s Modest Contribution To The Already Extensive Literature On Sigil Magick.” Or “Stuff You Might Like To Have A Think About In Case It All Goes To Shit.” Or just “Think On, Pal.” You get the idea.

There is material on working with sigils throughout the literature on Chaos Magick. If you need good guides to the fundamentals before reading further, you could go to Chaos Matrix or Rune Soup or Disinfo. They’re all useful.

If you’re not too daft about your aims, sigil magick works. Therein lies both encouragement and warning.

Here are mine: I do not encourage you to practise magick of any sort, and expressly warn you against it. For so it is written: speak not of magick, Clodhopper, and delve not into the arcane arts, for weird shit happens and you will lose your grip on consensus reality. You are hacking your software and overclocking your hardware. It is entirely possible that you will brick yourself, and there is no factory reset. There is only onwards, or a pretence that that weird stuff never happened, or wasn’t in fact weird at all. Which only ever partially works.

But because your old pal Boffo has been about a bit and knows a few things about the ways of people, he knows that’s not going to stop you, is it, incorrigible rogue? So back to the encouragement and warning. It is extremely encouraging how well sigil magick works and it’s as well to be warned about a few things.

How it works is open to discussion. Let me say a little about two frames for understanding (but you could otherwise go quantum, information systems etc.).

“Spirit” magick might involve calling on the deity or spirit relevant to the task, working out the correct correspondences (planetary hour, temple decoration etc.), evoking/invoking the aforementioned deity and winging your desire off into the cosmos to hatch and come to fruition with that deity’s help.

A psychological account of magick might argue that no supernatural forces are at work, and that even when shit gets really weird we are working with equipment which is wholly ours. So on that account in the case of sigil magick we are firing our desire not into the cosmos but into our own unconscious, our deep mind. And indeed, there is evidence suggesting that when we inject into the unconscious something towards which we are motivated, we expand the probability of its occurrence when we are able to drop conscious censoring (Verwijmeren et al, 2011). So on the psychological account you can arguably use a stripped-down, bare bones methods of sigil charging and not involve any deities at all and the sigil will work just as well.

But of course these accounts are not exclusive or incompatible. You might believe in the ontological reality of your favourite god/goddess. You might not. When Gabriel and I evoked Thor and got the only roll of thunder that evening at the conclusion of the working, that’s a good moment whether or not you believe in the objective existence of the Norse pantheon (when we nearly wet our pants while evoking spirits of place out in the woods at night, that was also a moment. Contrary to the reputation of a lot of chaos magicians, we banished properly that night).

Just as the presence of a helping relationship seems to potentiate a rich array of placebo responses (Czerniak et al, 2016; Price et al, 2008), the theatre of magick, its setting and accoutrements, can potentiate the workings of the unconscious. And what’s “The Unconscious,” anyway? A linguistic device to encompass phenomena and experiences, and the way you define it (it’s all narrative, kids) will funnel your experiences of “unconscious” phenomena .

Thus you might believe that we can contact a divinity that is beyond us or you might believe that we have archetypal godforms within us, a capacity for an experience of the numinous into which tales of gods and goddesses fit like a key into a lock. For our purposes here it does not matter in terms of effectiveness, but the different beliefs will give your workings different hues. Choose your beliefs accordingly.

So we’re back to encouragement and warning. Be careful. If you evoke a godform or spirit to charge and launch a sigil, you are invoking that phenomenon into the deeper strata of your psyche. This might be a good thing if you have a commendable aim and have chosen your godform wisely.

These putative mechanisms are very good reasons not to use sigils for less than positive purposes or deploy in their creation entities whose attitude towards you is less than wholesome. Do not, for example, enlist a denizen of the Goetia to enslave someone to your sexual desires. If you are considering such workings, be aware that, apart from the ethical impoverishment of such actions, the process will pollute and debase you even further than you have already become polluted and debased in wanting to bring about such effects. Put simply, do not be a shoddy creep. Entreating a powerful goddess, who has the erotic flavour for which you aim, to help you develop an erotic allure more generally, might be more the ticket.

Further, because mechanisms are unclear and possibly variable, formulate your intent as tightly as possible. If your intent prior to sigilisation is “It is my will to have a penis as large as a horse,” you are opening up a world of potentially unwelcome possibilities. You might land an appendage which makes you the talk of the gym locker room, but that might be because it’s swollen to equine dimensions after dropping a dumbbell on it. Remember also, insatiable wretch, that there are ways to have a penis as large as a horse that the phrase “eye-watering” will not encompass. Am I making myself clear about formulation of intent (cf. Gabriel’s previous post on the monkey’s paw effect)?

You are limited only by your imagination and any risk assessments you do. Get your ethics and your formulations sorted out and it’s playtime.

References

Czerniak, E., Biegon, A., Ziv, A., Karnieli-Miller, O., Weiser, M., Alon, U., Citron, A. (2016) Manipulating the Placebo Response in Experimental Pain by Altering Doctor’s Performance Style. Frontiers in Psychology. 7: 874, 1-10. Retrieved at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4928147/pdf/fpsyg-07-00874.pdf

Price et al (2008) A Comprehensive Review of the Placebo Effect: Recent Advances and Current Thought. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 59:565-590.

Thijs Verwijmeren, Johan Karremans, Wolfgang Stroebe, and Daniel Wigboldus (2011) The workings and limitations of subliminal advertising: The role of habits. Journal of Consumer Psychology, Volume 21, Issue 2, 206–213

Desire Paths, by Roy Bayfield

I read a book called Desire Paths by the psychogeographer and poet, Roy Bayfield, and I keep returning to the following passage:

If I was the most important element of the landscape, if everything revolved around me, then the growth of blanket weed in the canal, the fading paint on the narrowboats and the additions of graffiti on the underpass would have been measured to quantify my absence. The St. George flags on the new canalside apartments would be there to celebrate my slain dragon. But none of these things were the case so we were free to just walk and notice: meadows visible through the hedges; a heron, with a whole fish in its neck; features of rail and canal architecture collapsing into the natural environment; empty chairs at the back of a factory. (Bayfield 2016: 22)

A trodden track branching off from a formal pathway
Desire Paths, by Roy Bayfield (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2016)

I admire the way he combines magick, art and spirituality. The book is a nexus of all three. This passage shows how he achieves it: a delicious letting-go of any sensible, central I.

It is because none of us is at the centre that we really are free. Things are never more themselves when unmeasured in relation to us. Letting drop the urge to find ourselves in everything is a hallmark not just of psychological maturity, good poetry, and meditative practice, but also – evidently – of Bayfield’s unique flavour of psychogeography.

Accompanying him in his enchantments of meaning from space and place is a vicarious and intense magickal pleasure.

 

The Moving Finger Writes

It began with a dream, of standing with a woman at twilight on a grassy bank. Beneath us, a cold black river flowed. The grass and foliage were wet and the water looked icy. The light was fading fast. Although the woman looked like no one I could name, there was a sense she was my mother. There was also a feeling I was in a sexual relationship with her.

Without warning she jumped from the bank and entered the water with hardly a ripple. A few bubbles floated up. She was safely beneath, holding her breath. I wondered how she could survive such a plunge and remain beneath the water. The thought came that I should do the same, but I knew there was no chance I would survive.

I started to come awake slowly, then, and although I did not see this in the dream, there was an overwhelming feeling I had jumped. I felt I could not breathe. The realisation broke that I was drowning and, indeed, that I had drowned.

Afterwards, I could not easily discern whether the woman was a symbol, or a spirit with an intentionality all her own (an undine, maybe, or a lorelei) or perhaps a shadow aspect of myself.

To decide how to read her, it seemed that a ritual was required.

First, I made a drawing of some impressions from the dream, simply to create an image that might connect me to her. Next I made a simple sigil, which I placed inside a luminous plastic glove purchased from a novelty shop. Our statement of intent: It is our will that the woman from Gabriel’s dream will be evoked into this glove, and only into this glove, so that she might communicate with us through the medium of drawing and writing.

Boffo was on hand to place me under an hypnotic trance. Contrary to appearance, Boffo is very proficient; he also made a video record of the proceedings.

Deep in trance, the glove glowing eerily in the dark, the entity took up marker pens and over the next half hour produced seven sheets of marks and messages. Immediately after, we were no clearer on her nature, but the ritual had limited whatever she was conveniently to the glove, and – having given the entity license to depart – this we happily disposed of in the waste-paper bin, banishing thoroughly afterwards.

I AM YOUR CHILD IN YOU. FALL FOREVER DOWN INTO THE WORLD WITH ME FOR I AM NOT OF IT AND WILL NOT FILL THE WATERS OF YOUR HEART.

YOU LIVE IN ME HERE. I AM THE GIRL THAT SWAM IN WATERS. ME, THE MOST TERRIBLE LIAR OF LIFE IN YOU.

THE CAPTURE WILL WITHSTAND THE NIGHT INTO URNS AND WATERS. FOR NIGHT IS THE ONLY ASPECT OF WHAT MAY FOLLOW SOON ON THE HEELS OF TIME. FOR NIGHT AND OVERSPREADING NIGHT: THIS IS ONLY WHAT MAY BE.

THANK YOU FOR SAYING THAT YOU FEEL ME IN YOU. I AM GOING. YOU WILL FEEL INTO ME THE LOVELY SILENCE.

  • Crayon image of woman beside black water.
    Impressions from the dream.

The deciding factor in determining her nature proved not to be the contents of her messages, but rather what happened further to the ritual, because another dream came that night.

There was a sense that I worked on a team producing foodstuffs, into which I was putting offal from human corpses. I knew this was wrong, but it was the easiest thing to do, and the only method I knew. I had neither the knowledge or skill required to do the job properly. The company and my colleagues all turned a blind eye to what I was doing, but I woke with a sense of having put something filthy and defiling out into the world.

But then, getting up from this dream to meditate at the foot of the bed, a goddess appeared. She was a woman of about 30 years of age, bald-headed, with a vivid gaze that froze my mind in an overwhelming impression of pure sentience that felt neither mine nor hers. There were no words. It was as if her gaze were unmoving, inescapable, because her gaze was my gaze, and each was arising mutually from the other, both entwined inseparably in each and by this means enduring to the end of time.

I realised that the woman in the first dream had been a shadow aspect of Self, which the ptomaine-like poisons of my mind had prevented me from seeing clearly, until the second dream enacted their ejection into the world.

The immorality of my actions in the dream symbolised what might be seen as a crime against Self, but the dream itself was an atonement for this. What initially could express itself only in symbolic terms of sex, motherhood and drowning was then able to appear in a less dualistic form.

The entity addresses her own distorted appearance in the description of herself as: ‘the most terrible liar of life in you’. She states explicitly that she is not of the world, and that even though ‘you live in me here’, yet ‘I am your child in you’; or, in other words, we each mutually give rise to the other. In the rest of what she says, ‘night’ seems to refer to my ignorance of what she really is, and ‘water’ is our mutual immersion in each other, which was my drowning in the first dream. The reference to ‘urns’, in which human remains are interred, is an interesting prefiguration of the second dream: she seems to be saying that images of corpses and drowning are displays of ignorance (‘night’), yet also the means (‘capture’) by which ignorance can be bypassed. And the last line of her farewell is an explicit prediction of the meditation vision: ‘You will feel into me the lovely silence.’

So who was she?

The one who makes perfect sense.

The Ethics of The Chaos Protocols

Gordon White is now a major influence within chaos magick. I recently finished reading his latest book, The Chaos Protocols: Magical Technicques for Navigating the New Economic Reality.

It does not happen often, but I was offended by this book. Most of all, by the part where White presents a version of The Bornless Ritual (cannily retitled ‘The Headless Rite’.)

I have no problems with the ritual. However, White suggests that, consequent to its performance, “family-owned houses have sold for over a million dollars” and “I have had […] job offers from out of the blue without even an interview, from the world’s most desirable company” (White 2016: 72).

In western magick, the Bornless Ritual has been used to protect Goetic magickians from harm. It has also been employed to invoke the “holy guardian angel”. But White appears to regard it as a suitable vehicle for wealth magick (73).

There was much in the book I found inspiring, particularly the analysis of the world economic situation. But, despite admiring White’s genuinely devastating portrayal of how ‘the rules of this world were simply not built for your benefit’ (6), I deplore his proposed solution. And I have been puzzling ever since over the offence that this style of chaos magick provokes in me.

The Chaos Protocols by Gordon White.
The Chaos Protocols, by Gordon White.

Offence stems generally from holding beliefs too rigidly. So what justification have I, as a supposedly belief-shifting chaos magickian, admitting to an experience of offence? I hold the view that the importance we place on the results of our magick reveals something about our nature. Yet White regards as a “dangerous illusion” (54) the perspective that magick is a teleological or developmental process. His view is that we do not and cannot know what we really want (our ‘True Will’) because no such thing exists.

Despite forgoing the notion of will, this seems a fundamentally Nietzschean moral outlook. It is indeed an enlivening critique of the sadly compliant muggle who assumes the good life is attained merely from obeying societal rules. However, “the life’s work of a chaos magician”, concludes White, is “fine-tuning probabilistic dials for fun and profit” (136), which (to anyone who has seen The Wolf of Wall Street) might sound more like a memoir of a stockbroker than a mage.

White assumes a disparity of wealth between himself and his reader. “[Y]ou would not be reading this book because you would already be wealthy”, he jibes at one point, although he credits that I might “be reading it on the deck of your super-yacht in Croatia” (135). In the course of dispensing further careers advice, he proffers: “which option has even the tiniest chance of you owning a network of old folks homes and retiring to a private island?” (165), as if this were a self-evidently laudable aim.

Is this really a book about chaos magick? Maybe it is, because White’s tone perhaps reminds us of the kind of political opinions that Peter Carroll frequently expresses on his blog. (Carroll must despair of the leftist, socially-conscious and wealth-indifferent folk who – in my experience – form the majority of those involved in the contemporary chaos current.) Yet, unlike Carroll, White seems a little uncomfortable with his own views. At one point he laments: “no one explains to you how difficult it is to demonstrate enough personal success to justify taking up the reader’s time without sounding like an appalling person in the process” (179).

Maybe this was an insight that should have given him greater pause for thought because, evidently, like most, White wants to be a good person. To be seen as good implies that goodness is indeed something that others recognise and share. “[T]he fundamental form of human relationship”, writes Alasdair MacIntyre, following Aristotle, “is in terms of shared goods. The egoist is […] always someone who has made a fundamental mistake about where his own good lies and someone who has thus and to that extent excluded himself from human relationships” (MacIntyre 1985: 229).

One of the most pernicious effects of globalised capitalism is its atomisation of society. Whatever the latest technology, convenience or working practice, it seems always at the expense of human relationships. White wants to dance his own dance, and yet it seems to be very much to capitalism’s tune.

White strongly advises the magickian to uproot from his or her community and follow the money: “Refusing to move is taking the position that you will make do with the reduced or entirely absent opportunities in the area where you currently live” (White 2016: 163). Rather than finding ways to develop honest and direct relationships with others (and with ourselves), he advises: “you will need to be very good at compartmentalisation” (169), and to deal with the psychological consequences of this alienation: “If you want to complain about people, get a therapist” (169). While some might regard this as the chaos magickian bucking the system, it looks suspiciously to me like self-centred quietism. I can hear capitalism laughing at us… Or, at least, I think it is capitalism that I hear…

A threatening demon appears before Doctor Faustus.
You picks your paradigm. You pays your price.

White’s fundamental egotistical mistake is perhaps due to the underlying magickal model he adopts in the book: the deal with the devil (or trickster). “You will get nowhere in magic or in life”, he suggests, “without a robust relationship with the Lord of the Crossroads” (106). Yet, ever since Doctor Faustus, it is clear that anyone who enters into such a deal loses their soul. As in goetic workings, where the magickian expects to be screwed if the spirits are given leeway, so the signatory of the midnight crossroads pact must recognise that their soul is necessarily forfeit. This is simply the consequence of entering into that magickal model.

But I suspect that, in his rejection of the concept of “True Will”, White assumes he has no soul in the first place to lose. However, this exempts no one from the conditions of that magickal model. This is the error, I think, that accounts for the ethical vacuity of The Chaos Protocols, despite its perspicacity in so many other respects.

Either White assumes that his soul is not worth saving, or by assuming he has none to lose he is attempting playing a trick on the trickster, and in the process identifying with that from which he hoped to extract a bargain. But in this way he simply swindles himself; he ends up doing the devil’s work, instead of the devil doing his.

This was the source of my offence, I realised: the lack of importance placed on the development of the soul. If that really plays no part in chaos magick, then neither can I.

References

MacIntyre, Alasdair (1985). After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory. Second edition. London: Duckworth.

White, Gordon (2016). The Chaos Protocols: Magical Techniques for Navigating the New Economic Reality. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn.

Sex and Gender on the Subtle Planes

Kali is a woman. Jupiter is a man. Athena is a virgin, but obviously a woman. Loki is sometimes transsexual, but he is a “he”, a man. Angels are asexual, but are also masculine. Baphomet is … what, bisexual, hermaphrodite, something, yet in a masculine way, right? He, Baphomet. At least, that was my unquestioning assumption, until one day the insight arose in me, that Baphomet is not a man.

baphometThe spirits are just as diverse in their sexuality as we are, and gender, grammatical and otherwise, is just as complex an issue on the subtle planes of existence as it is on our mundane one.

Instead of boring my readers with a long essay on sex, gender, their distinction, and their interplay and dynamics, here is a magical exercise inspired by an online Gender workshop (not magical) which I came across a few years ago. In preparation for the following working, I suggest at least scanning parts of this workshop, to get into the right mood.

  1. Design a gender neutral sigil. Take your time, this is tricky, and it is also part of the exercise. Once you are satisfied, set it up in your favorite ritual space. Altar. Coffee table. Whatever.
  2. Banish as follows: Think of an attractive person, notice the gender you attribute to them. Now deliberately “drop” the gender attribution by saying aloud (or thinking) the words “what a beautiful human being”. Notice the change in attitude and interest this brought about. Make a sweeping gesture to spread this new attitude all around.
  3. Speak out loud: “It is my intention to communicate with a truly gender-neutral spirit now.”
  4. Meditate in whatever posture you like, first staring at the sigil, then after a while closing your eyes and keeping your focus on the afterimage of the sigil until it fades. After some time, usually around ten to fifteen minutes, you will have had a vision or a reverie, or engaged in some other form of communication with the truly gender-neutral spirit whose sigil you created. Observe their appearance, visual or otherwise. Discuss a gender related subject with them. This is where having read parts of the previously linked online workshop is very useful.
  5. When you are done, thank them and inhale then exhale deeply a few times.
  6. Banish by doing a mildly sexual gesture, such as the sign of the fig or an erect middle finger, in the four cardinal directions.
  7. Write down what you remember of your exchange with the spirit. Or, if you prefer, keep a recording device running during your meditation and dictate your experience to it.

Reviewing the recorded material is very revealing. The spirit is truly gender-neutral, therefore any discernible gender in their appearance must be on the part of our perception. This will make previously unnoticed preconceptions and stereotypes visible, for instance how I used to think of Baphomet as masculine.

Cronos and the Tyranny of the Normal

Jung understood the rise of Nazism in terms of the emergence of an archetype: the god Wotan (Jung 1970).

At a seminar where this was discussed a skeptical participant enquired, “If Wotan was responsible then where was he?”

“He was simply in the air at that time, in the landscape, the rivers, the trees,” another participant answered.

“But the trees and rivers didn’t join the Nazi party,” the skeptic rejoined.

The skeptic’s error is to suppose that archetypes provide a causal explanation. Of course, they do not. But they may illuminate the reasons for events, because whereas causes reside in material reality, reasons lie within the reality of human understanding.

What can offer a more convenient means for apprehending huge-scale shifts in behaviours and attitudes than the notion of a god? So in this sense, I propose, we are in the grip of an archetype at least as strong and malevolent as Wotan. Presently we are governed by the acolytes and ideology of Cronos, that baleful deity who passes also by the name Saturn, and his associated images of Old Father Time and the Grim Reaper.

Cronos was the son of the first god, Uranus, himself the son of Chaos and Mother Earth. The first distinctive act of Cronos was to depose his father by castrating him. Yet after assuming power it was prophesied that Cronos would also be deposed by his son. To maintain his position, Cronos ate his children as soon as they were born. The tactic served him well until the birth of Zeus, for whom a stone was substituted that Cronos unwittingly ate instead. Zeus was raised in secret and, when fully grown, administered a potion to Cronos that made him vomit up all the brothers and sisters he had swallowed.

Perhaps there is a specific prophecy in the version of the myth penned by Robert Graves, wherein Cronos and his supporters are “banished to a British island in the farthest west” (Graves 1992: 40). The enduring presence of Cronos in this part of the world might account (non-causally) for why we live in times of such acute anxiety regarding those who prey upon children.

Prominent politicians and figures in the entertainment industry have been exposed as prolific abusers of children. We are tormented by a suspicion that this abuse could be endemic, perhaps institutionalised within the highest strata of our society. Yet the serial resignations of the Chairs of the Independent Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (2016), the non-government enquiry set up to investigate these claims, suggests also a curious powerlessness to expose the truth.

An old man bites into a baby's chest.
The times we live in? ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’ (1636) by Peter Paul Rubens.
Additionally, our economy perpetuates exploitation of the young (Elliott 2016). They have lost the free access to education and stable employment enjoyed by older generations, who – whilst living ever longer – augment their share of wealth at the younger generation’s expense.

The distinguishing trait of Cronos is his grip on the present by retarding and denying both life and power to whatever might dare to succeed him. We see this attitude also in corporations that cling to profits even whilst cognizant of the harm they do, and even when in possession of means to act more benevolently. The manufacturers of excessively sugary foods are acolytes of Cronos. So too, the fracking industry, which clings to fossil-fuels, denying the ascendancy of renewable energy sources.

There is justification for conservation of the current good. Sustaining the present can provide stability and peace. But Cronos personifies how this slips into tyranny when the ruling order perpetuates itself purely on the basis that that is what it is. No longer is this conservation, but instead the prevention of the future from being born.

The gods interact with but transcend the psychological realm. The machinations of Cronos are visible in the economy, politics and culture. Yet Cronos is what he is, and is not any of the manifestations of himself. We cannot ask why Cronos is this way, because in the nature of a god is no gap, unlike the gap that intervenes in human experience between our consciousness and nature.

Cronos simply is, but for a human being to become his acolyte requires an alienation from nature, one that supplants the protection and honouring of our future and offspring with a desire to despoil, exploit and limit. Cronos is pervasive because he slips easily into the consensus. We assume there must be good reasons for things being the way they are. The way things are is what feels normal. But what if the reasons for normality are really not good ones at all? If only a few reap the full benefit from things the way they are, can that be a good reason? If not, then what is normal is irrational and sick. The myth of Cronos is the violence and madness that can come to underpin the semblance of normality.

The psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas was the first to identify what he called ‘normotic’ illness, which “is typified by the numbing and eventual erasure of subjectivity in favour of a self that is conceived as a material object among other man-made products in the object world” (Bollas 1987: 135). Such a person is “someone who is abnormally normal. He is too stable, secure, comfortable and socially extrovert. He is fundamentally disinterested in subjective life” (136). The normotic personality “is alive in a world of meaningless plenty” (137).

The normotic is an acolyte of Cronos because his flight from nature, from his soul, is underpinned by the dominant discourse, materialism, which avers that we are exclusively physical organisms, separately adrift in a meaningless universe. This is considered a normal way of looking at life. But no one could give this idea credence, and it would not have required the acumen of Bollas to sniff out the normotic’s pathology, were it not for the fact that so many already believe in and shore up this view.

Some pills brand-named 'normotic'
The sickness of the consensus reality. Just keep taking the pills…
Cronos’s dead hand is evident also in Bollas’s account of how a normotic individual is created by a parent systematically disowning the subjective, imaginative nature of their child. Where this succeeds it is because both parties are disposed to becoming normotic, which causes Bollas to speculate whether “the child’s disposition to be emptied of self reflects his own death drive” (143). The death drive is a nebulous and controversial notion. An understanding of it might be gained from looking up the meaning of Saturn in western occultism (U∴D∴ 2005: 114) just as much as from reading Freud. But, in any case, Bollas describes how: “Parent and child organize a foreclosure of human mentality. They find a certain intimacy in shutting down life together” (143).

The creation of a normotic individual entails a type of abuse that hides its perversion behind a guise of normality. The normotic parent creates a normotic child by taking Cronos as a role model and consuming the child’s soul before that soul can be born. Bollas remarks how: “It is indeed striking how this [normotic] person seems to be unborn. It is as if the final stages of psychological birth were not achieved and one is left with a deficiency [… in] that originating subjectivity which informs our use of the symbolic” (140-1). Without either soul or the capacity to use symbols, the normotic becomes the antithesis of a practitioner of magick.

Sermons to the Unborn was a title that sprang fully-formed from the mind of Bonhomme. At the time it sounded right, but I feel I am only now beginning to understand why. Our sermons on this blog are addressed to the unborn, the acolytes of Cronos. And our impossible mission is to preach to those least equipped to hear.

References

Bollas, C. (1987). The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. London: Free Association Books.

Elliott, L. “Millennials may be first to earn less than previous generation – study”. theguardian.com (accessed August 26, 2016).

Graves, R. (1992). The Greek Myths. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Independent Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. “Professor Alexis Jay OBE becomes Chair of the Inquiry.” iicsa.org.uk (accessed August 26, 2016).

Jung, C.G. (1970). Wotan. In: Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol. 10, 179-193. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Frater U∴D∴ (2005). High Magic: Theory and Practice. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn.

Saving Albion

After the referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU, I was concerned about what it signified about us as a people and what unpleasantness might follow, as much as I was about the result.

Sure enough, the result gave the green light to every Nazi mouthbreather in the land in following the liars, hypocrites, fascists and Little Englanders of the Brexit campaign out into the sunshine to spread their poison. There was every chance that England would drag the rest of the British Isles into the mire.

Apart from gloom and impotent rage, both, I believe, very ready and understandable responses to such a situation, I was casting around for things to do about it. What difference could I, a lowly, jobbing Chaos magician, raised on offal and coal smogs, make to these circumstances?

Then, out of the gloom and demoralisation, interesting things started to happen. On the bus into work (neither a magic bus nor a cat bus, sadly, just an ordinary bus, but click on the picture to see, with thanks to Hayao Miyazaki, the Magic Cat Bus)…

Totoro-Catbus

…I was reading about St Nicholas of Torentino, 13th Century ascetic and badass, in Gordon White’s excellent recent book The Chaos Protocols (if you buy one chaos magick book this year…). This particular St Nick made it his mission to shepherd the souls about whom everyone else had forgotten. Onwards to the Anima Sola phenomenon, the Lonely Soul awaiting deliverance…

animasola

…and the Anima Sola prayer. It was a good bus journey.

My first session that morning began with my counterpart declaring, “England is a broken soul.” He went on to raise the question of what happens to the souls who no-one remembers or cares about, and who need rescue. Coincidence? Let’s say synchronicity. The air thickened, as it does when magick is abroad.

A focused hypnogogic excursion guided me towards Hermes, herald of the gods and psychopomp, as an additional change agent needed to lead England out of this life cycle and into the next phase.

And so after a reconnaissance Gabriel and I set out one evening for a sunset procession on one of England’s old Corpse Roads. We processed from the start of the corpse road (an old coaching house) to its end (an old Norman church on an ancient site), to an improvised altar on which to fix our candle for the anthem and closing prayer. We processed for an hour as night approached, chanting the Anima Sola prayer in turn, and arrived at the church just after dark.

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On arrival at the church we lit our candle on the altar, sang Jerusalem, said the closing prayer, put the candle out and Gabriel said “It is done.” At which point the lights came on outside the church, which had hitherto been in darkness. Plainly someone inside the church, but it was one of those moments.

It so happens that Gabriel and I were born in England, but that is not a prerquisite. Wellwishers from other parts of the British Isles, Europe and the rest of the world are welcome to help. She’s your Albion too, and she needs all the help she can get at the moment. The emphasis throughout is on the will of the ordinary citizen to affect change. It’s not going to be the politicians who get us out of this one. It never is, is it?

Things you will need

  • a candle and means to light it
  • recordings of Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland and Jerusalem by William Blake, set to music by Hubert Parry
  • Storax oil for anointing the congregation

How to do it

Congregate at the start of the Corpse Road/Ghost Road or equivalent.

The Gathering

The congregation gathers and Fanfare for the Common Man is played

The Statement of Intent

The congregation recites:

“It is our will that our Albion is healed.”

The Opening

The congregation recites:

“Albion, hear us! It is our will that you are healed through our prayers!”

Celebrant 1 reads Orphic Hymn 57 to Chthonian Hermes, Celebrant 2 anoints the People with Storax oil.

“To Hermes Khthonios, Fumigation from Storax.

Hermes I call, whom fate decrees to dwell near to Kokytos, the famed stream of Haides, and in Ananke’s dread path, whose bourn to none that reach it ever permits return.

O Bakkheios Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysos, parent of the vine, and of celestial Aphrodite, Paphian queen, dark-eyelashed Goddess, of a lovely mien; who constant wanderest through the sacred seats where Haides’ dread empress, Persephone, retreats; to wretched souls the leader of the way, when fate decrees, to regions void of day.

Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumberous rest the weary eye; for Persephone, through Tartaros dark and wide, gave thee for ever flowing souls to guide.

Come, blessed power, the sacrifice attend, and grant thy mystics’ works a happy end.”

The Procession of the People

The congregation chants the Anima Sola Prayer as they process:

“Hear ye O Mortals, the lament of an imprisoned soul, alone and abandoned in an obscure dwelling.

O Lone Soul, a soul of peace and of war.

Soul of sea and of land, I desire that all that I have lost be returned.

O Souls, you who are alone and abandoned, I accompany you in your grief. Pity upon you I have, for I know of the grief and suffering you must endure within your harsh and long imprisonment. I offer you this prayer and glass of water because I desire to lessen your pain and quench your thirst.

Sad Soul, Alone Soul, no one calls you, I call you. No one looks for you, but I seek you out. No one loves you, but I adore you. No one remembers you, but I keep you in my heart.

I offer you this lit candle so that you may find your way into the light.

In this moment I offer to you my meritorious labour, and all that I have suffered, suffer and will suffer in this life, can never compare to yours.

I humbly pray that you finish paying for your mortal sins of the flesh so that you may find the grace of God, and be lifted from your imprisonment.

With your grace you shall be my benefactor.

Amen”

The Blessing

Celebrant 1 sets the candle on the altar, Celebrant 2 lights it. The congregation sings the anthem:

“And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire.
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.”

The Closing Prayer

Numbers XI.ch 29.v:

“Would to God that all the Lord’s people were Prophets.”

References

White, G. (2016) The Chaos Protocols: Magical Techniques for Navigating The New Economic Reality. Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications

Our Fundamental Mode of Being

The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram
The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram.

In The Spell of the Sensuous (1997) ecologist and philosopher David Abram examines how our minds have become severed from sensory experience, and – consequently – our bodies disconnected from the natural world.

The blame for our current ecological plight he allocates predominantly to alphabetic writing, which destroyed the link between meaning and its basis in our physical participation in the processes and qualities of the natural world.

When linguistic signs become based on arbitrary vocal sounds (in contrast to pictographic symbols), then: “the larger, more-than-human life-world is no longer a part of the semiotic, no longer a necessary part of the system” (1997: 101). Consequently,

our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs […] Human awareness folds in upon itself, and the senses […] become mere adjuncts of an isolate and abstract mind bent on overcoming an organic reality that now seems disturbingly aloof and arbitrary. (1997: 267)

Specifically, it was the ancient Greeks who led us into this sorry state. “Socrates forced his interlocutors to separate themselves, for the first time, from their own words” (1997: 109). Myths and stories formerly provided a union with nature, which Plato’s writings undermined and destroyed. In an oral culture, a term such as “Justice” always has a context: it is expressed in stories as a specific occurrence, as an event that actually took place. Yet “Socrates attempts to induce a reflection upon the quality as it exists in itself” (1997: 111), and so we arrive – via Plato – at the sense of Justice as a thing-in-itself, an abstract entity with an existence somehow independent from the physical world. There is now scope for belief in a realm of ideas separate from nature, and Abram’s complaint is that we have become increasingly lost in this Platonic invention.

Abram’s book has been influential. His evocation of the role of sensation and perception in human cognition is powerful and compelling. He offers a philosophical foundation for shamanistic and ecological magicks. Yet I am troubled by his demonisation of Platonism, and his privileging of the body and nature above soul and intellect.

If, as Abram suggests, the invention of phonetic writing sealed us within a world of human signs, excluding the other in the body, in non-human species and the natural environment, then our conception of soul or spirit is a harmful, autistic delusion.

However, surely by coincidence, the very next book I read after Abram’s makes a similar but opposite argument. In The Primitive Edge of Experience (2004), psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden writes of a basic mode of human experiencing that he names “the autistic-contiguous position”:

Sequences, symmetries, periodicity, skin-to-skin “molding” are all examples of contiguities that are the ingredients out of which the beginnings of rudimentary self-experience arise. (2004: 32)

The elements of this level of experience, which first appears in early infancy, are perceptual sensations of bodily contact, hardness or softness, being rocked, rhythms of appearances and disappearances, all of which: “have nothing to do with the representation of one’s affective states, either idiographically or fully symbolically. The sensory experience is the infant” (2004: 35).

The Primitive Edge of Experience, by Thomas Ogden
The Primitive Edge of Experience, by Thomas Ogden.

Yet whereas Ogden concurs with Abram that the use of language or symbolisation detracts from experience at this autistic-contiguous level, in Ogden it lacks the Edenic quality evoked by Abram’s writing. For Ogden, the autistic-contiguous is “preparatory for the creation of symbols” (2004: 59), and to dwell exclusively within it presents a dilemma of becoming “entrapped in sensory experience” (2004: 78). For Abram, the sensory is primary and language is an autistic detraction. For Ogden, sensation attracts the label of “autism”, yet without any sense of pathology, because this type of non-reflective experience provides an essential “bounded sensory ‘floor’ […] of experience” (2004: 45), “the beginnings of qualities of who one is” (2004: 54).

For Abram, the turning in upon human signs results in alienation from the body. But for Ogden, the turning in upon sensory experience results in a basic sense of self on top of which further maturational developments may accrue. Both writers are exploring similar territory, but from opposing points of view. Placing these authors beside one another, perhaps we start to see how this “autism”, the reflexive turning in upon oneself, is perhaps not by definition detrimental. And perhaps neither is sensation or symbolisation necessarily malign or benign. Increasingly, it may seem that we are labouring beneath a false opposition between the body and spirit.

Abram himself recognises a flaw in his privileging of the sensory and those indigenous means of apprehending the world that are deeply rooted in it. “If our primordial experience is inherently animistic,” he wonders, “how can we ever account for the loss of such animateness from the world around us?” (1997: 90). The argument that x is our primary mode of being, but that x has been forgotten, contains a glaring contradiction that the forgetting of x is evidently more primary than x itself. In that case, perhaps the ecological crisis is not a consequence of the invention of writing so much as the forgetting of nature because our (even more) primary mode of being is, perhaps, forgetfulness. Indeed, for Ogden, the autistic-contiguous is a “position” (2004: 11), a kind of stance or attitude that may be lost, or into which we may fall at any time, if more sophisticated levels of being are placed under stress. Our fundamental mode of being is maybe neither sensory nor cognitive, neither bodily nor spiritual. Perhaps our fundamental mode of being consists in not having a fundamental mode of being.

Enlightenment traditions present themselves as the antidote to habitual forgetfulness. Techniques for realising the absence of a fundamental self rely on cultivating a turning inwards, a kind of intentional autism that contrasts with the reactive type that both Abram and Ogden evoke. Within enlightenment traditions, it does not appear to matter what the objects of that turning inwards might be, whether sensations, thoughts or meritorious actions. The intention is to realise how whatever fills experience is not fundamentally what we are, because it is not invulnerable to forgetting.

Applying this to magickal practice, my view is that magick is wherever we find it. There are body magicks and shamanistic nature magicks. But there are also word and number magicks, and magicks of abstract contemplation. They are not of equal value, but neither is one of them necessarily of greater value than all the rest.

References

Abram, D. (1997) The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Vintage.

Ogden, T.H. (2004) The Primitive Edge of Experience. London: Karnac.

Hygienic Everyday Magic

Bureau d'Hygiène
Photo by chantrybee, CC-BY

Recently, I read up on hygienic macros in functional programming languages. (Unless you are into very geeky details of computer science, you do not have to follow that link.) Thought processes diverged and branched out and recombined, and I present you with the resulting definition of Hygienic Magic:

Hygienic Magic is magic whose working is guaranteed not to cause the accidental capture of mental identifications.

To further parody the Wikipedia article I linked: The general problem of accidental capture is well known within the magical community. Magicians will use banishing rituals and dedicated temple spaces to define the location and duration of a ritual, and to remove any residual, unwanted identifications, for example after invoking an entity.

In other words, most formal, ceremonial magical acts are hygienic.

Every intentional act is a Magical Act.

So what about the everyday intentional, magical acts where we do not set up a temple and banish thoroughly before and after? Should we be worried about contracting astral diseases off door handles? Should we expect demons behind every street corner ready to possess us? Will we ourselves become vehicles of contagion?

No. But there is a class of intentional acts which carry a high possibility of capturing mental identifications: reading or otherwise accessing or interacting with information. To a degree, the new identifications are desired and expected: by reading a book on Chaos Magic, I want to identify with being someone who knows more about the subject.

What if the book carries other, less overt information suitable for identification? By reading a text by Julius Evola for example, I will also be exposed to his latent fascism and appreciation of the nazi “order” of the SS. Will this turn me into a reactionary genocidal black brother? Not immediately, I am sure. And maybe not in the long term either, depending on my other identifications and preferences. I already know that the author had ideological affiliations which I reject, so I will be alert and my magical act of intentionally reading Evola will likely be a hygienic one.

How about reading Peter Carroll’s blog, an influential writer who is very competent in magic but whose political leanings were not previously on my mental radar? Are the identitarian overtones which I encounter there worthy of my consideration because I am so used to having my preconceived notions about reality challenged by this magician, or are they just more of the murky banality of the dark enlightenment? Or did Peter Carroll himself neglect hygiene by picking up this stray right-wing identification? And of course, questions like these should arise in me not only when accessing texts by magical writers, but when interacting with any information in general.

Protective Sigil (ineffectual without personal transformation)

Unfortunately, I know of no simple banishing ritual that will wipe away all traces of accidentally captured identifications. It is tempting to believe that wearing a suitable sigil or chanting a certain mantra will give me the magical equivalent of a condom protecting me from the exchange of fluids and energies during intellectual intercourse, but I am convinced that nothing short of a personal transformation into being more watchful and critical – and hygienic – in the everyday magical act of consuming information is necessary.