I was recently sitting around a table drinking tea with some fellow magicians (a favourite pastime of mine!) discussing those films and works of fiction that have wriggled their way into our personal magical systems. I guess Chaos magicians are renowned for this sort of approach-taking inspiration from contemporary cultural references and valuing them as valid channels for pursuing personal and collective gnosis. In a fantastic version of geek cage fighting we traded off verbatim quotations from David Lynch’s Dune script and wondered how we could use sleeping bags to act as the giant sand worms of Arakis.
Recent mention has been made at this blog about folks working with the Cthulhu mythos and the way in which Lovercraft’s imagery allows a vivid exploration of the existential angst and alienation that many of us experience. Having done a bit of work with “the Mythos” I must confess that it’s really not my thing. As much as I like HPL’s writing and the bizarre cosmology he envisaged, I don’t find myself rushing to spend time hanging out in his universe. Perhaps because I spend most of my working life wrestling with psychic pain and descents into “madness” I prefer to spend my leisure time avoiding cosmic terror! It may just be that my middle-class aesthetics lean more to facing the universe on a Zen cushion rather than having my soul sucked out by the tentacled one.
This idea that our spirituality is innately shaped by contemporary cultural references is hardly surprising. When I think about my own timeline, it’s hard to get past the tsunami sized impact of both punk rock and Star Wars. 1977 you rock! Joseph Campbell via George Lucas has allowed the hero’s journey to become one of the primary metaphors for 21st century psychological development. The battling dualism of the Force seems to make more sense of our attempts at psychological integration than idealised monotheisms. Some of us may harbour more Sith-like passions than the straight-laced Jedi (bunch of goody-goodies!), but most of us are still seeking to bring balance to the Force.
Revelation rarely sits still. I’ve recently been having a fairly thorough pummelling via the work of Octavia Butler. For those not in the know, Butler was an awesome sci-fi writer who as a Black Woman brought a vital voice to the genre. Through her work sought to address themes around race, gender and community. Whether via polyamorous alien/human interbreeding (Lilith’s Brood) or a necessary shot in the arm for the Vampire novel (the Fledgling) she brought new perspectives and raised crucial questions in the minds of her readers. The series that’s currently blowing me away is the “EarthSeed” duology . In these books Octavia depicts a young woman’s battle to find meaning in a dystopian landscape in which the outdated faith of her parents has ceased to make sense. “The Parable of the Sower” and “The Parable of the Talents” describe her experience of receiving the revelation of “EarthSeed”, a new theology that sees God as a chaotic process of change that the awakened can shape via their intent. Each chapter of the books begin with quotations from “Earth Seed” and what follows are a couple of quotations to give you a flavour:
Consider: Whether you’re a human being, an insect, a microbe, or a stone, this verse is true.
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler)
God is Power-
And yet, God is pliable-
God exists to be shaped.
God is Change.
(Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler)
The divine word or Logos need not be limited to ”sacred” texts-whether they be the Bhagavad Gita, Liber AL or Principia Discordia. We will probably all have books, music, films and people within which we find a rich source of inspiration, but the Mystery may even burst through during the X-Factor or a Murdoch tabloid. Nothing is inerrant and Everything is useable!
The incoming of gnosis can come in many forms-whether via conscious spiritual endeavour or the over-heard snatches of a stranger’s conversation, when the lights come on and revelation ignites in our skulls we find ourselves back at that crossroads of the present moment. For that conversation with our muse to flow we need to find a way forward. We don’t always get it right, but the internal pull of Will drags us onwards. May we all be brave enough to keep listening.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.