It was a pleasure for Matt and I to speak at the first Bristol meet of the Visible College. The Moot there has a nice venue in the Golden Guinea and an interesting bunch of enthusiastic people turned up. I wish you well with this venture.
Firstly I’ll give my response to your answer, then I’ll answer your questions, and finally I’ll pose my last question to you.
Considered on their own, the Giza pyramids appear as some of the most remarkable and mysterious structures ever erected by humanity. However a look at pyramids more generally throws doubt on many of the apparent mysteries. Pyramids served as tombs and monuments, and they gradually replaced the mud brick Mastaba tombs of even more ancient Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians never discovered the vaulted arch, so any massive high stone structure would have to have a roughly pyramidal shape and comparatively narrow internal voids such as passages and chambers with simple capstones rather than proper vaulting. Several of the earlier pyramid experiments ran into severe structural problems, one has a radical change of angle halfway up as they had tried to build it too steep, another collapsed into its excessively large internal voids.
By the time we get to the Giza building program the Egyptians had learned from their engineering mistakes and the empire had the wealth to go spectacularly large on the project. I see no reason to suspect the use of detailed alien architectural blueprints. A great many cultures have ideas about the souls of the dead ascending to the skies, if you have ideas about some abode of the gods or a better hereafter where else can you imagine it? The pyramids appear as immortality machines only to the extent that they housed mummified corpses and the Egyptians appear to have believed it important to preserve the body from some aspects of decay to assist (parts of?) the soul in some way that doesn’t make much sense to us now. The nuances of metaphysics in hieroglyphics will probably forever elude us.
I cannot comment on the actual content of your personal mystical experiences but the techniques of inducing them will work with any mystical system of ideas you choose, including of course systems which directly contradict each other. In Chaos Magic we call these techniques the techniques of Gnosis and they all find uses in magic as well. Crowley himself described it thus:
‘There are two methods of becoming god, the upright and the averse, let the mind become as a flame or as a pool of still water.’
We call these the excitatory and inhibitory modes respectively. In neurophysiology they correspond to adrenergic and cholinergic overload.
Such Gnostic states can bring magical power, whether they bring mystical truth remains another matter, but they certainly tend to confirm mystical beliefs – any mystical beliefs.
The Kabbalistic practices of Gematria, and all their variants where you play around with letters and numbers certainly stimulates lateral thinking and perhaps even Apophenia. However you can invent many possible different arbitrary ascriptions of numbers to letters and then run various words and phrases through them, using a computer to save time, and find just as many amazing ‘insights’, ‘truths’, ‘proofs’, and coincidences in any of the arbitrary schemes chosen, particularly if you go looking for them with selection bias. Anyway the English language seems far from ‘sacred’, it looks like a bastardised hodgepodge of bits of Latin, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and French, with a semi-phonetic-semi-nonsensical spelling system.
Mathematicians do something similar to gematria, we try to fit the algebra to describe phenomena, and if we can find a fit we use it to make further predictions about the phenomena. However algebra has pretty tight mathematical rules which gematria doesn’t, so I don’t regard it as having anything other than an imagination stimulating value.
Concerning Stellar Consciousness in Chaobala, you say that you suspect that ‘…. beings at the other end of the cosmic conference call decided it was time to restart the experiment of humanity becoming Gods again, what with it having dropped off significantly since that whole Enlightenment thing.’
I’d regard the Enlightenment as the beginning of a much more promising phase of humanities quest for godly powers, for it emphasised a tradition of seeking those powers in the unsuspected breadth of ‘physical’ reality rather than in ‘spiritual’ realms.
By ‘the unsuspected breadth of physical reality’ I imply both the astonishingly vast cosmos and the strange quantum wave-world domain underlying it which gives it its magical properties.
It seems overwhelmingly likely that the universe contains very many sources of intelligence that currently know a great deal more than we do yet.
Whether such intelligences actively try to tell us things or whether we just occasionally pick up on their stray thoughts, and personify them when we become nearly ready for them, I do not know. The occultist in me suspects the former; the scientist in me suspects the latter.
Now to your questions Sef, which I have italicised.
My question in return really must focus more on Chaos Magick than yourself this time, so: Above I asked the question, do the ends justify the means? Chaos magick as I understand (and practise) it is a method for shifting probabilities so that the impossible becomes unlikely, and the unlikely likely, such that the desired result which was previously improbable is suddenly manifest. The primary application of any magical tech which works in the real world is to get paid and laid.
Well I wouldn’t say ‘suddenly’ , Enchant Long for best results, but yes indeed, as you say, ‘The primary application of any magical tech which works in the real world is to get paid and laid.’ Magicians need to sort these two matters out straight away; after all you don’t want the inconveniences of poverty or sexual frustration standing in the way of more important existential concerns like choosing a meaning or a series of meanings for your life, discovering the secrets of consciousness and self or selves and the ultrastructure of the universe at macrocosmic and microcosmic levels, and adding to the survival and developmental prospects of humanity and perhaps of all sentient life.
I always recommend that magicians seek a livelihood through a profession that they actually enjoy performing, regardless of initial financial considerations, because if you enjoy something for itself you will usually do well at it and the money will sort itself out in abundance. In general magicians should conjure for the experiences they want in life, not for the money which might eventually buy them.
Almost uniquely amongst magicians Crowley got born very wealthy, yet he blew it all and his attempts to raise funds in later life did not go particularly well. Crowley didn’t need to perform much ‘results magic’ for most of his life; he could simply buy most of the experiences, material things, and women he wanted. Boleskine House looks like it’s probably worth at least £2m today, and it probably had a similar value in real terms as a Luxury Victorian Hunting Lodge when he bought it. Its actual size and magnificent location surprised me; it’s hardly a hermit’s cottage.
Sex can prove a bit more problematical because sexual urges come with a bit of a built in dissatisfaction mechanism for evolutionary reasons. A biological-psychological-cultural tension has evolved between the survival advantages of investing all of our physical and emotional ‘eggs’ in one other persons basket or of putting some of them in other persons’ baskets as well, as it were. No ‘right’ answer exists to this question, each must decide for themselves, personally Keeping things simple usually remains the best option. Geneticists note that reproductively effective adultery/non-monogamy seems to remain constant at around 10% for all cultures studied. Paternity thus seems far less certain than most family trees might suggest.
I rather think that Crowley spent a lot of time musing and amusing himself with sexual activity because he had so much leisure time. He often seems to imply that sex lies at the heart of all mystic and magical secrets and symbols and the Pretty Lady and the Ram on the cover of his Equinox seems to allude rather unsubtly to the product he had chosen to market. One might even accuse him of presenting his Scarlet Women as tease bait for the well-heeled young gentlemen he hoped to recruit.
Bhagwan Rajneesh of course took advantage of the less repressed western culture of the late twentieth century and achieved huge results quickly. Drop your pants ladies for mystic liberation, and let my lads at you. It proved a winning formula; they all loved him and worshipped him and enriched him beyond his wildest dreams.
Chaos Magic on the other hand merely says ladies and gentlemen, herewith the technology, try using it to sort out your desires for yourselves.
What of the ethical component? It is an ironic consequence of achieving instant gratification that the soul is ultimately unsatisfied; going back to being broke and lonely when you have impoverished or magically coerced others along the way not only is a waste of effort, but leaves a mess for others to clear up. How does Chaos Magick address the important issues traditionally dealt with by community magicians (shamans, priests, exorcists, oracles, etc) – how to live, love, and die?
Humans will always practice ‘Situational Ethics’ informed by a greater or lesser degree of sophistication in their knowledge and understanding of the situation and of themselves.
Evil thus mainly arises accidentally from stupidity. Active evil arises from lack of self-knowledge, particularly a lack of the knowledge of the pleasures of empathy.
Dim-witted people will probably do best if they simply follow ethical givens, for these usually resume cultural knowledge of the medium term consequences.
The rest of us can surely learn to think things through for ourselves.
I don’t make my living from selling magic; that requires too much work and too many compromises. Just about everyone who has become involved with me for love or money has become enriched by the experience, or at least that’s what I hope they will write on the lid of my sarcophagus.
The trick lies in avoiding zero-sum games where my gain equals your loss, and trying for scenarios where both benefit.
How to die? Well I have yet to find out, whilst asleep sounds like a good option.
And on that note, my final question to you Sef:
I think you now have a copy of the Epoch. In it we applaud Crowley for what appears to us as some of his great insights, but we also make a number of specific criticisms of his work as well. What do you think the Thelemic community will make of it?