Surreal Christology (Part 2): The Mirror

It’s hardly surprising that mirrors get used a lot in magic; frankly they’re a bit weird. When we look at them they extend space, they reverse and they potentially distort. Whatever we think we look like in our heads, when we look into a mirror we are pushed into a dialogue between that internalised self-perception and the version of self represented in front of us. We may be delighted by what we see or we may become flooded by dysmorphia. Our dis-ease may be skin-deep or it may reveal deeper truths about who we want to be and how we wish to interact with the world around us. Whatever we think is driving us, if we see ourselves more fully we may be confronted by aspects of our daemon that are as likely to shock as they are to empower.

The magical use of mirrors can be manifold, ranging from aids for spirit evocation to scrying tools that allow the diviner greater access to their own unconscious processes. To explore a mirror nocturnally, via candle-light, is to journey to occult edges, and the practice of covering mirrors following a recent death alludes to a need to stabilise our environment in the midst of grief. Given the way they seem to play with the nature of time and space, it’s of little surprise that the Surrealists found them so fascinating.

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Self-portrait in Spherical Mirror, 1935. MC Escher.

The Surrealists on occasion had mirrors explicitly within their art (often as puddles of quicksilver or mirrored melting clock faces) but more often their presence seems far more implicit. Via their use of depth of field and inversion, when we engage with surrealist art we can often feel that we are gazing at a reflection, with all the subtle strangeness innate to that process. Like the melting clock we are required to relinquish our hold on our sense of time and solidity; i.e. things get a bit wobbly and dream-like.

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Self-portrait: The Inn of the Dawn Horse, 1937-38. Leonora Carrington.

In many ways myth and mythic heroes can act as powerful mirrors for viewing ourselves. When we consider those stories or figures that we are drawn to, they can often reveal some significant aspects of who we are at both a conscious and unconscious level. While our initial attraction to a myth may reflect a need or a connection that seems quite obvious e.g. a promise of liberation or an exemplar of individuation, when we renew and revisit this process over time, arguably something subtler takes place. When we truly engage with and internalise these spirits, their strangeness starts to haunt and shape our dreams and outlook.

In terms of my own experience, while my initial flight into Christianity was largely related to my adolescent confusion about the fluidity of my sexuality and gender identity, the Queerness of mystery still managed to break through via my interactions with the myth of Christ. While recognising my personal projections onto the gospel narrative, I eventually uncovered in my reading of Jesus a blurry ambiguity that remains inspiring. Yes this was still the radical who threw over tables in the temple, but he was also the mother hen who wanted to gather the lost underneath his wings.

In a personal world where the versions of maleness, certainty and force made little sense to me, my own gnostic encounter allowed access to a gentler, more mysterious experience. This Christ became a mirror through which I could view myself more closely. Such looking can be far from comfortable, but over time it allowed me to engage with deeper truths about who I needed to become. For me this magical process of engaging with the Christ myth allowed me (somewhat ironically) to become accepting enough of myself that I no longer wished to call myself a Christian.

This Gnostic Christ seems to be asking me to both take more responsibility for my path, while at the same time doing less violence to the core of who I am.  This reflective process is most definitely a work-in-progress and has been far from tidy or pain-free. To walk a magical path requires that we “dare”, even when it means the willed deconstruction of those stories and heroes we hold as precious. This is a narrow road, but it holds the potential of liberty from the claustrophobia of childlike sentimentality.

Whichever mythic mirror feels most attractive to you, I would recommend revisiting it with a Zen-like state of beginner’s mind. Find some great art concerning these myths, or better yet create some art of your own. In my own recent explorations of the Queerer dimensions of Christ I have been inspired by some of the art on sites such as Kittredge Cherry’s  “Jesus in Love” blog. Often these creative explorations into the surreal and less-lateral aspects of ourselves provide us with gateways to discovery and the possibility of further evolution.

Find art that feeds your soul and allows greater insight into who you are and who you can become. Seek the Mysteries!

SD

Chaos Streams 01, by members of the IOT

As we reach the deepest darkness of the northern year and await the return of the sun, I’m very pleased to announce the publication of the latest installment in the story of chaos magic; Chaos Streams 01 – written, illustrated and published by members of the British Isles Section of the Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros.

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In this volume you will discover first person accounts of magical explorations, descriptions of techniques, philosophical reflections and tales of high strangeness. These are the diverse voices of individual practitioners who gather together to do group magical work as members of the Pact.

Chaos Streams includes a comprehensive history of chaos magic as well as essays on ceremonial BDSM, Zen and chaos, spirit possession, the relationship between science and occultism, life-hacking, entheogenics, Tibetan ritual paraphernalia, devotional yoga, esoteric ethics, invisibility and more, 193 pages of fabulous practical magic! This is a wide-ranging collection that demonstrates the multiplicity of styles and techniques that are part of the IOT today.

Copies are now available as paperback  £8

And on Kindle 99p

We hope that you will enjoy and be inspired by this manifestation of our magic.

Have a Cool Yule & Choyofaque!

JV

Surreal Christology (Part 1): The Haunting

Have you ever felt haunted? Haunted by an idea or a person who, despite all your best efforts, seems to be lurking at the edges of your vision and prodding your unconscious to give them a bit more space. These phantoms of our history often point towards past explorations and adventures that were left unresolved; untidy longings that may seem embarrassing when viewed from a more urbane present.

In all my recent writing about the Gnostics and other Christian heretics, the figure haunting me from the shadows is that old trickster Yeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus to his Greek speaking friends). It may well be a projection on my part, but in my mind Jesus and I are trying to negotiate a different kind of relationship. Those dusty half-truths from fan-boys of old simply don’t fit any more. Rather than taking shape within a dogma that does violence to either kindness or thinking, I keep getting glimpses of this Jesus in the dreamtime and the strangest of places. This is a decidedly Surreal Christology.

It is hardly surprising that Surrealism’s emphasis on the unconscious and the realm of dreams coincided historically with the birth of psychotherapy and fin de siècle occultism. For me, the sense of mystery and strange juxtaposition that are synonymous with Surrealism have helped me to explore aspects of my spiritual history that I had previously felt unable to reconcile.

In the “Art and Science” definition of magic according to Crowley, I will definitely acknowledge my own personal bias towards the art end of this equation. Surrealism as an artistic movement manages to capture the creativity and willed engagement with the unconscious that was later embodied so potently in the work of occult artists as diverse as Austin Osman Spare and Thee Temple of Psychick Youth. Such art revels in the conscious distortion of the familiar as we push up against the fuzzy edges of the known and the knowable (think melting clocks and fish on bicycles). Such an approach is radically subjective and relational, but uses images in a way that connects to shared meaning so as to provoke new ways of perceiving and understanding:

“Artist, you are a priest: Art is the great mystery and, when your effort leads to a masterpiece, a ray of the divine shines down as on an altar… Artist, you are a magus. Art is the great miracle and proves our own immortality.”

– Joséphin Péladan

Surrealist artists such as the fabulous Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) took this emphasis on the magical and alchemical a step further than most of her male forebears, and her work remains a potent example of the surreal genius engaging with the spiritual realm.

Ab Eo Quod 1956

Leonora Carrington Ab Eo Quod 1956

Whichever occult tools we think we may have mastered as we enter the faery realm of sleep, we soon realise that we are riding on waves of unconscious that are ultimately beyond our control. The esoteric skills of automatic writing and dream interpretation (both of which the Surrealists employed) may be effective vehicles for entering these waters, but we must still realise the limited control that we finally have over what creatures emerge from its depths!

I would highly recommend the use of Surrealist art (especially Carrington’s and Max Ernst’s) as an aid to meditation and reflection. The Surreal landscapes encountered via dreams and our art can be challenging and uncomfortable, but their jarring and vivid images can trigger awakenings more potent than if we were relying on words or reason alone.  

Max Ernst The Robing of the Bride 1940

Max Ernst The Robing of the Bride 1940

For me, my own departure from Christianity came following a profound psychological crisis in which I was no longer able to tolerate the exclusivity of that religion’s claims. My book A Gnostic’s Progress looks at this experience in greater detail, but it would be fair to summarise the direction of this journey as being inwards in search of greater, more authentic depth, a move away from faith based belief, and towards an acceptance of responsibility for insights gained.

This journey inwards was greatly aided by the works of Jung, and it was via his work that I encountered the richness of the Gnostics for the first time. Jung was also a person who was haunted. His desire for personal authenticity and integration drove him to break with Freud and he emerged from this crisis with insights that are truly profound. At points Jung’s haunting was quite literal, and his reception of the Seven Sermons to the Dead was accompanied by etheric and poltergeist activity: “The dead came back from Jerusalem, where they found not what they sought. They prayed me let them in and besought my word, and thus I began my teaching.” Sermon 1, 1913. For more insight on this critical chapter of modern Gnostic history, you may want to check out Stephan Hoeller’s excellent The Gnostic Jung.

In many ways my fairly persistent preoccupation with the Gnostics and heretical Christians is also evidence of my own ongoing struggle with the ghost of Jesus past. For me this is a relationship that feels markedly different to previous attempts at belief and certainty, for now my haunting is about the discovery of what the sacred flame of my own Christhood might mean for my liberation.

 The Madonna of Port Lligat

Salvador Dali The Madonna of Port Lligat 1949

SD

Playing with Queer Cut-ups

I’m sitting in Julian’s front room and I’m surrounded by a multitude of artefacts from past rituals and hours spent in meditation. While the wood burner and main altar space provide a natural centre piece, today my eyes are drawn to the array of cut-up collages that deck one of the walls. These are not elaborate or overly wrought attempts at occult art; rather they represent raw, psychic high-dives in order to explore fragments of self and the processes that unfold as we try to explore darker, stranger terrain.

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Cut-up

Having recently read and enjoyed Queer by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele, I started reflecting on the possible connections between how cut-ups and Queer dynamics might interact in our process of exploring Self. I have already written a post reflecting on how cut-ups might interact with aspects of ego psychology, but their book got me to wondering further about how cut-ups might represent a highly queered and magical form of expression. As I observed back then:

“Like collage, cut-ups seek to use existing material in new ways that often involve the combining and juxtaposition of words and images so as to create new insight and meaning.

In tracking the lineage of cut-ups as an approach, from the surrealism of the Dadaists, Brion Gysin, Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge, we can begin to see the depth of magical thinking embedded in this technique. As we seek to engage with and manipulate reality, the cut-up not only embodies the desired efficacy of our sorcery, but also the fluid shape-shifters that our arte forces us, the magician, to become. If our magic has any real depth, then our ego must undergo a similar process of reassembly.”

Cut-ups for me are a potent means of challenging our attempts at fixed certainty and polarity. Ideas and images that we previously kept apart are cast together in potentially abrupt disruption. These cut-ups don’t allow for tidy answers or for a buttoned-up, linear sense of self, rather they represent a bubbling up from the unconscious that may reveal as much about the dynamic tensions at work as they do potential answers. Apparently unconnected images are juxtaposed with stark headline text and so new meanings and connections are made. To me this dynamic process feels potentially unsettling and hugely creative and thus quite Queer:

“Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence. ‘Queer’ then, demarcates not a positivity but a positionality vis-à-vis the normative.” David Halperin  Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography

The Queer self is one that has a profound connection to the constructed and performed. As an outsider position it has had to survive by being magpie-like in pulling together those jewels and glimmering half-truths that help make sense of what it means to live with a greater sense of magic and power. Others may dismiss its rag-tag approach for its lack of coherence, but like the trickster or the holy fool it holds up a mirror to those parts of culture whose attempts at control appear all too reliant on dusty outdated certainties.

For me the playful complexity of Queer identity is one that disrupts my attempts at locating my sense of self in fixed descriptors and concrete identities. Any attempt to side-step curiosity and open-handed questioning is unlikely to withstand Queer’s rainbow-laser side-eye. This type of awareness asks that we acquire and develop skills that allow us to more effectively tolerate process, journey and uncertainty.

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Wild words

Similarly the process of the cut-up requires vulnerability as we step-back, allowing patterns and (potential) meanings to emerge. Techniques such as cut-ups and automatic writing/drawing are certainly more towards the artistic end of the “Art and Science” dialectic, but such creativity shouldn’t be mistaken for laxity. Ironically it often seems that as we seek to make use of approaches that are less linear and apparently chaotic, that we have to exercise a more focused sense of awareness in gaining benefit from them. It may be that those people who are drawn to more scripted workings do so because it provides them with a greater sense of security and control.

One of the primary reasons that I was drawn to the magical path was its sense of collaboration and play. World views and metaphysics that declared absolute certainty were no longer viable but I was still hungry to explore the mystery of consciousness and the glimpses of awakening that were coming in and out of view. Techniques like cut-ups and collage can provide us with potent and creative means for accessing new insights regarding the paths we are seeking to walk. They are rarely complete answers, more often they are snapshots of a work in progress that we may need to slow down and wait for, rather than rushing to a sensible, adult conclusion.

SD

Group Wisdom and the Chaos Magick Tarot

I’ve been playing with the excellent Chaos Magick Group tarot recently. This wonderful collaborative work of contemporary occultists is still available to purchase, though I understand this may not be for long. If you want a copy, as E.A.Koetting might say, better act now!

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to present this deck at a large meeting of members of the IOT, and indeed to use it in a ritual context. Although I and a couple of other members of the IOT contributed card designs to the project, this tarot emerges from the wider chaos magical community. The virtual work space (a Facebook group) in which this deck was created provided the means for geographically distant occultists to work together. The creation of media by magicians, working in virtual spaces is, I suspect, something we will see more and more of. Working on these types of creative projects seems to me to be a good use of the technology I and my peers have access to.

I really enjoy collaborative working (many of my books are co-authored for this reason), so when it comes to doing magical ceremony the stuff I like most is group practice. While I’ve been involved in a few experiments in group ritual over Skype and using other tech, so far nothing comes close to being in the same physical sacred space with other magicians. Working directly with others is rich territory; there are many practices that would be impractical without collaboration; there is the possibility of camaraderie, of feedback, of challenge and much more. For me the IOT provides and excellent network through which I get to meet and work with cool magicians in physical (as well as sometimes virtual) spaces. I’m also fortunate that my relationships within the shamanic and Wiccan communities means that I’ve been able to physically work alongside some fabulous practitioners of those styles too.

Of course solitary work is important but even activities such as mindfulness meditation can benefit from the existence of a sangha, a community of practice (which provides the opportunity to practice together). Sure there may be people who, in terms of their own style, prefer to be primarily solitary. However humans are social creatures and I think that it’s helpful to bring our magic, especially our ritual work, into contact with other humans.

Loners who just can't stop joining teams

Loners who just can’t stop joining teams

One way this happens for me is via the work of being a celebrant or Priest. In that capacity those of us who do this kind of work make an offering of our skills to facilitate ritual for others. But this isn’t the same as working in a community of peers, be that a coven, temple, working group, circle or whatever. Working with other people helps us to not disappear into obsessive or narcissistic paradigms (aka up ‘one’s own arse’). Magicians, by the nature of their studies, can benefit from the occasional reality check and outside critique. A good community of practice, while supporting the basic premise of spiritual endeavor, seeks also to help the individual develop the Self (or find their ‘True Will’, ‘make their Soul’, become ‘Illuminated’ or whatever) in context of others. This is important since this is where we live – with other people.

Cultivating good, mutually beneficial relationships with others is an important part of the development of any magician who wishes to be enriched by the (human) spirits they consort with on a daily basis. The mythic tower inhabited by the iconic solitary sorcerer may make for a Tolkienesque glamour, but successful magicians are real people living with families, colleagues and the rest of humanity, connected within the noosphere of the 21st century. Meeting other humans in physical magical spaces (of an ongoing esoteric community and within ceremonial settings) – for all the slings and arrows of social interaction – helps us understand who we are, as magicians and as people.

So back to that example of good collaboration via the internet, the CMG Tarot. It was suggested in the group that contributing artists write some text to accompany their work, so here’s a brief commentary on the cards I created:

The Ace of Disks is also known as the Root of the Powers of Earth. In divination it indicates the core qualities associated with the Earthly element. These include wealth, work, the physical body, property, diligent study, territory.

The quality of this card is generally beneficial, pointing towards productive striving, steadfast discipline and success. When this symbol is encountered in difficult circumstances the process may be that of struggle, limiting obligation and toil, but unless the conditions are very difficult, there is still the suggestion of success if determination is applied.

The disk shown is the Pentacle held as part of the regalia of the British Isles Section of The Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros. A ceremonial requirement of this tool is that it is regularly used in ritual with non-members of the IOT since the purpose of the pentacle, as a plate, is to share (typically offerings of food). The disk itself is fashioned from a mirror (since magic is all about smoke and mirrors).

Various ritual items emblematic of the diversity of chaos magical practice are shown arrayed round the disk. These include the vertebra of a whale, a rudraksha mala, a chicken mask, a reefer, a drum, a scourge, a dildo and sundry other objects.

The Ace of Disks is typically the card upon which the publisher of a deck sets their seal or monogram. In this case the disk displays the eight-fold star of chaos and the koan ‘Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted’.

Ace tarot

Ace tarot

The Ten of Disks is the final card in the tarot deck. It represents the full unfolding of the earth element and the ‘completed’ journey of The Fool that is the narrative of the cards as the Mutis Liber. Using the astrological scheme devised by McGregor Mathers, this card is related to Mercury in the sign of Virgo, while the number 10 denotes the sephira of Malkuth, the World, and the final outpouring of the divine emanation. This combination of symbols strongly links this card to The Great Work as the full-flowering of illumination; however this does not lead to ‘resting on one’s laurels’ but paves the way for a new iteration of the magical process.

(The bad news for folk who think they have ‘attained’ Enlightenment (or whatever) is that nothing stays the same and there is always the perennial question, ‘what next?’)

Within the New Age paradigm this card may represent ‘prosperity consciousness’ and our ability to manifest our wealth. This may suggest a change from a scarcity based frame of mind to one predicated on an imagined universal abundance (or at least the possibility of realizing desire). The fruition of investments may be indicated by this card, retirement, and a sense of accomplishment. Like the rune Othala this card is related to the idea of inheritance (of money, property, genetics, stories of our culture), the wealth that comes to us and which we in turn pass on to others.

The disks show in the image are drawn from many nations suggesting they are owned by someone who has lived a well-travelled and rich life. The disks are shown spilling, or perhaps flying, out of a bag. This bag is the same one typically carried in images of The Fool over the shoulder as a bindle, or on the back as a knapsack.

The bag is emblazoned with the stars of deep space recalling the primeval Kia from which emerge all the objects of the world. The title of this card is ‘Lord of Wealth’ and the wise understand that Wealth, though symbolised here as coins, comes in many forms. (All money is forged not of metal but from the imagination. The person with a rich imagination, combined with the diligence represented by the earthly disks, can never be poor.) The coins in this card are free from their original containment in The Fool’s knapsack, since Wealth implies freedom and exchange rather than avarice and acquisition. They have, in an esoteric sense, been put into circulation (‘spent’) by The Fool during the journey through the other 76 cards. In the 10 of Pentacles the initial ‘capital’ of The Fool reappears in the form of experiential Wealth because he has invested in the journey and not retreated from engagement with the World.

One of the disks shown is a solid gold chaosphere owned by a former British Isles Section Head of The Illuminates of Thanateros, this was crafted by the master jeweller Russell Lownsbrough. Another is made of chocolate.

Lord of Wealth

Lord of Wealth

The tarot cards are a magical community, a jostling pack of spirits. They mean things in themselves (though not perhaps without an observer…) but gain so much more in relationship with their fellows.

As occultists we also live among the spirits; of animals, plants, places, people and more. It is in those relationships where much of the magic happens, just as it is within the combination of cards that the reading, the transformative journey of question and revelation, unfolds.

JV

Conversation with a Cosmonaut

In my own explorations of Gnosis, one of my friends whose work I have found consistently inspiring has been Dr. Lloyd Keane. What follows is an interview that Lloyd graciously agreed to with regards his own initiatory work:

  1. Could you tell us a little about your own magical background? (How you got into it.)

I hate this question. Answering it brings up some pretty embarrassing moments and yet those moments lead me to where I am now so it can’t be all bad. Still…ugh.

My magical background began with three books: The Black Arts by Cavendish, Modern Magic by Kraig, and Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Cunningham. At that early time I was also a member of A.M.O.R.C. So basically I was a very sincere and dedicated White Lighter. Theological thrillers such as The Omen, The Exorcist, and The Prince of Darkness inspired me too. And of course Star Wars was a huge influence! I would have to say it was the notion of forbidden and really super real knowledge symbolized (and commodified) by all the books in the local occult shop at the time that really dragged me in. My journals from that time are remarkably naive and yet utterly sincere. I have been practicing some form of “magical” tradition since roughly 1987-88.

altar

Mixed mediums

  1. You’ve worked in a few different traditions, could you tell us about those and your current affiliations?

Well as my answer to your first question clearly indicates I was setting myself up for all manner of problems. In a strange way Wicca provided me with an emotional outlet for my ceremonial/ritual magic, and the ceremonial/ritual magic provided me with intellectual curiosities like Kabbala and alchemy. Really they both reflected my yearning for Mystery. Later I developed a deep love for Crowley’s writings and Thelema (or rather my mystical non-threatening, non-orgy, non-recreational drug version of Thelema), as well as a connection to Irish pagan revival and Asatru (or rather my mystical non-believing, non-kindred, giant loving version of Asatru). Again, Crowley’s Nuit as well as Odin and the Etins all reflected Mystery and vastness. Off the top of my head I’ve been a member of A.M.O.R.C., two online Golden Dawn groups, B.O.T.A., an associate member of the OTO, a Probationer in a lineage of the A∴A∴, the Troth, and the Rune Gild. I also worked closely with a friend and mentor in Wicca for at least ten years. In some ways this reflects a haphazard approach to Initiation and in another way it demonstrates my systematic search for something that I could not find from any of these organizations and traditions.

One day something snapped in me. Something had changed. I was going to leave an offering to Thor (Odin was far too spooky) and I thought to myself, “This is it? This is what I’ll be doing when I’m 80!?”. I was in an existential crisis and two websites grabbed me by the throat: the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set. I loved the ridiculously and seriously playful aesthetic of the Church of Satan. It was so different from anything else I experienced up to that point. However, the Temple of Set website was, at the time, this strange blue colour. It had an inverse pentagram (or a properly proportioned pentagon… however you want to see it), and the monolith from 2001. Top that off with a quote from Plato and I was utterly confused and fascinated. There was something deep in that imagery.

After much hesitation (and rewriting my application) I applied to join the Temple of Set and I’ve been a member since then. I’m currently a Priest of Set, a Master in the Esoteric Order of Beelzebub, and a member of the Order of Tiamat.

  1. Much of your current practice makes use of visual art and music, can you describe some of these explorations and why you find these methods so helpful?

That’s a really good question. I’ve always been a doodler and I’ve always played around with artistic creation; however my work in the Temple of Set helped my focus my understanding and use of art as an Initiatory tool and form of expression. One of the things that makes the human animal unique (as far as we can tell) is the drive to create. We create things that have no overt, ontological, purpose. This drive to create is stimulated by what we could call the Black Flame. Taking that metaphor, this substance, this flame of isolate intelligence, can (and I would say should) be applied to creating Initiatory works of art (of whatever form or format). I also strive to inspire others to connect with and work with that Flame. I may not be technically advanced in my art but I often communicate and transmit my meaning very well. It can become entertainingly annoying when highly talented artists email me to say that something I created inspired them to begin creating again. Great. So glad I could be of service now go create something that I could never create in a million years. At least that inspires me to keep going. My music is the same thing. I must create. I go squirrely if I’m not drawing or manipulating images, or playing music. Often creating things helps me work through ideas or issues I’m dealing with as part of Initiation (for me Initiation and living one’s life are synonyms). I am able to understand or approach Initiatory issues from various angles by creating something concrete from the stirrings of subjective inspiration.

space

Dark, deep doodling…

  1. Many of your explorations touch on themes around depth, vastness and awe, can you tell us why such themes are important in your own initiatory work?

I think all those aspects are part of Mystery or Runa. At least on one level I think that it’s part of it. Mystery has been with me from a very early time. However, often my experience of Mystery was filtered through other people’s interpretations. I was told Mystery was a God(s)dess(es), Angel, HGA, ancestors…everything except what resonated with me. Depth, vastness, and awe are core facets of the experience of the numinous and that experience of the numinous is another way of describing the experience of Mystery (keeping in mind that there are varying degrees of the experience of the numinous). Another important facet of such themes is that they help to act as a cosmic eliminator of occultnik douchebaggery. I get so tired of people saying how they are living gods (or demons or angels) or how their HGA is uber divine, or that they are an incarnation of Crowley. Just sit still for a moment. Contemplate how vast our solar system is. Then think of how utter miniscule it is from the perspective of the nearest supermassive black hole. Really in the grand scheme of things we are pretty insignificant. I have found that encouraging that sense of awe and dread is a good way to reset my own hubris. Not that I have such problems. Obviously I’m beyond such pettiness.

  1. How do these ideas connect to your work within the Esoteric Order of Beelzebub?

Actually it’s interesting, I find that my work within the Esoteric Order of Beelzebub (EOB) and within the Order of Tiamat both reflect the ideas of vastness and awe in different ways. For me EOB is about exploring the Black Flame. It is about engaging with substance, energy, and purposefulness, and it is about cultivating independence, inspiration, and invention. In this case the deepness and awe comes from experiencing ourselves, who we really are when we are free from what other people have told us we are and are not. EOB uses the term “Cosmonaut” to refer to its members. This is a playful title but it is also very poignant. We are explorers. We want to wander out into the vast expanse of our being and see what we can discover and we bring that knowledge back to share with our fellow explorers. Well at least that’s this Cosmonaut’s perspective!

The Order of Tiamat approaches deepness and awe through dread. In this case we can see Tiamat, mother of the eleven monsters, mother of the Abyss, as something so utterly beyond comprehension as to lead to existential dread. Lovecraft very much captured this idea of dread. The Mesopotamians had a word of it: Melammu. This is the sense of the numinous that their gods were said to exude. By working with this sense of awe we can come to integrate it into our own Being.

The exploration of vastness and the full awareness of our place in the cosmos alternates throughout my art and my approach to Initiation.

sowilo

Sowilo

  1. Many people view the god Set as having strong stellar/cosmic connections, can I ask how such links are important in your own magical work?

This is a difficult question. I don’t work much with how the ancient Egyptians apprehended Set. There is a great deal of evidence linking Set with stars and stellar traditions. I guess I approach this aesthetically or metaphorically. The stellar roots of Setian thought are distinct from say Thelema or witchcraft or Wicca, for example. With Thelemic religion we have the solar phallic, in your face, Ra-Hoor. In Wicca, at least a good number of traditions within Wicca, there is an emphasis on the moon, the Earth Mother, the Goddess. Set has warlike aspects of a solar god but Set is far more alien and unnatural. Again metaphorically speaking, Set is not bound to an earth or lunar perspective. Set is not bound to a solar perspective. Set dwells behind the Constellation of the Thigh (Big Dipper). Set’s playground is the deep vastness of space. I often think of this wonderful quote from The Stars my Destination (by Alfred Bester):

“Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place,
The stars my destination.”

To me this quote summarises my work as a Cosmonaut and as a Setian.

  1. What direction do you see your initiatory work heading in the future?

Another great question. Thank you.

I’m actively working to refine and articulate my own approach to Setian Initiation. This is a difficult, though necessary, task and it is just beginning. This process will have a major impact on my art and my understanding of awe, deepness, and Mystery. What that will look like in the end I can’t say for sure. For now it is in the Yet to Be and when I get there I will let you know! (For more information about Lloyds work click here.)

(Questions asked by SD).

Altar Images

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours; altars that is.

In this, what I hope will be the first of an irregular series of podcasts and articles about the altars that we find ourselves making, we look at the exciting stuff I’ve got lurking in my front room.

Hearth Altar

Hearth Altar

My hearth altar is the mantelpiece over the woodburning stove which my Dad and I installed in my living room. It’s a repository for all kinds of material traces of my magical life. Some objects are fixtures of this space (cobra candle sticks, jug, Shiva, Ganesh and some of my key ritual tools). Other objects come and go; stones, postcards, flowers or ritual texts.

In the first edition of Black Mirror Amy Hale (in her paper ‘Considering the Esoteric Aesthetic Practice, Context and Reception’) takes exception to Marco Pasi’s conception of esoteric art. In calling into question Pasi’s model of esoteric art as being primarily about ‘fetishization and resistance’, Hale points out that the ‘folk art or performance’ aspects of occulture is something that academia hasn’t really got to grips with yet.

Detail - left

Detail – left

A few researchers have begun exploring aspects of occult material and artistic culture that includes things like neopagan altars (notably Sabina Magliocco). So perhaps the time is right for practioners themselves to offer their voices into these investigations? (Although it must be said that many academics, including some of those mentioned here, are also practitioners themselves.)

Detail - right

Detail – right

If you’d like to share one of your altars with others please drop us a message here at the blog. We’d love to hear from you.

blogofbaphomet@gmail.com

Or, put a link to your uploaded images in the comments below 🙂

JV