Working with the Body at Halloween

For me one of the benefits of  working  with the turning of the year (especially alongside the 8 colours of magic), is that I often feel as though I’m being asked to maintain a balance in relation to the diet of my magical/spiritual activity and to pay attention to the way in which such work promotes health. If for example the heights of ego magic at mid-summer risk the danger of grandiosity, so the demands of Lammas and harvest help ensure that I pressure test any sense of advancement.

In the Northern Hemisphere this time of year can be an interesting time to take stock.  Whether we call it Samhain, Halloween or All Souls, the entry into the colder, darker period of the year often provides a natural impulse to slow down and review what we are doing and how this lines-up with our personal aspirations.

One of the great benefits of having both close magical friends and using a magical diary is that they both provide aid in the process of reflection and the way that I keep returning to important themes that I would have been less aware of if I had been left to my own devices. By making the most of such support, one of the reoccurring themes that I keep bumping into, is the importance of the body in my current spiritual practice. In discussion with beloved friends over cups of tea and in deciphering the rambling stream of consciousness contained in my diaries, I have to contend with the question of what it means to experience both the joys and limitations of the physical realm.

For much of this year I have been exploring my relationship with my body by reconnecting to my love of surfing. Living by the coast, I have the good fortune of getting into the sea and exploring the pleasure and challenges that it offers. I tend to surf either without a board (bodysurfing) or on a small inflatable surf mat. Both of these approaches are viewed as somewhat eccentric within the wider surfing community, but help maximize the rider’s closeness to the power of the wave. Outwardly the rider may not seem to be doing much beyond gliding down the face of the wave, but for me they provide a direct experience of nature’s power and the ever changing conditions of the Ocean. However odd and unimpressive this might seem to onlookers, the simple and intense pleasure of this watery Tantra keeps calling me back.

surf

Inflatable surf action!

My relationship to surfing is a complex one. I started surfing at age 10 when living in Australia and was an enthusiastic devotee until my family returned to the UK 6 years later. For the next 10 years I hardly went in the sea, and my focus on Christianity and theological education provided all the distraction I could want. When I eventually started surfing again, I simply assumed that despite the need for more wetsuit, I would be able to resume my obsession as before. Sadly my body didn’t agree, and following the move to Devon with my partner I was quickly faced by the reality that this love of mine was making me ill. I was confronted by limitation in the form of chronic fatigue symptoms and the realization that I couldn’t really do this, and work and have a life.

The letting go of my surfing obsession was made easier by becoming a parent and the inevitable demands and focus that this requires, and yet I still can’t/won’t let go of this thing I love. Surfing inevitably teaches me all those hippy lessons about flow, and awe at nature’s beauty, but it has also taught me some important things about limitation and self-care. I now avoid those beautiful winter waves and when I do surf in warmer months, I pay attention to my diet, my Qi Gong practice and the need for rest. Other illnesses and life events have provided more stark challenges, but my ability to surf/not surf has definitely allowed me some insight in how I experience my body.

Within the excellent work that Julian has done mapping on the colours of magic to the 8 major fire festivals Samhain is seen as having strong correspondences with black magic and the realm of death. Perhaps this is inevitable as we hunker down in front of fires and contend with early sunsets, but this drawing in and reflection brings associations with endings, darkness and remembering those people or things we have lost. When we work with the body we can become aware of not only the intense pleasures that can be sensed and experienced, but also the frailty of our physical selves and their finite span.

For those of us walking a magical path, the reality of own deaths can trigger a range of differing responses. Having worked hard at refining our psyches via the rigours of esoteric endeavour, the ending of our physical life as we know it can feel like an injustice that we rage against in a desire to buy more time. Alternately, in taking inspiration from Buddhist practice, can we use our awareness of mortality to sharpen our appreciation of this moment and review how we wish to be living now?

If I knew that I had three years left, what changes would I be making in the choices I make and in the quality of my relationships?

What if I knew I had 1 year?

What if I knew I had 6 months?

Stark questions, but also ones that can inspire us to awaken and taste life more fully!

Blessed Be.

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.

cover-cs1

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

A Gnostic’s Progress: A book from our own Steve Dee

A_Gnostics_Progress_Cover_for_Kindle

The word ‘gnosis’ was adopted by early explorers of what became known as ‘chaos magic’; essentially as a synonym for ‘altered (or ‘extraordinary’) states of consciousness’. Gnosis is imagined as the engine of magic; a radical awareness where the relationships between self and other are destabilised and a visceral, direct and unmediated knowledge can be encountered. Within A Gnostic’s Progress Steve Dee provides a reflection of this understanding and asks instead what insights chaos magic can bring to the tradition of Gnosticism?

The usual Gnostic universe consists of a top-down, hierarchically framed series of relationships between principles such as the Pleroma (the spiritual universe as the abode of God and of the totality of the divine powers and emanations), the Demiurge (the creator of the world, sometimes imaged as a power antithetical to the purely divine), and Sophia (the spirit of wisdom and allegedly the reason we’re trapped in material reality). Such models come with plenty of value judgements about good and evil, spiritual versus material but how, asks Steve Dee, can we make sense of the relationships between these concepts if we use in its place the relativist and questioning approach of contemporary chaos magic?

Steve

As a professional therapist Steve Dee leads the reader into the territory of Father Gods, Divine Feminines, Archons, Aeons and all the rest and, rather than repeating patriarchal conclusions, instead approaches these divine players as members of a family. How, asks Steve, can we re-imagine these relationships in a way that acknowledges the differing perspectives and insights of these forces?

Looking into the relationships between the actors in the gnostic universe isn’t just a cerebral practice and Gnosticism ritual doesn’t need to look like a pseudo-High Church ceremonialism. Rather our author provides a range of practical methods for gnostic/chaos magic unapologetically postmodern exploration including stripped back ritual technology, contemplative and meditational methods, along with tales of gnostic practice from other practitioners (the book features an interview with and art work from Jung scholar and Temple of Set initiate Lloyd Keane).

Written from the perspective of contemporary magical practice and informed by depth psychology and artistic process, this is gnosticism, but not as you’ve ever seen it before…

JV

A Gnostic’s Progress can be found on Amazon. British sales here, US here; other countries please search on the appropriate Amazon site for your location. A Kindle edition is also available, with some illustrations in colour.

 

 

From the Foreword:

Steve, on the other hand, is demonstrably eager to do something with Gnosticism. Anyone who feels the same way will find plenty of examples of devotional and magical approaches to the legacy of the Gnostics here.

These essays may be delivered in bite-sized chunks but these are nourishing savouries not quick-fix sugar bombs. He is very aware of being a modern or postmodern spiritual explorer: “We make no claims to lineage or secrets shared on Grandma’s knee, rather this is a Witchcraft born of a connection to a raw coastline, the beating of drums and a desire to awaken.”

So enter a world filled with speedo-clad yogis and surfer fundamentalists, in which the ancient Nag Hammadi text Thunder Perfect Mind is declaimed to a backdrop of trance drumming. Steve’s writings do not merely reflect a lowest common denominator of the above influences, a Venn diagram intersection of three or four contemporary spiritual trends. His tastes are more eclectic than that, perhaps, but more importantly I sense that he is always bringing his experience to bear and is always trying things out. As the reader will discover, Steve even encourages us to try things out too.

Andrew Phillip Smith

Editor of The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality.

 

The Books of Magic – reviews of some top volumes of esoterica

Twister Power is the prequel to Dave Lee’s novel Road to Thule and like that first book this is another heady blend of drugs, magic and future technology set against the backdrop of a world  heading towards economic and environmental collapse. The use of technology to enhance parapsychological powers is central to the plot and there are a number of asides in the novel that explore the history and development of magic. A dystopian cyberpunkesque tale, Twisted Power will be of interest to both sci-fi heads and futurist sorcerers.

Magical future shock

Magical future shock

Defining Magic: A Reader does what it says on the tin. This academic and (by and large) accessible volume explores the repeated attempts by the academy to answer that perennial question/koan ‘what is magic’? From James Frazer and his formulation of sympathetic and imitative magic, through to much less ‘sceptical’ or ‘detached’ theoreticians (such as Susan Greenwood) this book provides a very fine window into the two thousand year old process of people trying to establish what that slippery word magic actually points to. Recommended to both academics in this field and esoteric practitioners who want to gain valuable insight into the meaning and history of their practice.

Noumenautics by academic, philosopher and psychonaut Peter Sjöstedt-H is another fascinating book from the Psychedelic Press UK imprint. The first section deals with an analysis of the psychedelic experience (particularly those states produced by psilocybin mushrooms and LSD), while the latter section of the book presents a close analysis of (neo) nihilism and in particular the work of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. This volume joins the ranks of those tomes that emerge when you drop psychedelic drugs into the brain of a writer. The particular nihilist spin that Sjöstedt-H provides is fascinating, though I’d like to discover (perhaps in future writings) more about how the author sees the relationship of this philosophical school and psychedelics.

Mushroom philosophy

Mushroom philosophy

Riding out from the serious academic stable of Oxford University Press is The Devil’s Party, subtitled Satanism in Modernity. This is wonderful collection of intelligent papers covering many and diverse aspects of the development of Satanic culture and identity. Highlights for me included the thoughtful and generous re-appraisal of LaVey’s The Satanic Bible, and a  great essay about probably the first self-described Satanist Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Interesting, though in my viewed flawed, is the final paper on The Order of Nine Angles (which seems to exist mostly as a juvenile literary fiction rather than, as the author of the paper imagines, an actual organisation). Overall this is a fascinating, inclusive and well researched exploration of the new religious movement of modern Satanism.

The Museum Dose by the amusingly monikered Daniel Tumbleweed combines two subjects close to my heart; namely cultural spaces and drugs. Daniel takes us on a tour of locations including The Guggenhein Museum and Brian Eno’s exhibition ’77 million paintings’ at Café Rouge. Moreover these adventures happen on exciting drugs such as 25-MeO-MiPT & C-t-2 respectively. In these and ten other places the author invites us to explore, though his excellent prose, the interface between psychedelics, art, history and imagination. This book will be of interest  to both cultural curators and fans of psychedelic literature. Even if exotic drugs are not your bag the engaging authorial voice still makes this a great read.

The final book in this set is the Mutus liber of the tarot, specifically the (Facebook) Chaos Magick Group (CMG) Tarot. This social media mediated collaborative project saw 47 artists and chaos magic practitioners creating a diverse and deep series of images. The whole project took around 2 years from inception to manifestation as a physical deck, with project co-ordinator Paul Nott expertly herding the chaos cats until, as you can see in this video, our collective desire was realised.

 

CMG has  proved to a wonderfully creative space with a collective intelligence capable of identifying and booting out objectionable online nutters but managing to preserve a brilliant Discordian culture. I contributed two cards to the deck as did Nikki Wyrd and we are both really proud to have been part of this excellent venture. Check the deck out (and make a purchase if you Will) here.

Enjoy!

JV

 

Start your day the Baphomet Way

It’s rare these days that I get a lazy Sunday at home but sometimes it happens.

On these occasions I like to start the day with a little ritual activity. At around 10am, as the Church bells ring on the far side of the river, I like to perform my own Sunday morning service.

Typically this consists of around a few tai chi stretches followed by some mindfulness meditation. After this, a brief sojourn into an altered state of awareness is, I find, the perfect way to start the day. Techniques that one might use to attain such a state include (where it’s safe and legal to do so) the use of short-duration entheogens (eg frankicense, cannabis, nitrous oxide, smoked Salvia divinoirum or the DMT family of spirits).

Rise and shine

Rise and shine

The audio recording here is suitable for use with this kind of approach or could be included as part of another perhaps longer practice. If you don’t fancy the use of chemognosis (which of course could also simply mean a really nice cup of tea) then dancing, shaking trance or other freeform bodywork would also be suitable during the section of chanting and drumming (the style of the chant used is derived from The Circle of Baphomet ritual described in The Book of Baphomet).

The first section of this recording includes the Ouranian Barbaric invocation and The Charge of Baphomet, both of which are described in more detail in Chaos Craft (book and Kindle formats available). Occult nerds will spot that this Charge is, like the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess, a mash-up text. You get extra majix points if you can figure out the names of all the authors.

No need to wait until Sunday! Have an initial listen and see if this approach floats your esoteric boat, and if it does, gather your ritual paraphernalia, press play, and enjoy!

PS. The Baphomet image used here was created by Luke Brown, check out his amazing artwork.

How to Avoid Bad News

Spoiler alert; I don’t think we can… but, there are ways of putting bad news in its proper place. Perhaps by focussing on accentuating the positive on a daily level, we can go some way to eliminate (or at least minimise) the debilitating impact of the negative. Sometimes we might feel as if we are drowning, powerless, under a tidal wave of saddening or maddening pieces of information, as the global connectivity of 2016 allows us to hear of everyone’s misfortunes.

What can we do about this? Magically, we have the massive advantage of understanding how small acts done with intent create ripples which spread into other aspects of our selves. And, our environment (because, of course, there is no real boundary between these things, as any fule kno).

The following can be done with various amounts of surrounding ceremony, from providing a simple physical marker (ringing a bell, lighting incense, a number of conscious breaths) to more elaborate representations to emphasise the intent we carry into the activity (casting a circle, using another banishing method, constructing a sigil or talisman to concentrate the magick raised, or perhaps dedicating the activity to a deity or other suitable spirit).

 

  • Go for a walk

This has to be one of the easiest ways of instantly changing one’s mood. Away from the constant stream of ‘news’ via whatever streams of information we usually allow to enter our consciousness, we find reassurance in the rhythms of walking. Since before time began, before Greenwich was invented, before dinosaurs, before hair first sprouted, our ancestors walked. Next time you go for a stroll, wherever it might take you, feel into the realm of the incredible antiquity of this activity. Look around you without words. See how long you can manage to quell the narrative voices which tend to comment on all the issues of the day, whether personal or wider scale. Creating a pause in this constant commentary, allows other feelings to arise which are prompted by the biological reality of where you are, right here, right now. A useful technique is to move the gaze so it rests upon any thing for only a short time, long enough to recognise and focus, then moving on before any words start to make associations. Appreciate each scene for merely what it is at that moment. Even a few minutes doing this is worthwhile, although if you can you would do well to be outside for a good half an hour.

 

  • Music and dance

We all have access to more music than we can shake a stick at. Put on something to suit the mood, or to change it! and do some movement. No-one is watching or evaluating, get active by thinking of this as non-censorship of your body’s desire to do stuff; we spend a lot of time telling ourselves NOT to do x or y, and certainly not z, so by removing limitations and positively encouraging the body’s basic drive to move we could well encourage greater happiness on many levels. For those who may have restrictions, any moves you make are valuable. If you are lucky enough to have acquired the skill of playing music, do that! Singing also counts as moving in this system, as it uses a totally different set of brain cells than talking, and controlled breathing counts as moving here. The point of this suggestion then is to interact with the body pleasurably, without any goal of result, to experience the joys of existence.

 

  • Go with the flow

Flow states can be reached by so many routes. The phrase describes that place we reach when we become so engrossed in a task that it ceases to be a task and instead we ‘disappear’ into the action, our identities dissolve with the world around  us. For me writing, working, doing chores around the home, and in fair weather a little light gardening, can all lead me to this. In days gone by I would have counted reading, but I am not so sure now, as it feels too passive to be empowering. Creative arts often allow flow states to occur, regardless of the skill level of the person. Remember the intent is to enter the flow state, not produce a masterpiece.

 

  • Throw things away

Most of us have stuff we don’t need. Get rid of some of it. Throw it to a charity shop rather than the bin if you can, the important theme here is to make space, as well as removing past baggage. You are living in the present. Let that happen. (Loads of tips exist online for various tactics, so I won’t repeat them here; basically though, my own practice in this area leads me to suggest small and frequent forays into cluttered spaces, rather than the daunting prospect of a major clear out!)

 

  • Grow something

I am hopeless at indoor plants. Except for a money tree which has lived with me for over a decade; despite a nasty fall a few years ago, it continues to flourish. Looking after a living organism puts us in touch with the underlying pace of life, how each day influences the years. (Fyi, I don’t hold with minute hands on clocks; their invention was the moment time became a problem rather than a handy indicator. Hours were plenty good enough for thousands of years…)

Money tree

My jade/friendship/luck/money tree, transformed by a magickal lens

  • Notice your food

Pay attention to it, how it tastes, savour the nourishment.

 

  • Do things with other people

Whatever we do we must bear in mind that doing it in groups changes its impact. It is too easy to feel we have made social contact by remote interactions (and indeed these interactions can prove better than total isolation). Nothing can substitute for the physical presence of others though. Do magicks with others, find them, make things up together.

 

  • Techno appreciation

Getting in touch with Nature is all very well but we live in the 21st century, and would be daft to turn our backs on what amazing toys it has to offer. Read books yes, but also USE the internet. Search for obscure facts, employ technological hardware/software to cast spells. Explore how to, keep your skillz up to date. Value those parts of invention which bring Life to life. See the beauty of our recent achievements.

 

Many of these ideas are fairly obvious and look like simple everyday practices. By directing our collective attention to the enjoyable we can rediscover (and remind our selves and each other), of what we really do, that we do in fact have an effect upon our worlds, that this world has a ground upon which we build our subjective individual understandings and stories about who we are. Let the words follow the phenomenological, get right to the raw stuff of life and revel in it.

Worries and sorrows will never cease, indeed they can have importance and should not all be casually dismissed. When they come to us on top of a rich layer of memories of enjoyable magickal involvement with the immediate, we can better see them for what they are, and maybe, do something with them.

NW

Illuminating the history of Chaos Magic

There have been various attempts to provide a history of chaos magic; to describe the genesis and development of Current 23.

Chaos magic (CM) emerges initially in the British Isles, also the birthplace of Wicca, Neo-Druidry and Thelema. A nice description of the origins of CM can be found in Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate’s The Book of English Magic and of course there is various material available online (ranging from the broadly accurate, through to the ranty and occasionally bonkers end of the market). More useful background history can be found in The History of British Magic After Crowley by Dave Evans which also contextualises the rise of CM at a time when Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth was at its most active. However the most up-to-date reflections on CM, and in particular the origins and work of The Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT), can to be found in a recent lecture by Dave Lee. This presentation was made to a packed house at the wonderful Treadwell’s bookshop in London (where, incidentally, I’m running a workshop in September).

Bill & Dave's excellent adventure

Bill & Dave’s excellent adventure

In common with many other esoteric organisations the initiatory oath of the IOT requires members to be circumspect when discussing the group with non-members. This oath of secrecy aims to ensure that individuals do not have their membership revealed, without their express consent, to non-members. (While the situation in Britain is much better than it was in years past there are still contexts in which ‘coming out’ as an occultist may cause difficulties for people.) The other reason for ‘keeping silent’ is to ensure that the inter-personal processes arising within a group magical context are contained in a safe, supportive and respectful space.

With all that in mind Dave provides a very candid personal account. He manages to respect confidences, maintain a generous spirit towards those who were there at the inception of the current, and to describe in detail some IOT workings that have been ‘declassified’. This interview is both a fascinating tale of an individual practitioner’s journey into magic, and an important overview of the story of CM thus far.

Enjoy!

JV