Spiritual Freethinking

Being a human often involves the construction of stories. In trying to make sense of our own lives, those of other beings on the planet and the Universe more generally, we create narratives to help us order what might be going on. We respond to the information we receive and fuse it with our existing perspectives in order to make decisions about how we wish to live and the potential risk things pose to our current experience of being alive. Most of this time we do this amazing work without even knowing that it is going on, but sometimes we have moments when we realise that we are doing it, and that we might want to make conscious changes to our method and style.

Most religious movements and schools of philosophy lay claim to providing tools for waking us up from the automatic reliance on assumptions. The process of becoming aware of the lenses we rely on for viewing the world can be both shocking and disorientating as we try to incorporate any new insights gained. The problems for most religions come when the incoming of new, enlightening knowledge (Gnosis) begins to disrupt the presuppositions that they themselves rely on e.g. that God either doesn’t exist or is radically different from how they were initially understood to be.


Sapere aude!

Many of the posts on this blog are penned with a view to promoting a process where we begin thinking about how we think and consider the risks involved in stepping outside the lines of received orthodoxy. If we start to question “received truths” and embrace the heretic’s path of choosing our own way, then we must realise that we will increase discomfort for both ourselves and those around us. For the freethinker, to refuse to question is often an even less desirable, stultifying path, but we would be naïve if we underestimate the disruptive force of heretical thoughts and behaviour.

Part of the creative, disruptive power of the heretic, is that they take existing received truths and they bend them. It would be bad enough if we adopted an antithetical position, but the fact that we take an image or language and inject it with a new, nuanced or odd meaning, truly infuriates those seeking to maintain their monopoly on perceived truth. The gnosis of the heretic triggers a creative process in which their artistry reveals strange variants of reality. While on one level we reject the easier answers of Faith, we often retain a symbiotic relationship with those beliefs and images. In our heresy we internalise these ordered creeds and transform them in to something both far stranger and more interesting.

For me, the adoption of such bold new readings allows the possibility of inhabiting a place of greater spaciousness that often feels more congruent with the lives we wish to live. Such territory is often at the outer edges of familiar maps and requires a level of wit and will that many of us experience as demanding and exhilarating in equal measure.

While each of us need to discover our own optimum means for accessing spaces of cognitive liberty, I have noticed that my own is often facilitated by allowing apparently disparate sources to sit alongside each other. I have been aware of my own journey in allowing the different aspects of my personal religious history to dialogue with each other. The Witch and the Cleric have been sitting down together for a beverage and conversation in the hope that new meaning might be discovered. All too often I have tried to rush them in the hope of a tidy resolution, but thankfully they have resisted my efforts!

In seeking to allow the unique parts of my own story to have a voice, I have often found more help in dreams and art than I have in theological concepts and reformulations. Of course I find great value in thinking and writing, but they often face the danger of overly concretising those states that are more subtle, subjective and sensed. In seeking to resist the urge to prematurely reconcile, synthesise or harmonise this multiplicity of voices and ideas, I have often found that artistic experimentation within a ritual context is a powerful tool.


Occult art experiment

While others may gain greater stimulus via extended textual analysis and linear debate, on their own these have not been enough to allow me to access the type of psychological integration that I long for. The Queer and transformative states that I need in order to challenge the bulwarks of orthodoxy in my own life, have been found more readily in the images of Abraxas, Baphomet and N’Aton than in attempts at systematic theology. For me these part-made gods embody the ongoing dialogue between idealised androgyny and the complexity of Queer experience. The Queer aspirations of “Postdrogyny” and “Pandrogyne” are the first fruits of an artistic exploration of the possibility of identity. This is an Aquarian age in which our neat categories are troubled and disrupted by the bold lives of those seeking a more authentic way.

The use of sigils, collage, and altar sculpts can all be means of allowing us to inhabit a type of magical space that allows for a personal alchemy that I hope will catalyse change on a wider, societal level. This zone is the place of the crossroads, and as I have observed elsewhere:

If we journey to the crossroads in our attempt to rediscover our magic, we are inevitably entering a realm of liminal possibility. The crossroads is a meeting place of apparent opposites and seeming contradictions. The dynamic tension generated by the friction between these polarities makes it the place of initiation.
A Gnostic’s Progress p. 155

The crossroads is a place of incarnation and inspiration, and the word must become flesh (John, 1:14) in order for us to experience its fullness. May our art, inspiration and willingness to explore, allow access to such fullness! This is rarely an easy peace, but as we allow ourselves to tune into the complexity and mystery of our lives, may all of us experience greater authenticity and freedom.

So Mote it Be!


Further Adventures in Ma’at Magick

In my last post I touched upon the inspiration that I have been gaining from the Ma’at Magick current as outlined by the wonderful Nema (Maggie Ingalls). It was through her description of her work with the mysterious figure of N’Aton that I found a vehicle for furthering my own explorations of the Gnostic current in a more creative, future orientated way.

Those acquainted with my writing here will probably be unsurprised by my attraction to N’Aton as a future-mythic figure. N’Aton represents a non-binary ‘They’ at a number of levels. As is represented by their image half in starry shadow and half in light, their gender is located in a third place that dances between and beyond polarities. N’Aton as a future magical self also integrates an inspiring way of being that holds together the unique individual and shared collective.


Face of the Future

While the primary structure of the book Ma’at Magick follows the time-tested format of the Hermetic Kabbalah, for me juiciest insights are gained as Nema incorporates her more Typhonic and Nu-Thelemic inspirations. Having worked closely with Kenneth Grant and the Kaula Nath lineage of AMOOKOS, her work weaves together a rich variety of magical strands.

One of the areas of magical practice that seems to reflect this rich material is Nema’s work with the Forgotten Ones. For her these are the personified aspects of our ancient and primal drives that have allowed humanity to survive and evolve. These are the lurkers in the deep that connect us to the potent needs of hunger, sex, clan connection, communication and curiosity.  As Nema observes: “Civilisation, law, governance and good manner form a fragile veneer over the survival urges in the human unconscious.”

Once one has entered into conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel, Nema believes that it is vital to engage in our work with the Forbidden Ones so as to avoid the perils of megalomania and potential magical burn-out. For us to truly earth our experiences of transcendence and the sense of who we might become, it is essential that we as magicians remain connected to the earthy reality of who we are as human animals. For our work to have sustainability the balancing scales of Ma’at need to be attended to. If we focus only on the future, the “spiritual” and the new, we risk fragility and escapism. If we focus only on the ancestral drives of the past, we risk getting bogged down in materialism and missing the possibility of who we might become. Like the scales we seek balance, a Hermetic tightrope walk of “as above so below”.

For me part of the genius of author-artists such as Nema, Kenneth Grant and Austin Osman Spare is their appreciation of the ‘darker’, dream-like dimensions of magical work and how critical these are in fuelling a more integrated version of magical advancement. While critics might depict such approaches as being ‘nightside’, I couldn’t frankly care less as my own experience with dusty, linear approaches is that they often fill the head while doing little for the heart or the body. For our alchemy to be real we need the fuel of body, mind and emotions ignited and transformed.

This need to reconnect to the Forgotten, dark and unconscious has been a theme key to my own magical journey. The psychological struggle to hide aspects of mySelf behind a mask of perceived respectability drove me down into what felt like a pit of confusion and personal torment.  While I longed for a quick fix that demanded less effort or a ready rescuer, the answer came via darkness, stillness and the eventual death of who I thought I was. While these days I find limited value in terms such as ‘Left-hand path’, I can still recognise the territory it is attempting to map in trying to describe those spiritual paths that engage  with the dark, earthy and potentially frightening dimensions of existence.

In revisiting these insights of Nema’s, I was reminded of my own ongoing focus on the form of draconian magic articulated in the works of Michael Kelly. In works such as Apophis and Aegishjalmur, Kelly describes the work of the initiate as being an ongoing dialogue between consciousness and chaos. Yes we might strive for an awakened sense of Self that seeks the qualities of Godhood, but we must also recognise the darker more chaotic currents of the Serpent moving through the depths of both ourselves and the cosmos. The true adept is the one able to acknowledge the presence of both chaos and order within their personal sphere, and that both impulses can be harnessed when done so consciously.

While the approaches outlined by Nema and Kelly might differ significantly in their chosen starting point and aesthetics, for me their shared authenticity is found in their balancing of wide range of human needs and competing drives. Our personal journeys and tastes will of course shape the degree of comfort and congruence with a given path, but my hunch is that any school or method of lasting value will force us to confront those forgotten aspects that potentially hold the key to deeper progress.