Ban on Julian Vayne lecture at Oxford University

In 2019 I was invited to speak at an event organized by the Oxford Psychedelic Society. ‘The Odd Ball‘ turned out to be a fabulous occasion. An intense one day extravaganza featuring art, talks, food and music including a suitably cosmic performance by The Sun Ra Arkestra. Having chatted after the gig with the lovely organizers, we hatched a plan for me to return to Oxford and address members of the Psychedelic Society (composed largely of university students) the following year. Sadly 2020 saw my proposed return to the city of dreaming spires scuppered, although not for the usual pandemic reasons you might expect…

It proved unusually difficult for the Society to secure a room in the university in which I could speak. Very difficult in fact, strangely so. My contact investigated and it turned out that a minor official at the college in question had decided to ban me from speaking there!

Now this is very amusing to me for many reasons. Not least of which is the fact that 90 years earlier my cultural ancestor, occultist Aleister Crowley, was also banned from Oxford. In his case no reason seems to have been given by the university authorities, but in a statement to the press in 1930 Crowley speculated:

“Perhaps the refusal to let me lecture has come because Gilles de Rais [the subject of Crowley’s proposed lecture] is said to have killed 500 children in ritual murder and in some way this was connected with myself, since the accusation that I have not only killed but eaten children is one of the many false statements that have been circulated about me in the past.”

Same old story ninety years later eh? Well no, not quite. In an email that provided my own little slice of cancel culture, the university clerk explained “…we will not be able to accept this booking given your speakers statements on the record about illegal drug use and our duty of care towards our students.”

This story is delightfully bonkers in so many ways. For starters; I get banned from addressing a psychedelic society because I’ve taken psychedelic drugs – is that really a thing? Meanwhile several major surveys, as well as day-to-day experience of student life, suggests that many of those crazy kids are already using ‘illegal’ (more correctly ‘unlicensed’) drugs, even without my pernicious influence! And, as any fule kno, illegal drugs do not exist! Demonstrating any ‘duty of care’ would presumably include harm minimization education and open conversations rather than blanket banning of discussion. Something of particular relevance given the increasing numbers of young people using illicit drugs and the avowed free-speech policy of Oxford University itself. Finally, over the last decade, I’ve taught in a variety of other university settings and hold a position on an academic peer review publication. Oh, and that’s a journal about, er…psychedelic drugs!

Ninety years before me Crowley decided to stand up for free speech by publishing his banned lecture and donating the profits to the Poetry Society. I’ve done likewise by publishing The Banned Lecture of Getting Higher, available for pre-order now through Psychedelic Press, Copies will hit the streets – including those of Oxford – on November 16th.

And there’s another even more hilarious level of irony in our story. Something concerning the actual subject of my talk, which of course the administration didn’t have the wit to ask about… But no spoilers! All will be revealed in my introductory essay and the text of the lecture itself. You’re sure to find it highly amusing! Order your copy now before it’s er…

Happy mushroom season everyone!

Julian Vayne


I’m doing lots of workshops via the fabulous Treadwell’s Books. Check here for details.

Locked down but still want to develop your magic? Check out my Core Magical Skills course and the free Imagination and Wellbeing course on my teaching site.

Money Magic in the City of London

The City of London is a magical place. Surrounded by a ring of treasure hoarding dragon sentinels, the glass and steel buildings that are the statements of financial power tower over the landscape.

This is a place protected by the iconic London Stone which is usually housed within the City limits. However at the moment this monolithic guardian is outside the formal boundary of the financial district, having been temporarily moved to the Museum of London. The absence of this famous symbol from the place it protects just happened to coincide with an action proposed by C.J.Stone; a spot of situationist magic, aimed at transforming the way that money operates in our culture. On the 7th of November, a group of activists, Druids, occultists, artists and others made their way into the heart of the City to perform a series of rituals at locations such as the Monument (to the Great Fire of London), the Bank of England, St. Paul’s Cathedral and finally The Royal Court of Justice.

Defensive City Dragon

Defensive City Dragon

Trying to articulate what comes after capitalism is probably a bit like asking someone from the Middle Ages what would come after monotheism. While many people have a profound sense that something is deeply wrong with our culture of environmental over-exploitation, social inequality and frustration at the status quo, exactly what we should do about this is far from clear. The recent votes on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s membership of the European Union, and the United States of America’s election of President Donald Trump, are perhaps expressions (albeit maybe misguided ones) of this desire for change from the way things are.

The details of the actions we performed are recorded by C.J.Stone on his blog. You can read what we got up to here and here (with more material to follow soon). If you want to join in this action, one that seeks to question the role that money plays in our lives and strives to discover more equitable economic social relations, you may want to use the sigil that we deployed as part of our process.

Sign of the times

Sign of the times

This sigil, known as ‘The Equaliser’, is formed from the signs for greater than >, less than < and equal to = (the equals sign of course appears as part of a number of currency symbols such as some versions of the Euro, Dollar, Pounds Sterling and Yen signs). The sigil also includes some runic associations, as well as the link to the Chinese character for ‘well’ which C.J.Stone spotted after it was created (see his blog post). There’s a chant too, to help power-up the sigil; “Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To”. Simply write this sign on the paper money you have and use it, sending the sigil into the currency in circulation. As C.J. records on this blog we were able to send £100 in old-style £5 notes into the heart of the City by the simple expedient of swapping these for new polymer fivers at the Bank of England. The statement on British banknotes,’I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ‘, means that you can go to the Bank of England and swap it for another note of the same value.

Folks who are familiar with sigil magic will know that the classic way of deploying a sigil is to burn it once it is charged, the theory being that as the image is destroyed physically it goes to work in the unconscious ‘deep mind’ of reality. It’s rather nice to realise that the sigilised five pound notes that C.J. handed into the Bank of England will be destroyed by them in their incinerators in Slough. Slough is a town in Berkshire outside London. Its name derives from the use of the word to mean a depression, or ‘mire/swamp’. A ‘slough’ is a time or place of a falling away of non-vital things. It’s the word we use when a serpent throws off a layer of skin, a symbol of transformation indeed!