Sharing this Magical Life

The community of practice—the sangha, coven, temple or wider network of esoteric practitioners (such as the IOT)—is really important to me. I know myself well enough to know that, while I can do solitary work (including my ‘baseline’ practices of yoga and mindfulness mediation) it’s in community with others that I thrive.

One example of this is how, while I’ve written 12 books, most of these works have been co-authored with other writers. Bouncing ideas off each other and working collaboratively is what I love and I’ve been fortunate to have been doing this with my dear friend Greg Humphries since we met in 1998 (beginning with a sequence of rituals that culminated at the total eclipse of the sun in Cornwall in 1999). Greg and I have now produced our second book. Well, really Greg has done most of the work—the lion’s share of the text is his, as are all the wonderful artworks, drawings and photographs that accompany the words.

This new book is about one of our favourite practices, psychogeography. For us this a series of tactics in walking that allow us to come into a special type of relationship with landscape. These methods allow us to reveal the occult ‘hidden’ aspects of reality; the sacred in the everyday, the possibility of multiple narratives in spaces accessed by disrupting the dominant discourse (like what you are ‘supposed’ to find interesting when you wander round a historic house as we were doing earlier this week).

(There will be a limited number of full colour copies of Walking Backwards or, The Magical Art of Psychedelic Psychogeography available now. After Midsummer the edition will be available only as a monochrome text.)

psychogeography books1

Texts of drifting, walking and wondering…

Psychogeography was the theme of a workshop I ran recently at Treadwell’s bookshop, from which I received some great feedback (like the review here). An interesting thing about psychogeographical explorations is that they attract a wide variety of people who sense that there are many possible relationships with the world we inhabit besides the narrow-bandwidth that is often served up as ‘being normal’ (or ‘acceptable’ or ‘permitted’ or similar). Excellent examples of both practical techniques for engendering these new states of awareness, as well as a deep theoretical exegesis of psychogeography, are to be found in the new work Rethinking Mythogeography… by Phil Smith. Phil is a seasoned traveller in non-ordinary spaces, creating plays and site-specific installations amongst other things. In his new book (which like the one by me and Greg, is replete with evocative photographic images) he explores the town of Northfield in Minnesota, counterpointing it with observations of the hidden histories of locations such as A la Ronde in Devon.

Phil writes beautifully, capturing in his prose the mythic intent and surreal outputs of ‘disrupted walking’.

The magic of the ordinary may at first strike you in flashes or by the sudden falling of a shadow across a scene; but if you can hold onto those moments for a while, stay calm and not grab for the first wonder, then—like the passing freight train—the magic will begin to steam around you in unfolding loops, in strings like movies or stories or chains of DNA.

The book by Greg and me comes out just as Greg (finally!) gets a major exhibition of his work. This will be happening at the Penwith Gallery in Cornwall (23rd March to 6th April) as part of the 80th celebration for St Ives School of Painting. Visitors will have the chance to see some of the amazing objects that Greg creates. These include a handmade, exquisitely carved longbow, with hand-stitched leather bow case and hand-forged and fletched arrows. This magical object, from an imagined Albion (‘Bring me my bow of burnished gold…’; part of the weapon is indeed gilded), is part of a series of pieces that bring together Greg’s skills in bushcraft and green woodworking with his magical world-view. Get along to the show if you can.

greg-in-his-riddley-walker-style-waistcoat

Greg Humphries, the artful woodland wizard

In other news, the Black Mirror Research network (exploring how ‘…artists have used esoteric, magical and occult philosophies as sources of inspiration’) and the Plymouth College of Art have a conference next month Seeking the Marvellous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women & SurrealismOver two days in sunny Plymouth some of the leading academics in the field will be speaking about important female surrealists and occultists including both Ithell Colquhoun and blogofbaphomet favourite Leonora Carrington.

Foregrounding (to use a contemporary expression) women’s voices is something I’m pleased to say is happening more and more, especially in the psychedelic scene. I’ve just been listening to the first Psychedelic Salon podcast hosted by Kat and Alexa Lakey; The Family that Trips Together, Sticks Together. As well as a fascinating interview with Scott Olsen they also present two conversations between the sisters and their Mum and Dad, reflecting on their psychedelic experiences, both individually and as a family. This fascinating and beautifully comfortable conversation breaks new ground in the field of psychedelic podcasting; we are after all 50 years on the from the first, and 30 years since the second, Summer of Love. We now have two, even three, generations of psychonauts in some families who can compare notes and share an understanding of these most profound and potentially liberating of experiences. (And now we’re on to the Third Summer of Love.)

I’m pleased to say that Alexa and Kat have invited me to work with them on some forthcoming podcasts. Stay tuned to The Psychedelic Salon and this blog for details!

Meanwhile I’ve been writing about psychoactives for a forthcoming collection of essays on psychedelics (I was pleased to be asked to contribute by the erudite and playful Erik Davis who interviewed me recently for his podcast). Writing longer stuff means that I’ve had less time for blogging here so I’m planning to start some vlogging (as I believe the young people call it…). There is an initial video here and more to follow. Please like, share and subscribe and all that.

Away from the virtual world, Nikki and I are looking forward to running a series of retreats at St.Nectan’s Glen. I’ve written about this space many times before on this blog so to have a newly built retreat centre there that we are helping to develop, and to hold space at this sacred location, is a great honour. Details of our May retreat can be found here.

St-Nectans-Waterfall-4-1024x768

Prayer ribbons and fairy towers at St.Nectan’s Glen

Nikki is also going to take part in a panel discussion alongside Dave King and Danny Nemu at the inaugural meeting of the Durham Psychedelics Society (for those who don’t know, Durham University is famous for its learning and researching in the fields of Biblical studies, Christian theology and the sociological and the anthropological study of religion). We’re both super excited to be speaking at the wonderful Beyond Psychedelics conference in Prague, (the call for papers is open now but closes soon!) and later this year at the Ozora festival in Hungary (7 days, 25,000 people and 24 hour psytrance, what’s not to like?).

On a more one-to-one level I’m also really pleased to find myself in a situation where I’m being asked to mentor and support people as they explore their own spiritual development. Part of the delight of this has been to be able to share my knowledge and experience but without adopting any kind of guru role. I offer my services in this respect as a Kalyanamitra (Sanskrit) or kalyanamitta (Pali), that is as a ‘spiritual friend’—someone who is walking a similar path and can provide support and encouragement to others, along with suggestions for practices and technique—but without any pretence to ‘knowing the answer’.

I get a huge amount out of this sharing of ideas. It’s great when this happens in a formal academic context (I’ll be teaching this year on the Spirituality & Ecology Masters Degree at Schumacher College) as well as in less formal learning settings (check out our Deep Magic pages for updates) and in peer-support environments too. Like many of us I understand things best when I’m exploring ideas with others.

As social creatures making these interpersonal connections, we have the possibility of developing both a collective intelligence (a group mind) and also of allowing the community to enable our own individual understanding. There’s a simple example of this; you may have had the experience of calling IT support and explaining the problem with your computer. As you do the explaining, even if the helpdesk person says very little, you are creating a new neural connection and often realize how to fix the problem as you are speaking. Making words to describe the problem to another person creates a new pathway for information to move through, often leading to insight and discovery. (You can try a similar process when looking for your keys by simply repeating ‘keys, keys, keys…’ which measurably increases how quickly you find your keys). Holding space with and for people, so that they can speak their truth, and come (like finding our lost keys) to moments of self-realization, is a real privilege. I think having a background in chaos magic helps, since while I have my story to tell and experiences to share that may inspire others, I’m not a ‘better’ or a ‘more powerful magician’ than anyone else. I’m also not interested in cheerleading for any particular paradigm, so while there are pagans and magicians who attend the sessions I curate, there are plenty of participants present who would not identify with those terms.

For me, as a group person and as an individual who thrives on collaboration, this diversity is wonderful. While I enjoy those more ‘inward facing’ conferences and meetings (where everyone is dressed in black, sporting various spooky bits of jewellery and making niche gematria jokes), making occulture accessible, intelligible and relevant to new audiences is, at least for me at the moment, where it’s at.

Julian Vayne

 

 

In Search of Depth – A Review of ‘The Magickal Union of East and West’ by Gregory Peters

Much of the writing on this blog is preoccupied with the question of how we as Magicians of varying stripes seek to develop both depth and meaningful direction in our spiritual work. Rather than signing up to the concept of “one teleos fits all”, I hope that team Baphomet manages to balance a lively interest in the development of mature practice while revelling in the many potential ways that this might be pursued.

Once we move beyond the initial stages of understanding the core myths and ritual techniques of a given tradition it can feel bewildering as to how one can put down the type of deep roots that will enable more long term sustenance. While finding a helpful teacher or a structured Order may provide guidance for those lucky enough to locate them, I would not underestimate the role of a good book in providing us with new insight. Thankfully in The Magickal Union of East and West Gregory Peters has provided us with one of these volumes.

east

Peters comes from a rich background of Thelemic ceremonial magic and various lineages of both  Hindu and Buddhist tantra. In this work he seeks to outline some of the key ideas and practices that he and other magical colleagues have worked with, within the Ordo Sunyata Vajra (OSV) over the past 18 years.  As is suggested by its English translation as an Order of the “Adamantine Void”, this is a curriculum that seeks to equip the magician with both philosophy and ritual technique for exploring dimensions of the “true” and “silent” self.

Peters is an open and enthusiastic guide who offers the insights he has gained with a deep sense of gratitude to those teachers and currents that have informed his work. Whether it be the work of Kaula Nath lineage of AMOOKOS, Dzogchen or Chan Buddhist practices, he presents these approaches within an explicitly Thelemic world view. However much he has gained from these Eastern traditions, his work seeks to engage with them as means for getting to the deeper dimensions of Crowley’s work as it was carried forward by Kenneth Grant, and Greg’s own mentor Soror Meral (Phyllis Seckler).

If we are to move beyond superficial heavy metal styling’s regarding the expression of “true will”, we will need to explore what will this mean in terms of the transformation of self and the manifestation of Thelema and Agape within our everyday lives. This is not a rejection of the Western magical tradition, rather it is an attempt to reconnect us to those spiritual traditions that were critical to the reconstitution of Neo-pagan paths long deprived of their own change technologies.

Our author is a big fan of Kenneth Grant and clearly sees the focus of the OSV as being profoundly connected to the recovery of a perennial form of “Stellar Gnosis”. In contrast to Grant however, Greg (as a Tantric and ceremonial practitioner) provides us with plenty of guidance with regards things we can do. Malas can be blessed and altars can be created and there are plenty of ritual outlines that we are invited to explore and adapt depending on setting and inclination. We also spend time thinking about what it means to inhabit the “dragon seat” of meditation in order to explore the oscillating sense of being and non-being.

For me, this work provides some helpful maps for exploring the limited spatial metaphors that we as magical types can get hung-up on. If we adopt a psyche-centric focus for work, are we seeking to reinforce concepts like ego-strength or are we pursuing the dissolution of our self-concept? In seeking to simultaneously deepen our engagement with both True Will and the formlessness of the Void, Peters seems to be acknowledging the inevitable spiralling movement of the self as it dances between such poles. In sitting with a spaciousness that demands the alchemical transformation of our Will, Self is ultimately embraced even though its newer form may now seem barely recognisable.

I would highly recommend this book to those magicians interested in how the Aeon of Horus can shake-off some of its dustier, pseudo-masonic origins. In the spirit of Grant’s Typhonic work and Nema’s Maat magick, the work of the OSV provides some highly helpful guidance as to how we as contemporary practitioners can work with both Eastern and Western magical currents in a manner that feels at once respectful, deep and innovative.

SD

A Fondness for Snakes – the Art of Marchesa Casati

Imagine that you are invited to an astonishing, opulent house. In the property’s winter garden, near the west wing, dwell fabulous beasts; scaled and feathered marvels. On entering the building you are greeted by a mechanical stuffed panther, moving and growling, its eyes flashing feline fire. You are escorted by exquisitely liveried footmen into the bedchamber of the lady of the house. A woman with kohl ringed eyes dilated with belladonna extract, and wild flame-red hair. She is one of the richest woman in Europe (you have been transported back to France in the 1920s ).

Admitted to the bedchamber you discover your hostess; “…enveloped in white tulle and crowned by an upside-down silver flower pot, adorned by a single white ostrich plume…sat on a vast green carpet made to resemble a grassy lawn.” However the lady is not pleased by the inclusion of felt daisies in the weave of her indoor sward and asks you to join her in snipping off these disagreeable blooms. There are gilded scissors to do the job along with, “…foie gras and champagne served from a picnic basket presented by a black youth in fancy dress”.

027

Images of the Marchesa Casati courtesy of Ryersson & Yaccarino and The Casati Archives

This isn’t some baroque hallucinatory event but one of the many real, utterly fabulous, moments in the life of the Marchesa Luisa Casati who, in the early 20th century, was one of the most outlandish, shocking and remarkable figures of the age.

I’d only briefly encountered the Casati story so it wasn’t until reading two wonderful books that I came to appreciate both the significance and astonishing flamboyance of this woman. Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of The Marchesa Casati by Scot.D.Ryersson & Michael Orlando Yaccarino is a wonderful biography, meticulously researched and a real page-turner of a read (the quotes above are from that volume), and The Marchesa Casati: Portraits of a Muse, a lavishly produced, image rich, large format book by the same authors.

There is a tale of a brief meeting between Casati and Aleister Crowley and it appears they didn’t get along too well. Were history to have unfolded differently in that respect we might already have Thelema as mass global religion (which may or may not be a good thing…) since the Marchesa was easily as much an incarnation of Babalon as Crowley was of the Beast. Like Crowley, Casati shocked the high society of la Belle Époque and the fin de siècle decadence, as nations cranked themselves up for the first century of industrialised warfare. Naked beneath furs, great strings of pearls dragging on the floor, leading her cheetahs on diamond studded leashes, Casati adorned and scandalised the age. She had the money to do so, a vast fortune which, like all interesting people, she blew on sex, drugs, art, parties, and magic.

Though details are obscure Casati was an occultist, with magnificent rooms dedicated to magical pursuits in her various houses. These were spaces of rare esoteric tomes, divinatory equipment, heavy incense and yet more exotic pets; ritual spaces that would undoubtedly have made Crowley as green as the Marchesa’s large eyes, with envy.

The stated (magical) intention of the Marchesa Casati was “I want to be a living work of art”, and this she did. Reading the list of artists that chose her as their subject is like reading a Who’s Who of 20th century European Art: Picasso, Man Ray, Epstein, Augustus John, Alberto Martini, Romaine Brooks… the list goes on. Costume (often outlandish, frequently revealing or otherwise transgressive, sometimes genuinely dangerous), sculpture, photography, painting and  more were enriched by the Marchesa as muse and by her financial support of numerous avant-garde artists.

The Marchesa with her crystal ball

The Marchesa with her crystal ball

Of course like any magical figure Casati managed, in a sense, to disappear. That is, while her money and eventually her body gave out (she died in 1957 and was buried in London, ironically beneath a monument that records her name incorrectly), she was reborn (much as Crowley has been) as an cultural icon. She is ground zero for many of the experiments with identity and style of the late 20th and early 21st century. Madonna, Lady Gaga, even Robert Smith of The Cure and Tim Minchin are (knowingly or not) the aesthetic children of the Marchesa. To quote one online article that explores her legacy; “the Marchesa is possibly the most artistically represented woman in history after the Virgin Mary and Cleopatra– her influence is all around us.”

Perhaps it is fitting, as we head towards Halloween, that I’ll soon have the opportunity to visit Luisa’s final resting place. Beneath the London earth, wearing her black and leopard skin finery and a pair of false eyelashes, Casati is interred with one of her beloved stuffed pekinese dogs. Halloween is of course the season where we celebrate the sign of the Scorpion (emblem of magic, money, sex and death) and seek to commune with our ancestors. Money was undoubtedly a vital ingredient in the story of the Marchesa Luisa Casati and my visit to her grave will coincide with  a spot of collaborative ‘Money Magic’. In the words of one of our conspirators “…a group of independent artists, magicians, pagans, druids, and media workers…plan to hold a series of ritual events in the City of London…Our aim is to bring the subject of money creation to public attention using ritual as our symbolic tool. We say that money is a sigil, a magical symbol which enters our lives on the most fundamental level, as desire. Money represents the fulfillment (or lack) of all desire in the current world and we carry it about on our persons, in our wallets and our purses, in our pockets and handbags, allowing it to control us on the most intimate and secret of levels.”

The Machesa Luisa Casati, like Crowley, displayed a fascinating relationship with money; she went from being one of the richest women of her age to having debts of over $25 million, and ended her days in a one room apartment. Yet according to many commentators she retained an irrepressible joie de vivre even in her most impecunious periods. Casati managed to dispose of her fortune in pursuit of her desire to become ‘a living work of art’ much as Crowley broke the bank with his Will to become ‘the Prophet of the New Aeon’. In both cases their money was used in the service of their ‘highest ideal’, their self-absorbed and yet self-transcending intention. This is an approach to life, to money and wealth, that goes beyond ideas of individual ownership, that spurns the hoarding up of capital for its own sake, and even now, still manages to shock the bourgeoisie.

JV

Chaos Craft Reviewed

Reviewed by Charles Barrie

Before reading Chaos Craft, my general perception of contemporary Chaos Magic was as a highly creative and practical, often amusing, yet more or less shallow philosophy; largely lacking a living relationship with the evolving world, biological and spiritual.

Chaos Craft, however, through a collection of essays on life, spiritual practice and ritual craft, conveys a far different sense of the chaos approach to magic. The perspective offered – which is presented as a journey around the wheel of seasons and colours of magic (after Peter Carroll) – is rooted in traditional magic, practice and craft; and is both politically and ecologically aware.

image004

Wheel of Chaos

Key to the inclusiveness of this perspective is the eclectic magical and philosophical pedigree of its two authors, Julian Vayne and Steve Dee. Both are active practitioners and researchers, and have many years of experience in a number of initiatory traditions, including AMOOKOS, the IOT and Wicca. Together with Nikki Wyrd, the pair also run the excellent Blog of Baphomet. Furthermore, Dee, for whom Chaos Craft is his first book, brings the unique approach of being both a working psychotherapist and a former Anglican priest in training.

From this position of research, initiated practice, and hard won experience, Vayne and Dee discuss a wide range of vital magical topics through a broad range of disciplines: witchcraft, Lovecraft’s mythos, shamanism, Buddhist praxis, western mysticism, alchemy, tantra, Gnosticism, pop-magic (love the Nina Simone working), ecstatic practice and psychotherapy (Israel Regardie would be pleased). The content explores, among other things: meditation and mindfulness, cognitive liberty, initiation, ritual practice, group work, applied animism, sexuality, and the family life of a magician.

The essays draw from Blog of Baphomet highlights, with new pieces and contributions from the work of Vayne and Dee’s magical group ‘The Western Watchtower’. They are presented as a revolution around the axis of the neo-pagan Sabbat festivals, each interval of the year viewed through the lens of one of Peter Carroll’s eight colours of magic. I found this musing on how the quality of magic changes as the earth turns the book’s greatest gift, as it encouraged me to find my own magical calendar, lift my head from books and pay attention to the outside world again.

Rather than a listing of techniques and ‘how to’s’ (though it is certainly full of interesting tips), Chaos Craft instead elucidates a living magical worldview; traditional yet totally dynamic, reflective and on the edge of one’s own experience. Through the approach of this ‘mongrel’ (their term) Book of Shadows, the need to integrate one’s spiritual path into daily life is made clear, and the discussion on ‘Slow Chaos’ encourages us to relax into the spheres of the seasons and days and experience life more deeply.

Chaos Craft, through its presentation of the group work of The Western Watchtower and their egalitarian, anarchistic approach to leadership, also reinforces the importance of sangha, community and sharing on the magical path, even as an otherwise lone practitioner. Living a magical life in the modern world involves knowing how to follow your own directive, whilst also being able to interact, navigate, and collaborate with those around you. Further to this, in presenting the magic of Chaos Craft, the Authors feel no need to attack muggles, or overly focus on the distinction between their approach and that of any other, allowing the content a wide relevance.

The responsiveness and creativity of the Chaos Craft perspective on magic gave me a timely prompt to take the next step in my own practice, and begin to freely design rituals that worked for me within the context of the landscape and seasons, and my reactions to them. I view the book as a muse rather than a manual and it strengthened my confidence in the fact that I had the capacity to generate my own ritual, and draw from my experiences a personal symbolic reference palette, a language that I know the spirits hear and understand, due to the deep feeling that it just makes sense.

Crafty chaos star

Crafty chaos star

Chaos craft is a context, a worldview which allows us to be fully present to the world around us, gaze us into the future to manifest our chosen reality, while having the full force of our collective ancestry and the powers of all spheres of existence as our allies. It speaks of the rebirth of a natural magical culture.

Through taking a very personal approach, Vayne and Dee create an intimacy that seems a more apt vehicle for conveying magical knowledge than a dry tome full of tables and charts. Personal secrets are perhaps more valuable, more useful than increasingly abstracted secrets held in tradition.

In contrast to politics and posturing, Chaos Craft brings a sense of service back to magic, which is a key aspect of what inspired me to the path in the first place; service to the unfolding, living, deep Earth.

Demonstrating the living vibrant nature of chaos magic, witchcraft and tantra, the book rests in balance between a traditionalist approach, an honoring of initiation and empowerment and the postmodern chaos understanding of magical technology and the power of paradigms. Bringing a chaos approach to traditional crafts supports an understanding of their underlying tech, allowing for colloquialisms; individual and shared dialects of practice stemming from timeless roots.

The book invites us to create our own magical form, one that is contingent with our traditions (of which it is but the latest iteration), and with the living magical landscape. A form that is thus able to draw power from the deep evolutionary process that has brought it into being. Such living traditions are able to evolve with time, connecting past and future; distinct and independent, yet forming a continuity with the living powers from which they spring.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to find a more natural approach to magic, and those who are wishing to deepen their understanding of the connection between their practice and the greater cosmos of which they are a vital part.

Chaos Craft is now available on Amazon as well as direct from us.

Charles Barrie has explored his own magical context through a number of Western magic, masonic and yogic traditions. He currently works in conservation, community development and environmental education, and tries to live his magic in daily life through an active relationship with the Pandaemonic All and service to both earth and community. He also plays bass guitar for New Zealand band Bella Cajon, who can be found at www.bellacajon.com

Golden magick

Chaos gold

(Meanwhile more shameless self promotion proudly presents…)

Nikki Wyrd will be leading a workshop entitled Baphomet 101 at The Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness Salon‘s event Neuro-Magica: Weaving Ecology, Cosmos & Consciousness: A three-day retreat exploring the liminal space bridging science and magic, from Thursday (evening) 8th – Sunday (evening) 11th September. This retreat has sold out! Keep an eye open for future exciting events on the ECC facebook page HERE.

On the 5th of November Julian Vayne will be leading a workshop at Treadwells, London on Altered States of Magic, details HERE and then a few days later on November 8th will be addressing the University of Kent Psychedelic Society on Psychedelics and Magic see Facebook and HERE.

Writing at the Cutting Edge of Drug Culture

Psychedelics Press UK is a middle-sized idea (I’ll explain that term below) from Rob Dickins. I first met Rob at the psychedelics conference at the University of Greenwich Breaking Convention in 2013. He delivered a paper that married great content with a grace and ease of delivery which was quite wonderful. Rob’s combination of knowledge and prestige presentation also shows through in his publications project Psychedelic Press UK.

I’ve just devoured two volumes of the Psychedelic Press UK Journal. These consist of essays on a wide variety of topics by authors both known and unknown to me. There is chief historian of British Heads Andy Roberts, psychedelic-positive MD Ben Sessa, voudou shamanic type Ross Heaven, busted LSD chemist and cognitive liberty hero Casey Hardison, and many others. The range of subjects is extensive, and it’s not just a big hooray for drugs. There are intelligent and thoughtful essays about the harms and the problems as well as the benefits and blessing of psychoactives.

For me several essays stand out as being perfect examples of what Terence McKenna called ‘middle-sized ideas’. Terry used to say that when folks take psychedelic drugs they often get ‘big ideas’, these are things like ‘everything in the universe is really one’ and other mind-blowing insights. Problem is these are typically too big for most people to grasp and leave us afterwards with a blissed out sense that we’ve experienced the ineffable and can’t really say much, ‘cos it was, er, ineffable.

Then there are the ‘small ideas’, these are things like ‘hey! Have you noticed just how perfectly your little finger fits up your nostril?’; funny but not exactly world-shattering stuff. Then there are the middle-sized ideas. These are insights that the drug crazed raver/traditional shaman (or whatever) can bring back into the world and actually do something with. Whether it be the desire to set up a new organisation, a clear idea for an artwork, a scientific insight – luckily for us, history contains many such examples of middle-sized ideas being brought back from the outlands of the psychedelic noosphere, through to manifestation in the physical and social worlds.

Psypress Journal UK is jam packed with such middle-sized ideas. Indeed there are a couple of essays (Fireworks by Psychedelic Frontier, in volume 1, and Psilocybin and the Concept of Natural Intelligence by Simon G.Powell, volume 2) that are object lessons on exactly how to obtain and then manifest a middle-sized idea. Fireworks in particular weaves personal drug narrative with some really beautiful writing (that doesn’t become a self-indulgent bore – easily done with drug stories) and some excellent philosophical insights.

The Eyes Have It - cover of Psypress Journal Vol 2

The Eyes Have It – cover of Psypress Journal Vol 2

Obviously with all the big hitters and brilliant unknowns dashing off outstanding essays I want a piece of the action too! I was therefore gratified when I received an email from Rob asking me to contribute to a forthcoming edition of Psypress which is going to be specifically themed around psychoactives and magical ceremony. The proposed volume will be released in February and I hope my submission will maintain the high standard in evidence in the first two volumes.

There’s lots of other cool publishing being done under the Psypress banner in addition to the journals. If this is the kind of trip you dig I strongly recommend checking out their website.

When you make a purchase from your dealer and go off into soma-space searching for those middle-sized ideas one of the best ways to prepare yourself is to spend a little time soaking up the useful insights from others. The Psypress UK Journal is an outstandingly good way to do this, especially since Volume 3 has just hit the streets.

You can also help support the broader work of Psypress. Rob, as a young literary type, lives a bohemian yet impecunious lifestyle. Existing on a diet composed solely of erudite novels, bread, water and formidably strong LSD (probably) – he still manages to produce and promote what is the most important psychedelics publishing in Britain today. So once you’ve discovered the value of their work visit the crowdfunding link and put your money where you mind is. I did and, frankly, it made me a better person 😀

JV

 

 

 

Into the Library – four fabulous volumes reviewed

Science Revealed is a wide ranging book in which we encounter a range of ‘alternative’ ideas and characters from Jacques Benveniste (an outlaw scientist who claimed to have evidence that homoeopathy is effective) through to Tesla & Bruno. The text has a strong authorial voice that weaves effortlessly from the poetic to the polemic and this is unsurprising from an author who is renowned as an excellent speaker and creative activist. (There are also some beautiful ‘fragments’ or poetry, typographic design and illustration towards the end of the book.)

This rich tapestry of theories, personal anecdotes, damned data (as Charles Fort would have called it) and radical opinion would be a great read for someone who was new to these discussions. Science and Scientism, esoterica, meditation, entheogenics and politics – all this and more are explored here.

I’m not sure what other publication plans Rev Nemu has but pretty much any single essay within Science Revealed could be transformed into a whole book.

nemu

High Price manages to be both an engaging autobiographical tale, a fascinating description of the experience of being a black in the USA, and a very important book about drugs, especially those scary addictive ones (particularly cocaine and methamphetamine). Carl Hart grew up in the Miami ‘hood. In High Price he tells us his story, his loves, fears, successes and failures as a young black man growing up in 1980’s America. We meet his mentors, his loves and the constellation of circumstances (his love of athletics, his recruitment into the military, his postings abroad) that have led up top him being a celebrated neuroscientist with a special interest in drug use and addiction.

Carl comes over as a thoughtful, engaging and energetic guy who not only manages to overcome the privation of his background but manages to use the insights from his experiences to inform his work with crack and other drug addicts. Like many folks Dr Hart starts off expecting addiction to be all about neurotransmitters and brain-bendingly powerful chemicals. However as he looks closer he begins to realise that addiction is mostly about social situation, money, education and especially in the USA, race. Since drug use is so clearly linked with racial politics in the USA I’d say that what Carl Hart has done in this book is to create an accessible text that explains clearly for non-black and non-addicted people how drug culture really works. Informative is a massive understatement; this is a book that should be read by anyone interested or involved crime, justice, prohibition and in understanding how drugs and particularly drug dependency is a social phenomena.

carl hart

The Testament of Cyprian the Mage is the latest bumper book of Hermetic/Orphic/Goetic magic by Jake Stratton-Kent, in fact this is a two volume edition. As with all the hardback Scarlet Imprint volumes this one looks rather delightful with golden stars liberally sprinkled over the jacket. This is your proper hardcore grimoire magic volume, something that Jake does really well. Full of obscure tables of demons, learned discourse on their historical origins and a delightful (if, for my taste rather Old Skool) mash-up of Classical, Judeo-Christian and near Eastern occulture.

cyprian_spines_pair

Finally in this round of books that have recently been added to my library is Women of the Golden Dawn my Mary K. Greer. The wise and wonderful Christina of Treadwell’s told me recently ‘every magician should read this book’. She was, as I suspected, absolutely right. Greer (herself a noted authority on the tarot) presents the stories of Annie Horniman, Florence Farr, Moina Mathers and Maud Gonne – some of the most important people in the story of modern western magic. When one thinks of the Golden Dawn the narrative is often over-shadowed by poster bad-boy of magick Aleister Crowley. However reading Greer’s brilliantly engaging biography of these other magicians (while full of citations and evidence – this book is a page-turning ripping-yarn) one can see that much of the modern revival of magic was as much down to these women as it was to Uncle Crowley. (Even down to those little details of exploring mescaline for magic and making contact with the Ancient Egyptian current via a museum antiquity.)

Drugs, sex, political radicalism, art, travel and brilliant ceremonial and magical work – it’s all right here, embedded in the decadent excitement of the fan de siècle and the turbulent early 20th century. There’s a great supporting cast in the story (Bernard Shaw, W.B.Yeats and others) and real sense of the love and attention that the author has for her subjects. Greer also uses astrological data throughout (in part because this was one of the key paradigms through which the GD women saw their world). This is a brilliant device which, if you’re got a working knowledge of astrology or planetary magic, really helps provide a ‘magicians eye view’ of the history unfolding beneath those conjunctions, natal oppositions and transits. Certainly one of the best biographies on both the history and experience of magic I’ve ever read. That lady from Treadwell’s was right you know!

GD women cover

PS. A review of the long-awaited and already much celebrated Epoch by Matt Kaybryn & Peter J. Carroll follows shortly – stay tuned!

JV