On Having Three Brains

I was recently discussing with Julian and Nikki an experience I had during an MRI scan where its loud, repetitive pulses allowed me to enter a light trance state and eventually fall asleep! As a lover of extreme music, the scanner’s jack-hammer soundtrack was fairly easy listening and reminded me of some of our ritual experimentation with binaural beats. The ever curious Mr Vayne asked whether they had scanned my brain and I told him that given that its focus was on my lower back problems, they were only able to examine my pelvic “brain”. While my reply was in many ways a quip, it did make a connection to some valuable concepts that help shape my own approach to magical transformation.

The concept that the human self is made up of a complex of interacting centres or dimensions is found in a variety of occult and psychological models. Space does not allow a detailed exploration of Taoist alchemy or the wide variety of chakra models deployed in the various yoga traditions, but for me they point to a profound desire to map our spiritual longings more holistically within the visceral, physicality of our bodies. Recently, the awesome Treadwell’s  bookshop in London has been hosting a number of lectures by the ever erudite Phil Hine who has been unpacking the history of how ideas regarding chakras have been utilized in Theosophy and other corners of recent occulture. Phil has now produced some handy chap-books based on these lectures and you can get your paws on them here https://www.treadwells-london.com/shop/wheels-within-wheels-chakras-come-west-phil-hine-signed/ . Work such as Phil’s is vital in capturing the very human process of evolution and adaptation that occurs as our socially formed longings are projected upon traditions romanticized by our desire for the exotic. While such processes may have a degree of inevitability, it feels important to retain an awareness of them so as to limit the violence we might do to primary sources and traditions.

For me in my own magical work, the challenge of such embodied approaches is to accept the limits of what cognition alone can comprehend. It can be all too easy for the Western Occultist to hi-jack these complex symbol-sets in order to provide yet another grid system for piling layer-upon-layer of imagined correspondences. My hunch is that such reductionism, while neat and tidy, makes little headway in accessing the deeper aspects of wisdom that might be accessed if we allowed such traditions to speak on their own terms.

While my own explorations of hatha yoga as a young adolescent have ensured that the language of the chakras has become something of a default setting, my own recent explorations of contemporary Gnostic awakening have been significantly shaped by the insights of the Gurdjieff/4th Way work. Gurdjieff recognised that throughout humanities’ history we have sought to connect to God/HGA/True Self etc. He believed that these efforts could be typified via the centre or starting point from which they began their journey. In short, these paths are the way of the body (the fakir), the way of the heart (the monk) and the way of the mind (the yogi).

Whatever benefit may have been gained in the past through the pursuit of these means, in our age and within a life lived outside of monastery walls we need something more. For Gurdjieff this is the Fourth Way.

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Intense? Who you calling Intense?

The Fourth Way is the way of “the sly man” – the one who seeks to harmonize body, heart and mind as they seek to awaken solar consciousness. This Work challenges us to Self-remember, to become more awake within the bodymind. The methods we may employ, like Beelzebub, are legion, but the goal of awakening from our automatic state of sleep remains.

Whichever map we find most resonant, what feels crucial is that it helps reduce the likelihood of disorientation and the burn-out that can result when we feel that we are going endlessly around in circles. While the process of seeking to manage our uncertainty and fear are a crucial and inevitable part of spiritual maturity, most of us need the structure and language that good maps can provide. Magic without some sense of teleological direction can easily descend into spiritual materialism. In the absence of direction we fill the empty space with a glimmering array of brief distractions that provide little more than a brief sugar-high.

Whichever map we choose, one in which the totality of self is understood and engaged with, is likely to bring the greater success. In the complex experience of being, these schemas seek at once to unify our experience while acknowledging the tensions and competing agendas that we must attend to. These holistic approaches allow us to acknowledge more fully the need to work with a dynamic process of flow in which we move between different domains in pursuing greater health within the ecosystem of ourselves. Like high-wire walkers seeking to hold the line, success is not gained through rigidity; rather we wobble between balance and counter-balance as we journey towards our goal. Our pursuit of magical wisdom seems more likely to bear fruit when our process of reflection (often via the magical diary) allows us strengthen those dimensions of self that may need further development.

Steve Dee

heretics

Available now! In paperback and Kindle editions.

The Heretic’s Journey takes you by the hand firmly and gently, through the by-ways of the author’s life, sharing tales of his younger years and lessons learned. At once forthright and sensitive, Steve Dee is an accomplished magician of the best sort; one who Does. Here you will find instruction in rituals, self-discovery, and deeply meaningful examples of personal praxis. His fascinating flavour of Gnosticism places the body at the centre of spirituality, enjoying the fruits of embodied wisdom found from engagement with Sophia.

A reviewer writes: ‘This is a book that seeks to provoke you to heresy!’ Thus invites Devon-based chaos magician and gnostic explorer Steve Dee in the prelude to his extraordinary new book The Heretic’s Journey: Spiritual Freethinking for Difficult Times. This is no contrived bit of attention-grabbing as proven by the richly rewarding and experiential text that follows. It similarly provides a diversity of extremely well-curated offerings as those found in Dee’s previous book A Gnostic’s Progress—many of which inspire the reader to participate in straightforward and potentially transformational exercises designed to expand heart and soul. Most refreshing is the writer’s admirable ability to present deeply esoteric perspectives in a consistently uncluttered fashion arrived at obviously through decades of genuine exploration.’

 

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Deep Magic

September retreat at the magical St.Nectan’s Glen, North Cornwall

27 Sept at 15:00 to 1 Oct at 13:00

This autumnal retreat will focus on the myths and magic of North Cornwall. We will explore the magical words of Merlin, the mythology of the Once and Future King, and the legends of the Fairy Folk. Participants have the opportunity to undertake a silent solitary vigil/vision quest, and to co-create a group ceremony where we will celebrate with poetry and song this magical landscape. This retreat will also include dowsing, psychogeographical and sacred geometry practices in preparation for the stone circle that will be built at St Nectan’s Glen. Come and help us begin that process!

For more details and to find out how to book please visit our Facebook page.

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Magic at the Core

Happy New Year to all our readers! I hope you’ve all had wonderful Yule festivities and have had some time to rest, relax, reflect and refresh yourselves.

As well as enjoying some time to hang out with family and friends during December, I was invited by Frater Isla for an informal chat which you can find on his podcast Right Where You Are Sitting Now. One of the things we spoke about was all those ‘hardcore’ esoteric practices; things that magicians do to face our demons, stir the cauldron of the unconscious, and shake us out of our day-to-day trance.

As I explain in the interview while I often write about the more dramatic approaches I use, these techniques are far from the whole story of my own magical work. In fact the majority of my practice consists of yoga and mediation.

I’ve done yoga for the last thirty or so years, through periods of more or less frequent practice. At the moment I’m a student of Adriene following her 30 days of yoga program. I went online to find a nice 30 minute yoga workout (since it’s helpful to have new input to keep one’s practice fresh) and happened instead upon this month long course which has been a delightful spur to my practice. (Check out the large number of excellent instructional videos by Adriene which include films on getting to grips with particular asanas, as well as yoga for particular bodymind intentions.)

Camp yoga

Meditation for me takes many forms. Sometimes it’s about sitting still and doing classic mindfulness practice (often at the end of a yoga session). At other times it’s about finding a focus, an anchor for attention (this could be music, mantra, an activity such as walking, carrying water or chopping wood), and encouraging my attention to rest in that activity. As other internal narratives arise (typically for me this means thinking about the future) I gently guide my awareness back to the focus of attention I have chosen. This approach allows me to segue meditation into a variety of settings beyond that of sitting on a zafu.

Both meditation and bodywork provide the steady drip-drip-drip of core practice. They are also the psychic lube that makes some of the more outré activities, such as entheogenic mummification ceremony, ritual piercing and situationist magic, more approachable.

So looking ahead to 2017: Next month I’m teaching at Treadwell’s Books in London delivering an evening lecture on Psychedelic Magic as well as a day long workshop on Baphomet. I’m also working on another pop-up exhibition by the Psychedelic Museum (we’ve got some exciting news about the museum coming soon, which I’ll post on the Psychedelic Museum site and reblog here).

I’ve also completed another two books that will be published this spring, one is another collection of essays and one my magnum opus about psychedelic ceremony.

Meanwhile 2017 will see the fourth manifestation of Breaking Convention, the most awesome psychedelics conference on planet earth. For details stay tuned to this blog and our Facebook page.

The Mother of all Psychedelic Conferences

The Mother of all Psychedelic Conferences

Nikki Wyrd and I are planning some further retreats and workshops this year, please check out our new page Deep Magic if you want to learn more.

So as the sun inches higher in the northern sky I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a fabulous journey through 2017.

And now back to the yoga and meditation…

JV