Archive for the 'Consciousness' Category

Aug 02 2013

Meditations on Sol Niger, part III

‘Mr. Makepeace, do you really turn lead into gold?’

‘No, of course not. No one can do that. But if people think you’re foolish enough to try, they don’t bother to look at what you’re really doing. They leave you in peace.’

– Philip Pullman, Lyra’s Oxford

blacksunStanton Marlan, in Part I of this series, is quoted as calling the Black Sun a “paradox.” I have found it to be an elusive and enigmatic symbol. Indeed, I have found very little written on the image proper. Most sources will mention it, and then segue into a discussion of its properties, or more often, the alchemical processes associated with it – mortificatio, nigredo,, “blackening.”

In alchemy, nigredo, or “blackening” is a beginning stage in the alchemical opus. From nigredo, we move to albedo (“whitening”), and finally to rubedo (“reddening”). An interesting exercise is to look for alchemical processes in unlikely places, such as pop culture, or lowbrow humor. I can’t help but wonder at the alchemical possibilities of the old “What’s black and white and red all over?” jokes we used to tell as children. Sadly, the punchlines are about as cryptic as alchemical manuscripts (“a penguin with diaper rash,” “a panda with sunburn,” or “a nun with a bloody nose,” to name but a few) and don’t easily surrender their secrets!

The idea behind nigredo is that the old substance must die, in order to be reborn (first, purified via albedo, and then coming into its own in rubedo). This dying process is the mortificatio. Titus Burckhardt, in his book Alchemy (1997), describes the process as follows:

At the beginning of every spiritual realization stands death, in the form of ‘dying to the world.’ Consciousness must be withdrawn from the senses and turned inward. As the ‘inner light’ has not yet risen, this turning away from the outward world is experienced as a nox profunda (p. 186).

Lest this not sound intense enough, Jungian psychologist Edward Edinger (1994) reminds us that

Mortificatio is the most negative operation in alchemy. It has to do with darkness, defeat, torture, mutilation, death, and rotting. However these dark images often lead over to highly positive ones – growth, resurrection, rebirth – but the hallmark of the mortificatio is the color black (p.148).

Coupled with the mortificatio is the putrefactio, the rotting of the dead body.

Feces, excrement, and bad odors refer to the putrefactio. The common dreams of neglected or overflowing toilets which plague puritan minded people belong to this symbolism. Odor sepulcorum (the stench of the graves) is another synonym for putrefatio…worms accompany putrefaction…(p. 157).

Given this abundance of less-than-cheerful imagery, one is led to wonder why one would wish to embrace this process. Edinger righly points out that “one rarely chooses such an experience” (p. 172).

Yet from the darkness, comes light. In fact, as we will find out alter on, one cannot actually see light, except within the context of darkness. In addition, from death (literal or figurative) comes life. As a physical organic body decomposes, it feeds and nourishes all manner of life, from bacteria, to the aforementioned worms, to predators. The “fertilizer” we put in our gardens is simply a euphemism for shit and decaying matter.

At this point in the imagined dialogue, my friends might begrudgingly concede that I have a point, and after this quick glance into the darkness, return to the light once more.  After all, solar consciousness is very attractive. Things have never been accused of going “bump” in the day.

But let us return to the darkness, utilizing “lunar” consciousness to go gently into that good night, to see a number of points of view. I agree with Stanton Marlan when he says

…alchemical texts have traditionally spoken of [the] renewal as a transition from the blackness of the nigredo to the whiteness of the albedo, but I believe we have to be careful not to interpret this white outcome of the alchemical process in terms of literal color since there is a tendency in modern culture to see white and black as opposites. The whiteness of the albedo is simultaneously a developmental step in a series of alchemical processes and the illuminating quality intrinsic in the blackness of the nigredo process. The whiteness that the alchemists speak of is not a whiteness separate from blackness. On the contrary, to understand the ‘renewal’ that ‘follows’ the nigredo, one must go beyond simple dichotomies and see into the complexity of the blackness itself (2005, p. 99).

Edinger places the blackness as relative to the shadow in Jungian psychology. “The blackness, when it is not the original condition is brought about by the slaying of something” (1994, p. 150). I think this is accurate to a degree, but only part of a much larger picture. Nigredo is a process. One could argue that shadow parts of ourselves are created when we selectively “kill” potential aspects of ourselves in favor of other potentials. Yet to restrict our interpretation of the darkness to shadow is to severely inhibit ourselves, and our understanding of the Black Sun. As Marlan states,

…darkness historically has not been treated hospitably and…has remained in the unconscious and become a metaphor for it. It has been seen primarily in its negative aspect and as a secondary phenomenon, itself constituting a shadow – something to integrate, to move through and beyond. In so doing, it’s intrinsic importance is often passed over. This attitude has also been perpetuated in alchemy, which places darkness at the beginning of the work and sees it primarily in terms of the nigredo. Yet in its usage of the black sun there is a hint of a darkness that shines (p. 12).

We need to follow the dark light of the Black Sun through all of the fractal layers of the holographic reality to truly appreciate its power. Psychological alchemy may play an important part in the process of individuation, yet if alchemy is truly “above” as well as ‘below,” then there is a larger spiritual component as well. While alchemical processes can be found in just about every spiritual system, in the next installment of this series, I would like to turn to Sufism (as a matter of personal bias) to explore these ideas further.

Sources:

Burckhardt, Titus. (1997). Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae.

Edinger, Edward F. (1994). Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy. Chicago: Open Court.

Marlan, Stanton. (2005). The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

(to be continued)

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Jul 15 2013

Meditations on Sol Niger, part II

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as a sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;” – Revelation 6:12

Before we plunge into the darkness, it might be best to lay some groundwork, and mention a few key concepts, and how I will be approaching them. Some of this will seem wildly off-topic at first, but will eventually coagulate (to borrow a term), into what I hope will illustrate how I am approaching the Black Sun, and why I am approaching it the way I am.

First, we must begin with the alchemical dictum, “as above, so below.” Hermes Trismegistus tells us in the Emerald Tablet that “what is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing.” At first glance, this statement would appear rather simple. Yet, upon contemplation, one quickly begins to appreciate the statement’s finer complexities. It is unfortunate, for instance, that linguistic restrictions and conventions lock us into the directionality of only “above” and “below.” It becomes habit to equate “above” with “good” and “below” with “bad,” or at least, “not as good.” This is not helped by reading the Latin version of the Tablet, which uses “superius” for “above” and “inferius” for “below” (Edinger, 1994, p. 231).

One could attempt to interpret “as above, so below” holarchically, mapping it to a Wilber-style AQAL model, but I am not entirely convinced this would be sufficient. Despite Wilber’s best intentions, there is still qualification of some levels being more desirable than others by many people I have met in the Integral community. How Wilber and Integral Theory distorts and confuses “evolution” with “entelechy” is a conversation for elsewhere.

As I perceive it, “as above, so below” speaks to a fractal pattern, or perhaps more appropriately, a holographic model of reality.

fractal

The “Black Sun” of the Mandelbrot Set duplicates itself through “all” layers of reality, in many directions. Each pattern resonates all the way “down” as well as all the way “up.” As Above, so Below.

 

I will avoid a lengthy discussion of the holographic model of the universe (Bohm and Pribram) here, but do want to touch on a few key points. First, a hologram is created by interference patterns of light. These interference patterns are similar to what occurs when the ripples from two stones dropped into the same pond collide with each other.

Interference patterns such as these need not be generated only by light. Hans Jenny has done some incredible research into the construction of coherent form using sound waves. His work can be found by doing a simple web search for "Cymatics"

Interference patterns such as these need not be generated only by light. Hans Jenny has done some incredible research into the construction of coherent form using sound waves. His work can be found by doing a simple web search for “Cymatics”

An interesting and very applicable aspect of holograms is that if a hologram is destroyed, each piece of the hologram contains the information necessary to reconstruct the entire hologram. Much like the Mandelbrot sets, the information inherent in the hologram exists “above” and “below.” If reality is holographic in nature, as David Bohm, Karl Pribram, and others suggest, this presents us with a wide range of options. “This” universe we inhabit could be made of the holographic interference patterns of a certain spectrum of energies. Could there not be other spectra, as well?

To better understand this, let’s use the example of a DSL Internet connection. The idea behind DSL is that one’s copper telephone lines can actually support a number of bandwidths of energy, simultaneously. On the lower end of the bandwidth spectrum, is one’s voice signal. Copper can also conduct higher frequencies of energy at the same time, that will not interfere with the lower frequencies. Thus, one can continue to use one’s telephone lines for voice communications as well as high-speed Internet service, without having to sacrifice one for the other.

To illustrate this another way, on the freeway, there are several lanes of traffic, moving at various speeds. Yet (if all goes well), these lanes of traffic will never intersect with each other. They are all contained within the same freeway, however. Just as cars can switch lanes, I would suggest that it may be possible to tap into holographic realities created by spectra of energy that are not necessarily native to our normal “lane” of travel. Perhaps it is no different from an electron jumping from one shell to another, as it orbits a nucleus.

Just as the copper telephone wire is able to contain multiple bandwidths of energy (or the freeway, multiple lanes of traffic), perhaps there is an over-arching “omniverse” able to house different operating levels of reality based on different spectra of energy. Each “level” would contain the holographic information reflecting the reality of the omniverse.  It may be possible that it is through this sort of model that archetypes are able to operate. These other “realities” may also be those that are accessible to us in dreams, after death, through shamanic voyaging, etc., and are perhaps consistent with models put forth by the neo-Platonists, Ibn ‘Arabi, Kabbalists, multiple-universe theorists in physics, etc. This too, however, is bet left discussed elsewhere and elsewhen.

Before we set the controls for the heart of the Black Sun, I would like to address two of the archetypes (the Sun and the Moon), and our traditional ways of engaging them. Oftentimes, the terms “solar” and “lunar” are used to describe types of consciousness (or awareness). This is a dicey area, in that a strong case could be made that these are not archetypes at all, but rather animistic projections onto celestial bodies, originating with our primitive ancestors. Yet these archetypes and their associated forms of consciousness are a useful illustration for our discussion of the Black Sun.

I also find that one must exercise extreme caution when assigning gender roles to these archetypes, and to the types of consciousness they represent. While it may be popular in Jung, alchemy, and elsewhere to equate solar/male and lunar/female, I believe that if there are such things as “solar consciousness” and “lunar consciousness”, they are far more mysterious and interesting than simply “masculine” and “feminine.” Janet McCrickard, in her book Eclipse of the Sun: An Investigation into Sun and Moon Myths (1990), has written a fascinating refutation of the universality of the solar-masculine/lunar-feminine assignations, surveying traditions from around the world, where these gender roles are reversed. Interestingly, during her research, she encountered resistance not just from male academia, but from feminist and goddess-oriented groups as well. I believe her work is important, however. As she states,

To accept that the female Sun is a valid theme in the diversity of human religious thought, instead of rejecting her as a mistake, heresy, or irrelevance, has important consequences…in simple terms, the Sun Goddess by her mere occurrence challenges the rigidity of our spiritual thinking, disrupting those safe old categories by which we set such store, demanding that we pay up on our claims to be plural and holistic. In facing up to her, we thus expand our conception of what it means to be female, or male – or human (p. xxi).

I bring this up, because I will be discussing the Black Sun in terms of eclipse imagery. The eclipse and juxtaposition of solar and lunar consciousness is an event far more interesting when viewed without gender-political baggage. While there may be a precedent within alchemy to use the masculine-solar/feminine-lunar framework, I believe we can, to borrow a phrase, “transcend and include” these correlations. McCrickard’s chapter “The True Feminine” is particularly eye opening on the origins and dangers of the masculine-solar/feminine-lunar model. What happens if we look at solar and lunar consciousness through another lens?

The definition of solar and lunar consciousness that resonates the most with me, is the one provided by Christopher Bache, in his book Dark Night, Early Dawn: Steps Toward a Deep Ecology of the Mind. It is his definition that I wish to embrace in my discussion of Sol Niger. Solar consciousness, per Bache, is the light of the daytime. It allows us to explore and understand the world around us, our immediate environment, and the external world. Lunar consciousness is the illuminated night, where we can see the true sky, and realize there are other worlds, other suns, and that we are not alone. There is mystery. If the sun invites us to explore the exterior world, the moon not only allows us to know there are other worlds “out there”, but “in here”, as well. Night brings sleep, and with it, dreams, and the ability to more directly experience the imaginal realms. As above, so below.

Sources:

Bache, Christopher M. (2000). Dark Night, Early Dawn: Steps Toward a Deep Ecology of the Mind. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Edinger, Edward F. (1994). Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy. Chicago: Open Court.

McCrickard, Janet. (1990). Eclipse of the Sun: An Investigation into Sun and Moon Myths. Glastonbury: Gothic Image Publications.

(to be continued)

 

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Jul 10 2013

Meditations on Sol Niger, part I

“…true philosophers make dying their profession and find it less alarming than others…” – Plato

sunA number of years ago, I found myself at the Albatross, a bar in Berkeley. A number of us had decided to enjoy a celebratory beer or three at the end of our classes for the quarter. One of my friends brought along her boyfriend, who was not a fellow student. With a “stranger” in our midst, conversation naturally shifted to what areas of Consciousness Studies and Dream Studies held each of our interests. After explaining my interest in survival of bodily death and Visitation Dreams, I was chided by the outsider in the group for focusing on “dark” things.

“If you focus on the darkness, you will never have abundance in your life.”

According to him, light was good, and beautiful. Darkness was bad, and to be avoided. The more I sat with this conversation, the more I became angered by it. To begin with, he and I seemed to have radically different definitions of “abundance.” He believed that I could have a house (or two), cars, money, and as many women as I could possibly want, simply by giving up the darkness, and “embracing the light.” Who knew it was that simple?

As for me, I’m not even sure that “abundance” (whatever that is), is the “goal.”

More importantly, however, I believe it is sometimes too easy to fall into the darkness=bad/light=good paradigm, and to avoid the things that make us uncomfortable.

I have been accused of being “dark” most of my life. Yet, if one knows me well, they will know that ultimately I am an optimist – a frustrated optimist.

It is perhaps natural that as I studied alchemy, I found myself gravitating towards the symbol of the Black Sun, or Sol Niger. As Stanton Marlan posits in the Introduction to his book The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness (2005),

The black sun is  a paradox. It is blacker than black, but it also shines with a dark luminescence that opens the way to some of the most numinous aspects of psychic life (p. 5).

James Hillman also addresses the hidden treasures of the darkness, in The Dream and The Underworld (1970).

It is not difficult to transpose psychology’s conceptual mythology to the mythology of the underworld, nor is it difficult to envision the relationship between dayworld and nightworld as the hero’s descent and our modern notions of the unconscious as reflections of Tartaros and Styx, Charon and Cerberus, Hades and Pluto. Pluto, especially is important to recognize in our euphemistic references to the unconscious as the giver of wholeness, a storehouse of abundant riches, a place not of fixation in torment, but a place, if propitiated rightly, that offers fertile plenty. Euphemism is a way of covering anxiety. In antiquity, Pluto (‘riches’) was said as a euphemistic name to cover the frightening depth of Hades. Today, the ‘creative’ unconscious euphemistically conceals the processes of destruction and death in the deeps of the soul (p. 20).

Death and destruction will be important alchemical processes when we look at the image of the Black Sun, and I will address them later. It would be easy to explore the darkness and confront Sol Niger strictly as a psychological phenomenon. But in keeping with the alchemical dictum, “as above, so below,” we are severely limiting our perception if we do. We can learn from the darkness and the Black Sun on every level we find it. By doing so, we can find a much larger and more complete understanding; one that will ultimately show that there is no need to fear the dark or what may be lurking in the shadows. Jung(1989) himself encourages us, advising us that “the darkness has its own peculiar intellect and its own logic, which should be taken very seriously” (p. 255).

Sources:

Hillman, James. (1979). The Dream and the Underworld. New York: Harper Perennial.

Jung, Carl G. (1989). Mysterium Coniunctionis. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Marlan, Stanton. (2005). The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness. College Station: Texasa A&M University Press

(to be continued)

 

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Jun 26 2013

Magick in Theory and Practice

Published by under Consciousness,Crowley,Esotericism

In 2003, I packed up what little life I had, and drove 3,101 miles to California. My goal was to find a way to organize the research I had been doing up until that point into the nature of consciousness. I found a graduate program that suited my needs, applied, and was accepted.

This is not that story.

In the deep dark days before the Internet, if you had an interest in occult matters, you had to rely on word of mouth, or patch together your own connections. Or, at least you did, if you grew up in suburban Maryland, like I did.  Let me give you a brief rundown of how this worked in my case.

  • Junior High: Laurie Anderson’s album, Mister Heartbreak is released. I am 14. William S. Burroughs provides vocals on the track “Sharkey’s Night.” A friend of mine lends me the album. WHO THE FUCK IS THIS OLD GUY WITH THIS STRANGELY HYPNOTIC VOICE?!“William S. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch,” my friend tells me.
  • naked_lunch.us.grove.1990Next time I go to the mall, I stop into Waldenbooks. This, and B. Dalton (also at the mall) are the only book stores within a reasonable distance from my home in 1984.  Sure enough, I find a paperback edition of Naked Lunch.  It looks mysterious – possibly dangerous. I flip through the book (honestly?  I can still recall the smell of the book and Waldenbooks in my head as I write this – the book is that powerful). The book is, let’s face it, not the easiest of things to just dive into.  I don’t buy the book (until several years later).  But Burroughs is on my radar.  Obviously he’s somebody important, otherwise Laurie Anderson wouldn’t have put him on her album.  Right?
  • As anybody who grew up in the 80s can tell you, Waldenbooks was also the purveyors of such wonderful paperbacks as The Satanic Bible, and The Necronomicon. Shortly after becoming aware of Naked Lunch, I stumbled upon these. Some kids go to bookstores and sneak peeks at Playboy (or Heavy Metal) back in the day, I was the kid who snuck peeks at The Satanic Bible and The Necronomicon I didn’t discover Lovecraft until a few years later, so as far as I knew, this was HEAVY SHIT. And, hey… what was this?! William S. Burroughs had blurbed The Necronomicon! “Let the secrets of the ages be revealed. The publication of the Necronomicon may well be a landmark in the liberation of the human spirit.” WTF was going on here?  Also, in my many glances through the (let’s face it, equally incomprehensible) Necronomicon was mention of some fellow named “Aleister Crowley.”  My search for Crowley yielded no results at the time. As I’d gotten friendly with a number of the staff at both mall book stores, it wasn’t a subject I felt comfortable bringing up with any of them.
  • necronomicon-simon-paperback-cover-artEventually, I purchased both books (and later discovered the works of H.P. Lovecraft, whom I love to this day), as well as Israel Regardie’s book The Golden Dawn. Yet Crowley remained elusive.  At least until I got to college. One day, on a whim, I looked him up in our college library. It turned out that, much like Lovecraft’s fabled Miskatonic University, Gettysburg College had a few “forbidden tomes” in its stacks – in this case, Magick in Theory and Practice and Book 4. I think at some point, I even convinced my parents to get me a copy of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley (finally available at B. Dalton’s!) for Christmas one year. Forgive them.  They know not what they did.
  • Eventually, more and more of Crowley’s works seemed to turn up in mainstream book venues. I’d had quite the library at one point.  Now I’ve trimmed it down to a few volumes. Over the years, I’ve had an odd fascination with the man, and with Thelema.  And that is what this story is about.

If you’ve read through or glanced at the Commonplace section of this site, you’ll see that I’ve written about Crowley a few times. Over the years, as I delved deeper into reading him, I pondered trying to join the O.T.O. or the A:.A:.

(I am simplifying this story a bit, from here on out, because my run-ins with Satanists, Setians, former TOPY members, and Chaotes really aren’t relevant to where I’m going with this whole narrative).

Crowley’s doctrine of Thelema (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”) spoke to me. The idea of finding one’s True Will, one’s Purpose, and living life according to it, is seductive, and I still believe, to be a sound goal to have in one’s life.

For a brief while, I was involved with someone who fancied herself a Thelemite. She was performing LRPs every day, and having mixed results.  One thing I noticed, however, was her genuine frustration at nothing really happening with it. Also, she was rather wrapped up in the drama of the chain of succession after Crowley’s death. She was in the Marcello Motta camp. I didn’t really have a camp, as I believed (and believe) that making Crowley’s works available to people was what was important. Whether Motta did it, or Grady McMurtry did it, was unimportant to me.

I’d also been on a few Thelemic e-mail lists, and was frankly surprised and disappointed that the level of discourse was pretty consistently along the lines of:

You’re an asshole!

Oh yeah? How do you know it isn’t my Will to be an asshole?!

I’d hoped this was all isolated idiocy, and thought maybe one day, I’d find an O.T.O. Lodge worth joining, and learn from people who had more to offer than general bitchiness. I’d also looked a bit into Chaos Magick by this point, and this was starting to make more sense to me.

As time wore on, my interests diverged. I still found Crowley to be a fascinating individual (and still do), but had given up any sort of hope for contact from any of the organizations using his name and works as a basis.

A few years ago, I met someone who randomly invited me to attend a Gnostic Mass in Oakland, at what I’m assuming to be the Blazing Star Oasis, as Thelema Lodge had run into some “difficulties” in the past. I was taken aback.  I hadn’t even been actively seeking any contact with the O.T.O. for years at this point. Was this a case of “when the student is ready, the master will appear,” or merely “too little, too late”?

I’d been going through some immense personal difficulties at the time, and it was tempting to think that I could find refuge and solace with a group I’d once very much thought I wanted to be a part of. But at this point, I also was able to recognize the subtle flattery that comes with trying to get someone to join in an ultimately unrewarding relationship. It was curiously reminiscent of being recruited for Amway.

Ultimately, I declined, and I think this was the right decision. Over the years, I’ve noticed that group structures do not hold. Groups seem to have a limited shelf-life before devolving into schisms, factions, in-fighting, and disintegration (even moreso when the original charismatic leader dies).

The problem with groups is, ultimately, that they’re made of people.

People disagree about things.

Or, conversely, sometimes they agree too much about things.

I’m okay with limited shelf-lives for groups.  I think it’s of vital importance, as it allows ideas from dead groups to permeate into new combinations of ideas in new groups, until they fall apart, and so on. Circle of Life, and all that.

The other day, I randomly stumbled upon a text called The Black Lodge of Santa Cruz, by “Satyr,” in which the dirty laundry of Thelema Lodge, specifically, and the O.T.O. in general is put out in the open. I was originally attracted to the story, as I have been to or lived in several of the geographical locations where the story takes place. I probably also know people who know the players involved. Additionally, it is fascinating to read all of this and consider that it is going on underneath the radar of ordinary existence. It’s a lot of drama. A LOT.

Reading this, led me to Peter-Robert Koenig’s site The Ordo Templi Orientis Phenomenon, specifically the article on Spermo-Gnosis (I realize there’s a long convoluted tradition of this in various systems – personally, I think it’s a way of disguising one’s sexual proclivities. If you’re into this kind of thing, hey, awesome. Just don’t try to disguise your kink under the auspices of something else).

And, then there’s Allen Greenfield’s takedown (short version here, long version in his book  The Roots of Magick).

What a colossal cluster-fuck of lunacy.

While I can’t vouch for the legitimacy of either Satyr’s narrative, Koenig’s research, or Greenfield’s assertions, put together they constitute a massive amount of WTF for me. I am grateful I dodged this bullet.

In 2003, I had the good fortune to attend a book-signing/reading by Gary Lachman in Oakland.  I had just finished reading his book Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties And The Dark Side Of The Age Of Aquarius.  I’d been struck by his portrayal of so many people who had delved into occult matters as having failed, utterly.  Was it the material? Was it the people?

I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the people who got involved in the occult -of which I have an interest myself- wound up going mad, or were just crap people. I’ll be the first to admit that Crowley was no saint. My interests are in trying to salvage the good and the meaningful from the systems, primarily, and seeing how they can be used. Do you think the failures that you’d noted were due to the systems themselves, or the personalities of the people involved? In a way, the book almost reads like ‘VH-1′s BEHIND THE MAGICK’”

Gary’s answer hit the nail on the head:

“Ultimately, both, and that a lot of people don’t ground themselves when looking into the occult, or spirituality, and that there is a reason that most of these systems strongly urge people to be of at least a certain age before getting involved, so they understand life first. These systems sound great, but without an underlying structure, they can run amok.”

Honestly?  At this point?  I still believe there is some value in the basic tenets of Thelema, and Crowley is still an endlessly fascinating character.

As far as I’m concerned, however, the O.T.O. can eat shit.

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May 06 2013

Gems from Hidden Wisdom

Hidden Wisdom

Hidden Wisdom by Jay Smoley & Richard Kinney

Some notes from Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions by Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney:

“Though it is all too rarely spoken of in esoteric literature or at New Age workshops, the specter of madness haunts the spiritual search. To point this out should not be dismissed as mere pessimism or negativity.

“A recurring motif of the esoteric traditions is the realm of the unseen – other dimensions, invisible entities, inner planes, etheric bodies, energy centers, planetary forces, hidden masters, the list goes on and on. While it may prove necessary to grant a provisional reality to such claims in the course of inner exploration, there lies a real danger in swallowing them wholesale and proceeding blithely onward. It is all too easy to project one’s wishes or fears onto the twilight zone of the invisible, reading deep portents into chance occurrences and seeing connections where none actually exist.

“Some people with a tendency toward paranoia are strongly attracted to the esoteric precisely because it mirrors their secret fears: Unseen forces affect our lives, consensus reality is a sham, the universe is somehow converging on our personal slice of life. The spiritual landscape is littered with erstwhile magicians and addled mystics who jumped into esoteric belief systems that were more than their sanity could bear and – most significantly – more than their closely watched personal experience had borne out.

“Which leads us to [a] skill that it would be wise to cultivate: the ability to maintain a simultaneous belief and disbelief in all matters esoteric until you have undeniably experienced them for yourself. Let us call this ‘faithful skepticism.’

“Exoteric religions encourage unquestioning belief in their tenets based on the authority of scripture or institutional leadership. For many of us, this is inadequate and unpersuasive. But by the same token, blind faith in esoteric traditions or the fascinating revelations of mystics and clairvoyants is no more advisable.

“The kind of ‘knowing’ that one finds in gnosis is personally verified. It isn’t based on the hearsay of another’s experience or revelation any more than it is based on theological dogma or belief. Even when you have experienced something that seems real, it is well to compare notes with an experienced teacher and keep room in your worldview for the possibility that it is all in your imagination.

“…No matter how shattering the truths revealed, how overwhelming the feelings unleashed, or how fascinating the manner in which ‘it all fits together,’ the fate of the universe does not hinge on convincing others of your truth. In fact, should you feel compelled to broadcast your revelations to the masses, it is a sure sign that the ego has seized hold of an insight and inflated it into a life raft.

“The paradox of gnosis is the realization that we are each simultaneously a speck of dust and Absolute Being. Esoteric work may lead us to this realization, but it remains for us to keep both sides of the equation in balance.” (pp. 311-313)

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May 06 2013

Some Notes from Grossinger

Waiting for the Martian Express

Waiting for the Martian Express

Reading through Richard Grossinger’s book Waiting for the Martian Express: Cosmic Visitiors, Earth Warriors, Luminous Dreams, and struck by a number of things.

Quotes below:

“The marketed New Age is at best a series of well-meaning simplifications and at worst a hustle and a fraud made possible by those simplifications.” (p. 12)

“Harmonic convergences are counterproductive to the degree that they distract people from the real issues. They are like Fourth of July celebrations and rock concerts – on the calendar mainly to promote ideology and commerce.”  (p. 13).

“In our imaginary (cumulative) New Age holy book, life (and the universe) are a Gothic tale with plots and subplots (including angels, extraterrestrials, Atlanteans, intelligent sea mammals, Yetis, Indian guides, spirits taking turns taking over bodies and speaking oracularly, magical temples, messages left in pyramids, multidimensional travel, past-life evolution, the Second Coming, and the like). The New Age is not yet a commitment to the unknown nature of reality, or our own novel experience; it is a screenplay for events that have supposedly been programmed and foreshadowed, narrated to us by those who have already lived. This kind of on-high prophecy seems pretentious and elitist in the face of our actual condition.” (pp. 12-13).

“The motivation behind New Age millennialism is supsiciously self-serving. Even if some of the apocalyptic scenarios intend to accelerate our evolution and rescue the whole planet, others have the same mean-spirited impetus as right-wing religious propaganda and chain letters: the faithful can barely wait for catastrophe because they expect to be its beneficiaries.” (p. 15)

“In addition, the various rescues by aliens, earthquakes, and economic collapses that have partial New Age allegiance (depending upon one’s affiliations) are denials of the complexity and commitment of life. It is not that they couldn’t happen; it is that they are not real. The biological process that underlies this world is profound and serious and represents a covenant with the divine force; it cannot be abrogated from other dimensions. If there is a macrocosm and a microcosm, these are not separated by great walls  or even master geometries; they are joined a billion times more intimately than the minute branching and impregnation of nerves and flesh.” (p. 15).

“It is unclear whether the sources of ‘spirit’ messages are truly external and if external whether they are located on this planet, but additionally there is the problem of their content which is either overly pat and cliched or utterly obscure – leading one to question why any evolved being would go through the trouble to initiate such communications. Given the obvious difference between any embodied and disembodied worlds, real transmissions from spirits and the dead should be succinct and pithy. Yet you can find material identical to most of this channeling of multithousand-year-old beings in any second-rate metaphysics or theosophy book from the last five hundred years.” (pp. 15-16)

“If someone is dead, is he or she necessarily wiser?…The implication that the glimpse beyond death is so enlightening it lone transcends any earthly enlightenment tends to trivialize both this life and the fact of dying…” (p. 16).

“There is nothing malign or even unenlightened about these communications; they are in fact good gospel, but at the same time static, impersonal, and sanctimonious. They don’t grapple. They suggest that the path has been provided…If the cosmos is presented as a finished thesis in a mediumistic context, then authority takes precedent over experience. And there is no place to go with such law, no way to generate new form and experience. Only when there is a feeling of unfathomable mystery and a sense of wonder do we change and affect the world.” (pp. 16-17)

Grossinger, Richard. (1989) Waiting for the Martian Express: Cosmic Visitiors, Earth Warriors, Luminous Dreams. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.

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