Archive for the 'Crowley' Category

Feb 25 2014

Art and Artist

Back in September, I had the good fortune to attend a Death In June concert with my wife, in San Francisco. The show was visited by a few misguided AntiFa protesters – I’ve written about it here.

Don't make me get all batrachian on you...

Don’t make me get all batrachian on you…

Twice now, within the last few months, I’ve again had to deal with more self-appointed culture police. This time, the target is H.P. Lovecraft.

The argument usually goes like this: “How do you reconcile your love of Lovecraft with the fact that he was a horrible racist/sexist and the ‘he was a product of his times’ argument doesn’t count – GO!”

This is what’s known as a shit test. It is designed to provoke, and it is also designed to prevent any “correct” answers, because to defend Lovecraft makes you an equally reprehensible person. You should be ashamed for liking such things, because these are “enlightened” times!

Or something.

First and foremost, you should never have to defend art, music, or literature that appeals to you. I may not like what you like, and you may not like what I like. However, I find art that is forced to sanitize itself into some sort of all-inclusive tokenism just to make sure someone somewhere isn’t inadvertantly having their delicate sensibilities shattered by the Big Bad Insensitive Artist to be incredibly dull and boring. Did anyone really actually enjoy “We Are The World”?

Really?

Second, I’m sorry, but nobody has a monopoly on “transgressive” art (whatever that is). So, Douglas P., and H.P.L. are both entitled to use provocative symbols, and have beliefs that don’t sit well with today’s hand-wringers. I will also support your right to create films with topless women making out in university libraries, cracking eggs on each other’s heads, and dancing around chicken carcasses.

will laugh at that, however.

I also find Herrmann Nitsch to be rather fascinating. You should check him out.

I think these days we seem to be running into a convergence of conveniences.

  1. It is convenient to categorize thoughts, feelings, beliefs into two categories: “correct” and “incorrect”
  2. This enables us to instantly decide that anything, or anyone, that does not fall into one of our two convenient categories, must therefore belong to the other category.
  3. It is more convenient to hold people forever accountable for their brief forays into “incorrect” than it is to acknowledge that they are human, may have different beliefs from you, may grow, may change their minds, and may renounce their former beliefs.  Thus it is easier, to forever hold, say, Tony Wakeford, accountable for his brief participation in ultra-right wing political groups and therefore believe he is secretly leading an entire musical genre in promoting crypto-fascism (sometimes so crypto as to be unidentifiable even with a microscope), than it is to acknowledge his own repeated mea culpas. It is more convenient to simply label him and anyone ever seen in the same room with him as fascists. That way, you don’t have to worry about any of them, learn anything about any of them, or worry about tainting your precious little mind with the “dangerous” ideas that you read somewhere they are promoting. Effort is hard.
  4. It is convenient to just have all of the answers handed to you. When reality doesn’t fit your worldview, obviously reality is wrong. The rest of us just need to “do the research!” and we’ll be instantly enlightened as well.

I think some of this is pure laziness.  I think a good chunk of it (at least in the States) is the fault of the educational system. Kids are no longer being taught how to think, but rather provided with lists of things to memorize for The Test.

Before our son was born, my wife decided to take a philosophy of religion course at the local junior college. From what she told me, it sounded more like remedial high school English. The professor spent more time trying to teach the students how to write 5 paragraph themes than being able to effectively discuss philosophy or religion; the students kept demanding to know where the answers were in the book for their discussion topics.

Discussion Topics. Discuss. Philosophy. As in, “What do you think?”

As a former compiler of course and faculty evaluations at a different university, I was saddened by how many professors were getting low marks for “lecturing too much – wouldn’t tell us what was on the exam.”

With convenient categories, of course, comes the lack of a need to recognize complexity and nuance. Instead, you skim for a few indicators and red flags, and you instantly know all you need to know about an artist/author/person and there’s no need to investigate further once you’ve put them in their appropriate box: “Correct” or “Incorrect”

For the record, there’s a third category: “Problematic,” which is usually reserved for people who you want to like, but simply can’t, because they’re in the “Incorrect” box.  “Problematic” puts the categorizer in a bind, because on a level they acknowledge human complexity.  But, since everything has to be a zero-sum game, “Correct”/”Incorrect”, most people prefer to err on the side of caution, and go with “Incorrect”, lest they be tarnished by association, and also labelled “Incorrect.”

This dance is tiresome.

Russell Berman, in his preface to Ernst Jünger’s book On Pain (2008. Telos Press), agrees:

Although conventional political thinking still tries to police a neat separation between left and right, we should not be afraid to explore the gray zone in between without leaping prematurely or unnecessarily to an unwarranted assertion of identity (p. viii).

So, can you separate art and artist? Is it okay to like someone’s creative output, even though you think they may be a bit of an asshole?

There’s a simple solution.

The quick version: Don’t hate the Player, hate the Game.

The not-so-quick version: like what you like. Who, ultimately, gives a fuck?

If you are so caught up in worrying about what other people think of your tastes, then you have bigger issues than “is Dave Sim a misogynist, or might he have a few points?” Nobody has all the answers – especially in these “enlightened” times. If you feel that you suddenly aren’t “allowed” to like something, because the creator has unpopular opinions, or may have put their foot in their mouth in an interview somewhere and is currently being eaten alive by the Internet Outrage Machine, then I have to question the strength of your sense of self-identity.

As Robert Anton Wilson said to me, and I’m fond of repeating: “Read things you disagree with. Otherwise you aren’t exercising your mind.”

Embrace that which scares you and makes you uncomfortable.  That is what art is supposed to do.

This is also good practice for embracing other uncomfortable moments in life.

To quote Aleister Crowley:

There are only two courses open to logic; one can either accept the universe as it is, face every fact frankly and fearlessly, and make one’s soul immune to the influence of any invasion; or abolish the whole thing by administering soporifics to the spirit…The pious pretence that evil does not exist only makes it vague, enormous and menacing. Its overshadowing formlessness obsesses the mind. The way to beat an enemy is to define him clearly, to analyse and measure him. Once an idea is intelligently grasped, it ceases to threaten the mind with the terrors of the unknown.

Quit whining.

Own up to your tastes.

Tell me why you like the things you do, rather than apologize for them.

And enjoy (sidenote:  if you’re worried about your etheric body, wear a condom).

There are no brownie points.

Really.

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Feb 25 2014

Sing Omega

Today, I received something momentous and beautiful in the mail.

Goodies in the mail today!

Goodies in the mail today!

Sing Omega collects the lyrics (and more, and less) of David Tibet, from 1983-2013, in reverse chronological order, beginning with I Am the Last of All Field that Fell, and ending with Nature Unveiled  and LAShTAL.

This is a beautiful book.

Have I read all 550 pages in the 2.5 hours I’ve been home?  Of course not. But I know most of the book’s contents anyway, having been a fan of David’s band, Current 93, for quite some time now.

Around the time I discovered Coil (late 90s), I became aware of Current 93. Like Coil, the only way to find Current 93 (and Death In June, and Nurse With Wound, and sundry other bands that would eventually -for a while- fall under the “World Serpent” umbrella), was if you were at the right music store, at the right time, and happened to have a good chunk of money in your pocket. This made taking a chance on a band that you instinctually knew you would fall in love with at some point in your life, difficult, to say the least.

Occasionally, I’d run into a used CD.  My first actual Current 93 purchase was the EP, Crowleymass, which is, perhaps, not the best place to start. Later, a gifted copy of In Menstrual Night enlightened me a bit further as to what might be happening, even though there was still no reliable (and affordable) source for any other albums.

I still only knew Current 93’s reputation more than I knew the music.

It took moving to California, and the Bay Area for me to finally be able to investigate Current 93 (and the other bands I mentioned above) in a manner that allowed me to fall in love with each of them, as I had always known I would. The album that changed everything for me was All The Pretty Little Horses – simultaneously chilling, hypnotic, and possessing an unearthly aura of mystery; so beautiful, in fact, that I couldn’t stop listening to it.

I finally “got it.”

I’ve since amassed a rather extensive C93 library.

David Tibet’s songs – both musically and lyrically – are like nothing else you’ll ever hear. At times maddening, jaw-dropping, and transcendent, his songs are visionary, and completely support the term “apocalyptic folk” (in every sense of the term) that has been used to describe them. To listen to them is to immerse yourself in Christian esotericism the likes of which hasn’t surfaced in centuries – yet there is still a sense of play, innocence, and wonder. It is these wild juxtapositions (not to mention my genuine love of the music) that keeps me coming back for more.

Is that someone's signature on the Customs Declaration?

Is that someone’s signature on the Customs Declaration?

I’d always hoped that one day, I could pore over Tibet’s collected writings.

That day finally arrived.

The book does not disappoint.

If Thee Psychick Bible by Genesis P-Orridge is a textbook in magick and a manual of techniques, Sing Omega is pure gnostic revelation. If Tibet’s lyrics enrapture the listeners of his albums, the written versions are no less powerful. “Did I just hear that?!” can now not only be double-checked, but reviewed in context with other lines in each song, as well as with Tibet’s full body of work. Connections that may have eluded a listener, are now available for the reader to find.

Long Satan and Babylon went walking...

Long Satan and Babylon are walking…

The book itself is a hardcover, clothbound, with a ribbon bookmark sewn in. The book is 560 pages, contains not only lyrics for Current 93, but also previously unpublished poems, and lyrics written for other artists. The endpapers are facsimiles of Tibet’s handwritten lyrics for “The Invisible Church” from I Am the Last of All Field that Fell, and “I Looked to the Southside of the Door” from Birth Canal Blues.

As if all of this wasn’t full of enough awesome, there’s also an afterword by Thomas Ligotti.

The first edition is a print run of 930 copies, un-numbered.

You can get your copy for £41, directly from David Tibet.

I have no idea how long these will last.  I worried (unnecessarily, it turns out) that the week I had to wait between the day they went on sale, and the day I had the spare cash to order a copy would be my undoing. I don’t know if future editions are planned or not. If this plays out like Tibet’s other publishing endeavors, I suspect once these are gone, they’ll start commanding high prices on the secondary market.

This is a book to be enjoyed, picked up, perused, delved into, and referred back to, and savored. I had long hoped that a similar book would be published with Jhonn Balance’s writings – alas, it was not to be (yet?).

I am beyond grateful that Sing Omega has incarnated.

Given the prolific nature of Tibet’s musical output, I eagerly await the second volume.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention Current 93’s latest album, I Am the Last of All Field that Fell. This album continues the maturing of Tibet’s music that began with Black Ships Ate the Sky. It features a number of guest artists, including Norbert Kox, Nick Cave, and John Zorn(!) – this is beyond apocalyptic folk and neo-folk, and moves into an even more complex style of composition that only continues to innovate and challenge – and I mean that in the best way. The Black Ship sails onward to new but no less haunting waters. Even if you’re not familiar with Current 93, this is one well worth your time and money.

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Aug 12 2013

Network Awesome

Published by under Crowley,La Vey,Musick,Occult

A friend of mine pointed me to Network Awesome’s “offering” for the day…

Assorted Music(k), Magic(k), and Mayhem can be found here.

Current 93, Z’EV, an interview with Zeena Schreck, and Psychic TV‘s notorious First Transmission tape, among other things – sure to curdle your mind.

Enjoy!

Oh, and NSFW.  Duh.

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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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