Thursday, March 6, 2014

Magick at the Ends of Empire:Part I - Causes and Conditions

My Dear Friend,

Right now I am sitting in my dining room, listening to Melody Gardot's "Your Heart is Black as Night", and having a good think. I started writing this letter days ago, but never finished it. I would use life stuff as an excuse, as if we didn't all have lives that took up our time. I'm compulsively concerned with wasting time lately.

I know I go on often about us living in strange and interesting times, but I don't often elaborate. I've entrusted Gordon to do that for me. (And by entrusted, I mean he was doing that anyway, so why should I add my own pedestrian two cents?)

I was thumbing through "Magick Without Tears" the other day and musing on the life and works of the TGB. Meddling, it seems, falls under the purview of Wizards. We can jenga Fate, we can tilt the wheel, we can find the Red Queen more often than not. I've been wondering what we've been doing with all of our vaunted prowess.

An associate of mine proudly quotes that all he wants our of Magick is "Unfair Advantage", and as an honest answer, I can respect that. There however seems to be a certain lack of social responsibility there. Enlightened self interest when carried to its logical conclusion must end in some kind of civic duty, as no person is an island.

For ultimate good or ill, at least TGB tried. He lived by his principles and did so quite to the end of his rather eventful life. Globe hopping, game of thrones-ing. It all sounds rather glamorous, and if we are keeping score he did do a decent job of influencing movers and shakers to great effect.

Is this the Aeon of Horus that he wanted? Probably not. Not with less freedom, more restriction, and more surveillance. However we are where we are. Now the big question is what do we do about it?

We can do what we've done: meet in back alleys and in basements. Set up in field and festival. Join hands and try to levitate the pentagon. Unless our efforts are spilling out into the greater field of activity, they aren't strong enough to survive the current of the world as it is, and the world as it is, is incredibly broken. If all we are going to do is fiddle while the world burns, then we better be cranking out a masterpiece.

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." -St. Paul - Also one of the many reasons he was favored by many Gnostic sects.

Whatever powers and principalities run the world don't like random pieces on the board. Things need to go as planned. Except the plan is terrible. Whatever horrible game of global realpolitik is going on depends on distraction. It's a slight of mind trick. Three card monty with the pot being the life of the planet. ("Aviary", by Ego Likeness just came on, btw)

We don't see the hands that pull the strings. An Alchemist I greatly admire once said to me in passing that the greatest enemies that humanity faces are invisible in one form or another. He isn't wrong. The Path is Cash and Prizes. The Path is Self Development. The Path is carving the future. If we don't others will for us.

I've said before that the world is an interesting place. Both good and bad. And I worry for us. I worry for you. (It's how I show Love, Dear. ) Because without action, nothing changes. What are we to do in a world that is at once out of control, and at the same time set completely with control mechanism after control mechanism? Some might worry about disturbing the balance of things, but to be frank, the balance is already disturbed, and the scales are doing a jig trying to find equilibrium. Remember last letter where I spoke of Indra the Adamantine? This is not Indra's order. This is the consequence of a dire corruption. This is dangerous time, and the world sickens because of the deeds done, and looks for a remedy.

It will take more than prayer and spellwork. It will take more than just you or I being amazing. (Who are we kidding, we are already far more than amazing, darling. ) It's going to take action, and before that it will take community. It doesn't have to involve masturbation and costumes, (later then.) but there does need to be a conversation, and whats more, connection. Without connection old ties fall apart. Without connection we stay silent, or scream lonely at the ether.

There is a lot to think of for both of us, because agree or not, something needs doing.

"Save Your Serpent" just came on, and I am tired. I think it's time to call it a night.

I hope you are well, look out for yourself, and stay safe,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Catching Up..

My Dear Friend,

I've gone a bit off book lately. I know there are a few blogs that manage to stay on message AND interesting at the same time, and mine has not been one of them. What's a boy to do? Well.. wine helps.

I've decided that I'm making this more of a love letter, an intimate sharing among friends, rather than screaming at the internet. I figure if I am talking to you, instead of yelling out the window, it may pique your interest more. It's not that I am pandering for an audience (though it is nice to be appreciated, Dear.), because these letters will be here weather you read them or not. It's more about finding your voice, and voices change over time. This is my latest iteration.

Let's catch up. Since we've last talked I've made a career shift into managing a sales team and running a clinic. It's much different than simply being your friendly neighborhood bodyworker/healer. Many mantras, a lot of hard negotiations, and a few difficult days later to get it. I do wish I did a bit more prep on myself before I got there, but here we are. You get what you worked for and now you must manage it. Getting your spot in the future is a lot like buying your own home: you never realize how much work it truly is until you get there.

Don't worry, I won't be beating my breast and lamenting my successes too hard. It's just a change, and all changes need a period of adjustment. All caterpillars to butterflies. All that dissolves, reforms.

I've been focusing on my Alchemy lately. Combining all I have under that umbrella, as for me it blends all things and makes them whole. It's been slow work, even with such a heated calcination, one must be careful not to crack after all. If you choose to tread the Royal Road, please be aware that your outer world will twist to shape your inner work. In some ways it would be easier to contain it all in a simple crucible. But when you are the materia the world is your athanoor.

And keep in mind as the heat of your Tapas gains notice, obstacles will be put in your path. The world wants to crack your vessel and steal your work. Steel yourself! Remove those blockages or outwit them. As I found out to my detriment, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. Indra sends His minions to restore blessed order. Persevere. I'm not saying the world is out to get you. I am saying the world resists large jumps of progress. The world resists inertia until you have enough inertia to move the world. Too many movers rips things up, causes too much Chaos. You can't especially blame Indra the Ever Bright, Indra of the Blinding Magnificence. He just doesn't want to see too many fires raging out of control. It disrupts the flow of things, and I can appreciate that.

Speaking of the Order of things lately, Interesting times, eh? It's like the world is playing a strange combination of Russian roulette and combined with three card Monty. That needs another full letter; too much to go into here.

In other news: I've obtained a find copy of The Hermetic Garden, and have enjoyed its study dearly. We can go over that at length in my next letter unless other matters are more pressing.

Anyway, I've talked enough, please, tell me about you!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming..

Dear Reader,

Define for me the word: "Listless".

I have been wondering for a while where I wanted to take this blog. Not this post, but this blog. Admittedly I've been all over the place lately. Most of it washing out as either heart-breakingly sentimental bleeding all over the internet, a hint of slapstick, and powdered sugar self help dusted on top. You're sweet to say it isn't so, but we both know that it is.

I know every entry can't be Oscar gold. (Is there an award for blogging? Will blogging eventually be rolled into a legit form of journalism? Am I wearing pants while I write this?) However, I do think that they should be at least passably good, and have some sort of point to them. It's a struggle with the melancholic temperament, the search for meaning. There needs to be a point.

It's time for some changes in programming.

I've also been reading less of the interblag in general lately.

There are a few I keep up on, and a few I wish I would post, but my interest and enthusiasm in general is at an all time low.

I've been phoning it in, I'll admit it. I've been so wrapped up in other things that I've been there for you less and less. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. I've been doing me. Exploring my horizons, working to put food on the table, and I know that's left you lonely.

I'm back from the road now, and I know there are few tried and true ways to jump start a relationship like ours. We'll go back to basics, you and I. A little you, a little me, a little Magick. I can't promise I won't stray sometimes, but I can promise I'll always come home..

That's how we get the machine to go, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Infinite Mittens.

While driving down a scenic NJ highway:

Deb: What do you think you want to blog about today?
Jow : No idea. The well is dry, unlike my sinuses.
Deb: You can do the Alphabet game. Just think of something meaningful that begins with "A".
Jow: Alphabet, Aardvark, Apple.

Deb: Something meaningful..
Jow: Angina!
Deb: Angina?
Jow: Heart Pain.
Deb: Uuuughh.

 "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh
wgah'nagl fhtagn!
Deb: ...You can write about being infinite! (As per a previous conversation)
Jow: Being Mittens? What does that even mean?
Deb: Being INFINITE!
Jow: Ohhh.. Well that is a good idea.

It's good to know that we have our hard of hearing octogenarian banter down now.

Aside from being a meme, "in that moment, I swear we were infinite" is from the book/movie "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", which is expertly done. I respectfully disagree with those who don't like it.

Infinity is a problematic concept. Usually it's a qualifier bounded by a noun: "infinite time", "the infinite universe", etc. In truth it's something that needs to be experienced rather than talked about or defined by a formula. The only quality that Infinity would possess is that of boundlessness. No boundaries.

It's a pretty deep thing. We're talking the Ain Soph here. Ginnungagap. Wuji.

In most cosmological models it's the base on which creation is built. Any time you loose a boundary, you are one step closer to the Infinite. However, every time you loose a boundary it is a little death. It's that tricky thing where you gain by losing and lose by gaining.

It seems to be the mystics problem with "The World". We are all infinite, put into finite forms and situations delineated by time/space. That push/pull causes apparent suffering as we get attached to things that will eventually disintegrate and fall apart.

It also highlight's most folks problems with "Mysticism", in that it runs counter to everything that nature urges us to do. Most people want to "be someone". They take pride in "defining traits", and when they have to make a stance, sometimes respond with "That's not the kind of guy I am." Boundaries give us security, a literal leg to stand on, and a way to navigate the world we live within without being trampled.

As a kid I had very poor boundaries. I would regularly give away too large portions of myself, my time, my money, for the sake of others to my own detriment. Then the pendulum swung the other way in young adulthood, where I was isolated, cold, distant, and selfish. More than once when being asked for help from someone I would respond with the heart warming:

Frieeeeeends Huuuuuug..
 "If it's so important to you, do it yourself. You can't do it yourself? Then you better think about things that are easier for you to manage."

I was a cuddly as a face hugger, no? I am surprised I have any friends left from that period.

Now that I've mellowed some, and stopped being such an insufferable brat, I've realized that I need to do both. Being infinite doesn't mean giving up everything as much as not identifying with it.. which is harder to do when you don't give it up. "Being someone" isn't constantly and violently living with a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" stuffed into your ass, (better in your ass than your mind, IMO) all the while policing your boundaries so hard that you chase off every bit of emotional warmth available to you.

Part of being infinite means that I realize that those were both me, and now I am something new. A chain of experiences and perspectives that shift like a great worm moving through space/time. A waveform of the Infinite.

That's the fun part: I get to choose. When I was a violent, awful, miserable husk I did have an experience of the Infinite, like I had when I was a child in prayer, and that was the outcome: Choice. I was choosing to be this. I was choosing to be miserable, and I made the conscious choice not to be that way. I could be either. I could be anything. I could go out tomorrow and hunt down neighborhood children and turn them into sausage. I could leave the house and never come back, wandering the earth like Kane from Kung Fu. I could go to work and have leftover stew for lunch, and prepare for our yearly Operational Standards Review.

I can do any of those things.

It's my choice, because in this moment, I swear we are infinite.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mutations of NeoTheosophy

I have strange notions. One notion is that Gordon and Deb should get all the things they want out of life. We did share the grande sacrament of Teacup Vaulderie together, after all. Less blood though, and more gin. Mostly they wish for things that are reasonably sensible things that would cause little harm and a great deal of fun. 

When Gordon trotted out the term Neotheosophy I was stoked! What fun! Let's play around with this and see what it looks like when we are done, shall we? If anything can be said about me, I'll try just about anything twice. As a Nath in the American Nath Society, I totally dig the vibe. We tend to not take ourselves so seriously.

Speaking of seriously, apparently in Theosophical circles Neo Theosophy has already been made a derogatory term for the less pure teachings of Leadbeater and Besant, and anyone not Blavatsky. Oh Fundamentalism. You are no fun at all. Which you know.. is hillarious considering some of the immensely non cannon things that the Theosophists believe. Evil Drukpas! Mountain Mahatmas! Luckily they are very Indo-focused and India has a history of tolerance. 

I've got no problem with the non cannon bits, but it is a bit like saying that someone else fan fiction is totally WRONG, because those characters would NEVER do that. EVER. But YOUR Harry/Snape/Hermione three way is TOTALLY PLAUSIBLE! Everyone can have their own headcanon. All Gnosis is UPG until you can Verify it. Verification can be pretty easy. It doesn't take a few televised celebrities and a stage magician to verify these things. We just use the scientific METHOD. 

We just did a thing. What the hell happened? Can we repeat it? 

Honestly, that is all a spiritual tradition is. THAT is it's veracity. It doesn't matter if it's from Merlin, or Sai Baba, or Eris. Does it work? How does it work? The rest is just exposition. 

We can't be afraid to get weird up in here. The world is waaaay weirder than we can even imagine. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try whatever works. Building a new framework out of bits and pieces that you find is a time honored Occult tradition. As a Spiritual Dumpster Diver myself I pride myself on it. 

If I only stuck to established formulae, and only worked within the confines of a particular tradition I wouldn't have had nearly the breadth of experience I've had. I've generally had a hard time working the systems of others and having them actually work without me taking them apart and tinkering with them. Cross pollination and mixing have always been ways that practice evolves. Everything is from somewhere, and some things don't work everywhere unless you MAKE them work. 

Stand up! Get Weird! Build something NEW! The world is changing, and pretty damn quick. We've got to be ready to change with the times, and admit new information, new findings, and be willing to put the blinders of previous ages down in order to see things as they are. 

We also can't ignore the past of what works. And a lot did work, but maybe not in ways that we understand as moderns. Maybe the ancients got it a bit wrong as well. And just maybe we'll never be able to understand how some of it works, but certain acts produce certain results. 

Get weird. Get results. Get moving! 

Theories are built and changed by results. Use all data points. Don't be afraid to consult the Yogini on the Buffalo for advice, or consult your Pinael gland. Whatever works.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Goods, Old Problems.

Slowly but surely I am plowing away through Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey. The book is making me read it slowly. Just something about how Peter writes it forces you to slow down and taste every word. Bravo Mr. Grey!

Blair Witch 2 was pivotal in my Magical practice..
because of reasons.
I admire the call to arms in the work, and the pointing out of pivotal problems. It also addresses the role of the Witch in society, which can be a hard thing to pinpoint, as Witches are totally IN right now. Lots of media coverage of Witchiness. Hell, even a Real Housewife is a Witch. What makes the Witch? Is it the doing, or the consuming of Witchy goods.

We are still in a community that is marginalized, but it is a marginalization by commerce now. Just one more thing to be bought and sold. Usually in a way that doesn't make actual Witches any money on the regular. Do we want to be respected? Do we want to be respectable? Will that hurt our practice? Will that hurt our community.

We've seen the same thing in every marginalized community. The LGBTQ community, the African American community, where culture becomes a product. And make no mistake we do have a culture. It isn't all good. It isn't all glam. It's mostly marked by a certain "otherness" of not being able to fit in. Is all this blabbing about injuring the virtue of Silence in our community a help or a hindrance? I know Mr. Grey's answer, but I honestly don't know mine yet. As someone old enough to remember the Satanic Panic, I know what being on the outer fringe can look like. It looks like being hunted. When confronted with a perceived threat it's natural first to attack, and then try to assimilate. Usually that assimilation works in favor of the majority culture who plucks out all offensive bits and leaves things sort of.. neutered.

Witchcraft is sex, drugs, and rock and roll to some extent. It's about being natural, which by default means not always being friendly. What do you give up to fit in?

It's a strange question to ask.. are you selling out or are you buying in? Is there a difference? Can you change a culture so radically out of synch with the natural word, or do you have to let it come crashing down first?

Honestly, I don't know the answers. I do know that there is much in the world that is terribly wrong, and much of it unfixable, and will just run its course. It can get depressing. Powerful depressing. But we must use that as fuel for our fires. Decay, after all, is Nature's slow burn, and the work of Saturn purging old structures in favor of a new compost.

I had a revelation recently, while watching the Rocky Horror Show in Bucks County Playhouse. I looked out over the organized chaos on the stage, the Actors all arrayed in their finest freak ensembles, with the audience doing the same.. I realized that is what I've been missing. That freakishness, that break from normality.

For a lot of folks in the 70's through the 90's Rocky Horror was THE place where you can be yourself publicly, and just have it accepted. When one person does something it's madness. When a community does it you have a culture. You might still be one of "those people", but you are still a community of those people who help, support, and accept. A place where you can take off your every day drag and just.. be natural.

The commercialization of culture is a way to neuter that cultural force by diluting it, by making it about only fashion, or food, or any other exportable thing. It exports a corpse, because the soul is gone from it.

Is that the price of acceptance, to have a homogenized soul put into a body that is now just a curiosity? No sense of struggle, no sense of history, just the outer trappings exported en mass for profit through consumption. All mysteries laid bare with no work done.

Make no mistake, Occulture is a thing. Today I almost bought a talking board t shirt. I didn't not buy it because I thought it was bringing us down as a people.. but more because I thought it wouldn't look right when put on.

 Occulture should not be a thing to be picked up and put down. It's a spiritual practice, more important than the trappings or tools of that practice. It's easy to get excited by the thought of really being accepted. But commercialization isn't acceptance. It's someone not of your folk making money off of your culture and history.

On the flip side, I remember the Goth/Witchiness of the 90's (well.. I remember the parts I remember.. some are kinda blurry), and that commercialization is part of what made me brave enough to delve head first into the subject, into the culture. My first readings were from Time/Life's Mysteries of the Unknown. Spellbooks were in Hot Topic right next to the pleather pants I would wear to my first showing of Rocky Horror at sweet sixteen. Everyone mourned Borders because that is where we would slack and discuss and stock our library if there were not occult book shop near by.

People feel that selling out means losing your soul. People don't want to buy your soul, but they do want a piece of you. They want your jacket, your book, your experience lived vicariously though trappings. And as gross as that is, it can be THE stepping stone for them onto the Path. I know it was mine, and I am better for it.

That's the thing about contagion, we both infect each other.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Last Night I Dreampt I went to Manderlay Again..

It was a few Sundays past when Deb, some friends, and I went to the McKittrick again to do a little inner exploration, whilst seeing another magnificent showing of Sleep No More. As always, I go for the Omens, also as a litmus of how my own mental state is down deep.

A tea party full of ghosts.
Masks are amazing. When you shed notoriety in favor of anonymity you can see how you would act if certain social pressures and accountability were not there. I found myself more brash, more daring, and more patient than I had expected. I also found that I am easily swayed by the sweeter things.. in this case literal candy. What would you do, if no one could link you to your actions? If you got a free pass in costume, what would you do? Who would you be?

I was a person who had tea with a Goddess, and was sent my way with a warning and a kiss. I attended the Sabbat and saw the power of one lone tree. I also found myself more brave, more brash, and way more of a stalker than I had previously thought myself.

According to RuPaul, "We are born naked, everything else is drag". Which gives us our "everyday drag" of our waking life. If you treat it as such, your costume for your big performance of the day, it can take some of the pressure off you. You can be who you need to be, because you are trying on a role, but not linking it to your sense of self.

You better work!
Everyone has some core values, and other things that really link them into a coherent person. In Indian thought the force that does this identifying is the "ahamkara", very roughly translated as the "I Maker". It's the force of self identity. However it can identify with just about anything. Right now it is identifying with your body, emotions, mind, the food you just ate, any ideals that you value, etc. Anything that makes a solid seeming "you" is strung together by the ahamkara. Now, those things change, and in many people are quite arbitrary. Even things that aren't "yours" by virtue of you being physically attached to them can be quite powerful identifiers. My children, my church, my wife, my job, my car can, and do often define those who identify with them. Many times more so than their own body. If there was a choice of losing an organ, or a limb to save the person or thing or cause you love most.. then my wife becomes more important than my hand. But both are claimed as "mine". 

One of the fun things about modern media and advertising is that it is intentionally effecting your ahamkara. It is engineered to do so. Especially advertising. Branding is a sign of ownership. When you are strutting around wearing your Sunday best, heavily embossed with logo after logo in fractal geometric forms, you are literally wearing a brand. Like livestock. 

"Brand whoring" is a delightful form of status acquisition where you are learning to identify yourself
with the brand (moo.) of the richest and fanciest you can find. If something wears my brand that is a sign to everyone that I own it, not the other way around. This is uppity middle class behavior. This is a disease of the nouveau riche. The problem comes when people forget it is a game. In some circles you DO need to engage in this behavior to make contacts and get along. You have to keep up with the Jones's juuuust enough to make them keep up with you. Louis, Fendi, Juicy, emblazon, emboss, and inscribe their logos EVERYWHERE on their products. That is so you know where you fit in the socio-economic scheme of things, and so everyone else does too. At higher ends, Hermes is very understated. They tend to do art for arts own sake, and make a mint off of doing it. Being French, they also tell you what you will be paying for their art. If you don't buy it, someone else will. If you have to price drop how much you spent on your Birkin, you are rolling with the "wrong crowd", and are gauche for even mentioning price. 

I am not saying that a person can't like what they like, or appreciate something genuinely well made, but do realize that is not the POINT of the brand. The brand exists to show people to whom you have the privilege of belonging. It's a focal point, a hook for your ahamkara. It's also a swindle, a con. But here, not only do you get conned OUT of money, you get conned IN to having an object prop up your sense of self! Fun!

However, as the Ash Covered God teaches us: Everything burns. Loss will inevitably taint any outsourced identifier, and then the bereft will be left with a hole in their identity that can be filled up with.. anything at random, or some few things on purpose. 

One neat trick that some yogis would do to those who were especially troublesome to them, would be to liberate them from their limited ahamkaras, and have them fully identify with the formless absolute, which not only liberates them from bondage to the world, but also totally makes them drop dead. When you aren't identifying with your body, personality, etc, what is left to hold on to? It's also a neat way to avoid some negative karmic consequences if you planned on killing someone anyway. 

Now, how to change your identifiers? That is a bit trickier. Deb did a great personality overhaul system in her New Year/New You, which she's used with the greatest of success. Those of us who have been watching have really seen RO blossom into RO Mark 8 through ritual, rebellion, and force of Will. Gordon in addition to being continually amazing, has shown us how other forces want to tell us who we are so they can drink us dry of our... oil, money, mind, will, everything. (Helpful hint: Television is trying to make you into its own image.. try not to latch on to anything you see there.)

Honestly, the change part is easy to explain and hard to accomplish.

0. Let go of the idea that any quality whatsoever is actually you. They are things you hold on to. 

1. Take inventory. What do you keep, and what do you toss? What isn't useful anymore?

2. Pick up more things you want to become. Study, focus, meditate, do ritual, make art. 

3. Drop the things you don't like, and let them stay dropped. Old urges will pop up. Don't fight them, but don't give in. Allow them to run their course and burn themselves out. Fighting them gives them energy. This is a marathon, not a sprint. 

4. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

5. Have fun. (It is a game after all.)

Some skills and tools to help the process: Meditation. Psychedelics. Trauma. Love. Art. Exhaustion. Sickness. Peak Experiences. Trench Experiences. Purging your closet. Purging your bookshelf. Pintrest Window Shopping. Breaking inconsequential habits. Breaking major habit patterns. Sexual experimentation (be safe!). Anything that shakes the ant farm. Periods of total media/social network blackout. Write a story. Paint a picture.

Life is immersive theater. Life is a role playing game. Non player characters are plot devices. Player characters drive the story. Be a player character.