Saturday, February 9, 2013

UFO Mysteries and Human Evolution

UFO Mysteries and Human Evolution

Ever since I started listening to the Binnall of America podcast I have found that my interest in UFOs has found itself reignited.  In fact I have noticed that interest in this phenomena comes in waves and we are on the crest of a new wave of UFO encounters about to hit as I see an escalation in reports from around the world steadily increase. 

Ever since I read Jacques Vallee’s monumental Messengers of Deception and John Keel’s wonderful books such as The MothmanI have stood by the perspective that whatever is happening, UFOs are clearly not spacemen visiting Earth in a style similar to that portrayed on Star Trek; clearly something even more spooky is going on.  It seems that the best place to spot UFOs also happens to be the best place to spot ghosts and cryptids such as Bigfoot.  Such as idea seems preposterous but points the way to an exciting avenue of research.

It is difficult for a grown man to sound rational when speaking about fairies.  However it is clear that there is a lot of overlap with Fairy Lore and UFO lore.  Both mysteries involve little green men, time distortions and lost time, similar hill/spaceship symbolism and often (perhaps most importantly) UFO landing sites are often sites where people have had fairy encounters, such as within Rendlesham Forest.  

 This is suggestive that we are looking at a common phenomena but viewed through different cultural lenses, in this case that of a medieval agrarian community and a modern technological one.
The phenomena is bigger than just aliens or fairies however.  In the past there are certainly records that we have encountered these beings and given them various names through history such as witches (African tribes referred to flying lights as witches), Faerie, Djinns etc.  At the very least, the following features are found in all forms of the phenomena:

  • Appearance: Often we have accounts of UFO occupants appearing similar to the descriptions given by people encountering fairies. We could perhaps ask does the term “little green men” refer to aliens or leprechauns. Similarly it has often been remarked how similar our friend Lam (as channelled by Aleister Crowley) looks is to the iconic grey alien.
  • Time distortion – Often people encountering either will experience some sort of time distortion
  •  An interest in babies and fertility. In fairy lore we have the concept of a changeling. In UFO lore we have accounts of breeding-programs etc
  • Accounts of flying lights. These are one of the most common parts of the phenomena and seem to be universal.
  • The experience of going into the hill or going into the saucer.
  • Ability to drastically harm – elfshot or strange cancers developing.  In medieval fairy-lore branches of magic developed with regards to protecting from these beings and healing some of the damage they can do, which charms and anti-fairy talismans (such as iron) being developed.

On the other hand however there are also a number of accounts of UFO's being witnessed by trained astronauts in outer space.  Does this blow the idea that UFO's may be some earth related phenomena such as what we would have called fairies a death-blow?

One of the most fascinating witnesses is Dr Ed Mitchell. He was one of the original Apollo astronauts. flying to and landing on the Moon with Apollo 14. Among other things he holds the record for the longest Moonwalk (9h17m). He is also noted to have an interest in psychic phenomena being the astronaut who conducted ESP experiments with his associates on Earth whilst in flight. His background was as a pilot in the Navy before joining NASA and he holds several degrees including a number of doctorates, some being honorary but at least one being research based. As such I think we can say he is a highly intelligent man, a trained observer and a reliable witness.

In recent interviews he has gone on to express a belief in UFOs (as spacemen) and shocked the scientific world with some views. For example

If it was just one astronaut we might be forgiven in thinking that there could be other factors involved. However other astronauts and NASA staff have seen UFO's and ET's including Neil Armstrong and Dr Buzz Aldrin.  There are in fact many testimonies from astronauts regarding UFOs they have encountered as detailed here.  There are also very interesting albeit slightly ambiguous records of the dialogue between Neil Armstrong and Mission Control whilst he was on the moon.  The moon itself is very interesting and I shall be returning to the moon in a future post, discussing some of its many mysteries.

I could equally well have dug into the thousands of testimonies of people who have reported UFO's and other encounters throughout history.  However I have started with astronauts because these are a class of people who are very intelligent, highly trained both in terms of observation skills and also scientifically (although perhaps not as blinkered by a political scientific perspective as we might find in academia). Also and I think this is important astronauts encountering "aliens" and "UFOs" seems to suggest a "nuts and bolts" "Star Trek" view of the phenomena - a view which I do not share so am interested in looking to see if all is not as it appears.

Let’s now take a look at another perspective.  For years, a number of researchers such as Vallee have been suggesting that UFO's and entity experiences are something other than spacemen visiting from another world. There argument suggests that Aliens/UFOs have always been here and originate from elsewhere, what might popularly be labelled another dimension.

I am always a bit coy about bandying words like dimension around so let us define what I mean. Rather than say dimension perhaps we can say from a parallel reality existing and mingling with our reality as we know it. If you imagine our reality as slides from a filmstrip and the other reality as another filmstrip held next to ours I hope this illustrates what I am saying.  Certainly there is nothing that I am aware of in physics to suggest such a view is impossible.

Some UFO accounts emphasis strongly the trickster aspect commonly entangled with fairy experiences and some accounts are blatantly absurd (although not necessarily fictional)!  One of my favourites is the pancake giving alien. The only witness here was one Joe Simonton who was in his house making breakfast one April morning. He heard a sound like tires on a wet pavement and went outside to investigate. On doing so he saw a round disk about 12 ft high and 30 ft in diameter. From this a hatch opened when three men came out and telepathically asked Joe to fill a jug with water. He did so and was then given three pancakes before the UFO closed up and flew off. The pancakes were genuine and I believe tested and shown to be totally unremarkable.  As absurd as this account is there is no evidence to suggest that Simonton was lying or mad except that this encounter is totally bonkers to our consensus sense of reality; something which may itself be an illusion.

With cases like this one the mind begins to boggle. It certainly breaks the "nuts and bolts" mould simply by being so absurd.  Yet there was clearly a technologically gloss to this instance. We have a spaceship and the "aliens" were described as wearing tight fitting uniforms so beloved of 1950s/60s era B movie science fiction. But the event itself is more suggestive of a trickster entity such as faeries are reputed to me. I can imagine them in their mushroom/spaceship after this literally killing themselves with laughter over this and seen in this light it is hilarious.
Other accounts are more sinister and fairies have been known to turn nasty. There is a similar aspect to this with UFOs where phenomena such as Cattle Mutilations and Men in Black rear their ugly heads.  Many examples of Men in Black seem to suggest an inhuman quality to the visitors as if there are something not quite human and doing an imperfect job as masking themselves as such.  More interesting we could also examine this inhumanity and wonder if the inhuman sense is itself deliberate in order to create even more disquiet – if you can create illusions, why create almost perfect ones?

I suppose we could ask the question as to which is the truer picture. Are alien spacemen being seen though an olde-worlde earth perspective and encountered as fairies or are we seeing fairies through a scientific gloss perceiving them as spacemen?

Actually I rather think that to categorise them as one or the other would be naive. Throughout history they have shown many forms. However the Pancake incident does seem to reinforce the idea that there is a cultural filter over what we humans are perceiving. Our minds work by symbols and once a symbol is used to associate with a manifesting energy then it seems that the mind likes to keep it that way. In other words if one tends to perceive an energy as a spaceman one probably always will.

One of the most common aspects of these phenomena is that of the flying lights. These are described variously as spacecraft, fairies, flying witches etc. It is even possible that the Will-o-the-wisp phenomena is more complex that simply marsh gas as suggested in some cases, although just as some UFO's can be Venus, presumably some will-o'-the-wisps will be marsh gas. Some researchers such as Michael Deveraux have suggested that flying lights are linked to places of high electro-magnetism on the earth’s crust and this does seem to be a variable in the phenomena. Michael Persinger’s work in Canada has also suggested that electromagnetic fields can distort human perception, activate transcendent states and give one the sense of being abducted and/or out of one’s body.

I think that this research is incredibly important and in no way invalidates the paranormal aspect of these phenomena. Rather it is saying that the brain is capable of these states (which is interesting and wondrous in itself) and that these states can be triggered by electromagnetism. It points to electromagnetism as being a component in the phenomena but does not make this a necessity.

For example, I can create an illusion of heat and burning in my mouth by eating "hot" chillies. The capsaicin in the chillies stimulates the same nerves in my mouth that get stimulated when I eat hot (as in heated) food. This shows that senses and experiences can be fooled and stimulated by other means and just as chillies are not really hot (in the heated sense) phenomena may not be really electromagnetic, rather the electromagnetism is stimulating the same parts of the being that gets stimulated by phenomena. We don’t know of course and it would be hasty to assume anything here other than that much more research is needed.

Given that astronauts also perceive UFO's not only on the moon but also in the empty stretch between the Earth and the Moon, I would suggest that the electromagnetism in the earth crust is not the only factor in this. Perhaps this phenomenon needs a carrier to transmit it to us. One such carrier may be electromagnetic radiation, another may be marsh gas etc, and another may be orgone energy as postulated by Wilhelm Reich.  Again we are really on the edge of speculation here and are jumping into unknown territory.

Perhaps a form of perichoresis takes place through the transmitting medium whether it be EM radiation, marsh gas and orgone each being relatively simple "building blocks" so any influence from another dimension may find it very easy to impress and emerge in our reality through this media. This is sort of like those pictures we see of flying birds in the work of MC Escher – If one gets caught in the detail one sees the birds but if one steps back and looks at the picture as a whole we see a larger picture emerge.

There is a wonderful example of perichoresis in Salvador Dali's "Destino" animated film. If you do watch it take a look at how Zeus "emerges" from the archway.  The goodies start at 4m and 50s into the piece.

Perichoresis might also be a component towards an explanation for Crop Circles.  Andrew Collins excellent book The Circlemakers suggests that orgone is responsible for the circles, and this may well be correct.   However orgone may suggest the mechanism by which circles are formed but doesn’t necessary address the issue as to the nature of the information coming through and this I believe is where need to look towards perichoresis. Something elsewhere is  impressing these patterns on our reality.

It has been suggested that astronauts are changed by the simple fact of going into space and we do see a lot of returning astronauts being caught up in paranormal projects, getting religion or simply being awed with wonder, something many of us lose as we get older, more cynical and jaded.
Certainly for me I find images such as the opening sequence of Carl Sagan’s "Cosmos" very moving and would love to experience something like space-flight and really see and experience some of the images NASA release. I can imagine that being out there, would really open the mind to wonder and perhaps create an "enflamed with prayer" type of state where magic happens.  There is an updated space flight sequence based upon the one in Cosmos in Jodie Fosters "Contact" based upon Sagan's book

Contact Space Flight

Could this act of wonder have the effect of switching astronauts on, perhaps making them more spiritual and psychic? Is it possible that "reality" is loaded so that the act of a species travelling into space switches them on in a way similar to magic does opening up the larger universe?

In a sense something similar happened a billion or so years ago when life on earth evolved vision. At that point the visual universe opened up and because visible to all. Granted this was actually for our distant very-very-pre-human relatives but the event is rather staggering, nature went from being blind to being able to see. Our very language of spiritual attainment uses this as a metaphor. Words like “Enlightened”, “Illuminated” may in some deep atavistic way still remember this event and carry it on in our being and terminology for extended awareness.

There are some very interesting peculiarities surrounding the evolution of vision. First of all it seems to have developed on several places independently, so all life with vision does not share a common ancestor who was the first creature with sight. Rather there are several possible ancestors. This sort of suggests that the pattern of sight was programmed into evolution (in a very heretical and non-Darwinian way) to emerge perhaps in a similar process to how Sheldrake’s Morphic resonance is presented.

More interesting still is the fact that sight is supposed to have evolved before the brain at least in its current form developed. This is confirmed by looking at the human pineal gland in the centre of the brain. It actually possess some photosensitive properties suggesting that whilst atrophied will have certainly acted as an eye in our ancestors. It seems that the brain grew around the eye, adding abilities to process the new visual data being received. The brain of course does a lot more than think, and it does act as a filter and translator to what we see. For example at its simplest it filters out the blood vessels in our eyes which we do not see. It also tends to take out unexpected anomalies in our vision.  The problem however with the idea that the pineal gland is an eye is that this is not supported by the fossil record.  However if not, why does it have photo-sensitive properties?

Some experiments were done years ago involving a man dressed as a gorilla running onto a baseball game and waving at the audience. The majority of the audience didn’t even notice him because it was so far outside our expected vision that it simply processed the data out. This can work conversely as well and expected objects can appear in our visual matrix.

I think that we are on the verge of a perceptual leap perhaps similar to what was experienced when life evolved the ability to see portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Changes are taking place both through our personal evolution as magicians and as individuals as a part of the human species going into space which are shifting our perspective and as a result enhancing and mutating our perceptions to see the universe in a more connected magical state where we will be able to see the fairies, UFO's etc in all their myriad forms and maybe not understand but certainly communicate and interact with.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Occult Themes in Childrens Television

I was quite thrilled this Christmas holiday to be reminded that I have a secret vice; that of going back and recapturing all the classic fantasy programmes which haunted my childhood. This spark has always been with me of course and over the years I have maintained a fondness for shows such as the Box of Delights and of course Doctor Who.  Now adding to this there are stories such as The Children of the Stones, The Moon Stallion and The Owl Service all of which are a pure delight and are genuine time machines taking me back to the 1970s when it was safe and reasonable for children to go on quests and adventures without over protective parenting fuelled by hate and fearful politics and media wanting to coddle everything in cotton wool and anti-bacterial spray.

I will hit my 42nd year this coming February and so I was lucky enough to have grown up through the 1970s and early 80s which were a golden age in Children’s Television.  Since the mid 1990s however I have been haunted by half remembered enchantment, television stories that I watched but to which many details are forgotten.  Shows such as the Box of Delights or The Enchanted Castle have left a silver seam of magic seared across my memory ever reminding me of their presence but leaving me with the echoes of so much lost and eluded until recent research shined some light illuminating these forgotten places.  Over the years it has become very frustrating and trying to recapture a half-remembered magic is in many ways worse then not being able to find it at all.  Sometimes I could not even remember the names of the programme in question and I wasted ages searching for “Elizabeth and the Witch” when I should instead have searched for Lizzy Dripping.  Memory can be fickle in this way.

It was in these early days when the occultist fire started burning brightly.  I was 12 and picked up and read (smuggling home from the library without my mother seeing) two occults books, "Astral Doorways" by JH Brennan and "The Magician, his training and work" by WE Butler.  Both were (and still are) cracking reads, classics on the occult and as I later found out ones which still influence me greatly.  Both books lead to my reading other books by these authors and others, some of which were illuminating and other which turned out to be blind alleys which wasted a couple of years.  There is serious learning here however and I feel that when I have children getting them to read Mr Butler's books will be a high priority.  Many of these books speak about the power and important of the imagination and exactly what can be done with a trained mind.  All this however started with the fiction which inspired me to read more.

Childrens fantasy fiction can be truly magical, in enthusing our minds with such potent symbolism the magic grows within us as we assimilate this imagery and concepts binding them into our deepest consciousness creating genuine possibilities for change regardless of the colder logics of the waking world.  The fact that these shows work themselves in deep is clear whenever we re-watch an older show as an adult.  The same emotions experienced as a child are still remembered and stirred up when the show is reviewed.  For example go back and watch a classic Doctor Who story which you have not seen as a child, one which scared you then.  You will feel the same emotions as you did as a child, albeit hopefully as an adult you will be able to temper those feelings better.

Science Fiction and Fantasy really go hand in hand and both are often saturated in occultism.  We see this blended most adeptly in television of this era with Doctor Who remaining one of my favourites.  For all his protestations as to being a scientist, the good Doctor is clearly a magician first and foremost and understands the need to work towards maintaining a balance rather than being strictly a good guy.  Very much a trickster and avatar of Mercury, the Doctor walks through reality like a dream, showing us how to counter the terrors of our nightside and bring them into the day.

Some early Doctor Who stories bleed occultism to my absolute delight.  Most fondly remembered of course is The Daemons.  Here we see Roger Delgardo as the Master dressed up like a Golden Dawn magician, epically misquoting Aleister Crowley with "To do my will shall be the Whole of the Law"[sic].  We see other occult concepts also appear here such as the idea of the energetic rebound.  The concept here is simple, one sends of a magical attack in the direction of a target who has a defence in place.  The attach will then rebound off that person and hit the sender.  Whilst clever occultists will usually have a timey-wimey way to get around such limitations these strictures are staples of beginner books and occult fiction and serve mostly to keep wannabe students on the straight and narrow.

The writer of this tale, Barry Letts was an esoteric Buddhist with a massive interest in magic and we really see this shine with a later story which became Jon Pertwee's swansong as the Doctor - The Planet of the Spiders.  This tale could really have been written by the esteemed Kenneth Grant - it is very esoteric.  On Earth we have Tibetan Bon Buddhist monks who are secretly Timelords existing in self-imposed exile.  There is a heavy suggestion that tulpas are used by Timelords to shape their future regenerations, each future self is a new tulpa.   All this is framed in mauve with a very Typhonian gloss of spiders from a distant world seeking to impinge themselves upon the Sphere of sensation of wannabe black-magicians and rule our world. 

This story was released in the very early 1970s just after Kenneth Grant had released The Magical Revival.  However if it turns out that Letts had read a copy of Kenneth Grant's Beyond the Mauve Zone which had somehow got itself caught in the time distortion left in the wake of Children of the Zones and sent back in time I would not be surprised.

Tom Bakers swansong as the Doctor (Logopolis, 1979) also included a watcher; his future self existing as a projection, a tulpa already able to influence events.  This idea was abandoned by subsequent writers and producers of Doctor Who but in its day these ideas are very suggestive.  The idea of rebirth enriches much fiction, as shown, in The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe with Aslan regenerating after the White witch sacrifices him.   The idea of a phoenix as a bird of regeneration is also a common motif which pops up, of course in E Nesbit’s “Phoenix and carpet” and more recently in the Harry Potter mythos.

Occultists have always written fictional stories and embedded their ideas within fiction as a way of getting past our sceptical censor.  An early story was the seminal Zanoni, written by Bulwer Lytton and plugged as a "Rosicrucian tale".  Zanoni definitely influenced Samuel MacGregor Mathers whose wife, Moina; used it for him as an affectionate nickname.  Moina of course crossed astral swords which another seminal occultist, Dion Fortune who really made use of the occult novel as a way to transmit ideas.

I must admit that I really hate Fortune's writing style.  She cannot characterise men in her books and they all too often end up an impotent and effeminate fools seeking a stronger woman to complete them.  However in fairness to her I understand that her later books were meant as romantic fiction rather than occult novels.  Her books are loaded with occultism however and many things she left out from her non fiction made its way into her novels, so they are well worth working through despite the prose.  Her first book however; “Doctor Tavener” makes up for this in advance and (Oh look) the Doctor is an adept who helps resolve a number of problems with his esoteric knowledge and intelligence.

Weaving back to television, Children of the Stones is rightly held up as a classic and is fondly remembered by many people.  Re-watching it recently it was nice to spot a copy of Elizabeth St George's Casebook for a working occultist on the shelf in episode 2 (about 5 mins into the episode).  This is a rather obscure book now and St George has sadly faded into history and not really remembered nowadays.  In her day however she was a noted occultist who worked with the esteemed (and lovingly bad-tempered) William Gray who for all his faults certainly knew his stuff and is respected for his occult knowledge.

I feel that the story captures all the important elements of an occult tale.  We have a stone circle, a dastardly black magician (also called a priest and magus) seeking to control the population.  A lot of the modern tools used by psychic researchers, psychic questers and paranormal researchers are also shown here such as looking at stellar alignments and tracking lines on maps.  We also see a remarkably open minded scientist (played by Blake’s 7 actor Gareth Thomas) encouraging his son in experiments in psychometry.  His line "There is a lot we don’t understand" is priceless in context and I wish that the likes of Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking focus upon that rather than the tiny amount achieved by humanity so far.

The story is not perfect however and there are leaps of logic which may sound scientific but degenerate into silliness.  For example arguing that the stones were aligned to a supernova is fairly plausible if unlikely.  But then saying that since the star then became a black hole things reversed is just silliness.  Similarly the whole time slip thing at the end where the protagonists drive out of Milbury (Avebury) to pass the much younger and still alive bad guy driving in at the start of his wicked adventures is not a clever twist but silliness which cheapens the whole story.  However these faults do not really matter in what is basically a fascinating and engaging romp through magic and esoteric lore.

We see other elements of magic in The Moon Stallion which features elements of magic much popularised by the late Andrew Chumbley over the past decade, namely the infamous Toad ritual.  This nasty ritual has several variants all of which basically involve finding a (sometimes already dead) toad, buying it in an anthill until the flesh has been picked away then at the right time tossing the skeleton in a river at midnight, then selecting a particular bone to keep as a talisman.  Accounts differ as to whether the required stone floats, sinks last or on the more unlikely accounts floats up against the current where the devil appears to try to wrest it from the magician.  

Here is how The Moon Stallion dramatised this:

The child in the above clip rightly says "who would want to do a nasty thing like that" and it is rather unpleasant and certainly anything which involves mistreating animals in any way should be utterly condemned in my opinion.  Certainly it should be remembered that toads are protected in the UK and a very serious view with be taken with those foolish enough to harm wildlife.

It is however relevant to note that these traditions are out there and we do see them reflected in children’s television.  Is this a bad thing?  I do not think so since most children know the difference between good and evil and these programmes emphasis this and teach children to be willing to get up and make a stand.  It is telling that the children in the Moon Stallion make a stand against Todman.

It is nice to know that there was a time when writers were still there weaving the magic into children fiction and subtly influencing children underneath the radar of fundamentalists or the new puritans such as mumsnet.  Magic is a crucial part of our childhood and long may it remain so.  But also this is a tribute to these forgotten writers who wrote such wonderful tales for television.  Screenwriters are never remembered but the ones who gave us these stories deserve a moment of respect and a glass in their honour.  Long may these stories be told and retold and maybe one day we will see a new golden age of powerful childrens fiction being dramatised and shown.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Alexandra David-Néel

Today, October the 24th I shall be raising a glass to wish Alexandra David-Néel a very happy birthday. Alexandra was awesome as a sorceress, buddhist and adventurer, she penetrated Lhasa, indeed Tibet when it was still a closed Kingdom. She was also an anarchist fighting the fight against oppression and a brilliant writer who influenced luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg and Alan Watts.

Amongst the many reasons to remember this remarkable lady is the fact that she brought m

agical tales of Tulpas to the West. Tulpas are vital game changers of which I shall have a lot (one hell of a lot in fact) to speak about very soon. Her description of the fabled Dubthab rite was very hard to trace and even then assumes that the reader can read-between-the-lines; such was early 20th century esotericism! Even Google doesnt know everything

A tulpa is basically an imagined idea which through intensity of envivification is brought into reality as a solid object. They are different from the thoughtforms of western magicians (although often confused) in that they take a lot more work to create and are visible to other people much as a ghost is. However with work a tulpa can be as solid as a punch in the nose.

Happy Birthday Alexandra David-Néel. I say "awesome" a lot nowadays, but you really were that. If I only ever manage to follow in your footsteps I will have achieved much and lived a life worth living. October the 24th will forever be your day!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Pantacles of Solomon by S. Alderanay

This exellent book by S. Aldaranay couldnt have come to me at a better time.  I have recently been looking at the Pantacles for a project of my own (watch this space) and walk away from the various versions in disgust.  Many editions (including the Mathers edition) have errors, the psalms cast around each circle are often unclear squiggles and it is all hard work to go through.  This version has the pantacles cleaned, corrected and redrawn and is a breathe of fresh air after pouring through so many dusty grimoires.

So this book has come to us at a perfect time and I am sure that Ceremonial magicians and Hoodoo practictioners alike will find this new version invaluable.  Get it now from Hadean press.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Starry Wisdom: A perichoresical perambulation through the works of Kenneth Grant

The Starry Wisdom:  A perichoresical perambulation through the works of Kenneth Grant

It seems that like buses my writing comes across in twos.  Here is a link to an article I have written for Darklore which is the awesome journal put together for the Daily Grail.  I have been following the Daily Grail for ten years now and I am certain that there is not a finer source of esoteric news.

This link here will take you to a page detailing Darklore and includes links to Amazon in the UK and US.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Walking the Spectral Path

My book, "Walking the Spectral Path" is due to be published by Hadean Press on the significant date of the 31st of October.  This short work looks at ghosts from the magical perspective examining what a ghost may actually be and details some occult methods of exploring the paranormal.  It is very much a personal piece which also details a number of my own experiences.

It will be available from Amazon (UK (soon) and US) from Halloween but available now direct from Hadean Press.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dangers of forgetting the past

Dangers of forgetting the past

 Gareth Hewitson-May in Dark doorway of the Beast (New World, 1992) starts with the following paragraph which I feel is very relevant to people such as myself who are interested in taking things apart to see how they work.

The utter devastation that has swept through the esoteric fraternities for the last two thousand years has unfortunately completely dissolved the coherence of attitude that is necessary to the understanding of the system. It is therefore of monumental importance that all attempts to recover such complete doctrines should be abandoned as futile. The very fact that language, understanding, communication, terminology, relevance of material are now so very different, that it is plainly obvious that the 'return' of any such 'recovered doctrines' in today’s culture would only serve to confuse, rather than to illuminate.

I feel that this paragraph is very important and it does point out that there will be (at best) problems if we try to truly recapture, recreate and practice an ancient tradition exactly as it was practiced in the past.  We have changed, the world has changed and so our interface with magic must also change.  We have moved away not only from the mental processes which our ancestors followed, but even our physiology has changed – we are very different to our ancestors.

An often quoted[1] example of this transformation concerns Homer’s reference to the wine-dark sea.  In no way can the Mediterranean Sea be said to be “wine-dark”.  Part of this “evolution” seems to stem from how our thinking processes have changed from being a tribal consciousness (which was perhaps closer to a group mind) to an individual consciousness.  In antiquity perhaps this shift was still happening and we did not necessarily have the same consciousness then that we have now.  This transformation is continuing and even within the lifetimes of our grandparents we can spot differences.

As another example, consider how our use of the English language is always mutating and we use different terms and phrase things differently in modern times.  I remember that at school during the 1980s the word “wicked” was used to describe something which was totally brilliant, nowadays “wicked” just means very bad again and like people using “swell” or “fab” its use in the schoolyard has thankfully declined.

For another example of this consider how we find different things funny.  Modern sitcoms have a very different humour to sitcoms written only 30 years ago and (for example) Terry and June is vastly different from say One foot in the grave even though they both involve a middle-aged couple living their life. Perhaps I am speaking personally, perhaps not, but the older comedy seems much more dated and arguably less funny that the later.  In 20 years time One foot in the grave will also seem dated compared to whatever is shown in our future.  It is sobering to contemplate that many people from the generation reading this blog will be the generation satirised in that future comedy.

As a final example, Victorians used to entertain themselves in the evening by watching jellies wobble. To our minds that seems to be the formulae for the most inconceivably tedious evening. And whilst cannabis was perfectly legal, acceptable and obtainable in the Victorian era I don’t think that can account for this mad behaviour.

Some of this change is driven by technology.  For example before the creation of gas lighting, human sleep patterns were very different to what they are today, with people commonly going to bed at around 6pm, waking up for an hour or two around midnight and then returning to bed until morning.  Literature referred to people having a first and then a second sleep.  Interestingly the liminal period between first and second sleep was the “witching hour” where people were more likely to see ghosts.  I suspect that this is due to the effects of the first sleep on brainwaves.

Author and Enochian magician Scot Stenwick recently gave a fabulous interview[2] on the awesome Deeper down the rabbit hole series of podcasts.  He makes the point in relation to Enochian scrying that a short burst of alpha/theta from a mind-machine prior to scrying makes everyone a seer.  I suspect that this is the state many people are in between their first and second sleep and thus being highly psychic are able to pick up on anything which may be around them.  Similarly the entities which people pick up on during sleep paralysis are detected because whilst the brain is in a highly receptive state when awake; even though the body is “asleep” – actually paralysed by the body in order that dreams are not acted out.  The paralysis is purely physiological and definitely not supernatural.

So, we have changed and we will continue to change as our past recedes into the distance and we humans are continually reinventing ourselves. 

So, I am not sure what to think when we read about modern magicians seeking to recapture an authentic tradition and attempting to reconstruct it exactly as it was. Could this be the equivalent of trying to compile and run a computer program written in say Java 1 with a Java 7 compiler?  Sure you may get something working but also lots of errors given that we are so substantially different to the magicians of antiquity.

I feel that one engine of change which affects us is language and perhaps this is the most fundamental driver of all, since we frame our thoughts in language even though it is in a continual state of flux.  Whilst our true selves are deeper than just a conscious layer which processes the input from our perceptions on a linguistic/semantic level and which equates to our everyday conscious selves, researchers since Freud and Jung have shown that we are far deeper than that.  So there is the question as to how much our language influences our thinking?  This idea is referred to in linguistics as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which proposes that a person’s language sets constraints upon how they think. This idea is by no means universally accepted, but it does seem to be partially accepted as one of the factors which influences our thought processes.

Cliff Pickover in Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves gives several examples of how language shapes and constrains things. In one example he illustrates how language compartmentalises words. Let us consider the words “Strawberry, Raspberry, Mulberry and Blueberry”, all words linked by the suffix “berry”, which we can use to link these as examples of “berries”. Thus through the English language we can process these words and categorise then as examples of “berry” without any further information.  We will know without actually needing to examine the objects exactly what class they belong to. 

Now let us consider the French equivalent of these words – “Fraise, Framboise, Mure, Myrtille”. Clearly they do not share any common parts such as a “–berry” suffix.  Any thinking processes working with these cannot unify them except with a knowledge that is larger that the words themselves, a meta context which places them into an information-order.

We frame our thoughts in language, and so without any form of mystical practice, our thoughts become very much limited by that language. Mysticism is accessing the ineffable, takes us to places where language cannot describe because these are places not visited by evolutionary humans developing language; and so we often come back “mind-expanded” but at a loss for words to describe the experience, often in trying to reach for the language we have to stretch to metaphor and/or take the risk of sounding nuttier than the average squirrel’s dinner.  Our languages have evolved, growing out of the human experience and so are strong in describing deeper experiences; concepts such as food, sex, fight, flight etc.  They are however weak in describing deeper spiritual encounters which are rarer and less embedded within our day-to-day consciousness; particularly now since we have grown more materialistic over time. 

Perhaps we can learn something from the emerging culinary art of molecular gastronomy.  Chefs such as  Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria are true alchemists literally applying the alchemical processes of “salve et coagula”; divide and recombine; to create new experiences that push the limits of taste into creating interesting new sensations. Whilst I think that in pure food terms what these researchers are achieving is phenomenal, I also think that we can learn a lot from them and apply these ideas back to magic.

As an aside (which may or may not be relevant) I don’t think we can eat food such as Heston and Ferran cook every day. As ever a good diet based on organically grown natural produced ingredients seems to be the key. Whether this also applies to magic remains, I believe, to the discretion of the magician.

Just to give you a taste of what I am on about, here is an article on Ferran which I think is particularly profound in that it discusses Ferran's thoughts.

Most importantly from the clip:

He kept referring to a new language and that to create a new language you need a new alphabet, new grammar, new tools and processes. He argues that his style of cooking is this new language and that, with every new technique, he's building up the alphabet.

I think that this is vitally important; taking things into a modern direction needs this sort of mentality, this sort of fresh angle.  Austin Osman Spare wrote about an alphabet of desire; this is exactly what chefs like Heston and Ferran Adria are doing, breaking their “reality” down into base ingredients and processes and building things up from there – solve et coagula. 

Let us go back to Hewitson-May’s original quote.  How much of this do I actually accept? 

Part of the problem with magic is that unless one were lucky (or unlucky!) enough to have been born as a natural psychic producing a continually repeatable result is actually very difficult, especially for a beginner.  So whilst with chemistry we know that every time we mix hydrogen and oxygen we will get an explosion and water, this does not happen so readily in sorcery.   The magical arts are not repeatable in the same way that a scientific process is.

This makes it incredibly difficult  to quickly and efficiently build up a toolbox of magical techniques where one can go from meditating one day to raising demons a week later.  These things take time whilst we learn to meditate, tune our visualization abilities and begin working with an energy practice such as opening our chakras (or using the Middle Pillar exercise enough) that we then start realising that our psychic awareness is tuned enough to then begin making contacts and eventually obtain useful and practical information from spirits.  This is the point where we really begin to become a magician and can change the universe.

It has taken humanity a very long time to work out the above usually in scenarios where the trailblazers had much more free time on their hands to think and to practice.  I very much doubt that we will get very far at all if we literally bin everything we know (or think we know) and say something like “Ok how do I make the universe do this” then work out how.  It will be easier for a Stone Age society to discover physics and then decide to build a rocket to the moon. 

The problem with discovering physics however is that I suspect it is like working with the operating system of the universe.  Once you start working with that however you are also limited to its rules.  With magic I very much see us learning how to hack the machine code which underlies but is not dependant upon physics.  You will not be limited by annoyances such as the speed of light or the Planck length and I feel in principal that one is able to do absolutely, literally anything; however it is very very difficult to get out of the fact that we ourselves are composed of matter which is part of (and therefore limited by) the operating system, by physics itself.

So I have to disagree with Hewitson-May up to a point.  I do not think that we should bin the past and of course to forget the past is also to forget the lessons of the past.  I do agree however that we are different now that we will need to recalibrate our knowledge to reflect the fact that we are different.

Much as I have argued against the incompatibility between science and magic elsewhere on this blog; science has and will continue to push human development for the foreseeable future and most importantly science has lead us down a path where humanity does not and should not take things as gospel, but rather we must ask, question and evaluate then more on.  This is true for every field we look at, as true for physics as it is for sorcery and whilst I still stand by my argument that physics and sorcery are incompatible and we will never arrive at an explanation of one using the other, the “method of science” to quote Aleister Crowley is still valid in all human endeavours since it is a methodology, a way of thinking rather than a solution or an explanation within itself, even though paradoxically the method of science can be limiting when its light is fully turned onto psychic experience which is holistic in nature and dependant upon a human and the universe; a reductionist interpretation required by Popperian science erodes the magic.

There is still a massive value in researching and understanding the past.  There are fragments of lore which we still need to learn, things to rediscover and reweave into our practice; not forgetting that our practice is constantly new.  The power in Andrew Chumbley’s reboot of traditional witchcraft in the Azoetia is that it itself is not traditional but rather it is contains traditional elements which have been reformulated to be of relevance to the modern mind.   Perhaps even more prominently work such as the corpus left by the respected Kenneth Grant gives us keys to sort the information and understand what worked in the past ready for us to mould ready for future work.  Grant powerfully left us whole connected strands of interpretation which not only shows how concepts evolved, but how concepts stretch from our deepest unconsciousness out to the light of our everyday right-brain selves.
Similarly we can inherit a lot of techniques which have been knocking around for millennia such as the qabalistic middle pillar exercise, Austin Spares method of creating sigil-entities (which actually goes back to Agrippa) or even reformulate a practice of creating a tulpa based upon Tibetan Bon techniques but using a qabalistic rather than a Bon/Tantra paradigm.  There are massive differences between a true Tibetan style Tulpa and a thoughtform as I will be examining in a future post.  These techniques are still present and waiting to be practices and understood from a modern magical mindset, something humanity has yet to fully achieve.

However I feel that we must be mindful always that a lot of what we have inherited are dry techniques, divorced from their spiritual underpinnings.  Communication and interaction with spirits may not be the only component in magic, in fact it may not be the most important component.  However it is an important component of all magical practice and whilst I feel that this is somewhat downplayed by the Golden Dawn and its inheritors this is something which needs to be remembered.

I feel that one of the biggest points to be almost lost is that we are in danger of losing contact with the spirits; and these always mediate the magic.  Magic as taught by the offshoots of the GD seem more about visualisation and banishing rather than actually learning to still the mind and speaking to those presences which are around us.  As I dig deeper and learn to effectively use practices such as Enochian and Hoodoo I find that taking this as literally true becomes more useful than an abstract idea that this may be my subconscious talking; an idea which I do not accept.  Ultimately it does not matter but for someone like me who gets bugged by the tiniest details it is important and whilst it does go against my scientific knowledge, accepting the literal existence of spirits is the most honest way I can move forward.  It doesn’t really matter if I am wrong since acting in this way creates results, which is definitely the most important thing.

This avoidance or even fear of spirits seems endemic to many modern groups.   Newbies then either go goetia crazy and try to hold everything in a triangle of art – a barbaric offshoot of a medieval mentality which leads to a nasty albeit symbolic (at least on our level) torturing of spirits to compel them into obedience.  This always ends very badly and I feel that authors such as Joseph Lisiewski are particularly wrong here.  His background is in physics and it seems that he is trapped in a philosophy which leads him to act as if magic is a recipe book such as depicted in Harry Potter.  He does not understand the underlying principals and so is stuck in the medieval mindset which the writers of the grimoires existed within.

There are other examples here, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki of the Servants of the Light in her “Ritual magic workbook” instructs students not to investigate ghosts or touch Enochian, despite these activities being two excellent ways in which we can learn to reach out and touch the spirit world.  How can people learn to be mediators and magicians if they are forbidden to speak to spiritual entities!   I find it interesting that Dolores then goes off to recount her own Enochian experiences – a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do”.

This spiritism is a vital part of magic and whilst I have no idea as to what the underlying “physics” is as to what is happening (if that is even a valid question – perhaps it is liking asking about the physics of the dream world I found myself in last sleep!), working with entities whether we are talking about contacts in the sense that the esteemed WE Butler describes, venerating the Vudou Loa or pestering ghosts to see what happens is vital stuff.   This approach gives a range of results ranging from inner knowledge to outer experiences and at the very least helps to develop ones psychic perceptions.  That alone is vital since it teaches one to realise that personal experience is important, regardless of what sceptics such as Susan Blackmore might say.

So let us remember that we have changed, the past is past and not totally relevant to us.  However it is still very important and digging through ancient practices and techniques will give us a vast wealth of otherwise impossible to obtain knowledge which we might not be able to rediscover today.  Ultimately this will help us to grow into a new understand of magic, tempered by modern concepts and consciousness and really evolve as individuals.  We must never however forget that in missing out the spiritist perspective we are potentially ignoring half of creation.

[1] First in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Dr Julian Jaynes