May 29

It’s a Shame

sad-faceSo my website has flipped-flopped a bit over the last 6 months. I moved it to a project I was working on that I ultimately had to pull the plug on. Unfortunately this resulted in a loss of quite a bit of my entries. So now that I’m back home I am working on recovering what I can and then I plan to get back into my blogs, rebuilding some that may have been lost, then moving on to original posts.. It’s been quite a trip but I’m glad to be back.

Nov 10

Where did Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Wicca Go?

Gerald Gardner was the founder of what today is referred to as Wicca. Specifically I speak of ‘Gardnerian Wicca’, an oath-bound and initiation required tradition that traces its lineage to Gerald Gardner and the New Forrest Coven. What is known commonly today as Wicca in the public is hardly what Gardner established in 1947. Gardner’s tradition focused primarily on ritual and performing it, whereas today, what is known as Wicca generally is associated with a belief system. As for the arrival of Gardner’s Wicca, shortly after the Witchcraft Act was abolished, one could speak freely about one’s associations to the craft without fear of legal persecution. Gerald Gardner was one of the first to write extensively and openly right after the political reformation. There is one particular work of Gardner’s that I want to address, namely the publication of The Gardnerian Book of Shadows and the evolution of it.

“The Book of Shadows” was a term coined mysteriously in the craft; the only tie to the title was a publication in an occult magazine called The Occult Observer, which had an advertisement for Gardner’s High Magic’s Aid within the same edition (Valiente 2007, 51) . The Gardnerian Book of Shadows is a publication with rituals dated as early as 1949 (Gardner 2008) . If you have read the early work, you would find it contained a great deal of Aleister Crowley’s writings, along with content of MacGregor Mathers’ Key of Solomon. All but eight years later, we see a second rendition of the same rituals but guess what’s missing; almost all of Crowley’s work and references to the Key of Solomon. So the question is, where did the references go and why?
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Oct 31

Solemn Halloween Ritual

altar-300x225Happy Halloween everyone!  If you’re looking for something extra to do tonight after all the trick ‘r treaters have come and gone, I have an idea you might want to play with.  Halloween is notorious for being recognized as the day the “veil” is thinnest.  That being said, it marks an excellent occasion to not only remember those that have passed but interact with them.  No, I’m not talking necromancy per-se, but with poetic license, I simply mean conjuring their presence.

Take some time to think of those you loved who have passed and think of a ‘trigger’ for them.  Something that when you see, you think of them right away.  This may be a stone, a symbol, an article of clothing…  It can really be anything that reminds you of them.  Dress an Altar toward the North (where the sun is hidden) in a respectable fashion.  This could include a dark altar cloth, roses or fall flowers, tea lights or pillar candles.  It may be a good idea to put items of the season on as well.  Go pick some leaves or pinecones off the lawn, maybe take a walk and collect a few sticks.  Perhaps if you have a jack-o-lantern, bring it indoors.  This ritual can be a personal one or it’s such a comforting idea that you can even invite your friends or family over to do the same.  If your friends and family are a bit impressionable or not so quaint with the pagan way, perhaps decorate a dinner table in the same manner and do this over hot cider.
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Oct 19

Take Refuge in Vagueness

The subject of taking refuge in vagueness has been on my mind lately.  I find when I’m in conversation about it, that the subject tends to get complicated quick.  I figured therefore, that it might be best to devote a bit of time to elaborate so perhaps I can get my point across.

I don’t think any occultist with any experience will debate how important it is to get the specifics of an idea across to another.  After all, without hammering the specifics, how can we be certain that our point is understood fully.  If I wish to talk about the taste of a tomato or chocolate and how, when I eat it, it may alter my mood, I need to be sure the other party understands how I am affected.  Ideally the level of understanding needs to be satisfactory enough so they may relate to the experience.  How unsatisfactory it is to end a description with, “I can’t do it justice, you’ll have to take my word for it”.
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Oct 13

Where to Start

Today I was asked by someone ready to take their Minerval into the Ordo Templi Orientis what work would be best to read as they begin their journey.  Now one thing to really understand is that I would answer this question differently for people starting different journeys.  Someone who is interested in Wicca, I may point to Doreen Valiente’s Rebirth of Witchcraft or Patricia Crowther Covensense, someone interested in Buddhism, I may point to Mark Epstein’s Thought Without a Thinker, someone interested in Yoga I may direct towards Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga.  However, this question coming from someone who is stepping into the realm of the Ordo Templi Orientis warrants a different kind of consideration.

The Ordo Templi Orientis is a magical and psudo-religious / societal system.  Although its members call themselves Thelemites, it demands a high level of introspection which often leads to their own kind of religious practice.  So what do you recommend to someone who is taking their first step into a system partly (yet significantly) designed toward introspection?  To know they are ready for the Minerval degree means they are familiar with Liber AL vel Legis and similar work, so the bare basics are already understood.
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Sep 28

What is Thelema?

Thelema as defined by Mr. Tenenbaum, is a philosophy that teeters on religion and science which demands of its aspirants a supreme level of introspection which results in a better understanding of ones self and thusly ones nature. Having obtained the knowledge of ones unconditioned nature one can consciously act in accordance to it, thusly living whole-heartedly to the deepest and true identity of ones self. Those who follow Thelema are called Thelemites.

Now that we have a summery qualified for the Thelema for Dummies book, lets take a look at the origin of this philosophy and expand it into questions of morality, ethics and faith.

The Origin of Thelema:
Liber AL vel Legis or translated into The Book of the Law was a work written in the hand of Aleister Crowley over April 8th, 9th and 10th of 1904. Crowley states that he dictated the book from a holy source known as Aiwass to which Crowley identified as his Holy Guardian Angel. Don’t fret too much about the term of the Holy Guardian Angel as we’ll address it shortly and if you are unfamiliar with the term, just assume your connotations are wrong for the moment to avoid any preconceived notions. I do not wish to focus too much attention on how the book was ‘received’ but rather on the facts, that Crowley walked into a room alone and came out with a book written in his hand. This Book of the Law is held as a Holy Book to Thelemites as the entire system is addressed within it. Later in his magical career, Crowley made the book the foundation of his magical system.
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Sep 14

A Note on Descernment

qabalahOne of the very first things to happen to a Magician–often times before he realizes he is such a thing–is what I call “sighting the spark”.  I call it this because a certain kind of profound experience happens where he sees something beyond his grasp or current understanding.  Perhaps it comes in the shape of a prophetic dream, moment of clarity or a whisper in his ear.  Perhaps it will come as it did for me, in a sudden mind blowing epiphany where he sees the world so differently that he must abandon his old way of thinking.  Whatever or however this experience occurs, it is the individual who has seen the spark of something greater in something lesser.
In the diagram of the Qabalah to the right we have at the highest point, Kether (meaning Crown) and the lowest, Malkuth (meaning Kingdom).  There is a well known saying in the Qabalistic language, Kether is in Malkuth.  This is exactly what sighting the spark is, you identify the divine in the mundane.  After this kind of initiation there is no turning back, you are changed.
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Jun 26

The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage by Dion Fortune

esotericphilosophyI decided it best to pick up a book that was not on my reading list for review. Some of the books I’ve reviewed within the last year were more in my comfort zone, relating heavily to Buddhism, Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda, Tao Teh King as interpreted by Aleister Crowley and also his Little Essays Toward Truth. Having read through Fortune’s work before, my bar was set very low. I am repelled by her attempt to scientifically explain mysticism, commonly through superstitious and flawed reasoning that exists in every book of hers that I’ve opened. Her method is to establish what she already believes by using scientific knowledge. This is anecdotal or theoretical, not empirical. She believes in something and attempts to explain it via cherry-picking scientific results, carelessly discarding arguments against her conclusion. Fortune’s method is backwards and it drives me up a wall. I bit my cheek and opened the book hoping to prove myself wrong.
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May 13

Tao Teh King by Aleister Crowley

ttcAleister Crowley’s translation of the Tao Teh King was written while on Aesopus Island on the Hudson River in 1918 (Crowley 1975, 10). Due to being considered an interpretive translation, his publication has been met with controversy by many scholars. It is however obvious that a literal translation was not Crowley’s intent. He says in his introduction, “If any sinologists object to anything in this translation, let him go absorb his Yang in his own Yin, as the Americans say; and give me credit for an original Masterpiece. Whatever Lao Tze said or meant, this is what I say and mean (Crowley 1975, 23).”

Due to my rebellion against the religion I was brought up in, I found the Tao Te Ching fairly early in my religious reconstruction. The book meant quite a bit to me as profound concepts were conveyed within it’s simple words. This kind of simplicity is a trait that often reflects truth, and is quite cherished to a then-young adept.

In chapter XL, Crowley explains the nature of Tao, “The law of the Tao is constant compensation; its method is always to redress the balance, and reduce the equation to Zero (Crowley 1975, 75).” With this kept in mind, the true beauty of the Tao Te Ching is in the construction and context of the work, essentially summarized as paradoxes or riddles elaborated by opposites. This trait is clearly stated in chapter LXXVIII: “Truth appears a paradox (Crowley 1975, 113).” In retrospect, to write a book based on these principles and delivering the messages in this very format seems virtually impossible.
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Apr 25

Little Essays Toward Truth by Aleister Crowley

lettI’ve decided to sit down and finish the work Little Essays Toward Truth from beginning to end. Too often I use the work of Aleister Crowley as reference to subjects of interest as opposed to actually starting on page 1 and ending on page 87… or 800. This particular book has me a bit torn as to weather or not I’d recommend it. Within it’s pages are moments of sure chaos and incomprehensible jargon, while a chapter or two away is the most simple and sublime analysis and words of pure ecstasy. I’d recommend this work to anyone who has an in-depth understanding of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. For those not familiar with the teaching, this book would be far from the top of my recommended works. Chapters such as “Sorrow” or “Trance” will leave the novice puzzled while chapters such as “Wonder” or “Indifference” will lead certainly to moments of pure enlightenment.

I’m not going to say this work is over-complicated, not in comparison to Liber ABA or books of poetic license such as The Book of Lies. Little Essays Toward Truth certainly was written with the idea that truth is so simple a child can understand it. I do feel however that the simple nature of this work could have easily been shortened in four chapters, The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the aim of which I believe Crowley was attempting to explain in this work without blatantly saying it.
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