“The price of existence is eternal warfare. Speaking as an Irishman, I prefer to say: The price of eternal warfare is existence. And melancholy as existence is, the price is well worth paying.”
- Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies.
“This is The Night wherein I am lost, the Love through which I am no longer I.”
- Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies.
“[He] who tried to find and liberate what occultists call his True Self by creating three other [...] persons and permitted them to fight brutal wars in the loneliness of his passionate brain until all three became One. When endured helplessly by a truly fractured personality, we generally call this civil war in the psyche Multiple Personality Disorder: when deliberately pursued as a path of Illumination leading through Hell and Purgatory toward a vision (at least) of Paradise, we have no name for it in our current culture but those few who [...] have taken the hermetic oath to Will, and Dare and Know and Keep Silence simply call it magick.”
- Robert Anton Wilson, Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons. (Introduction.)
When you mention the name Gary Numan, one of the first things you normally hear is: “that guy that wrote the song Cars?”
But having his latest album – well, technically it's a remix album – Jagged Edge cranked up and pounding blissfully into my ears, let me just say he's so much more. The man's a goddamn visionary for someone like me: whether he shares my personal beliefs or not.
When Numan's music premiered in London's 1978 music he was an isolated individual who didn't fit in with any one genre of music, while simultaneously cranking hits like Cars and Are Friends Electric as he pushed forward into the mid-80s. His dystopian influenced synthesizers didn't fit in with either the Punk or the New Romantic crowd. And as critics scathed him in reviewing his albums, the pop-music crowd began to get sick of him.
To say that Numan wasn't prepared for fame is a bit of an over-statement: he imploded, and yet kept trying crank out pop albums. All the while becoming more and more embittered. However, in the mid-90s, his music underwent a not-so-dramatic change as he switched into what's generally called 'Industrial' now. Combining his former themes of alienation, self-annihilation, and a dislike of religion with hard-hitting and aggressive dance beats, he helped forge a path into the industrial scene. So not only was he a prototype for that type of music, but he's also contributed to it since then: a fairly rare thing amongst musicians that establish a genre.
His themes are by no means unique, however. When it comes to dark electronica they're a dime a dozen. On the other hand he makes what I consider better use of them than most musicians do.
And there is one more thing that Numan's work provides for me, though he doesn't know it and would probably take offense if I told it to him personally being that he's a positive atheist. It's a particular path of which many venture on, and many discuss, but the element I want to discuss today is often glossed over. The catch-all phrase used for the path I'm referring to is often called The Great Work, and its been in use for at least a century if not longer.
There is some great irony in trying to discuss it with people who haven't started down that particular road just yet, especially amongst the more New Age crowd who pawns it off with flower terms based around self-aggrandizement, and a lot of discourse that focused a bit too much on the positive. This isn't to say that there aren't positive boons to the course of action, and the recourse that the sorcerer has at his disposal; they are not only helpful, but even at many times joyful.
That doesn't mean it's not messy business. It's bloody messy business. This isn't something you want to tell people who are new to the path: most get scared off when you try to describe just what will probably happen. After all, who wants to be told that for a great sense of self and the possibility of internal 'rebirth' (in a positivist manner and not a religious manner) they will have to: “blow themselves up, shoot themselves in the foot, and fall on one's face until it's bruised and bleeding”?
Fucking no one, that's who. If someone had told me what was going to occur when I began down that road, I'd probably have told them to go fuck themselves.
So why the hell would anyone put themselves through that? There's a few ways to find a positive slant out of the negative constructs, not the least of which being that you rarely appreciate what you have: you appreciate it later even more after you've lost it. Without scraping your knees, there's almost no reason to love running and not falling. And while first love is often one of the more dramatic events in one's life, losing that love allows one to appreciate having it and working for it all the more.
The darker stages that I'm referring to existed in earlier forms; particularly in alchemy it's sometimes called the Nigredo or 'putrifying' stage, and is actually the first stage. Other occult traditions tend to have this stage later and occasionally call it the 'Abyssal' stage, especially during the last two decades. It's particularly expressed, near perfectly, in the nigromancy (Latin for literally black magick) of medieval period. Of course, as noted before, it's also become prevalent in other forms, and loopy British occultist Kenneth Grant has a whole trilogy of books dedicated to it.
Robert Anton Wilson, as seen in the third quote in this short piece, calls it an 'internal civil war' and for someone like me – and I suspect someone like Numan who doesn't know he's engaged in it – it has been exactly that. And I suspect that there's a reason for that: the creation of a secondary (or more) persona, often embodying internal desires and needs, which is often 'easily corrupted'. (Beware the name you take; it can come back to haunt you.)
Since the 60s, occult references have appeared and similar themes have appeared as well, in rock and then in the off-shoot (at least aesthetically) music of electronica, often accompanying similar stories of devastation, rebirth, and a fight towards 'something more'. Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy and OhGr is notorious for having just such elements in his music, including blatant references to Thelema and the Left Hand or sinister path. Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ refers to himself as a Thelemite; as did the front-man of Current 93 David Tibet, and Coil's John Balance.
As my good friend Mr. VI states in Down the Barrel: “Words and pictures are staples of the sorcerer's trade. Why? Because they come forth from the sorcerer themselves. Ask any artist and even those who practice automatic drawing will admit that it still comes from their hand.”
He continues: “To be brutally honest, sorcery is a dirty bloody business, with messy, brutal, subjective, emotional, lethal, loving... It's as fundamental as the Earth and just as capricious. And the sorcerer lives it, breathes it.”
For the sorcerer, especially those of us who are young sorcerers and magicians, our roles haven't changed but some of our theories have. Of course, it can also be argued that we're not actually doing anything new at all, but rather we're re-painting an edifice that occasionally shows signs of rust. And I'd actually agree with that assessment. I also think the occasional new paint-job is necessary for many new-comers. There's a certain rebellious glow that accompanies believing you're doing something new and novel, even if its as old as time.
A lot of the young generation believe that what they're doing is revolutionary, and that it's only been revolutionary since the counter-culture of the 1960s revived the process. But then, a lot of my generation of magicians haven't read Eliphas Levi: if they did, they'd realize that Grant Morrison's The Invisibles sprouts from Levi's Invisible College, and draws off the Bavarian Illuminati. No new source material there, boys and girls. Just the usual.
But that doesn't change the goal: freedom. Freedom of self. The bloody strife that leads, hopefully, to release from the strictures of Self and the constraints imposed on the psyche by society at birth.
But to lead past this digression and back to my little discussion about musicians: they are artists. And furthermore, many if not most, have made use of drugs. Of course: drugs aren't necessary for magick, but they don't hurt either. They do, however, open the door to what we in the trade of sorcery use constantly: altered states of consciousness. And of course, at its core, sorcery is Arte. An art that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, self and other, man and beast.
The largest draw of sorcery, of its utility, is to eventually draw others into your personal sphere of reality and allow them to experience what your life is like for a short time. And in this, the sorcerer is once a again more than a little close to the musician, who's music can permeate and enhance lives if those who listen are open to it.
It's bloody, brutal, and often self-terrorizing work. But if you were to ask me, well worth the risk of failing. We've got a body-count, we sorcerers and magicians, but that doesn't stop others from coming in. After all: being a musician seems to have a body count attached to it, too. But that doesn't stop every teen on earth from wanting to be a rock star, now does it?
At the end of the day it comes down to what and who you know and what you can show them. What's a few war-wounds compared to that?