“The clan definition of a true witch is someone driven by a thirst for knowledge. That knowledge is the forerunner of wisdom, the state all organic life possesses be it the most basic and instinctive or highly advanced.”
- Evan John Jones, “The People of the Goda.”
Solistes: “The Mother of Darkness hath blinded him with her hair.”
Dadouchos: “The Father of Darkness hath hidden him under his wings.”
Hierophant: “His limbs are still weary from the wars which were in Heaven...”
- Israel Regardie, The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magick. ('Neophyte Initiation.')
This essay is dedicated to the entity known to some as “The Baphomet,” and could not have been attempted without its direct assistance at many points. My thanks are thus due to it, without any reserve.
When I was a child, I lived for a time in a lonely town situated near the California coastline. Templeton, California is just outside Paso Robles and about an hour away from San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach. Situated at the center of town was a fair-sized park, the entrance of which was flanked with an old Civil War era cannon. Near the south-west side was a hardened dirt lot with equipment for the kids to play on. Just beyond this area and across the street loomed a Victorian house that had fallen into massive disrepair. I am not being overly poetic when (to steal a phrase from Stephen King) I say that it: “Loomed over the town like a black idol.”
Though once it had been white and pristine – as the picture next to the this section suggests – it had become something else. Around it swirled a maelstrom of rumors whispered from child to child: it was haunted, a psychotic homeless man lived within it, the devil had once made it his home, a white woman would be seen outside of it with the Devil's Mark on her left arm, and she'd call you out... Small towns have a long memory, maybe, or maybe it was just the state of the house. But it had a distinct presence. We all felt it. As you whirled around on the semi-ferris wheel or slid down the long metal side, one would find oneself looking up and dreading the place. It seemed to cast strange shadows. (Or perhaps that's just in my own memories...)
By the time I left for Fresno, California, I was nine. I had just barely figured out how to read. Being poor, as my parents were just trying to edge their way out of college and into the workforce, I'd been shifted from school district to school district. Each had a different way to teach one to read (it seems even in the early nineties the ascendency of teaching phonix had not been complete), and switching from whole word learning to phonix had been more than taxing and confusing. Right before I turned nine, something clicked and suddenly I could, as if by magic, read. The same would later happen with mathematics. Things would lock into place, and I'd just know. I went from reading – in the course of two weeks – books that kindergarteners read to reading Tolkien. It perplexed everyone that taught me. (I'd learned something else, too. How to lie and that adults were gullible. This would later haunt me in ways one can easily imagine.) I was, for the most part, shy. As such what few friends I had outside school were older kids that lived on the same block as myself. They were all two, if not three to four years older than I. We ran around the creeks that surrounded housing developments with fake guns; went on odd quests all over to hunt for new or interesting things.
Just before I left, the two eldest kids decided that it was time for me to become more than a mere boy: part of the pack. There are some that believe 'childhood' initiations, facing fears and such, don't occur. In fact, sometimes – maybe if you're lucky or just a group of crazed boys – it's enforced as part of the decorum of a becoming. I was dared to enter the house in the middle of the night. The eldest told me, with a grin: “No one has ever done it... But if you can spend the entire night in it, you will be a God among boys.”
I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to spend an entire night in that goddamn house. I wanted to be a God among boys. A walking, talking fearless demigod who was revered by all. Arrangements were made. I snuck out of the house that night through the well-oiled garage door, so as not to arouse suspicion (or notice). The fear crept in rapidly. I hopped the back fence into my friend's yard. We then headed down the street, and stuck to the path straight there. In my memory, it felt as if every dog that could have barked to announce my transgression did so. Finally, those last steps filled with spectral dread and trepidation.
I entered the house alone. The stairs that had once existed were fallen in; streetlight streaked in, filling the place with shadows. Mouldering old magazines from some bygone age lay stacked together. A single table remained near a rotting fireplace. It only had three legs slanted upward. The air was oppressive and filled with decay, the walls covered in graffiti of who knows how many generations of young boys and girls that had ventured into it before me. I sat next to the table and tried to calm myself. I was beyond jittery; I fell over and scraped my knee at least once.
I don't know how long I sat in the darkness for. But as I did thoughts began to dawn on me; I was still a 'good Christian boy', or so I thought. Guilt of the transgression hit me. This was wrong, I knew. My parents would approve. And... Disobeying one's parents is a sin. Then a thought finally dawned on me: but the devil likes it, like... a lot, when we sin. It was followed by another: he'd help me!
And so at nine years old, I found myself saying for the first time (but not for the last) in a shriveled voice: “Oh, devil. You like it when I sin. I'm sinning now. If you make it so I don't get caught, I'll sin again!”
I don't know how loud my voice was. But at that very moment laughter errupted from the area just beyond the stairwell, upstairs. Oh god, I thought, he's coming to get me and drag me to Hell! Like an child afraid for their soul, I finally gave in to pure fear. And as so many stories end: I fled into the night.
I very much doubt I'd actually encountered the devil that night. San Luis Obispo is a place where a huge population of homeless individuals found shelter at that time, and it remains so today. It is most likely that the laughing individual was one of those. Perhaps someone migrating towards San Luis Obispo and its homeless shelters, or perhaps a staggler who had stopped along the way and set up shop in that broken down Victorian home. But at nine years old, I was quite sure: it was the devil. And I was marked. I refused to tell my friends what had happened, and instead insisted the house was evil. Pure evil. They were quite surprised to hear this, after all: they'd stayed there for a time once, too. Just passing the boundary and remaining for more than ten minutes was proof enough that one could join the boy's club. (We even had a tree-house, man.)
I moved away. I got older. The house loomed behind me, a distant memory. I still get chills thinking about it. And when I later read Stephen King's Black House and 'Salem's Lot I got chills. It seems I'm not entirely alone in my childhood silliness. Still: it makes a good story.
Furthermore: I'm pretty sure I know why the house had such a presence to me as a child, now. It was filled with something, with an awareness, generated by it's long life. In fact: almost all domiciles and most areas have such things.
It has been a few years now since I decided to psychically castrate myself for no better reason than because I could. Over the last two years I began systematically stamping down on the notion of 'magical energy' as a concept, and instead began employing other ideas. The problem with this was readily, if not rapidly, discovered: half the things I could previously do were somehow just gone.
As such a new approach was needed, and a new openness to things I'd previously dismissed. Being a dismissive Chaos Magician was easy as a teen; I could cull techniques and thoughts I liked, and dismiss those I didn't feel appealed. Despite having changed directions a slight bit since then (including finding some odd romance as well as a new novelty to the concept of tradition), some awareness of other ideas still intrudes. In any event, new strategies were needed.
Despite floundering about, watching my life which I had so precariously brought into being before with magick and other things fall apart before my eyes, I wasn't as alone as I first thought. The first few weeks were hell. I stupidly quit my job, thinking it'd be easy to get a new one. And then the new bare market intruded into our society. I found myself, for almost a year, surviving on twenty dollars a week as my savings were annihilated. I'd managed to fully bring into manifestation one of my old dreams, too. It was living in a house with my friends and building a new home for myself as well as my friends. As I lost confidence in myself and my abilities, I found myself plagued with inner-demons I thought I'd put down scores of years before. The fact that multiple things were happening at once, a path emerging I hadn't seen at the time, I still resisted. I restricted myself more and more. Finally, gaining back the power I'd thought I lost, things clicked back together. Something a bit more refined than what I now consider my rather grotesque former viewpoint on both life and magick. None the less: don't expect much moralizing. I still expect adults to come up with their own ethical stances on things. It isn't my place to tell you what to think.
One other thing that I feel is important to stress will be said up front, without any obfuscation: some of the ideas in this essay will be based on a worldview that has diminished over time. That does not, however, make this essay based on “ancient principles” or “ancient Truths.” It is an insult to one's intelligence to find such things being harped on by those that should really know better. This essay is an eclectic (though I will try to try it together syncretically) attempt to approach concepts of (magical) power, entities, and space. References have been culled from places as diverse as the essays and letters of Robert Cochrane to the Golden Dawn System of Magick; nor should I forget to mention the works of Austin Spare. Indeed: without his techniques and half-mad witchery, all of my research would have come to nothing. It was Spare that finally allowed me access to the domain of space as a thing to work with. There are some who frown at such things, and a few problems with attempting it, but none the less: the sum is greater than the parts. Furthermore: you need not believe as I believe. Try it out. Think about. If it's useful? Keep it. If it isn't? Drop it. There is no truth here (unless one chooses to see it as such). Only technique, thought, and synthesis. References will be provided where-ever possible so that any interested can begin their own process of digging.
One last note: some of this material is distinctly Left Handed and I won't apologize for it! (Non serviam! I will not serve!) If you feel bothered by any of it, don't use such materials. The reason for this should be made shortly apparent, as any discussion of power follows the swing of the pendulum. Due to this, one should hazard to note that this essay isn't exactly for beginners to magick. If you feel up to trying any of the techniques? Feel free to do so! If you don't? There's not harm in stuffing it away until later, or burning it for heat in the middle of winter.