Thursday, March 25, 2010

Your Elders Are Still Human, Dude.


“Out of sight and out of mind,
Are deadly traits when they're combined...”
- Assemblage 23, I am the Rain.

I have discussed my mentors a few times, but it was recently brought to my attention that I tend to forget a few details here and there. One of them revolves around how I tend to treat them. Not so long ago one of them told me: “And that, Faust, is why I keep you around!”

Being that I have a sense of humor which shapes the way I see the world, I tend to treat them mockingly or at times with almost derision while also revering them. On the surface this would just show my insecurity, but it's also a way of constantly reminding myself that they are people, too. Not Gods or “All Powerful Adepts.”

It was about three years ago that I became interested in witchcraft. Primarily because what we were doing with Andrew Chumbley's Azoetia in the Sutras of the Poison Buddha (see issues three and four for more information) had begun to work. And, might I add, work quite well. There were a lot of theories we batted about here and there, and a lot more that we were up to. But if I'd never seen that book, I'd never have changed my stance.

At which point my head exploded. And I found myself asking for directions in a very deep, dark forest. So I went to those who knew the territory better than I. I expected they'd hook me up with the 1734 fellows, or maybe the Cultus Sabbati... But they sent me elsewhere. Since I didn't know any of the subject matter, I asked what I ought to look into.

I was pointed toward an email list. You may or may not know of the email list I speak of. It's a list for would-be members of BTW covens, and tons of Elders are on it. You can consult about all manner of things, and their knowledge and experience is quite frankly breathtaking. And yet, despite that, it's utterly reviled by more than a few people. I was on the list for a total of three days.

What happened was this: I clambered in during a discussion on Proper matters. All well and good! Or so I thought... But then I began to watch social assumptions and an underlying (dare I say it?) classist attitude emerge. This was quite shocking coming from folks that claim to be practicing a system of magick which commoners used, all the while creating rules which would exclude those same people.

Three things occurred to me:

  1. I was by no means the “Proper” sort of fellow most of them seemed to be looking for or expecting.

  2. I had no idea what half of them seemed to be babbling about.

  3. None of them seemed to have any sort of consensus about what was or wasn't proper.

One of the commentators wrote something like: “You meet these young people who can't even drive and they expect to learn witchcraft!”

I've never owned a car. There's this thing that some people seem to forget about. Its called being poor, and the fact I was poor certainly didn't exclude me from learning magick. I might have, years ago, gotten myself a car. But I have not purchased one for several reasons: if I need to be on time, I leave early; I like walking and listening to music and thinking all at once, and it actually keeps me in decent physical shape. There are drawbacks: such as occasionally having to ask for a ride (I always try to offer compensation for gas), occasionally having to take the bus or lightrail... But I don't pay car insurance, and the only gas I need to worry about is the inevitable retribution of a night of hard curry-eating or too much beer.

It occurred to me immediately that questioning authority and forming your own conclusions was more important in some cases than listening to the chorus of authoritative voices who can't even tell their own social preconceptions from their witchcraft. This is not to say that my conclusions are always right. I am, in fact, wrong quite often. And just as opinionated in some respects.

Some time later, I was chatting with another female that had a dislike for the same email list. She related that she'd asked: “is crystal healing actually traditional?”

She was immediately scolded for 'questioning tradition'. In fact, she'd been trying to inquire as to whether or not it was traditional, not requesting anyone stop what they were doing. These are two very different sorts of questions. Since she'd asked and never gotten a real answer, I'll actually do my best: I am unaware of any 'traditional' practices regarding crystals with one possible exception. The “charged” lodestone was somewhat prized by Cunning men and women because it could locate magnetic north. In the case of the Golden Dawn, they also seem to have thought it could block psychic possession-god-waves or somesuch and so they placed them in their hats to act as a shield much akin to Magneto's helmet in the X-Men comics. I believe Alan Bennett used quartz in his blasting rod as well.

Beyond that, everything I've read indicates that healing with crystals was one of the beliefs of the sixties and coincided with a boom in interest in ley-lines. But I'm fairly sure that most people didn't wave around crystals to create harmony, goodness and health, prior to at least the 1900s. On the other hand: most objects will accept a 'psychic charge,' meaning that whether or not crystals are better at it is highly questionable. I'm not entirely sure there's much of a difference between myself making a talismatic sigil for someone's health and giving it to them and waving a crystal around in the air sensing their 'astral vibrations' and trying to 'heal them'. And finally: listen up, your crystals cramp my style. Even if they did work well, I still wouldn't personally use them. And believe me when I say that I am by no means alone in this.

Returning to the subject at hand: the first time an Eclectic Wiccan pulled the 'Elder' card on me, I was nineteen. It was regarding Raymond Buckland's Three-Fold Law and their desire for me to respect their opinion because they'd been practicing for about a year longer than I had. The suggestion still seems asinine to me. While I will generally be respectful to most people, being told to respect their opinion because they clearly knew better was an affront to my sensibilities. Said Elder(!) had been talking about the Law of Karma(!) and how the Three-Fold Law(!) was like, the same thing.

I had calmly explained that Karma had nothing to do with positivity and negativity in general, and more to do with actions themselves. Worldly actions would tie one to the world, and thus the suggestion to the culture that birthed it was that one should adopt humility and work to serve god and their family. Which was about when they pulled the Hierarchy Card. This ended the conversation relatively quickly, as I responded with more than a bit of verbal venom and made a new “friend.” I'm fairly sure the individual in question still hates me. And well they should, because I will most likely never tire of pulling apart their silly arguments and demonstrating how they're silly. Sadly, the individual in question doesn't seem to write much these days...

A final example I have for the processes I've discussed about occurred not so long ago in a blog that I enjoyed reading, but which finally dovetailed into some comments about the differences between “high” and “low” magick. I'm going to use it an example because it's something written recently, and not in a book by Dion Fortune that's sixty years out of date. Keep in mind, however, that I still watch the blog with interest. (Just because I dislike your opinion, does not mean I dislike your blog.)

Peregrin over at Magick of the Ordinary writes:

“And still that old chestnut…practical magic. Magic designed to affect the material, mundane world. These days more and more magicians use the term thaumaturgy but it is still practical or low magic, with our without an ancient word. I have blogged on this before and will simply repeat a bit here.


Rather than degenerate into a discussion that ‘high’ magic (that which is not for the self) is better than ‘low’ magic (that which is for the self) I want to point out something that is seldom mentioned: most readers of blogs such as this actually do not need any help from magic. In a world where twenty thousand people will die from poverty and starvation each day, any westerner who can afford time and money to wander around the Internet must be counted as rich beyond measure. To use our magical blessings, which stem ultimately from the One, to increase our station in life rather than to balance out the stakes a little for those who are literally starving to death says something for our personal magical motivation. And in this vein, the profusion of spell-craft manuals and coffee table books bristling with all forms of sorcery says a lot for the general motivation of the esoteric and New Age communities today.”

What a 'proper,' middle class answer! I would note, with a bit of a grin, that it sounds as if Peregrin hasn't been one of those magicians close to starving. You know, that time when magical skill and ability might aid you the most. There is nothing wrong with utilizing magick to render out 'new details' in our life. As long as we keep it in mind that there will always be an exchange of some sort, we can narrow down the odds so that we can find the place where we can better function. Is this, one might ask, selfish?

Yes, but contrary to the opinions above, magick is not a domicile of the rich to find their true inner-soul or inner-self. Those who have almost always relied on “low magick” are those that need it the most: the poor, the destitute, the starving, and the forsaken. It is not the middle class or rich, who can sit around trying to enlighten themselves with their rendered Qabalistic maps, who have ever had a need for such things. To snub your nose at other practitioners, namely those you don't know and who's conditions you might be unable to fathom, simply because your goal is enlightenment is wrong. Furthermore: the transcendental bias that Qabalistic symbolism and and Ceremonial Magick might internally brand upon you is the most clearly apparent in statements such as the above.

So, in answer to such statements let me reiterate: I will use my skills and abilities which do come to me from the universe (both within and without), but also take time and effort to hone into skills, to increase my station in life. I used them to meet my wife (and without negating her will), and I have used them without a moment's worry that I was wrong. And why is that? Because that's precisely what my ancestors did. If I gain “bad karma,” so be it. I don't want to hang out with God in a transcendental paradise, anyway. Then again, I should expect little better from a fellow that also writes:

Now from personal and anecdotal experience over 25 years and in every survey I’ve ever read, there is nothing to suggest the Wiccans are better off than the rest of us. They are not richer or smarter. They suffer the same vicissitudes in love, health and work and are just as likely to have addicts and dysfunctional folk in their community as in any community. The richest Wiccan I know has made his money from sharp and aggressive real estate purchases, not from spells. Of course there is an argument that most Wiccans, despite their cones of power and sex magic are simply devoid of the solid magical skills which we of the GD persuasion have.”

Yeah, you're like, special, dude. Clearly enlightened above those heathen Wiccans with their practical magick. Anyway: he's got great ideas about the HGA. I recommend those. (Edit: As an aside, I am intentionally being an asshole. Peregrin does go on to say that there's no proof the GD is any better.)

But underpinning all of this is the acknowledgment that the people we admire – and the people we loathe – are equally human and flawed. Whether they're Adepts, Neophytes, or somewhere in between and regardless of any given system that will never change. Perhaps the Great Work has in fact polished their soul, and their eyes gleam brightly with Secrets. But that doesn't mean they are perfect. Even some of the best at doing the Work make huge, sometimes blisteringly huge, mistakes.

Accept the sleights with the most amusement you can. Remember the internal humanity. And don't assume that just because someone is doing alchemical work, they'll ever be finished. Opinions exist, within the microcosm, to be revised with time.

- Faust.

Terrorizing Small German Villages since 1984.

15 comments:

Frater POS said...

As you know, I have no love for so-called Trad Wicca. However, this statement, "...that most Wiccans, despite their cones of power and sex magic are simply devoid of the solid magical skills which we of the GD persuasion have." is so full of arrogance that I'd laugh at him had I not been exposed to so many trad Wiccans that think the inverse is true. There are wankers in all traditions and in all walks of life. This fellow is just one more wanker. Hopefully, he'll get over himself. I'd type more but I am off to enlighten the world with my brilliance!

Peregrin said...

Thanks for this post, your ideas and critiques of the MOTO posts.

I am glad you provided links to the MOTO posts. Your decision to leave out the final sentence in the last paragraph renders the meaning different to the original.

Can you please provide a reference for your statement: "In the case of the Golden Dawn, they also seem to have thought it could block psychic possession-god-waves or some such and so they placed them in their hats to act as a shield much akin to Magneto's helmet in the X-Men comics."

I trust you are aware that Alan Bennett's blasting rod was not a GD tool? Nor does the use of crystals by a few paranoid members of the GD mean it is a GD teaching.

With reference to practical magic, I still hold to my premise: in a world where thousands will die of starvation today, any western magician who can afford time and money to be on the net is rich.

The use of practical magic by your ancestors may have produced more social and personal comfort than actual changes in the material world. Certainly this is the anthropological and sociological view. There is no recorded case of any social group causing consistent change in the material world via magic.

Before accepting that practical works as a consistent method I would like to see a social group, like Wiccans, show how it works in a tangible manner. If you know of a series of surveys that shows this, please refer me. I take it you are aware of Tanya Lurhmann’s work showing how magicians of all stripes alter their reality to believe practical magic works?

Replying to Fr POS: You selectively quote also. The full section reads: “Of course there is an argument that most Wiccans, despite their cones of power and sex magic are simply devoid of the solid magical skills which we of the GD persuasion have :) However, despite there being less data for the GD community there is nothing to suggest that we are better off either!”

Quoting from the middle of sentence like you did is bad form and alters the meaning. All I was saying in this paragraph was that some GD folk argue they are better at magic than Wiccans. I did not say I agreed with this view. I then concluded that even if that was the case, GD folk are no better than Wiccans. If this is enough for me to be labelled as arrogant and a wanker in your mind, fine. But please use accepted quoting standards to support your argument.

Thanks. :)

Lady Scylla said...

If the e-list you speak of is one named for two organic-sourced gemstones in gold and black hues... there are a lot of arrogant sons-of-mothers on that list, but there is also a treasure-trove of wisdom for those with a weather eye on TradWicca.

My Elders had checkered histories to be sure. One nearly died during a demonic evocation, and routinely became obsessed with Lovecraftian entities until it did him real psychological harm. The other was once in the employ of a gang, breaking shins for protection money. By TradWicca standards, they were not "proper persons", yet one of them was BTW.

Then again, to early Trad-Wicca, butchers, morticians, certain farmers, or gay people were all beyond improper. They've changed a lot of tunes.

Today, being able to be self-sufficient is a BIG sticking point. One that I somewhat understand. If you can get to and fro coven training meets without incident... I think that denying you entry on the basis of a car is beyond the pale. BUT, each HP/S is their own entity, and no coven holds to centralized rules beyond those presented in the Core material.

The only requirements I have for initiates (in terms of travel/conveyance) is that they must be able to get to gatherings if given a month notice, and that they have to stick to their oaths (i.e. no revealing the location of gatherings/the covenstead to non-initiates).

If they can't get to their own initiation with a month lead-in? Well, this Elder says "Fuck 'em." Whether or not they're Proper Persons, they're asshats for sure.

Jack Faust said...

@POS: I actually think you and he would get along, in all honesty. For a variety of reasons, and just from what I've read.

Jack Faust said...

@Peregrin: No problem. You ought to have a chance to respond if you desire. As such linking was necessary.

That said...

"Your decision to leave out the final sentence in the last paragraph renders the meaning different to the original."

It does indeed alter the meaning a bit. But, in all honesty, not by much. Simply because you note the Golden Dawn "may not be much better" does not change the blatant condemnation you threw out first a whole lot. If anything, I saw it as hedging your bets in a direct attempt to avoid the sort of response that I gave you. Nonetheless, what I did was deliberate. If a person wishes for a fuller and less one-sided opinion, they can easily click on the link. In the case of POS, I think he just took my quote. I'll edit the entry shortly to show what I did a fix the *degree* of wankery that was in your entry. (But let us be fair: the wankery is there, man. Even if you were nice about it.)

I will get you that reference within the next few days. I'll need to dig through my books for a proper citation.

"I trust you are aware that Alan Bennett's blasting rod was not a GD tool? Nor does the use of crystals by a few paranoid members of the GD mean it is a GD teaching."

That is arguable. Alan Bennett's blasting rod was surely an invention of his own, and it *no longer* exists within the Golden Dawn documents that we have available but we cannot be sure he never passed around the instructions on how to make one to the inner order of the GD.

I hope I need not remind you that many GD teachings and texts are in fact missing because they were burned when lodges closed or imploded, and that it was for this reason that Regardie published what he hand in his hands in the first place, breaking his oath of silence.

You wrote:
"With reference to practical magic, I still hold to my premise: in a world where thousands will die of starvation today, any western magician who can afford time and money to be on the net is rich."

It is a fair stance to take and one that is hard argued against. But, just to make my point clear, there is almost no way for you to know if I'm accessing the internet from the public library?

Furthermore: poverty is a sliding scale. Simply because someone has internet access and a computer does not mean they do not fall within the social range of poverty. As I stated, it's fairly clear *you'v* never come close to starving, which allows for you to make the judgment calls
that you have. The only way for you to ever see things from my point of view is face the threat of starvation. Until you've done so, I consider most of your arguments biased. And I unfortunately can take the high ground in this sector of the debate.

(More coming.)

Jack Faust said...

You wrote:
"The use of practical magic by your ancestors may have produced more social and personal comfort than actual changes in the material world. Certainly this is the anthropological and sociological view. There is no recorded case of any social group causing consistent change in the material world via magic."

This is entirely true. But from the same anthropological and sociological view, we cannot say any magick works since it must remain statistically even and consistent. Magick, generally speaking, never is. If it can't be reproduced in a lab, it does not follow the Empirical thought-process and is thus viewed as irrelevant. Despite Crowley's assurances that there was a "science" to magick, this still remains an obstacle to this day.

And besides: it's not like you use the same measuring rod when discussing your own views. Can you Emperically prove the Genius exists? That K&C occurs? It would be a bit unfair of me to ask that of you, and yet you seem to demand it of others.

Furthermore, your point about Tanya Lurhmann and her conclusions about magicians patently neglects the fact she also showed that the "drift" measures used to enforce the belief that practical magick works, also seems to work in reverse when analyzing one's own experience. She admitted that she had her own bias and had instead chosen Scientific Method over the things she couldn't explain and thus forced some of her own experiences into the "delusion" box.

Finally, and completely, your entire commentary is based on a Transcental worldview. It only holds insofar as a discussion on Neoplatonic and Christian magick goes. The fact that you've never seemed to notice this shows a glaring error in your methodology and thought-process, in that you're forgetting that not all magickal practitioners hold the same internal cosmology and the ethical statutes based on it as true.

Peregrin said...

Hello Jack,

Thanks for the replies. I will need to be quick in response:

Degrees of wankery is a personal matter and best left at this I think. That said, I do openly critique much of modern Wicca and magic, as shown on MOTO. This does not mean however I condemn the people, only the abuses in the various systems.

Alan Bennett’s blasting rod bore virtually no similarity to the RR et AC tools, so I think we can safely assume it was not part of the Canon :) It is true he may have passed around instructions to members of the RR et AC. Trying prove a negative is very difficult so I cannot prove he did not. Equally though I cannot prove he did not pass around instructions for sex magic with the Easter Bunny. What we can say, given the evidence, is that is unlikely.

Actually while Bennett was in the GD there was little burning and destroying of documents; the various splits and temple closures had yet to occur. Most of the missing documents (i.e. still unpublished) were created after 1900. Pretty much all RR et AC documents from Bennett’s time are preserved in the private collections Mr R.A. Gilbert has access to.

Poverty: a public library with internet access is still likely to be in a rich country compared to much of the world. However, I do agree with your points about poverty being a sliding scale and fully acknowledge the damage poverty in the west does. I say this clearly on MOTO. And actually, for not close to starving…without getting personal…probably as close as anyone in a western country.

You write: “And besides: it's not like you use the same measuring rod when discussing your own views. Can you Emperically prove the Genius exists? That K&C occurs? It would be a bit unfair of me to ask that of you, and yet you seem to demand it of others.”

Of course, we cannot prove the Genius exists by mundane temporal means, only inner means. Practical magic however asserts changes in shared space-time on a mundane level. This is the big difference. When I and others speak of internal states the question of proof is irrelevant. When a magician says she can change the material world that all can see, taste and touch, it becomes relevant.

Good points about Dr Lurhmann’s work. I mentioned this only to point out that, as I am sure you agree, there is much delusion in the magical community.

As for being enmeshed unknowingly in a Neoplatonic- transcendental worldview: I am not convinced of this, since I consciously recognize these views as being a core of the western esoteric tradition. But heck, the definition of unconscious means I do not know, so maybe :)

You say, “not all magickal practitioners hold the same internal cosmology and the ethical statutes based on it as true”. I think you are right. More’s the pity :)

However, often those who do not hold these views are in reaction to them and therefore are still linked and bound to them. My experience is that most esoteric and pagan paths today are based, often unknowingly on the same cosmologies /paradigms mixed with a bastardized smattering of other sources. The result of this mix is the poor level of coherence, community, compassion and magical acuity around today.

Being blunt it is extremely hard, for example, to be a modern pagan in the full sense of the word, when the Christian worldview still runs through our culture and there are no continuing pagan religious survivals of note. See Dr Jo Pearson’s work on Wicca. The same occurs for the Neoplatonic influence on magic: it slips in where people do not notice it.

Thank you again for this discussion. Can’t promise to continue it; depends on time available.

Jack Faust said...

@Peregrin: I have one last question which I think might shed some light on our disagreement:
Are you operating primarily under a psychological model of magick? I just realized that your focus on the microcosm and its effects might be an indication of such. If that is so, then you have my apologies for critiquing your viewpoint at all.

Lavanah said...

Elders of all traditions are to be learned from. But not always are the lessons learned the ones that were intended to be taught. As for the whole theurgy vs. practical magic thing...lets just say it is far easier to meditate for hours on end on the wonders of an infinite non-entity when you aren't hungry.

Frater POS said...

"In the case of POS, I think he just took my quote." This is true.

The difference in wankery in the GD framework and the Wiccan framework is that the GD magician can become arrogant and rigid. The system will consistently try to pop your balloon but if you're stubborn you can stay really arrogant for a very long time. The Wiccan system encodes arrogance into the process through a ridiculous set of behaviors dealing with hierarchy. It is nearly a requirement. Though, I know one HPS that appears to break that mold quite well. She gives me hope.

Peregrin said...

Hi again,

No, I do not practice psychological based magic, which is a contemporary not traditional practice. So critique away :) This is how I learn about mistakes I make.

Like all traditional approaches assert, I think we need to start where we are – by changing ourselves internally (microcosm) in conjunction with repairing the world externally (macrocosm).

I fully acknowledge that practical magic can and does occur. However, as I explain on MOTO, this happens far less and is far more difficult to accomplish than most magicians think. Otherwise there would be tangible, shared space-time evidence to show it works where there is none.

I also think that practical magic is an unhealthy focus for the gifts of tradition, practice and wisdom we have inherited. It does not work most of the time and encourages delusion among magicians. It also encourages the self-focused me approach of contemporary western society.

As for people starving finding it hard to practice spirituality, I am in perfect agreement. I do think however practical, temporal, social action will alleviate hunger far more than practical magic. Donating the cost of a single book on casting spells will protect people from hunger far more than the spells within that book. I also doubt there are many or any spells/rituals in the plethora of modern practical magic workbooks aimed at helping the reader find food. Instead they are focused typically on mundane wants not needs.

While I do not believe practical magic and spiritual magic are completely distinct magisteria, the overlap is very small.

Thanks :)

Jack Faust said...

@Scylla: We speak of the same e-list, I do believe. There are even two individuals that write on it I'd like to get into better contact with, but I don't really want to deal with the headache of rejoining. I'll just become pissy and my Chaos colors will start showing.

Jack Faust said...

@Lavanah: I couldn't agree more!

Rufus Opus said...

I know it's probably a bit late to be entering a horse in this race, but you know me. Or you will, or won't. Whatever.

My stance, as I've said on my blog before, is that practical magic is the whole point of all that transcendental stuff. Looking to the Emerald Tablet, we see that the magician is to ascend and descend in power, taking on the mantle of authority of causing change to occur in the mundane and physical world in accordance with our divine will, as ascertained and clarified through the Magical-Alchemical process of the Great Work.

You go up so that you can go down. Otherwise you're creating the Philosopher's Stone and then looking at it, maybe showing it to people, telling them about how hard it was to make it and all the things you learned while you were making it, and having proof that you're such a great alchemist-magician, but never curing the sick, turning lead into gold, or doing anything that it is intended to be used for. The final stage of the Great Work is not the moment when the Stone forms, oh no my brothers and sisters! Heavens forbid.

The final stage of the Work is Projection, in which you destroy the Stone, grind it into power, mix it with waters, and use it to make the world a better place. Any magician who tries to use "Magick" to go Up the Tree of Life only, to transcend their existence while still in the flesh is nothing more than a charlatan, a fool, and an evil twisted malignant pimple on the ass of mankind. They build up their towers of knowledge in the Abyss, brick by brick of rational fact and thoughtful discourse. They play games of debate, never realizing that they are sitting in the Abyss, that they have failed to cross over it at all.

It must be noted that practical magic manifests exactly the same way that everything else in this created universe manifests: via natural law. If you've done your magic right, there will be nothing but synchronicity to indicate there was anything "supernatural" going on.

Austin said...

Better late than never. But one quick comment.

Crystals show up in lots of Hermetic material, and are a standby in Vedic and Renaissance traditions of planetary talismanry.

They are uniquely structured nodes of the material world. They also happen to pulse with juice, and restructure the energy around them very easily.

Don't let the lameness of a generation turn you off a set of really powerful talismanic bases.