GUEST POST by Zora Tyrant!
Out for Blood – A review of Ferocious: A Folk Tantric Manual on the Sapta Matrika Cult by the Sepulcher Society, Theion Publishing 2019
As an avid explorer of the female esoteric mysteries and ‘fiercer’ forms of spirituality, I recently purchased Ferocious: A Folk Tantric Manual on the Sapta Matrika Cult by the Sepulcher Society and released by Theion Publishing in 2019. It aims at elaborating the Tantric Cultus of the seven Matrikas, the terrifying ‘Little Mothers’ in theory and practice and gears towards making it practicable also for a western esoteric audience.
I own various other Theion titles such as Underworld and Benighted Path and have always found them to be extremely well presented and supportive of my unorthodox esoteric practice. Consequently, I had high expectations for Ferocious.
And let me tell you right away I was not disappointed, on the contrary! At first, though, I was a bit hesitant towards another book on Tantra. I have found most tantric releases to be of three categories: translations of tantric manuals with little value to the western or modern practitioner, academic treatises which are highly interesting and informative but also do little for the esoteric practitioner, and books of tantric practice by western occultists who obviously have no grip on sources and lack depth and sophistication. Ferocious is another kind of beast entirely.
So, let’s dive right in! Imagine a frenzied band of blood thirsty and violent goddesses, one of them sow headed, another a skeleton, slaying hordes of demons and striking fear even into the hearts of gods. While these terrific fiends can indeed become maternal protectors of their worshippers, just as their unassuming title ‘Little Mothers’ may suggest it takes dedication, caution and skill not to end up as their prey. In the first part of the book we are introduced to the field of Folk Tantra and how the Matrikas fit into this environment.
Personally I found one of the most important and motivating claims (backed up by sources) made in the book early on to be the statement that Folk Tantra with its antinomian attitude towards ‘scriptural’ Tantra and orthodox religious Hindu practice is embracing of everyone who feels drawn to its currents – regardless of caste, gender or even ethnicity and place of residence, whether you are Hindu or Westerner or anyone else. Folk Tantra with its relation to formerly marginal and polluted deities of the wilderness is potentially approachable by anyone with the right attitude and dedication and outside the rules and regulations of orthodoxy. The Sepulcher Society traces the developments of the Matrikas from liminal village deities to prominent tantric goddesses and discusses the reasons why modern practitioners would want to connect with such ferocious female energies. From material benefits to bestowing of Gnosis, the Matrikas are approachable for a wide variety of causes. Part 1 of the book concludes with important thoughts on sexuality, foundations of tantric rituals and Mantras.
The second part of Ferocious is dedicated to the Seven Matrikas individually. Each Goddess is portrayed in detail, her iconography, relations to the other Matrikas, her modern worship, how to construct her shrine, her offerings and images. We are also given rituals for each goddess. With great care and detail each goddess is explained as an ‘individual’ and as part of the group, her functions, character and field of magical/spiritual operation. They are also related to further aspects of tantric planetary magic and alchemy.
Following a concluding chapter, we are treated also to an appendix where an eighth Matrika, the lion headed Narasimhi, is described in the same fashion as her sisters in the previous chapters.
This is no superficial overview over a fascinating aspect of Tantric spirituality and magic but a deep investigation into the nature and essence of the Matrikas as approached in Folk Tantric practice. This is the ultimate work on the Matrika Goddesses but also an important contribution to the study of the wild manifestations of the divine feminine and its magical and esoteric applications. It is also an essential work on how to approach and apply tantric knowledge in a Western environment without losing any of its original intention and power.
Ferocious is a substantial work of over 260 pages, meticulously researched with plenty of footnotes and large bibliography which invites further independent study. Despite this wealth of information, the book is written in an approachable style never drifting off either into shallowness or unnecessary academic posturing. Ferocious is healthily undogmatic and always keeps the esoteric practitioner in sight making sure that this book is all you need when you embark on a wild ride of tantric practice with the Matrika Goddesses.
Another triumph for Theion Publishing, Ferocious is possibly its most beautiful production yet. The book comes as a sewn hardback with shimmering red cloth and lavish golden lettering. Metallic gold endpapers are a great touch and enhance the lavish feel of this gorgeous edition limited to just over 750 copies only. My rating overall: 10/10, a must have!
Link (Get your copy): https://theionpublishing.com/shop/ferocious-sapta-matrika/
By Zora Tyrant
Zora Tyrant is an artist and an explorer of transgressive spirituality and magic. She lives in the wilderness of North America.
A review of Ludwig Klages’ Of Cosmogonic Eros, Theion Publishing 2018
By Carl Schelling
“The light of Eros-Phanes flashes in the pregnant darkness of the Dionysian vortex.”
One could review this tremendous work from various angles such as the philosophical, metaphysical, religious as for each of these and other areas this release holds very important implications. And indeed, upon its first release in early 1920s Germany it influenced luminaries of various disciplines ranging from Walter Benjamin to Walter F. Otto and from C.G. Jung to Hermann Hesse. It did, however, also impact greatly on the spiritual and esoteric milieu of its time and it is from the perspective of an esoteric practitioner that I will attempt to review this publication.
The great biocentric Ludwig Klages, together with Alfred Schuler the head of the esoteric Cosmic Circle, waged a radical war against monotheism, logocentrism and human-centric positions. Against these currents he pitched an enchanting and ecstatic daemonic world of images which constitute a cyclical reality mediated by the powers of Eros. This world-creating, Cosmogonic Eros thus becomes the elemental power which manifests the true Real which is ‘lost’ to humankind behind the false reality mediated by the Logos. So central is this force to Klages’ thinking that he devoted an entire monograph to this sacred force, the same book, Of Cosmogonic Eros, which is finally available to us in English for the very first time.
Now onto the book itself:
Theion Publishing treats us to the full package here, adding two extra texts to the translation. Of Cosmogonic Eros itself is divided into seven chapters plus a preface, an appendix and a discussion of sources. As extras this book further contains an introduction by the preeminent contemporary expert on Klages in the English-speaking world, Dr. Paul Bishop, and an additional essay by Klages’ collaborator the mystic Alfred Schuler on the Ur-Gnosis.
Bishop’s introduction may already be worth the price of the book alone. His introductory essay of 60+ pages is in itself a mini-analysis of the entire Eros book, examining its most important concepts and how they relate to Klages’ overall metaphysical world of daemonic images.
Klages advances his elaborations on Eros in a very structured way allowing the reader to follow closely all his argument. With the razor-sharp mind of a scholar and the heart of a mystic Klages peels back layer after layer of misunderstandings and distortions in regards to the nature of Eros until he arrives at his essential qualities and powers. In a tour de force he differentiates Eros from Love, Sexus and emotionality before embarking on a discussion of the concept of Eros in antiquity. Amongst the topics treated in this chapter are the Eros of the Orphics, Eros Cults and Eros as a Mystery God.
In chapter 3 Klages elaborates on the essence of the Erotic state and then compares Erotic and Dionysian rapture before explaining the cosmogonic nature of Eros. A master of language Klages treats us here to passages like this:
While the ecstasy of satisfying the sexual drive is associated with the sexual union of two beings, there is presumably no limit to the opportunities that permit entry by the person bearing a soul into the fiery circle of erotic frenzy. It can consummate itself, or reach perfection, at the mere sight of a beloved being, and that may be a being of the opposite sex, but also one of the same sex, or it might be an animal, or a plant. And it can just as well consummate itself at the smell of a scent, the taste of a wine, the hearing of a sound, and the touch of a dripping branch. It can be roused while awake as if in the most stupefying dream. It celebrates its orgies beneath the breeze of spring storms, in the light of a star-studded heaven, in a hailstone shower, on a flaming mountain ridge, in the raging surf, in the lightning flash of “first love”, but not least in the embrace of fate that smites it. It is an ecstasy both of the ascent and descent; an ecstasy that transfigures dying and death into agonising bliss! The eternal moment of its perfection contains: unfettered frenzy or crystalline transport of delight.
Chapter 4 ‘on the ecstatic state’ is of the utmost importance to any spiritual practitioner interested in utilizing forms of ecstasy in their work. The author explains the crisis of ‘un-selfing’ and the pathway of Life through Death. Far ahead of his time he discusses the possible use of drugs in relation to mystical work and elaborates on 3 main forms of cosmic ecstasy, the heroic, the erotic and the magical forms. The chapter ends with the introduction of a truly mystical concept of distance in relation to Eros of which Klages says that:
The shiver of Eros however differs from this in that, in the moment of even the highest realisation, it remains an Eros of Distance and the intoxicated man remains a separate, never-intermingling second in relation to his partner, an eye of the universe watching him from out of the purple night! To surrender to this does not mean to lust after it or to embrace it. It does not mean: to become one with it; to be subsumed in it. It means: to awaken!
Chapter 5 takes us deep into the ‘nature of ecstasy’. Magical time and space, the relation of Eros and ecstasy to the daemonic images and the visionary power of the soul are all discussed in this chapter which leads over to chapter 6 ‘on ancestor veneration’ which should become mandatory reading for any contemporary pagan or heathen practitioner. Far beyond the shallow clichés and limits of the usual treatises on such topics Klages uncovers the deepest layers of the relation of Eros to Thanatos, the empowerment of the Living through the Dead and the transformative quality of the living soul.
A ‘concluding word on Eros and passion’ is then followed by a lengthy appendix which contains a highly fascinating treatment of the question as to ‘Why does it bring ruin to lift the Veil of Isis?’ You want the answer? Go and read this book, I won’t spoil it for you with an answer!
A true gem in this treasure chest of Gnosis is the included essay by Alfred Schuler. Klages mentions him in various places of the book as a mystic and as being instrumental in shaping his view on the Chthonic mysteries. Schuler, who also communicated with French esotericist Papus, was a highly mysterious figure whose oracular language and visionary ecstasies had a profound effect on his immediate circle. His pagan vision of a cyclical maternal world is closely associated with erotic mysteries, divine androgyny and necromantic teachings. The short essay presented here is an excellent example of Schuler’s unique approach and vision.
To conclude: Of Cosmogonic Eros is an epic achievement, an intellectual and esoteric masterpiece which deserves the closest attention and should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in or practicing any form of Pagan spirituality. Some passages of this book, especially in the beginning, demand proper intellectual focus as they can be complex but it is worth persisting. It is a work you will go back to time and time again.
The publication of this book could not be more timely also in regards to another matter: Klages tirelessly pointed out how environmental destruction and ruthless exploitation of nature is one of the disastrous manifestations of Western ideologies and reality. In a time where more and more people wake up to the terrible consequences of environmental collapse Klages can give us crucial insights into possible alternative avenues and strategies.
The book is published in a limited cloth hardcover edition (a deluxe edition is sold out) of 745 copies. Theion Publishing is known for their quality productions and this book is no exception. Beautiful quality blue cloth and exquisite endpapers make this book a delight to hold. A special mention must go to translator Mav Kuhn who did an outstanding job translating this work.
Carl Schelling is a lifelong student of the esoteric. After pursuing academic studies in philosophy and anthropology he traveled internationally for more than 3 decades in the search for spiritual truth. He now lives in a rural setting on the European continent and focuses his spiritual heart on venerating the ancestors and the genius loci.
Many thanks to Carl Schelling for allowing me to share his review of Of Cosmogonic Eros which is a book that has influenced my own thinking and spirituality. I was lucky enough to immerse myself in the text as its translator and I very much recommend it to anyone seriously interested in pagan spirituality. Mr Schelling’s review is a fantastic enticement to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see … Seshat
I have never called myself a necromancer. My doings with the dead as an adult I have taken in my stride as a witch, although my dealings with the dead stretch back into childhood. I have had no initiation and no training and so often my encounters with spirits have been cackhanded and unsatisfactory. Over the past 15 years I have developed a devotion to the dead and relationships with Egyptian deities who guide, protect and smooth the path of calling on the Aakhu, the blessed and beautified dead. I have listened, learned and experimented on my own. So it has been fascinating, instructive and gratifying to read Underworld from Theion Publishing and to find that what I do and what I have experienced so far is confirmed by the author, who is very obviously not only exceptionally knowledgeable in this field but is an adept in the doing. I wish I had encountered this book 30 odd years ago, but hey, things come to us when we are ready.
The author depicts the Underworld and death deities from different cultural models/mythologies, drawing a thread through them all without falling foul of New Age hodgepodgery. I have attended rituals where mythologies, deities and sacred symbols are thrown together like fusion cookery that ends up tasting vile and setting my teeth on edge. Not so this book which instructs through mythologies, shrine building, offerings and rituals how best to approach the particular deity and which deities require extra care and forethought. The author leans heavily on tradition without being anachronistic, and he/she also allows for sensitive developments and responses to the present-day world.
I have read before of soul-travelling to the Underworld, and how important it is to 1. seek protection of the relevant ruling deity and 2. to know the way (maps, passwords, monsters, traps, symbols, etc.). The latter in itself is daunting and also antithetical to my own experiences. For as long as I can remember, the worlds of Here, There, The Liminal etc. have been fluid; The Other slips through to Here, in Dream I am carried to There, in my mind’s eye I can turn to The Liminal … and the Shadows do not always remain shadows. There is nothing linear in my world for me to follow a path down from Here to The Underworld as dictated by some magickal traditions. However, Underworld (the book) suggests a much more accessible and practicable method for entering the Underworld through meditation and/or dream – read the book if you wish to know what and how … As a side note, the book may give solid instructions on necromantic practice and tradition, yet it is not dictatorial, instead it allows for people’s personal proclivities to guide them … if you want to leap in and learn that way, go ahead, but the author gives his/her experience-based recommendations that are absolutely worth bearing in mind.
A word on protection: you will need it. Underworld gives practical instructions on how to protect your space (think poltergeists, for example) and where to set up your space for best effect. Great emphasis is placed on gaining the protection of the underworld ruler you choose to work with and I would heartily agree with this. It’s something that should be undertaken for a lengthy period of time, in my eyes, so that you utterly integrate the underworld ruler and its essence into your psyche and thus instinctively call upon it even in your dream world. Sleep is a vulnerable time for anyone open to spirits; throughout my life, since I was very little, I have had times of being “attacked” by amorphous, roaming spirits that barely have any sense of consciousness except for a will to enter a living body. As any magickal person knows, the boundaries between dream and “real” are tenuous and permeable. But I would also say that some encounters with spirits are horrendous and terrifying and that’s okay… I read a comment in a forum recently where a woman was struggling to abandon the good/bad, angels/demons of her Christian upbringing. She essentially didn’t want to carry across the idea of evil to her new pagan beliefs. She asked if instead she could just approach “all spirit beings and deities” as neutral. She’s allowed to approach them however she wishes, but the responses she gets may not fit into such a beige remit! Some of the most glorious encounters I have had have been terrifying, and yet I was left afterwards with a longing for that entity/entities to return – ecstasy can be found in dread! I have received visitations from two different entities to whom I gave a lot of attention over a long period of time (in one case years). They began to manifest more and more tangibly until I could hear the one with my physical ears and touch the other with my hands, like holding onto hard air. And then on each occasion I freaked, I gave in to fear, and banished them because I didn’t know what to do or how to control things, even though in those two cases each entity seemed well-disposed towards me. And how I have regretted those banishments. Protection is vital, but don’t expect “perfect protection” to circumvent a natural sense of fear. Only the reckless and foolish feel nothing and rush in with a sense of entitlement. The rational mind is good at quelling fear, but it is also excellent at banishing, at erecting walls between Here and There. And this is why I would encourage readers of Underworld not to stop at reading the words but to dwell on them awake and as you fall asleep to encourage and open up a dialogue between you and the dead/deity as to how you should proceed further. The more you align yourself through the practices in the book, the more you will know how to hone that practice. I have certainly felt nudges to apply more effort, beginning with thoroughly cleaning and re-laying one of my altars that I had let go to dust and being more generous in my offerings …
But what are the dead for? Honestly, I struggle with this. The question itself implies that they are a means to an end, which feels reductive to me. Underworld speaks of the wealth of knowledge that the dead have and naturally points to divination as a way to access this information. As a teenager I engaged with a male spirit through bibliomancy. He gave me very accurate predictions and advice to all my teenage angsts and petty concerns. If only I had taken account of his advice in my actions, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. But hey, I was a teenager, who DID I listen to at that age?!
Underworld gives examples of rituals that ask for certain things from the death deities, certain very tangible, this-world things. I have done the same, petitioning the Neteru and the Aakhu. Some death deities, as the book says, are naturally inclined to help with particular things, others really couldn’t give a toss and you’d be hard pushed to make them take an interest (the same could be said of all deities – pick your allies carefully). Some say the dead themselves understand better the needs of a human living this life and if you treat them well, they will lend their bony hand. But it would be a waste to get stuck on merely what materialistic things can be attained, although to everything there is a time. The majority of my dead-time is spent in devotional work to the Neteru and the dead. Through that devotion (prayer, meditation, offerings, contemplation, art) they guide, they teach, they open my eyes to the possibilities of More.
“Through me shall you live, through you shall I live.”
Underworld is a fantastic book for anyone walking the path of the dead. It’s not a self-contained book, by which I mean that the copious information contained therein will spur you on, hungry to know more in both the cerebral and experiential sense of gnowing. If you read the words and feel the call of the dead, you will not be able to help yourself but to reach out and answer that call.
Underworld is available for purchase from Theion Publishing at THIS LINK! (This is not a sponsored post, I just really recommend the book!)
I have recently begun an introductory course in Parapsychology with the infamous Koestler Unit at Edinburgh University. We are an intimate group of just 20 people, not for lack of interest but because small numbers encourage the most intense discussion and don’t allow for people to slip between the cracks and be lurkers.
In addition to coursebook reading (An Introduction to Parapsychology), we have specialist reading each week, as well as several expert interviews and articles to write and/or comment on. We are a varied group with people from China, UAE, Malta, UK, Australia, etc. This brings the additional twist of a range of cultural norms and interpretations. Apparently, ghostly happenings are so de rigueur in Malta that house sale contracts come with an extra clause that says, if any paranormal occurrences happen post-sale that were not declared prior to sale, you can renege on the sale and get your money back, i.e. if you end up with a spook and a spook was not listed in the house contents, you can return the house! Wowzers!
The study group comprises scientists, psychologists, therapists, alternative healers, Christians, non-Christians, a metaphysicist, a philosopher, a paranormal investigator, and me – the only one who put it out there and said, “I’m a witch.”
Part of the reason for me taking this course is to fine-tune my bullshit detector. I’m sure we’ve all been with the woo-woo-wah-wah brigade who declare every creaking floorboard to be a ghost, and it’s hellishly frustrating. I have heard tales and encounters and sometimes I call “Bullshit!” and sometimes I think “Interesting.” But each time I am going on a gut-feeling and it’s not always clear-cut as to why I should perceive one thing to be bonafide and the other thing not.
Sometimes it boils down to trust in the individual telling the tale – personal credibility can go a long way. And as to myself, I have experienced some things that are truly inexplicable (according to science as it stands today) and some things that have proven to be a mere bump in the night and I have just laughed off. So I hope to gain some cognitive skills from this course in order for me to say WHY I think something is BS and something is not. That’s the plan anyway.
The Parapsychology course runs for another 3 months. In the meantime, at the end of April I will be starting a course on Ancient Nubian Art & Archaeology. I am totally stoked about this course. The Nubians apparently are the ones who brought high culture into the Nile Valley, and it was due to the Nubians that Egyptian culture became what it did. Again, I look forward to learning about the roots, causes and facts so that I can back up my opinions with evidence and knowledge.
I saw a thread on Facebook the other day where someone was complaining that he had corrected a Fluff about some point or other, but instead of thanks he received verbal garbage about how if person A *feels* that black is white then it is white to him. No. I do think there is a place for Unverified Personal Gnosis BUT some things just are what they are, and ultimately whatever your spiritual choice there WILL be spade loads of reading and learning involved if you want a sincere and authentic experience as opposed to a lifetime excursion of make-believe.
So embrace every opportunity to learn. However much experience you have, you are always at the beginning of your journey into knowledge.
Worth listening to:
Following on again from a timely reference in a post on my beautiful friend’s blog, “Going down to the sea again“, I found part of the interview with Lars Iyer (linked HERE) even more thought-provoking and inspiring for me personally:
Cultivate your legitimate strangeness: that was my mantra. ‘Cultivate’, because it is a struggle, a kind of asceticism. To drive the demons out, you have to know that they are there. A kind of self-knowledge is necessary – not the petty narcissism we find in the ‘misery memoir’, but a growing awareness of those forces that have constituted you, that have made you what you are. ‘Your legitimate strangeness’: ‘Your’, because it is yours, your space, the person you are, that you have become, even as you might alter this space, remake it. ‘Legitimate’ – that part of you that is not yet subsumed by capitalism, that free part of yourself that is not a slave. ‘Strangeness’ – because it must appear strange to the slaves and their masters, to everyone around you.
Great words to start a day with!
A little ritual work this evening, a medium dose of reading and a lot of ritual writing. Good to be back on track after a break of a couple of weeks – too long; I felt the spirits nudging me kindly, but enough’s enough and I don’t want to drag my heels and get a sledgehammer hint over my head that I have been neglecting Them.
A beautiful reunion this evening.
Ritual writing exhilarating as always. Because I find it easier to speak my rituals than to write them, especially if I am adapting from several books, I use a voice recognition software which can be a tad unreliable as I am very soft on my consonants (my German heritage is sadly lacking there).
This evening I was also adapting a meditation written by Ariock Van De Voorde in ATUA (probably the most vibrant and inspiring collection of occult essays in a very long time – more on the book at a later date – if you don’t have it and are interested in LHP or the Voudon Gnostic current, then you MUST buy this book – you snooze, you lose – and there is so much to explore!). The meditation is a method for approaching those hard-to-manage, obtuse passages we all hit against, here specifically in the Voudon Gnostic Workbook, although it could be applied to any occult reading. His advice however was interpreted thus by my voice recognition software as I read from the book:
Once you have either finished a chapter, or encountered a section that you find particularly obtuse, immediately stop breathing [sic].
… a little harsh even by my standards. However, Mr Van De Voorde had in fact merely suggested “stop reading”. Phew. Inhale. Exhale. Phew. I shudder to think how often I would have to cease breathing otherwise!
So a productive evening. I mastered bullion knots this afternoon and am a quarter of the way through finishing a necklace. Candles still lit that will accompany me into the Land of Dreams, incense still permeating the room … I felt the floor tremble when the spirits came. Beautiful Aakhu. Beautiful Spirits of Hoodoo.
I am currently reading Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry by Armando R. Favazza, M.D. It is the first comprehensive attempt at dealing with the subject of self-mutilation from a cultural psychiatric perspective. I am only about 20 pages in, but I already feel that this man has understood the concept of self-mutilation not only from a cultural and ritual perspective but from the perspective of a mentally ill person.
Many people, knowing either vaguely or intimately my personal belief systems and practices as a witch, question and frown upon my use of a crucifix in my practices, and the fact that I often wear one when I am in a particularly bad “demonic” phase. The fact is I take great comfort in aligning myself with the voluntary self-mutilation that the mythic image of Christ allowed to be imposed upon himself. The crux of Christian myth is based around this voluntary sacrifice, but the issue for me is not sacrifice for another but identification with excruciating internal and external pain.
The images of Christ on the cross have been graced over the centuries with a virtual delight in the gore and excruciating agonies of this man-God. As such he can become the epitome and symbol of a self-harmer’s attempt to make peace with the forces inside and to say yes to life; because self-harming is not a suicide attempt but an attempt to avert suicide.
Quoting a discussion about Fakir Mustafa by Graver, Favazza says:
[Fakir] feels [the pain] not as a foreign invasion of the body but as a sensation of the body that separates the body from the mind.
And this is certainly one of the prime motivations for my own self-harming urges – to demarcate boundaries between mind, body, and I would add, soul, to separate out the mix and to ease the pain of their co-existence.
Suppression is a beautiful tool which can facilitate the survival of someone who has lived through the unspeakable; but it can too easily become a means of self-destruction, where the emotions that should be focused on “enemies” is turned inwards, thus indeed creating a form of social self-sacrifice. Favazza elucidates this point:
Blood has awesome symbolic and physiologic powers, as evidenced by its role in religious sacrifice, healing, the formation of brotherhoods, and blood feuds. When harvested properly, it can alter the course of personal and communal history. It is my contention that some mentally ill persons mutilate themselves as a primitive method of drawing upon their blood’s ability to foster bonds of loyalty and union among members of their social network, to demonstrate their hatred of and conquest over real and imaginary enemies, to heal their afflictions, and … to set right their relationship with God.
Favazza discusses the subject of self-mutilation within Christianity extensively, identifying possible schizophrenics, anorectics and self-harmers amongst the martyr crew. He writes:
It is clear that the individual human body mirrors the collective social body, and each continually creates and sustains the other. Misperceptions of reality, feelings of guilt, negative self images, antisocial acts, and all the other symptoms we associate with personal mental illness defy understanding without reference to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical integrity of the communal “body.”
Which leads me on to the disgust, bewilderment and rejection that self-harmers continually face from the “communal body”. Favazza’s statements support my own experience of the anger, disgust and fear that self-harmers illicit not only amongst passers-by but even amongst their so-called “caretakers”. Nobody truly understands the self-harmer from a psychiatric perspective and instead dismisses the person saying, e.g. it must be a chemical imbalance, or part of borderline syndrome, or a way of getting attention. Favazza summarises self-mutilation amongst the mentally ill as a morbid form of self-help, but warns that it is nothing to trifle with and that for those individuals who cannot control the behaviour it may end in unsightly scars or even “the loss of an eye”.
Personally, I wear my scars as a warrior would those won in battle. When your insides resemble the direst of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, and your outside is that of an amicable, sweet and smiling Englishwoman, there is a sense of relief when your external appearance begins to resemble the internal reality. Naturally this comes with extreme forms of social and familial rejection. Nobody likes to see pain, nobody likes to be forced to imagine what’s inside the person wearing the scars. There are very few who would reach out and kiss the scars, saying, “There is beauty in such life-affirming pain.”
Yesterday evening Kundalini yoga was on the study plan. I worked through the introduction to Jung’s Psychology of Kundalini Yoga (based on the seminar he gave in 1932) and took notes. By the time I had finished I was pooped so snuggled in bed with a Kundalini-lite book.
I bought it because I want to learn new positions, new hand mudras (which I love!), mantras, breathwork … well, anything new really. Some of you may remember me talking about it last year, and about some of the really appallingly sugary sound-bites that are sprinkled through the book, and the fact that apparently I should be wearing a turban whenever I do my yoga. Argh!
Last night, maybe because I was tired, I just became aware of all the numbers being thrown at me: pseudo-scientific statistics to give credence to some very dodgy dogma. I wondered if such numerical profligacy was an example of New Age gematria…
- Women are 16 times stronger than men (oh, just don’t even ask!)
- We are 15 % slaves to routine
- 1 negative habit will automatically attract 4 sister habits
- There are 2 guiding instincts in man – to improve his future or to block improvement of his future
- There are 4 stages to sleep and a healthy adult only needs 5.5 hours sleep (my arse!)
- There are 6 steps to prepare for bed (one of which includes running cold water over your feet … like I said, just don’t ask!)
- And there are 2 things you must do every day – sweat and laugh
I was also slightly baffled at the author’s obsession with people going insane. [More numbers…] In the 1960s, out of twenty million young people [random!!], millions died, were permanently damaged or went insane from using marijuana. Later she says, “demoting” i.e. negative habits will make you a “physical wreck, mentally insane and/or spiritually defunct”. Some of my best friends are mad 🙂 but I do quite like the phrase “spiritually defunct”!
The page that finished me off for the night included advice for women (originally from a man, naturally!):
- Make-up is evidence you are handicapped
- Stimulants kill you
- Do not jump out of bed like a hot potato (perhaps he has been smoking too much of that marijuana, I have never seen potatoes jumping out of bed, hot or otherwise)
- Wash your hair with oil and yoghurt (nice)
- And because god does not allow hair to grow on our foreheads, women should not have fringes
When I read such twaddle it makes me feel extremely contrary … in fact, right now I think I will apply full Goth-style make-up, make a strong cup of coffee … I may have trouble growing hair on my forehead … but I shall lounge in bed while jumping out at regular intervals like a hot spud to apply more make-up … It’s a picture, isn’t it? My left-hand path to enlightenment … or is that right-hand? Where’s a potato to ask when you need one…
This is a brief summary of the Occult of Personality podcast interview with David Beth. I would recommend you listen to the full interview, as I will naturally have only picked out points most interesting to me, and there is plenty more to be had from the interview. My sincere thanks to David Beth for revising, editing and approving this summary.
Who is David Beth?
David Beth is Sovereign Grand Master of the OTOA (Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua) and the LCN (La Couleuvre Noire) and presiding bishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica Aeterna. The OTOA and LCN are originally Haitian Gnostic occult societies associated with each other, but which function separately. The OTOA works with a fusion of ancient Haitian and European Hermetic currents. The LCN is more specialised, with a focus on sorcery and direct spiritism. DB shares leadership in these groups with SGMA Courtney Willis.
DB is also involved with the Fraternitas Borealis, a hyperborean magick group with a cosmic tradition of magical exploration. The Gnostic church focuses on a more general transformation through the apostolic-gnostic sacraments and gnostic initiations and conducts esoteric research in a more classical gnostic sense. The Fraternitas Borealis achieves the same thing through experimentation with magical techniques and sorcery as well as basing itself on very specific transcendental ideals.
On the Ecclesia Gnostica Aeterna:
The EGA is an apostolic Gnostic church, where Gnostic attainment and liberation is achieved through the sacraments. The Church views itself as a continuation of the ancient mystery schools, a way of empowerment passed on through Gnostic Christianity. The sacraments are tools to provide the seeds of gradual enlightenment and development as Gnostic beings. It is then the initiate’s role to cultivate the seed to flower and fruit. Initiation is a combination of outside forces being given to you that also need to be fused alchemically with your own readiness. Occult spirituality needs nurturing.
Unlike the ancient form of Gnosticism, this is not approached as escapism or as a way of leaving the body and its associations behind; this Gnosis is Kosmic Gnosis, i.e. through the body and senses we can achieve a unified experience with the cosmos, hence avoiding dualism.
On the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua:
The OTOA was never a Masonic fraternal organisation as such, perhaps in the beginning and more particularly through its division into lodges. Building on occult haitian-voudoist roots, they took the essence and qualities of Masonry, stripping away the superstructure and further into the C20th the Masonic elements were gradually eliminated. In the 1960s the organisation was based in Chicago, New York and Haiti, comprising small groups totalling maybe 50 people. The OTOA presents a more abstract form of Voudon gnosis but still with a practical focus. There are a few group rituals although most of what is done is on an individual basis. Initiations are given from master to student. The OTOA provides knowledge of Voudon Gnosis (a basic preparation to approach the LCN) – you need the foundations of the OTOA first, and once the principles have been grasped then a student would be eligible to move on to the LCN, although not each student wishes to progress to the LCN because of the extreme character of the (spirit) work and the specific demands of the LCN subcults.
On La Couleuvre Noire and Bertiaux:
Bertiaux’s Voudon Gnostic Workbook is the main public teaching tool of the LCN, presenting a spiritist type of sorcery. The student first establishes contact with spirits, working “lucky hoodoo”, a simple but effective way of establishing spirit contact before moving on to more complex areas. There is a symbiotic relationship between the spirits and the practitioner. Whether the spirits are internal beings, Jungian archetypes or external realities is irrelevant as long as the relationship is effective.
A fundamental understanding of metaphysics allows us to incorporate esoteric Voudon into our own systems. Bertiaux drew parallels between systems; his was not a kitchen magick taking simplistic ingredients to make a composite whole, he goes deeper than that, drawing on the essential core which because of its bare-bones truth can be clad in the flesh of other systems.
On his book, Voudon Gnosis:
DB’s own book was published as an introduction and commentary but would only really be understandable to slightly more experienced occultists. It is not a dogmatic introduction to how people should study Voudon Gnosis although it contains some “official doctrine”; it is intended more as an introduction to ideas and perspectives. At the same time however the book, through its language and ideas, can work as an opener of inner gateways and dimensions and so takes on a truly unique magical character. It is a book to be read with your gut and soul open on multiple levels, not processed purely by the cerebral cortex. Topics cover Las Prise des Yeaux, Points Chauds, Spider Sorcery, Time Travelling, Elemental Sex Magick and The Grimoire Ghuehde, including two appendices on ‘Nganga and the Fetish’ and ‘A-Mor: an initiated analysis of Love’.
On the Merciless Path:
DB speaks of the Merciless Path which has complex implications within the Fraternitas Borealis and calls for a focus and dedication which should be observed by anyone with a sincere intent to study Voudon Gnosis or in fact any occult system; a dedication of their whole being to their spiritual and occult calling: this is a vocation. Occultism has become part of pop culture, a thing done in our spare time. A vocation calls for everything else to be submitted to the path, a kind of sadhu of Western Esotericism who sacrifices everything to focus on their spiritual development through occultism. It is called the Merciless Path because this type of dedication is self-critical; it requires constant challenging of our own status quo, and questions what our ideals and motivations are. It is a cruel look in the mirror everyday. People should continually move out of their comfort zones, and continue walking the thorny path even when it gets difficult. Instead, many approach their “spirituality” like an “occult supermarket” buying only those ingredients that fit their lives to build their own religion. Occultism as originally conceived in Gnosticism and sorcery is only for people with a vocation. It requires the student to take a stand against society, to face their fears and stand against the crowd in a secular society where spirituality is not highly regarded. The only spirituality that flourishes in mainstream societies such as America is the superficial spirituality of evangelists.
On membership, students and mentoring:
The OTOA and LCN have a very small capacity and are consequently selective in their membership. The aim is to create a smooth-running structure to facilitate the mentor relationships between student and teacher and to provide the best possible working environment; however, students must also display a suitable character to respond to such an opportunity to learn. The societies want people who work individually and have an experimental mind and approach (in particular applicable to the Fraternitas Borealis). It doesn’t provide a social group or environment like many other pagan groups. There is a focus on the individual and the burden of work falls on him or her.
Advice to students, the ‘Left-Hand Path’, sexual magick and esoteric love:
When asked what advice he would give to people interested in membership, DB said for the individual to question exactly what their motivation is in their involvement with occultism. What do they truly want? Materialistic powers? To overcome their outsider position in the society at large? Is it a vocation or supplemental to their life/a hobby? Their true motivations will soon be uncovered within the group. The would-be student must be ready to have his or her Self challenged and to break through boundaries. Lots of groups provide a sociological setting for people to have a devotional relationship with the divine where they can meet like-minded people and share in the odd ritual. People of the ‘Left-Hand Path’ (an inadequate and sorely abused term) need to challenge their own ideas, concepts and status quo constantly. They may need to do things they consider inappropriate, especially within the context of sexual magick. As a preliminary, they need to want to work with sexual energies and sexual magick in all forms in a way employed for spiritual advancement. If a person has some kind of extreme sexual tendency, such as masochism, they may have to act as a sadist in some contexts. The intention here is to break through the original framework and free the practitioner of such extreme constraints. If you work with sexual energies, you are also working on the liberation of self, without being dependant on an outside person (a Luciferian idea). In specific ritual contexts, the other person can act as a spark to ignite the inner fire of transformation. The risk here, however, is that the practitioner can confuse the other person with a full embodiment of the divine bride or groom.
The body is viewed as a temple, a tool to express the divine. Through experiences of the body, a person can experience the divine, and by employing the body in particular ways combined with a trained mind, it can lead to spiritual enlightenment. It is not about satisfying cravings for darker magick but about challenging what you think is proper for you. It is not an occult path that supports a person in maintaining the chimera of who they are at this moment – it strips that away and challenges it. The student must avoid interpreting things the way they want to, which is why the mentor relationship is so important, so he or she does not get stuck within their own prejudices and fantasies.
Myth conveys an esoteric reality; a form of collective memory clad in myth. The symbolism of myths communicates most to the cultural group it is closest too. Unlocking myths provides you with occult tools; such as Parsifal, the spiritual warrior, walking the Merciless Path, he sacrifices all to his cause. Myth provides us with a link to a living occult tradition; for example, the icon of Christ, the dying and resurrected man who through spiritual transformation obtained divine status. We must die to the profane self, crucify self on the cross of the elements and be resurrected in a higher self. In such an instance it is irrelevant whether Jesus was a historical figure or purely mythical, the message is still relevant against either premise.
On magick’s role in spirituality:
The spiritual journey per se is the path up the mountain; the magickal journey is the exploration of the mountain. Magick fulfils a searcher’s cravings for exploration and is a way to discover one’s own potential. Magickal work can support spiritual existence if employed as a supplement to spiritual development.
On the state of published occult knowledge today and pop culture:
Occult works are more prolific today as the fear of persecution has for the most part been removed. The question naturally exists as to what is authentic, and in particular with the use of the internet, one must consider the source.
The last 30 years of publishing have seen a plethora of poor quality material produced. New occult writers are bringing very little that is new to the circle, merely regurgitating the discoveries of the Old Guard. Nowadays fundamental research is missing, and people are instead looking for quick answers and quick-fixes. Superficiality is what glues people together today. There is no longer a desire for a Weltanschauung (a philosophical, conceptual understanding of the world at large), there is a greater desire for the “wild ride”, so occultism succeeds in popular culture as long as it is wild and interesting. People are a product of their society, a fact that infiltrates the occult community too. There must be a will to study and learn. The opportunities are there, but many don’t take advantage of them because they are comfortably ensconced in the society they live in; they neither have the capacity or the will to sit down and study properly. The purpose of true occult spirituality is to engage in a work that serves a higher purpose (which ultimately benefits the Self too). It cannot be approached as social group membership or in a consumer role with the wish to fulfil the aggrandisement of his or her ego.
On the future:
DB envisages a hope for the future where there is a chain of initiates who will carry on the work until the dark times of spiritual apathy are over, when a new consciousness will kick into action which will tear down the dualistic, exploitative and dehumanising structure we currently inhabit. The attainment of Kosmic consciousness for all of humanity will be sparked by this chain of initiates.
I know that most pagan writers are self-published or working through small publishing houses where budgets are tight. But why, oh why, oh why can’t they at least run a basic spell-check if they can’t afford a decent proofreader? Are people so arrogant that they don’t get a friend or colleague to read through their manuscript before going to print? Or are their friends so sycophantic, all they can say is marvellous, rather than, bloody hell, where did you learn to speak English?
I have read pagan books by Worthies in the past and really struggled with their phraseology and ‘typos’. This is a trend in publishing in general; the standard of proofreading has slipped considerably since the 1960s. Am I betraying an academic snobbery by thinking that people who are published should take pride in every aspect of their writing? I know when I worked at the bookshop that the same slovenliness applies to mainstream writers too. I received a proof copy of a novel by someone like Maeve Binchy or Patricia Cornwell (a woman writer at any rate). This proof had not passed the editorial bench yet, so I was reading it in the raw. I only managed 2 pages before throwing it on the pile to be pulped because the standard of writing was appalling. This writer MAY have come up with the original idea, but based on the writing, the future kudos for her work most definitely lay with the editor…
Last night I cracked open a new tome on witchcraft. I’m not going to mention names because his writing is typical of many. Apart from the spelling mistakes … and I really don’t believe they were all slips of the finger on a keyboard … his phraseology was so obtuse that I had to virtually do the ‘magic eye’ trick by unfocusing my brain and allowing my subconscious to filter the main words in a sentence and try and make sense of it that way. This book is a modern-day grimoire. It is a book leading the reader into some very dark aspects of magick. The writer warns the reader that he takes no responsibility for what happens to the practitioner working with this book. If he is so bloody concerned, shouldn’t he have at least done a spell check on his demon names and invocations??!! At best nothing will happen, at worst the practitioner will summon a demon as pernickety as me who will want to know why his sigil is wrong and his name mispronounced!! I am (as usual) writing with tongue firmly in cheek, BUT this is a serious point.
I have often felt compelled to offer my proofreading services to certain pagan authors. I am a qualified proofreader, and I would even do it for free as a matter of principle to raise the dross standard of pagan writing. How on earth can we expect to be taken seriously, if our literature – the very books we base so much of our learning on – is full of errors that even a mundane-minded 15-year old would spot. If writers are so lackadaisical as to allow basic grammar and spelling mistakes to pass (bear in mind, their readers are paying for this substandard shite), then I start to question the seriousness of their research and the magickal gnosis that they say they are imparting to me.
I identified one basic error of Egyptian mythology within the first couple of pages of the book I started last night, and now I feel that all the other information I am being fed, I will have to strain through a filter of research and double-checking. I am not a knowledgeable person, so if I can spot an error, how many others are stuck between the pages. And this is NOT about deliberate blinds, smoke-and-shadows, hiding the true gnosis from the initiated; this is about slovenly research and poor writing skills.
And don’t even get me started on books that contain statements like,
“[The author] … is (like me [the person writing the preface]) constantly in the company of beautiful women as any true Magister should be. What more proof of power need there be? Genuine power is sexy. Crap magicians do not get laid.”
Oh, puhleease pass me a barf-bag. Really.
© starofseshat 2008
Erich Fromm, in his book Psychoanalysis and Religion (specifically p. 24-38), speaks of the general compulsion in humanity to transcend the disharmony of living, to make sense of his condition. Because man is mind and body, he needs more than just a thought-system, and more than mere physical satisfaction.
The choice is therefore not IF religion but WHICH religion – any thought system that invokes a sense of devotion he considers a religion. Consequently he cites an unprecedented focus on one or both parents as a form of ancestor cult. Totemism is expressed in the exclusive devotion by a person to his state or political party. He gives an example of fascism or Stalinism to illustrate the religious vigour that people apply to this kind of “modern-day” Totemism.
The difference between such religious forms and a neurosis is that in a society where ancestor worship is accepted, the worshipper finds acceptance and understanding, he can share his thoughts and feelings. Otherwise he is isolated. This feeling of isolation is the sting to the neurosis!
Once a doctrine (however irrational) has been established in a society, people will rather believe it than feel ostracised and isolated (cf. the example of fascism and Stalinism).
Ideally monotheistic religion (as Fromm says) should protect man from falling back into regression, should protect man against ancestor, totem or idol worship (e.g. devotion to the power of the capitalist market – money and profit as idol form). This would be the case if religion managed to succeed in its stated ideals. But history has shown that religion capitulates to secular power again and again, concerned more with dogma than with practising ‘religious’ traits such as loving your fellow man.
Can we continue to trust religions to represent these ideals? Or should we start to separate religious needs from organised religion to prevent a further collapse of our moral structure?
Fromm distinguishes between two forms of religion (as a general concept):
authoritarian and humanistic religion.
Authoritarian religion is where the religious experience is based on the surrender to a power transcending man. The main virtue is obedience; the cardinal sin is disobedience. In contrast to the omnipotence of god, man is insignificant, weak and powerless. Submission to this overruling power is the way he escapes the feelings of isolation. Through surrender he loses independence and integrity as an individual, and feels protected and PART of the awe-inspiring power. Man is subject to experiencing self-loathing and a feeling of poverty of mind, grateful to be subsumed into the omniscient god-mind.
Humanistic religion is centred around man and his strength. Man should develop reason to understand and a relationship to his fellow men and the rest of the universe; he must find his place in the world. He must develop powers of love for himself and for others and experience solidarity with all living beings. This religious experience is the experience of oneness with All. The aim is strength not powerlessness; the virtue is self-realisation not obedience. Faith is certainty of conviction based on one’s experience of thought and feeling, not blind dogma taken on the pure merits of the person proposing the dogma. Here, God is a symbol of man’s own power which he tries to realise in life, not a symbol of force and domination with power OVER man.
These are two forms at opposite ends of the spectrum and yet they can exist within one religion at the same time.
On the surface of it we can see Christianity as an authoritarian religion, and surprisingly witchcraft as a humanistic one. I say surprisingly, not because I would have expected it to fall under an authoritarian structure, but because I did not think it had such an established moral structure as might be necessary to call it humanistic. That is based on my own misunderstandings. But another thing that these notes make clear to me, is where in my life there is still an old hangover from the authoritarian religion of my childhood. This split between authoritarian and humanistic has suddenly enabled me to draw some very clear lines and circles in myself. I can see now some of the things that have been holding back my spiritual progress – the lack of self-love, the doubt – these are things belonging to my past and to a religion I don’t hold any more. Yes, the two focal Christian (although originally and still Jewish) commands of Love the Lord your God (authoritarian), and Love your neighbour as your self (humanistic) are a combination of these two. Yet as Fromm points out major religions have consistently capitulated to secular power and sacrificed the humanistic aspect. I think in some ways I have been guilty of the same things in my life. How interesting that reading Fromm should confirm and reassert my humanistic path, and clear my head of the final vestiges of that authoritarian god-form: a step forward on my path as witch.
© starofseshat 2008
“The disharmony of man’s [sic] existence generates needs which far transcend those of his animal origin. These needs result in an imperative drive to restore a unity and equilibrium between himself and the rest of nature. He makes the attempt to restore this unity and equilibrium in the first place in thought by constructing an all-inclusive mental picture of the world which serves as a frame of reference from which he can derive an answer to the question of where he stands and what he ought to do. But such thought-systems are not sufficient. If man were only a disembodied intellect his aim would be achieved by a comprehensive thought-system. But since he is an entity endowed with a body as well as a mind he has to react to the dichotomy of his existence not only in thinking but also in the process of living, in his feelings and actions. He has to strive for the experience of unity and oneness in all spheres of his being in order to find a new equilibrium. Hence any satisfying system of orientation implies not only intellectual elements but elements of feeling and sense to be realised in action in all fields of human endeavour. Devotion to an aim, or an idea, of a power transcending man such as God, is an expression of this need for completeness in the process of living.”
Psychoanalysis and Religion, Erich Fromm (p.24; Yale 1961 edition)
I identify very much with this piece. It seems to express perfectly my ultimate aim: to transcend the disharmony of existence, to reach through the thought forms, grab hold of The Essence and pull it through every area of my life, so there is integrity and completeness. Unity, union, wholeness, completeness – between me and my Godhead source. Not through another, not by proxy, not piggy-backing off another’s strength, but walking my path in strength and gratitude to the friends who may walk for a time parallel with me.
© starofseshat 2008