Monday, 28 December 2009
Each year during the solstice New Year dreamtime I am acutely aware of the dissolution of the societal consensus co-ordinates and the outbreak of an archaic mythic consciousness, albeit one that the majority of its votaries are essentially unconscious of. One work has been primarily responsible for this perception which has helped me navigate the grossness of the popular culture christmas and connect to the primal pulse behind it. Here is an extract from my upcoming Avalonian Aeon that sings its praises, discusses the spring equinox Babylonian New Year festivities, makes a few suggestions about Glastonbury,and affirms that some forms of neurosis might eventually prove useful.
My contemplation of time was hugely stimulated in early 1982 by reading Mircea Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return. I have been strangely perturbed by time since I was a small child. I can first remember it in relation to the Batman movie in 1966, when I was seven. I used to watch the TV series and saw that a movie was in the offing. I thought that there was something weird about feeling that I would probably get to see the film and that would be in the future. When I was actually in the cinema it would be the present moment and then it would rapidly recede into the past. I tried to imagine looking back from months later, on this event that was still some way off, and feeling it as long gone and also remembering when I had first thought of the whole sequence. All the way through the run-in to seeing it, I kept returning to this pattern of thought. I eventually saw the film on a Thursday. From that point on, every subsequent Thursday for some time, I would stop to ponder that it was now one week since seeing Batman, two weeks, and so on up to about nine, before I dropped the whole thing.
There was something mysterious about time that I just couldn’t get my head round. Over the years I developed a lot of neurotic obsessive behaviour around dates and anniversaries. I used to note when I’d watched some rubbish movie on TV by circling the date on my calendar and then counting off weeks and months away from it. I can still remember to this day that I watched The Purple Mask, starring Tony Curtis, on November 23rd 1971. The apex of this derangement occurred in 1972. Walking to school, on March 24th, I noted some horse manure in the road. I idly wondered how long it would be before the passing of cars and the weather removed every last trace of it. I duly made a circle on my calendar and noted the gradual diminishment of the pile of poo. Miniscule amounts of it still remained there a year later. I realised I was undoubtedly the only person in the world who a) knew that there was a tiny amount of horse manure in a crack in the road, and b), had a record of the date it had been deposited. Fortunately I went into a kind of spontaneous remission after this event, perhaps unconsciously realising that to go any further in that kind of direction was not a good idea. Nonetheless, the general thing about time persisted.
In other respects this strange mental functioning did serve me well. By the age of ten I had got all of the main dates of the history of the two world wars indelibly memorised. The whole sequence of Hitler’s expansionist policies from the remilitarisation of the Rhineland through to the attack on Poland was quite clear to me and I found it totally bizarre that my father, who had fought in the Second World War, got confused over what had happened in what order. Round about the age of eleven, my mania for history was sidelined by a passion for football. I pored over Rothman’s Football Yearbook like it was an arcane scripture and used the data therein to reconstruct England teams from the 1890s. In 1972, the year of the centenary of the FA Cup competition, I had memorised the teams and scores of every single FA Cup Final. A lot has now faded but it’s surprising to me how much I still retain. I didn’t realise it at the time but all of this was providing me with invaluable intellectual foundations and a general emotional disposition in relation to information. It wasn’t just dull neurosis. I was passionate about my interests. I felt a strange contempt for people who were merely lukewarm about their lives.
With the reading of Eliade a great elation overcame me. I discovered other ways of experiencing time that seemed to validate at least some of my personal rituals surrounding it. It seems entirely natural to believe that time moves in a straight line, from the past, through the present, and into the future. This is the process of history. The Bible contains such a cosmology. There was a beginning of time, with God’s creation of the universe, and there will be an end of it. From Genesis to Revelation. Common sense appears to bear this out. Our bodies age in a clearly linear sequence. The path from infancy to old age and death seems obvious and apparently inescapable. The deeds of our long vanished ancestors are in the past. The days of Stonehenge and the pyramids are gone, never to return. There is, however, a significant part of the life of the world that is repetitive. On this planet we have the cycles of day and night, the returning seasons, the movements of heavenly bodies in the sky. Nature appears to teach that what disappears will return. And there are many people, even in modern technological societies, who have strong experiences suggesting that they may have lived before this life, that something of them is eternal.
Western civilisation, with its servant science, has been so successful, has demonstrated so many tangible results, that other ways of experiencing time and history have been all but forgotten. Pre-industrial traditional societies often demonstrate a profoundly different worldview. “Neither the objects of the external world nor human acts, properly speaking, have any autonomous intrinsic value. Objects or acts acquire a value, and in so doing become real, because they participate, after one fashion or another, in a reality that transcends them.” That greater reality consists of the deeds of deities and mythic ancestors, which represent the blueprint for all subsequent actions in a culture. “In the particulars of his conscious behaviour, the “primitive”, the archaic man, acknowledges no act which has not been previously posited and lived by someone else, some other being who was not a man. What he does has been done before. His life is the ceaseless repetition of gestures initiated by others.”
Construction rituals recreated the cosmogonic act. An archetypal model was imitated. Sacred centres in tribal lands establish divine harmony by bringing down to the earth the celestial perfection. Locations in Egypt, Sumeria, and central Asia were supposedly mapped out firstly in the sky, and then brought to earth. Settlement in new, unknown, uncultivated territory was equivalent to the divine act of creation. Chaos was transmuted into cosmos. “Man constructs according to an archetype. Not only do his city or his temple have celestial models; the same is true of the entire region that he inhabits, with the rivers that water it, the fields that give him his food etc. The map of Babylon shows the city at the center of a vast circular territory bordered by a river, precisely as the Sumerians envisioned Paradise. This participation by urban cultures in an archetypal model is what gives them their reality and their validity.”
A large section of the book deals with the topic of the regeneration of time. Every culture has had a concept of the end and beginning of a temporal period and ways of acknowledging it. Many are profoundly different to what we are now used to. Traditional cultures have periodic ceremonials for the annual expulsion of demons, disease and sins, amidst rituals for the days on either side of the New Year. The expulsions are part of a process that literally abolishes the past. There is an “attempt to restore, at least momentarily, mythical and primordial time, “pure” time, the time of the instant of the creation.” Every New Year is a resumption of time from the beginning, that is, a repetition of the cosmogony.
The clearest examples of all this come from Babylon. Their New Year ceremonials, known as the Akitu, seem to have kept a basic form that dates from the earliest Sumerian times. They therefore represent the earliest “historical” civilisation. The Akitu lasted twelve days. During this time the creation story, the Enuma Elish was repeatedly recited in a Temple of Marduk. He had become the principal Babylonian deity. It was said that the creation of the world and the human race had come about as a result of his combat with a primordial water serpent of chaos named Tiamat, who he had slain and then dismembered, using her severed pieces to make earth and heaven. (Devotees of the Goddess may feel that Tiamat has been unfairly treated. She was originally conceived of as a womb of creation, an essentially benevolent force. The Marduk story could be taken as an example of patriarchal forms violently supplanting an older matriarchal culture.) Actors mimed the epic saga. The most important point is that they weren’t just commemorating the events in the creation drama, they were repeating, actualising the cosmogonic passage from chaos to cosmos. “The mythical event was present: “May he continue to conquer Tiamat and shorten her days!” the celebrant exclaimed. The combat, the victory, and the Creation took place at that very moment.”
Marduk and Tiamat
The Akitu also contained a festival of fates known as the Zagmuk. Omens for each of the twelve months of the coming year were determined. In effect this helped to create the year. It was “a period of chaos when all modalities coincide”. All of the normal conventions of social behaviour were dissolved. The dead were allowed to return. There were orgies, the reversal of social roles (slaves as masters etc), feasting, “a reversion of all forms to indeterminate unity,” “a repetition of the mythical moment of the passage from chaos to cosmos”.
The king embodied divinity on earth. He was responsible for the regularity of the rhythms of nature. In the New Year ceremonials he had the duty of regenerating time. It all concluded when he ascended a ziggurat step pyramid to a temple on its summit. Here he engaged in a rite of sexual union with a sacred hierodule priestess who embodied the Goddess. In this it could at least be seen that something of the significance of the Goddess remained. Here was a tangible acting out of the rebirth of the world and humanity.
Similar conceptions of time are present throughout the ancient world. They can be found, in varying degrees, in Vedic India, early Rome, Germanic tribes and amongst the Egyptians. I have a very strong sense that our Christmas and New Year festivities contain many survivals of the archaic mentality. In the rites of mistletoe and the office party, in the feasting and drunkenness and auld lang syne, were the modern forms of the Akitu. Quite clearly they served profound human needs. There seemed to be a cyclical sense of dissolution and regeneration in all this. The psychology of the New Year’s resolution speaks clearly of it. A new year carries something of the feeling of the possibility of an abolition of the past and a genuine new beginning. I had some knowledge of the origins of much of the Christmas mythology, the presence of Roman and Norse elements, the case for Father Christmas as a kind of shamanic figure, and so on. I was aware that it was the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice that was the undoubted centre of gravity of the proceedings, and that the early Christians had wisely opted to utilise the date for their own purposes. Eliade’s exposition of the complete mind-set behind such events expanded my understanding immensely.
I seemed to be thinking and feeling like an ancient Babylonian. I’d had a weird sense since childhood that the past cannot really be completely gone and that something of the nature of anniversaries means that the events they commemorate are somehow present. My bizarre obsessive behaviour around time was an attempt, however unconscious and distorted, to express this. I felt that Eliade validated my weird experiments with time and this encouraged me still further.
I also learned that the Persians had a kind of second New Year’s Day in mid-summer. It was known as the Mihragan and was dedicated to Mithra. They felt this period was a sign of the end of the world. The big sprout had reached its maximum expansion and had no further capacity for growth. The scorching summer heat was a kind of destruction of the world by fire and return to chaos. This elemental dissolution can be placed alongside the water deluge theme that was present in Babylon and amongst the Hebrews.
This led me to ponder upon my personal summer solstice mythos and what the pilgrimage to the West Country had come to mean for me. I realised that many of the motifs from the Babylonian Akitu were present in my Glastonbury experiences. Christmas and New Year are powerfully noticeable in our society because most of the culture participates in some way. The summer solstice was, for some, becoming an equally significant time. For me it always seemed to be a focus for transitional events of renewal and regeneration. Being a student was a contributory factor, as the academic year ended round about then. My festival experiences had certainly been “a period of chaos when all modalities coincide” and “a reversion of all forms to indeterminate unity”. Time had been dissolved. Solstice dawn was some kind of eternal now, a moment in the dreamtime. The normal forms of consensus reality ceased functioning. There was most certainly great intoxication. I already realised that I probably felt all of this more strongly than most. I knew I was evolving a personal mythos. Once again my understanding of Eliade encouraged me to feel that I was gradually revealing some knowledge or intuitive understanding that was already present in me and was entirely in sympathy with the worldview of the ancients.
Looking at Glastonbury with the eyes of Eliade was very useful to me as well. The zodiac on the landscape had been allegedly created by Sumero-Babylonians. I contemplated the ideas concerning mapping out a celestial archetype of perfection on a new territory, of acting out the cosmogonic process from chaos to cosmos. It was easy to think of prehistoric Somerset as a series of hills arising out of primordial waters of creation in the manner of some ancient myth. The emergence of this land, subtly imbued with the very shapes of the laws of heaven, was an idea that was intoxicating to contemplate. The terraced Tor could evoke the image of a ziggurat. It was an obvious sacred centre. And this zodiac was perhaps the generator of our subsequent national mythos. The Arthurian Grail stories, with their call to vision quest, could easily be seen as examples of Eliade’s theme of the imitation of mythic figures whose deeds form the exemplary eternal models of perfection for human behaviour. If the zodiac was pure fantasy, the mysteries of the Abbey remained to suggest the bringing down of heavenly archetypes of perfection to earth. The geometry of its grid plan represented the dimensions of the New Jerusalem. Or at least there were those who believed it did. I had most definitely decided to allow myself to follow that train of thought as far as it could possibly lead me.
Eliade gave me the phenomenological tools to place the Glastonbury mythos in an expanded context through comparative data. It was not in any way diminished by this analysis. I became still further convinced that a living authentic mythical reality was accessible there. I was confident that the more I studied the religions of the world and allowed them to mutate my everyday life, the more I learned to think in other categories, the greater chance there would be for the mystery to reveal itself to me.
Coming in 2010.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
In commemoration of the anniversary of the death of Aleister Crowley, here is a short piece that tells the remarkable little-known story behind the publication by Earth Mysteries Press of his funeral service, known as The Last Ritual, in 1989.
The basic story is self-contained but also an extract from my work in progress Avalonian Aeon and thereby contains references to other material that I have deliberately left to serve as a teaser for the bigger work.
It is worth briefly stating that the Green Stone referred to in the text was the centre of what may well be the greatest paranormal drama played out in Britain during the twentieth century. It involved a psychic quest for a talismanic jewel, full of magical power, dating from the time of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, that was passed down through the ages through an illustrious chain until being buried at the time of the Gunpowder Plot and then rediscovered in 1979. I was fortunate to be involved in the extension of that story, the quest for the Seven Swords of Meonia, later recounted by Andrew Collins.
Crowley played an enigmatic role at certain points throughout the proceedings that my Avalonian Aeon will feature in greater detail than previous versions. Here then is the section on Perdurabo enduring beyond the end.
“Alas the Master; so he sinks in death.
But whoso knows the mystery of man
Sees life and death as curves of the same plan.”
Barely had 1989 begun when an amazing story set my head on fire. Whilst I’d been moving towards my Glastonbury Qabalah, events had been occurring in Egypt that were outrageous and enigmatic in the extreme. It had begun when Earth Mysteries researchers Paul Devereux, his wife Charla, John Merron, and Sue Boyd-Lees had bought a house in Brecon to serve as a base to run courses and organise excursions. A cruise journey to Egypt was arranged to check out some of the prime locations. A number of unusual and interesting people soon booked up. Marion and Gaynor Sunderland were going. It was decided to take the Green Stone along. Caroline Wise was also involved.
Shortly before departure, the Devereuxs were presented with a strange discovery. Near to their new home was a house where the Ley Hunter magazine was published. During renovations, its owner had found a long discarded shoebox in the attic. He felt that the contents might be of interest to them, although he didn’t really know what they were. Caroline Wise certainly knew. It contained the original material for Aleister Crowley’s funeral service, known as the Last Ritual, previously believed to be lost. There were uncorrected proofs, with corrections by Lady Frieda Harris in pencil, not set in type. There was copperplate artwork by her as well. When later photocopied, the otherwise invisible word “hypnos” could be seen upon it. It was a remarkable discovery in any circumstances. Being on the verge of a trip to Egypt, scene of Crowley’s greatest revelation, rendered it all the more unusual.
Caroline felt it would be good to acknowledge the magical strangeness of the situation. Part of the tour itinerary included a dawn meditation at the Great Pyramid. She suggested reading some of the funeral rite aloud there. The Giza plateau is a supreme necropolis. It would be on November 1st, a time in the western magical calendar very much considered to be a feast of the dead. Her plan was accepted. The journey began.
In Egypt, during the underworld hours prior to the November 1st dawn, Caroline dreamt of Anubis. In the form of a human body with a jackal head, he lay on a slab in a black chamber. He sat up, seeming as if ready to speak. Before any words could be heard, an alarm clock broke the dream. A later check revealed that her partner of the time, back in England, had exactly the same dream that night.
The group assembled under the gaze of armed guards. Special permission had been obtained to be present on the Giza plateau. It was one of those periodic times when the place is off-limits to tourists for various reasons. About thirty people sat down in a horseshoe shape directly in front of the Great Pyramid. They tried to best cultivate a meditational space by closing their eyes and relaxing.
Paul Devereux began to read from the last rite, from Crowley’s Hymn to Pan.
“Thrill with lissome lust of the light,
O man! My man!
Come careering out of the night
Of Pan! Io Pan!”
Caroline felt the urge to open her eyes. Her attention was immediately drawn to the striking sight of a group of jackals that appeared around the lower levels of the stepped edifice. They scampered around and then one picked it’s way up a little further, until taking up a sitting position right in the centre of the triangular facade. This was more than a bit odd. Something then made her look upwards at the apex of the pyramid. A figure was sitting there. It was Aleister Crowley. He was wearing a turban and a red and white striped pyjama number, similar to an outfit he was famously photographed in. He sat with arms folded out in front of him, slowly rocking from side to side. Despite the great height and distance he was clearly visible, and therefore somehow of giant proportions. Caroline later described the apparition as “inhabiting space in a strange way”. The vision was not just a brief flash. It seemed to last for a few minutes at least. The experience was strangely neutral. One part of Caroline’s mind calmly registered that she was seeing Aleister Crowley sitting atop the Great Pyramid but there were no feelings of surprise, curiosity, amazement, fear or exhilaration.
John Merron had seen the jackals as well. As the reading commenced, he saw two of them climbing the pyramid to also take up a central position, as if guardians of a portal. He likewise found his attention moving upwards to see Crowley in the same Arabic clothing. To John though, he was standing and strangely gesticulating, as if engaged in some mysterious ceremonial summoning. Both Caroline and John briefly looked away and then Crowley was gone. The Devereuxs had seen something of the figure as well and readily identified it as Crowley. One group member who had chosen to stand apart from the meditation saw a flash of blue white light behind one of the other pyramids at the time of the reading. The rest of those seated on the ground, including “professional meditaters” from California had not felt the urge to open their eyes and missed the astounding manifestation.
A few months previously I’d pondered the saga of Helen and the Beast. Crowley had a role in the Green Stone story. It had seemed to be a negative one. I didn’t totally believe that. Almost a decade after those events he had manifested again, in the immediate proximity of the stone, and there had been nothing malevolent about him. Nobody cross-referenced dates at the time but I later found what I took to be significant correlations. The funeral material had been discovered on October 15th. Andy wasn’t aware of this, but he spent the following week going over old events in detail, as he prepared his booklet prior to delivering his lecture at the Thelemic Conference on October 22nd. The group left for Egypt on the 24th. Crowley appeared on November 1st. This was the same date that Andy had been instructed to be at the Abbey of Thelema in 1979. I was sure that Andy’s renewed interest in the Helen story was not separate from something that was building up and had also expressed itself in Cairo. Something told me I was being drawn into all this for a good reason. I trusted the process completely. It would be nine years later, in the 93rd year of the Thelemic epoch, at Glastonbury, before I finally understood.
Coming in 2010.
And, by way of conclusion, some poetry from the end of Crowley’s life in 1946. My thanks to Robert Coon for pointing me in its direction.
Out of the night forth flamed a star – mine own!
Now seventy light-years nearer as I urge
Constant mine heart through the abyss unknown,
Its glory my sole guide while spaces surge
About me. Seventy light-years! As I near
That gate of light that men call death, its cold
Pale gleam begins to pulse, a throbbing sphere,
Systole and diastole of eager gold,
New life immortal, warmth of passion bleed
Till night’s black velvet turn to crimson. Hark!
It is thy voice, Thy word, the secret seed
Of rapture that admonishes the dark.
Swift! By necessity most righteous drawn,
Hermes, authentic augur of the dawn!
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Greetings from Glastonbury and the transmission of the Avalonian Aeon.
Here are a series of extracts from my upcoming Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus that serve as a mood-setter and kind of movie trailer. Some of these sections are separated by lots of material in the book and have featured in blogs before but they hang together quite well as a policy statement. They feature the three main characters in my narrative: Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, and Timothy Leary. Those who find this mix to their liking may care to investigate the blog further and perhaps look out for the book when it is published on Dec 5th
This is the information age. We have access to more data in a shorter space of time than could ever have been imagined even a few decades ago. That still leaves us with the issue of what we choose to look for and why. Kids leave school today without being able to recount any details of Auschwitz or Hiroshima. A teenager asked for a response after seeing Schindler’s List at the cinema derided it as boring. Nothing really happened in it. The passion, intensity, and brilliance of popular music in the sixties have become all but unknown to new generations. There are hippy kids in Glastonbury with hardly any real knowledge or interest in the sixties upheaval. On one level, I can’t understand that at all. On another, seen from the perspective of the idea of Gurdjieff’s sleepwalking humanity and James Joyce’s nightmare of history from which we need to awaken, the Gnostic prison of the Matrix, I can.
As far as I’m concerned this whole thing, the twentieth century, with it’s Nazi and psychedelic eras, this time that Crowley has called the dawning of the Aeon of Horus is so mind shatteringly heart-bustingly compellingly interesting and important that at times I feel like I’m straining with every nerve to take on board every last nuance in order to maintain the altered state of gnosis necessary to comprehend it. In that comprehension is ecstasy and terror, ‘the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star’.
I’m walking through Cairo Museum in a culmination of a thirty year journey. A loud multi-national hubbub of noise throbs around the enormous high-ceilinged interior as a great tumult of life bustles everywhere around me. Egyptian guides compete to make themselves heard, instructing international groups clustered by the mind-shattering exhibits whose imagery has so deeply permeated western consciousness. Arab art students sit in groups on the floor, girls in Muslim headscarves, guys in western attire, chatting, laughing, comparing pictures on their mobile phones, whilst sketching assorted antiquities. The backdrop of sound blends with synthesiser droning, wind, thunder, tambura, tablas, chanting, and twelve-string electric guitar coming from my headphones. I’ve started to notice something. Amidst all of this movement the artefacts of Ancient Khem convey a profound stillness.
Moving slowly, savouring every moment, past huge stone figures, up the stairs to the second floor, I’m coming into the vicinity of the most famous archaeological find in the world. An ever denser tumult gathers around the exquisite death mask of Tutankhamun and I will certainly be joining them. I have far greater preparation to appreciate its beauty than when I last saw it as a schoolboy at the British Museum in 1972. I haven’t come just to see the boy king though.
My main reason for being here is a noon appointment marking the anniversary of a perplexing event. It’s with another nearby item that receives far less attention. Large elliptical and rectangular openings on the second floor look down upon the first. Pillars support a balcony walkway which in turn has arched entrances to smaller enclaves. Section 23 is flanked by large figures of the goddesses Isis and Nephthys, standing with arms outstretched, in glass cases. Passing through between them, and looking immediately to my right, in the fourth level of a cabinet full of wood and stucco funerary stele, I see for the first time the object of my quest: exhibit 9422 commemorating Ankh af na Khonsu, an obscure twenty-sixth dynasty priest.
Photo by Andrew Collins. Enhanced by Sue Collins. Taken in April 1997. Year 93.
The stele measures 51.5 by 31 cm. A card from its previous home in the now defunct Boulak Museum numbered 666 gives a hint of why I am here. More brightly colourful than its companion pieces and of more accomplished artistry, it attracts some of the young people to sit in front of it and draw. A plaque on the wall labels the room’s contents as New Empire Funerary Furniture. Panning back out and around from my initial focus on the stele I now notice some of the other items displayed. There’s a cabinet full of wooden hawks, another full of haunting golden-faced busts with nemyss headdresses, all manner of different sized figures, such as dog-headed Anubis, that, in combination with the ebb and flow of synthesiser drones and deep surging sounds that could be mellotron cellos, help to create an outstanding ambiance.
There’s a sound from my headphones now like an extended rumble of thunder from what one commentator likened to a storm in the desert at dawn as I listen to the conclusion to the twenty minutes of music Jimmy Page composed for occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising. I feel fortunate to have finally tracked down a bootleg recording of this legendary piece and that a musician friend was able to clean it up in his studio. It has assisted superbly in setting the necessary mood, also giving me a further sense of full-circle as it was Page’s interests that helped begin this journey for me decades ago as well.
There’s a little red book in my pocket and it’s not the Thoughts of Chairman Mao. I take it out as noon approaches. The Book of the Law is supposed to be a text dictated by a non-human intelligence announcing the onset of a new era. The stele was of central importance in its creation, Ankh af na Khonsu being an alleged past-life of its twentieth century scribe, the legendary Aleister Crowley.
Holding my book cover image by the Stele. April 10th 2009.
It began to dawn on me that history felt like a mighty weird affair. I read top historians and took on board arguments for economic, sociological, and technological determinants but for all the growing mass of data and ideas that filled my head something that felt like it ought to be cohering wasn’t. Yes, if you look at what was happening in Germany following their defeat in the First World War, their treatment by the Allies with the Treaty of Versailles and the economic troubles of the twenties, a resurgence of an aggressive nationalism seemed inevitable. That doesn’t account for the strangeness and severity of form it took.
With the sixties, it is possible to point to a number of economic and technological factors that made the emergence of some sort of youth culture highly likely. That doesn’t really explain why it turned out to be such an outrageous party. The drugs certainly made a difference but they simply can’t bestow talent on mediocrities. How remarkable that as Hitler, Himmler, and their associates reached the climax of their endeavours at Stalingrad and Auschwitz, so the grouping that included John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger, were coming into incarnation.
It seemed to me that the main players of the Nazi nightmare and the swinging sixties were rather specialised groups. They were uniquely over-qualified for the situations that they were born into. The group of characters who were available to take the whole thing to the limit and beyond seem to have been assembled by a brilliant casting agency. The usual ways of looking at history didn’t satisfactorily explain to me why it all turned out to be quite so hideous, quite so ridiculously brilliant. I felt there was a deeper mystery trying to reveal itself.
In some brief fragments on Gnosticism included in Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword Parsons wrote that ‘The Holy Ghost is the feminine counterpart of Christ – the Sophia. God is manifest in the union of Christ and Sophia.’ ‘Let us celebrate in singing and in dancing, in friendship and in lovemaking, and in all manner of joyous and bountiful and beautiful things that are fitting to the love and worship of God, who made all things. Let us put away fear and envy and hatred and intolerance and all thought of guilt and sin out of our hearts, that we may worthily celebrate our brotherhood in joy and love. In the name of Christ, that is the Son of God, and of Sophia, that is the Daughter of God, and of their union that is God, Amen.’ ‘Formal Christianity has distorted, perverted, and misinterpreted the teachings of Christ. Mankind can only find happiness by rejecting the false doctrines of sin, guilt, fear, hatred and intolerance: and in accepting the gospels of Love.’
From the London Times Oct 5th 1969.
It is in the context of such sensibilities that Parsons Antichrist material must be assessed. Much has been made of him deliberately taking on the role and vowing to spread the Law of Thelema throughout the world in the name of the Beast 666. Despite Israel and Chorazin and a general Revelation ambiance we’re not talking about an Omen movie here. A brief sample of his Manifesto of the Antichrist may hopefully restore some perspective.
‘An end to the pretence, and lying hypocrisy of Christianity.
An end to the servile virtues, and superstitious restrictions.
An end to the slave morality.
An end to prudery and shame, to guilt and sin, for these are of the only evil under the sun, that is fear.
An end to all authority that is not based on courage and manhood, to the authority of lying priests, conniving judges, blackmailing police, and
An end to the servile flattery and cajolery of mobs, the coronations of mediocrities, the ascension of dolts.
An end to conscription, compulsion, regimentation, and the tyranny of false laws.’
‘I will put a live coal upon your lips, and flowers upon your eyes, and a sword in your hearts, and ye also shall see God face to face. Thus shall we give back its youth to the world, for like tongues of triple flame we shall look upon the Great Deep - Hail unto the Lords of the groves of Eleusis!’
Aleister Crowley. Rites of Eleusis.
‘No we will not forget who we are
Our wild souls still beat
Our muscles strain against the bonds
When tides of ancient energy surge within
We sit trembling in our cages
It is hard for the proud wild to be captive
We will not forget who we are
We pray that you, beloved, do not forget who we are.’
Timothy Leary. Prison 1970.
The fervour of those times may seem difficult to comprehend. A few factors are crucial to understanding. First of all, in case anyone hasn’t heard, LSD is an extremely powerful substance mindwise. To experience it just after the drab fifties was a bit of a shock to the system to say the least. Those who were a tad disturbed by 9/11 would do well to ponder the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. This was the most intense episode of the Cold War. It might just have been the most intense episode not just of the Cold War but the whole of recorded history in as much as a nuclear war was genuinely an imminent strong possibility. Short version: Russia started setting up nuclear missile bases on Cuba within close first strike proximity to the USA whilst stating that they were doing no such thing. America found out and said stop doing that or there will be trouble. An invasion of Cuba and nuclear strike on Russia were seriously planned for. Bombers were loaded and ready to go. For a few weeks global stress levels rose to unprecedented highs. A deal was struck and the missiles removed.
It was as if the enormous collective alchemy stirring since 1945 was reaching a crucial transformative stage. Just over a year later Kennedy was killed as Huxley exited on LSD. Some of the early acid heads felt that LSD and the Bomb were like a kind of yin and yang of the new epoch that needed to be balanced out. Was there some kind of mysterious timing that had revealed such power in the realms of the sub-atomic and the energy field of consciousness all but simultaneously? The world had nearly destroyed itself, the divine king of Camelot (as Kennedy’s presidency came to be known) had been sacrificed. Unless the world caught up in the inner wisdom game very rapidly the final catastrophe could be horribly near. War mongering madmen riddled with Reich’s emotional plague, armoured against the free flow of love and sexuality, ruled the world. Give them some acid and chuck them in a pool full of dolphins and they might just sort it all out. They would probably be at least a bit less inclined to want to kill each other.
I can forgive Timothy Leary his grandiloquence in trying to save the world with LSD. I will cut him some slack for what in hindsight was irresponsibility in encouraging a generation to drop out and thereby facilitating a westward flow of innocents like some children’s crusade that would soon overwhelm the Haight-Ashbury scene and be exploited, abused, and leave some very real human tragedies in its wake. The clinical pre-requisites for a good trip of set and setting would not always be available for some of these unfortunates. We shall examine the more gruesome outcomes of that shortly. In the sixties the sense of how far it was possible to take something dissolved. The space race was the best indicator of that. Huge developments in the history of the human race were occurring in rapid succession. The sky was no longer the limit. If we can put a man on the moon within a decade of deciding we want to do it who says we can’t transform the consciousness of humanity in a similar period of time? Such was the incredible spirit of the age.
Artwork by Adam Scott Miller.
I would like to think my book could serve as a fine christmas present/read.
Artwork by Gwendolyn Xalvadora.
Available from Dec 5th
Monday, 16 November 2009
My 2 year project is complete.
Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus will be available by Sat 5th December.
Its initial launch will be in the evening of the next day (Sun 6th)in Labyrinth Books, Glastonbury High Street between 6.30 and 8.30.
This event commemorates the centenary of the magickal peak of Crowley's career, the legendary desert ceremony invoking the guardian of the threshold of the abyss, Choronzon, a story that is featured extensively in my work.
A further London function will happen in January. Details to follow.
The book has nearly 400 pages and will sell at £13.99
From the back cover
ALEISTER CROWLEY AND THE AEON OF HORUS
Is another historical and cultural esoteric extravaganza from Paul Weston.
An Aeon of Horus primer: from the Nazis to the atom bomb, LSD, and UFOlogy.
Beyond the legend of infamy:
Aleister Crowley the occult superstar, yogi, mountaineer, junkie, sexual adventurer, and mystical poet, the supreme prophet of the modern world?
Jack Parsons, L Ron Hubbard, Marjorie Cameron, JFC Fuller, Hitler, Jacques Vallee, Charles Manson, Timothy Leary, Guido von List, Meade Layne, Robert Anton Wilson, Phillip K Dick, Gerald Gardner, Rudolf Hess,HP Lovecraft, Rudolf Steiner, George Hunt Williamson, Anton Szandor LaVey, Wilhelm Reich, Gurdjieff, the Beatles, Robert Graves, George Van Tassell, Kenneth Grant, Alex Sanders, William Dudley Pelley, CG Jung, Kenneth Anger, Aldous Huxley, John Keel.
Dealing with diverse and extraordinary subjects:
Babalon Working, Sirius Mystery, Stele of Revealing, psychedelic sixties, Church of Satan, Process Church of the Final Judgement, rebirth of Witchcraft, Manson murders, Thule, orgone energy, Abraxas, Mothman, Illuminati, Men in Black, Gnostic revival, Nazi Occultism, Montauk, Loch Ness monster, Necronomicon, the psychology, magick, and mysticism of Thelema, the crossing of the abyss, secret ciphers, Extra-Terrestrial Gnosis.
Stele of Revealing. Photo by Andrew Collins
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
I am currently giving considerable attention to completing my Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus and hope to have it available before christmas but felt I should acknowledge the season by posting a short piece from a section in the book on the rebirth of witchcraft. Some of this, particularly the Parsons quotes,was actually written on the night of Halloween last year when a loud party in the house next door kept me awake and I decided to make the most of it. In fact I deliberately began writing down the words from the Book of Babalon at exactly midnight. It is essential to enjoy and find spontaneous magick in the creative process.
‘And she shall wander in the witchwood under the Night of Pan, and know the mysteries of the Goat and the Serpent, and of the children that are hidden away.’ ‘Gather together in the covens as of old’. ‘Gather together in public, in song and dance and festival. Gather together in secret, be naked and shameless and rejoice in my name.’ ‘The work of the image, and the potion and the charm, the work of the spider and the snake, and the little ones that go in the dark, this is your work.’ ‘This is the way of it, star, star. Burning bright, moon, witch moon.’ ‘You the secret, the outcast, the accursed and despised, even you that gathered privily of old in my rites under the moon.’ ‘You the free, the wild, the untamed, that walk now alone and forlorn.’
Liber 49. The Book of Babalon.
‘We are the Witchcraft. We are the oldest organisation in the world. When man was born, we were. We sang the first cradle song. We healed the first wound, we comforted the first terror. We were the Guardians against the Darkness, the Helpers on the Left Hand Side.’
Jack Parsons. The Witchcraft.
The Book of Babalon dates from 1946. It is remarkable how much it carries a very strong feeling of what later became known as Wicca. The question is whether there are any direct connections or if it is a case of Jack Parsons being prophetically in tune with something that expressed itself similarly and all-but simultaneously through other people as well? Alongside his Gnostic leanings, Parsons had a passion for the idea of witchcraft. Towards the end of his life he was very keen to try and instigate a revival of the old paganism and set up a group he called “the witchcraft”. His basic policy statement from his writings on the subject has a familiar tone.
‘We are on the side of man, of life, and of the individual. Therefore we are against religion, morality and government. Therefore our name is Lucifer. We are on the side of freedom, of love, of joy and laughter and divine drunkenness. Therefore our name is Babalon.’
Although there is no direct evidence that Jack Parsons was familiar with Aradia a few motifs in his work are strongly suggestive of its influence. Firstly there is Lucifer as god of the witches. A number of contemporary Wiccans prefer to avoid this topic as it brings in the possibility of a Biblical ambiance that might not take too much development to bring in Satan and the whole Burning Times mythological package they are trying to erase. Others have eloquently defended what could be termed the Luciferian gnosis and affirmed it to be a thing of beauty that no fundamentalist Christian could ever understand. It is now more generally accepted as part of the greater Wiccan mythology that Luciferic covens have long been part of the scene.
Liber 49 also seems to echo Aradia with an instruction for the would-be witch to ‘Be naked and shameless’ .One of many excellent phrases that Gerald Gardner assembled and passed into general Wiccan use is sky clad, meaning nude. His groups assembled thus. Later critics have pointed to his predilection for Naturism as an indication that he used Aradia as justification for bringing his personal tastes into what was simply a cult of his own invention. Regardless of whether that point is fundamentally accurate or not the practice has a history that sits very well with what one could term Wiccan mythology.
Throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, groups of Christian heretics appeared who decided to emulate Adam and Eve before the fall and live naked. Across the planet numerous sects have done likewise or at least gathered temporarily in such a manner.
Their intentions have much in common if we can accept the theories of Mircea Eliade. All of these nudists were seeking a return to an imagined primordial paradisiacal state before a fall into history began. If we look at Gardner’s witches they were hoping to partake of something as old as the Stone Age, something from the very dawn of humanity, a time of a purity and oneness with nature that has since been lost. That state could be regained. Parsons may well have been similarly motivated.
German mystic nudists celebrate the 1926 summer solstice.
Modern Wicca has often tried to get away from the popular mythology of witches as practitioners of malevolent sorcery. This was what led to the murderous persecutions and it’s understandable that modern adherents want to rehabilitate the archetype. There’s no getting away from the basic theme of spells and magical battles and suchlike throughout witchlore. A big difference between Jack Parsons and the adherents of Murray and Gardner is that the Thelemic wildman was fascinated by phenomenon of manifestation that would scare the crap out of most people, and above all, the image of witch woman as being attractive in proportion to her potential dangerousness.
Parsons concept of Babalon was significantly advanced by his reading of Jack Williamson’s novel of lycanthropy and witchcraft, Darker Than You Think. The lead character is enthralled by a red-headed, green-eyed witch named April Bell who he soon discovers is guilty of sorcerous murder which does nothing to diminish her attraction. There is a memorable scene that was depicted with pulp-art finesse on the cover of early editions where the hero has transformed into a sabre-toothed tiger and the witch-woman rides naked on his back. This is very reminiscent of Crowley’s Babalon (with which the author was unfamiliar).
Gerald Gardner made his largely undocumented trip to America in 1947. He had just been initiated into the OTO and there was only really one functioning group there at the time. There is a possibility that he may have met with members of the Agape Lodge, even Parsons himself. A number of internet sources state this as if it was an established fact. It isn’t. Parsons had been expelled from the OTO and was out of favour with Crowley by then. He was still in contact with some of his old associates but wouldn’t have been an obvious person for Gardner to seek out.
The American occultist Allen Greenfield, who we will meet again in a UFOlogical context, took an interest in the Jack Parsons aspect of the mystery. He corresponded with Doreen Valiente who was well aware of Liber 49 and Parsons specific witchcraft writing. She acknowledged the striking similarities with what was brewing in Britain and wondered if there had been more direct connections. The problem is that we can find no clear quotes from Parsons in Gardner or indeed any mention of him in extant personal material. A direct meeting between Parsons and Gardner has to remain as no more than an excellent occult rumour. The nudity theme may well be another indication of powerful ideas that were in the airwaves then. Parsons deserves to be noted as a prophetic figure is this context and the rebirth of witchcraft to be a phenomenon influenced by tangential ripples from the Babalon Working.
Monday, 12 October 2009
Leon Kennedy's portrait.
On this date, in 1875, Aleister Crowley was born. To commemorate that I am posting part of the introductory sections from my upcoming Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus in greater detail than previously available. Although it serves as a scene setter (and hopefully appetite wetter here), I think the piece works on its own as an initial defence of Crowley against his critics and indicator of what an extraordinary and fascinating man he was.
After the text, what I consider to be a bonus, the recent performance by Marc Almond of Tango Song, actually written by Crowley himself and never recorded before.
THE ENIGMA: BEYOND THE LEGEND OF INFAMY
“What Einstein did for physics and Joyce for the novel (and Picasso for painting, and Pound for poetry, and Wright for architecture), Crowley did for the mystic tradition.”
Robert Anton Wilson. Introduction to Israel Regardie The Eye in the Triangle.
I believe that Aleister Crowley was the most comprehensive prophet of the twentieth century in all of its diverse, ecstatic, terrifying glory. There are immediate problems in trying to understand why that might be the case.
Crowley has accrued around himself a remarkable legend of infamy. In the nineteen-twenties, during his lifetime, the British press described him as the “wickedest man in the world.” “A man we’d like to hang.” Here was the King of Depravity. A bisexual drug addict who practised the worst forms of black magic. Since his death the reputation has expanded still further until it’s easy to find accounts describing him as a practitioner of human sacrifice.
One particular quote seems to represent the hardcore of the legend of infamy. It’s in Crowley’s 1928 book Magick, from a chapter entitled “On the Bloody Sacrifice.” “For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim.” In a footnote Crowley then says “he made this particular sacrifice on an average about 150 times a year between 1912 and 1928.” The quote is thrown up again and again in exposes by Christian authors and even allegedly serious occult writers. The very last sentence of Crowley’s “Bloody Sacrifice” chapter says “you are likely to get into trouble over this chapter unless you truly comprehend its meaning.”
So let’s think about this one. We’re being asked to take this passage as evidence that Crowley murdered 150 children a year from 1912 to 1928. That’s 2,400 of them. This would make him unique in the annals of crime. It’s strange how he got away with it really. Rather odd that we have no record of any of the victims. No witnesses. No evidence. Although expelled from some countries and refused entry to others, he was never arrested for any offence, let alone served a jail sentence. Some of his books were banned, even burned as pornographic. He lost a libel action in Court. The little matter of those 2,400 child murders seems to have been ignored.
Perhaps there’s another explanation. Crowley was a great jester and a man who loved to write in code. He put cryptic meanings into his books that only those with a certain commitment to the subject would be able to understand. Although he didn’t mind being upfront and shocking in some of his poems, Magick was a serious work which he hoped to see remain in print and reach a wide audience. By 1928 he’d seen himself condemned in the kind of cultural climate that was making works like James Joyce’s Ulysses and D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover unavailable through their use of material related to sex. Crowley’s magickal practices involved sex. The “male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence” was his sperm. It’s as simple as that. The “Scarlet Woman” of Crowley’s magick and the mysteries of the “bloody sacrifice” appear, amongst other things, to be connected to menstruation and a whole secret tradition surrounding that.
As a human being he had many failings which rendered him sometimes a sad tragic figure and often showed him as reprehensible in his relationships. He inherited a fortune that would be valued in the millions today and was able to live a superb romantic life for over a decade. A complete lack of functional intelligence, which he readily admitted to, meant that he entirely squandered his resources and was reduced to becoming in effect a ruthless beggar who thought nothing of wasting the generous gifts of friends on high living whilst those close to him starved. And he did suffer himself. Two of his young children died. The loss of his fortune and the lack of commercial success and acclaim of his literary work, along with the unprecedented vilification in the press and his prolonged slide into a wretched heroin addiction with an attendant long-term weakening of his general health, was assuredly a major test of his gigantic egotism. Through all this nonetheless, he did demonstrate a stoic determination to disseminate his ideas and this never failed him even in his last frail days in a Hastings boarding house.
Yes he did, here and there in rituals during his career, kill an animal, and I personally don’t approve of that.
He didn’t however, as another persistent story states, kill his “occult son,” named Macaleister. The tale is that, at some point in the nineteen-twenties, Crowley had a “magickal” son who he had named Macaleister. The two of them performed a ceremony to raise Pan. Something went horribly wrong and Macaleister was found dead the next morning. Crowley, reduced to the level of a naked, gibbering idiot, ended up in an asylum in Paris.
I first came upon this tale in an introduction by Dennis Wheatley to an edition of Crowley’s novel Moonchild. The story gets retold in many shallow surveys of the occult and variations of it continue to circulate and expand. It may seem strange that this dramatic episode is absent from the works of his principal biographers. Surely the hostile John Symonds could have created a damning chapter out of such lurid material? Basically the whole story is a complete fabrication. Macaleister never even existed.
It has often been suggested that, towards the end of his career, he was perhaps insane, at least senile, and basically a spent force. The fact that he was undeniably dependent again on heroin during his later years is usually taken to imply a complete decline. In reply to this I would simply suggest taking a long hard look at the work he produced during that time. The Book of Thoth remains to this day perhaps the greatest of all Tarot decks. It’s creation involved six years of work with artist Lady Freda Harris. That represents a tremendous amount of application.
It does rather seem that the legend of infamy may be some kind of smokescreen of nonsense. What lies behind it?
Crowley was a poet hailed in numerous literary journals as a genius. His work was included in the Oxford Book of Mystical Verse but he was also responsible for what has been considered to be some of the vilest pornography in the English language.
Crowley has also been considered to be either a monstrous degenerate or pioneer of sexual freedom for the endless lovers, both female and male, that he had throughout his life.
At one time he held some of the world mountaineering records having climbed higher in the Himalayas than anyone else.
He played chess to a standard approaching that of a Grand Master and was able to simultaneously manage two games whilst blindfolded, thus displaying extraordinary abilities of visualisation and concentration.
Crowley was one of the first westerners to immerse themselves in the study of eastern religion, having travelled extensively in Arab countries, India, and China. Beyond the studies of the many translators of the time, in the first decade of the twentieth century, he practiced physical and mental yoga with great dedication. Many works that later became famous in the West were familiar to him such as the I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
He was the first person of any note in the West to systematically experiment with the full range of consciousness expanding drugs ie, cannabis, mescaline, ether, cocaine and heroin. For better or for worse, the psychedelic revolution of the sixties was inspired more by him than anyone else.
First and foremost though, Crowley comes down to us as the magician. A member of the most famous occult group of the nineteenth century, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he went from there to believe he had received in 1904 a communication from a non-human entity, an angel for want of better terminology, who dictated to him a scripture for a new age or Aeon. This work was The Book of the Law and it contains the phrase which is most strongly associated with him, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” He came to refer to himself as the Great Beast 666 thus guaranteeing the horror and hostility of many Christians. What did he really mean by this?
Photo of the Stele of Revealing taken in 1997 by Andrew Collins
We find in the book things that seem to be fascinatingly prophetic of the Nazi era and the psychedelic sixties. There are also early indications of themes later to become increasingly visible in New Age and pagan circles; the return of the goddess and the deities of Egypt.
A case can be made for Crowley’s influence in the mid-twentieth century rebirth of witchcraft that has proved to be a crucial aspect of the ever-expanding general pagan revival.
One of the most distinctive oddities of the years since the Second World War has been the UFO phenomenon and the culture that has arisen around it. Here again, remarkably enough, his presence can be discerned.
His influence can be seen in the life of a military theorist who inspired the Nazis, a rocket scientist who had a moon crater named after him, the founder of the most controversial and powerful recent new religion, and the psychedelic psychologist who helped turn on the sixties flower children.
This was one man. And this is the enigma of Aleister Crowley. Picture the effeminate homosexual side of Crowley and Crowley the pornographer. Can we then see this man 22,000 feet up the Himalayas without oxygen? Can we see the junkie likewise? Could we picture Quentin Crisp or Sid Vicious in that context? As Thelemic writer Gerald Suster clearly stated in The Legacy of the Beast, “debauched degenerates don’t set world mountaineering records.” Contrariwise, how about Chris Bonnington? Can we see him returning from an Everest trip to write a book of mystical or pornographic verse and proclaiming himself to be Logos of the Aeon of Horus? When, on one occasion, Crowley was camped out on a glacier, he insisted on packing with his climbing equipment leather-bound editions of the great poets. He would retire to his tent to drink champagne and write his own epics. What about some of our recent esteemed poets such as John Betjeman or Philip Larkin? Can we imagine them performing a magical ceremony in the Great Pyramid or rites of sex magick with prostitutes or taking psychedelic drugs? As for yoga, can we imagine some of the sweetness and light types who get attracted to it composing poems such as On the Delights of Passive Pederasty, and Of Dog and Dame, or going big-game hunting?
This indeed is the enigma of Aleister Crowley. We all have different facets to ourselves but in Crowley they are written large. Very large. Any one of his different aspects would serve most people for a life’s work. How can we get to the essence of the man?
To affirm Crowley's total affirmation of life, here then, from the album Digital Angel by Othon is guest performer Marc Almond with the Beast's own Tango Song.
Most piccies and Crowley quotes copyright OTO.
Colourised image David Bersson.
Leon Kennedy painting National Portrait Gallery.
Still hope to have this on the street before the end of the year. Won't be shy in publicising it when it's ready.
Love is the Law.