Thursday, 30 April 2009

Lucifer Rising

As a seasonal commemoration and prelude to the website centred on my book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus going live tomorrow, here is an extract from the book dealing with the occult side of the psychedelic sixties featuring the disturbing work of Kenneth Anger (pictured). Lucifer Rising is the most famous piece of experimental occult cinema to date. I recently enjoyed the luxury of watching it on my laptop sitting on a hotel balcony looking out at the Great Pyramid. The link above shows the film in its entirity. My Feast of the Book of the Law blog mentions my use of the original Jimmy Page soundtrack. Indeed Page and Anger do seem to be somewhat in the airwaves at the moment as an early bootlegged version of the movie with Page’s music has surfaced out there in torrent land. The blood ruby UFO from Lucifer and Marjorie Cameron as Babalon from Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome both feature in the cover art of my book.

Here then is the section entitled Lucifer Rising.

A lot of music expressed the Thelemic side of the sixties. One film-maker was second to none in invoking it on screen. Kenneth Anger had featured as a small child in the classic 1935 movie production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This helped him to cultivate his fascination with the bizarre mythic world of the twentieth century’s most distinctive art-form and to later produce his legendary literary expose of that era, Hollywood Babylon. He also became an underground experimental movie maker, bringing to his work his distinctly individual style, being both gay and a passionate advocate of Aleister Crowley. He saw the art of film-making as potentially a form of spell-casting. His major works do function as rituals of invocation. The general style of rapid editing image blending with striking surreal juxtapositions, often of emotionally intense material, has been cited as inspirational to the likes of David Lynch and many rock videos. An early sign of things to come was 1954’s psychedelic Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. It featured Marjorie Cameron as Kali Babalon and Anais Nin as Astarte.

The sixties were Anger’s decade. He recognised the massive Thelemic manifestation and encouraged it wherever he could. Inspired by a short Crowley poem to the light bringer, Anger conceived of Lucifer Rising in 1966. One famous line caught the spirit of the time. ‘The Key of Joy is disobedience’. The process that would bring the film project to completion would be a long tortuous one. Bobby Beausoleil was a charismatic musician who hung out on the West Coast scene before the hippy hype and saw out the Summer of Love and beyond. He had been in an early version of the band that came to be called Love with Arthur Lee. His most ambitious project was the Orkustra, a wildly eclectic improvisational combo who played electrified world music. In the midst of a full-on performance during the heady daze of 1967 he was seen by Kenneth Anger who introduced himself by cutting right to the chase with “you are Lucifer”. Beausoleil was into the idea of starring in and providing the soundtrack for an experimental occult movie. The initial collaboration soon concluded acrimoniously after a public autumn equinox musical ritual theatre event imploded through malfunctioning machinery and Anger’s ill-advised consumption of acid.

Beausoleil’s karma steered him into a dangerous matrix of destiny when he came to move in social circles that included Charles Manson and his Family of wild women and increasingly intense young men. When some hardcore bikers arrived on the scene a chain of events were unleashed that would lead to unimaginable horrors. In common with many of the counter-culture of the time, Beausoleil romanticised the Hells Angels types as noble barbarians. In an attempt to gain kudos he set up a drug deal on their behalf that went badly wrong when the substances were claimed to be duff. Forced to try and regain the bikers cash or suffer likely death himself, Beausoleil found himself in an escalating situation in which Manson himself became involved that led to him stabbing the dealer, a man he had once shared a house with, to death.

It has been claimed that one factor in the motivation of the Tate LaBianca murders was an attempt to set up a copycat scenario that would exonerate the arrested Beausoleil of the earlier murder. Whatever the case, it led him to be associated forever with Manson, although the two men had significant differences. Death Row followed and then years in prisons where gang violence was rampant.

Anger had been in London in 1968, hanging out with the Rolling Stones, later claiming to have inspired Sympathy for the Devil. Connections established then were apparent in his most intense creation, 1969’s Invocation of My Demon Brother. It was described by its maker as ‘The shadowing forth of Our Lord, as the Powers of Darkness gather at a midnight Mass. The dance of the magus widdershins around the Swirling Spiral Force, the solar swastika, until the Bringer of Light - Lucifer - breaks through.’ It was only eleven minutes long. Mick Jagger supplied a constant minimalist moog synthesiser soundtrack backdrop to a rapid series of images centred around a ritual scenario. Anger himself was the magus. Footage shot in 1967 for the original Lucifer Rising project was used. Bobby Beausoleil is heavily featured. LaVey appears with a swastika flag. There are images of the Vietnam war and the Rolling Stones Brian Jones commemoration concert in Hyde Park, including glimpses of Hells Angels present that day. The film appeared as Beausoleil was arrested for murder and the Manson horrors began. It seems to encapsulate the intensity of 1969 and to somehow invoke the later conclusion at Altamont. Anger had wanted Jagger as Lucifer and maybe in some sense his film-making spell-casting did manifest that result but in a tangential way.

In 1970 work restarted on Lucifer, filming in Egypt with Marianne Faithful. Anger met Crowley enthusiast Jimmy Page who agreed to do the soundtrack. This was at the busy peak of Zeppelin’s career and only 28 minutes of music had been created by 1976. The subsequently bootlegged results have been considered by some to be one of the great lost classics of rock. Anger’s frustration at what he took to be slow progress led to a falling out between the two men and left the door open for an extraordinary karmic twist.

In prison Bobby Beausoleil’s fundamental musical creativity won through in the end. He was able to set up a music project using donated instruments and through designing his own increasingly complex experimental electronic gizmos. Contact was re-established with Anger. A brief listening to some music composed in prison was enough to convince Anger to replace Jimmy Page. Amazingly, prison authorities were convinced to allow Beausoleil and his Freedom Orchestra to record a soundtrack album. The project took a long time as prison lockdowns following violent gang clashes disrupted the schedule. The musicians saw some film footage at the start of their project and improvised from there. At no point was the music able to be synchronised with the visuals which makes the final result all the more remarkable.

The finished film is barely half an hour long. There is no dialogue. The visuals call to mind the meeting point between magic and surrealism which was perhaps the fundamental dynamic behind the great sixties upheaval. It has to be acknowledged that Beausoleil’s music is extraordinary stuff and some kind of triumph of the spirit for a man who has lived an indubitably dark strange odyssey. Jimmy Page appears very briefly, seen sitting in profile, holding a replica of the Stele of Revealing in front of a framed photo of Crowley. The rock connection is stronger via the Satanic Majesties, the Rolling Stones. Jagger’s famous sixties consort Marianne Faithful plays Lilith and Anita Pallenberg, onetime partner of both Brian Jones and Keith Richards, has a strong role in the visual proceedings. Donald Cammell, who directed Jagger in the masterpiece psychodrama movie Performance and later shot himself in the head, plays Osiris. The visuals move between an erupting volcano, the Sphinx and Temple of Karnak in Egypt, the German Externsteine, Avebury, Stonehenge, and the brooding psychedelic den of a group of magicians. Finally, a UFO light disc of some kind appears at Karnak. It may refer to Crowley’s poem where the body of ‘sun-souled Lucifer’ is a ‘blood-ruby’.

It wasn’t until 1980 that the film was completed.

Anger has said that just as the final version was set to premiere in New York, one Mark Chapman attended a screening of his films in Hawaii. He approached the director afterwards and questioned him about Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Anita Pallenberg and finally, John Lennon. After shaking Anger’s hand he gave him a couple of bullets saying “these are for John Lennon”. Such was the backdrop to the appearance of the masterpiece of the artist who more than anyone else was plugged into the Thelemic backdrop of the sixties.

The link above the article will show the complete film.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Tribute to John Michell Part Two: The Michael Line, the Qabalah, and the Tarot.

One of the most useful sayings attributed to Jesus was “By their fruits ye shall know them’. John Michell may have been responsible for more people going to visit ancient sacred sites in Britain than any other figure of the last century. His inspiration led to countless adventures in the realms of landscape mysteries. I have been fortunate to have reaped the benefit of this with a magnificent series of pilgrimages along the Michael leyline first formulated by him and later investigated by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst. It also enabled me to connect with the extraordinary mind of Graham Phillips. This blend in turn led to some satisfying formulations of my own. Here is an article that has appeared in slightly varying versions on a few occasions since 1991 and formed the basis of a lecture I have also presented a number of times.


In July 1990, during a visit to Glastonbury with my friend and psychic questing colleague of the time, Alex Langstone, I had a wild idea. Why not try and traverse the entire length of the famous St Michael leyline, initially presented by John Michell in The View Over Atlantis, during the Mayday Bank holiday weekend (a time when the sites along it are alleged to align with sunrise)? The pace we would set led to the event being named the Michael Line Rally. It was conceived of as a holiday, a pilgrimage, and an experiment. Some sort of activity other than simple site-seeing was intended for each place we visited. Perhaps a meditation or ritual of some kind. The sites represented a tremendous diversity of aspect. A theme was needed to link them together, to provide some conceptual continuity. I was looking for something that could incorporate the idea of pilgrimage through the multi-faceted sites, within the continuum of earth energy currents of the St Michael force and its counter-balance, the newly formulated St Mary Line, which weave their way around the basic line of sites. (For a full explanation of the Michael/Mary interaction, see The Sun and the Serpent by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst.) I put my mind to work.

In the extraordinary Green Stone of Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman there is an episode known as the “Lights of Knowledge” Quest. From my association with Andrew Collins I knew details of this not mentioned in the published version. The main point is that in traversing most of the Michael Line, heading down towards Cornwall, Graham Phillips came to believe that various sites along it resonated with the energies of the Qabalah in an orderly sequence, so that a coherent Tree of life could be drawn with them mapped out upon it.

For what follows I have to assume some prior knowledge of the Qabalah in the reader. Here’s a listing of various sites assigned to the Tree of Life. See if they feel right to you or not.

Kether. The Merry Maidens stone circle.
Chokmah. St. Michael’s Mount.
Binah. Dozmary Pool, Roche Rock, Hurlers stone circle area.
Chesed. Brentor.
Geburah. Crediton.
Tiphereth. Glastonbury.
Netzah. Avebury, Silbury Hill.
Hod. White Horse of Uffington, Wayland’s Smithy area.
Yesod. Dorchester on Thames.

The Merry Maidens stone circle is not normally considered to be a part of the alignment. In recent years Miller and Broadhurst’s dowsing work has suggested it does connect to the main current. A Malkuth site was never designated. I opted for Bury St Edmunds as a workable possibility.

The Michael Line has sometimes been thought of as a possible spinal column of a Blakean Albion figure. This is not conceived of in the sense of physical earthworks in the manner that the Glastonbury Zodiac landscape supposedly models giant effigies. It somehow lives in an inner realm of the nation’s consciousness. A Suffolk village named Eye has influenced views on which end of the line the head would be. Central to Qabalistic lore is a giant cosmic being named Adam Kadmon on whom the Tree of Life can be drawn. His feet are in the earthly realms, his head at the Crown of Creation. The path of High Magic lies in realising that cosmic figure is latent within us all and can be activated, thus raising us to our highest, fullest, most total capacities. In the specific physical locations on this figure of the different spheres of the Qabalah, a similarity can be seen with the Yogic concept of the chakra centres of energy along the spinal column. The middle pillar of the Qabalah correspond s to the spinal column of Adam Kadmon and ourselves. There are specific practices arising out of the Golden Dawn tradition for working with and energising the centres of this middle pillar. Knowing that Blake was aware of the Qabalah, I didn’t find it hard to broadly equate Albion with Adam Kadmon. I wondered how far, working with Graham Phillips’ material, the analogy could be profitably extended? Maybe the giant’s head was in Cornwall?

I began to toy with the idea of taking it as read that, in some archetypal realm, an Albion figure exists along the Michael line and that treating it as a kind of Adam Kadmon and playing Qabalistic games with it would be doing it a favour. My attitude was to treat it as an experiment with reality. Believe it and see what happens as a result of believing it. I also felt that Adam Albion was generally conceived of as being distinctly male. I didn’t think it was taking too many liberties with Qabalistic thought to think of the figure as androgynous in some way. It was in keeping with the theory of the Qabalah, if not always the practice. This idea could be taken further with the concept of the dual Michael/Mary energies that wind, like a caduceus, around the spinal column, in the manner of the Ida Pingala currents of Kundalini yoga.

As pilgrims of the path of light, we would start at the source, the crown, trying to fill ourselves up with light and take it down through ourselves, through Albion following the downward eastern path of its manifestation in the sunrise orientation. By the end, hopefully, we would have helped to in some way activate the centres of this figure and their corresponding areas in ourselves. This was the plan to get the line humming.

The middle pillar would be our centre of gravity and the caduceus of Michael/Mary a continual balancing process throughout the journey. I felt that the Middle Pillar sites needed the Qabalistic cosmic figure emphasised, but how to do it? I also knew that Graham Phillips had done some unpublished work using the Tarot in the landscape. He believed that sometimes certain sites embodied the aspects of particular cards. Once this was understood the card could be used as a gateway into the inner realms of the place. In the Golden Dawn/Crowley tradition the Tarot cards are assigned to different places on the Tree of Life. The 22 Trumps correspond to the paths between the Sephiroth. Regarding the middle pillar, the path from Kether down to Tiphereth is Atu II, the High Priestess. Tiphereth to Yesod is XIV Temperance. Yesod to Malkuth, XXI the World.

I looked at the Michael Line sites that corresponded to the middle pillar of the Qabalah and the Tarot cards that joined them to see if there might be any possibilities for visualisation pathworkings. What I found was so apt and fertile for creative exploitation I could hardly believe it possible. I shall give a detailed description of these examples, and how they were used, as it possibly gives the essence of the feel of our journey.

Glastonbury Abbey’s ruined Mary chapel was the place I chose to enter the realm of Atu II, the High Priestess, linking Kether with Tiphareth. Its floor no longer exists and the crypt Chapel of St Joseph of Arimathea beneath it has now effectively merged with it, creating one vibrant space. We sat in front of the altar focusing, in our imaginations, on a cross that used to sit atop it in those days. A point of blue light emanated outwards from it filling the whole place, until seeming to have become a transparent veil with the pillars of the Temple and Qabalah, at either side of it. Behind the blue light, the cross faded, leaving the outline and sense of presence of a female form. With this the veil parted, revealing the Virgin Mary in a Queen of Heaven Isis aspect, seated on a throne. Behind her, steps led up to a door opening onto the landscape we had travelled from Cornwall, in particular the Kether Merry Maidens site.

The Qabalistic sphere of Yesod is concerned with the astral realms. It incorporates lunar and water symbolism. Graham Phillip’s Yesod site was at Dorchester in Oxfordshire. This is the place where the Michael Line and the River Thames cross. To bring the energy from Tiphareth to Glastonbury, we would pathwork with the Temperance card. The particular one that had inspired me was in the Mythic Tarot, in which the figure represented (often the Archangel Raphael), was Iris, the Rainbow Goddess, and which featured a rainbow as a prominent part of its imagery.

Now think of all the many versions of this card you may have seen and try to picture our scene. It is dusk by the banks of the Thames in early May. The evening star hangs in the heavens and reflects rippling in the river’s waters. Around a lantern at the water’s edge we sit now, closing our eyes. In our imaginations the light of the lamp expands outwards, through and around us, until an egg of glowing energy encompasses us. Just beyond we begin to see, as if in daylight on the bank, a shimmering wavelet of light that condenses into an ever clearer form. The Rainbow Angel of Temperance stands tall and serene before us. One foot is in the waters of the river and one is on the bank. In each hand is a chalice. One is gold and is filled with the solar aspects of the Michael Line. The other is silver and of the Thames and Mary. Endlessly, gracefully, the Angel pours the contents of the chalices between them. Eternal equipoise in the harmony of the two currents at this site. In the mid-distance the Dorchester landscape blurs as a giant rainbow arches across the sky. As it reaches the ground on the left we see Hod with the White Horse of Uffington and Wayland’s Smithy. On the right we see Netzah, Avebury and Silbury Hill. In the centre, just beneath the rainbow, in the far distance, we see Glastonbury Tor. We try to feel a sense of energies moving through the landscape to find their harmonisation at Dorchester.

A painting specially commissioned from Glastonbury artist and Michael Line Rally veteran Yuri Leitch for my 2006 Megalithomania conference presentation.

Bury St Edmunds proved to be a good Malkuth. Its ruined Abbey provided the setting for the Qabalistic climax to our epic journey. Two ruined pillars, once joined as an arch, formed the frame for an imagined recapitulation of our complete travels to that point. We saw ourselves dressed as monks and pilgrims travelling from site to site and finally emerging through the gateway between the pillars to rejoin our physical bodies sitting nearby. We then saw, using AtuXXI, the World card as a jumping off point, the figure of Albion flanked on either side by St Michael and the Virgin Mary. Behind Albion, on the horizon, the sun appeared, ascending, and as it moved just above him, Michael and Mary both reached a hand out into it, and on doing so, it became a crown which they placed upon his head. Mission accomplished. A rendition of Blake’s Jerusalem was in order regardless of what any passing tourists may have thought.

The Michael Line Rally was carried out in full in 1991 and 92. In 1997, now living in Glastonbury, I felt the need to try the journey again when the General Election was announced for Mayday. It seemed likely that the archetypes and energies of the sacred landscape would be massively switched on. Sure enough, in the week leading up, I had a major brainstorm in which a flood of further Qabalistic Tarot imagery enabled me to make good use of the complete Major Arcana linking all of the spheres. As we travelled the line I did wonder if this cerebral Qabalah was imposing a structure onto the landscape that was not appropriate, however much it seemed apt to me.

On returning I discovered that, during the course of our journey, at a place near the course of the Mary current, a crop formation had appeared in the form of a complete Qabalistic Tree of life with all 10 sephiroth and the 22 paths between them. Regardless of how it arrived there, the concept of “hoax” would have to be re-defined in order to accommodate its synchronistic levels of meaning. Crop circles have been appearing for a long time now. A Tree of Life could have manifested on numerous occasions. As it is, it waited until a group of people were travelling the landscape carrying out detailed Qabalistic pathworkings at sacred sites (and not that many people are doing such things anyway). This was all the affirmation I needed. My work with the Michael Line continues to develop and represents one of the great joys of my life.

Tribute to John Michell Part One

John Michell, the greatest of all Earth Mysteries visionaries, died yesterday. The extent to which his writings have inspired modern Glastonbury and general leyline pilgrims is difficult to overestimate. By way of a small tribute I include here an extract from my upcoming Avalonian Aeon concerning his epochal work The View Over Atlantis and its influence on the Glastonbury Festival. A further piece concerning the Michael leyline will follow shortly.

“It was ragged and na├»ve, it was heaven”.
David Bowie. Memory of a Free Festival.

The Pilton festival has gradually attained the status of some kind of cultural institution. It makes the front pages of most national newspapers and gets covered by TV and radio. The scale of the event has become immense. Many local causes benefit from the profits and organiser Michael Eavis has become something of a hero. Much opposition and hostility had to be overcome over the years before this level of success. In fact the story of the festival is inextricably intertwined with that of the place it is always associated with, Glastonbury.

It had all begun in summer 1970 when Methodist dairy farmer Eavis attended the Bath festival and liked the music and colourful hippie types in evidence. He contemplated the idea of a similar sort of gathering at his own Worthy Farm, which his family had worked since 1894. Later that year, in September, a small-scale event took place. A mere 1,500 people saw Marc Bolan’s T Rex headline. It was enough of a success to be noticed but Eavis lost money nonetheless.

At this point, visionary initiative was added to the dynamic. Andrew Kerr had been personal assistant to Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston’s son. When Randolph had died, Kerr sought a fresh outlet for his energies. He read John Michell’s The View Over Atlantis and was inspired by the idea of reviving the celebration of the summer solstice. He had the funds to set his dream in motion. Initially he had considered Stonehenge to be the ideal venue. The mysterious weavers of destiny were keeping back something special for the stones though, something that required a particular cast of characters. Glastonbury was to press the “on” button. After the success of the small Pilton gathering, Kerr realised the possibilities of the site and approached Michael Eavis who readily agreed to his plans. A charming tale tells how Kerr was atop Glastonbury Tor when he saw a rainbow that seemed to descend onto the Worthy Farm area. This confirmed for him that it was the necessary location.

John Michell’s book, published in 1969, had become an instant Earth Mysteries cult classic, presenting a comprehensive survey of a widely varied field. Its ideas permeated the whole of hippiedom. Various notions that had previously been held only by obscure eccentrics now reached thousands of impressionable minds.

The modern idea of “Earth Mysteries” can be said to begin with the work of one man. Alfred Watkins was a Herefordshire merchant who travelled the country as part of his work. He developed antiquarian interests and was always fascinated to hear local landscape legends told by members of families who had lived in the same, virtually unchanging locations, for countless generations. This helped prepare his sensibilities for a moment of revelation. In 1921, at Blackwardine, Herefordshire, he was admiring the view when a strange intuition came over him. It was a way of perceiving the landscape differently and it seemed to represent a glimpse of an archaic forgotten worldview. He sensed a web of lines linking holy places and ancient sites: mounds, old stones, crosses, ancient crossroads, churches on pre-Christian sites, legendary trees and holy wells. They all seemed to stand in straight alignments that ran over beacon hills to cairns and mountain tops. When he came to investigate his vision on maps it appeared to be confirmed. Such features fell on straight lines with a frequency he felt to be above chance. Particular names seemed to regularly appear along such alignments: Red, White, Black, Cold, Cole, Dod, Merry and Ley. The last gave the phenomenon a name that’s stuck and since travelled the world. Ley lines.

Watkins’ discoveries were published in the 1925 work, The Old Straight Track. It attracted a small group of enthusiasts who formed a Straight Track Postal Portfolio Club and went on picnic-type outings to further his studies. It was all seen as a kind of charmingly eccentric manifestation of the inter-war years. The archaeological establishment barely deemed it necessary to refute the book. Watkins was not alone in looking at prehistoric sites in an unconventional way. At that time the idea of astronomical alignments at places like Stonehenge was already being discussed. It was Watkins who managed to stimulate a wider interest though, and he will always be remembered as the pioneer.

This whole way of looking at the landscape proved to be a potent beginning to a recovery of an ancient way of relating to the land. Other cultures were looked at with fresh eyes. John Michell provided a supremely eloquent, poetic vision of what these studies seemed to suggest.

Australian aboriginal spirituality provided fertile ground for comparison and stimulation. Their mythology told of a primordial period of creation known as the dreamtime, when the landscape was brought into its current form by the activities of divine beings whose deeds formed the eternal exemplary models for human behaviour. Paths across the land called songlines connected sacred sites. At certain times in the calendar it was necessary to walk these lines to revitalise them and ensure their proper alignment to the forces of creation by singing the very songs by which the world had been brought into being.

Ancient China yielded fine fruit in the form of the art of Feng Shui. The Chinese had a complex culture concerning the land as a living entity that needed to be related to in a state of harmony. To this end, buildings were sited in accordance with precise laws. The energy of the lifeforce, symbolised as a dragon, moved in channels through the land and ebbed and flowed depending on the nature of the terrain, whether mountain and valley and so on. Subtle procedures could aid and enhance its beneficial effects in an individual home and in the larger design of towns and cities. A wrongly placed building could bring misfortune and ill health to occupants. The art is still in use in the present day and can therefore be investigated in great detail.

All over the world, traditional societies had a way of interacting with their locale that had many points in common. In the light of these cross-cultural studies, it seemed valid to look at our own legendary traditions and prehistory in a similar way to look for indications of the same kind of patterns here. An exciting picture was revealed. The megalithic stone circle at Avebury had been considered by the eighteenth century antiquarian William Stukely to be a serpent temple of the Druids. We now know it considerably predates them but the serpent idea seems to gel with the Chinese concepts. The serpent perhaps symbolised the life energy in the ground. Alfred Watkins had originally felt that the leys were practical means of navigation. In later life he began to acknowledge the possibility that they had more esoteric purposes. John Michell affirmed that they marked paths of earth energy. It seemed the megalithic builders had a way of understanding this force and perhaps the ley system served a similar function to the Chinese Feng Shui arts. Dowsers are a modern example of people who appear to be sensitive to invisible forces beneath the ground, whether it be water, magnetic currents, or something more unclassifiable. Such sensitives have always existed and it seems likely the megalithic people could have made use of them.

British folklore concerning dragons yielded remarkable results. The English patron saint, George, is of course the most famous of dragon killers, closely followed by the Archangel St Michael. It is interesting to see how many churches dedicated to Michael are situated on hilltops. Glastonbury Tor is the obvious example. One of John Michell’s most important and enduring visionary insights was to notice an apparent alignment of Michael churches across the south of England. This has become probably the world’s most famous ley line. It stretches from St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, through his churches at Brentor, Burrow Mump in Somerset and the Tor, and goes on through Avebury stone circle and into Norfolk and the abbey at Bury St Edmunds. It travels across the longest continuous stretch of land in southern England. Many more churches dedicated to St Michael fall upon it. The suggestion is that the dragon force in the landscape was recognised by early Christians and certain esoterically-inclined church builders of the early Middle Ages. It became equated in the popular mind with the Devil. Michael was considered to be the ideal figure to keep these forces in check, due to his role in the Book of Revelation “War in Heaven”. The real nature of Michael’s relationship to the dragon force and what he himself may truly represent is an ongoing study. The original formulation of the line has set countless pilgrims off along it. It is now officially marked on a National Trust direction-finding plinth on the summit of Glastonbury Tor as the “dragon path”.

The second part of Michell’s book claims to reveal a cosmology of sacred geometry and mathematical mysticism that the creators of these ancient edifices, from Stonehenge to Glastonbury Abbey, and even Egypt’s Great Pyramid, had in common. The suggestion is that they all may have been heirs to knowledge that was a relic of some unknown previous culture, generally thought of as “Atlantis”. This canon of thought has formed a major part of the wisdom tradition of humanity, supposedly being passed down through the ages by the likes of Pythagoras and Plato, the Masons, the builders of the Gothic cathedrals and so on. Music has been an integral part of it, as its laws are believed to show how the harmony of creation functions. Even if one is not mathematically minded it can be an intoxicating experience to try and follow Michell’s elucidation of these ideas.

The most evocative of all the Glastonbury material in the book is the suggestion that the geometrical plan that its abbey was constructed upon was deliberately intended to duplicate the pattern of the city of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. A similar geometry may, perhaps, be found in the layout of Stonehenge. The plan predates Christianity and represents an ideal of harmony that brings together the laws of heaven and earth through the geometrical forms of divine creation. Glastonbury Abbey was considered to be the successor to Stonehenge in a new epoch. That this is so is not only suggested by the geometrical gridplan but also by the existence of an apparent ley alignment that travels right up the centre of the abbey and the aptly-named Dod Lane just outside it, to Stonehenge. The complex unfolding of the geometry and the Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Egypt connection was further elaborated in Michell’s next book, City Of Revelation (later revised as The Dimensions of Paradise).

The contents of The View Over Atlantis hung in the air, like an esoteric energy transmission, around the inception of the 1971 Pilton festival. Powerful forces were at work. The story of the famous pyramid stage is a good example of that. In 1970 Bill Harkin was camping with a friend on the south coast of England. One night, gazing at the stars over the sea, he experienced an intense feeling of light. He decided to allow himself to be guided by it and they set off in his car, navigating solely through the vibe, with no sense whatever of any destination. Eventually they saw a road-sign for Glastonbury and arrived at the Tor. The synchronisation beam got them there in time to meet a group of extravagantly dressed hippie characters descending from the summit. One of them was Andrew Kerr. He and his friends were on their way to meet Michael Eavis to discuss the possibilities of a solstice festival the following year. Harkin fed them with tea, honey and oatcakes. They exchanged phone numbers. The next Wednesday, Harkin was out driving when he saw a vision of Andrew Kerr’s face on an upcoming phone-box. He immediately stopped and rang him. The news was that the festival had been given the go-ahead and that Kerr and his associates were moving in to Worthy Farm to begin the preparations. Harkin offered to help them that weekend. On the Thursday night he dreamt of a stage with two beams of light forming a pyramid. He was impressed enough to take the morning off work and make a small cardboard model of his vision. Within a few days he arrived on the Festival site. Kerr showed him a location he had dowsed as being auspicious for the stage to be constructed upon. Harkin recognised his dream landscape. Before long, his model was on a table at the farm and a phone call was being made to John Michell for advice on the sacred dimensions for the pyramid stage.

When the whole thing finally came to fruition months later, Kerr introduced the bands with this inspiring invocation: “Glastonbury is a place far too beautiful for yet another rock festival. If the festival has a specific intention it is to create an increase of awareness in the power of the Universe, a heightening of consciousness and a recognition of our place in the function of this, our tired and molested planet. We have spent too long telling the Universe to shut up; we must search for the humility to listen. The Earth is groaning for contact with our ears and eyes. Universal awareness touches gently at our shoulders. We are creators being created and we must prove our worth.”

Notes Towards a Modern History of the Stele of Revealing

The funerary stele of the Egyptian priest Ankh af na Khonsu is of central importance in the transmission of Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law. Having recently come into its physical proximity for the first time I found myself recalling what I know of its modern history and appreciating how many uncertainties surround it.

The first mystery concerns the fact that Crowley, a noted traveller, doesn’t seem to have ever returned to the scene of the fundamental revelation of his life. There is actually a passage in the Book of the Law that seems to indicate he was required to ‘abstruct’ it which is suggestive of actually physically obtaining it, in other words stealing the stele. Thelemic folklore suggests he may have swapped the original for a copy back in 1904 but this has to be considered extremely doubtful. The stealing and black market dealing of Egyptian antiquities was certainly rife at that time. The greatest of all archaeologists Howard Carter and his patron Lord Caernarvon appear to have extracted a huge number of items from the tomb of Tutankhamun for their personal purposes. This occurred before the official opening of the tomb however. The Stele was already in a museum. I simply don’t believe Crowley could possibly have stolen it and then smuggled it out of the country. There is a brief mention of the abstruction instruction again during the twenties but it seems a passing thought even though the Beast did find himself comparatively nearby in North Africa during that decade.

I am not aware of any accounts of Thelemites travelling to Egypt and checking out the stele during Crowley’s lifetime. In fact the stele seems to disappear off the radar. Its original home in the Boulak Museum closed and it was transferred to its current location.

My knowledge of the modern history of the stele begins in 1979. The extraordinary American visionary Robert Coon (seen in attached photo), a direct descendent of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, was engaged in a massive sequence of astrologically determined global magickal events that he had received the inspiration for beginning in the sixties. An extensive account of his total work will be featured in my upcoming Avalonian Aeon. Sufficient to say here that Crowley, Egypt, and Glastonbury played a major role in his bigger picture.

Working with a profound belief in the possibility of physical immortality and that a planetary throat chakra is focused in Cairo, Robert Coon’s mission was to ensure that, ‘ the archetypal thought of Physical Immortality, the Key Word of the Aquarian Aeon, was energized within the collective consciousness of humanity.’ Timing was of vital importance in this grand plan and two major magickal acts would be involved.

Coon believed that it was vital for him to be in Cairo at the time of the 1979 Autumn Equinox. This was partly inspired by studying strange prophecies derived from the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, in particular by Adam Rutherford, who although meticulous in his adherence to genuine measurements could readily be described as a Bible nut and fellow traveller of the likes of Jehovah’s Witness founder Charles Taze Russell who had earlier used the pyramid to support an extreme evangelical prophesying. Basically, the epoch of the Second Coming of Christ would begin in 1979 ushering in a millennium lasting until 2979. This material has very specific locations within the pyramid linked to it. The entrance to the Queen’ Chamber marked the 1979 moment.

Coon believed that a new era was set to unfold and it would involve a shift in consciousness which he linked with his major concern, Immortalism. He informed Rutherford’s group that he intended to actually be inside the pyramid in the Queens Chamber at the exact moment of the prophecies’ fulfilment. They had a bit of a fire and brimstone attitude to what was upcoming. The response was one of fear with a definite warning to stay away.

There’s a strange flavor here. Crowley himself, as is well-known, was born into the intense fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren sect. His father was a lay preacher within the group. From there he learnt the Bible in depth and had his lifelong nickname of the Beast bestowed upon him by his fanatical mother. The oppressive life-negating misery of his Christian childhood was a huge factor in his subsequent development. There is something about the Old Testament and to a certain extent Revelation that permeates the Book of the Law. Regardless of the belief that its ultimate source was a non-human intelligence and that it announces an end to the Christian era one can at least say that it somehow required a scribe thoroughly imbued with a mentality steeped in the Bible.

In 1979 a man descended from the founder of Mormonism and who himself had experienced visitations from non-human entities and advocated the possibility of physical immortality tuned into a prophecy from the realm of pyramidology, a genre full of Christian millennialism of various kinds that had been endorsed by the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses whose famous slogan was Millions Now Living May Never Die. Coon’s presentation of the topic of Immortalism is infinitely more sophisticated and interesting than the JWs (he finds many Immortalist motifs in the Book of the Law) but the thematic continuity is there. It’s an amusing oddity to ponder that the first date put forward by the JWs for end of the world was 2nd October 1914, the very day that Thelemic superstar Jack Parsons was born.

Following on from the prophetic moment in the pyramid Robert Coon would then immediately set out to rediscover and ‘realign’ the Stele of Revealing and recite an appropriate invocation in its vicinity. On 24th September 1979 this was accomplished with Coon invoking assorted deities and angels in front of the Stele. The culmination was a spontaneous outpouring which included the words:

‘May the total frequencies,
May the full force,
May the unique True Will
Of the Stele of Revealing
Be directed upon this first day of the Millennium
Unto the Total Purification
Of every Heart – individual and planetary –
And unto the Complete Manifestation
Of the Revelation of Everlasting Life!’

The 1979 events were considered to be a vital part of a process leading supposedly to the activation of a Global Omega Point from Glastonbury Tor at the moment of Easter Sunday sunrise in April 1984 and to further ramifications in 1987. Back in the sixties Coon had highlighted dates in the Meso-American calendar system that would later be widely publicised by Jose Arguelles and achieve lasting fame as the Harmonic Convergence. Coon, who had very much his own take on the proceedings, was closely involved in the Glastonbury side of the event.

For a number of years Coon kept fairly quiet about the full details of his 1979 adventure with the Stele. There were broad mentions in some of his books such as Voyage to Avalon. In 1997 he decided it was time to tell the whole story for the first time publicly in Glastonbury in an event timed to coincide with the perihelion of Comet Hale-Bopp. Comets had been important in Coon’s long term work and he noted that Crowleys’ death in 1947 had been within 24 hours of the perihelion of another great comet.

Avalon and the AA was presented by Robert Coon on 1st April 1997. The comet attained perihelion at 4.13am BST that day. A small booklet entitled The Cairo Working was printed in a very limited edition of eleven copies to accompany it.

The single most important element of the evening was the magickal affirmation of the new museum exhibit number of the Stele. Its’ original 666 designation was a major part of the story of how Crowley was drawn towards the reception of the Book of the Law. 9422 doesn’t seem anywhere near as promising. Coon believed that in fact Gematria higher intelligence was definitely on the case. ‘Immediately after the consecration of the Stele’ he was inspired to write down a sequence of twelve numbers incorporating two of Crowley’s favourites 666 and 777. Thus:


This was followed by a sequence of multiplication and addition symbols.


This led to

7.7 + 7.666 + 666.7 + 7.7 = 9422.

I can understand why this would blow Robert Coon’s mind in 1979 and leave him feeling like he was definitely on a winner. I am not making any big claims about it but it is rather interesting and deserves to be better known. There was more 9422 numerical material presented in The Cairo Working but that is Coon’s story to tell. The pamphlet does periodically surface online and is worth keeping an eye out for.

Crowley commissioned a copy of both sides of the Stele of Revealing. Images of this reproduction are what feature in any books displaying it right up into the nineties. A centenary OTO edition of the Book of the Law published in 2004 actually contained a photographic reproduction, permission having been granted by Cairo Museum. Following Robert Coons’ perihelion presentation in April 1997 I gave the information concerning its whereabouts to Andrew Collins who I knew was shortly to be travelling to Egypt himself. He had already asked me to give a presentation on Crowley’s role in Psychic Questing for a conference in the autumn. This was the 93rd year of the Thelemic era and therefore a good time to affirm such things. I recognised an interesting opportunity and asked to him to try and photograph it with a view to publicly showing it later on in the year. The photograph is reproduced here. Since those days it has become impossible to take photos in the Cairo Museum on pain of expulsion and possible arrest. The sneaked mobile pics featured in my earlier blog are the best one can hope for. I did indeed feature a slide of the Stele in my Questing Conference presentation. I think this might have been the very first time an actual photograph rather than copy painting of the Stele had ever been publicly displayed. I could be wrong. I welcome any further information on this subject. It was certainly done as a very deliberate year 93 magickal act further sending out the Glastonbury ripples from Robert Coons’ perihelion event.

Andrew Collins passed on the information about the Stele’s location to researcher Simon Cox. This in turn led to a photo appearing in the 1999 Stargate Conspiracy of Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. I believe that this may be the first time a photo of the Stele appeared in a book. Again, I may be wrong and welcome further information on the subject.

It does seem strange to me that there are so many gaps in the details surrounding this supremely evocative artefact and I rather feel it would be useful for a fuller modern history to be compiled so it’s in that spirit that I have put together this piece as I believe it presents some interesting Thelemic information that deserves to be more fully in the public domain.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Arthur and Osiris: a mood in a Glastonbury sunset

Having just returned from Egypt to Glastonbury in bloom I find myself irresistibly musing upon one of the more fanciful ideas concerning the towns’ most famous associations.

In Mysterium Artorius I briefly dealt with the comparisons made by Lewis Spence between Arthur and Egyptian Osiris. After being killed by his treacherous brother Set, Osiris (who is portrayed as initially an Earthly monarch of great wisdom and power) was taken on a boat across the Nile by the mourning sisters Isis and Nepthys to a western paradisiacal land of bountiful fruit and grain, to reign as a lord of departed souls and await his resurrection. The Nile was identified with Osiris. He was known as Lord of the Fish in this aspect. At a certain stage in its inundation the river becomes red with soil, considered to be the blood of Osiris and this stimulated the fertility of the land in a Grail-type manner. The role of Mordred, echoes that of the treacherous Set. The whole scenario is full of incestuous tensions. Arthur’s departure with the ladies on the vessel to Avalon, the otherworld western apple isle, and the promise of return, seem to rather strongly echo the Egyptian story. To think of Arthur as Lord of the Dead can be a very potent idea. In this role he is ruler of the ancestors, all of them, from the Stone Age to the Somme and beyond. Arthur awaits times of national emergency to return as saviour. Osiris navigates the underworld to help the sun to return each morning. In the early stories Arthur journeys to the otherworldly realm of Annwn in a magical boat. Is there maybe something similar here to the nightly boat of Osiris? It’s very easy to see all this as tenuous.

Are we talking about some kind of archetypal myth in a Jungian sense or can there possibly be a physical link between Britain and Egypt that carried the tales? Many mystics and magicians, psychics and visionaries for a century or so now, have felt some kind of Egyptian presence in the English landscape, usually interpreting this to indicate real travellers. This has ranged from the kind of crank etymology where the presence of the letters RA together in any place name are taken as proof it was a former Egyptian settlement to the more credible archaeological speculations in Lorraine Evans Kingdom of the Ark that examines the remarkable old tale that Scotland was named after the daughter of an a Egyptian Pharaoh.

Dion Fortune, reviver of the mysteries of Isis and extoller of Arthur’s Avalon of the Heart, was a forerunner of this blend, living at times near the foot of Glastonbury Tor just a few hundred yards from where I am writing this.

The incredible magical psychic saga of the Green Stone, described in the Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman book of the same name and Andrew Collins’ Seventh Sword tells of refugees from the fall of Akhenaten coming to Britain already knowledgeable though prior contact with Megalithic priests of its sacred sites including Glastonbury and Avebury. Their presence lingered in the airwaves until a reawakening in the modern era. Could Egyptian vessels really have travelled to Britain? Might they have followed the path of the sunset in search of Amenta, their realm of the dead?

When I first moved to Glastonbury in 1995 I was startled to discover just how many people were dedicated to Egyptian mysteries in one way or another. There was (and still is) a strong Fellowship of Isis presence. A lot of people are convinced of past-life associations. Some could feel themselves to be former monks of both Glastonbury Abbey and Karnak with their interlinked mysteries of sacred geometry. The tumultuous period of the heretic ruler Akhenaten and his family that included Tutankhamun was a particular favourite. I even got an informal discussion group together to see what might happen if a number of such people all gathered together. This was the nineties though. Space aliens and New World Order conspiracism seemed to be the preferred topics of conversation.

The Albion Egyptian connection can’t be historically proven but that’s not the point. There’s a powerful evocative mood around all this that speaks of magic. Inspiration and beauty are its fruits. It’s been a perfect spring evening and the sun is beginning its descent as people gather on the Tor to watch it. As the darkness gathers and the stars come out, the ancient myths blend together as one and from that Grail the coming mysteries of the 2012 hoedown will flow.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Feast of the Book of the Law Cairo 2009 or Why I am taking so long to complete the writing of Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.

As part of the culmination process of this writing project, The Book of the Law was recited aloud (albeit not that loud) in front of what Crowley called the Stele of Revealing on the relevant days and times of its initial reception, April 8th – 10th. My thanks to Andrew and Sue Collins, Rachel Blake, and Daniel Gallagher for helping that to happen.I don't know how unique such a recitation may be. I do know that for the 2004 centenary when an international group numbering about twenty had convened in Cairo their recitations were not actually in the museum.
A few sneaked fuzzy mobile photos are included here.

I started putting together the Crowley book from the overspill of my Avalonian Aeon work in progress at the end of 2007, envisaging six months for completion. The whole thing has taken on a life of its own that is perhaps not surprising bearing in mind the subject matter.

The Cairo adventure was not even a dream a few months ago but I was able to draft a satisfying new preface for the book in a notebook whilst sitting in front of the legendary Stele. Here is the current version of it as it forms what I believe to be an interesting Thelemic news report alongside the kind of detail about the Stele in situ that has not appeared widely in print before. I obviously hope it may stimulate some interest in the upcoming book which is now scheduled for publication by July.

‘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. The stele is about 21inches high and 11 wide. 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.’

‘a feast for the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law’..