Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Eternal Return: the New Year dreamtime

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 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. Having read the material, the reader may understand why I have reposted it again from its initial appearance at the same time last year.

Mircea Eliade

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.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Dion Fortune, 1940, and a Glastonbury Qabalah.

There's a modest 2019 edit to this 2010 piece

December 6th is Dion Fortune's birthday. I have a particular interest in the work she did in 1940 that has come to be known as the Magical Battle of Britain. During the nineties I was inspired to recreate some parts of it and also to eventually introduce additional details. The basic material is featured in my first book Mysterium Artorius. The Glastonbury Qabalah section also appeared in Avalon magazine in 1997. In 2011 I began the huge project that finally manifested in 2019 as The Occult Battle of  Britain.

I originally posted this on September 29th, the Feast of the Archangel Michael, in 2009. I reposted in 2010 as a complement to a gathering on December 6th, for a group visualisation using this material, deliberately timed for Dion Fortune's birthday. A number of others who couldn't be physically present had expressed an interest in tuning in from a distance so the posting stood then as core material for anyone who felt inspired to join in at that time or on the day in general. 

Remarkable events occurred during the Second World War that I have come to feel represent Glastonbury’s finest hour so far. It seems strange to me that they are not better known. To any occultists of the time it was obvious that the Nazis were making use of magical techniques. They had helped to mobilise a nation’s consciousness through the manipulation of folklore and mythology. The energy unleashed by this was immensely powerful and had easily swept all before it.

Dion Fortune

Dion Fortune felt that a British response was urgently needed. We had plenty of traditions of our own that could be invoked. The mediocrity represented by years of appeasement and non-entities like Neville Chamberlain needed to be transcended. What followed was a new departure in the history of magic.

Dion Fortune as magical priestess by Chesca Potter.

Shortly after the start of the war, letters were sent out every week to a group of associates across the country. They contained details of visualisation meditations that were to be carried out in unison every Sunday morning. The focus became Glastonbury Tor. Imagery gradually built up over a period of months. The participants would find it coming to life and developing of its own accord. Feedback would be exchanged and this would influence the next sequence. It was believed that messages from discarnate sources were received.

To begin with, the scene consisted of a large cavern inside the Tor. A red rose on a cross of gold hung in the air.

For those initiated in the Golden Dawn tradition this was seen as a more detailed glyph covered in magical symbols.

Tor Rose Cross and Qabalistic colour rays by Yuri Leitch.

Three rays of light, red, purple and blue, emanated from a point above and behind the cross.

The fully developed form of the imagery saw Christ at the apex of the converging rays. The purple light was central, reaching down behind and beneath the cross.

Our Lady of Glastonbury

At its base could be seen the Virgin Mary, holding a chalice.

The red beam came down at an angle to the left of the cross and culminated in an image of Arthur, sitting on a white horse and holding Excalibur aloft.

To the right of the cross, the blue ray projected a vision of Merlin, holding an orb of sovereignty. The imagery was arranged over the broad schemata of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, a design and philosophy that Fortune had written a whole book about, it having formed the basis of her magical education.

To me, it seemed a very powerful equilibration of Britain’s pagan and Christian heritage. When it mattered, they functioned from a space of unity. From this inner plane realm, spiritual forces streamed through into the soul of the nation fortifying it against the potent will of Nazism. That’s what Dion Fortune and her associates believed and my temperament inclines me to agree with them.

My sense of that time was hugely expanded by the unbearably poignant powerful feeling of the Tor as the spiritual heart of the nation, from where the guardians of the Grail fought the forces of darkness. There was something else that amplified my feeling for the magical Battle of Britain even further. I’d been fascinated by the subject of Nazi occultism since the start of the decade. I had done a dissertation on it towards my degree. I saw something very clearly that Dion Fortune may never have known the details of.

Himmler had taken control of a Schloss at Wewelsburg in Westphalia. He had lavished immense time and resources into turning it into a Grail castle for his SS. People can argue about the extent of Hitler’s occult interests and their effect on his career but with Himmler, there is no doubt of the matter.

The SS were quite clearly conceived of as a modern chivalric order after the manner of the medieval Teutonic Knights. Schloss Wewelsburg was a place for their elite. It was a shrine to German history. There was actually a circular table there around which twelve men would gather.

Ceremonies took place in the crypt that one can only speculate upon. Without doubt, processes of a meditational, ritualistic and occult nature were generally engaged in over a period of years.

We don’t have to go as far as Trevor Ravenscroft in The Spear of Destiny as to see Himmler as some empty shell manipulated by demonic forces, but the man’s track record speaks for itself. Wewelsburg was his spiritual base. It was believed that many ley lines passed through it. This was where he and his buddies like Reinhard Heydrich recharged their batteries.

The thriller writer Duncan Kyle wrote a novel about Wewlesburg. It’s a tale of espionage rather than occultism but its title evokes the magical reality: Black Camelot. The place can be thought of as a kind of antithesis of Glastonbury, it’s polar opposite.There is no mention of it in Dion Fortune’s published letters of the period. It does seem that the Nazis managed to keep the place secret. How appropriate that the Tor, our British inner plane Grail castle, situated in a landscape imbued with Arthurian associations, functioned as the focus of spiritual resistance.

There’s been a tendency in recent years to try and detrimentally deconstruct the myth of the finest hour. It really does seem that Hitler was never completely committed to invading Britain. His main concern was always Russia. The construction of fleets of apparent invasion barges at channel ports was, on one level, a form of psychological warfare. Coupled with the Luftwaffe bombing campaign, he hoped to intimidate Britain into surrender. Therefore, so some have argued, the Battle of Britain wasn’t really that important after all and so on. Our stiff upper lip, fight them on the beaches attitude had nothing to do with the reality of the situation and subsequently, by some trick of logic, becomes devalued. I shall merely say by way of response, that the number of people who knew where Hitler was really at was very small. None of the German soldiers along the French coast had any sense of being involved in some huge ruse. Their superiors were not in on the joke either. As the barges got built, all were full of apprehension and excitement for an imminent huge undertaking. A lot of plans were drawn up for it. The pilots of the planes that bombed Britain were not exhibiting the relaxed disposition of a bunch of guys out having a laugh. They were potentially open to attack at any moment and therefore the whole business was clearly a matter of life and death to them. To the British public and armed forces, the threat of invasion was perceived as the most fundamental and urgent reality. It brought out a quality of response that has become the stuff of legend. The basic point is this: invasion may never have been as real a possibility as it seemed but the morale and character demonstrated by the British in the face of that apparent threat was real and nothing can diminish that. Period.

At the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995, I was inspired to recreate Dion Fortune’s visualisation of the inner realm of the Tor. The result was entirely satisfying and I gave considerable attention to it during the time of my moving to Glastonbury shortly after. On December 6th 1996, in acknowledgement of her birthday, I put on a public event in Glastonbury with the intention of using the same material again to see how a group of people would respond to it in the modern world. I was very aware, through reading the wartime letters collected together and published by Gareth Knight as The Magical Battle of Britain, that Fortune believed the Glastonbury work was not just relevant to the immediate circumstance of the war but also to the regeneration of the national consciousness in the future and the birth of a New Age.

As the time drew near I found that I spontaneously thought of vivid imagery that developed from the original core to create a full Glastonbury Qabalah. Notice that I term it a Glastonbury Qabalah, not the Glastonbury Qabalah. I claim no exclusivity or definitiveness about it. It may mutate as time dictates. The main point is that cultivating a feeling for “British music” and the Grail epoch material so important to the western mystery tradition was a vital precondition for the appearance of such inspiration. Much work was later done with this revival and expansion of Dion Fortune’s work, including an episode on the night of Princess Diana’s funeral, but that forms part of another tale.

This material is presented in a form which can be used for pathworking visualisations if desired.

The Company of the Avalon of the Heart invite you to join them.

Come, by whatever means, to the cavern in the Mount of Illumination, where the brethren assemble and those who come in light appear. In the air hangs, in a blaze of light, a red rose on a cross of gold or, for those with such a background, the Golden Dawn Rose Cross in all its complex detail. This image is of the sphere of Tiphareth, realm of the sun, equilibrium and harmony. By its light is the cavern made visible. A celestial perpetual choir intones unseen in the background.

Be aware that a winding stone staircase cut in the rock joins the cavern with other chambers above and below it.

Beneath is a path that reaches deep into the earth where dwell ancient ones, ancestors, faery folk, elementals, chthonic deities.

Immediately above the cavern is a Hall of Learning, a library, where volumes of arcane knowledge await the seeker. Look in its books for answers to your deepest questions.

Above this is a Grail Chapel. A place of devotion and grace, of sublime spiritual power. This corresponds to the physical space of the church and monastery atop the Tor.

The Tor tower is the physical sign of an inner plane Watchtower where a silent watcher, cowled and cloaked, stands in perpetual vigil, seeing the inner tides of the destiny of nations.

All of these places are accessible but let those who would join the Watcher’s vigil take heed of the warning that here is a place of power not suitable for all.

Having sensed the other chambers of the Hill of Vision focus again on the cavern lit by the Rose Cross.

Above the cross, from the realm of Kether, the most high, a sphere of white light appears. Within it as vision and presence emerges the figure of Christ. He wears a diamond encrusted crown of pure white brilliance flecked with gold.

Beneath the cross appears a purple sphere of light. Yesod. Within it a vision of Glastonbury Abbey on a full moon night. The Virgin Mary walks along the centre of its ruins. She wears a black cloak covered with shining silver stars. A crescent moon adorns her head. She carries a Grail Chalice. The geometric grid plan of the Abbey foundations light up in silver from beneath the ground. The presence of the monks of the Company of Avalon can be sensed all around.

The monks of the Company of Avalon from Glastonbury Abbey

To the right of the centre of the cross a blue sphere. Chesed. Within it, seated on a stone crystal throne, is Merlin. He is dressed in blue-violet and deep purple and is holding a diamond sceptre and orb. Representing the most archaic of lineages, he wears a stag-antlered headpiece. A unicorn can be glimpsed somewhere behind him.

Opposite, to the left of the centre of the cross, a red sphere forms in the air. Geburah. Here is Arthur, sitting on a stationary white horse, holding aloft the sword Excalibur.

So is a cross formulated that harmonises Glastonbury and Britain’s Christian and Pagan heritage. Around the four points of the Rose Cross the images hover in their spheres of coloured light in the great cavern. Four more spheres will now join them.

Joseph of Arimathea with the Glastonbury Zodiac by Yuri Leitch

On the right above Merlin’s sphere, but a little below the level of that of Christ, a grey ball of light appears. Chokmah. In it a vision of Wearyall hill. It is daylight. A grey mist surrounds the foot of the hill like a sea. The sky above is a clear spring blue. Across it can be seen shining the outline forms of the Glastonbury Zodiac. The Holy Thorn comes into focus. It is in bloom. Joseph of Arimathea is standing with his right outstretched hand around its trunk. He is facing to the left towards the Tor so we see in profile his bearded face.

Opposite, above the sphere of Arthur, comes Binah. Firstly a black sphere like ink. In that deep dense liquid darkness many flickering points of light can be seen. Moving nearer to them in vision they reveal themselves as innumerable candles. The location is the Chalice Well gardens at night. Many are present for a rite of silent contemplation. In the inner sanctum around the well-head, the vesica piscis cover is raised and its metalwork shines with reflected candle light. Standing to its left and facing right, wearing a black outer robe of concealment, is Morgan. A raven is perched on her shoulder. In the shadows behind, sensed more than seen, is another presence. A mature woman. Dion Fortune herself.

A vision of beauty triumphant

Beneath Merlin and the cross but above the level of Mary, on the right forms a green sphere. Netzah. In here is Chalice Hill in spring sunshine. The Tor can be seen behind. All around are spring flowers. Bees hover and buzz about them. Now comes a naked Venus like Botticelli’s. She wears a head-dress of roses. Women looking like the graces of Primavera accompany her. They are the Melissae, the Bee Priestesses. This is the inner plane realm of their secret garden. They are keeping bees for an alchemical nectar. Somewhere beyond the Tor they work their rites of the Chalice of Green Fire to bring a vision of beauty triumphant to earth.

Opposite, beneath Arthur, an orange sphere. Hod. Bride’s Mound as it is physically today. Superimposed upon the scene its inner plane reality as sanctuary and powerhouse of Brigit. A perpetual flame is burning. Priestesses go about their duties. Brigit stands to the forefront holding a snake staff.

Within the cavern now is access to a complete Glastonbury Qabalah and the chambers of the cavern itself. Any of these realms can be worked within. Perhaps connections seek to be made between them. And the conduit of manifestation, the earthing in Malkuth, is we ourselves and our lives that change through connection with these ideas. And it is the land itself. Following the end of an epochal century of word-historical destiny, Great Britain needs to take stock of its sacred history and inner resources to regenerate itself for the vast unknown future.

Let there be no misconception that because Christ, Mary, Merlin and Arthur represent old traditions that they are now ineffectual, outmoded and generally redundant. These forces were, at one point in the war, bravely invoked by Dion Fortune to purge the nation of all that was corrupt and inert so that progress could be made. This can be done again. Masks that these beings are given by different eras can likewise be purged and their raw essence remains. Arthur and Merlin are no staid Victorian gentlemen when they are contacted today. Indeed, during the two minutes silence on VE Day 1995, before the lighting of beacon fires across the nation, Arthur Pendragon was seen by one person as naked and powerfully ithyphallic within the Tor. The mysteries of Sophia and the Magdalene are now explicitly inherent in the Abbey vision of Mary. And an ever more enigmatic and powerful Gnostic, Essene, Buddhist, Druid, Magician, revolutionary (the list is endless) Christ calls the many emanations of the One to unity at the divine heart that is Consciousness itself. Is it any wonder that the totality of the mystery that Glastonbury represents is activating ever more strongly and that a beacon shines from the Mount of Illumination? Light your own torch from it and go forth. Now is the time.

Most of the text of this blog entry comes from Mysterium Artorius.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Thelemic UFOlogy and the Cult of Lam

A section of the cover image of 
Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus:
Yuri Leitch's rendition of Lam.

Here is an extract from the extensive consideration of UFOlogy in my book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus. It is obviously intended to interest the reader in the larger work. 

Amazingly enough there are some who believe that Aleister Crowley was perhaps the first alien contactee in the modern sense of the term. A Thelemic ET theme has also been suggested running through the Babalon Working, taking us into the birth of the UFO era. This seemingly wild idea will lead us into a consideration of the Contact phenomenon itself and the manner in which UFOlogical studies can take us into the wider field of the paranormal and occultism. Eventually, after a most extraordinary journey indeed, we shall return to the mystery of The Book of the Law and ponder whether it may contain a secret key to the whole process.

Kenneth Grant was just twenty when he met Crowley in 1944. Already well-read in western occultism and eastern mysticism he embarked on a crash-course magickal apprenticeship whilst serving as the Beast’s secretary. It only lasted a few months but ensured that Grant became one of Crowley’s literary executors alongside John Symonds. This afforded him access to unpublished material and later involvement in the production of editions of many of Crowley’s works.

The leadership succession in the OTO has been a controversial and litigious issue ever since Crowley’s death. Rival groups have formed. Grant became the head of one of them, known to history as the Typhonian OTO. As well as a connection to Crowley, he also had the distinction of prolonged close contact with the prodigiously talented shamanic artist Austin Osman Spare. After assimilating all kinds of knowledge and experience over a period of decades he finally published his first major work, The Magical Revival, in 1972, an account of contemporary occultism seen from the perspective of the Aeon of Horus.

Grant may well be the most controversial occultist of the second half of the twentieth century. There have been critics who have considered him to be genuinely insane and/or monstrously evil and that his writings are a major distortion of Crowley’s legacy. Others consider him to be an awesome genius. It does seem rather remarkable that a person of his potential should meet the dying Crowley at such a young age. For now, we shall focus on the theme of what could be termed Thelemic UFOlogy that runs through nine books by Grant that have come to be called the Typhonian trilogies.

The illustrations in Magical Revival include a reproduction of a drawing made by Crowley in 1919 which Grant describes as ‘Lam, an extra-terrestrial intelligence with whom Crowley was in astral contact.’ It’s important to be clear about the history of this image as so much mythology and contention has arisen around it. In 1918, during a period when he was living in America, Crowley engaged in an extensive six-month long magickal episode known as the Amalantrah Working, primarily with the aid of his Scarlet Woman of the time, Roddie Minor. A combination of sex and drugs helped induce repeated consistent visionary material focused on a being named Amalantrah. Crowley was satisfied that the imagery and names produced were authentic in as much as they met his Qabalistic checking criteria. Towards the end of the written records of the working, Amalantrah made the enigmatic statements “It’s all in the egg”, “Thou art to go this Way.” Unusually for Crowley’s magickal records there appear to be details missing during the final phase.

The drawing seems to originate from the same period and depicts a being with an elongated egg-shaped head and no ears. It was publicly displayed in an exhibition of Crowley’s art-work in New York in 1919. It also featured as the frontispiece for an edition of HP Blavatsky’s The Voice of the Silence with an extensive running commentary from Crowley. There it was designated as ‘The Way’ and given this explanation: ‘LAM is the Tibetan word for Way or Path, and LAMA is he who Goeth, the specific title of the Gods of Egypt, the Treader of the Path, in Buddhistic phraseology. Its numerical value is 71, the number of this book.’ It was later stated that the figure was Crowley’s ‘guru’ and ‘painted from life.’ That appears to be all that Crowley ever had to say about it. It is by no means clear that the word Lam is a name belonging to the being in the picture.

Unlike Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky’s Voice is a short devotional work of Eastern Mysticism and not loaded with her usual esoteric detail. It tries to evoke the source of consciousness, considered to be a silent void, and the key to its mystical realisation, poetically rendered as experiencing its voice. Crowley’s mystical side was entirely in harmony with such sentiments and equated the idea with Harpocrates perhaps implying that Lam, as an image of the Voice of the Silence, could be linked with a complex of associated ideas in the Thelemic system.

Part of Crowley’s commentary briefly refers to another 1918 event when he spent time on Esopus Island in the Hudson River in New York State. During that period he claimed to have accessed a number of past life memories that became significant in the emerging Crowley myth. These included the major occultists Cagliostro and Eliphas Levi.

Sometimes overlooked in this catalogue is Ko Yuen, stated to be a follower of Lao Tzu, the author of one of the great masterpieces of the wisdom tradition of humanity, the Tao Te Ching. During the Esopus retreat, Crowley produced a version of the Lao Tzu classic full of cross-referencing notes to the Qabalah. In the introduction he states that he was still in ‘almost daily communion’ with Amalantrah. ‘He came readily to my aid and exhibited to me a codex of the original, which conveyed to me with absolute certitude the exact significance of the text.’ Crowley had travelled across Southern China. Taoism was a big influence on his mysticism. The I Ching was his constant companion for decades. The records of the Amalantrah Working show extensive use of it. This 1918 work immediately preceded the Blavatsky commentary and the appearance of the Lam picture. Tao has often been translated as “Way,” the actual title of the drawing. This has lead to the suggestion by Alan Chapman in the 2007 Fortean Times Crowley special that the figure may actually be Lao Tzu himself as depicted by a reincarnation of one of his followers. Crowley’s lack of draughtsmanship skills have simply meant it’s a poor depiction of a Chinaman.

After this brief appearance, the picture seems to vanish from sight until Kenneth Grant came upon it during his short stay with Crowley who actually gave it to him which alternatively suggests that it was not particularly important or the exact opposite, with him recognising something of the young Grant’s temperament and potential.

Cover image of Whitley Strieber's Communion.

Following its dissemination through the three Typhonian trilogies, the image generally known as Lam is probably Crowley’s most famous art-work. Its original use as the frontispiece to Blavatsky has been virtually forgotten. The visual archetype of a grey ET has become well-established in popular culture, particularly since the eighties when Whitley Strieber’s Communion featured a striking image of one on its cover. The resemblance to Lam was enough to establish a conceptual linkage that has since become a widespread internet truism whose mythology has included a number of further connections that critics could consider tenuous.

The Babalon Working was concerned with ripping a hole in the fabric of reality to encourage influences from beyond to enter in. That may seem a pretentious megalomaniacal enterprise but consider the very events that Jack Parsons had been connected with. The science of the time was doing precisely that. After the atomic explosions it was easy to believe that the veil was thin and further momentous events near at hand.

It has been increasingly speculated that, following Crowley’s Lam contact, the Babalon Working also opened a larger portal that bore a direct connection to the influx of UFOs the following year during which Crowley died. This idea has been widely repeated outside of Grant’s work and is gaining strength with each passing decade. That both portals were opened in America, a major focus for early UFOlogy, has also been deemed significant.

Jack Parsons

In Outside the Circles of Time Kenneth Grant stated that ‘Parsons opened the door and something flew in’. The flavour of that something is indicated by a strange episode that occurred in March 1946 at the time of the conclusion of the Babalon Working. Marjorie Cameron saw an unidentifiable aerial phenomenon. She was exhilarated, considering it to be a Thelemic sign, a ‘war engine’ mentioned in The Book of the Law. This event inevitably predisposed her to be particularly interested in a phenomenon that erupted into popular consciousness the following year.

Marjorie Cameron

Grant instigated a specific Cult of Lam after coming to feel that the portrait was a focus of an increasingly intense extra-terrestrial energy that would be of great importance during the Thelemically significant decade of the eighties (remember ‘I am the warrior Lord of the Forties: the Eighties cower before me & are abased’?).

It is worth pausing to consider what “Extra-Terrestrial” may be considered to mean. To most people it will obviously refer to something originating on another physical planet elsewhere in the universe. In this Thelemic context it designates experiences and intelligence not confined to the consensus three-dimensional co-ordinates of planet Earth. Higher dimensional realms coterminous with 3D may well be the spaces these mysteries move through.

Ramana Maharshi.

Grant is a mystic like Crowley. For all of his exposition of entities and magical realms his ultimate devotion is to the non-dual philosophy perhaps best expressed by Hindu Advaita Vedanta and its peerless modern exemplar Ramana Maharshi. As far as this ET issue is concerned it means the distinction between inner and outer is abolished. It is in harmony with Jung’s intuitions. The field of UFOlogy thereby becomes an aspect of esoteric psychology. Its classic cases represent processes of magical and spiritual initiation for individuals and humanity as a whole, whether understood by their subjects as such or not. There is confusion and possible failure and tragedy implicit in this extraordinary scenario.

The basic Kenneth Grant position, which is now an important aspect of the magick of the Typhonian OTO, is that firstly Lam is a name and image of something that gives access to Extra-Terrestrial gnosis, a state of consciousness. Lam was intrinsically part of the Amalantrah Working which opened a portal of some kind to other dimensions. This makes Crowley the first modern style ET contactee. It also opens up a consideration of what is the real nature of the Secret Chiefs of Occultism and in particular, Aiwass.

In the Cult of Lam as initiated by Kenneth Grant and developed by his closest long-term associate in the Typhonian OTO Michael Staley, Lam is not necessarily a distinct entity but a trans-aeonic portal to gnosis outside of the circles of time. Something about his visual appearance potentially serves to stimulate aspects of consciousness otherwise dormant. He could be a mask for the experience of the Hidden God/Holy Guardian Angel and help serve the purpose of crossing the abyss.

The basic method of Lam meditation consisted of creating a magickal space by the usual banishings and then sitting silently in front of a copy of the Crowley picture staring into its eyes. The name was then repeated internally in the manner of a mantra. This process was considered sufficient to potentially stimulate an altered state of consciousness. As mood shifted an imaginative attempt would be made to enter into Lam’s head, the Egg of Spirit, and then look out from his eyes. Profoundly alien zones might be thus encountered or general mutations of consciousness allowing download access to previously unknown realms of being.

An extension of this procedure formulated by Michael Staley begins with the fact that the name Lam also happens to be a Sanskrit seed syllable featured in some Kundalini yoga systems referring to the base chakra wherein the great serpent power resides that can be raised up the spinal column through a progressive expansion of consciousness until a climactic enlightenment at the top of the head. Staley’s development involves visualising a serpent with the head of Lam ascending the spine through the chakras. The process does not directly identify Lam with Kundalini but may produce similar results.

We have established at least one example where, regardless of the particular cases’ credibility, there is an overlap between the study of UFOlogy and occultism. Closer investigation soon reveals that this zone of overlap is in fact of considerable size and any account of UFOlogy which ignores it is profoundly incomplete.

Text from Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.
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Monday, 8 November 2010

Blog Talk Radio Leary and Crowley lecture

Artwork by Adam Scott Miller

My Blog Talk Radio presentation entitled Timothy Leary: heir to Aleister Crowley? is available for listening now.

Phone problems in the last five minutes prematurely curtailed the broadcast but I had finished the essential material.

Most of the lecture is taken almost verbatim from a chapter in my book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.

The central topic is a mysterious episode in 1971 when Leary and the English writer Brian Barritt found themselves walking in the footsteps of Aleister Crowley and Victor Neuberg in their legendary occult workings in the Algerian desert that included the raising of John Dee's "mighty demon" Chroronzon.

Although the subject has been discussed by other writers, I believe I have a unique and interesting perspective on what it actually meant abd how it helps us to understand the whole drama of Leary's life.

Listen to it here:

Friday, 5 November 2010

From Hell: the 1888 matrix.

After seeing Alan Moore discussing Austin Osman Spare on BBC2's Culture Show last night I decided to repost a piece from last year inspired by his greatest creation.

Following an online comment thread concerning the Johnny Depp Jack the Ripper movie From Hell I found myself pondering again on a subject that has been present in my life for decades. The film has somewhat polarised opinion. I come down in its favour. I present here what is primarily an expanded version of material featured in my Avalonian Aeon on what I have termed the 1888 matrix, an extraordinary scenario centred on London that has given the modern world a set of potent mythic icons that continue to inspire and disturb us. How very strange that, alongside the grimly historical Ripper, stand the equally immortal figures of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes. They also accompany the birth of the magical order that has most strongly influenced the modern revival, the Golden Dawn.

Johnny Depp’s Abberline was a real policeman involved with the case whose biographical details only bear the faintest resemblance to the movie portrayal of drug-addled psychic. Clearly he has been mythologised. This annoys some people depending on their temperaments. I accept all movies as inherently mythological, even supposed historical documentaries. I am happy to be led by that process. Mythic figures can enable us to see things from a unique viewpoint that may enhance our understanding. Depp’s detective helps us to appreciate that the Ripper murders were a nightmarish hallucinatory scenario full of nuances indicative of something vast and hideous just out of sight in the shadows intruding into the comfort and safety of our daytime consciousness and consensus reality. Drug-enhanced psychic visions of murder are a good vehicle for such perceptions.

Although the prostitute victims of the Ripper are generally depicted in the movie as entirely unglamorous and grim glimpses are given of their dangerous degraded lives, Heather Graham as Mary Kelly seems almost an absurd and even objectionable exception. Let’s just say she scrubs up pretty well for 1888 Whitechapel. The final murder was hideous in the extreme and despite the scarcity of available biographical details Kelly has generated tremendous sympathy over the years. In defence of the Graham portrayal, it has been said that she was noticeably different from her eventual associates in general appearance and demeanour. A thousand people saw her funeral procession. Many prayers have been said for her and one modern devotee paid for a grave stone. Of course we would all want to rescue her from her fate and the movie plays on this. There are mysteries concerning her death and the suggestion that someone else died in her place dates from 1888 and is not just a plot device.

Dorset St in 1888, the general area where Mary Kelly lived and died.

The basic scenario in From Hell is that the Ripper was Queen Victoria’s surgeon, William Gull. He acted as the agent of a Masonic conspiracy to save the royal family from a scandal after a dissolute prince had married a prostitute in a secret Catholic wedding. In this scenario the Ripper’s victims knew each other and the royal bride. Elements of this theory had been circulating for some time before cohering in the currently recognisable form. The one work most responsible for this is Stephen Knight’s 1976 Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution, which in turn inspired Alan Moore’s legendary graphic novel From Hell on which the movie is based. Hardcore Ripperologists tend to reject the whole package but some mythic potency has seen the general idea take root in popular culture.

William Gull.

The power of the movie and Knight’s book is that they can serve as an entrance into a realm that provides an ever-expanding context for the basic drama that at the very least is fertile ground for Jungians. Something mighty strange was going down in 1888. Alan Moore’s graphic novel is the definitive treatment of this bigger picture. To criticise the movie of the book for not doing its scope justice seems a bit futile to me as it would take an elaborate mini-series at least to do so.

The starting point for this larger journey and the fundamental frame for the mystery comes from material produced by poet novelist Iain Sinclair in Lud Heat on the architect of some notable London churches, Nicholas Hawksmoor. Five of these buildings, dating from the reconstruction after the great fire of 1666, and expressing all manner of Masonic and Aegyptian influences, lie in a pentagramic configuration anchoring an arcane matrix of powerful influences that have called forth murder and mayhem over the years. The last and most hideous of the Ripper’s murders was committed in the immediate proximity of a Hawksmoor church.

Christchurch Spitalfield.

From Alan Moore's graphic novel.

Ripperology has some points of comparison to Arthurian studies. Here are realms where every single known fact has been examined and analysed in minute detail on innumerable occasions. Over the years individuals have found themselves becoming obsessed with the topic and drawn into weird odysseys that lead them to some new angle, some new interpretation. There is the quest for the historical Arthur and the search for the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

There are partisans for their respective candidates. Rivalries arise with attendant controversies. Eccentrics abound. The fields are fertile. Many of these journeys of exploration yield incredible results that understandably convince the navigators of their veracity. Whether it is an interpretation of a Grail text or the hints of some vast conspiracy, something of validity continues to surface so that even if one can reject a certain hypothesis it is often conceded that is has revealed something of merit. In recent years the Grail industry has seen the emergence of the holy bloodline theories with the increasing centrality of Mary Magdalene until they have become the theme of a blockbuster novel and Hollywood film. In Ripperology the theories bringing in the royal family and the masons have been incredibly stimulating to many creative minds inspiring the genres’ Parzival in the form of Alan Moore’s From Hell and a number of books and movies.

In each case, the Grail literature and the Ripper, some kind of esoteric background has been postulated. Just as I have come to identify a distinct twelfth century flavour, a bigger picture in which to appreciate the Grail mystery (which I have elaborated upon in my Mysterium Artorius), so likewise I have mulled over what I came to call the London 1888 matrix. I had already figured out a lot of the details before coming to Alan Moore’s comprehensive catalogue.

On 8/8/88, the Lyceum theatre premiered a stage version of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde. It was an immediate sensation, evoking strong responses in its audience. The leading actor’s transformations from the figure of a pillar of the community to a monster right in front of their eyes was horrific stuff for a pre-psychoanalytical culture with no real sense of any lurking inner demons.

It proved to be a powerful experience for the young Irish manager of the theatre, Abraham “Bram” Stoker (pictured above). Within a decade he would be inspired to conjure a figure of equal power from the collective unconscious to stand alongside Mr Hyde on the streets of London.

Gary Oldman as Dracula.

Something strange was stirring. Just a few weeks after the play’s opening the first of the Whitechapel murders occurred. The “autumn of terror” had begun.

This was the London where Madame Blavatsky was living out her last years, publishing the epochal Secret Doctrine in 1888. A few miles away from the Ripper’s Whitechapel, in 1887, coroner Wynn Westcott claimed to have discovered cipher manuscripts in some books bought on the Farringdon Road.



With the aid of an associate knowledgeable in the occult, Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers, he set about translating the information that led to the foundation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn the following year. Or so the mythology goes.

And lots of other evocative little fragments contributed to a particular flavour. The Elephant Man was coming to public attention. One of the greatest fictional characters in British consciousness, Sherlock Holmes had just set out on his first published case, A Study in Scarlet. And Hitler was in the womb during the time of the Ripper murders.

Holmes unravels the masonic Ripper conspiracy. An excellent movie.

Was there an occultist background to the scenario? I am sure of it. There is another interesting suspect to place alongside William Gull. An old school teacher of mine, Melvin Harris, pointed the finger at Robert Donston Stephenson.

Stephenson fits the bill right across the board. Onetime army surgeon, dissolute addict of prostitutes and initiate of ceremonial magic of a nineteenth century French flavour, traveller amongst African magicians, contributor to Blavatsky’s Lucifer magazine, this man was a disturbing presence. He actually wrote an article as early as December 1888 suggesting a satanic element in the murders. In this, he may be the first instance of such a posited occult connection. His closest associates of the time, who numbered the Theosophical writer Mabel Collins and the London literary figure WT Stead all considered him to be the Ripper. An anecdote relating to this appears in Crowley’s Confessions.

Ivor Edwards further investigated Donston, going back to basics by actually measuring out the murder sites in relation to each other by the yard and taking compass bearings and so on. He suggests a rival configuration to the Hawksmoor pentagram. The first four victims were laid out facing North, South, East, and West respectively. All of the women were killed within a five-hundred yard radius. Edwards’ findings are revealed in the pulp-titled Jack the Ripper’s Black Magic Rituals. It is enough here to say that he believes that with the final placing of Kelly the killings were meticulously enacted on a vesica piscis design that provided maximum desecration of the Christian cross and female form.

The movie of From Hell can work to open a doorway that results in a long journey. When coming back to it later I would suggest it may not seem diminished through that greater knowledge but enhanced. However conscious and deliberate the historical protagonists were the basic insight of Alan Moore as stated in the movie makes perfect nightmarish sense. This enormous matrix gave birth to the twentieth century where the old gods live again and Mr Hyde, Dracula, and the Ripper serve as embodiments of the collective Shadow we have to integrate and we intuitively sense that we need the flawed brilliance of a Sherlock Holmes or Depp’s Abberline to help us crack the case.