Monday, 18 December 2017

Nicholas Roerich Video Lecture

In December 1997 I put on a presentation in Glastonbury to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of mystical artist Nicholas Roerich.

This year I realised that the date would fall on a Wednesday evening when the Glastonbury Positive Living Group would be meeting so I had an opportunity to do it again for the internet age.

Thanks to Samia and Dave for setting me up with this event and filming it.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Notes Towards an Expanded Psycho-Historical Context for the Manson Family

Following the death of Charles Manson, I have re-purposed an old post that I feel may feature a few ideas that might not appear in the undoubtedly huge amount of material that will probably surface on the internet in the next week or so.

I originally wrote this in 2009 when the release of the Johnny Depp vehicle Public Enemy coincided with the general period of the fortieth anniversary of the Manson murders. I found it interesting to note a point of connection that came through one of the true-life characters featured in the movie, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. In later years he tutored the young Charlie on the guitar and much else besides. This serves as an interesting doorway into an expanded psycho-historical context in which to place the Family enigma. I offer up these fragments in the spirit of Marshall McLuhan’s Probes in the hope they may inspire others to expand them further.

Charles Manson is certainly a unique character and a lot of his story carries the tone of the time. It’s fascinating to investigate the occult beliefs circulating in sixties California that may have influenced him. Ed Sanders in The Family and Adam Gorightly in The Shadow Over Santa Susana have pointed towards the Solar Lodge of the OTO, the Process Church of the Final Judgement and a wider climate inspired by the Church of Satan as important factors in the genesis of Helter Skelter. I deal with these topics in my Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.

I think there is also a larger American pyschogeographical context that Charlie and the Family can be fruitfully placed in.  Firstly, the Karpis connection helps fit Manson  into a lineage that stretches back through the gangster era to the Wild West. Charlie’s gangster mentor was a former designated Public Enemy from the Dillinger/Bonnie and Clyde era. A thief and murderer in his own right he joined up with the Ma Barker gang, a group of psycho-killer brothers immortalised by seventies Euro-disco-kitsch champions Boney M under their variant spelling as Ma Baker.

Go on. You know you want to watch it.

As a young girl Ma Barker had seen Jesse James ride by on a horse and was upset to hear of his death. Contrary to the legend she didn’t slaughter for fun and may not have been actively involved in the carnage but here was a family that slayed together. FBI chief J Edgar Hoover wrote in a book called The FBI in Action that “Ma Barker and her sons, and Alvin Karpis and his cronies, constituted the toughest gang of hoodlums the FBI ever has been called upon to eliminate…Looking over the record of these criminals, I was repeatedly impressed by the cruelty of their depredations…murder of a policeman …murder of two policemen ….machine gun murder of an innocent citizen who got in the way during a bank robbery …kidnapping  and extortion…train robbery…mail robbery ...the protection of high police officials bought with tainted money…paroles bought.”  As well as guitar tutorials, Karpis probably regaled his student with romanticised outlaw-chic stories of on-the-road pillage and slaughter.

During Manson’s apparent hippy phase he remained in contact with all kinds of figures in the general criminal underworld, engaging in a wide range of what could be called conventional criminal activity: car theft, burglary, credit card rackets, as well as drug-dealing. Somewhere in the background lurk Mafia types and the possibility that there may be a contract-killing aspect to the Tate-LaBianca murders. In this sense, Manson was a gangster.

Once the Family moved out from the cities into the wilderness they took on the established outlaw ambiance. They spent significant time on a ranch that had featured in a numerous western B movies. Scenes from the legendary sixties TV series Bonanza and The Lone Ranger had been shot there. A whole Wild West street film set was in place that included a saloon. In this environment the Family lived their drug-filled orgiastic lifestyle. There were real cowboys still working on the ranch and a number of the Family also helped with the horses and general chores. Biker gangs were increasingly in evidence, along with the build up of an arsenal of weapons. In their later wanderings mining cabins and shacks, abandoned ghost villages, and isolated wilderness settlements are everywhere in the Family landscape. There can be little doubt that what could be called the Wild West Factor would have been part of the potent influences that shaped the group mindset.

Taking a look at Death Valley, scene of the final hoedown before Manson’s arrest, it’s redolent of Palestine. It’s a place where it would be easy to become a Bible nut. From the nineteenth century onwards large numbers of weird religious cults with their own take on Revelations went west. Madness, violence and sexuality were often present in varying blends around charismatic leader figures. The End Times were usually near. Charlie and the Family are part of this heritage as well. He fits the warped-out preacher archetype rather well. My personal favourite modern representation of this is Henry Kane in Poltergeist II. 

Manson is already a mythic figure. In another fifty years who knows how Hollywood might portray him or characters clearly derived from him? Look at the enormous number of westerns romanticising the lives of dirtbag murderers and the hideous environments they lived out their wretched lives in. These movies were created decades after the events they portrayed. With the gangster era there was no time-lag with the glamorising movies depicting it. Hippy outlaws and love-guru preachers may eventually become even more lionised noir figures than they already are. The psychogeography is well established. They are recognisable figures in archetypal tales set in a dreamtime landscape.

Steve Railsback as Manson in the seventies TV mini-series Helter Skelter. 

In my opinion the only actor who has ever managed a convincing portrayal. The words are accurately reported and the tale assuredly portrays Manson as a monster but Charlie himself skillfully milked the archetypal outlaw role and generates some power with it. What might a 2070 version of Helter Skelter be like?

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Atargatis Rune Soup Interview

I have been writing a book entitled Atargatis for the whole of this year and am now maybe a few months away from completion.

As always, I have placed great importance on the cover art and remain fortunate in being able to call on the considerable talent of Yuri Leitch to paint whatever design I come up with. The process in this case has been remarkably strange and is discussed at length in an interview with Gordon White for Rune Soup.

I also go into some detail about some of the contents of the book relating to Kenneth Grant and mysterious Egyptian Pharaoh Sobek Neferu Re. I would like to think it will generate some interest in the finished version when it finally arrives.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Jose Arguelles and the Harmonic Convergence Video Lecture

Here is a video of a recent presentation of mine for the Glastonbury branch of the Wessex Research Group. My thanks to Jacqui Simmonds for organising the event and Samia Dance for filming it.

It is 30 years since the Harmonic Convergence, the 'New Age Woodstock', created by Jose Arguelles, a visionary professor of art history, who had become immersed in the mysteries of the Mayan calendar. I talks about Arguelles life and the many inspirations for the event that range from Martin Luther King to Tibetan Buddhism, and the Face on Mars! Includes material on Tony Shearer and Nicholas Roerich.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Circle of Perpetual Choirs video lecture.

The Circle of Perpetual Choirs is perhaps the most evocative and controversial British landscape mystery. John Michell, starting from sources mentioning Glastonbury as a location where a constant liturgy was recited, went on to postulate alignments with sites with similar associations, creating a decagon centred on White Leaved Oak in the Malverns.

Featuring material from my long-term work-in-progress, Aquarian Phoenix, the follow-up to Avalonian Aeon, I cover a wide range of subject matter including Druidic mythology, William Blake, the Enchantment of the Landscape, Psychic Questing, and my own vision quest that led me from a moment of revelation in Glastonbury to live out my dream at White Leaved Oak. A Gayatri Mantra initiation and Medicine Buddha puja are featured along the way.

This presentation suggests that in some way the Choir still sings and it may be possible to hear something of its song.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Mysterious St Expedite

I live in Glastonbury. It’s a place full of traditions concerning saints and historical figures whose details can be considered downright dubious if not entirely false. Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur are the prime examples. We can add saints Patrick, Bridget, and Benignus. There is something about the atmosphere surrounding these people here that is nonetheless compelling and beautiful. An attitude of devotion seems to bear fruit. 

Coming from such a background has probably helped me to appreciate the profoundly mysterious Saint Expedite, revered as a great worker of miracles concerning money and luck, despite all manner of problems in establishing his historical credentials.

We have a modest biographical story that is not entirely dissimilar to that of a number of other saints. Expedite was a Roman soldier from Armenia, who made the decision to convert to Christianity. The Devil appeared to him either in the form of a crow or a snake and tried to persuade him to wait until the following day to finalise his decision. Expedite slew the animal immediately, affirming that he would be a Christian that very day. This part of his story is depicted in standard images of him where he has one foot standing on the dying crow holding a ribbon in its beak with the word Cras written on it, which means tomorrow, and has the Latin word Hodie, meaning today,  written on a cross he is holding up. Expedite is thereby connected with procrastination-busting and fast solutions to problems. In 303AD, during the time of a persecution of Christians by the Emperor Diocletian, Expedite was one of the victims of a mass beheading. April 19th is honoured as the date of this. 

The source material for his story is minimal. The fifth century Martyrology of Jerome lists saints and martyrs with the dates of their feast days. That this source contains difficulties is obvious in the case of Expedite who is listed for two consecutive days, April 18th and 19th, suggesting that the compiler was a tad slipshod. He has no official relics. It’s difficult to find traces of devotion to him until recent times. Back in the sixties, the Second Vatican Council included him among a number of saints whose status was revoked. Nonetheless, his devotion in some parts of the world has not just persisted but intensified.

His very name is problematical. The details of the development of his devotion are full of punning and word play that don’t seem suggestive of historical veracity. A great example of the peculiarities involved in dealing with him can be found in a number of essentially identical stories found in France, Brazil, Haiti, and New Orleans. A crate containing the bones of a saint is delivered to a religious community with a word such as Spedito written on it. This suggests its delivery was marked as urgent but the recipients take it to refer to the name of the saint as no other documentation indicates the identity. 

His greatest popularity is probably in New Orleans, where he has been considered to be a kind of patron saint of the city. A variant of the crate story supposedly dating from around 1900 has Spanish priests ordering a statue of the Virgin Mary and two crates being received. The second contained a statue of a male dressed as a Roman soldier and was simply labelled Espedito. Another version extends back a century and features French nuns. In both versions the statue becomes venerated and attracts increasing attention due to apparent rapid answering of prayers. This rapidity is clearly connected with the name Expedite. There are many cases where the attributes of saints, the kind of things one might prayer to them for, are developed from their names due to the paucity of information about them. These are the kinds of figures who might endure in folk traditions.

New Orleans is a legendary cultural mix. The veneration of saints crosses over from Catholicism into Voodoo and Hoodoo. Devotion blends with magic. Expedite is petitioned more on certain days. He is associated with colours of candles and so on. There is a particular way of arranging an altar when a request is being made. Novenas and general prayers accompany this. He has become best known not just for procrastination busting but for rapid solutions that usually involve money to otherwise intractable life problems. There is a protocol for thanking him when it is felt he has intervened. Flowers are offered. Cakes. He is publicly saluted. In the modern age of social media that might involve a Facebook or Twitter post. 

Veneration of St Expedite in such a manner could not persist without the innumerable accounts  of those feeling that they have had definite results from their prayers.

This post itself fulfills a promise made to Saint Expedite. 

I am indebted to The Conjurer’s Guide to St Expedite by Denise M Alvarado for a wealth of obscure information and details on how to approach the saint. 

Glory be to St Expedite.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Star of Ishtar Video Presentation

Here is a video of my first public presentation of 2017 for Glastonbury Positive Living Group

I'm currently writing a book entitled Atargatis. This is a major project, tacking a wide subject range, that attempts to do justice to one of the great adventures of my life. Long-term readers of this blog might recall the summary of the story I have republished here that was originally written in 1993.

The book includes an important section concerning how, in 1992, in the midst of a Babylonian past-life saga and the energy blast of initiation into Reiki and Osho Sannyas, I experienced a coming together of all my interests in time and synchronicity into a system of knowledge based on the eightfold wheel of the year that gave me a glimpse of a higher-dimensional form in which the mystery of my true identity resides, the 'Star of Ishtar'. This is a presentation of that material, full of typical tales, expanding on ideas from previous lectures, which contains many actionable takeaways potentially of use to anyone.

Brean Down as seen from the pier at Weston-super-Mare Dec 2016.

Thanks to Chillfilms  for the recording.