Monthly Archives: December 2010

Axes to the Ladder of Light – Wrecked Rungs & Missed Opportunities

“As our most ancient Stone is not derived from combustible things, you should cease to seek it in substances which cannot stand the test of fire. For this reason it is absurd to suppose that we can make any use of vegetable substances, though the Stone, too, is endowed ‘with a principle of growth.

If our Stone were a vegetable substance, it would, like other vegetables, be consumed by fire, leaving only a certain salt. Ancient writers have, indeed, described our Stone as the vegetable Stone. But that name was suggested to them by the fact that it grows and increases in size, like a plant.

Know also that animals only multiply after their kind, and within their own species. Hence our Stone can only be prepared out of its own seed, from which it was taken in the beginning; and hence also you will perceive that the soul of an animal must not be the subject of this investigation. Animals are a class by themselves; nor can anything ever be obtained from them that is not animal in its nature.” - from The Golden Tripod, by Basil Valentinus

“The study of the organs will not teach us about the inner essence of man any more than the mere observation of the letters in a sentence can convey its meaning to one who does not know how to read. The only possibility of knowledge lies in sinking into one’s own interiority in order to follow from there the mysterious ways leading toward the material body.”from First Steps Toward the Experience of the “Subtle Body,” in Introduction to Magic, ed. Julius Evola

“Seek and ye shall find…”

The questions presented to the truth seeker are simple, “What truth is it that you seek?” and “Why do you seek it?” Science, as understood up until the triumph of rationalism, was a study of the unity of being. With such an understanding any starting point leads towards self study, the same mechanics that exist in the celestial domain are applicable to the individual consciousness if the proper meditation is followed.

There is much scholarly debate over whether the alchemists went beyond early chemistry, if their Art was more than a coded form of chemical lab work. This question seems to ignore the mindset of those who sought the Stone. Spiritual alchemy i s the Art of ancient chemistry applied to the development of the human spirit. It’s historical basis is implied in the thoroughness of the ancient conception of the universe and it’s unity.

What we all too often miss in historical analysis is that the end of the Great Work is the restoration of unity, the solution is succinctly given by Socrates, “Know thy self.” This self knowledge, however, is unified  with the knowledge of the whole.

Even if chemistry were the sole end, a deeper understanding of the Art always leads back to an understanding of ourselves. This is all too often lost in contemporary science, this sense of an in depth understanding of our own place in the discovery. The focus on material ends used to be known as vulgar mathematics, the study of number for material ends outside of contemplation.

Alchemy has been so overladden with alternative narratives, be they psychological, theosophic, therapeutic or general new age, it’s a welcome change that the historical roots are being more clearly exposed. The difficulty is in maintaining a clear picture of the Art and not allowing historicism to take away from it’s full exposition.

Every Art holds the potential to act as a ladder to enlightenment, but it’s very easy to take an axe to the rungs by cutting out the steps leading up to the end or by limiting the reach of the ladder. Every angle of analysis has to be properly aligned; giving too much weight to one over another creates an imbalanced view. Historicism is valuable for tracing the roots of ideas, for gaining a better understanding of their development, their affects over time, however it can be very damning to the search for the application of those ideas in practice.

Similarly too much focus on practice and self revelation can limit the full flowering of an idea. Without a clear view of the whole, including historical antecedents, we remain outside the organic development of life that can be traced through looking at the past. False teachers set themselves up on our lack of historical memory and much confusion comes from not understanding the basic origins of an idea.

We all too often throw out what could be reused or reawoken. I was recently struck by an article that Peter Stockinger posted regarding Raymond Lull’s Art of Memory. In it Chiromancy, or palm reading, is turned into a mnemonic device. Similarly when reading Richard Tarnas’ Cosmos and Psyche, what I found most revealing was his concept of reinvigorating the astrological cosmology with a sense of psychology, reformulating what is commonly considered superstition into a powerful cultural mnemonic device capable of acting as a tool for psychological therapy, very close to what Giordano Bruno recommends in his work, The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast.

In any interpretation the answers given to the questions presented to the truth seeker provide a guide to what will be discovered. We should be careful that our answers and our methods of seeking don’t blind us to the revelations that lay close at hand.


Fouling the Water – Impotent Imagination & Poison Myths

Mytho-poesis is like a gun, you can take it out and train yourself through the controlled application of fire and force, or you can walk into a mall and expose your impotence in a violent and irresponsible act. Any time you attach an image to a conceptual framework and distribute that little package to the populace you’re playing with the cultural narrative. This can be used to help or hinder society, and when it’s done as an act of spite from an unrefined consciousness it starts to foul the collective mental waters.

Under the auspices of popular voices like Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, we talk a lot about positive myths, myths that uplift us and invigorate our lives. For scholars whose diet is strict and indulged in the company of profound minds past and present, this may be a proper perspective. When we consider, however, that there are other conversations that come to the community on the same neutral terms of mytho-poesis it becomes necessary to recognize that there are irresponsible ways to mix the voice and vision.

I was recently reminded of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” trope used by folks who feel burned by the mismanagement of organized religion. With all this mytho-poetic theorizing going on I suddenly realized that the FSM was actually a poisonous entity. It’s vacuous nature, devoid of any potent conceptual purpose, houses itself in the cultural narrative, creating a meaningless negation where growth could be found.

It’s the flip side of mystery, an infantile image aligned to a zombified corporate rationalism. Upheld as an image of intellectual freedom it exposes the impotent imagination of it’s exponents and their inability to reach a true  illumination of the intelligence.

A deep sense of compassion reaches out to these hurt intellects festering under the sway of a poisonous mythos. Lacking all beauty, empty of a Hermetic humor, the FSM is a cold cell for bitter hearts. With all the archetypes of critical intelligence to choose from, to center in on such a sad thought form represents a frantic misstep on the road to reason.

So take heed when your bile rises and your creativity is sparked. Aid in the movement of truth and resist the urge to create empty vessels that set sail to suck meaning from the collective consciousness.  The passage is fit with enough trials, we don’t need any more impotent arguments to foul the water.

Cured in the Underworld – Killing Joke in Perspective

“The initial symptoms have escalated into a monstrous plague. It does not require much imagination to locate the underworld within a scarred, butchered landscape. Industrial wasteland, inhumane concrete hovels, resembling rabbit hutches stacked up on top of one another. “

- Jaz Coleman, The Courtauld Talks

“For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

- Luke 23:29-31

One of the first cd’s that I bought was Killing Joke’s Pandemonium. This, along with Psychic TV’s Force Thee Hand of Chance, a recording of French Motets and The Orb’s Orblivion, formed the core repeating repertoire of albums guiding my young mind on a Euro-mystic journey into the cultural abyss. While my friends where dosing themselves on Marylin Manson, Metallica and NIN, I was dreaming Druidry and the synchronistic sublime.

Now 15 years later I’m encountering those formative experiences in a different light. Killing Joke’s latest album Absolute Dissent, the first since 1982 to include the original line up, is a violent purgative for the paranoia that’s been eating its way into the collective consciousness. Applying the Paracelsean maxim, “the dose makes the poison”, their incendiary musical exorcism of mediocrity, repression and the  irresponsible whims of Western culture returns to take on the infection of the Infowars contingent, reminding us we really do have a choice in changing the path we’re heading down.

Their positivity is lost on a media quick to declare them dark and sinister ministers of doom.  This stilted categorization couldn’t be farther from the true goals of the band. Why is the music often so brutal? “It is a homeopathic principle. The cure for a sickness is accomplished by dosing the patient with minute quantities of substances which in larger doses would actually create the very symptoms of the sickness. Such a cure for a sickness involves experiencing a little of the essence of sickness” Coleman explains in the lecture he presented at the Courtauld Institute of Fine Art in 1987. Despite the seeming illiteracy of the Western media, the truth is clearly written out in 32 years worth of interviews, essays and public lectures.

As I read through the reviews in the U.S. press I was struck by just how far we are from a rational cultural narrative.  Is it really necessary to keep flipping the fundamentalist or science coin, watching for which limited viewpoint lands to call the next shot? Does this idiocy have to filter in to the arts as well?

If we take the media’s view of Killing Joke’s philosophy we’re presented with fallow choices, they’re a bunch of cunning satanists, violent musicians or they’re conspiracy kooks. The cognitive dissonance in this presentation is lost on writers bent on exposing imaginary satanists, marketing a niche or grappling with the low hanging fruit of criticizing contrived conspiracy theories.

If you dig deeper the real story starts to unveil itself.

I was fortunate to speak with Coleman on the phone prior to their U.S. tour, and to be able to continue the conversation in person with Coleman and Martin ‘Youth’ Glover prior to their second show in Chicago. It’s hard to understand the full impact of Killing Joke without an understanding of the Western Mystery Tradition. It’s all about fire, fire and cleansing, kao et order, solve et coagula,  Coleman describes it in Aristotilean terms, Killing Joke is about “catharsis”. Influenced as they are by Kabbalah (not the stuff that Madonna bandies about), Masonry, Gnosticism, and Western Esoteric Disciplines, it’s easy to see why some would come away confused from the potent amalgam that underlies the band, but anyone in confusion would be better  off exploring these valuable areas of study than dismissing them or creating contrived conspiracies.

We live in trying times, facing climate change, a fractured economy, nuclear proliferation, mass starvation, wars and disease; “we’re hurtling towards disaster, the scientific community is saying that if we don’t change what we’re doing immediately we’re going to need a new planet by 2030,” unfortunately, as Coleman puts it,  “human beings don’t change unless they get a big jolt.” Killing Joke is that jolt, a controlled dose of the violence that surrounds us, acting to inoculate those capable of being tried by fire.  The bands violent presence intends towards a homeopathic cure for the decline of Western society, a safe dose of the hatred, vitriol and pollution that corrodes our culture.

At the World Futurist Society conference in 2010, global thought leaders gathered to discuss how advanced technology is reaching a point of no return. The positive implications, from helpful Artificial Intelligence, life extension, cognitive enhancement, genetic engineering and advanced robotics, are balanced by a darker side in decreased privacy, the potential for division between those who choose enhancements and those who don’t, and global catastrophe from designer diseases and out of control AI. Stuck between the post-human parlour tricks of Gaga, and the banal fear mongering of fundamentalists, our society has very few potential solutions being offered to measure a reasonable reaction.

Neither a fan of post-human rhetoric, nor fearful lamentations, Coleman channels the same fire that pushed Giordano Bruno to expound the virtues of de gli eroici furori, or the heroic furies. Songs like Here Comes the Singularity , which find their inspiration in these debates, are not closed ended messages of doom, but warnings, and calls to action. “I don’t think this biotech/nanotech is going to turn out very well. People living in a post-human world for 400-500 years, their souls will have died years ago.” While others face global catastrophe with a worried blink, Coleman is firm in his conviction, “it’s just a change, we haven’t reached the final stage of evolution yet.

How could a band that uses the figurehead of the Fool take any other course? Step off the edge smiling, there’s no other path to take. “Life is the location of your gift, and the development of it,” according to Coleman, “we  were all really angry when we were younger, feeling outside of everything, Killing Joke’s given us the opportunity to find our path and supported us the whole way.

As a counterpoint to Coleman’s more theoretical approach to the path, Youth pursues Druidry through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, focusing on reclaiming the traditional place of art to express personal and cultural freedom. As he casually remarked, “At a certain point you want to serve the Mystery with more than just your pocketbook.” Beyond his work as a producer and musician, he is also active as a visual artist, creating drawings, paintings and murals with an sense of immediacy that embodies the natural path.

A group with such a complex interplay of individuals is impossible for the media pigeon hole. The press reacted with disdain when Coleman and Geordie canceled obligations in 1982 to head to Iceland, an event that caused the break up of the original band. This wasn’t a holiday however, Coleman and Geordie were looking for some peace of mind and space to enact the Abramelin Working and contact their Holy Guardian Angel (or what Socrates called the ‘genius’; a connective consciousness to a person’s role in a unified vision of life.)

It’s a powerful ritual, rumored to have proven too difficult for even English Adept Aleister Crowley; for Coleman, however, it provided the full flowering of his gift, the vision and presence of a high priest of the sacred flame. What many have mistaken as demonic possession is better understood as a sacred calling to purify the soul of the West from centuries of slow decline. People often invoke the appellation of shaman for Jim Morrison, in Coleman this vocation is more than just stage pageantry.

Conspiracy bloggers have said that Coleman is a “shape-shifter”, his willingness to explore the outer edges of culture for the sake of the Sacred isn’t something easily swallowed by the status quo. It’s interesting to see what this means on an archetypal and mytho-poetic level. The archetype of the shape-shifter as portrayed in the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism’s recent publication, The Book of Symbols, shares none of the negative or  paranoid qualities assumed in the mainstream dialogue:

“The world is interconnected and always changing; shape-shifters amplify, reveal or hide this process; that is their magic…with an affinity for “decontruction and reconstruction” (they) share the ability to separate and regroup elements of psychological process, ultimately in the service of renewal”

When looked at in that light, Coleman fits the bill. As he points out in the Courtauld talk, “the fundamentals of such performance are clearly routed in the venerable healing magic of the ancients, I assure you. Central to this very old form of therapy is the idea that if you suffer from the underworld you can only be cured in the underworld.” There’s a problem when the chorus of our culture can’t differentiate a healing balm from a blast of brimstone.

Journalists often fixate on Coleman’s stage presence, his painted face and intense persona shaking their awkward and underdeveloped sense of propriety. In an interview for the website Invisible Oranges he describes the purpose of his altered persona on stage:

“We put on the mask and take off the mask. It’s very important. When I go onstage, I’m seeking transmission and I get in a trance-like state. The idea of taking the mask off…if you don’t take the mask off, you take that world into your own life…We are well aware of the energies that surround us in Killing Joke and the peculiarities. The mask isn’t for other people’s benefit. It’s for my own protection.”

From the casual reader’s stand point the conspiranoia rampant in our culture is nothing more than info-porn, what we miss is the pain of being on the other side of someone’s paranoia and the poison this puts in the mental reservoir of our culture. “David Icke said that my friend Laurence Gardner was a reptilian,  that some woman had seen him sacrificing babies, that’s complete crap,” Coleman remembers with sadness, “Laurence was suffering from a prolonged illness and at the end of his life he’s got a bunch of people harassing him with that shit.” Laurence Garder is best known for his explorations of the Gnostic themes that Dan Brown borrowed and made popular in his Da Vinci Code trilogy. Gardner and Coleman’s friendship formed when they collaborated in 2001 on  an opera,The Marriage at Cana, commissioned by the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden London and they met again in 2003 at the Occulture Lectures in Brighton, UK, to publicly exchange works.

Their mutual admiration was based on a shared respect for chivalric virtues that most of society has long left behind, protection of the Earth, upholding of peace, support of the downtrodden, defense of the feminine (taken in the occult sense as the matrix of creation and the Holy Mother Earth), and the pursuit of knowledge. It deeply troubles Coleman that someone who was so focused on freedom would be accused of being involved in a conspiracy against humanity.

Again we find some mytho-poetic truth in Icke’s identification, Gardner was a member of the Ordo Dragonis, The Imperial and Royal Dragon Court and Order, which is described as “(providing) a fraternal rallying standard for those of all creeds and cultures who are dedicated to preserving the rights and values of others.” The question becomes, if all of these ‘sinister forces’ stand against tyranny and control…who do the journalists and conspiracy mongers support?

It’s a cruel irony that shortly after the death of  his close friend, and oft times Killng Joke bassist, Paul Raven, conspiracy blogger Chris Knowles wrote even more disparagements and accusations alleging Coleman’s untoward involvement in an occult conspiracy against Raven. By presenting this information with the breathless malevolence of a masturbatory voyeur these critics expose the fragile basis for their claims. If truth were ever to emerge in their critiques it would be mired by their uncritical experiments in chimerical bullshit.

On Absolute Dissent the bonds of friendship form a central theme. This focus recommends a positive solution to the poison of conspiratorial whispers.  In the song The Raven King, an apotheosis (a raising to divinity) for Raven’s spirit is presented,  in which he becomes the symbol of freedom and brotherhood that is all to often missing in our time.  “Forever in this moment, Rejecting those who would control us, Touched by a common genius, All bound by fate and common purpose ,” Coleman’s lyrics speak to his deep respect for ancestral spirits and for the presence of allies in the present walk. Death is not the end,  something lives on., and Raven has become a guiding force for Killing Joke, spiritual symbol of their  true purpose.

Killing Joke’s legacy, as Coleman likes to see it, is one of self education, the bonds of brotherhood and unflinching motivation. Inspired by the Rosicrucian ideals that arose in Europe during the 17th century, they focus on the dream of an interconnected web of self reliant villages and self educated polymaths, a global republic with “every citizen required to debate.” For Coleman a one world government is necessary to curb the irresponsibility that’s grown from corporate manipulations of the populace, and to some how control the dangers of over population and wars that have marked the 20th century.

Again from the Invisble Oranges interview:

“The only logical answer is to divide the world into four blocks. The Americas, the European Union, The African Union, and the Asia-Pacific Union. Then a world council that will be annexed onto the exiting U.N. That’s the only way to solve all of these problems effectively at once. And now you see! It could still go two ways. It could be the dream of Beethoven and Schiller, the brotherhood of man. Or it could be an authoritarian model. We have a choice there also.”

Coleman has been working with ILC Productions / Coffee Films on a documentary, The Death and Resurrection Show, to explore the journey that Killing Joke has taken over the past 32 years. It promises to provide a more rounded picture of the band and their unique philosophy of social renewal.  “We call it the mirror effect in Killing Joke, people come to the show and see a bunch of assholes on stage who’ve done all that we’ve done, and realize ‘If they can do it…I can too.

Production on the documentary involved Coleman’s direct involvement, and if the trailer is any indication it will be one of the most interesting documentaries on a band that’s been made. For all his showmanship, in person Coleman couldn’t be farther from the malevolent force he’s so often accused of being. He lives an austere life with few possessions, and enjoys spending time on his land in New Zealand where he dreams of a sustainable future and an enlightened society renewed by a respect for the cycles of nature. “Think of it,” he says, “every village must be self reliant. Cafes with art galleries and live music, outside a farmer’s market with locally grown produce.

Youth has also been busy collaborating with Alex Patterson of Orb, and David Gilmour, formerly of Pink Floyd, on the album Impossible Oddities along with producing his own multi-media presentations under the moniker Kommune.  It is a testament to his mercurial spirit that where many in the music industry are struggling to adapt to the new media environment, Youth’s creativity is seeing a new renaissance through combining his skill at production, visual arts and composition.

So that’s the sinister plot my friends, self reliance, responsibility, and a life lived in the beauty of the natural cycles that surround us. If there is something sinister it’s the fantasies of our culture’s demented chorus who’ve forgotten that the mask means protection, without it they’re blinded by the sun’s illumination, and all we can hear are their feeble mutterings against the red light of dawn.

Days in Darkness and the Rising Sun – Honoring our Ancestors on Our Walk into the Future

“Guarded by warriors we knew, guided by our ancestral voices” – The Raven King, Killing Joke

We are surrounded by a wealth of words and wisdom if we look carefully. The book of nature is open to those who would seek it’s wisdom, and many have passed before whose influence still lives in us and through us. This is the heart of tradition, something that’s often lost in the fevered lurch towards progress that our culture has assumed as a normal course.

The darkest days approach, Winter solstice comes on, this year attended by a lunar eclipse, total darkness. There is no better time to remember those who have passed before and those still with us who offer themselves as friends, companions and guides. This is at the heart of the gifts given in this season, do you remember?

There is no progress without a fertile past, a well attuned present. Cycles of nature return to remind us that we are not alone in the walk. Cycles of commerce have weakened this sense, let us look deeper then, past the branding that binds us, into the consequence and care that has been passed down.

“I ask her of her next of kin and loved ones in her care, she gestures all around her then she whispers “everywhere…” – Pandemonium, Killing Joke

Does the earth cry out in suffering? It was through the actions of those who came before that this situation arose. Do we find solutions to overcome the present pain? That too arises from the past, ageless voices calling us to a brighter day. There is no death, only forgetting, so let us not forget.

Expression of wisdom comes from our active hands, courting wisdom comes from respecting the guidance of those who have walked before us setting the markers along the way. Don’t be fooled by the mirror of time, those who lay behind walk before us, this is truth.

We look West to a sinking sun, and while we stare off into the horizon, the sun moves beneath us, and comes up behind. Are you surprised at daybreak? Or have you kept the fire burning in your heart and on the heath as a reminder of this process?

Vista Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem

Visit the interior of the earth, there to discover and rectify the hidden stone. Look to the manifestations of a civilization to mark it’s mind, ours is an outward quest to the physical stars, to the material planets. There is another way, a way inward, seeing the past as the future, our ancestors as those who are ahead, looking past the fall to come, into the redemption and new Eden beyond.

“Oh, how ingenious the centuries of lies, Ezekiel’s chariots streak across the skies, Holy books and history texts forget because we know, souls are recycled in the death and resurrection show.” – Death and Ressurection Show, Killing Joke

Winter washes the earth, the cold wind that whines through barren trees, beseeches us to lay down if we are tired, or to steel ourselves if we are strong. This is the cycle of life, all that ends is merely moving to a new beginning, the dead arise and walk ahead, beckoning with joyful hands to a future we can barely see as the sun grows wane in the West and rises brightly in the East.

So as this year’s Winter solstice approaches, and remember whenever you read this that the solstice is always approaching, let us remember our ancestors, hold in our hearts the flame of renewal, and sail our ships through silent waters, ever forward as we become the past. This is the heart of the permaculture revolution, a sacred return to the cycles of nature wherein we find the true fulfillment of spirit.

Originally posted at openmythsource.com

Deo, non fortuna – A Light in the Darkness

“What mathematics are to matter and force, occult science is to life and consciousness…” – Dion Fortune, Sane Occultism*

The 21st century for all of it’s scientific propensity rivals past civilizations in the widespread and popular acceptance of what is commonly called occultism. From indie bands like the Klaxons, to mainstream artists like Lady Gaga and Jay-Z, occult imagery and philosophies are spread far and wide with a surprising lack of reaction from all but the most fundamentalist branches of culture.

Chrisitan leaders like Rick Warren “cast their visions” on the culture, popular Kabbalah is a mainstay in Hollywood, Scientology (L. Ron Hubbard’s association with, and betrayal of, the occultist Jack Parsons is often overlooked) holds sway over established actors like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, even Oprah, a household favorite, is knee deep in mysticism and channeled teachings. When we begin to look there appears no place untouched by esoteric doctrines and ideas. In such a climate one would do well to acquaint themselves with the history and basic ideologies that are so easily passed back and forth without the blink of an eye.

The question now, as always, is where to go for a sober and rational explanation. How does the awakened seeker find something that doesn’t stink of fraud or hold a clever hook set by a savvy cultural fisherman looking for a mark. Fortunately a good teacher is as active after they’ve passed on as they are when they are alive, sometimes even more so. Violet Firth, better known as Dion Fortune, is one of those luminaries who stepped forward to say, in plain language, what is often obfuscated and left to confusion.

If we consider that what we call occult, or hidden knowledge, is more accurately designated as Sacred Science, it become obvious that the popular conception of this body of knowledge has undergone a darkening process that opens the door to superstition, mal-intention, and manipulation. The tradition that upheld the greatest spirits that humanity has produced is today given over to the most malignant intentions of our species. Sign posts leading upward to revelation and renewal have been turned around to point us on a path to dissolution and negation.

“If the light that be in us is darkness, how great is that darkness?” – Dion Fortune, Sane Occultism

Born in 1890 (or 1891) she saw the end of the 19th century and lived to see the end of World War 2.  It was during the second world war that her most famous ‘practical’ application of occultism came into play with what became known as the Magical Battle of Britain. While so much of what we think of today in esoteric philosophy centers around self-help and personal gain, Dion’s focus went far beyond this limited application.

Gathering a group of like-minded practitioners she coordinated active visualizations of Arthurian and Christian archetypes to combat the fevered mytho-poesis of the Nazi party. There is much debate over how much awareness Adolf Hitler had of the occult sciences, however there is no doubt about the fact that Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS, was more than active in his pursuit of esoteric knowledge.

Wewelsburg Castle formed a central place in Himmler’s conception of the mystical knighthood of the S.S. and it was his intention that it would become the “Center of the World” after the successful rise of the Third Reich. In direct opposition to this mytho-poetic scheme for the furtherance of a Nazi world order was Dion Fortune’s use of Glastonbury Tor as a center point for what she saw as a new Avalon. The Tor formed the focal point of her ‘magical’ attack against the Nazi party, and whatever the reality of the effect, her actions coincided with a renewed vigor of the British public to withstand the continued air raids and psychological assault against the United Kingdom.

In this battle can be seen the twin poles of the Sacred Sciences, on the one hand a group of ennobled souls striving for the health of society, on the other the mythic legacy of an entire people turned inward to selfish aggrandizement and destruction. This focus on practical applications for the health of society makes Dion Fortune’s work stand out against so many others who pursued the occult sciences for more personal goals. The same efforts that attended this dramatic exploration of mytho-poesis are evident in her courage and forthright approach to the topic.

“Great is Truth and shall prevail, and no one who is sincere need fear her.” – Dion Fortune, Sane Occultism

During her life Dion was no stranger to controversy, while still attending to her initiatic studies she openly published some of the most guarded secrets of the Mystery Schools. The secret, “spoken of by the Iman’s behind a locked door, with one hand under the thigh” as one 15th century Sufi author put it, was an introductory theme to an article which offered a very harsh criticism of the esoteric  scene of the early 20th century. She seemed to have very little care for what polite society thought of her, pressing on as a healer not only of body and mind, but of the tradition itself.

The sobriety of her thought, the directness of her teaching and the boldness she showed in addressing the failures she saw in established traditions to maintain the Tradition, all carry through as powerfully today as they did during the early 20th century. Carrying the discipline of the 19th century into the experimentation and freedom offered by the Modern era, she exemplifies a strand of intellectual that is rare and valuable in any age.

Dion Fortune’s legacy is one which proposes an active purpose to the study of esoteric ideas. Moving beyond “large chunks of unverified and unverifiable statements and a thick treacly smear of sentimental humanitarianism” she sought “to make the Great Sacrifice which is Initiation, and to offer the dedication of the self to the service of the Powers of Light.” This self-sacrifice “dedicated to the service of God” is rare in contemporary occultism and it is a sign of her dedication that her strong presence stands out as strong today, and as offensive to so many, as it did during her time on this earth.

“There are many different roads leading to our English Jerusalem, ‘the holiest erthe in Englande’.” – Dion Fortune, Glastonbury – Avalon of the Heart

To further explore the myth-poetic resonance of Dion Fortune’s work I contacted  Paul Weston,  author of Avalonian Aeon, who was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding Glastonbury and Dion Fortune’s continued influence. In honor of her birthday on December 6th, Paul will be conducting guided visualizations in resonance with her original Glastonbury workings during World War II.

Did Arthur Machen & the Angel of Mons event in WW1 have a similar resonance/purpose to what Dion Fortune was doing during the Magical Battle of Britain?
There are a number of fundamental differences between these episodes but I believe they tap into the same emotional mythic strata. Dion Fortune’s 1940 Glastonbury work was never public knowledge.

Even today it is not that well known. It was always conceived of as quite conscious deliberate magic. With the Angels of Mons story, we have a fascinating case study of something taking on a life of its own, probably with some encouragement from propaganda intelligence operatives, until it gathered around itself a potent emotional energy.

The fact that it seems to have been initiated by Arthur Machen, a writer on magical subjects with knowledge of the same Golden Dawn tradition as Dion Fortune is certainly fascinating. He became increasingly astonished and exasperated by the way his short story on the Bowmen of Agincourt returning to help the British army in 1914 rapidly mutated into tales of angels and St George in armour. He tried to stop the process.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Dion Fortune had this saga somewhere in the back of her mind during the early days of her Magical Battle of Britain workings when she and her associates visualised giant angels standing guard along the shores of the North Sea. She believed that it’s possible to work with mythic archetypes and essentially switch them on in the back of the collective mind. This can work its way through people who have no conscious knowledge of it. Dion Fortune was certainly intending to boost the spiritual morale of the nation in 1940 and the example of how the Mons myth had done this in the previous war may well have been an encouragement. Unlike 1914 we have no way of even remotely assessing in consensus terms whether she really did. I am willing to believe so but I have a strong personal involvement in the material. There are no accounts, even entirely unreliable ones, of people seeing visions of angels on the shores, or Arthur and his knights riding forth outside of the circle of her associates.

I think it’s also worth noting a moment in the Disney film Bedknobs and
Broomsticks that I rather feel taps into the same energy. The main Angela Lansbury character is a witch who enchants the exhibits in a museum to fight against a Nazi U Boat crew who have come ashore at an archetypal sleepy British seaside town. The Germans find themselves looking up to a clifftop where an army of knights, redcoats, and representatives of the whole continuity of British history are standing guard. They then see off the Nazis with no problem. The story dates, I believe, from 1943 and was written by an American. I’d love to know a bit more about it. The characterisation of the witch doesn’t seem too far off Dion Fortune. I think it might be an example of certain concepts being expressed from deeper levels whether consciously or not.

Watch it here.

Are there any contemporary examples of this kind of ‘weaponized’ mytho-poesis?

I have heard of “Cursing for Christ” where small groups get themselves a bit worked up to bring down a bit of fire and brimstone on perceived evil-doers.

During the first Gulf War, a psychic known to me became convinced that the Iraqis were employing ancient sorceries to raise djinn in the desert to mess with Desert Storm. Considering that Saddam was rebuilding Babylon and portraying himself riding about in a chariot wearing a leopardskin, I don’t find that hard to believe. It wouldn’t surprise me if an occult mythology gradually merges from those conflicts, Sumero-Babylonian demons and so on. It’s fertile ground. Jet planes over Abraham’s Ur is evocative stuff.

What is Dion Fortunes legacy like today? She seems to have slipped out of vogue (at least in the U.S.) due to the moral focus that she put on her work?
I think Dion Fortune has actually proved to be a hardy perennial and is perhaps even increasing in popularity and influence but the modern focus tends to be on a select few of her books. The two late novels, The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic, still move people very deeply. I would imagine that any women who have ever contemplated the archetype of Priestess and wondered what it would mean to be one in the modern world would become familiar with these novels to some extent before long. Whether it’s in the form of the various types of Wicca or mystery schools like the Fellowship of Isis, Dion Fortunes work as a Priestess and her expression of it through her magical novels are a strong influence.

The Mystical Qabalah also remains an enduring favourite due to its accessibility. Psychic Self Defense has been much debated as to its autobiographical authenticity and magical usefulness but it is indubitably a fantastic read and full of inspiration.

It must also be remembered that Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, an epic retelling from a female perspective of the Arthurian legends, is infused with Dion Fortune’s ideas on a fundamental level. The depiction of Morgan owes a lot to the novels. The idea that the main characters were not singular historical figures but the holders of initiatory titles is also very evocative.

Fortune had a number of fertile ideas about the legends and this is certainly a major aspect of her ongoing legacy. Bradley proved the ideas have life in them. This book has probably been more responsible for bringing American tourists to Glastonbury than any other single factor.

In comparison to this powerful body of work, much of her earlier output has certainly not fared as well and reads more as a product of its time. The Psychology of the Servant Problem isn’t likely to feature on many people’s reading lists these days! She evolved over time. The ebb and flow of Christian influence and her contact with inner plane discarnate entities is not to everyone’s taste now. The classics are assuredly classics though.

Do you think Fortune’s works like What is Occultism? and Aspects of Occultism (Sane Occultism) are still valuable for today’s practitioners?

They are worth a read. I don’t think anyone is going to get their head set on fire by them in the way that the later novels and Mystical Qabalah can manage but not everyone needs that anyway. The Society of the Inner Light (the magical group that she founded) do mention at the start of the modern editions of all of her books that they represent products of their time and that some of the ideas may seem outdated so even her most staunch adherents acknowledge that.

What do you think is the U.S. version of Avalon? Seen from an outside perspective does the U.S. have anything as potent as this to focus a positive mytho-poesis?

That’s an interesting question and a difficult one. There’s no doubt that the USA contains some major power spots like Shasta and Sedona. What Glastonbury has that renders it so distinctive is a long history and mythology with a continuity that carries through a long sequence of events important to the life of the greater nation.

In the end, when it mattered in 1940, the Christian and pagan elements came together in harmony focused on the iconic Tor. The Native American strata, indeed the whole indigenous strata of the entire Americas, suffered a traumatic disconnection more problematical than the gradual triumph of Christianity in Britain. Many people are working to heal those traumas and reclaim the wisdom.

I don’t feel the US has anywhere that carries that continuity and is so recognizable. Shasta is truly awesome but a lot of the current New Age mythology doesn’t go back very far and doesn’t tap into the roots of the nation’s consciousness in the way that the Arthurian cycle does in Britain.

That doesn’t mean that America is any way impoverished by that. It has a unique destiny to potentially fulfill that is characterized by the incredible alchemical blending of cultures in a climate of constant acceleration. The land can and does speak when it needs to be heard and the pioneers and prophets have always seemed to be able to hear it. We have the Grail cycle and the megalithic sites and so on. You have the American Dream and that is your quest for the Holy Grail in modern form.

Can you explain briefly what you mean by Avalonian Aeon?

Aleister Crowley believed that a new epoch began in 1904 that he called the Aeon of Horus. I have examined this idea at length in my book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus. If this concept has any veracity we should expect to see its qualities expressed globally but in ways distinct to the locations and cultures concerned.

The European Aeon, for example, has been dominated by the generation from a German centre-point of the two world wars. The American Aeon involves the incredible rise to global superpower with all that has entailed. To try and formulate ideas around African and Asian Aeon is fascinating.

After centuries in suspended animation following the dissolution of Glastonbury Abbey, the location came back to life in the first decade of the last century as Crowley proclaimed the New Aeon. All aspects of its long Christian and pagan history and mythology were profoundly re-energised.

Phase one of this culminated in Dion Fortune’s 1940 magic where there was a definite interaction with the larger European and Global processes. Following another breathing space, from the hippy sixties onwards, the town mutated into its current form.

During this time its charisma, often best expressed simply through the haunting image of the Tor, has become known around the world and the town has become a global pilgrimage site, now considered to be heart chakra of the planet, and placed in the company of Shasta, Giza, Arunuchala, and so on. The unique blend, focused primarily around the associations with Arthurian mythology and an increasing awareness of the divine feminine, and the fact that’s it’s a place where people live and interact and play out their dramas, constitutes the transmission of the Avalonian Aeon.

Paul Weston is the author of Avalonian Aeon, Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus, and Mysterium Artorius. Paul is available for lectures, tailored Glastonbury tours and Reiki initiations.

You can also enjoy Paul’s lectures and explorations of his books on the blog talk radio program: Avalonian Aeon

*NOTE: Red Wheel/Weiser was kind enough to provide a selection of Dion Fortune’s work for review and study.

Confirming Craddock – Contemporary Anomaly Research & Victorian Spiritualism

Growing up I was fascinated with folklore, especially ghost stories. A trip to the library wasn’t complete without picking up some antiquated accounts of the unknown. As I’ve grown into a more mature understanding of my youthful interests I’ve come to discover that the books I really enjoyed usually came out of the Spiritualist tradition or were in some ways associated with the more esoteric end of Masonry, Theosophy, the Golden Dawn or the Psychical Research Society (and in so many cases the lines between these groups was, and is, rather blurry.)

It’s interesting to see that many of the books on “folklore” and “mythology” coming out of the 19th century were produced antecedent to the more practical implications of the work. The Psychical Research Society utilized past accounts to buttress their contemporary research, and so many of the historical works produced during this period were actually just case studies couched in the form of popular research. W.B. Yeats’ accounts of Irish fairy lore were fascinating, it took me years to realize that his research into folklore and myth were actually supportive to his esoteric practice. Things like that tend to be glossed over in the mainstream understanding of established authors whose actual intentions hold some embarrassment for the staid authorities of culture.

Vere Chappell’s recently published biography of the Theosophist and Spiritualist Ida Craddock gives an even deeper view of this process (For a more detailed review of the book itself see Freeman Presson’s literary review blog). Red Wheel/Weiser was kind enough to send over a review copy and the experience of reading it has attended a series of personal revelations on the nature of reality and cultural transmission.

Most of my readings from Vere’s biography of Ida Craddock have taken place on the train to and from Con trips to attend an alchemy lecture by Dennis Hauck and gatherings of like minded folks interested in some of the odder antecedents of culture. This fortuitous correlation has given me a contemporary view of the ideas that Ida addresses in her writings, and also a picture of how ideas about topics such as Spiritualism transmute, shedding and acquiring cultural bias, retaining their core value despite what seems to be great gaps in time.

One of the issues addressed in Ida’s writing is the subjective understanding of anomalous experiences. In her case this was focused on a relationship with a spirit or thought form that she considered her husband; to be more direct she experienced a physical relationship with a disembodied entity she believed was the spirit of a past acquaintance. By physical relationship I mean she felt that she was sexually active with a ghost.

To be absolutely honest as I read this account I was a bit put off by her direct assertions. They violated my credulity, and exploring her thoughts lead to conjectures on what value this kind of story might have to various groups or agendas keeping me from fully embracing the narrative; I was searching for the hook.

This is where the circumstances of my reading become important, and why I mention them. After an hour on the train and another hour on the subway (or EL as we call it in Chicago) attending to Ida’s account I found myself faced with the same questions while joining the company of people involved in the contemporary exploration of anomalous events.

It’s one thing to conjecture about the influences and intentions of a Victorian Spiritualist, but it’s another to have the same phenomenon addressed, face to face, by contemporary peers. To a skeptical mind it’s even more odd to realize that there are correspondences between the accounts and also to realize that the contemporary researchers are not involved or knowledgeable about the esoteric influences that attended Ida’s understanding of her experience.

There is still the lingering doubt that the contemporary researchers might be subtly influenced by such esoteric ideas simply through the culture of their investigations. This becomes less suspect when the accounts are from the perspective of those experiencing them, from the people that the contemporary researchers encounter rather than from the researcher’s own conjectures. It’s still possible to say that the idea has so perniciously infected society that it reaches even the mainstream understanding, but the farther the influence stretches, whether anomalous or not, it still becomes an object worthy of study, perhaps even more so.

If everyone is being honest there is a clear line of experience stretching from the 19th century (and much farther as the 19th century researchers were reflecting on much older accounts) up to this very day. If there is a difference in the interpretation it’s the sobriety with which these anomalies are addressed. Ida’s account is firmly protected by very sober and rational safeguards. To her such experiences become negative, not due to the anomaly itself, but rather to the subjective understanding of the individual.

What some might discount as Victorian prudery becomes invaluable advice to the modern researcher into anomalous activity. Disordered lives, addiction, mal-intention, sexual impropriety, each of these play a part in the contemporary narrative of negative anomalous events. To Ida this is self-evident, if one is not prepared to live an orderly life in society, one is certainly not prepared for the experiences that come with contacting the “borderland”.

From Ida’s work Heavenly Bridgegrooms:

“In the case of Spiritualist mediums, professional or amateur, where the phenomena assume some show of regularity, and are claimed by the medium to come entirely from the world beyond the grave, one always has to be on one’s guard against the subtle interpolation among otherwise truthful matter of fantastic or misleading statements made apparently by the communicating spirits themselves. Occultists in all ages have invariably assumed such statements to be the work of “lying spirits”. But it is noticeable that a medium of correct life and clearness of intellectual conception is less troubled by such lying spirits than is the medium of halting intellect or morals. This of itself should indicate to the thoughtful student of occult phenomena that the medium, and not the spirits, may be to blame when lying communications are made. Just as in Astronomy it is now found that the apparent movements of the sun and fixed stars are due almost entirely to our own planet’s motion through space, so, I think, when we explore the heavens of occultism we shall eventually realize that erratic psychical phenomena are due to our own shifting relation to the beings who produce phenomena. Not until people got rid of the Ptolemaic theory that the Earth was a permanent unmovable fixture in the heavens did they learn that the bewildering cycles and epicycles of the sun and fixed stars were caused by the movements of their own planet thorough space; and not until we get rid of what I may call the Ptolemaic theory of occultism, that the psychic is the one permanent, immovable factor in the apparently shifting phenomena about him, will we ever get at the true scientific laws of occultism that our own vibrations–or our own moral and intellectual ups and downs–are almost entirely responsible for the erraticness of Borderland communications. To blame Borderland intelligences for “lying” is as if in the proverbial London fog at noonday one should blame the sun for not shining. The sun is shining right along; but it is the smoke from one’s neighbors which returns upon one to shield the sun from one’s view.”

According to contemporary accounts, and Ida’s understanding, the crossing of boundaries requires great energy, and this can either be supported by self control and focus, or by the energy expended due to chaotic living. The neutrality of the experience separates it from the orthodox understanding of the sacred. It’s inconsequential to the contact whether this energy is positive or negative, these factors only come into play on the subjective experience that follows such contact.

Whatever the cause of such experiences, the continuity between what Ida recounts in her writings and what the current coterie of investigators encounter in their field of study shows that uncritical exploration can lead to disastrous results. I would recommend that everyone interested in anomalous activity, whether skeptic or believer, take a deeper look at their intentions and purpose. Whether it’s psychosis, skepticism or revelation that leads us towards the ‘borderland’, Ida’s rational and cogent advice is invaluable.

My account may seem pedantic, so let’s allow Roky Erickson, who has experience the extremes of positive and negative synchronicity, explain it  a bit more passionately…