Today, October the 24th I shall be raising a glass to wish Alexandra David-Néel a very happy birthday. Alexandra was awesome as a sorceress, buddhist and adventurer, she penetrated Lhasa, indeed Tibet when it was still a closed Kingdom. She was also an anarchist fighting the fight against oppression and a brilliant writer who influenced luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg and Alan Watts.
Amongst the many reasons to remember this remarkable lady is the fact that she brought magical tales of Tulpas to the West. Tulpas are vital game changers of which I shall have a lot (one hell of a lot in fact) to speak about very soon. Her description of the fabled Dubthab rite was very hard to trace and even then assumes that the reader can read-between-the-lines; such was early 20th century esotericism! Even Google doesnt know everything
A tulpa is basically an imagined idea which through intensity of envivification is brought into reality as a solid object. They are different from the thoughtforms of western magicians (although often confused) in that they take a lot more work to create and are visible to other people much as a ghost is. However with work a tulpa can be as solid as a punch in the nose.
Happy Birthday Alexandra David-Néel. I say "awesome" a lot nowadays, but you really were that. If I only ever manage to follow in your footsteps I will have achieved much and lived a life worth living. October the 24th will forever be your day!
Solve et Coagula
An optimistic look at how we can progress the study of paranormal and occult subjects.
I have been thinking a great deal about quantum theory recently and the increasingly popular claim that we will find the answer to mysteries such as psychic phenomena and magic within its folds. I must admit that whilst I would be happy to see a comprehensive, and above all working theory of this phenomenon emerge, I am sceptical, highly sceptical in fact that this is the direction we need to be looking in to explore this phenomena.
Even since the earliest "scientists" looked at the world and concluded that reality was composed of four elements; earth, air, fire and water, magicians have been jumping on the bandwagon and claiming that these components were also the substrata of magic. For example let us look at the Victorian idea of the luminiferous ether which was proposed as the medium through which light as a wave propagates as it travels. The idea is that just as a sound wave travels through air, so therefore if light were a wave it must also travel through a substance analogous to air; this substance was dubbed the ether. As soon as this idea was proposed it seems that occultists (particularly Theosophists) jumped on this and used the term etheric in an occult context; claiming that the substance of the bodies we walk about in when experiencing an "out of body experience" is etheric. Science moved on and disproved the idea of the ether, leaving us with some rather embarrassing jargon.
We see another example of occultists trying to appropriate scientific concepts with another favourite, DNA. Theories arise which attempt to explain phenomena such as reincarnation with "Genetic Memory" because it sounds scientific and therefore attracts a pseudo-acceptability and proxy-respectability. Let us disprove that one now as a quick aside. Many accounts of reincarnation include a description of the subjects’ death. If genetic memory were an explanation I would like to know how these memories get into the DNA since one is very unlikely to have children to pass on the DNA at or after death. As a final nail to its coffin, let us remember that (with the exception of the odd random mutation) DNA does not change through life, so the idea that it is a reservoir for memory is preposterous, since if it doesn’t change therefore it is not the store to which new memories are added.
Another example concerns uninformed people putting the effect of the moon down to gravity, which is pure nonsense. I do not doubt in the slightest the emotional effects of the moon; in fact Selene is happy to give me a full dose of depression whenever she is fully lighting our sky, however gravity clearly cannot be the answer. First of all, the amount of moon does not change through its 28 day cycle, all that changes is the amount of the moon which is reflecting light; the position of the sun dictates how much illuminated moon-surface we can see from Earth; that is all. So since the gravity of the moon does not change, that cannot be responsible you’re the common mood-swings many many people experience in sympathy with the moon.
The more astute person might cite the tides as evidence of the moons effect, however whilst; with the correct equipment; it is perfectly possible for the tides in a teacup to be detected; I doubt that they are relevant here. Tides work because the gravitational pull of the moon changes due to the location of the moon in relation to the earth (or more particularly bodies of water on earth). So as the moon travels round the earth it is basically pulling the water with it. If I were to stand perfectly still for 24 hours, the moon may well pull the various fluids in my body with it as it circles us. However this must have a cancelling effect since I do not stay very still during the day, and probably face each direction for an approximately equal period each day.
Please remember (and I will repeat this) that whilst I am totally against these pseudoscientific explanations I do not doubt that the phenomena that it is trying to explain exists. Elemental Magic does work, Out of Body experiences do happen and memories reaching back into to past lives do exist. I have experienced each of these on occasional and absolutely accept their existence. It is the explanation of the phenomena that I am objecting to since it is leading us onto a blind path.
I feel very much that we are doing something very similar with quantum theory. It is as if people are taking something which they don’t understand such as psychic phenomena and then taking something else that they do not understand such as quantum theory and saying that this mysterious thing explains that mysterious thing. It is very worrying logic and I feel that it is of a similar vein to what occultists have been doing since we first discovered that we can travel out of out body, pick up on thoughts and emotions and encounter ghosts and other entities and then desperately trying to make it acceptable by plugging in the science of the day.
In "The Character of Physical Law" super-genius Richard Feynman said "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics". This is true and quantum theory is very unintuitive. It, along with Einstein’s general and special theories of relativity are the two most tested theories in all of human history. Both are shown to be correct to a high degree of accuracy and alleged superluminal neutrinos at CERN aside, it is fairly safe to say that both models of reality describe our universe very well and whilst there are incompatibilities between the two models; quantum and relativity; these will doubtless be ironed out in time with a theory of everything. It doesn’t even matter if exceptions to these laws are found such as the recent CERN news, between them, they still describe the (physical) universe to both an infinitesimal and cosmic level of detail. Newton’s models of celestial mechanics also break down in certain areas such as close to a black hole. It doesn’t mean that they is wrong, just that it is only accurate to a certain scale; which in this case happens to be finer that that described between quantum and relativity physics. If Newton were wrong we would not have been able to get to the moon using his laws of motion, if Einstein were wrong, in-car Navigation systems would not work since the constant triangulation calculations they need to make must factor in relativity.
As an aside, we must also be wary of sensationalism. The media are happy to claim that Einstein has been proved wrong with the finding of alleged superluminal neutrinos, however even if this is the case; general relativity (which is general because it includes gravity in its description of nature) only says that one cannot accelerate from rest to the speed of light and beyond. There is nothing about starting from rest then moving straight to a superluminal speed or of particles travelling this fast without ever slowing down (although we do not have a clue how to do this or whether it is possible). Theories and mathematics have also modelled particles called Tachyons (small fast ones) which only travel faster than light and these remain within the allowable parameters of relativity. Like Newton’s celestial mechanics we will doubtless find exceptions to Einstein’s rule and areas such as nanoseconds after the big bang where the rules break down and that is fine, all we are talking about are levels of accuracy. All these areas within our universe are explainable by science, and the fuzzy bits which we cannot explain will one day be explained.
I also feel that is it imprudent to attack science and say that these are only theories. The term theory is often used to say that "therefore scientists only think this is the case". In mathematics we can produce theorems which are seen as a proof because the expressions of mathematics show that such a theorem is universally true.
So if we consider Fermat's last theorem that "no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two". For a long time the proof to this statement was a mystery; in fact Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation pondered this in an episode. However in 1994 a mathematician Andrew Wiles established a final proof that this was the case 358 years after Fermat scrawled a note in a margin of a book describing something he knew but did not elaborate upon.
Basically a theorem such as we find in mathematics can be indisputably proven. Let us take another theorem; that of Pythagoras who stated that in any right angle triangle, the areas of the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. This can be expressed as a2 + b2 = c2. There is not a single right angled triangle in the universe which breaks this rule and this can be shown because every single right angle triangle in the universe can be mathematically modelled and expressed within Pythagoras’s theorem.
Theories rather than theorems are what are found in physics. This is because at its root physics is concerned with observing and describing nature and then making predictions upon its behaviours. Because philosophically we cannot check all of nature in an exhaustive way such as we can verify all of mathematics, we refer to these models as theorems.
Let us take an example. I have a theory that “all swans are white.” I cannot call this a theorem because in order to do so I would need to examine all swans and show that each one is white. Since that is impossible we can never we absolutely sure; however since each scientist, using concepts such as repeatability and peer review always comes up with the same results we can be fairly sure that as a description of reality, this is accurate. So, let us not get hung up on the term “theory”. To all practical intents and purposes they can be treated as “practically proof” and whilst exceptions may be found, all that this means is that that the theory will need fine-tuning, it is still basically correct. With the recent CERN results; supposing that they are vindicated in peer review; all that it means is a tweak to relativity; it will not be a sensationalist case of throwing relativity out of the window, whatever reporters tell you.
The other point I wish to make with regards to scientific models is that generally they are all connected to each other and never really stand in isolation. The exception seems to be the apparent inconsistency between quantum mechanics and relativity. However generally speaking, the findings of physics, chemistry and biology are all interconnected and consistent. We can use the physics explanation of electron shells to explain the properties of a particular chemical in chemistry and the chemistry of a protein; DNA; to explain the properties of a particular organism etc. This is important because the consistency between the physical sciences show that a unified and consistent model of reality is being built up; a fact which further adds to its strength as a valid description of nature. To find a fatal flaw in one of these is to find a flaw in everything and such an unthinkable finding would go against the conclusions of many modern researchers in the field.
The above statement is very important because it shows that research is more-or-less on the right track. There is of course room for new things, however the consistency of each description of reality suggests that science is unlikely to experience any paradigm shifts such as discovering a fifth force. If such a force were to be discovered, the mathematical models which describe the physical mechanics will fall over, which means our models in chemistry will fall over and so will our models of biology etc. The fact that everything fits together so consistently strongly suggests that this is unlikely to happen and that science is therefore correct in describing (physical) reality.
One aspect of quantum theory I have particular trouble with in relation to the paranormal is quantum entanglement. This is described very well on its Wikipedia page. Essentially it has been shown that two particles (typically electrons or photons) which have been paired show predictable behaviour in particular defiance of Heisenberg when separated. This occurs when paired properties (such as energy and location) are measured. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal shows that with a single particle you cannot measure both properties because the act of observation affects the properties.
The relationship between entangled particles is profound however. If you were to measure a property of a single entangled particle, say spin (which can be either up or down) and find it is an up spin, the entangled particle will always be the opposite. This is an important feature of the system, that the quantum superimposition of the two will be zero. If one particle has a property value of 1, the other particle will have a property particle of -1. So, it doesn’t matter how far apart the two particles are, you will be able to find the properties of the distant particle at the same time you “read” the properties of the near particle, meaning (sort of) that the information has travelled faster than light; a fact which bothered Einstein a great deal.
In a thought experiment, Einstein, Podolski and Rosen showed that Heisenberg’s uncertainly principal and the violation of the speed of light limit are both consequences of entanglement. With a single particle, Heisenberg showed that it is impossible to measure it location and its energy accurately, you can have one or the other; there is no magic here; the act of measuring one property affects the state of the other property. However with two entangled particles you can use a timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly way around this limitation, since you can measure the location of one particle, and the energy of the other particle. Since the net effect of properties will always add up to zero, you can not only work out the other property and violate Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal, you can get the answer at superluminal speeds even if one of the entangled particles is on the other side of the universe; thus violating relativity. This is referred to as the Einstein, Podolski and Rosen (EPR) Experiment or sometimes as the EPR Paradox. This really bothered Einstein, however I do urge everyone to research why there is a speed-of-light limit in the first place; it is beyond my scope here however very interesting.
So, entanglement allows us to gather some information faster than light and in defiance of both titans, Einstein and Heisenberg; violating relativity and the uncertainty principal. However one property of this information is that it is fairly useless. To quote Michio Kaku (Physics of the impossible, Page 61 and Location 1324 of the Kindle edition):
“You cannot send a real message, or Morse code, via the EPR experiment even if information is travelling faster than light.
Knowing that an electron on the other side of the universe is spinning down is useless information. You cannot send today’s stock quotations via this method. For example, let’s say that a friend always wears one red and one green sock, in random order. Let’s say you examine one leg, and the leg has a red sock on it. Then you know faster than the speed of light, that the other sock is green, Information actually travelled faster than light, but this information is useless. No signal containing non-random information can be sent via this method.”
I would be remiss however if I also failed to point out the entanglement is proving to be critical in the new science exploration of teleportation. However don’t reach for your Blake 7 video’s yet, teleportation works by using entanglement to transfer properties from one pair of entangled particles to another. This is wonderful, brilliant stuff, but I feel not of interest from an occult perspective.
I hope that I am wrong, however for something like entanglement to serve as the mechanism behind telepathy it is not enough to say that one entangled particle is in each one persons head, and the other particle in the other persons head. We have seen that the sort of information transmitted by entanglement is limited to the state of the particle. Even if we could encode information relative to concepts viable on a human scale (such as don’t travel on that plane, or that the lottery numbers on a given week are 1, 5, 12, 15, 17, 29) into this and transmit that information from entangled particle A to it sister-particle B, we would need a mechanism for that to happen in and a decoder in the recipients brain. Furthermore, we have occasions when a number of psychic people pick up the same information. Entanglement only links pairs of particles so there would need to be a mechanism which propagates the entangled state onto other particles. Such a mechanism is not impossible and in fact recent advances in teleportation suggest that this is at least partially possible, however on the scale where psychic information becomes meaningful to humans it seems to me that this is very unlikely to be the mechanism behind it. I also feel that I must point out that effects such as entanglement require some fairly exotic technology to demonstrate, suggesting further that these effects are not in action when humans experience the paranormal.
Rather than filling us with dismay this should thrill us to the core. It means that we do not need a scientific model to valid our experiences. Let me be clear that I fully accept that paranormal phenomena exists and happens, I am not trying to disprove it but show that the explanation for its existence does not lie within physics and our models of the world. In accepting that this phenomena is real and that it is not a part of the standard models opens a door to a more mysterious and wonderful reality than we can yet imagine.
This also explains the objections of alleged sceptics such as James Randi and Richard Dawkins. If we can imagine people who have not experienced any phenomena and then experienced the wonder of science at its greatest, separate from academic funding, we can understand why they can have such issues with the subject. To me it doesn’t matter, the tiniest experience trumps the greatest scientific model so my world-view has no issues with accepting this sort of phenomena. However my intellectual understanding also accepts that physics is correct with respect to its status as a description of physical reality I feel the need to stand up and ask questions when we are perhaps over enthusiastic of using quantum theory as the explanation to psychic phenomena.
There is further evidence that we will not find the explanation to paranormal phenomena within physics, which is by looking at its track record in studying psi within laboratory conditions. Apart from a few threshold results as suggested by experiments such as those carried out by JB Rhine at Duke University in the 1930s science has returned a practically total blank in generated psychic effects in the lab. Let us compare this with what is experienced in the field, where poltergeists (generating physical effects) get encountered relatively frequently, cryptids defy common sense and so many people experience psychic dreams and accurate out-of-body experiences with regularity. Speaking from experience it is easy to visit a genuinely haunted house, and as soon as one puts down the distracting toys and “tunes in” experiences, even shared experiences are easy to find.
I feel that part of this comes down to scientific methodology. Do you remember my swan example, elsewhere in this essay? A scientist in testing the rigor of a theory cannot believe in White Swans. Rather he or she must be sceptical and look for the black swans which break the theory. Remember that without finding the crucial black swan (which should be easy if they exist) he or she must check that all swans are white, something philosophically impossible. In physics a scientist can (in fact should) be separate from the experiment or that being observed and so can dispassionately record the results and evaluate accordingly. However this is not possible with psychic phenomena, so much depends upon a group-mind being generated which serves to energise (be careful with this word), shape and direct results. However when one approaches this as a sceptic the group mind fails to form properly preventing results from occurring (even if one is working with genuine psychics). This in fact is why parapsychologists who “believe” get results whilst those that don’t believe fail to receive results.
Where therefore do we stand as psychics, occultist and magicians? How are we to work with concepts such as telepathy if there is not a general theory underlying their existence? Can we expect to find hidden forces which point to the explanation of this sort of phenomena? Well, ultimately I do not think that underlying theories matter. In fact basing a magical philosophy on physics will serve only to limit rather than inspire ourselves. In science there is always a list of impossibilities, things such as the superluminal barrier which we cannot transgress; a list which has poisoned the intellects of the like of Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins, in magic we can transcend this unless we believe otherwise.
Dion Fortune was very clear about not confusing the planes, confusing the worlds where we are investigating and I feel that this advice is crucial to our evolution as occultists. Science is impregnable in its home area and I feel that, just I do not believe that we should use scientific models to explain the paranormal; we also must shy away from arguing that science has it wrong. This may appear to leaving myself backed in a corner as I still stand firm in insisting that paranormal effects are real, however all I am really trying to do is open up research in areas which will be more relevant (and certainly more fruitful) in the investigation of magical and psychic phenomena.
We already have a toolbox to help us explore this phenomena and this toolbox has tools rooted in a myriad of cultures, traditions and interpretations. Whether we chose to use Tibetan methods to explore Bardo states, Hindu Tattwa’s to explore elemental planes within the astral light or simple meditation to go with the flow, I guarantee you will get better results than you would with spectrometers and infra-red sensing technology.
I hope that with this essay I am helping us to disregarding those aspects of investigation which are not really relevant for psychic and magical exploration. In releasing this conceit that physics will explain all, we open ourselves to a world of real magic which underpins physical reality, makes it more interesting and meaningful and most of all frees us from the paradox that psychic phenomena works, however it cannot be explained by physics. We need to accept this and then use our own methods to investigate, explore and study. Let us not confuse the planes!
I do welcome further discussion on this subject however so please do argue and feedback. :)
There was some very sad news this week which suprisingly has not been resonating with the whole paranormal community. This was the sad death of writer and researcher John Michell.
Since the sixties and seventies John has been a very active writer and researcher on Earth Mysteries contributing works of tremendous importance to the subject. This has included extensive work of Glastonbury, work on Stonehenge, Avebury, the Rollrights, serious work on sacred geometry and magickal number and finally (but not least) putting Ley lines back on the map.
Coincidently, the current issue of Fortean times has a feature on his work which is well worth reading. There are some on-line segments here which are well worth perusing.
For a "taster" of some of Johns writings its well worth reading the archive from the above link.
John will be missed. In many ways I feel that we have lost our "Newton" as modern research owes John so much.
Magic and Molecular Gastronomy
I have been thinking a bit about how we shape magic and how much we (esp. magicians) rely on things being done because that is the way things have always been done. Perhaps we can learn from the emerging culinary art of molecular gastronomy. Chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria are true alchemists applying the processes of “salve et coagulate” to create new experiences that push the limits of eating to create interesting, new experiences. Whilst I think that in pure food terms what these researchers are achieving is phenomenal, I also think that we can learn a lot from them and apply these ideas back to magic.
As an aside (which may or may not be relevant) I don’t think we can eat like Heston and Ferran cook every day. As ever a good diet based on organically grown natural produced ingredients seems to be the key. Whether this also applies to magic remains, I believe, to the discretion of the magician.
Just to give you a taste of what I am on about, here is a recent article on Ferran which I think is particularly profound in that it discusses Ferran's thoughts.
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/w... (watch the embedded video if you can)
"He kept referring to a new language and that to create a new language you need a new alphabet, new grammar, new tools and processes. He argues that his style of cooking is this new language and that, with every new technique, he's building up the alphabet."
Is this an “Alphabet of Desire” (to reference Austin Osman Spare) I wonder...
I think that this is very important and in terms of affecting the world, exactly how we need to be thinking as magicians. We have been handed a number of systems that have been derived for the most part in antiquity. These are not bad systems and for the most part do work once one embraces and begins thinking their ideas. However, I wonder....
Gareth Hewitson-May in "Dark doorway of the Beast" summed up my problem with these systems very well
"The utter devastation that has swept through the esoteric fraternities for the last two thousand years, has unfortunately completely dissolved the coherence of attitude that is necessary to the understanding of the system. It is therefore of monumental importance that all attempts to recover such complete doctrines should be abandoned as futile. The very fact that language, understanding, communication, terminology, relevance of material are now so very different, that it is plainly obvious that the 'return' of any such 'recovered doctrines' in today’s culture would only serve to confuse, rather than to illuminate."
This really is the crux of my problem. I think we have changed over time and whilst none of the past magical systems have become invalidated, we have moved away from the mental processes which their original creators followed. In fact not only our psychology, but our physiology means that we must at least tweak and personalise what is written.
Keeping to the ideas of an alphabet (I could and will discuss energy systems one day), I really think we need to think about our language and consider that our language has changed both in literal terms, eg from Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew etc and also in symbolic terms - even in English we use different terms and phrase things differently in modern times. As an example of this consider how we find different things funny. Modern sitcoms have a very different humour than sitcoms written only 20 years ago and (for example taking a domestic sitcom) "Terry and June" is vastly different than say "One foot in the grave" which will be vastly different to domestic sitcoms in 10-15 years.
Similarly, Victorians used to entertain themselves in the evening by watching jellies (jello in the US) wobble. To our minds that seems to be the formulae for the most unbelievably tedious evening. And whilst cannabis was perfectly legal and obtainable in the Victorian era I don’t think that can account for this mad behaviour.
I am not sure what to think when we read about modern magicians seeking to recapture an authentic tradition and reconstruct it exactly as it was. Could this be the equivalent of trying to compile and run a computer program written in Basic or COBOL on a modern compiler such as Visual Basic. Sure it might do something but it won’t be able to fully reference the system it is running on or address the interface in such a complete way.
There is the question as to how much our language influences our thinking. This idea is referred to in linguistics as the [i]Sapir-Whorf[/i] hypothesis which proposes that a person’s language sets constraints upon how they think. This idea is by no means universally accepted, but it does seem to be partially accepted as one of the factors which influences thought.
Cliff Pickover in “Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves” gives several examples of how language shapes and limits things. In the first example he illustrates how languages compartmentalises words. Let us consider the words “Strawberry, Raspberry, Mulberry and Blueberry”, all words linked by the suffix “berry”, which we can use to link these as examples of “berries”. Thus through the language we can process these words and categorise then as examples of “berry” without any further information.
Now let us consider the French equivalent of these words – “Fraise, Framboise, Mure, Myrtille”. Clearly they do not share any common parts such as a “–berry” suffix. Any thinking processes working with these cannot unify them except with a knowledge that is larger that the words themselves.
We frame our thoughts in language, and so without any form of mystical practice our thoughts become very much limited by our language. Mysticism is accessing the ineffable, takes us to places where language cannot describe because these are places not visited by evolutionary humans developing language; and so we often come back “mind-expanded” but at a loss for words to describe the experience, often in trying to reach for the language we have to stretch to metaphor and/or take the risk of sounding nuttier than the average squirrel’s dinner.
Sadly I feel that this is leaving sceptics such as Richard Dawkin’s lost in a dark realm, not because there is no divinity in nature, but because they cannot see the gaps in language, mathematics and the scientific method which point to a larger world. It is perhaps analogous to being trapped in flatland and being caught trying to resolve an apparent inconsistency which doesn’t break down to an expression in 2D which it has in 3D. Linguistically this is illustrated by sentences such as “This sentence is a lie”. If a lie, it becomes true, if true it becomes false.
It is strange that these things are not obviously apparent as paradoxes which show that there must be a larger descriptive context than language from which the concepts behind this are generated. After all, “This sentence is a lie” cannot be permanently resolved one way or another. Logician Kurt Gödel showed with his famous theorem that such inconsistencies (paradoxes) occur in all frames of reference – including physics – and therefore reality must be bigger than we experience or describe.
MC Escher illustrated these inconsistencies in his artwork, showing that by trying to reduce a greater context such as a 3D world as a 2D image leads to similar paradoxes. I believe we have a similar problem, trying to resolve a multidimensional universe in fewer dimensions. No wonder we cannot equate the quantum and classical world views and end up getting tied up in string.
So we have two problems. Paradoxes crop up in expression meaning that we cannot unambiguously express something. However we have another problem in that our languages have developed as a species means on communicating the day-to-day issues. Because our experiences of heaven are so fleeting we do not really have the language and expression in describing it.
There may be exceptions to this. “Channelled” languages such as Enochian and mystical languages such as “Senzar” may have derived from sources not evolved in such as way as to focus on the human survival conditions such as fight, sleep, sex, food and so may be better suited to exploring the magickal universe. But until we can learn to think in such languages (and do we have enough info to do that?) the powers they may hold will remain just slightly out of reach.
I am not however as fundamentalist of Gareth Hewitson-May, and I don’t want to bin everything. Such an act would throw the baby out with the bathwater. However I do think we need to call time on attempts to look for historical authenticity and to try (say) to practice an authentic sixteenth century goetic evocation because we have changed since the sixteenth century and are no longer the same people. I believe we need to look at magick with very hard eyes, work out the basic building blocks are develop these into a magical system suited for 21st century
Perhaps we need to expand out horizons and rather than limit ourselves to a language, expand out and develop our own personal "PANguage" In doing this we will calibrate ourselves, our minds, mental process and magickal universe to creation
Please post your thoughts
Spirits of Yule
With Christmas/Yule approaching we are getting to the time of the year where ghosts seem to be traditionally more present. In many ways this seems to be more profound than Halloween which on first impressions seems spookier but perhaps less ghostly.
The Christmas spirits feel very different to the Halloween spirits however, much more primal and elemental in nature. They are very varied and start by taking us to those cosy warm firesides laced with mulled wine, laughter and hot mince pies. But there is another very different aspect to these spirits. This is full of snowy glaciers, superluminal reindeer arcing across a freezing sky laced with the glittering Aurora Borealis and painted with blizzards of perfectly designed crisp symmetrical snow crystals and bleak icy pine forests haunted by spirits of ancient times. Paradoxically it is domesticated indoors but in the northern wastes the Yule magic is perhaps one of the wildest and least tame of all.
Serafina Pekkala summarised this very well in the Dark Materials trilogy which I will paraphrase. When asked if it was cold flying on those snowy wastes she said, yes but without the cold she wouldn’t feel the icy magic and the exultation of flight "the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the Aurora" . She is right and to truly feel the spirits and their gifts we need to give up some of the trappings of the warm fireside at least for a time so that we can go out and see the world with glacial magelight. I would take the ice and the cold every time.
I think that the idea of ghosts at Christmas descends from (or is at least strengthened by) our literary traditions. We are all aware of Charles Dickens’s "A Christmas Carol" with Ebenezer Scrooge and his encounters with the ghost of Jacob Marley and also the more archetypal ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Thinking about it the idea of very abstract ghosts such as "Christmas past" is very sophisticated from an occultist point of view. As far as I know Dickens was rather atheistic in his world view but could certainly tell a spooky story.
Has anyone ever tried magically working with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, Future? As archetypal entities I rather suspect that exploring the universe around such entities might be extremely fruitful.
In the UK there is also a tradition with the BBC to show a traditional "Victorian" ghost story usually over Christmas Eve. This tradition seems to have declined somewhat over previous years but happily this year we are beginning to see a return to seeing a ghost story as a part of Christmas.
I do wonder if this is enough to account for the idea of Christmas ghosts or whether something else is coming through our collective consciousness making the period more magickal. I rather suspect that society will tend to interpret phenomena, experiencing the energies of various supernatural beings but perceiving them as ghosts simply becuase we have lost our folklore lexicon of wild spirits.
Christmas is a very magical time with elements which far pre-date the current Christian "desktop theme" society places on the period. As we all know that, if there is any truth in a historical Jesus he would have been born later in the year when shepherds would have been in the fields by night (Ironically it seems to me this would have been around Easter when sheep were lambing) and Christmas is placed here to supplant the pagan festival of the Sun with themes which would earn Rome revenue.
I am not sure what really to make of the Christian hijacking of Christmas. It seems strange that a festival I always associate with snow and ice, winter forests etc is replaced by a Middle Eastern cult from lands where there is no snow or reindeer.
In fact barring imagery relating to the nativity itself, most of the Yule symbols are pagan. These symbols range from the use of holly, mistletoe and ivy, through to flying reindeer, Christmas trees and even the giving of gifts. With the latter of course we are all aware of the magi, but Sami cultures in Lapland have accounts of spirit messengers also flying down chimneys and through windows to give gifts.
Even that patriarch of Christmas variously known as Santa, Father Christmas etc seems much more pagan that Christian. We are told about how St Nicholas used to give dowries to women of ill repute so they could marry, but this seems a far cry from the jolly figure we have today. It has been suggested in various places that he has more in common with images such as the Woodwose – The Wildman of the woods – possibly a form of Herne the hunter.
There is another, this time female, figure, steeped in magic and prehistory which also stands here. This is the Goddess Elen who is so strongly associated with reindeer and trees that I am surprised that she is not more associated with Christmas. For more information on Elen I will refer you all to Caroline Wise's essays which I am lucky enough to host on my site.
There is a bit of an urban myth that Santa’s red and white fur trappings come from an advertising campaign by Coca Cola sometime in the early 20th century. Whilst it is true that Victorian images of Santa included him wearing yellow and green, we must also consider the fact that Sami shamen and spirit travellers also wore (in fact still wear) red felt.
We must also consider the colour of the fly agaric mushrooms here, those beautiful “fairie tale” toadstools which are red capped with white spots of which there are some lovely specimens in Epping Forest. I am sure many of know how these work, in that they are a bit unpleasant for humans to eat neat, but reindeer can process them with no problems and pass out the active ingredient in their urine. The shamen would then drink the reindeer urine and then experience spirit walking, and flying through the air.
The reindeer are so sacred to the Sami that they would certainly have been around whilst the Sami were spirit walking and (speaking as a believer) quite possibly joined the shamen in their journeying. So it is not surprising that reports of flying reindeer circulated from these regions.
There are darker elements which also intrude upon the Father Christmas mythology. Less known are the myths of his darker allies and servants such as Zweite Piet who some accounts place as being a traveller or a slave from Africa, but other accounts have him more demonic, sometimes making him a servant of Satan. We are all aware of the similarity between the words Satan and Santa or course.
Zweite Piet is known to give children a good flogging if they are naughty which is a bit more interesting that just not getting any presents. Perhaps we should all look to magically strengthen this sadly depleted astral form in the hope that we could help better behaviour develop in future generations. :)
Yule is big and we also encounter snowy forests full of life and ancient spirits, the idea of Christmas ghosts is perhaps too small and cynical 20th century, a faded remnant of past glory. For me at least it is a very ancient, primal time where the spirits of the ancient forests come alive and walk the earth. We see trees in many forms associated with Christmas, as well as the Christmas tree which adorns our houses and of course brings us back to Elen again.
My beliefs are beginning to take me back out into the wildest places in the universe where magic is still untamed, unchained by gematria, free from Qabalah and cosmology and unshaped by letter. It just is, ancient and wild, uncontrolled and uncontrollable.
This "darker" underside to Christmas is unexpected but strangely wholly appropriate. After all wonderland wouldn’t be so without the danger. I think this bleak, wilder elemental nature is the key to what might be linked to the ancient forces behind the Yule. Are the older woodland, elemental references pointers to ancient, primeval fairy lore which I feel but cannot yet prove underpins Christmas?
My mother always used to tell me that if you leave decorations up after the 6th of January goblins would come. This seems to be pure fairy mythology with the idea that upsetting the natural order of things angers the fey and thus causes disruption
I always used to hide a decoration in the hope of attracting a goblin or two in the New Year, but sadly none ever showed up I think this year I might leave a bit of tinsel around to see what happens however
When one touches this elemental wild magic it is intoxicating and mad. This virtue in it persists to the present day, and everyone touched by the seasonal spirit without its commercial trappings is enflamed with prayer, not to the western god of the day, but rather to the ancient world, the wild magic and power which penetrates our houses at this time, full of Sami spirit walkers granting gifts, snow queens in their icy palaces and the ancient beautiful forest Goddess walking the wilds with her train of flying reindeer.
I hope with this short piece that i have tried to capture some of what the season means to me, and hopefully this will encourage others to either pick up on these points or say what the season means to them.
(Satan's little helper)
Tomorrow could be (but probably wont be) the end of the world. The Large Hadron Collider will finally be tested with both beams being switched on; although I understand that they wont be crossed for a bit more time. So the end of the world wont come tomorrow and cannot until they cross the beams in October. Wasn't there a warning about crossing the beams in Ghostbusters?
The scientific argument is that these collisions happen all the time in the atmosphere so a new persistent black hole shouldn't be created. however the thing about quantum field theory is that the act of observation collapses either the energy or the location of a particle (which could be a BH). Thus as the scientists observe this they crystallise its state and the rest is perhaps the end of history
However this wont actually happen because the collisions are so small we cannot see them and observe the effects. The data is all compiled and analysed by computer before the collated results are studied. So no one is really observing this whilst it happens
Speaking philosophically however I doubt that too much damage can be done. I don't think that physics reaches deep enough into "reality" to undo the universe and feel that physics in observing the universe (by whatever means) is also limited by the rules of the universe. It is sort of analogous to saying that artificial intelligences living in a virtual would would be able to study their physics and derive an understanding of computing. Can we imagine artificially intelligent "Sims" looking outside their box and seeing us? They wont, all they would perceive is the arbitrary values the programmer set up defining the speed of light, Plancks constant etc.
However I wouldn't be surprised if magic doesn't turn out to be a tool for analysing the levels outside the universe. As such a magician playing with something like a "Large angel collider" could serious mess up the underpinnings onwhich physics rests.
Having said that I would love to have an unsupervised play tomorrow. I would turn all the dials to max, drop a chilli pepper in the centre and switch it on. Seriously it would be interesting to see if psychics could affect the results (hint hint) or whether there is any correlation between cosmic rays causing odd effects and phenomena such as Earth Lights.
I personally believe that these experiments are important and in many ways are humanities only hope in solving the energy problems which are beginning to beset us and hopefully lead the way to the stars. If a black hole can be contained it will actually be the most pure, clean and inexhaustible power sauce. Around the event horizon (ring pass not) of the black hole virtual particles are forever appearing in +/- pairs. These actually happen all the time but immediately cancel each other out. However around the event horizon one or other is sucked in leaving the other cancelled. Some of these radiate away and the resulting Hawking radiation makes black holes ironically the brightest objects in the cosmos. If humanity can harness this it will cleanly give us the power to engineer galaxies and even potentially power serious experiments in time travel.
Have fun tomorrow
I have noticed that the media has been buzzing with quite a lot of extremely interesting UFO reports recently. It’s a nice synchronicity that this is happening to coincide with the republication by the Daily Grail of Jacques Vallee's classic "Messengers of Deception" a book which turned up on my doorstep yesterday and is on the “get to soon” pile. At first these reports suggest that either media interest is trying to increase interest or that something subtle and more interesting may be happening.
Lets briefly look at a few recent examples:
One of the most fascinating concerns Dr Ed Mitchell. He was one of the original Apollo astronauts flying and landing on the Moon on Apollo 14. Among other things he holds the record for the longest Moonwalk (9h17m). He is also noted to have an interest in psychic phenomena being the astronaut who conducted ESP experiments with his associates on Earth whilst in flight. His background was as a pilot in the Navy before joining NASA and he holds several degrees including a number of doctorates, some being honorary but at least one being research based. As such I think we can say he is a highly intelligent man, a trained observer and a reliable witness.
In recent interviews he has gone on to express a belief in UFOs (as spacemen) and shocked the scientific world with some views. For example
If it was just one astronaut we might be forgiven in thinking that there could be other factors involved. However other astronauts and NASA staff have seen UFO's and ET's. For example:
Even Buzz Aldrin has encountered UFOs on the moon
There are many more testimonies from astronauts and you can see a summary of them here. http://www.syti.net/UFOSightings.html
I could equally well have dug into the thousands of testimonies of people who have reported UFO's and other encounters throughout history. However I have stayed with astronauts here because these are a class of people who are very intelligent, highly trained both in terms of observation skills and also scientifically (although perhaps not blinkered by a "political" scientific perspective as we might find in academia). Also and (I think this is important) is astronauts encountering "aliens" and "UFO" seems to suggest a "nuts and bolts" "Star Trek" view of the phenomena - a view which I do not share so am interested in looking to see if all is not what it seems.
Let’s now take a look at another perspective. A number of researchers such as Vallee have been suggesting that UFO's and entity experiences are something other than spacemen visiting from another world. There argument suggests that Aliens/UFOs have always been here and originate from perhaps another dimension.
I am always a bit coy about bandying words like dimension around so lets define that one. Rather than say dimension perhaps we can say from a parallel reality existing and mingling with reality as we know it. If you image our reality as slides from a film-strip and the other reality as another film-strip held next to ours I hope illustrates what I am saying.
In the past there are certainly records that we have encountered these beings and given them various names through history such as witches (African tribes referred to flying lights as witches), Faerie, Jinns etc. There are a number of parallels between traditional encounters and UFO encounters which include:
1) Appearance. Often we have accounts of UFO occupants appearing similar to the descriptions given by people encountering fairies. We could perhaps ask does the term “little green men” refer to aliens or leprechauns. Similarly it has often been remarked how similar our friend Lam looks is to the iconic grey alien.
2) Time distortion – Often people encountering either will experience some sort of time distortion
3) An interest in babies and fertility. In fairy lore we have the concept of a changeling. In UFO lore we have accounts of breeding-programs etc
4) Accounts of flying lights. These are one of the most common parts of the phenomena and seem to be universal.
5) The experience of going into the hill or going into the saucer.
I don’t really want to go into too much detail here as it has been covered in many places already. A lot of research has come from academics looking at the field and many UFO researchers such as Keel and Vallee however I would be interested to hear as to whether and magical research has looked at this, for example do traditional anti-fairie charms such as iron work against UFO entities?
Some UFO accounts emphasis strongly the trickster aspect commonly encountered with fairy experiences and some accounts are blatantly absurd. One of my favourites is the pancake giving alien. The only witness here was one Joe Simonton who was in his house making breakfast one April morning. He heard a sound like tires on a wet pavement and went outside to investigate. On doing so he saw a round disk about 12 ft high and 30 ft in diameter. From this a hatch opened when three men came out and telepathically asked Joe to fill a jug with water. He did so and was then given three pancakes before the UFO closed up and flew off. The pancakes were genuine and I believe tested and shown to be totally unremarkable.
With cases like this one the mind begins to boggle. It certainly breaks the "nuts and bolts" mould simply by being so absurd. Yet there was clearly a technologically gloss to this instance. We have a spaceship and the "aliens" were described as wearing tight fitting uniforms so beloved of 1950s/60s era B-movie science fiction. But the event itself is more suggestive of a trickster entity such as faeries are reputed to me. I can imagine them in their mushroom/spaceship after this literally killing themselves with laughter over this and seen in this light it is hilarious.
Other accounts are more sinister and fairies have been known to turn nasty. There is a similar aspect to this with UFOs with phenomena such as Cattle Mutilations and Men in Black. Many examples of Men in Black seem to suggest an inhuman quality to the visitors as if there are something not quite human and doing an imperfect job as masking themselves as such.
I suppose we could ask the question as to which is the truer picture. Are alien spacemen being seen though an olde-worlde earth perspective and encountered as fairies or are we seeing fairies through a scientific gloss perceiving them as spacemen.
Actually I rather think that to categorise them as one or the other would be naive. Throughout history they have shown many forms. However the Pancake incident suggests one thing which is that there is a cultural filter to what is perceived. Our minds work by symbols and once a symbol is used to associate with a manifesting energy then it seems that the mind likes to keep it that way. In other words if one tends to perceive an energy as a spaceman one probably always will.
One of the most common aspects of these phenomena is that of the flying lights. There are described variously as spacecraft, fairies, flying witches etc. It is even possible that the Will-o-the-wisp phenomena is more complex that simply marsh gas as suggested in some cases, although just as some UFO's can be Venus, presumably some will-o'-the-wisps can be marsh gas. Some researchers such as Michael Deveraux have suggested that flying lighs are linked to places of high electro-magnetism on the earths crust and this does seem to be a variable in the phenomena. Michael Persinger’s work in Canada has also suggested the electromagnetic fields can distort human perception, activate transcendent states and give one the sense of being abducted and/or out of ones body.
I think that this research is incredibly important and in no way invalidates the paranormal aspect of these phenomena. Rather it is saying that the brain is capable of these states (which is interesting and wondrous in itself) and that these states can be triggered by electromagnetism. It points to electromagnetism as being a component in the phenomena but does not make this a necessity.
For example, I can create an illusion of heat and burning in my mouth by eating "hot" chillies. The capsaicin in the chillies stimulates the same nerves in my mouth that get stimulated when I eat hot (as in cooked) food. This shows that senses and experiences can be fooled and stimulated by other means and just as chillies are not really hot (in the heated sense) phenomena may not be really electromagnetic, rather the electromagnetism is stimulating the same parts of the being that gets stimulated by phenomena. We don’t know of course and it would be hasty to assume anything here other than that much more research is needed.
Given that astronauts also perceive UFO's not only on the moon but also in the depths between the Earth and the Moon, I would suggest that the electromagnetism in the earth crust is not the only factor in this. Perhaps this phenomena needs a carrier to transmit it to us. One such carrier may be electromagnetic radiation, another may be marsh gas etc, and another may be orgone. Again we are really on the edge of speculation here jumping into unknown territory.
Perhaps a form of perichoresis takes place through the transmitting medium. EM radiation, marsh gas and orgone are each relatively simple "building blocks" so any influence from another dimension may find it very easy to impress and emerge in our reality through this media. This is sort of like those pictures we see of flying birds in the work of MC Escher – If one gets caught in the detail one sees the birds but if one steps back and looks at the picture as a whole we see a larger picture emerge.
There is a wonderful example of perichoresis in Dali's "Destino" animated film. I believe this short piece is available on YouTube although I can’t get the link to it from work. If you do watch it take a look at how the Greek God "emerges" from the archway.
Perichoresis might also be an element in an explanation of Crop Circles. Andrew Collins excellent book "the Circlemakers" suggests that orgone is responsible for the circles, and this may well be correct. (I am in fact looking forward to the new edition of this book due soon to see how Andrew's theories have been updated over the past few years.) However orgone may suggest the mechanism by which circles are formed but doesn’t necessary address the issue as to the nature of the information coming through and this I believe is where we can also look at perichoresis. Something elsewhere is impressing these patterns on our reality.
It has been suggested that astronauts are changed by the simple fact of going into space and we do see a lot of returning astronauts being caught up in paranormal projects, getting religion or simply being awed with wonder, something many of us lose as we get older, more cynical and jaded. Certainly for me I find images such as the opening sequence of Carl Sagan’s "Cosmos" very moving and would love to experience something like spaceflight and really see and experience some of the images NASA release. I can imagine that being out there, would really open the mind to wonder and perhaps create an "enflamed with prayer" type of state where magic happens.
Could this act of wonder have the effect of switching astronauts on, perhaps making them more spiritual and psychic? Is it possible that "reality" is loaded so that the act of a species travelling into space switches them on in a way similar to magic does opening up a larger universe?
In a sense something similar happened a billion or so years ago when life on earth evolved vision. At that point the visual universe opened up and because visible to all. Granted this was actually for our distant very-pre-human relatives but the event is rather staggering, nature went from being blind to being able to see. Our very language of spiritual attainment uses this as a metaphor. Words like “Enlightened”, “Illuminated” perhaps in some deep atavistic way still remember this event and carry it on in our being.
There are some very interesting peculiarities surrounding the evolution of vision. First of all it seems to have developed on several places independently, so all life with vision does not share a common ancestor who was the first creature with sight. Rather there are several possible ancestors. This sort of suggests that the pattern of sight was programmed into evolution (in a very non-Darwinian way) to emerge perhaps in a similar process to how Sheldrake’s Morphic resonance is presented.
More interesting still is the fact that sight is supposed to have evolved before the brain. This is confirmed by looking at the human pineal gland in the centre of the brain. It actually possess some photosensitive properties suggesting that whilst atrophied will have certainly acted as an eye in our ancestors. It seems that the brain grew around the eye, adding abilities to process the new visual data being received. The brain of course does a lot more than think, and it does act as a filter and translator to what we see. For example at its simplest it filters out the blood vessels in our eyes which we do not see. It also tends to take out unexpected anomalies in our vision
Some experiments were done years ago involving a man dressed as a gorilla running onto a baseball game and waving at the audience. The majority of the audience didn’t even notice him because it was so far outside our expected vision that it simply processed the data out. This can work conversely as well and expected objects can appear in our visual matrix.
I think that we are on the verge of a perceptual leap perhaps similar to what was experienced when life evolved the ability to see portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Changes are taking place both through our personal evolution as magicians and as individuals as a part of the human species going into space which are shifting our perspective and as a result enhancing and mutating our perceptions to see the universe in a more connected magical state where we will be able to see the fairies, UFO's etc in all their myriad forms and maybe not understand but certainly communicate and interact with.
Please post your thoughts.
Where are all the Spider-Cats?
I am currently reading Nick Redferns "Memoirs of a Monster Hunter: A Five Year Journey in Search of the Unknown". This is a follow up to his "Three men seeking monsters" which I read a couple of years ago.
I enjoyed the first book very much and am equally enjoying this follow up. Nick is an informative and entertaining writer who makes reading a total pleasure. This is not hard-core occultism but an interesting and informative account of some of the stranger byways of weirdness. Nick is perhaps more famous as a ufologist rather than a monster hunter however he very much takes the paranormal entity rather than "nuts and bolts" view of this phenomena - a view I very much agree with.
Basically the book covers his time in America where he lives with his wife and recounts his adventures investigating all manner of weirdness over the US. This includes Bigfoot and other ape-men, the intriguing Goat man, and werewolves in Wisconsin.
Through the two books there are a couple of interesting points perhaps worth discussing.
1) Points of high strangeness occur.
The idea that UFOs are paranormal entities which are perceived in a certain way is gaining a lot of ground. Here we see them as Aliens from Zeta Reticula (or wherever) for any number of reasons including our culture, our psychology, even the fact that they find it funny to lead us to think this. I read a great book on this ages ago by Patrick Harpur called "Daimonic Reality" ages ago which goes into this in detail.
However when you also look at cases of ape-men such as Bigfoot, what A lot of the "fur and feathers" cryptozoologists seem to gloss over is that active locations also seem to attract a number of accounts such as close encounters with UFOs, ghosts etc. If creatures such as Bigfoot were purely what they seem (simply as an undiscovered ape perhaps similar to a gorilla or orangutan) it strikes me as strange that other phenomena would appear in their vicinity. Something very odd is going on if the same locations are hotspots for both UFO phenomena (whatever that is) and Bigfoot.
To me this strongly reinforces the idea the we should be looking for many cryptids in the spirit world rather than under bushes.
There will probably still be some blurring with this idea. As well as Bigfoot, it has been suggested that Lake monsters and even some big cats are also energy beings or even perhaps a tulpa. Maybe. I do recall that in the UK in the 1970s a law was enacted preventing people keeping dangerous animals like Tigers as pets.
There are numerous urban legends suggesting that rather than having their dangerous pets put down people released a number of them into the wild. To be honest, that is certainly what I would do and places like the Yorkshire moors or Bodmin moor in Cornwall sounds like perfect isolated places where Spot the pet Bengali tiger or snowflake the puma could hunt in peace. Backing this up there is also evidence to suggest that some big cats leave a trail of hunted animals such as sheep etc. This suggests a fur and feathers explanations for some cryptids, not tulpas or some other exotic paranormal incursion.
Please see this link for more info on the Dangerous Animals act.
However there are also cases where creatures disappear without trace, leave no marks of their passage or remains of hunted prey. These cases are more intriguing.
A common example is perhaps the Loch Ness monster. Whilst a part of me suspects that the early 20th century accounts were stirred up by Aleister Crowley when he was in Boleskine several decades before I also have to admit that their were cases of sightings going back to at least the time of Saint Columbia. The sheer length of time over which a large number of sightings have taken place suggest that something is going on, even if it is perhaps a tulpa.
However whilst it is easy to hope that it is perhaps simply a survivor of prehistoric times such as a plesiosaur I think that if it were the case that a small colony of plesiosaurs were surviving in the Loch (remember cold blooded creatures in freezing Scotland wont be very comfortable) there would be more evidence of something flesh and blood there. Over the centuries why hasn't at least one corpse been washed up or more recent researches found sonar trails from one.
It sort of suggests that Nessie is not physical or perhaps that Nessie lives in a different world which overlaps with this one.
This theme is taken up very well in a another great book by writer Ted Holiday "The Goblin Universe". Its pretty hard to find nowadays but well worth checking out of you come across a copy. I wouldn't go as far as suggest that all encounters with unexpected animals are brushes with the paranormal, but perhaps many which are assumed to be encounters with rare and supposed extinct animals are.
Perhaps we walk past paranormal incursions all the time. If I walk past a tabby cat in the street I assume its real, but unless I stop and say hello to it I could never really know. The paranormal world is funny in that sometimes it likes to play the trickster and finds it hilarious to appear as Bigfoot in a UFO, at other times it seems to want to not attract attention to itself and hides on the edge of consciousness and perception, covers its presence and encourages people not to discuss the matter such as in encounters with the alleged Men In Black.
2) Chimeras and Therianthropes
The other point I would like to make regarding Nick's book (and many other accounts) refers to the numerous human/animal hybrids which appear. We see accounts of GoatMen, Wolfmen and Owlmen. John Keel has written extensively about MothMan and there are numerous other examples.
Why do we see these as human hybrids but never see chimera's between other animals such as Spider-Cats, Squid-Dogs and (thankfully) Slug-flies. Perhaps this is not quite true - in mythology there are hybrids such as Griffins and Cerberus which do not seem to have any human components.
Maybe as humans we can contact chimeras with human parts more easily than those with purely animal parts. This seems to make sense. Of the top of my head I am thinking of purely animal chimeras in mythology and almost all I can think of contain (mostly) mammal components. Again it makes sense to me that we can contact close relatives easier than those which are more distant such as a reptile hybrid.
All this brings to mind the idea of atavisms such as discussed by Kenneth Grant and Austin Spare. I think we need to consider the possibility that there is a relationship between atavisms buried inside ourselves and theriomorphs/chimeras we might encounter in the environment
Occasionally these ideas are put down to genetic memory (GM), and I must admit that I do have several issues with this as the explanation behind the phenomena (much as I do with the idea that GM is behind reincarnation). My problems with GM can be summarised as:
1) DNA does not change through our lives so where are the memories stored?
2) There doesn't seem to be much evolutionary advantage in a GM to help creatures survive (assuming a Darwinian model). IF GM were real, memories can only be passed on up to the point where offspring are conceived. At that point the DNA is fixed. So parents could not pass on information concerning their death - yet a number of regressed subjects recall their deaths showing that whatever the source of this information it is not stored in their DNA.
3) It is possible to reach back into oneself and (say) pull out a tiger to use an example Austin Spare once wrote about. However tigers are not human ancestors so whilst I do not doubt AOS's experience I think the information composing tigerness which he worked with came from elsewhere.
I think that rather than look to genetics to provide an answer here we need to look at a non-local explanation such as Sheldrakes Morphogenetic fields. I suspect that these fields exist in what we might call the astral or etheric levels and this is where the information is stored that presents itself internally as surfaced atavisms and externally an close encounters with entities such as Mothman or chimeras such as Cerberus.
I must admit I am not really comfortable with referring to these as "Morphogenetic fields" because I think due to the scientific approach Sheldrake took the ideas haven't been extended far enough yet to cover some of the possibilities which I am writing about. Having said that I do have a lot of time and respect for Sheldrakes work, I just want to see it taken further which I am sure will happen over time as his ideas get vindicated.
My first thought is to refer to these as information fields however that is still not really a strong enough to become a movement towards a working hypothesis in that I suspect these fields possess a consciousness and quite possibly a sense of humour - our trickster again. In fact maybe we could say that many of the qualities we attribute to Gods and Goddess can be attributed to these fields - I wont develop these ideas now as I am still thinking about them ,however I do intend to come back to this another day.
I would like to add that we can only ever see a small portion of these fields at any one time, much as a four dimensional fractal can only be perceived piecemeal, if there is a connection between certain Gods and Goddess and certain entity-based phenomena. I dont think we are doing anything a disservice, merely saying that the universe is very strange and we are groping for answers by looking for patterns. I'll come back to this in another post soon as well.
We also have the idea from many shamanic cultures of the idea of a Grandfather or template animal which is the guardian of that particular species. This also seems related to the field idea.
Over the past couple of years my thinking has moved very much away from the idea that anything (including us) is actually a discrete entity and that what we are looking at are interactions within a sentient field of conscious. My belief is very much that our experiences are composed out of interactions with these fields (or field) which supplies the form and function of whatever entities are being encountered.
There does remain the question as to whether this field (if it exists) is localised around a particular place or not. I rather think it does (at least partially). We have places such as Rendlesham forest where strangeness seems so deeply embedded that accounts have gone back centuries. Similarly the book "Hunt for the Skinwalker" discusses a location in Utah were similar phenomena can be encountered. If the book is to be believed - and it comes across as highly convincing - then the scientific investigators were as mystified by the events as the people living in the location.
Please post your thoughts
Academia, Magick and the Occult
I don’t really intend this to be a rant against academia, however I have been thinking about this and what its role is with regards to magical knowledge.
I probably should start by saying that my perspective may be somewhat skewed in that my background is scientific rather than artistic or literary, however for reasons I will discuss below my interest is experiential rather than trying to prove magic and the paranormal to the world (which I think is very difficult if not actually impossible). I always used to be quite mystified as to why some people are uninterested in the paranormal and nowadays just leave them to their own things. I basically see myself as an explorer, exploring for myself rather than trying to find occult gold to enlighten humanity.
I think that academia is quite odd and in many ways academics are a law unto themselves. They see themselves as the holders and the guardians of sacred knowledge and the only ones who can grant access to it. Once outside that community it is very hard to be accepted or even printed in Journals such as Nature. This causes massive problems in that subjects which are seen as politically bad choices for research are automatically ignored. Placing them below the discussion threshold means that this can happen without debate.
For example I remember the outcry among archaeologists when John West and Robert Schock argued for the water erosion of the Giza Sphinx. In the Horizon documentary it was reported that geologists were given pictures of the Sphinx with the head taped over (so it looks like any mass of rock). Many (if not all) argued that this was water erosion until the tape was removed where they refused to be associated as it was not PC at the time to question the archaeological "history" in place.
Similarly we have Robert Bauval's Orion correlation. As far as I know no academic would even look at the research. Regardless of whether the correlation is true or coincidental (And Andrew Collins work on Cygnus raises a number of issue with Orion correlating to the pyramids on the Gisa plataeu) at the time it should have been examined and discussed by peer review.
For a third example we have the sceptical parapsychologist argument against ghosts. Following on for Richard Wiseman [sic] not particularly original research which argues that scary places make people imagine ghosts, there seems to be a global "see ghosts are not real" belief even through this research does not really come anywhere near looking at the broad spectrum of ghostly phenomena which gets reported, such as crisis apparitions, poltergeists etc. Stepping back for a moment there doesn’t seem to be much thought amongst academics regarding psychic perception in cases of apparitions and people are still looking for (and expecting to photograph) ghosts made of a form of matter.
Another tactic is to ridicule subjects by drawing on the more dubious fringe elements or blinding people with wooly logic. Richard Dawkings argues against phenomena in “The Blind Watchmaker” by using the example of statues moving and discussing the number of atoms which would need to move for this to happen, James (The amazing) Randi spends his time tilting with Uri Geller and Sylvia Browne using the absurdity and question marks which often surrounds these people as ammunition for an assault against more serious people such as Rupert Sheldrake, Dean Radin or Brian Josephson.
Finally we can resort to name calling. Randi (I know he is not an academic but he is used by academics in supporting their claims - eg the Jacques Benveniste "water memory" episode) labels us all WooWoo's. Dawkins labels atheistic scientists "Brights".
When we do find a supporting academic, such as Jacques Vallee or John Mack in UFO research they do produce often startling and paradigm shifting research which is often worth the hassle we get from the rest, however the true pioneers are rare and often caught in the quagmire of backwards thinking; these are people more interested in protecting the status quo or the "validity" of their latest book. A kind of “old boys network” kicks in and that myths becomes self perpetuating in a way sidereally illustrated in Borges "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" where a false and synthetic archaeology and history begins to supplant real history.
I also believe that even with acceptance the academic approach will cause problems. I think that should magic and psychicism ever become accepted I think there are limits to where academia can go. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what role academia plays in magick?
Should it be there to record our history, recording the acts of magicians throughout history and in which case what purpose does this serve? Ordinary people are not necessarily interested in magic, and occultists will already know the histories of other magicians. Also the academic “fact” ignores the mythic element - as a magician I am more interested in the mythic Merlin rather than any historical person.
If we (say) take Dave Evans “History of British Magic” at face value, and pretend that (in this parallel world version) it was more accurate than it actually is (ie he doesn’t say Dion fortune founded the Servants of the Light or waste time discussing how many occultists are in the UK, he doesn’t rely on anonymous anecdotes and he was fair and respectful to researchers like Kenneth Grant) would the book have any real value except to people curious about such things. It is only recording history within a very very narrow band (in terms of time and scope) and has only limited use.
Speaking academically I think his use of anonymous people such as "starbeam" rather damning. A historian relies on a paper trail and spends a lot of time looking at documents and other evidence rather than hearsay which is effectively what it is. I have no way of tracking his sources and for all I know he might have made them up. This means that no future work can build on this history of magic and I cannot see how this contributes to the sum of human knowledge given its unreliability - not even necessarily because bits are wrong, but simply because we cannot verify them.
In the world of Dennis Wheatley, academic study of magic is often life saving, especially when Duc de Richleau runs of to the British Library to look up a rare ritual before returning in time to save the day. In reality I doubt the de Richleau would even get past the guards at the door of the BL. But this sort of research doesn’t seem to interest academics, and it is people like Kenneth Grant who study folklore, tradition etc as well as magically bringing through a gnosis of lost knowledge to light documenting and exploring these fragments, which can then be used to form a ritual capable of keeping the likes of Mocata at bay.
However Kenneth Grant as a magician also has a great deal of insight which comes from his own personal gnosis. This is something which does not have a paper trail and whilst of massive value to us as magicians not something academics will be able to work with.
Having said all that there is value in a rigorous academic study of the history of magic. It was once commented to me that this does bring a perspective on the state of societies and how they change over time. It must be accurate however or there is a risk of placing undue emphasis on history and personality rather than magical practice, which IMHO must be the most important thing.
As a magician it is the magick which interests me the most and even a grimoiric mishmash of traditions can have much value to an occultist evben though it is historically inaccurate (even made up_. An example of this is Andrew Chumbleys rebooting of traditional witchcraft with the Azöetia where he pulls elements from Egyptian Magic, Qlippothic practice and Enochian to form the whole.
Perhaps we need to ask with work such as this which many find valuable (not me particularly although it does give me odd dreams) is this value coming from Andrew Chumbley as a scholar or Andrew Chumbley the Magician? (The pedantic bastard running in my soul also wants to point out whether we are not better working with the sources afresh rather than working with someone else’s vision)
Does magick have a place in academic research science?
The second type of academic is the scientist who takes information and then uses this to expand on knowledge using research.
To me it seems a bit of a strange quirk that magic and Esoteric Sciences are currently the domain of the scholar rather than the scientist. Partially this is due to the political bias which scientists have against researching such subjects. Secretly many may hold that there is a lot of worth in studying the paranormal but know that it is not worth their careers to go talking about it too much, especially while fundamentalists such as Dawkins and Randi seem bent on making belief in science the new religion.
I rather think and hope that inventions such as the internet will change this bias. In the past universities were the storehouses and the guardians of information holding the final approval of what gets studied and what gets swept under the carpet. Maybe we will see a new distributed model of research take place as the internet puts different groups together in researching paranormal and occult phenomena in a way which doesn’t allow the establishment to tie researchers hands together.
It would be interesting to know how much research secretly has a psychic base for example how many archaeologists get a prompting telling them to "dig here".
To someone such as myself with a strong scientific background I rather horribly suspect that is may not be possible to scientifically study the paranormal. Or at least we cannot study it in an empirical manner. My argument is very much that a scientist works from scepticism and has to work by disproving things. For example if there was a scientific theory suggesting that all swans were white, it is not possible to prove it positively by showing all white swans, but very easy to disprove by finding just one black swan.
So a scientist is automatically looking for areas where a theory breaks down. This isnt itself a bad thing and in most sciences this tightens knowledge to a degree where we can make some very precise predictions.
However with psychic and magical phenomena (remember there is no way to objectively measure spiritual attainment [whatever that may be], but we can measure movement of objects and transfer of information) the belief in the phenomena is one of the triggers which gets things working. A scientist taking part in the experiment (even as an observer) becomes a part of the group mind and his or her scepticism naturally makes the phenomena hard to reproduce - actually as parapsychology seems to show the believing parapsychologists get results the disbelievers don’t and then place the believers ability or truthfulness in doubt.
This makes the scientific understanding of magic very difficult even if it were possible to found a department of practical magical studies at some university. I suspect that things wont really progress unless some revelations about the nature of reality come from somewhere like particle physics (and I have massive issues with that) which leads back to a rewrite of scientific epistemology hopefully opening up new branches of research.
Until then it seems to me that the politics of what is scientifically acceptable to research coupled with a generally materialistic societies disinterested in these matters makes it seem unlikely that I will even see magic practically studied at an academic establishment. Which is a pity as a title Doctor of Practical Magick sounds like a great job and a damn site more interesting than corporate IT in a bank.
However speaking as a magician and a psychical explorer I don’t really feel the need to seek academic justification to my beliefs and actions. Maybe we have all achieved an initiation of sorts in we known such things as ghosts and spirits exist and have encountered them, have worked with them and even made deals with them, whilst academics are either debating their existence or denying it entirely.
Having said all that, a big fat lottery win will see me back in an academic ivory tower.
I am currently re-reading "Jonathan Stange and Mr Norrell" and this is strangely appropriate here in that the authoress has portrayed a parallel England where Theoretical magicians (academics) argue about magic but not a single one does any until Norrell and Strange arrive on the scene.
Please post your thoughts
I really enjoyed Greg's article "Her sweet murmur" in Darklore recently. A lot of it got me thinking about aural experiences I have had over my years as a psychic explorer. Thank you Greg for such an interesting and well written article
The most interesting time this happened to me was about five years ago now when I was starting to experiment with the Enochian calls. When I first started looking at the call I read out the first call aloud mostly to get a feel for the actual sound. As I write this, I am beginning to wonder if maybe it was because I was focussing on the actual sound of the calls rather than the content that things unfolded as they did.
Anyway, that evening I read the first call. speaking subjectively the call certainly had an effect on me although I didn't have any visions of angels at the time. I felt that I was being pulled apart as if every atom of my being was on an elastic being pulled out. I finished feeling quite high, grounded myself and spent the rest of the evening doing mundane things.
Later I had a dream which I am certain was connect to the calling. I was flying over a large golden city. There were a number of other people present in the city, either walking along its streets and gardens or flying through it like me. Throughout all this there was a music playing in my ears. I remember thinking at the time that these were the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard and whilst I cannot recall the music I still feel stirred when I think about it. The emotion it released in me was really quite profound.
I'll finish my account before I start analysing; although it is the music I am interested here Nothing else really happened in my dream and I woke up a little later at around 12:30am. I could only have been asleep for about 20 minutes although I felt totally refreshed as if I had been asleep for hours. I felt so good in fact that I started planning reciting the next call the following evening - just to see what would happen next.
Sadly a door once opened swings both ways and the rest of the night was less fun. I kept waking up in a cataleptic state with the sense of entities moving closer and closer. The final straw came just before dawn when I awoke paralysed. I became aware of a large black bird or raven fly through my closed bedroom door and circle above my head. It persisted for quite some time - I had broken the paralysis and could still see it. The paralysis and the Raven worried me for a time after that mainly because it wasn't invited. As someone who regularly experienced sleep catalepsy and entity intrusion (although sadly never a succubus) I have got rather blasé about it now and work from the conclusion that whilst there are certainly neurological aspects to this - the brain switching of the body so we don't act out our dreams - there are also occult aspects and I believe that whilst paralysed we enter a highly psychic state although are also prone to our own psychology projecting things out as well.
Back to the music - I call it that but it was much more like a humming with a changing resonance. I have heard it twice more although only for very brief snatches, both in dreaming or whilst drifting off to sleep. In all three events there was a lot of vibration - either during the periods of catalepsy after my foray into the Enochian city, or in the lesser occasional whilst the music was playing.
Its all very reminiscent of the vibrations which are felt when people have an OBE (or approach one) - Robert Monroe wrote about this in his "Journeys out of the body" and again this is something I have felt on many occasions. Although I have never managed to induce a controlled OBE I have found that following Monroe's techniques can often get me to the vibrational state. This works (at least for me) using either the projection method Monroe describes in his book and using his binaural beat tapes.
Monroe's tapes use a process called hemi sync. As many people are aware people brainwaves tend to fall within certain states, alpha, beta, theta and delta as summarised below:
Delta 3Hz (sleep state)
Theta 4-7Hz (Dreamy states and meditation)
Alpha 8-12Hz (Awake and relaxed)
Beta 12-30Hz (Thinking and concentrating)
It has long been known by neurologists that the brain responds to certain beats and mimics them and this tends to put the mind of the listener in that state. The problem is the beat is below the threshold of hearing so we cannot physically head a sound of say 4 Hz. however Monroe discovered that if you play a sounds of say 50 Hz in one ear, and 54HZ in the other ear, the brain will "hear" the difference as a beat. This will entrain the brain leading it into the required state.
It is also possible to get to the paralysis state by using one of the Monroe Institute's hemi sync tapes, then stopping it halfway through and trying to sleep. Interestingly when I experimented with this my paralysis was never accompanied by a sense of presence as it often is when this happens naturally. At least this confirms that there is a neurological component to these experiences and whilst they are no less uncomfortable when artificially generated in this way, at least familiarity with this state has served to alleviate the fear factor such paralysis often induces.
Another example of (again Enochian) sounds affecting things came as an account told to the audience of one of the Psychic Questing Conferences talks by Andrew Collins. I don't have the full details on hand (I don't think he wrote this in a book) but he mentioned that prior to an investigation of a chapel he recited one of the Enochian calls. This seemed to have kicked off a lot of phenomena during the investigation so it seems that the experience was shared however implying that it is more than just a psychological phenomena.
I think we need to draw a contrast between the differences between using a tool such as hemi sync and magical chantings /Enochian. Hemisync (whilst effective) is really a neurological phenomena. It works on the brain, inducing it into adopting a particular state which assists thinking and feeling in that area. For example recreating an alpha state helping meditation to occur and persist with less internal interruptions.
The use of "words" such as Barbarous words, Enochian etc seems to work differently. When intoned, the vibrations work outwards setting parts of the body and even parts of the local environment vibrating to the tone. Magicians even take this further by visualising the vibrations extend out to the ends of the universe which is interesting because (assuming that if this didn't work it would have been omitted from instructions) this brings the vibration onto it on the astral as well.
Regarding the semantic nature of such names and calls, I am not too sure at this stage how important these it. The original instructions given to Dee was that the calls were supposed to be written down with the English translation below them - like so:
OL SONF VORSG GOHO IAD BALT
I Reign Over You, Sayeth The God Of Justice,
LANSH CALZ VONPHO.
In Power Exalted Above The Firmaments Of Wrath.
Perhaps we could ask the question as to whether this will have the effect of supplying a semantic content to the words? The calls themselves serving to open up the magician, tune the magical environment etc then the English "translations" shape the experiences. Presumably this is in line with the beliefs held by the magician performing the work.
Thinking back, going to a rock concert, it seems to me that is the vibrations rather than the sound or volume often contribute to its power. I think that this detail is perhaps behind the power in music that bands such as Fields of the Nephilim can create in their audience. I remember when my girlfriend and I first listened to Fields of the Nephilim "Mourning Sun" on cd when it came out. I actually turned off the cd when I started hearing it as I could feel the magical power rise in the air as the music played.
Their concert last year was even more imposing and the soundscape created was magically phenomena. With bands such as Nephilim who are versed in magic including (at a reasonably well informed guess) Enochian it seems that they have a (perhaps intuitive) understanding of vibration and its effect on people. In this sense they are the magical heirs to the shamanic traditions which practiced this kind of thing.
I think that the key to this is the nature of the resonance. Looking at a resonating object it seems that when it is resonating the actual vibration becomes a carried medium for things. In a sense the resonance itself (whilst it is dependant upon a medium to carry that resonance) becomes a separate object which is very soft in nature. Once could for example "beat" the resonance and use that to carry information. This strikes me as a perfect medium for perichoresis (as described by Kenneth Grant) to occur. Anything existing on a different dimension would be able to effect the resonance and use this as a medium of transfer in a similar way to how a sympathetic string in music is played - it is not directly played - rather it vibrates due to the effect of the vibration of another string which is played by the musician.
I think that there is a lot to explore here