20 March 2024

Golden Dawn Enochian: the Mirror of the Self


The sorely missed Jake Stratton-Kent used to advocate for not letting tools and rules get in the way of magical practice.  I think most working magicians, having grappled with the technical demands inherent in traditional grimoires, would agree.  I certainly would.  But rather than a sensible discussion on why it’s good to err on the side of using paper when the skin of a wildebeest isn’t handy, I will start with a message from an angel—i.e. from within my Unverified Personal Gnosis.  In an essay dealing with the vagaries of using vibrated words to connect with the Astral Light, why not start there?

On October 16, 2020, I used the (very simple, yet unaccountably unsettling) praxis of Frater Pera (from Codex Astartethen a blog, now a Substack newsletter-blog) to evoke the angel, Elubatel, with whom I was already familiar via Geof Gray-Cobb’s amazing Miracle of New Avatar Power.*  When I write, “familiar,” though, I don’t mean “on friendly terms.”  Like many, my first exposure to this angel was through NAP’s “Chant for Success,” a working I stopped doing because the “success” always came at a high price.  I think there’s a good reason for this, but that’s subject matter for a different essay.

Instead, I’ll note that, having deconstructed and reconstructed the modular components of the NAP system over and over, having used it to approach the spirits of the “chants” directly, and having learned a lot about ceremonial magic firsthand from the spirits (which I believe is an advanced application of Gray-Cobb’s system that you can discover if you carefully study the text), I’d developed an ongoing relationship with Elubatel unique to my personal gnosis and work.**

So in 2020, Elubatel appeared to me; though, it feels like I did this working in the recent past, like last week or a month ago.***  As usual, it was not the most pleasant sensation to have this particular angel come before me (or maybe I came before him).  But I had only one question to ask.  I was seeking insight into the 6th & 7th Book of Moses, which includes Elubatel, and wanted his advice on the best way to study it. 

He said that one does not make notes on a grimoire.  Rather, studying a grimoire is like gazing into a mirror and taking notes on yourself.  In other words, everyone’s experience of a grimoire and of its workings and worldview will be subjective and self-revelatory to a large extent.  He suggested that I seek the “reflection of the book in me” and that I should read it with no assumptions until it starts to show me things about myself.  The aggregate of those “things” and the magical processes from the text associated with them will stand as my edition of the 6th & 7th Book of Moses.  So it is with any magical book.  To grimoire purists, this is complete garbage.  Luckily, I am not a grimoire purist.  But, as with all UPG, keep what I have written here in the appropriate perspective.

I mention this approach because it has helped me go further into the study of traditional grimoires and intermediate-to-advanced ceremonial workings.  I’ve applied it successfully—call it the “reader response approach”—beyond grimoire work to many other magical concepts, practices, and disciplines.  Recently, I found myself spirit-led to resume my Enochian magical experiments.  I applied this to studying the Calls and want to share how that worked out relative to the pronunciation of Enochian.

In Enochian Magic for Beginners, Tyson writes “We can take some comfort in the knowledge that, no matter how badly we mispronounce Enochian words, we are almost certain to be closer to the original than MacGregor Mathers or Aleister Crowley, who both used Enochian magic with good results” (102).  When I first read this, I decided I had been doing it wrong.  I changed the way I was pronouncing Enochian from the Golden Dawn’s vocalization of every letter to Aaron Leitch’s phonetic pronunciation, which I believe remains the dominant view on the proper (or what comes closest to the proper) form. 

Additionally, Aaron Leitch, in The Essential Enochian Grimoire, points out that “While it is good to know what sound each letter makes, it tells us little about what sounds are made when the letters are combined into actual syllables and words” (287).  This seems to agree with Tyson’s claim that “no one really knows what pronunciation Dee and Kelly used, let alone how the angels intended the language to be pronounced” (102). 

Michael Aquino, following Anton LaVey’s idea that Enochian was a sort of pidgin and not a real language, also wrote that in his opinion Enochian works no matter how you vocalize it.  There is a Satanic Enochian, a Setian version, and there are many others as well which all seem to function just fine for various sorcerers using it in their respective magical currents.  Still, grappling with my own portion of “grimoire insecurity,” I wanted to be as historically accurate as possible.  So, while I got good visionary results from the Golden Dawn style, I switched to the Leitch method but didn’t experience the same powerful results. 

Going back to the Golden Dawn pronunciation, after a lot of disappointment and frustration with the phonetic approach, and keeping Elubatel’s advice in mind, I realized a few things.  One was that my mirror perhaps reflected a personal bias in favor of Mathers and Crowley.  Another was that LaVey’s and Aquino’s experiments set forth an important point: the magic you do is in you; the rest is scaffolding.  That includes Enochian magic, which should not be viewed as monolithic or absolute. 

As Tyson points out, “To his credit, Mathers was able to add, in a more or less intelligent way, many details concerning the Watchtowers that are not clearly stated in the angelic conversations” (54).  Crowley also had to invent Enochian words in order to work with the system.  The angels did not smite him for it.  I would extend that observation to the Left Hand Path students of Enochian in the tradition of The Satanic Bible, who replaced “God” with “Satan” and at times reinterpreted whole phrases from the Calls. 

Enochian will never be “complete” or self-contained (Can we say this of any magic system?).  One always looks into it, as if into a mirror, and sees one’s own reflection.  And so I looked.  Scrying on the method itself, I learned that the Golden Dawn method works the way chanting (vibrating) the Heart Sutra works.  In the latter, the meaning of the words, while important, is not as significant as their physical vibration in the body and from there into the world.  When I vibrate “Hannya Shingyo,” I’m making it part of myself.  I’m aligning my personal vibration with the vibration of the words, which changes me alchemically in a fundamental way.  As Jonathan Back puts it in Spirits Walk With Me: an Enochian Odyssey, “By scrying each of the Aethyrs, working from Tex upwards, the Magician can be said to be absorbing the energies of the entire Table, with a resultant transformation of his or her psyche or spiritual nature. He or she turns spiritual lead into spiritual gold.”

It’s no different than vibrating god names in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or the Kabalistic Invocation of the Highest Divine Force.  Donald Kraig reminds us that “all matter is made up of energy that vibrates.  This results in the conclusion that if we can control vibration, we can control matter,” especially our own matter.  So when we vibrate the Enochian Calls, we’re aligning ourselves with the Enochian current, with its Aethyrs and denizens in an intensely personal way.  And each individual Enochian letter is part of that.

As a practical experiment, you can feel this by vibrating the letters of your first name.  Notice, when you do that each individual letter carries the overall essence of the whole name as it applies to you—your matter / vibration / unique nature as a spiritual and incarnate being.  So looking at your name in a delimited technical way as a collection of letter-sounds that only acquire meaning when they are combined as a word is misguided.  Just as the Hebrew alphabet (or any alphabet) attributes levels of meaning to each semantic unit, so does Enochian.  Therefore, using the Golden Dawn style of individual letter vibration is not only legitimate, it links both magical currents in a powerful microcosmic way.

The power in question is astral.  J.H. Brennan writes the following in Astral Doorways: “It occurred to me eventually that the Astral Plane was not a place—one reason why magicians like Lévi prefer the expression Astral Light. . . . In London, seeking membership of an occult Fraternity, I put the question to one I thought should know.  He told me ‘Astral Plane’ was an old term for the realm of the visual imagination” (2).  It’s the “visual imagination” (the part of the mind that generates it) that gets stimulated when the Enochian Calls are vibrated.

For example, when I scryed the 27th Aethyr, ZAA, using the Leitch-phonetic method, it felt rather flat, spiritually entering the Aethyr was difficult, and though there was the usual “movement” in my sphere of sensation, I had a rather underwhelming experience.  When I did it Golden Dawn style, however, I wrote the following experience in my magical journal:

This time, I saw the door into the Aethyr as being of the same gray stone, but the letters were inscribed with “ZAA” in brilliant blue light, which then became white light as I pushed through.  After a moment of disorientation, I found myself on a plane of endless light.  There was nothing but my body and light.  And so there was nowhere to go because every “place” was indivisible from every other place.  It was a world of homogeneity. 

My “body” was the only dark thing, a hollow shell that also contained the same light of ZAA.  And I got the impression that my physical shell (which had blackened as if it were burned) was a kind of falsehood, that it, too, was made out of light but in a way that allowed me to believe I was distinct and separate.  And I understood that this was true and false at the same time, depending on my point of view.

As soon as I had this thought, I saw another blackened shell (much like an empty corpse) of an old man hovering before me.  It’s eyes and mouth were full of the same light.  A voice came through the open mouth without the features moving.  It said, “These are fields of light.  There is nothing but light.  The light shines on itself and the darkness is illuminated.” 

I had the insight that the darkness is illuminated meant that it was (can be seen as) another form of the same light, just as I had sensed this relative to my own distinctness.  I then saw a vision of a ray of light coming through a window and impossibly bending back so that it formed a kind of endless loop into itself.  The entire Aethyr seemed, for a brief moment, like a giant crystal prism reflecting itself to itself.

The difference was outstanding.  This is not to say that many Enochian magicians, maybe the majority, do not get dramatic results from the phonetic approach.  Remember, I’m speaking from my own UPG, from the mirror-reflection of my self and the intense subjectivity of my visual imagination.  I am merely pointing out what seems like an insight, voiced by Dion Fortune in Applied Magic: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, not where it is chartered by established authority” (66).  In other words, with due respect to writers like Leitch, Laycock, and even the giants, Mathers and Crowley, for making Enochian coherent, one’s experience of this magic is like one’s experience of the Astral Plane, which is to say, highly subjective.

I want to encourage those who read this essay to remember that and to follow the wind of inspiration where it listeth without getting bogged down by grimoire insecurity and whatever approaches may be in vogue.  Hence will the darkness be illuminated.

* I have much to say about this excellent, influential, hidden-in-plain-sight book / system and intend to repost one of my old essays about it very soon.  If you want to work with it, get the 1974 edition, not the more recent, ignorantly edited reprint.

** Wanderer has something like that of his own here: https://www.sorcerousendeavors.com/sorcery-blog/working-with-elubatel.  Take a look at his website if you’re interested in the musings of a smart, working sorcerer.

*** This, by the way, is a hallmark of powerful magical work.  It’s timeless.  It casts a long shadow over your life for better and often worse.  It can also be retro-causal.

25 February 2024

Gnothi Seauton: where is your place of power?


Many years ago, when I was first learning the Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram, I wrote to Donald Kraig about the crazy things I was seeing at the edges of the circle, far crazier, I felt, than anything I’d ever witnessed during my study of the lesser pentagram and hexagram rituals. He very patiently (with his usual kindness and humor) wrote back that whatever I thought I was seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking, or otherwise experiencing during performance of the SIRP was unimportant. The important thing was being consistent in daily practice without letting astral garbage distract me. I took that advice to heart, as I did with everything he told me over the years, and eventually the visions subsided. But this taught me something important about magical practice: one’s perception of personal “power” or “energy” are largely subjective.

In fact, I will go so far as to say these perceptions are part of a practitioner’s unverified personal gnosis (UPG). What seems powerful and meaningful today can seem the opposite tomorrow and vice-versa—depending on a lot of factors, not the least of which include emotions, diet, weather, astrological moment, state-dependent memory, pattern recognition, imaginative capacity, comprehension, related reading, invisible friends, dream journeys, and personal wyrd. I think this is why Kraig, in Modern Magick (and in person) always stressed keeping detailed records of daily practice. You won’t know which factors regularly contribute to your power unless you examine how it rises or fails to rise in space and over time.

This sounds complicated, but it’s just a matter of paying close attention to yourself and staying consistent. I’ve written about avoiding pretentious, repetitive “grinding” from poorly written occult manuals. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Rather, I’m pointing out that no ritual (or, for that matter, true book of magic) reveals its secrets right away. One has to sit with it, practice it, and see the world through its perspective. Then gradually, like getting to know a person, it opens up and you start to see its inner nature. This takes patience and work.

Still, no one who has seriously engaged in occult study would deny that some form of tangible “energy” exists and can be directed through ritual. Moreover, there are some days when you feel magically or energetically filled up with that energy and some days when you don’t. If you look carefully, you can predict these peaks and valleys to a limited extent.

For example, say you know you’re going to have a heavy day at the office. You’ve gradually come to understand that eight hours of paperwork behind a desk makes you feel drained. You never do much magic on those days, preferring instead to just go home, make dinner, watch a show, and get to bed. This would be a valuable insight about one of your personal “valleys.” You probably wouldn’t plan for the culmination of a major grimoire evocation on a day like that. Alternately, you might feel that midnight is the loosest, most open, time for you to be “magical.” Maybe midnight is one of your “peaks.”

As with time, so with space. You may come to believe that a particular public garden or rotary park or monument or area of a museum is the best place for you to do certain surreptitious acts of magic. Whether or not that has always been the case or will be so in the future is an open question (since it will depend, at least partly, on your subjective, personal gnosis). But for now, that’s what it is. So that may be where you leave an offering or charge a sigil, etc.

Urban magicians immediately think of their magical chamber (or the corner of their studio apartment where they keep a second-hand coffee table covered in crystals, figurines, and other tacky brick-a-brac). Well and good. But your main place of power doesn’t have to be your altar or anywhere in a space you have to pay for once a month. You don’t even need an altar (regardless of what occult social media seems to think). All you need is to feel that “energy” rising at a particular location and moment and to believe that it is.

So where is your place of power? Mine is very unobtrusive, hidden in plain sight, but real to me nonetheless. You can find yours by paying attention. Then you will have a true magical secret that is wholly your own. And, as Don Webb once wrote, “The more of you that is in your magic, the more powerful your magic will be.” He also liked to say that the secret of magic is that it causes change in the magician. Put both of these ideas together and you get spiritual dynamite. You light that fuse by knowing yourself, which is the main idea of this entry.

Thorn Mooney on "Internet Witch Life"

I have lots of respect for Thorn Mooney and her ideas.  This one is no exception and, in my opinion, is worth an hour of your time.  If you participate in online occult conversations, you will find this interesting, I think.

20 February 2024

Grimoire Note: Celestial Angel Magick by Corwin Hargrove


As the venerable Brother Moloch, a sorcerer near and dear to my heart, once pointed out, the Gallery of Magick books (and those, like Hargrove’s, that are GoM-adjacent, being extremely similar in format and approach) are not “grimoires” in the primary sense of the term.  Rather, they are spell books. 

Though they often profess a magical grammaire, they do not provide a variable syntax for it, which is to say, for a creative range of magical expressions as in the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon or the first part of the Grimorium Verum.  Instead, the GoM approach gives simplified rigid methods, focused on one or two groups of spirits or magical aesthetics, usually incorporating sigils or mandalas of Hebrew letters from the tradition of Jacobus Swart.  The difference is comparable to learning the rules of a language versus memorizing various blocks of text in that language verbatim.


Unfortunately the term, “spell book,” is now heavily associated with 1980s mass-market Wicca.  I’m loathe to climb on the Wicca-bashing bandwagon.  Before that, the trend in occult book-talk was ceremonial (i.e. Golden Dawn) bashing and, before that, it was New Thought-The Secret-Law of Attraction bashing, etc.  It never ends because occultists will never stop feeling insecure.  It’s all very high school, in my opinion. 


So for the time being, I’ll use grimoire when I talk about Celestial Angel Magick.  And I’ll call this a “grimoire note” instead of a book review, since I’m only saying one or two things about it (and those from a subjective, working perspective, avoiding much analysis of the text itself).


I’m writing this mostly because I’ve been using the book and because I think the GoM (-ish) grimoires work (as verbatim blocks of text in a magical language).  At least, they work for me, which is the most truthful and transparent thing any magician can say about occult things.  Of course, these books aren’t really “occult.”  They’re mass-marketed just like the self-initiatory eclectic Wiccan material from 30 years ago.  But the difference is that the GoM books can be overtly useful right away.  They can produce results (if you know how to use them properly) without you having to undergo very much self change.


In the present case, Hargrove gives a “pathworking” approach similar to that found in Jareth Tempest’s Raziel’s Paths of Power, Theodore Rose’s Lucifer and the Hidden Demons, and Gordon Winterfield’s Demons of Magick.  I think Damon Brand has this in a few of his books and there are several other GoM-adjacent and demonolatry imitators as well.  None of these texts are bad or worthless.  And most of them more or less pass the practical magic “laugh test.”


Pathworking (really the old “transvocation” under a misapplied, perhaps less intimidating name—we’re not actually working the paths on the Tree of Life) isn’t a bad way to go about conducting spirit contact.  Many serious mental mediums, witches, spiritual mentalists, and non-charlatan psychics also use it.  One could also argue that Paul Huson’s excellent demonic summoning method in Mastering Witchcraft is another example, if a bit closer to the original Solomonic grimoire method.  A reason this works is that it depends on skill in visualization and on a strong graphic imagination, something most occultists develop as a fundamental tool.  If you are also adept in any form of visual art or creative writing, you may find that it’s really easy, powerful, and satisfyingly dramatic.


Celestial Angel Magick, for me, in my subjective experience, is unique only in how it feels.  Specifically, it feels incredibly light and airy.  This must be from my UPG, but when I do a working from Lucifer and the Hidden Demons, there is a weighty, almost leaden sensation that accompanies the visualizations.  Not so with CAM.  The first time I used it, I almost let myself worry that nothing was happening outside my imagination.  I normally get a powerful sensation that spirit contact is happening within me but also beyond me in some way, but I didn't this time.


Magical sensations, especially those involving our otherwise invisible friends, are hard to describe.  But that’s the main reason I’m writing this: Celestial Angel Magick feels unique.  I suspect (and right now this can only be a suspicion) it may have to do with the fact that these are lunar angels.  As the author puts it, the invocable spirits in the grimoire are the 28 angels of the Mansions of the Moon.  And though Hargrove claims “these angels have real power, and best of all, it’s a power that feels strong and weighty while being easy to access” (11), I’ve gotten the idea that the moon phase will certainly affect the texture of the work.  This probably means that sometimes the feeling will be strong, but at other times, it will impart an almost insubstantial, ephemeral sensation. 


When I did my first working from CAM, the moon was in Aquarius (spiritual air).  The second was today with the moon in Pisces (spiritual water).  The airy and fluid nature of these signs no doubt influenced my impressions.  Only time will tell if the moon sign consistently seems to condition the work.


Did I get results?  I did, both times, within 24 hours.  In that sense, I should recommend the grimoire as a work of practical practical magic.  But, as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.  Just don’t be too quick to dismiss Celestial Angel Magick if its spirits don’t slap you upside your head.  Trust your visualization.  Do the work.  Then watch and wait—as always.

01 February 2024

The Way of the Transgressor is Hard (or Standing in the Place of the Other, Revisited)


"Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard." 
— Proverbs 13:15 (KJV)

In 2024, the hegemony of the always-online occultnik shut-in has come to an end for all but the most diehard identity performers, incels (and femcels), parasocial masturbators, and medicated incompetents still lurking on platforms like Tumblr, TikTok, Patreon, and YouTube.  Covid was their heyday, but once social distancing peaked and social life slowly started to go back to normal, they had to slink back to the basement.

Unfortunately, on magical-ish platforms—I hesitate to say “in the magical community” anymore, since most of what passed for that went south after the so-called “blog renaissance” got destroyed by social media—a certain kind of annoying cretin persists.  To be honest, this kind of fool comes with the territory, since a large chunk of the occult book industry makes a living off his credulousness and need to feel clever.  Think: 101 Ways to Sell Your Soul and Win or Arcane Seduction Spells or, in a more contemporary guise, Non-Appropriative Trans Witchcraft to Fight the Patriarchy.  Whatever the zeitgeist makes trendy, you can bet lots of occult books will emerge along the lines of money, sex, and petty personal power dressed up in those fashions.


But once you see this imbecile, you’ll never unsee him.  He comes in two distinct flavors: vanilla and edgelord, which ultimately amount to the same thing, since they emanate from the same personality defects.  Goes like this:


I feel that, on some level, the world has given me a raw deal.  I’ve discovered the occult and am (probably, though this is never certain) sensitive to magical energy.  I am determined to use this sensitivity to fuck over people I resent, get money, and play a rapey seduction game with those who otherwise wouldn’t give me the time of day.  I don’t want to put in the long hours of study and practice to acquire genuine magical capacities (since I don’t really care about anything deeper than the above goals).  So I’m going to look for occult shortcuts in the form of existing patterns, formulas, and workings—even better if I can contact the authors of those and quiz them about their ideas without having to do any research of my own.  Yes, I’m ignorant, lazy, and unwilling to even do a Google search to learn the proper definitions.  But the world owes me!


This person is useless.  His “occult” short-cutting and sense of entitlement will turn out to be as effective as everything else he attempts.  Maybe he knows how to take a shit properly (one hopes).  With that as his one skill, everything may have begun to resemble it.  But the world owes him money, love, and a sense of authority, certainly.  Therefore, he may also be proficient in using these assumptions to annoy anyone who has the misfortune of encountering him—in real life, but far more likely online.  He’s not a troll.  He’s just an immature consumer displacing a certain amount of space for a time while he fantasizes.  He’s an unaware LARPer.  He’s having a nice, long wank that might last a few decades.


Why in the world am I spending time on this sort of person in a blog post?  I’m tired of him.  Very tired—as much for how much he personally annoys me as for the ignorance he perpetuates.  Before you dismiss this post as merely a personal rant about an occult-world cliché, consider the opposite of this personality type.  Success in operative magic (results-based sorcery) always depends on an almost diametrically opposite approach.  Think about it.  Nothing (and this very much includes magical work) can be accomplished without a certain amount of risk, effort, and strain.  Anyone telling you different is selling you an inferior product.


Operative work, the kind that creates tangible, measurable effects in the practitioner’s perceptual fields and ultimately in the objective universe, is magnified in proportion to one’s courage.  And it works like that the more you do it.  This is, incidentally, why rebellion and opposition are such key concepts on the Left Hand Path.  They’re always-available power sources.  But it’s true for any spiritual system that seeks change: you have to put yourself out there.  You have to suffer (in the old sense of the term, which is as much to “undertake” or “withstand” as it is to experience discomfort).  As Louis Martinié famously put it, “First comes the working; then comes the work.”  To even get to a personal understanding of what Martinié’s talking about, you have to be brave, turn off OnlyFans, and leave the basement.


Matt Zane, in Transpersonal Satanism, puts it like this: “If necessary steps are not taken to willfully remove the self from what society or social circles impose, the external environment will define it.”  In other words, make your own choices or someone will make them for you.  Magic is about causing a change in the self on some level, which may cause comparable changes beyond the self in the world.  This is inherently transgressive, since the world (including the social world of consensus culture) always tends toward conformity.  The mere act of magic is a small violation of that consensus.  Don’t believe me?  Try loudly invoking Odin in the lobby of the largest bank downtown and see how connected you feel to society.  Even better, try it in the waiting room of your healthcare provider.


As the quote from Proverbs at the top of this post points out, the way of transgressors is hard.  Indeed.  In the words of a radical religious text that has been used to enforce some degree of social conformity since it began to be compiled, yes, transgress and you will taste salt.  But the alternative is ultimately worse.  And so we see the occultnik consumer who thinks he has a clever take on getting paid and laid.  He is undeniably a fool.  He wants to transgress, but he wants it to be easy.  That’s not how it works.  Back to WitchTok and the latest book on socially conscious non-appropriative teen witchcraft.  That’ll work, for sure.

24 December 2023

19 November 2023

My UPG Belongs to Me

Anyone who posts online about spiritual things has to walk a fine line between claiming that their personal visionary and intuitive experices happened and implying (or outright stating) that such experiences could happen to others.  

Luckily, there's an easy solution to this: my UPG belongs to me.  I never share all of it online (Why would I?) and what I do share is always on a "take it or leave it" basis.

Before you try to gatekeep any practices of mine (or of anyone else), you would do well to keep this in mind.

07 July 2023

Standing in the Place of the Other


The term “antinomian” can be etymologized as having entered English in the 17th century.  “Anti-“ obviously means “against.”  “Nómos” is Greek for “law.”  So antinomian, as a noun, means someone or something that goes against established law.  The popular definition is: “a person who maintains that Christians, by virtue of divine grace, are freed not only from biblical law and church-prescribed behavioral norms, but also from all moral law.”

But there is another, less common occult definition.  Stephen Flowers, in Lords of the Left-Hand Path, uses the term “antinomian” more broadly to indicate not only opposition to the so-called “laws of God,” but against the “mechanical / organic universe, and especially irrational psychological or social compulsion, convention or habit.”  In this usage, “antinomian” is anything that goes against conventional thought and behavior.  To be an antinomian is to be a non-conformist.


Witchcraft, at its best, in its most dangerous and potent expressions, is exactly this.  Peter Grey argues, in “Rewilding Witchcraft,” that


[W]itchcraft is quintessentially wild, ambivalent, ambiguous, queer. It is not something that can be socialised, standing as it does in that liminal space between the seen and unseen worlds. Spatially the realm of witchcraft is the hedge, the crossroads, the dreaming point where the worlds of men and of spirits parley through the penetrated body of someone who is outside of the normal rules of culture.


Embodying this is harder than subscribing to new-age, commodified, modern witchcraft, which, according to Grey, in its desire to “harm none,” has become essentially harmless and defanged.


This seems especially true in online witchcraft communities, where the tidy comforting maps provided by the Internet are commonly mistaken for actual territory in a very Baudrillardian sense—the ubiquitous “desert of the real.”  How many of us, for example, think that astrology actually corresponds to what’s going on physically with the stars and planets instead of being an oracular interpretation of what those things have come to symbolize?  How many of us think the neopagan sabbats celebrated on the Wheel of the Year actually represent physical moments of the turning of the seasons instead of culturally contextual interpretations?  Too many.


And how many of us mindlessly repeat political slogans, marketing clickbait, phrases from social justice “discourse,” and catchy meme punchlines without knowing why or how those statements came into being or how they are evolving?  Too many of us are afraid to stand out, to be dangerous, to show that we have sharp fangs.  Instead, we’re hungry for attention, inclusion, validation, being told it’s all going to be okay, being patted on the head and given a warm spot by the fire at the expense of our self-determination. 


Too many of us are starkly terrified of being ostracized, called out, or cancelled when our place of comfort should already be living on the edge.  We were made to be cast out, to don the terrifying mask of Azazel the Scapegoat so the tribe might be healed; though, it is ironic that, by virtue of our function as Other, we can never be fully accepted by respectable members of society.


As Christine Grace puts it in The Witch at the Forest’s Edge, “We are, each of us, the witch at the forest’s edge. We are always at the edge of something, one foot here and one foot there. We step over and back, over and back, ever riding the hedge.”  These are craft expressions for existing in liminal space, an area “east of sun and west of moon” in a place that is not a place and a time that is not a time.  It is the place of the outsider, the village witch, the forest hermit, the alien, the foreigner, the spirit-touched outcast, who has powers partly by virtue of the fact that she can never be part of conformist culture.


It is painful to be the outsider.  Don Webb, in Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path, explains:


The forces that oppose the will are habits of blind obedience to external symbols and signals. The LHP initiate begins his or her quest not only by rejecting sentimental attachments to cultural norms, which most non-thinking people call “good,” but by actively making fun of such attachments in Symbolic ways such as a Black Mass, a Black Seder, eating beef (if raised Hindu), and so forth. This antinomian stance is no different than the stances above, but it draws the most fire from the public, because it is a reminder to the sleepers that they could awaken, and such reminders are always painful. For those of us along the LHP, we often forget how painful the light was to our eyes when we first left the cave.


Making your own path through the darkness is dangerous and stressful.  It’s easier, at least in the short term, to just do what you’re told.  Some of us find that impossible.  Others pay lip service to the aesthetics of rebellion while very carefully offending no one, challenging nothing, and complying instantly with dominant trends.


Overall, taking an antinomian stance against conformity, mass consciousness, trendiness, and social pressure is very hard.  It is the Way of the Transgressor, the way of the storm god, filled with strife and struggle.  Its benefits are equally great—so great that once you set foot on that path, you may find yourself unwilling to ever bend the knee.  But you might not be that brave.


You may identify as a “comfort witch,” a “cozy witch,” terrified of conflict, listening carefully for the bell that summons you to obedience as a tame consumer, a spiritual materialist.  And you’ll go quietly with a frozen, nonthreatening smile.  You’ll write about it in your gratitude journal and maybe refer to yourself as “awkward” or as “a baby witch,” infantilizing and negating your own power before others have a chance to do it for you.  And you’ll certainly tell online strangers that you’re a witch, but you won’t be anything of the sort.

18 June 2023

The Trouble with Acausal Satanism


The Satanic path always seems simple on the surface, but it gets increasingly complex the further you progress.  One begins with atheistic LaVeyan Satanism or the activist humanism of the Satanic Temple, both of which are more closely related than either group would like to admit.  Their beliefs generally go like this: individuality and freedom are important; hedonism is a positive practice; and “Satan” is a symbolic ideal representing these things as well as self-development and opposition to unthinking conformity.  Well and good.  But those philosophies are “starter” Satanisms. 

Eventually, deeper thinkers find they need something a bit less social and more philosophical.  This is when one encounters the Temple of Set.  Filled with artists, poets, and actual academic philosophers—as well as the usual sort of disaffected proletarians who made up the original rank and file of the Church of Satan in the 1960s and ’70s, the Temple of Set has a coherent Left Hand Path philosophy of personal horizon building and occult insight. 

The ToS can legitimately claim to be the inheritor of many of the initiatory practices of Theosophy, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and Thelema as well as carrying forth many of the finer points of LaVey’s Church up to at least 1975, when Michael Aquino split from the CoS to found the organization.  Instead of the ToS, one might seek out the Dragon Rouge, which is very similar to the Temple of Set in many ways but with a decidedly Northern European aesthetic and emphasis, as it is based in Sweden. 

One of the primary things that makes the ToS and the DR authentic Left Hand Path organizations is their emphasis on the refinement of individual consciousness, as opposed to group the consciousness of Right Hand Path spiritual organizations (and, by extension, that of conformist culture at large).  Just as one could explore the humanism and hedonism of LaVey for a lifetime, one could also devote oneself to plumbing the depths of Setian and Dragon Rouge philosophies. 

But perhaps these groups are not “extreme” enough and, for whatever reasons—whether the individual is self-destructive, disaffected, or committed to a vision of Satan as the embodiment of pure evil in the traditional Christian sense—one might seek out so-called “acausal” or “anti-cosmic” Satanism, popularized by black metal groups and organizations like the Misanthropic Luciferian Order (aka Temple of the Black Light) or the Order of the Nine Angles (abbreviated as O9A or ONA). 

The most philosophically articulate of these is the ONA, which follows a complex mythology and philosophy that can be (over-) simplified as: one attempts to live in a way all that is contrary to social norms, not excluding overt criminality and destructive, anti-social behaviour, as doing so is believed to result in self-insight and social acceleration toward a new Aeon.  Again, well and good, except for the inevitable consequences of such a path.

Setting aside questions of right and wrong (it’s worthy to note that non-acasual Satanic groups mentioned here have a strong ethical tradition integral to their humanistic and self-developmental philosophies), the undeniable necessity of self-preservation remains at the root of all esoteric programmes.  Seriously practicing the anti-social philosophy of a group like the ONA drastically increases the likelihood of winding up dead, behind bars or, at best, permanently alienated from society.

In the beginning, novices might simply shrug.  The reason such ideas resonated with them in the first place probably had something to do with them feeling powerfully alienated from society, disenfranchised and disaffected.  Unlike the novices and adepti of, say, the Church of Satan or the Temple of Set, anti-cosmic Satanists do not seek idiosyncratic or self-determined means of satisfaction within existing social groups or constructs.  Rather, they seek to do as much damage to those groups and constructs as possible, operating on the assumption that this will accelerate social collapse and reposition them as greater figures in the coming new order.

Parallels to certain far-right ideologies are obvious and many such groups have been highly influenced by the acausal Satanism of the ONA and similar orders.  This is not to say that these extreme philosophies are completely without merit, but the seeker eventually must make a choice between satisfaction through a humanistic, mystical, and / or philosophical path or that of nihilism and likely self-obliteration.  “Likely” because it is not impossible to lead a long meaningful life as an acasual Satanist—the odds are just very much against it.

28 May 2023

Learning Magic: Focus on the End and Don’t Worry About the Means


Do practical magic for a while and you start to wonder about results.  Of course, you felt insecure about results from the beginning of your involvement with sorcery because reductive conformist materialism has drummed into your head that nothing exists unless you can place it on a physical scale: emotions are chemicals; there is no soul; and human identity comes down to DNA and brain architecture.  The non-material is synonymous with the non-real.  Science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and profit are all that truly matter in life, with social status as an irrational adjunct.  That’s the reductive materialist party line we all inherit.  Acting contrary to such ironclad scientism inevitably creates a lot of inner dissonance for creative and magical people.  Getting over it and transcending the dark side of post-industrial capitalism is a crucial part of learning magic.

But you always wonder about results.  This is mostly because, when your magic succeeds, it seems self-guided or directed by fate or some other power beyond your understanding.  The simplest money drawing candle can cause you to get fired by one employer and subsequently hired by another.  It can bring you marriage (or divorce).  It can send you around the world, grant you an inheritance (sorry grandpa), or drop a suitcase of cash on your doorstep in the middle of the night with no explanation at all.  And so you’re bound to ask: why did it do exactly what I envisioned last time and utterly surprise me with an unorthodox trajectory or outcome this time?  Is this all just coincidence?  Am I delusional?  Am I imagining connections and cause-effect relationships where there is only chaotic recombination of pre-existing variables?

If you’re good enough at divination, you can sometimes answer a few of these questions.  But the answers don’t matter because results-based magic isn’t rocket science.  It’s more like art—the picture you paint today might seem better or worse than the one you painted yesterday, but you can be sure that they won’t ever be identical, even if the materials you use are the same.  The old adage about not being able to step into the same river twice very much applies: you can’t systematize a magical act beyond the most basic ritual observances.  Magic always goes its own way and it often takes the path of least resistance toward the goal.  Accepting this is another difficult step in one’s magical education.

Make fun of Anton LaVey all you want, but he knew more about practical magic than many of today’s so-called occult scholars.  The chapter in his Satanic Bible entitled, “The Balance Factor” is worth more than most of today’s doorstop-worthy sorcerous manuals, especially the chapter’s last sentence: “Magic is like nature itself, and success in magic requires working in harmony with nature, not against it.”  Nature is always changing.  Therefore, magic is always changing.  Therefore, being receptive to the ebb and flow of that continuous process of change is fundamental to doing magic.  In other words, in magic, as in everything else, change is the only constant.

So how do you develop this receptivity?  Meditation works wonders.  Developing keen powers of observation, visualization, and critical thinking are essential.  Learning how to suspend critical thinking in the service of ecstasy also matters.  And, if you’re trying to learn magic, you should do a lot of it in addition to theorizing about it.  It’s what Aleister Crowley (partly) meant when he said, “Invoke often!”  The only way to do a thing well, especially a magical thing, is to do it a lot.  Accept that you will fail.  Learn its nature by involving yourself with it. 

Malcom Gladwell, in his tiresome Outliers, suggested that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something.  Perhaps that’s true, even if the number seems a bit spurious and arbitrary.  Still, the basic idea is compelling: practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.  In so doing, try to recognize trends and “laws,” for lack of a better term, amid all the changes.  Magic does have some in spite of its incessant variations and paradoxes, even if the laws you think you’re uncovering may only apply to you and may eventually change when you do.  

It’s hard to tell when you’re getting good at something so protean, but as Crowley says in Liber Al, “Success is your proof; courage is your armour.”  Indeed, it is.  Success is your only reliable metric.  Courage is the only thing that will keep you engaged and persevering.  And as success builds on success, you will start to see the practice clearly.

The simplest spells can be the most instructive.  Recently, I did a binding.  Instead of affecting the target, the spell affected me.  It made me emotionally immune to the target’s bad behaviour.  I am alright with that outcome because the conditions of success were not necessarily that the target be harmed or manipulated (though, I wouldn’t have cared if that had happened).  Rather, the spell was intended to remove the source of my upset and protect me against future offenses.  In this case, the path of least resistance involved creating an emotional break between us, not unlike the classic hoodoo “cut and clear” trick.  And that’s just fine.  Binding achieved; though, I had not imagined it would come about that particular way.

Bindings I’ve done in the past have operated differently, which doesn’t bother me at all.  I’m open to the changes.  I’m willing to accept new and different pathways of manifestation as long as the sought-after results do manifest.  Similarly, I once did a death curse—don’t get excited; I’ve done very few of them—which resulted in the target becoming dead to me.  She moved out of town.  I’ve never heard about her, from her, or seen her again.  It was as if she were plucked out of my reality forever.  Did it matter that a dump truck didn’t fall out of the sky and squash her in the street?  Not at all.  My deepest wish was that she would be erased.  And so she was.

This is how sorcery (a wonderous part and expression of nature) actually works.  Sometimes the dump truck falls out of the sky.  Other times, the target moves to Houtouwan, China, and it’s as if they took a space ship to a distant galaxy never to return.  They could have merely moved across town or down the street, but because they are dead to you, you will never encounter them again.  The path of least resistance is tantamount to the path of least reality distortion.  This is what LaVey means when he says one works in harmony with nature, not against it.  The end is what matters, not the means.

So do.  Learn.  Think.  Stop thinking and feel.  Record your results.  Do again.  And accept that the pathways of fate and consequence are more profound and entangled than you or I can fully grasp.  That’s part of the beauty of magic.  And it is a profound teacher.