On Self Initiation

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One of the public things I’ve been doing is taking a Wicca 101 class with my wife’s coven. So far it’s managed not to wander into feminist crap territory or the fluffy bunny new age crap territory, which I took as a positive sign. One of the questions that came up (not unexpectedly) is “can you self initiate?” The official party line was “no”, but that’s pretty much to be expected in any tradition that makes any emphasis on succession. The priesthood since before Christ has always had a laying-on-of-hands to establish clergy. I didn’t point out the obvious that lineage is largely goofy if the roots don’t go back before Gardner despite his claims to the contrary, but no skin off my back and it wasn’t particularly worth getting anyone’s blood pressure up. For some perspective, there’s orders which intentionally are run by board, including the OTA. There are orders which are intentionally run with succession to protect the integrity of the information, which is really in my opinion what Gardner wanted to do and Crowley, and Mathers…

The self initiation prohibition is largely practical – I cannot self initiate into her coven any more than I could show up to the local church and tell them I run the show now. The idea is simply goofy. On the other hand I do believe in certain modes of self initiation. Alan Watts, for instance, couldn’t find anyone in the west to teach him Zen Bhuddism (or his western version of it where a cat sits until he is done sitting), so he simply sat down and started reading. In fact he didn’t actually go to Japan, or India, or anywhere we traditionally think about being a Bhuddist and learn, but rather took a university course on it moving from NY to Cali for the purpose. This is one sort of self initiation, people learn, and they come up with a product, and that product is identified by some people as a member of the line or is identified by other people as not a member of the line. People in the beikoku would turn their noses up at the over-educated brat and people who wanted to learn but had no money for school or grasp of eastern concepts would see him as a guru. It’s sort of amusing to me he didn’t ever really get that level of fame and greatness until far after he was dead when the American agitpop fascinated Japan as our American culture today consumes so much Japanese media. He was really 40 years ahead of his time. I think he would be amused that his videos are being translated to Japanese.

The Alan Watts example also applies to dead systems. No-one for instance was named as a successor to Dee except perhaps Rudd if you believe it. Who succeeded Rudd? Well he has no clear successor, and like a lot of the manuscripts of the day he sorts of takes notes but it doesn’t tell us a lot about his philosophy so we have to add flesh to the bones by reading Shakespeare and other things which may have influenced him. Really that’s where (I believe) Gardner comes in. He vaguely knows about “witchcraft” by some definition of it, he may have even run into the Cotton collection at some point (doubtful) but he has some view of esotericism and wants to dress it up in clothes which make it work for him.

But there’s a second type of self initiation floating around here and one of those is the idea of initiating into an Aeon. I postulated that the Wright brothers were one such self-initiation. Flight was not a dead system, but rather flight was not invented yet. Who would mentor and initiate them into a system of flight?

I’m joking. If they were initiated by aliens they would have built an engine that worked in space.

The flight line of reasoning is a really interesting one because this is how Crowley got into magic. He’s sitting in the pyramid, he encounters an inspiration (a spirit) and he initiates what he calls an Aeon. He is the priest of this Aeon the same way the Wright brothers are the priests of the Aeon of Flight. Would someone be inspired by the spirituality of flight (and we have, for countless ages since we put wings on every spiritual creature…) that would be the same as operative flight or (speculative) craft flight. Similarly chemistry is divided up into operative chemistry – or what we think of today as the proper labwork and spiritually dead how society teaches it – and craft chemistry, or what we think of today as alchemy. Substitute your favorite discipline here which inspires you.

One of the more beautiful examples I can think of recently is how inspiring it could be to go to space. Right? A ceremonial magician touching the faces of Gods? Who might think that? But that requires that someone fundamentally self initiate into believing in the holy power, which is purely a personal choice. This is also an atomic choice, no-one can initiate you into belief in these things. Maybe someone might go to space in a purely scientific environment. I think it would cheapen the experience, and perhaps they would look around, and they would see nothing but their hands and the work, and sigh and say to Earth…. there is no god here. How disappointing.

Which is Better? Runes or Grimoire Magic?

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Someone put this question to me last week and it was sort of a neat idea. They asked me which was better: “Runes or Grimoires?”

Well that’s like asking me if a screwdriver is better than a hammer. I don’t really see one being “better” so much as “whichever one does the job”.

Grimoires have a tendency to be “better” in some people’s eyes because the spirits can tell you things. However there’s really three layers of finesse here: The spirits have to be able to be perceived by the seer well enough to actually get the message across, the spirit is limited to using what’s in the magicians head (I could no more conceive of a new color with a spirit or… without a spirit), and the spirit will answer the magician within the nature of it’s office. If you summon up a spirit which has a reputation for being hostile and go ask it about your professor in school, you’re going to get a negative, inhospitable answer.

However this idea doesn’t exist by itself nor is it limited to the nature of spirits. If we use runes for the purposes of divination, they are limited by the amount of vocabulary the diviner has assigned to them. At the most vulgar level this would be the individual characters themselves. When we examine those, we get some answers as obvious as “traveling” and some as ridiculous as “the sky god”. Really they’re on equal footing, but the operative tip here is we call it “reading” the runes (or cards). Sure I could consult a spirit, but it doesn’t give me a written log of what was said, or how good the contact was. On the other hand I can take a picture of a card spread. I tend to gravitate towards “ask the spirits” for personal divination, with confirmation from the cards or runes. For doing readings for other people, I usually find it produces wild, meaningless (to me) images and it’s much better to stick to cards, or runes. However folks tend to want to “command the spirits to do something”, rather than just get the lay of the land, so I prefer the first, mixed mode.

Think of it this way – you wouldn’t pay someone to stand on a street corner and yell the name of the street at passer bys. If we remove the interaction from the reading, we simply have a need for a streetsign to tell us the way. At the same time, someone who needs a bit more interaction might consider stopping their car, quieting their mind, and asking directions. And finally, someone who really needed something might consider paying someone to go get it for them. At the same time, it would be worthless in that last example to write a letter in runes and leave it on their coffee table in hopes something would happen.

That’s really the reason why Enochian tends to be an interesting hack, and it’s one someone can port back into runes (modernity: AO Spare’s Alphabet of Desire). If we accept the idea that the spirits are the letters of their name, then the act of composing the ritual and spelling the name is the magic… I’ve covered that before in the Enochian work. It’s a neat idea and I think it follows, but it’s akin to making a road simply by putting up a street sign. Did the road come first, or did the street sign?

Fountain Pens, Organization

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The OTA stuff finally gelled to the point where we raised enough money to fly Poke Runyon himself and Zandria out here to conduct initiations. In a really fortunate stroke of luck and generosity, we actually raised more money for them then merely the cost of the flight. I think this is mostly a result of keeping things low drag and grassroots. If this were the OTO and we would be required to have non-residential temple space to have more than an encampment (I may be reversing the terms, it’s been awhile), I feel like the financial drain would have made this a total no-go. Not having the overhead of anything except our own houses and maybe breakfast and spaghetti dinners for a few folks means a maximal amount of money can be applied to their travel expenses and “hobo fund”. I’m pretty psyched about it honestly, the Hermetic Hour has been a huge influence on me personally for what to read or do next, and it turns out the OTA community is reasonably well connected online and not too hung up on the whole “secret society” image.

(Yeah I realize I’ve had about 50 emails asking for the password to the blog posts, some stuff is secret after all, right?)

Also on the project list, I finally just said to heck with it and bought three fountain pens similar to this one from China. The goal is to take ink, consecrate it, and add a very small amount of herbs or flowers sacred to a particular spirit and make ink for making kameas of planets and such. If the pens are washable (enough) and don’t clog, one pen will do. If the pens aren’t really washable, at $5 a pop, it’s easy enough to buy literally enough pens to have one for each day of the week and a general fluid condenser pen. I’m pretty happy with the idea and for $15 it’ll be a fun experiment.

Day of Sol, Hour of Jupiter (Aumn-Ra)

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Oh now I’m in a bit of a pickle. At work, we just bought another large company which does exactly the same thing we do. Normally in tech the acquisitions are such one larger company gobbles up a smaller company and treats the smaller company as a team. That would be great, but this was another top shelf company in the same industry and it pretty much doubled the size of our company. Problem now is, beancounters on both sides are taking a long hard look at everyone. My boss turned in his resignation for the coming months. Another guy who was manager of the next product line over was fired. Folks are giving impassioned, “morale building” speeches, but are conspicuously using the word “resources” instead of “people”. It’s always easier to call it a duplication of “resources”, right?

Going back to tried and true and familiar methods, I got out the Planetary Magick book and started flipping around. The front half the book is a very IIH sort of catalog and experiences thing. The middle of the book covers actual archetypical evocation, and then the end of the book has some fun stuff. Specifically I saw Aumn-Ra as being attributed to Thursday, so I took that and said “wait this is Sunday, why not Augmn-Ra for Sunday, hour of Jupiter?” So I did.

The altar was simply the Table of the Art, with a black crystal ball in it, two white pillars on either side, jupiter candle to backlight the ball (angle is important, I wanted a halo of light and a hint of color), and then the incense thurible in front of it with my last coal in it because we’ve taken to smoking too much hookah here.

Opened the temple OTA style, because it’s the new hotness, except my altar top is being repainted so I just threw the Table of the Art on top of the crossed legs. I then opened by KC, LIRP, Invoking Septagram, and archangels who I visualized facing me in a column of white light. Totally kvlt.

I then read the Denning and Philips work, and chanted the name for 15 minutes while listening to some sweet, sweet tracks some of the OTA folks had shared. I’m getting into chants and mantras.

I was going to drum but the kids were napping so I just opted to keep the party in my head. After about 15 minutes I suddenly had a feeling of the serpent upon my brow, and then before me in my astral sight I had two columns of serpents spring up. We moved down a corridor. It was daylight, and not particularly pleasant but the space was “tall”. The bricks were brilliant white and nicely finished, which gave the impression of “well manicured” but otherwise there weren’t many notable features of this space except for “balanced” work. Two columns, two trees, two fruits on the tree, two tracks on the ground as though for a cart or train. Eventually I came upon an Ibis looking fellow who was holding a scroll and a quill. I was worried this was a false spirit – Aumn-Ra is a different bird altogether and I happen to be re-reading The Divine Pymander. Tested the spirit by signs, and the spirit responded positively, so whatever. I do tend to think these guys use whatever happens to be laying around in your head at the moment to co-opt imagery, so I decided “bird deity” was OK with the signs.

Gave the welcome.

“I would really like to continue working in my current career, can that be done?” Just a small flash of “no” and then quite a bit of “yes” nodding. Typical spirit nonanswer I thought, so I tested it by more signs, and it didn’t seem to respond too much but certainly did not react negatively.

May I continue working in my current career?” Yes. 

“Will this be profitable and enjoyable for me?” Not initially, but then it will be OK.

“Can you please make it profitable and enjoyable for me?” No/Yes again.

“If this is not possible, please prepare for me a place where I can continue to pay the bills for my family and child.” This can be done.

“But it’s quite painful to change jobs, and it would upset my family.” (This is new, the spirit gave me the impression that prayers for my family are much more potent than prayers for myself). “I would like to, at best, make peace with the higher ups and keep the job even if it’s a bit painful than put my kids through relocation.” I can do this.

“Please safevouch the job for the sake of my family.” (a nod).

Thanked the spirit, offered more incense, and closed the temple OTA style with the KC, LBRP, banishing septagram, and the archangels evoked facing outward.

Edit: My boss just called to have me take a look at an issue literally right when I was finishing this post up. You can’t make this stuff up.

Phergoph Needs a Car

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Moloch entirely made me before I even wrote a word about this, I try not to talk about magic “in flight” because I think dwelling on the thing robs it of the purity of it’s intent. If you wouldn’t want to be micromanaged at work, don’t micromanage the spirits beyond the ritual unless it requires a huge course correction.

I need a car. When I say “need” I don’t mean “it would be nice to have”, I mean the 1992 Toyota Camry is now only passing inspection because my mechanic takes pity on me and refuses to shift into OD or start when it’s wet out. I’m a pretty handy guy – but when I say “I’m stumped” and my mechanic says “do you really want to pay me to track this down”… yeah. It has as a conservative estimate about 270,000 miles on it.

Just to put that number in perspective, in the 13 years this car has been on this earth, it didn’t have to be on this earth! It could have driven to the moon, and had another 30,000 miles on the moon to screw around with and do moon stuff. Pretty incredible.

Per the usual problem of “what magic do we use to solve large systems”, I was really torn between the Goetia, who are good at managing the physical plane, and the Enochian magic, which works really well to line up large systems. Since a car dealership is a large system, most of which requires the car pass through several bits of administration before landing in my lap, I opted for the Enochian solution.

I had made that decision right in time for the thread on FB asking “Why not Enochian?” Sometimes I feel like magic works in ridiculously subtle ways. This was one of those times. Sure I happen to be friends on Facebook with Moloch so he can see my wall and my ranting about the car, but he’s not in my head in any meaningful way. We don’t chat back and forth. He’s got a fairly low opinion of the OTA (but like most magicians he has a low opinion of everyone who isn’t himself) so we really don’t talk shop. He’s also very much in the quick-and-dirty-whatever-works camp and while I can respect that, he’s going to see a system like enochian as being largely restrictive. This eventually bore out in the course of the conversation, but it also prompted me to throw together this post instead of keeping a private journal. Anyway. Part of the prodding at me was simply because I have spent so much time fretting over the temple kit that I had really gotten into armchair mode and lost the plot for anything more than the daily devotion to Astarte as part of the OTA curriculum. The spirits say, “You want a horse? GET BACK ON THE HORSE.” Cute.

Checking the Enochian Quick Reference Chart gives us a few tantalizing names:

The Names of the Sixteen Good Angels Skilled and Potent In Mechanical Arts

TNBR and companions NBRT, BRTN, and RTNB earth of AIR
MAGL and companions AGLM, GLMA, and LMAG earth of WATER
OCNC and companions CNCO, NCOC, and COCN earth of EARTH
PSAC and companions SACP, ACPS, and CPSA earth of FIRE

Since I don’t want to manufacture a car, I am really just looking for a car which is maximally functional to me, the angels who govern the composition and mixing of metals weren’t attractive. Also why not use the Angels of Transportation? Because they move things around. I don’t want a car literally dropped on my front lawn. After a bit of waffling, I decided that I would accept a car in good mechanical condition regardless of brand and appearance. The conditions for success would be:

  1. Has to carry the kids. Can’t be a truck without a back seat. Jump seats are a no-no.
  2. Has to be a truck, because I sometimes carry bulky/heavy items (LIKE THE HENGE) and I’m really tired of hanging those out of the back of the van.
  3. Has to be in reasonable mechanical condition.
  4. Should be four wheel drive. The van has gotten stuck every bad winter and the camry was a total joke and inspired me to walk home a few times last winter. While I don’t much mind it, we live out towards the sticks.

I only later realized that the four qualifications of “good” lined up nicely with the four angels. It wasn’t intentional.

Here is one of the sticky wickets of Enochian philosophy and theology when it comes to the practical application of it – you will notice I did not pick a specific sub-element to work with. Reason being that I’ve started to play with the idea that the four enochian elements are actually the four worlds. Stealing a page from QBL, that gives us something like:

  • ATZILUTH – or the Archetypical World – is OIP TEAA PDOCE. “He whose name is unchanged from what it was”. This is Fire. I picked it because the call seems to describe a final, unchanging being.
  • BRIAH – the Creative World – is ORO IBAH AOZPI. “He who cries aloud in the place of desolation”. This is Air. I picked it because the “place of desolation” would have required an acknowledgement that there was a place which did not have God in it, therefor it could create a new God…
  • YETZIRAH – the Formative World – is MPH ARSL GAIOL. “He who is the 1st true creator, the horned one”. This is Water. This is the demiurge.
  • ASSIAH – the Material World – is MOR DIAL HCTGA. “He who burns up iniquity without equal”. This is Earth. These are the Gods of antiquity, or the accusing Gods.

If you said this reads a lot like Plato’s Celestial Hierarchy, you would have a good eye. There’s more Plato in Dee than I previously thought and I’ve been poking around there. That particular current from The Republic may also be responsible for the wife swapping incident.

I’m still a little bit uncomfortable with the assignments, but I feel the language and names are the most important part of the system. If you’ve poked around in the Five Books of Mystery, the use of the language becomes a bit clearer. Most importantly, the system is fundamentally gnostic. We cannot know God. Dee goes to great lengths in the monad to make a body of God, but ultimately, he is describing God in the context of Earthly things. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Dee can only relate to God in a symbolic way which honestly sometimes feels short of the symbols he put to the task. If the system is Gnostic and we cannot know God, than the Place of Desolation is the place God occupies, because how can anything but God occupy the place that God does? This is an argument which would be recognized in Classical Philosophy. On the other hand if we hold that the Monas is actually God and that Dee apprehended the idea, then I would flip the names. It is my personal opinion that The Horned God is a very sexual image, and instead of the reconciliation or the Hermaphroditic union, we’re being handed a God who is only half the puzzle. This would also jive with the Hermetic current, so I feel there’s a strong argument for organizing the work this way. The first true creator, of the earthly realm, is human. God set the stage, if we want to go all biblical with it we can say that God created the world, placed the garden in it, then he made people and people gave the animals names, tilled the earth, and really took things over from there. God steps out. I kept the elemental associations with the names so as not to break other bits of the systems.

“He who’s name is unchanged from what it was” is pretty easy to suss out, anyone can look at a catalog of cars and identify that they are all in fact cars. Maybe the Chicken Qabalah is worth a review here. Also Crowley enters here with arguments about princes and kings if you happen to follow the Thoth tarot. Having worked through this in blog format, I’m leaving the associations how they are.

“He who burns up iniquity without equal”. There’s a lot of really nice imagery in here, but I chose to really go with the idea that the Earth is iniquity by most religions standards. The moment something is created, time itself conspires through the forces of entropy to destroy it. I’m not even talking about manmade things like houses and cities, the sun is literally running out of energy right now as you read this. Big thoughts, but it’s not going away tomorrow, so we’re good.

Given the fact that I need something for material ends, something which is made, and something which is suffering from entropy in the form of mileage and care, the Holy Name I chose to work with was “MOR DIAL HCTGA” (Earth). Going back to the previous chart here, all of the mechanical arts are in the Earth tablet, so really it feels like Earth of Earth (“OCNC”) is the correct thing to be working on. I’m a little surprised too, but thems the ropes. That gives us the top-and-bottom, so we can fill in the rest for the sake of working with the Essential Enochian Grimoire.

Tablet of Union: NANTA (Spirit of Earth)

Secret Holy Name: MOR DIAL HCTGA (Earth)

The Great Kings: ICZHIHAL – “He who Solidifies the Past” (Earth – neat, huh?)

Seniors: LZINOPO – “He who is first in the Deep Waters” (Earth – Moon)

Calvary Cross Angels: ABALPT and ARBIZ – “He who stoops down” (over the engine of your Camry) and “He who’s voice protects”. (Earth of Earth).

Archangels and Kerubim: POCNC – OCNC, CNCO, NCOC, COCN

We’re going to ignore the daemons for the moment. Why Earth-Moon? There’s no Earth-Earth and I’ve always felt like Jupiter is more for the continued operation of business and the affairs it entails, while the moon is really governing purely material manifestation, since material stuff is only temporary.


OK so I wrote all that about five days ago, got into the argument about neoplatonism, avoided getting baited by Mo and I had planned on actually conducting the ritual today (Sunday – Day of Sol, Hour of Sol) so that King Carmara, who is the “wildcard” in Enochian, could be overseeing the operation. Experience says planning a magical operation causes all hell to break loose if anyone knows you’re planning it, so I kept it real deep under my hat. Still, the camry managed to develop a miss when it was first started, which really sucked in the single-digit temps we’d been having over the first week since I couldn’t drive it until it warmed up. Also started making nasty valve noises. I was getting nervous. After triaging the miss by putting in fresh spark plugs, and adding thinner oil, it was happy enough I felt confident to go car shopping.

A philosophical point – working with the Angelic Language causes stuff to happen. There’s a whole lot of Enochian corpus which is simply “make this book” or “make this chart” and the Angels were trying to deliver it piecemeal because delivering it whole-cloth works the magic. The magic isn’t the ritual, the magic in Enochian is the language. Or the work of producing that product, but the work will involve the language. See what they did there?

If you’re playing to the timeline here, you’ll notice I’m going car shopping before I do the ritual. I have never actually purchased a car from a dealership or traded them in. I much preferred to find that car with 100k miles on it some guy can’t move because he doesn’t have receipts and throw $1k at it. If I get a year out of it, still cheaper than a lease. I would donate the old cars to charity when they blew up and let them keep the scrap money. Mostly this move was inspired to find out the pricepoints on things (I was planning on asking for specific things during the ritual I felt would show up in the price range) and to figure out which dealerships had good stuff. Also the larger car dealerships are over an hour from me since I live in the sticks. I looked at a few cars while I was out and about and found a Mitsubishi Raider I really liked. I did everything but sign the paper for that listing, since I wanted to go home and try to get a loan.

At this point the ritual planned above was off the books and I was going to change it to a “thank you” ritual after signing.

Next day the guy calls me. “Hey Phergoph, I can’t sell you that car.”

“Why?”

“Look, our guys just took a look at it, and it’s really leaking oil out the rear diff”.

“If you guys want to replace the rear diff I’m interested. If you think it’ll work if I do the seals myself I’ll still buy it. A seal kit is only $120″ (and literally two days of trying to bang the stupid orbital gears out, having done this before).

“No, this is going to seriously explode in 15k miles, I know you got kids, I will find something else.”

I hung up the phone in a bit of a fog since a salesman literally just gave up a commission for the sake of helping me. That’s a paycheck for that guy, that takes some real balls. Seriously if you’re car shopping, hit up that dealership and ask for Jon, he’s a really nice guy. He didn’t have to do that. Turns out there was a Honda Ridgeline coming into the lot on trade in, but after talking to Jon about that car also, the miles were just way too high. He agreed to keep looking and I thanked him for being really honest.

On Saturday, I happen to be doing very little except reviewing/revising the ritual waiting for the snow to melt and I happen across a listing (no photos) of a Dodge Ram 1500, with the mid-size engine. 81k miles, asking $9k USD. I called the dealership and it was still there. Turns out they couldn’t take pictures because… it was covered in snow. It had been traded in two weeks ago and they just decided to list it now because of the weather. OK fine I’ll come out. Miracle of miracles, the camry started without too much prodding, so I got the kids dressed and buckled them in.

Turns out this truck wasn’t just a Dodge Ram 1500, this was a Dodge Ram 1500, with the Infinity Sound System, with the towing package, with the quad cab, and it had nice tires and the bed cap. The paint was so-so, but they had all the service records. It was also the Laramie trim level so it had a super nice interior. Best bit? Class III towing suspension and hookups. However in the secret center console (under the middle seat) I found… a 7 pin to 3 pin adapter and a Mr Green Lawnmower Sparkplug. What were they towing? A trailer that needed a 3 pin connector (brake lights only) and lawn equipment on that. Someone ordered a top-shelf truck to pull around a lawnmower business. Philosophical question time: Why did the guys who obviously detailed this and put the paper flootmats in miss the sparkplug? The wiring adapter I can see as being “part of the vehicle” but the spark plug is an oily mess and an obvious miss.

Anyway, they offered me $500 for the Camry and we settled up. While I don’t want a car payment, having something which gets my kids around safely (Laramies have extra side impact airbags) and lets me haul around all my work stuff and still gets 20mpg on the highway (keep telling yourself that Phergoph)? That’s a win. Plus payments are under $200 a month, which is manageable and leaves enough in the budget for repairs and other crap.

Here, we have a real temptation, and one I haven’t quite worked out all the details for. If the language is the magic, then do we have to perform the ritual? I’m going to opt for “yes”, I personally feel there’s a trap here for the lazy (Dee) to go fishing or whatever instead of following up with the magic. It also really smacks of “fuck you I got mine”. On the other hand, there’s plenty of places in the Enochian system where the spirits themselves are defined by their labels, so when writing out the ritual nicely on the finest cardstock money can buy, you are literally conjuring up the spirits by the writing of their names. “I create as I speak” and the “breath of God” literally. If that is the case, then the ritual really happened a week ago when I drafted everything and we’re merely on the execution side. This sort of reverse-order thing doesn’t happen to me using the Solomonic system.

Rather than the original plan of petitioning the spirits, I merely called them up and thanked them for their efforts and asked them for their continued efforts in protecting the vehicles, which is always something I worry about anyway which is why 4WD was a requirement to begin with. (As I’m typing this, the internet is being spotty because of a solid inch of ice on everything and we jokingly said the truck was christened).

I suppose that’s how you summon a truck.

EDIT: The ontological argument is a really good listen – http://www.historyofphilosophy.net/anselm-ontological-argument

Please Read History

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This came up recently on Amber and Jet, which is the wicca mailing list on yahoo. By the time I got done typing up the essay things had cooled off. I decided it was a better blog post instead.

Things start off innocently enough.

Best Wishes to all.
Recently I have stumbled across this paper:
Which suggests that Wica is heavily influenced by Neoplatonism.
I would like to ask the experts on amberandjet what they think of this thesis.
If true, scholarly  inclined seekers will want to study Neoplatonism.
Happiness.

I’m really tickled pink that someone managed to get “out of the box” and realizes there’s really interesting philosophy outside of Gerald Gardner. I immediately opened the paper.

Presenter Bio: Don Frew is an Elder in both the NROOGD…

Reply all “please kill yourself”.
OK I wasn’t nearly that caustic despite being tempted.
Instead, I wrote:


Normally I wouldn’t chime in but the paper just absolutely made me sad from a liberal arts perspective. If anyone is interested I would highly suggest at very least listening to the History of Philosophy: http://historyofphilosophy.net/

If you even give things the most cursory look from a historical perspective, women (as a gender) are not somehow venerated  any more than men or hermaphrodites in pagan philosophy. To make it into a gender issue is completely ridiculous – but they are recognized as full people with equal rights. It was the childless and the unmarried that would become philosophers. This topic actually comes up fairly often when looking at modern gnostic thought (Islam) where some folks do frame it in gender issues (usually men who rely entirely on their wives to care for them and run the household) but in antiquity, the role of abstinence, asceticism, and homosexuality were directly defined by a functional application of “making babies” and “how do I pay for all this stuff”? Have family obligations or debt? Can’t go live on the mountaintop… I don’t really understand what the topic has to do with anything but it’s present in the opening of the paper.

The author also makes the error of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Just because the rooster crows before sunrise, the rooster does not cause the sun to rise. Hutton basically serves the role of the strawman in this paper. Hutton is not perfect, Hutton makes mistakes in his own history and generalizations. This does not mean that there is proof there was a surviving, isolated neoplatonist cult somewhere in Europe, it means simply that Hutton was incorrect in some of his assertions. It is not *proof positive*.

The author of the paper skips about the last 700 years of european history. In the 1300s, Plethos (also born “in the safety of the Persian Empire”) was actually starting neoplatonic schools in Europe. It was a mainstream thing. Students would build altars and they would pray to statues and it could comfortably be slotted into present day paganism. The problem is – Plethos is buddy-buddy with the Christians and has a live-and-let-live philosophy, but rejects Aristotle. In doing so, he ends up being prosecuted by the church for heresy (despite Aristotle) and confined to the city. He has, in my opinion, legitimate neoplatonic chops because he managed to piss off the Christians so much they sat up, took note, and told him to stuff it.

The Neoplatonic schools in europe, which Ficino recognizes as a legitimate effort in neoplatonism with his recognition of Plethos as ‘the second Plato’, existed and were established and churned out students and graduates who then went on into european society. That’s great, but neoplatonism in europe as a political branch was an advocate of chain gangs and work camps, burning homosexuals at the stake, and so on. How did we get from The Republic to the Reform of the Peloponnese? It doesn’t really matter – the rub is that this is the hereditary vector of neoplatonic philosophy in Europe. The paper ignores events like the burning of Bruno because it has no reasonable explanation visible to me for the degeneracy and wants us to believe that somehow 700 years of nothing happened like an unfortunate coven caught in an iceberg, only to be thawed out, while some unknown force suddenly decides to make huge prisons and burnings a regular thing for Christianity. Why do we care about Plethos and not Iamblichus? Because Plethos stays in Europe. The rest of them go back home to elsewhere. (I’m not going to make the accusation that the paper follows the wikipedia page on neoplatonism to a T and thats why the author simply ignores the rest of recorded history – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonism – but it did cross my mind at this point).

Does wicca (or wica) have its roots in a synthetic understanding of classical (not limited to Plato) thought? Yes, but this also means that it has more in common with the rosicrucians, the golden dawn, and similar Western Mystery Cults than it does in classical, unbroken (neo)platonic thought which fell victim to the zeitgeist of the time in Europe. The author simply fails to make the connection he alleges exists between the school in Athens and Europe because history is extremely inconvenient after 539. Worst part? The author knows it:

From Harran, Pagan Neoplatonism reentered Europe in the 11th century CE, becoming the basis for centuries of Renaissance “Christian” Neoplatonism (that often was not so “Christian”), but our concern stays with the avowedly Pagan stream of Neoplatonism. BTW, this Pagan stream passed from Harran through the Picatrix into the writings of Agrippa and eventually into the ritual forms of Gardnerian Wica.

The smoking gun is that Ficino has the Picatrix, Ficino loves Plethos, and Plethos doesn’t love homosexuals, Moors, or lenient prison terms which the paper attempts to explain away as “Christianized neoplatonism”. It’s just bad thinking. He can’t have it both ways. Western Mystery Cults could be “reformed neoplatonism”, or “neoneoplatonism”, but they’re not neoplatonism how Europe understood it (unless someone wants to come clean about their weekends)… ;)


After writing it, however, I realized that this also deprived the folks of the creation myth that wicca was older than Gardner and I decided not to post it. That is really the reason why the folks who drink the kool-aide make life harder for everyone else.

Running an Occult Group is Actually Pretty Hard

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Running an occult group is actually pretty hard. Boy, we haven’t had a rambling E/N sort of post around here in awhile, so let me waste some time.

Let me tell you a few stories.

The first problem is everyone is strapped for cash. Do you have a lot of cash laying around? Are you willing to spend it on magic? Are you willing to spend it on someone else to do magic? That last one is really the rub. Folks, like myself, with two kids, a wife in school, a completely beat car, etc – we don’t have the money. And since the Rosicrucians didn’t leave me the secrets of making gold, well, we’re just working off nickle-and-dime stuff I can spare from my day job without pissing anyone off about spending over the holiday. Folks that do have cash I don’t particularly blame them for feeling like they don’t have cash given the current situation with OPEC trying really hard to crash the US economy. And, we’re due for the 7 year slump in the markets, so it’s completely a write off. I am actually quickly getting better at woodworking, but I still can’t paint for shit.

The second problem is time. I find myself trying to co-ordinate magical events at my day job which is probably a no-no for the use of my time. Fortunately one of our folks has offered to help me paint (just in time for the single-digit temps, so no painting) and one of our folks was really quite nice and got the altar built. The person she had build it flipped all the colors around 180 degrees, so we’re back to having to re-paint it. Basically, the axiom here is “anything that can go wrong, will”. While we’re talking about temple kit, the first seasonal rite went great, and then the robe I got shipped was in the wrong color (without enough time to fix it) and we fell way short on props. It also happens to be one of the rites which involves fire. Not a little bit of fire, but big, giant goblets of fire. How much of the kit available online is fire-rated? Virtually none. Getting the props put together is a real mess. To add insult to injury, I bought a bunch of little mini-lite sticks from China to simulate “charging up lightning” for the performance and they sent me… A used $30 gift card to a women’s clothing store. Wouldn’t have been bad if I could buy the robe there, but the card was exhausted.

That being said, the people I’m working with are quite nice, it’s just getting everything nailed down is hard. Getting it all nailed down in an impressive fashion is harder yet, because I think folks are familiar with the OTA and they expect high end Rivendell type stuff. I didn’t buy a log cabin or hobbit house, so we’re starting out at a disadvantage. I don’t have a purple room. Winters here are brutal, so the henge has to be portable to be indoor/outdoor. Finally, the initiations are hard because travel is expensive. Might have been smarter to pick an order to join which had some east coast presence, but we’re going for the gold here.

Is it perfect? No. I actually strongly object to the spirit wheel being counted as an alchemical element, but generally I think the OTA system is the best one I’ve run across so far*. The “culture” is right also. The OTO, shortly after I just said to hell with it, started to have the discussion group thing going on but immediately capped it with “will there be grade specific things discussed?” So right there, the discussion group died. If folks are worried about what they’re saying, they aren’t going to talk. And unless the group is big enough that is has enough IIº members or similar, it’s just not interesting to higher grade members. While I realize magic is personal to the practitioner, there’s absolutely no reason for a social order like the OTO if the magic is so personal no-one can discuss it. Wicca goes through this also, as does Masonry, but Masonry is over that critical hump, and Wicca can’t even have two covens agree on whats historical or not or who’s line and initiation is valid. The OTA bylaw discussion recently agreed that the person’s spouse is the rank of the OTA member, which is an elegant and inclusive solution to that problem. Additionally, the whole crew is less interested about tripping on their grade-penis and much more interested in having a frank discussion about how the system works and why it is the way it is. That’s a good way to be. More on that point, everyone has read Crowley. Everyone has read Pike. Everyone has read Gardner. The OTA publishes everything (there’s some blinds but I’m not convinced it’s not illustration errors and such – especially after the altar coloring oops) and… Everything is out there to read. This is immensely practical. People are going to do the work, and produce stuff, or not. Is there grade-stuff? Sure. But it’s mostly geared towards “have you built the tools you need to do magic” rather than time spent in the meetings. Why join? For the people, of course.

If you’re in the northeast of the US, shoot me a mail at Fr.Phergoph@gmail.com and we’ll try to setup the next seasonal or join the OTA Philadelphia facebook group. It’s way punk rock (read: low budget) at the moment, but anyone who wants to hang out is certainly welcome. Also worth mentioning as a goodie has been the associate member geared Seeds of Astarte. It’s a once a month google hangout to discuss the OTA associate member program.

Also on that note, I’ve been asked to do three topics for the Coronzon Coffee Club, but I thought it might be fun to let folks pick…

*The spirit wheel makes the fourth element, but I’ve always wondered why the altar doesn’t have a triangle collar on it or why the three elements weren’t placed around the triangle of the art which contains the black mirror. Moving the elements together to allow them to mix would obviously be a motion of creation (coagulation) focused on the mirror in the center of the triangle (the mirror being the spirit wheel), while moving the elements apart to make the triangle would be a force of dissolution (solvency). This is a minor nitpick and I realize this would be a divergence from the actual historical document. I posted about it on ning.

Möt Mass: THE MOST METAL OF MASSES.

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We (me and the magic folks up here) managed to get Mot’s Mass done.

Just another day in the office!

Just another day in the office!

It was a fairly interesting step in my own personal path since I had conducted some group rituals before, but frankly trying to teach the classes and such really emphasized the need for putting the dramatic into “dramatic ritual”.

Practical notes:

  • Incense is almost useless outside. I live in a wooded area, on a hilltop, next to a creek, and the wind just carried the stuff off before anyone could smell it, including me.
  • Tiki torches are great, and kerosene burns slightly orangey red with a great plume of smoke. Kerosene is so great that it’s impossible to put out when one of the torches leaks fuel down the stem and burns it to the ground. The smoke however really contributed to a ground-fog effect.
  • My neighbors probably think I’m insane. That’s OK, they couldn’t really see it, but they might have heard it. They probably thought that we were joining a fraternity with the muffled command to “DRINK”.
  • We need to build a better henge.

For the incense, it’s probably worth it to have the actors carry several small pots of it. The giant bowl I had prepared didn’t work simply because the wind was blowing the wrong direction. If the performers had carried their own small incense burners, it would have been possible to clandestinely move with the wind to keep the participants in the zone.

For the henge, one of the things I would like to do is put up planetary banners. Just testing the tiki torches, the colored construction paper wrap wasn’t visible with the planetary symbols on it so I omitted it. The point was to have the alchemical symbolism present in the performance, which was accomplished with the large banner over the altar, which was dressed with three candles on top of three lead ingots, and under all that a black cloth. It might have been good to have at least a torch dedicated to Saturn and, given the seven points of the circle, either the Sun or Mercury next to the altar to work with Saturn. (I would have picked Sol).

The circle was setup to the participants looked to the west for Mot’s entrance. Just on the note of tiki torches, the plan is still to put up plywood forms (or cardboard) and cover them with spray on foam. One of the folks here has some stage experience and tipped me off that fake rocks like that are done with spray on foam. It sounds really doable and could be cheap and easy for a good effect.

The actors were all top notch, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to participate! That is one thing we did get correct – the folks we’re working with here are amazing.

Motmass 2014

Motmass 2014

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