If I were starting a Rosicrucian group …

… it would probably look a lot like the Hermetic Library Fellowship Program, or, rather, what that would be if more fully developed toward what I hope that project will become. And, I’ve been meaning to write more about my ideas and aspirations for the Fellowship Program, so I just might actually do this, even if it’s only in theory for the most part.

Recently, you may have noticed, Jeffrey Kupperman, of Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, posted a series: “If I were to form a Rosicrucian Order …“, “Why I’m not Starting a Rosicrucian Order” and finally, even after he posted the image of a lamen suspiciously like something for such a thing, “I Did Not Start a Rosicrucian Society“. Likely inspired by this Anthony Silvia, of Gnosis NYC and the Talk Gnosis podcast, posted “I Am Not Forming an Open Source Order of Martinists …“.

Here’s my sense: Rosicrucianism as described in the source material is simply a group of people bonded together by a brief code to be of service to humanity and to develop and preserve certain esoteric knowledge. All of the oft associated structural and dogmatic cruft is either imported from the wider Western Esoteric Tradition during the 17th Century’s Rosicrucian Enlightenment, or accreted during the Victorian and Edwardian period of development by Freemasonry of the Rose Croix degree within Scottish Rite and SRIA/Golden Dawn style syncretic Hermeticism. The literary Rosicrucians of the Fama and Confessio are really quite simply organized without much of anything by way of necessary dogma.

Anyway, the whole highly-structured fraternal and/or teaching order thing has been done and done and occasionally “stick a fork in it” and, even, sometimes “can we bury it now because it is starting to smell.” Many still exist, so why start another one just like something already done? If you want to get involved in one of these, let me commend you to a few excellent organizations, about which I can personally vouch more or less, OTO [also], A∴A∴ [also], Golden Dawn [also, and] … and so on, YMMV. Keep your wits about you and do your own research.

Instead, I would focus on starting from the barest and most minimal interpretation sufficient and necessary. I would be inspired primarily by what the Fama and Confessio say about the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, and some few later developments such as Joséphin Péladan’s Salon de la Rose-Croix; and, some few indirect inspirations like Benjamin Franklin’s Junto [also], Utne‘s Salons: The Joy of Conversation, my own dialogical work, and so forth. However, for me, the temptation to develop complicated and convoluted structures is strong and therefore something to strongly avoid.

 

Although I am trying to adhere closely to the simplicity demonstrated by the model of the literary evidence, I am clearly going to eject certain elements. For example, no one will need be German, a Crusader, or even Christian. Nor need one be directly connected to some lineage, order or other organization. Members will also not be required to conform to some such period customs like drinking warm, non-carbonated German beer from tankards made from lead-laced pewter.

If I were to start a Rosicrucian group … it would be a bit of salon, communitarian and egalitarian, for students and scholars, and very likely organized in support of the mission of the Hermetic Library. The group would occasionally meet in person, but connect frequently via modern communication tools and perhaps a private forum. Like a Junto, the group would be dedicated to inquiry and self-improvement; with members providing a weekly summary of some interesting developments to share with the group as well as offering longer form presentations quarterly. I imagine a small group of people, each dedicated to some particular theory and practice. Each would have a personal practice of some kind and they would be engaged in some project to present esoteric thought in service to the larger community, and I imagine that these presentations would be done through Open Access [also] repositories of articles collected in sub-sites for each fellow at the library and also made available via the blog and journal.

There would be no initiations or other accouterments of the Victorian esoteric or pseudo-masonic orders, but there could be shared rituals. I have in mind here the observation made by Ronald Hutton in The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft that without unifying dogma it is the shared rituals that maintain the neopagan community. There may be some shared rituals or practices to help group cohesion, synchronic and diachronic links between members and the collective, including some expressed when apart and some when gathered.

Membership in the group could follow this idea somewhat like the master and apprentice relationship between Jedi and Sith, including the idea that the apprentice only takes the place of the master upon that person’s death, though hopefully without the Sith’s Rule of Two custom of fragging! Within the literature, generation two doubles membership size to generation three, so there is a suggestion that at some time the ranks of the group could be allowed to double, or at least that is something to consider if it ever comes up that members have found a number of suitable potential members to justify growth. Or, instead of setting a rule about this, the group could simply welcome new fellows as they are welcomed to the library site, while helping that process with suggestions and outreach.

In spite of the rule about not being constrained to wear any particular habit, it’d be nice to have some kind of way to identify each other when necessary. Even if that were something similar to and as simple as the shock of red against one’s fashion adopted by Rêveurs, described in Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. But, perhaps this would be a choice made in the moments when necessary, such as prior to any meeting.

 

The organizing principles of the literary Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross are enumerated in just six explicit rules, though there are within the literature other obvious organizing principles, such as that of each member maintaining and developing volumes within the order’s Philosophical Library. This last I would interpret as members participating in both theory and praxis around topics that suit them and their interests, and that they are involved in the preservation and presentation of that information; clearly suited to the overall mission of the Hermetic Library.

Translating the core six rules from the literature, I would propose the following for this new group:

1. That none of them should profess any other thing than to be a student and researcher, and to be involved in making their studies available in accord with the principles of Open Access;

2. None of them should be constrained to wear one certain kind of habit, but therein to follow their own custom and that of their country;

3. That every year, or some reasonable interval, the group should hold some gathering, to meet in person;

4. Members should cultivate relationships with other students and researchers who might be suitable for membership in the group if such openings become available, but in any case, who may interested in participating in the various projects at the library.

5. There should be some identifying insignia or symbol to represent the group, and members should make known their involvement in the group.

6. The group would maintain the privacy of members and their details, in accordance with the general principle of not revealing anything about another that they have not themselves made public; including personal details and details about their studies and research.

 

At this point, one might wonder what makes this specifically Rosicrucian, as opposed to simply a group of people engaged in and organized around esoteric study. To this I would simply elaborate that the group is inspired by the principles of human perfectibility through esoteric study and practice along the lines of the Rosy Cross formula of the Great Work, about which plenty more could be said. However, I think this notion is one that might need to be expressed explicitly for the group to be Rosicrucian. Although, it could also be left unexpressed, and the group could simply be inspired by the model provided by the literary Rosicrucians and this could instead simply be the Hermetic Library Fellowship Program more fully developed, much as the Invisible College and the Royal Society were inspired but not fully constrained by the notion of a network Rosicrucians.

 

Benjamin Franklin details his Junto project in his autobiography writing:

“I … form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.

Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.” [via]

With this in mind, I would like to have a group of core people who are actively presenting information of interest not only to themselves, but also to the audience of the library. This means helping to develop content for the site, and related social media.

I also imagine that a group I formed would follow a few of the membership principles set out by Franklin for his Junto, in the form of some questions to which they might answer in particular ways:

1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.

2. Do you sincerely declare that you are dedicated to the Great Work in service to humanity? Answer. I do.

3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Answer. No.

4. Do you support the Hermetic Library and will you endeavor support its mission yourself, and share information about and via the library to others? Answer. Yes.

The group might also generate a series of ongoing questions to guide their inquiries, and make those part of the set of customs for the group.

 

Inspired by Joséphin Péladan’s Salon de la Rose + Croix, ignoring for the most part his overall Mystic Order of the Rose + Croix movement, I would personally would enjoy this more if there were effort to promote esoteric arts and culture, and, like the original, developing actual Salon de la Rose + Croix events could be part of the praxis of the group.

Obviously, this is something that I try to do with the various participatory pools at the library (such as the audio, visual, video and arts and letters pools) as well as within the Anthology Project through the Hermetic Library Albums and Hermetic Library Journal. And, to no small extent, this is one of the motivations behind the idea of a Hermetic Library Reading Room, as it exists in my imagination and also on the library blog.

So, maybe I’m starting to import my other existing projects into this idea, which can and perhaps should remain separate.

 

T Polyphilus has the personal practice of writing something about each book he reads, as he says, “on the principle that if I have nothing to say about something, I can hardly justify the effort to read it in the first place.” I could imagine that it might be good for members of the group to also take up this practice, and that these reviews, like those by T Polyphilus, would be made available via the blog.

 

I recognize that there may be need for more structure to function, and I’d propose that the group keep track of the set of organizing principles, the necessary and sufficient structures, and also a set of customs, the agreed upon additional behaviours. Generally, for this discussion about organizing principles and customs I’m going to use terminology imported from Peter Suber’s Nomic. At the core, I would would begin at Nomic rule zero, that all participants must agree to the rules. Organizing principles would be Nomic immuntable rules. Customs would be Nomic mutable rules. The organizing principles and customs would all be subject to self-ammendment, but always subject to the necessary and sufficient cohesion of rule zero. I also propose an even more primary rule, which I’ll call rule i (imaginary unit), which represents the simple observation that all rules have a scope of real effect, beyond which they are meaningless, in other words rules which attempt to legislate delusions or absurdities are self-evidently meaningless and without need to attempt they be enforced. I see this last as a guard against the group trying to legislate overreach beyond its own self-governance.

 

Recognizing that so far I’ve talked about this idea being tied closely to the library, there’s two alternate directions one might take in modifying the idea: more or less meta. For a less meta alternative, the group might simply be something like a “Friends of the Library” organization; but it would seem a bit presumptuous of me to start my own friends group, and it might be a bit duplicative of the options I already provide for people to show support for the library in a variety of ways. A more meta alternative direction would be to understand that all the specific references to the Hermetic Library and related projects are my particular projects, but that a group could be formed for mutual support and improvement between like-minded site owners who have projects of their own, sites and blogs; a kind of association of project owners. This last reminds me of the point that there appears to be no particular organization or association around esoteric venues, an example of one such is my speculative Reading Room; but that there may be a lot of sense in having some way for people doing similar things, running or planning such venues, to communicate, share and support each other.

 

I’m sure there’s plenty more that could be written about this, but as a final note I think I’ll mention that one thought that has occurred to me is that others might create similar organizations as what I imagine. I’ve always had in mind that the work I do to post on the various social media platforms and so forth is really about trying to encourage people to engage with the materials on the site. So, I could imagine that there might be groups of people who form themselves around their own research and study related to the library. I can also imagine that groups like this might offer information about what they’ve been up to on some regular basis, such as monthly, and I might then post about these presentations and research so that they are available to others as well.

Obviously, there’s no real reason why groups of students would necessarily organize around the library and participate in this idea in particular, but, it’s a thought that came to me in a kind of daydream.

A preliminary initial Thelemic analysis of Stalkers, Trolls and Antagonists

My observation is this: stalkers, trolls and antagonists refuse to mind their own business and stop interfering with other people. Of course, they will say it is their Will to do what they do, but what they are really is a slave to their deep-seated emotional and psychological need for validation; and are not pursuing any kind of True Will, life purpose, of their own at all, but attempting to salve the sucking wounds they suffer from deep seated damaged desires at the expense of others, instead of seeking therapy or properly self-medicating themselves out of the way.

They are, in fact, some kind of Black Brothers, one and all. These creatures captured by their own egos are all unable to reconcile their deep psychological wounds and damaged personalities with the right of others to simply say “No!” to anything more to do with them. And, even this denied right to say “No!” is predicated on the illusion that the other has ever said “Yes” to begin with, and ends up being a kind of broken opt-out mechanism from abuse. What it comes down to is this fact: there are some people who hate themselves so much, and, because they are unable to reconcile that feeling, they will externalize their hate on anyone or someone specific that is a convenient target. After all, it is injustice that they can’t have their infantile demands fulfilled forthwith by someone else! There are sometimes even legendary levels of ultimately meaningless constructed illusion and phantasm completely divorced from reality necessary to justify their actions.

Disingenuous self-justifications may be proffered such as that they are “helping” people but at the core they are focused on what other people are up to and emphatically not doing their own work, or that they are being righteous and seeking justice, but at the core they are focused on getting others to do something that serves not the other but the person doing the interfering.

Maybe a dumb example, but (the primary advantage of this anecdote is that he’s dead now and is thus quite unlikely to throw a tantrum or have a hissy fit): my father used to do things like say he wanted to take me to a shop to buy me a gift. We would then go to some store, usually some place he suggested; and there he would say I should look around for something I liked. However, while I was looking he would do everything in his power to steer me to some specific items he had already selected, under the guise of attempting to “help” me find something I liked. In the end, if I was not amenable to being herded toward selecting as my choice some pre-selected gift he would get frustrated and create some kind of row in order to get out of buying me anything at all other than his gift, or anything at all if I still not a willing to succumb to the inexorable indirect demand to do what he wanted, which he could have simply purchased without my involvement in the process to begin with; thus proving that there was ulterior motive to the drama. In the end, I simply refused to participate in the sham any longer as it was a waste of my time and personally insulting to be expected to act as a puppet in the pantomime.

This kind of “helping” is a deeply suspect kabuki, entirely a constructed plot that the “helper” is attempting to manipulate others into acting out for them, usually in order to get some validation for themselves. In any case, the script appears to be written out of a desire to control others. In other words, these would-be centres of attention and sycophantic demanders of praise are of the vicious and venomous creeping conviction that they are the lead actors in someone else’s story when, in fact, they are not likely to even be more than a voiceless, faceless and uncredited extra, at most.

Stalkers, trolls and antagonists are not following their True Will, but are grasping desperately onto the tails of other people going about their own work and Work. This is fundamentally the opposite of finding and expressing one’s own True Will but is unilaterally and co-dependently demanding to be allowed into orbit around someone from whom they think they can suckle attention and feedback, positive or negative. These people are psychic vampires in need of being staked, and diseased social boils in need of being lanced.

Unfortunately, the heroic and hopeful Van Helsing and Dr Kildare in their attempt to be free from such interfering influences appear to be the aggressive party when they attempt to implement a cure to this parasitic perfidy. Those stalkers, trolls and antagonists fly into hysterics at the affront when confronted, and flop into pseudo-victimized apoplexy; violently dramatizing their plight at the hands of their target who dares try to defend themselves from distracting bites and defenestrate the annoying insects. And, unpleasantly, when one manages to eject the trash, the stench of its passing lingers far too long.

My Right Foot, or the Potentially Awkward Issue of Inappropriately Adoring Body Parts

There has been a bunch of activity around the notion of a Queer Gnostic Mass lately. The notion seems to be that the Gnostic Mass is not currently LGBT friendly because of particular policies, but that it should be. There is a book, Priest/ess: In Advocacy of Queer Gnostic Mass by Michael Effertz, that has been privately published and distributed. There was a review of the book by Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus. And, there was at least one widely mentioned post attempting a rebuttal to T Polyphilus’ review.

As an aside, I have to point out there’s always something. There seems to be some kind of law of conservation of energy at work around Ordo Templi Orientis. What I mean is that I’ve observed that there seems to be a constant background noise of complaint that remains constant no matter what actual rational issues may exist. There are for every issue that comes up, and every side of those issues, a mob of people who seem determined to get attention and validation from taking particular sides in any conflict they find, and seem to have little actual interest in the issues. Around any authentic issue there seems to be a busy buzz of annoying flies that actually ends up drowning out that issue with other agendas. So, as much as possible, I explicitly refuse to entertain or validate the meaningless constant background distraction from this issue with any more notice than this notice that I take no notice of the noise. (One diabolical beauty, of many, I’ve observed of the law of complaint conservation in action is that those buzzing will take refusal to entertain them as rejection of the core issue, because, of course, it’s all about them and their agenda, and not the actual issue; pro and con doesn’t matter for or to them either. The actual issue is just the delivery mechanism for the steamy, stinky payload of their pathological need for validation around which they can happily buzz angrily biting one and all.) And with that, hopefully, I’ve sent those people off on a spiraling tizzy so the rest of us can talk like adults.

Instead, I hope to focus on considering, in solidarity, what I do hear as actual and authentic dissent on this particular issue from LGBT members of the Order and body of the EGC, and try to be an ally to them. The thing about dissent is that it is difficult to hear, but that difficulty is often in direct proportion to the need to hear it. The thing about oppression is that it so often falls to the oppressed to educate the oppressors. The place of an ally and friend is to help create understanding and raise attention for those directly affected. I think I hear something authentic from my LGBT brothers and sisters, and have heard it enough that I think there must be something important there, though it may be hard and may require some more effort to hear. That the LGBT brothers and sisters are speaking out suggests that those of us who are not should redouble our effort to listen to their story.

What I hear is that LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling they are being treated unfairly and unequally within the Order generally because they specifically do not feel they have equal opportunity to take part in roles within the celebration of the Gnostic Mass that relate to their own lives. I hear that they want to take active part in the ritual, in a way that speaks to them, but feel that they cannot and moreover that they are not being heard.

With that said, I’m really only an ally here, or at least attempting to be one. I am particularly unqualified to make any definitive statements one way or the other, and am not a direct voice on this specific issue. On the one hand, I do not identify as queer or gay, and so I am not a member of the group who might legitimately claim to be affected by the issue, except that, in solidarity and community, to harm one is to harm us all. I am also not clergy in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, though I have been active in other roles in celebration of the Gnostic Mass. Nor am I part of the government or any governing body (than my own self, of course) of Ordo Templi Orientis. I am also not privy to the Supreme Secret of the Sovereign Sanctuary (though, let’s be honest, like everyone on born on this planet, and their dog, I do have some suspicions about which I’ll hold my tongue).

But, hey, I’ve got a blog, and some thoughts … and my aunt has a barn, so maybe I’ll put on a show! But, seriously, that’s all this post is: just some thoughts, that people can take or leave, consider or not. I’m just another student of the Mysteries recording my own current thoughts at this place and time.

Basically, this is an ideal opportunity to make a misstep by which I can alienate absolutely everyone involved by sticking my foot in my mouth about the issue, or, you know, something even more entertainingly anatomically awkward. Well … yay, and tally ho, I say! Once more into the breach! YMMV. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

 

The Complaint

The issue is that, for public celebrations of the Gnostic Mass, the officers enacting the role of Priest and Priestess must be gender appropriate. The Priest must be of male gender and the Priestess must be of the female gender. For the purpose of this, a public celebration is any where non-initiates are present. For any celebration using the script of the Gnostic Mass which is gender-bent, or otherwise changed, it must not be public and moreover cannot be called a Gnostic Mass in public announcements.

The current policy prohibits certain kinds of participation. A person whose gender is male, whether queer or not, cannot enact the role of Priestess in a public celebration of the Gnostic Mass and a person whose gender is female, whether queer or not, cannot enact the role of Priest. Someone who is sexually male or female, but is gender identified as something else, however, can enact the role appropriate to their gender. The policy is about gender appropriate officers in the role of Priest and Priestess.

I think it is important to now introduce a distinction between what I’d call a “gender bent mass” and what I would understand to be an actual “Queer Gnostic Mass” but I think these two are getting as conflated as are gender and sexuality. To be clear, I will try to keep the term “gender bent mass” for a celebration of the rubric of the Gnostic Mass by officers in these roles which do not match their gender. I will also try to keep the term “Queer Gnostic Mass” for something which intends to be publicly celebrated with queer officers in roles and celebrates some, as yet unknown, mystery and symbolism of queer sexuality.

Thus, I suspect that there is already a serious confusion in the complaint as I’ve heard it because it conflates gender and sexuality, and conflates “gender bent mass” and “Queer Gnostic Mass”. But, I think there is something being talked about that reveals important things about the nature of the Gnostic Mass relevant to the discussion.

But, this specificity about gender for the roles of the Priest and Priestess means that for a public celebration of the Gnostic Mass, a queer male cannot act as Priestess and a queer Female cannot act as Priest. And, if one were not able to identify with one or the other in the gender binary, then one would not be able to be either.

The Gnostic Mass

The Gnostic Mass, which is the the central ceremony for public and private celebration of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, which E.G.C. is in turn the ecclesiastical aspect of Ordo Templi Orientis, is a eucharistic ritual written by Aleister Crowley in 1913 while in Moscow, Russia (interestingly this was on “The Ragged Ragtime Girls” music and dance theatrical tour). The ritual includes a great number of symbolic and structural influences, but it serves a bold and ambitious purpose:

“In composing Liber XV, Crowley attempted to uncover the hidden Gnostic tradition concealed within the ceremony of the Mass, to liberate it from bondage to the Scholastic theories and dogmas of Christian theology, and to demonstrate the fundamental continuity between this ancient tradition of Wisdom and the modern revelations and liberating philosophy of Thelema.” — T Apiryon [via]

Additionally, the ritual, while being esoteric in nature was also to be precisely specific to Nature:

“I resolved that my Ritual should celebrate the sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories. I would neither make nor imply any statement about nature which would not be endorsed by the most materialistic man of science. On the surface this may sound difficult; but in practice I found it perfectly simple to combine the most rigidly rational conceptions of phenomena with the most exalted and enthusiastic celebration of their sublimity.” — Aleister Crowley [via]

The Secret

There is a great deal of writing about the Gnostic Mass and various aspects of the rite, which is understandable since it has such a central place for EGC and OTO, and one can research much of that at the Hermetic Library. But, what should be clear is that the Gnostic Mass has a purpose in existing in a particular way, and in presenting certain symbols intended to reveal particular ideas. One of these ideas is the IX° secret contained in the system of the OTO:

“Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass, is the central public and private ritual of the OTO and EGC, being itself a IX° operation. All of the secrets of the Order are contained within it, in symbol and ceremony.” — Fr V.I.T.R.O.L. [via]

While the secrets of the Order are contained in this ritual, they are at least veiled to some extent in the rite. The secret is enacted symbolically within the ritual, when it is celebrated properly. Theories about this IX° secret are like assholes, but that’s actually a different degree and, at any rate, the secret is above my pay grade. I’ve been privately assured by at least one person I believe to be in a position to know that, in fact, not all the material is out there in spite of how much is that has been revealed. However, I also noted the curiousity that, in his extensive biography about Aleister Crowley, Perdurabo, Richard Kaczynski points out that Crowley’s own understanding of the secret held by OTO continued to evolve as he experimented with it, even after the time when his scholarly and instructional libri about the secret were written, to the point that those libri “were obsolete even as they appeared” (Kaczynski, 275). So, anyway, who knows? Who knows and when did they know it? “And who with And how many times.

Anyhow, the point is that there is something there which is being demonstrated by the celebration of the ritual which is of central importance to the EGC and OTO, and the secret that is revealed by the initiatory system.

The EGC Manual

The EGC Manual in use by OTO makes clear in many ways the attention to detail that is given to the proper presentation of the rites so they are “rightly performed with joy & beauty” [Liber AL II 35], especially the Gnostic Mass. Specifically related to this discussion, from the EGC Manual (rev jan 20 ’97):

Section III A 2 a: “A public celebration of the Gnostic Mass is one which is open to members of the pubic; or which is noticed in any official OTO publication under the name “Gnostic Mass”, “Gnostic Catholic Mass” or “Liber XV” or equivalent names. A private celebration of the Gnostic Mass is one at which the individual participants are all initiate members of OTO of at least 0º. Private celebrations of the Gnostic Mass may be held for initiates of higher degrees as well.”

Section III A 2 k: “For public celebrations of the Gnostic Mass, the role of Priest shall be filled by a man, and the role of Priestess shall be filled by a woman.”

So, from these two, if an event is called a Gnostic Mass, even if open to 0°+ only, it would still be public. So, simply calling it a “Mass” or “Gender Mass” or something similar even if publicly announced on a calendar or newsletter would be okay. Also, if not actually announced on an official OTO publication, calling a gender switched Gnostic Mass a “Gnostic Mass” appears to be fine as well. Also, that III A 2 k specifically details gender for public mass celebrations clearly does not prohibit gender bent private celebrations.

My recollection is that there is also a comment somewhere, perhaps in a newer revision, which further clarifies the definition of “man” and “woman” to be something like “living as …” but that may have been something from my Bishop, since I don’t see it in the copy of the manual I have at hand.

The manual specifically states (at III B 1) that modification to the rubric must be approved by the Patriarch, whether for private or public celebration. But, I think, on the topic of a gender bent mass, as a potential change, the permission is implicit without further being sought.

My current reading is that for serious changes to the rubric of Liber XV, one is better off simply writing one’s own eucharistic ritual, and not using more than the structural outline of Liber XV or the text as inspiration and not source material. However, my reading is still that a gender bent private celebration does not reach the level of a “modification” of the rubric, and so, as long as the other issues around performance and how one publicly talks in official publications are followed, gender bent is not just well-contemplated by the manual but completely kosher under the circumstance mentioned.

Also, I suppose, that the Bishop(s) supervising the various participants would have some say as well, in regard to the participation of each individual they supervise. So, that might be a thing.

The Note in the Rubric

There is a note that exists in the rubric, from even the very initial publication of the Gnostic Mass when it appeared in the International, about the officers other than the Priest not taking communion during the ritual:

“The PRIESTESS and other officers never partake of the Sacrament, they being as it were part of the PRIEST himself.” [via]

I find myself coming back to this note often in my thinking about the mass. For me this note makes it absolutely clear that the ritual is a symbolic representation of the work being done within the ceremonial magician, and seems to be a dramatic demonstration of an internal process. If all the roles are part of the Priest then the person enacting the ritual is doing so from the perspective of Priest, and that the role of Priest is in fact an internal aspect of the ritualist. Each role can be seen as an aspect of a single person.

Thus the Priest represents male gender of the ritualist. The Priestess represents the female gender of the ritualist. During the rite, there is an interaction between these two internal genders that takes place. It seems self-evident that these two genders are particular and specific, exist within each person, and are necessary for the ritual to have effect; and that this necessity seems to me to be the reason for the policy around gender bent public presentations of the ceremony. In order to not confuse those attending a public celebration of the Gnostic Mass about the drama being presented, E.G.C. requires the role symbolically representing the male within the Priest is enacted by someone whose gender is male, and the role symbolic of the female within the Priest is enacted by someone whose gender is female. This necessity may also suggest some particularly specific nature to the “sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories.” It seems to me that one element of the symbolism reflects certain natural and scientific facts about the requirements for human reproduction, facts which are necessarily true no matter whether those humans are of any particular gender or sexual orientation. Without the operation of these two gender roles within the ritual and the ritualist, the ritual is not the same, and may, in fact, no longer represent the operation of the secret.

Sexual Polarity from a Male Perspective

In a note about The Saints collect of Liber XV, Helena and Tau Apiryon offer a quote from Hymenaeus Beta, current OHO of OTO:

In his address to the Women’s Conference in 1996 (see The Magical Link, Fall 1997 e.v.), the Patriarch Hymenaeus Beta described the Gnostic Mass as a ‘celebration of the sexual polarities and their cosmic and natural interplay’ from a male perspective, having been written by a man. With regard to the list of Saints, he said, ‘It is a list of the small handful of men and man-gods who, in the opinion of the author of the Mass, understood the divinity of woman. […] Someday, perhaps not soon, but who knows, a woman adept of the Sovereign Sanctuary will manifest the genius to compose a Mass in which the female takes the more active role, and the male the more passive (as with siva and sakti in Hinduism) — in which the Deacon, speaking for the Priestess, can claim communion with the women in history that have perceived the divinity of man.'”

The point here is that the Gnostic Mass is a particular ritual demonstrating particular things from a particular perspective. Other rituals are not only possible but, perhaps, even anticipated, that might offer a different perspective on that ‘cosmic and natural’ sexual polarity.

 

The Metaphor

I’m going to introduce a metaphor. It’s not perfect, but for my purpose it seems useful even so. If all the roles in the Gnostic Mass are “parts of the priest” then one might talk metaphorically about the roles as specific parts. One might talk about the Gnostic Mass as the Left Hand adoring the Right Hand. If one were left handed, one might want to use the Right Hand to adore the Left Hand, or the Right Hand to adore another Right Hand. But, the actual story of the Gnostic Mass is that the Left Hand is adoring the Right Hand. It is certainly possible to write and celebrate a ritual in which the Right Hand adores the Left, or the Right adores the Right, or even the Left adores the Left; but, that isn’t the same story. These changes change the narrative into something else, to varying degrees into a different story.

Now, it may be that in casting the roles in the story of Left Hand adores Right Hand, that the person cast does not for some reason have use of their Left Hand. For example, in the case of Christy Brown, dramatized in the movie My Left Foot, whose only controllable limb was his left foot, it might not be possible. (Gadzooks, but I can already hear the peanut gallery shouting “Are you saying gay people are disabled?!”) In less extreme cases, one might find it interesting to use one’s Right Hand in place of the Left Hand as an experiment in casting against character, or any number of other reasons one might make various modifications to the presentation of the story Left Hand adores Right Hand.

But, the important thing in telling the story Left Hand adores Right Hand is that the narrative not be modified so much that the message is lost. One might put on a performance where a Right Hand is used in the role of Left Hand, but the audience might get confused if the poster didn’t make clear that the performance was intended to be experimental, or they may assume that the story is actually Right Hand adores Right Hand instead, and misunderstand completely.

Moreover, one could write rituals where the Left Foot adores the Right Hand, and so forth, where one specifically means that the Left Foot adores Right Hand, but how does one tell the difference between the ritual Left Foot adores Right Hand from the ritual of Left Hand adores Right Hand where Left Foot is used in the place of Left Hand for some practical reason? The audience is likely to be confused, especially if they are not savvy to the original story, and, really, since the original story is a secret, that’s most people; but also for the person who wanders off the street, and has heard nothing about the ritual at all, there must be a lot of potential of confusion and then consternation at the obfuscation of the intended narrative.

Another Gnostic Mass

It seems like there should be a story about the ‘cosmic and natural’ sexual polarity from other perspectives, and I’m not sure why no one is writing it. Maybe there is, as yet, no one within the Sovereign Sanctuary able or inspired to do so. But that is, again, different than a Queer Gnostic Mass.

For a Female Gnostic Mass, one “in which the female takes the more active role, and the male the more passive […] in which the Deacon, speaking for the Priestess, can claim communion with the women in history that have perceived the divinity of man,” I have found myself idly wondering if such a thing might needs must be written by a queer female writing about the perceived divinity of man from a female perspective, just as Aleister Crowley wrote the ceremony about perceived divinity of woman from a male perspective. For a truly Queer Gnostic Mass, maybe such as thing could be written by a straight member of the Sovereign Sanctuary … or maybe I’m taking my perception of the creative formula a bit too far and strictly, but it amuses me to consider it natheless.

Perhaps there needs to be more LGBT membership in the Sovereign Sanctuary, because from my almost completely limited perspective that body, about which I know very little except for hearsay, seems to be sorely lacking in diversity beyond white hetero-normative committed couples. Does that body match the formula of the Gnostic Mass by chance or design? Is that demographic the chicken or the egg for the issue of LGBT feelings of being treated unfairly? I don’t know about this beyond idle speculation. “Shove me in the shallow waters Before I get too deep.”

I’m not sure what the magical and natural formulae are that would be represented in Queer rituals because there is a specific formula involved in the existing Gnostic Mass, which, while veiled, seems pretty clearly demonstrated. After all, perhaps quite specifically, “I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of incarnation” in the Creed. If not told well or if the ritual were modified that formula might be obscured beyond recognition. If the Gnostic Mass is a ritual that has a particular narrative built around a central secret, then changing the narrative might start with a different central secret. It seems the narrative should be informed by the source, not the other way around. So, the first thing that might happen is the central secret needs to be interrogated by someone (that knows it, who is a cunning linguist, and is also a prodigious prestidigitator) to figure out if another narrative can be told. And, if there are other related but different Queer formulae, whether different narratives can be told about those different central secrets well enough within the structure of the Order. Or, maybe some of this has been worked by those in a particular degree outside the general plan of the order, but I could only speculate on that.

“… recent researches into the mysteries of the IX° have compelled me to add an XI°, to illustrate a scientific idea which has been evolved by the results of recent experiments.” — Aleister Crowley [via]

A matrix of ritual might be possible which would offer an array of rites to satisfy anyone’s curiousity or general proclivities. But, even a drama queen like Aleister Crowley only wrote the one ritual from the male perspective on the perception of female divinity, and kept it as the single core ritual of OTO. So, it may simply be that there is only that one narrative possible within the structure of OTO and from the secret at the core of the Sovereign Sanctuary; because to change these too much would change the story into something else, or would be to make up a story that is completely fictional and not based on a real secret held by the Order.

Honestly, after so much time no one’s come up with anything, I’m not holding out a lot of hope. If Aleister Crowley didn’t, and no one that’s raised the issue has since, come up with something … but, like so many things, raising an issue and hoping that someone else will solve it is the exact opposite of the fact that raising an issue is really an opportunity to self-volunteer to write original eucharistic Queer ritual rubrics and organize public celebrations of them, and eventually why not a Queer ritual-a-thon? Even if an official Queer Gnostic Mass isn’t available, there’s plenty that could be done. It may not be possible until there is enough LGBT presence in the Sovereign Sanctuary, assuming that there isn’t already, for there to be someone able to make an actual Queer Gnostic Mass, as opposed to just a Gnostic Mass told differently, possible, so perhaps that just means that those who identify as LGBT should redouble effort to advance in the Order so they can seduce the project to fruition by building a firm foundation first.

In other words, there may be ways to celebrate the ritual of Left Hand adores Right Hand using one’s right hand in the role of the left, for practical reasons, though it may appear awkward; but maybe it just ruins the narrative to use one’s left foot and that’s not even to mention using one’s right foot in the role. Further, when the My Left Hand poster advertising the event says the ritual is one thing, to tell an entirely different story of My Right Foot seems definitely not correct, and would be right out of order.

Secret societies, societies with secrets, and societies with spoilers

When thinking about secrets and mysteries in practice, I’ve long tossed about the idea of a difference between secret societies, societies with secrets and a society without spoilers. Especially in this day when so much is being made available online, but that really is just a matter of scale when there are plenty of historical examples of similar things, such as Aleister Crowley revealing the initiatory rituals of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as serialized in the pages of the Equinox, the varied publication and exposé of so much Freemasonic ritual, and so forth.

There are still some pretty legitimately secret societies, which while well-known to exist are not revealed, such as the Skull and Bones society, and recently breaking the Copiale cipher seemed to tantalizingly promise that there might be still some complex and completely unknown societies, at least until it was revealed the material was pretty clearly Freemasonic in nature. But for the most part, I object that when people talk about secret societies they are engaged in flights of fancy about group about which not only their existence but much of their particulars are known. Quite often, of course, such wild imaginings are part and parcel with an agenda of fear mongering, but even still there are otherwise sane and rational people talking about certain societies as if they were actually not completely or almost completely public. Certainly Freemasonic tradition and ritual cannot rationally be called secret anymore, and the membership is in the habit of parading around, not to mention things like having decals on their cars and fobs on their keychains, and thus it cannot be called a secret society. Even traditional boogeymen like Aleister Crowley and Ordo Templi Orientis can only by the slimmest margin come anywhere near being called a secret society, with websites, public spaces, public event calendars, and so forth. There may indeed be legitimately unavailable secrets still, for example within A∴A∴, but that’s not enough to call these fraternal orders by the name of a secret society. In these cases there’s perhaps some legitimate secrets, but there must also be a practical recognition that most material related to these groups is available, outside the structured system of the society itself, somewhere, if one wants to find it.

Of course, just as much as one can avoid spoilers for movies and books and other things sequentially revealed, it is possible to avoid, for the most part, much of that material. It is not that there are no spoilers. Rather that spoilers do very much exist. Which is to say, the existence of spoilers requires one to decide to avoid the spoilers in order to fully enjoy the reveal. This is quite different from a society that pretends it doesn’t exist to outsiders, or a known society with things that it keeps secret.

 

There are modern examples of working with secrets within esoteric systems, and there’s clearly something interesting going on around secrets. There is smoke pointing to something important and useful at the source. There’s a tension, perhaps much as it ever was, between the urge to make information available and the various efficacies of secrets. T Thorn Coyle wrote a bit about the division in Feri between what had been called the “Mystery tradition” and the “public religion” factions, at “The Sundering of Feri“. Thorn, of course, also runs an online Mystery School. I was trying to find a quote where I recall her saying something about how paganism needed to have a Mystery tradition as part of it, but can’t find that right now.

Generally, when I talk about such things to people who ask, I suggest that initiation ritual, especially, is like a good book or movie with a savoury plot twist or two. You will only ever get a single chance to experience the participatory drama without knowing how it develops; that’s if one goes through it the first time not having read the materials. One and only one chance. Ever. So why throw that away by reading ahead? One can always read the materials afterward, as many times as one likes; but to read the spoilers is to waste a wonderful opportunity that cannot ever, barring soap opera amnesia tropes, be experienced once the reveal has been spoiled.

Whether one “gets” it or not (either initially or on subsequent viewings of a ritual or readings, of material) is another question entirely. And, it seems to me, in my experience, what constitutes “getting it” will likely evolve and change over time no matter what else is a consideration. When given the opportunity, I like to point out that one can go to many stagings of a play by Shakespeare and get new things, new depth of understanding and new enjoyment, as well as savour slightly different interpretations, so to me the re-play value depth of meaning of a work or body of work is something that is a different question to the idea of seeing something for the first time without spoilers.

But, still, people freak about things unknown, and try to minimize and control things by figuring things out ahead instead of being comfortable with being uncomfortable as a thing itself. Seems to me the still prevalent modern desire to conquer Nature and the pervaisive post-modern existential nausea about information overload and slavish ‘inbox zero’ mania are examples, perhaps symptoms, of where the ability to just relax about not knowing, not being in control, would be useful for people to practice in specific so they can have skill in applying it in general.

 

Another aspect that always comes up around secrets is the idea that somehow no matter what is revealed, the real secrets are impervious to such petty concerns. Seems to me blather about mystery being unspoilable is semantically empty jazz hands (or worse self deception (or worse-worse deception of others) about “spiritual” exceptionalism), and misses the point of initiation as orchestrated stressful situation intended to create a kind of imprint vulnerability, an altered state, in the initiate, and attempts to diffuse that stress and that experience before experiencing it is an attempt mitigate and in some form to not have the experience at all. The efficacy of secrets in a system are not just about the information, true, but the information is interwoven into an experience, and the experience is changed by the quality and obscurity of the information on which the experience is built. If one knows the rollercoaster has a blind drop at the end, one still experiences the drop in and of itself, but the surprise in and of itself is changed into anticipation, and that’s a different thing entirely which not only changes the experience of the drop but distracts from the experience of what occurs before.

For me, when I talk about “reading ahead” (spoiling) I mean that as a placeholder for activity the diffuses the effectiveness of initiation and mystery, whether written down and read or spoken and heard or whatever and whatevered. For me, being a candidate in initiation and mystery is to be an improv actor stumbling into a rehearsed stage play, and both savoury and exciting. One tends to think all kinds of things about structure and likely scenarios, if nothing else than a rite of passage (exit normal, experience liminal, re-enter normal changed) but it is the actuality, specifics and plot twists, the things that can be spoiled, which I think should be avoided and, yes, allowed as a personal experience.

 

To bring it around, my point of wondering about classification of societies is that there is a kind of society which is not itself attempting to pretend it doesn’t exist, and which has essentially much of its material revealed or potentially could be in future somewhere, but that points out there is a reason not to “read” ahead as a practice of discipline in and of itself; that there is a place for not knowing as a thing, and experience, to be embodied through ritual, especially dramatic ritual like initiation.

The trick of improv is to have characters and bits of business prepared and figure out ways to fit those into any circumstances, so perhaps the corollary is to become good at mystery and a good initiate prepared by building the foundation of skills, whatever those are in one’s tradition, that make the personal experience of the unknown richer.

If an initiatory working is in some form or another purely ecstatic, then perhaps more than one person will have no prior exposure. That seems quite different than a mystery tradition where something is being revealed. But, whether there is an actual script or not, a mystery tradition will have participants who have experienced or developed a relationship with the mystery who are inducting others. If those others have exposed themselves or been exposed prior to some element meant to be revealed, then they have failed to avoid spoilers, they have whatevered the whatever.

Maps certainly won’t always apply, especial when applied outside their intended scope. Just add as given to any structural approach “except where this doesn’t apply”. But, to be clear, there are other structures, but I’m primarily talking about a mystery tradition where something is being revealed. But, whether there is an actual script or not, a mystery tradition will have participants who have experienced or developed a relationship with the mystery who are inducting others. Here the word ‘mystery’ in a religious sense comes from Greek mysterion “secret rite or doctrine,” as in a thing to be revealed to initiates, whether, additionally as previously stated, those are “written down and read or spoken and heard or whatever and whatevered”, a secret doctrine passed on or a secret rite enacted.

Which begs the question: without a mystery (neither secret rite or secret doctrine) to be revealed, whither the mystery cult? Further, without a mystery, one might even be tempted to ask how can there actually be an initiation at all?

 

Perhaps, one might say of a modern non-mystery that an “impromptu ecstatic divinatory rite” took place which offered UPG, such that a previously unknown rite is enacted or previously unknown doctrine is developed. But without the secret rite or secret doctrine, which would have to have previously existed to those initiated few inducting others, there’s nothing to pass on that was previously held sacred, no previously held in secret doctrine or rite, tautologically.

“Nothing to pass on that was previously held sacred” may offer another name, perhaps more tripping, instead of “society without spoilers”: a “sacred society”, a society with things held sacred as in separate, something bound, enclosed and protected.

Unfortunately, one can follow the etymology of ‘secret’ to essentially the same place, the difference being one implies holiness and the other does not, I suppose, which “holiness” seems, to my mind, just a special case of any of the others three terms I suggested.

 

I suspect the apparent failure of the modality of a “mystery cult” in the modern world has to do with modernity, modernism and existentialism, and the lack of acceptance of shared concrete and coherent gnosis, thus the ground on which a modern mystery cult would be built is unsuitable for lavish neo-romantic structures, except for those already conditioned to such things, such as lapsed Catholics and such. Which is to say, perhaps any mystery cult would seem too superficial to a modern person to have the same religious and social impacts, simply because the assumed rich foundation is missing.

So, the feeling one might have that a mystery cult or tradition in the modern age has lost its luster is due not to the mystery cult but rather due to the overall modern age. There is still a lingering notion that something may be missing for rootless moderns which a mystery cult can offer by way of a more structured ritual, initiations, and a focused mythic basis for ritual; more robust spiritual meaning which then, in turn, offers deeper experience of life in general. But, I find myself wondering if the project of modern mystery traditions is undermined by a general lack of cultural foundation, those foundations of community and cohesion being so efficiently eroded in our public, political and even private lives. Not to mention the lack of what is still called a “classical education” with the broad base of and relationship of familiarity with languages, myths, archetypes and so on. This, then becomes a chicken and egg, which can only be resolved by realizing the false dichotomy that one must be completed before the other, and that the development in general is aided by development in specific, and visa versa, synergistically.

One possible route out of the morass, for moderns and post-moderns, I sometimes come to is the suggestion that situational certainty is a tool for meta-cognition. By this I mean, that the ground on which a mystery cult could be built, the solid ground of structured ritual, initiations, and a focused mythic basis for ritual is sufficient when internally consistent for its purpose and held to be true for the time that it is necessary. But, that threatens what is perhaps an entirely different discussion.

 

But, to bring it back around again, a ‘mystery cult’ is a cult with a mystery. A ‘cult’ is the external activity enacting a religious metaphor, a ritual behaviour. A ‘mystery’ is a secret rite or secret doctrine (to be revealed). Therefore, a ‘mystery cult’ is specifically ritual behaviour that involves a secret rite or secret doctrine. ‘Tradition’ is shared belief or behaviour through time. Therefore, ‘mystery tradition’ is belief and ritual behaviour that involves a secret rite or secret doctrine shared through time.

I’m so strongly reminded by this of something. I believe it was something by Karl Kereny (but it might be form Van Gennep or Turner, I can’t recall right now) which I paraphrase: “Ritual enacts Myth and Myth explains Ritual.”

 

It seems possible to conflate a general meaning of “mystery” as more of a kind of ‘gnosis’ or noetic experience with how I understand it is used in the specific sense within the term “mystery cult” which is more what I am talking about here. When speaking of the idea of whether a ‘mystery cult’ within modern systems would be useful in order to ground the work in structured behaviour, I’m assuming that we’re actually talking about ‘mystery cult’ not general unspecific noetic experience or so forth. This of course somewhat ironically points out a possible initial critique of paganism as a generalized, syncretic, eclectic system which lacks the benefit of what a mystery cult offers and hence the possible utility of that structured influence, offering specific external ritual behaviour around a secret rite or secret doctrine.

If you want mystery without mystery cult, that already exists in various forms of wild and wishy-washy moments of gnosis within the ecstatic traditions of modern life; but, why not try adding an actual ‘mystery cult’ back into the cultural mix? In fact, I could easily argue that there already is ‘mystery cult’ in various places within neopaganism, with a facile example being initiatory orders like OTO and others, which are perfect examples of mysteries for which spoilers exist and which spoilers therefore can be intentionally avoided.

A very salient point for this modern information age is the value an experience of not knowing, so that one can and must do less thinking prior to events, not more. Perhaps the suggestion contained within the experience of not knowing is that one should do one’s thinking after: praxis before theory, so that theory is informed by praxis without prejudice. If this is the case, why not work toward maximizing the possible experience instead of minimizing the probable damage of knowing by seeking after spoilers of any kind, even the mundane accidents surrounding specific quanta and quality?

Indeed, I would suggest that one approach an initiatory experience within an mystery tradition not as a result of successful prior thinking or a seal on attainment, like we are so often familiar with from diplomas, certificates and honors; but an invitation to view the world through a particular lens for a particular period of time, determined by the particulars of the ritual and tradition in which the initiation takes place. In other words, the initiation is really the beginning, suggested by the word itself, of an pervasive life experience.

The full experience of a mystery event intended to involve surprises, plot twists or situations unknown can be self-evidently spoiled by prior knowledge of those circumstances. Especially if part of the trigger for the full experience is the stress of not knowing. Certainly, I don’t mean that these things are binary (and it may be possible to salvage some part of the experience even if spoiled, but why not go for the whole thing instead of the tatters?), but that avoiding spoilers is a discipline that seems worthy if one is serious about that experience, and looking to have it be as rich as possible.

And, that this, in specific, will inform one’s general life as well.

 

And yes, one can point out that for completely ecstatic visceral events and such that are not within a mystery tradition, there’s mostly nothing to spoil by prior knowledge, per se. Except that maybe even still, for example, having that ecstatic visceral experience is based on a not knowing, in some fashion; for example, there’s only one time for the first such experience. All subsequent such experiences are informed by prior such similar events; but also, there may be circumstances around how the experience is induced that involve some fashion of not-knowing the mechanisms being used, which after the initial experience become less effective in themselves and experienced practitioners then rely on other means more, such as anchoring past experience to ease induction subsequently.

Also, for purely personal experience based on involvement in a mystery cultic practice, the former requires the latter, so saying the former can’t be spoiled is only true on the former level but it’s a logical typing fallacy to presume that spoiling the more primary function of mystery cultic practice can’t spoil the dependent personal experience of it. Mystery rituals are built around some kind of surprise, a revealing of the secret practice or doctrine at least. One could try to criticize the practices of mystery traditions by bringing up features of non-surprise ritual is not a feature of surprise ritual merely because they participate in the prior category of ritual. But, still the one is not the other. Noetic mystery is not mystery cult merely because the English word mystery is in both. But these are mostly different topics than suggesting the efficacy a mystery cult with structured ritual behaviour involving a secret doctrine or secret rite to a previous practice of generalized, syncretic, eclectic practice.

 

So, for my own part, I have come to prefer the discipline of having structured ritual events with their reveals unspoiled so that I can experience them with as little prior knowledge as possible, because it’s the only time I will ever get that experience in that way, ever. Of course, you go about your experiences however you like, but I suspect if the initial spoiler free experience is not preserved you’re not actually experiencing ‘mystery cult’ anymore, but rather just, one might say, an extended re-enactment of a transcript of someone else’s dramatized experience. And, if you want that, just watch reruns of some reality television program, or another, instead.

Discovering the Occult Landscape

Over on my (even and ever still) experimental unbook site, I posted “Sigils of Imagination” where I explore my engagement with personal territory, my own landscapes. Inspired in part by the coursework I had at the time and my own outside reading of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, including Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, I developed a narrative of my personal travel and compared that with various representations of the landscape where that engagement occurred. Within that paper I suggest an addition of “imaginal landscape” to go with the set of “political landscape” and “vernacular landscape” developed in the work of Jackson.

In the essay “A pair of ideal landscapes,” Jackson, in addition to talking about odology, articulates a distinction between political and vernacular, or inhabited, landscapes. According to Jackson, the distinction must be made that the term landscape implies a place that has been changed by humans, a collection of “improved” lands. Once this distinction has been made, then the landscape can be further understood to be comprised of both those shared spaces that are political and those that are vernacular, or inhabited.

“… the political landscape is deliberately created in order to make it possible for men [sic] to live in a just society, the inhabited [vernacular] landscape merely evolves in the course opf our trying to live on harmonious terms with the natural world surrounding us.” (Jackson, 1984, p42)

I suggest further that there is also an imaginal landscape. Indeed Jackson appears to recognize not only the existence of the imaginal landscape but also the possible need for this landscape to inform and enrich a sustainable human relationship with the more than human. Jackson explains the way in which the imaginal informs the human relationship with the landscape:

“Any firmly held belief in the invisible, it seems to me, must somehow affect our attitude toward the visible world, and that might have been little more than a random plundering and destruction of the nearby wilderness became an exchange of benefits: those things which men took from the forest for their daily needs were repaid by our helping and protecting and loving the small, invisible creatures who lived there. They served as intermediaries, they reassured us that we were taking part in the natural order and were not entirely alien to it.” (Jackson, 1984, p53)

The political landscape is the realm of roads and sidewalks and crosswalks and monuments and historical markers. The vernacular landscape is the playground of worn grass paths, dérive, parkour and shortcuts. The imaginal landscape is the interaction the landscape has with us, territory with an agency of its own and place that is in relationship with us and our lives; places populated by a genius loci; offering liminality, twilight and borderlands. Certainly and likely these together could be the very model of a modern proper Popper fan.

 

Connecting with the link from the notion of an imaginal landscape to the dérive of Situationist International is Guy Debord’s Psychogeography which was to explore “precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals” [via, also].

The way that we engage the landscape is matched by the effect the landscape has on us. This relationship could also be subject to the method of engagement and our intentionality for the engagement. This relationship can also have synchronic and diachronic dimensions.

The method of engagement changes the nature of one’s engagement. A simple experiment around this is to travel the same route via different modes of transport, first via automobile, then via bicycle and finally by foot. Each reveals new and different features and obscures some previously seen, felt, heard and so on.

A way to view intentionality is as an answer to the question, “to what end?” The purpose, and the strength of that purpose, for which one is engaged in a particular landscape will likely and sometimes radically determine what one is able to plan for before, signify during and remember after.

Take for example the work Widdershins by Hermetic Library anthology artist The Psychogeographical Commission, which is a particular method of engagement for a particular purpose: “This recording documents the inner circle of the Glasgow Subway system which travels in an anticlockwise direction (widdershins), a constant banishing ritual performed daily upon the whole of the west side of Glasgow.” [via]

Connecting the past with the present and the future is to explore the diachronic dimensions of our explorations. For example, there are numerous projects which attempt to share images from the past of a place compared to the present of a place, such as Esoterica London which attempts “to draw connections between London now and London then, illuminating the correspondences between the city’s past and present.” On the other hand, objects like walls of clocks with times across multiple timezones and wistful thinking about what friends and family are doing, including connecting with them through now nearly instantaneous communication creates strong synchronic relationships that seem to span and shrink distance between places.

 

Recently, Rik Garrett, a frequent contributor to the Hermetic Library visual pool, who also created a blog specifically about Occult Chicago, started Occult Guide, “an interactive mapping website dedicated to locations of occult interest around the world”, and an attempt to develop a community around those activities.

Other projects that come to mind related to cataloging and creating community around wondrous, strange and occult places along our various landscapes are Altas Obscura, and the annual Altas Obscura Day; Julian Cope’s The Modern Antiquarian [HT catvincent]; and perhaps more imaginatively The Museum of Lost Wonder; to name a few.

 

There are numerous examples of personal pilgrimages and travel plans based on a desire to engage landscapes that participate in the wondrous, strange and occult; the sacred and religious, and transgressions of these same. Of course, there’s pilgrimages to holy sites, such as well-known and logistically boggling huge migrations to Mecca and such as small and lesser known places like the Well of the White Cow at Tara in Ireland. There’s also the profane and dark pilgrimages to places of iniquity like Las Vegas and those places in the world visited by the seedy sexploitation tourists. There’s also pilgrimages of personal liberation and inspiration, such as the flight of asylum seekers and those hopefuls who travel toward the bright lights of Broadway and Hollywood.

Specifically people choose how to engage various landscapes, and sometimes seek out the wondrous, strange and occult places where they can create for themselves personal narratives about themselves and those places. For example, Rodney Orpheus has a photo gallery of “Monday April 13 – the occult tour of London” in which is recorded for personal history some ephemeral moments along a group’s path of travel with notes narrating these now static stations. Consider also the personal narrative at “Occult Tour of London” that came from following the plan given in “An Esoteric guide to visiting London“. (Note that the personal narrative of that last tour points out a number of difficulties following the plan offered by the esoteric guide [also], which, I suppose, is quite a good reason to have such things in a community maintained dynamic guide instead of an individually maintained static one.)

 

Personally I’ve been flirting with the notion of trying to engage myself in writing about “travel, pilgrimage and magical retirement to far-distant countries, in exterior, interior and liminal landscapes” as part of what I hope to develop as a group blog, a collective of personal narratives, at Pilgrimage to Far-Distant Countries. (If only saying made it so, but the idea is still one I have in mind; one of a number of projects that require me to develop different and serious writing habits which may turn out to just not be in my nature.)

 

Do you know of any examples or have personal narratives of these things I’ve mentioned?

Societies with secrets, security culture and online social media

There’s a post about a new Social Media Code of Conduct for Massachusetts Freemasons [PDF] (HT @Masonictraveller) over at Freemason Information, part of The Beehive series by Fred Milliken. This document mentioned is particularly interesting to me because it touches on some issues I think are important; and the reactions to the document are also interesting. (I’m also more amused than I should be that the date on the original document is May 1st, International Workers’ Day, due to the frisson between seemingly oft conservative Freemasons and the ideas of the, frankly quite often more broadly fraternal to my mind, international workers’ movement; and, also because of the connection between the ideas I’m going to talk about and the direct and indirect history of May Day.)

I should also say that I’m intentionally using the term “society with secrets” here to mean not just Freemasonry, but really any group with secrets that is publicly known. Freemasonry is not a secret society, really, after all. But, like everyone sharing a book or movie recommendation who doesn’t want to reveal the important points of the plot, let alone the ending, Freemasonry does have secrets. (I’ve been meaning to write about my thoughts around “society with secrets vs secret societies” for a long time, but, I suppose the fullness of that topic will remains one of my own secret for now.)

 

The “code of conduct” document itself offers a number of specific directives about how the Freemasonic Grand Lodge of Massachusetts wishes its members to behave online, not just in social media though that’s what the title suggests is the scope.

 

“As a Mason, he must be aware that his postings are a permanent record; therefore, his conduct may influence the world with a positive or a negative opinion about him personally and also about any organizations to which he belongs.”

As the librarian of the Hermetic Library, I can say I’ve received email from people several times wishing my help to remove, alter or obfuscate content they wrote that still appears online.

In some cases, people want their names removed. In some cases, people want the content to go away. In others, they want links to archives of their content removed so that Google stops indexing the linked to archive. In even other cases, people have contacted me to let me know they’ve removed previously written content from their site due to a new role they’ve taken in which those comments aren’t now appropriate, as if the whole of one’s history is merely, and must conform with, the current accidents of the moment (which ironically requires history to constantly be changed to make an illusion). In some cases, it’s clear that the person contacting me is embarrassed by something they’ve written in the past and wants to distance themselves from that; which motive I personally find revolting and pathetic and deceitful. In other cases, the motives are more or less clean, such as needing to manage how others might use past writing as a weapon, how others might twist and misrepresent the past to impune the present person. (You might, or not, be surprised at how much vitriol and willful harassment there is out there, sometimes hidden in back channels and sometimes not, in which cases managing access to one’s information becomes important as a defensive measure against evil, unscrupulous or stalker-y people.) So, there’s a whole gamut of reasons why people seem to want their previous work forgotten.

Interestingly, there may seem a serious disconnect in my own views on this matter. For example, I am viciously adamant about my own right to remove content from services like Facebook, but I am relatively lassez-faire about my content being permanently on display in various revisions at the Wayback Machine. Of course, the primary difference is that Facebook, and corporations like it purporting to offer a service, is in fact constantly and expansively trying to enclose and encumber not just the works of our minds but every hour of our lives in order to control and monetize both; and to that my resistance is very consistent and internally consistent.

 

“Do not identify any Freemason as a member of the Craft unless he has provided his consent, or has already identified himself as such.”

Another of the points in this code of conduct is not to reveal the identity of a member unless they’ve already done so. This point is a big one for many sub-cultures, and is an important one. “Outing” another person is a serious breach of security and etiquette. But, it should also be considered a serious breach to reveal information about not just the identity but also the location and activities of another member, especially to strangers. (This point is a hint at why personally I almost universally refuse to broadcast my future whereabouts or add instant, or even relatively contemporaneous, geolocation data to my content. I also do not participate in any service which is either dedicated to showing my instant location data or where I cannot hide that, even from “friends”, even so far as to eschew instant messaging services in favour of asynchronous email.)

Anyone with any IT security experience should be able to share strong reasons not to succumb to social engineering, revealing important details to not only strangers but even well-known people who should not have some bits of information. Anyone who’s worked in retail or the service industry should be able to confirm how dangerous it can be to reveal personal information or work schedules of co-workers, both about their time at work and their time away from work. Loose lips not only sink ships and breach internal security, but lead to things like stalking and other antisocial behaviour.

I can hardly begin to tell you the times I’ve gotten strange looks and had eyes rolled at me when I’ve tried to educate people about the dangers and dimwittedness of revealing information about not only others but about themselves to strangers. I cannot count on my fingers the number of times I’ve tried to shush someone who’s speaking on the phone to some random stranger who’s just called and to whom they are revealing all kinds of privileged information about someone else’s schedule and whereabouts … It’s just shocking and disheartening to have people I know, or moreover people I’ve cared about, be so dumb about such things. Really, the Pavlovian desperation to respond most people have to phone and electronic communications, and moreover the ease with which most people reveal information (passwords, account information or even just random particulars) to some unknown person as if merely by being on the phone or online imbues some Milgrim-like authority, is something both breathtaking and bizarre to me.

Developing security culture is not just about the security of groups, but is also protecting individuals. I hope those people prone to such information breaches are never in the situation where they learn the hard way by ending up pursued by a stalker, pursued by someone so mentally stunted or backward that they cannot understand the meaning of “no” or even the basic social contract of consent, and then to have information about their activities and whereabouts revealed by themselves or others simply because they didn’t know better. And if that ever happens I hope that nothing seriously harmful happens as a consequence other than learning to be more careful next time, though so many worse things are possible.

Just one more story, of any number of others, about this: At one of the really big Occupy marches in Portland, OR, I have to tell you I cringed every time someone yelled out another person’s name to get their attention. Really? Serious protest foul, that, people!

But, really, the lack of awareness about security culture is a symptom of not having one in the first place. How’s that for a tautology? No, seriously, the adoption of a general security culture could be helped by having serious security culture in subcultural groups, and thus pushing out the wave of adoption by having smaller groups educate and inform their members who then end up bringing that awareness to larger groups and the overall culture in which they each participate. (So, now that you’ve read this, go and find out more so I can pretend I’ve been effective in widening the general awareness of security culture …)

 

The commentary in the post itself, and the comments by readers to that post, over at Freemason Information are interesting to me as well. Primarily the reaction is focused on how some of the points in the code of conduct are just common sense ideas about protocol and etiquette, but there’s also a perception that the code of conduct is an overreaching attempt to control the actions of members. I think this code of conduct document, while not perfect, seems to me a good first step toward building a meaningful and reasonable security culture. The worth of that, at the very least, is as a catalyst to considering and talking about meaningful and reasonable security culture for any subcultural group of people, whether that’s in, to name a few, a fraternal organization, social club, workplace, or, yes, even in one’s own home environment. But, recognizing that such ideas can be seen as unreasonable attempts to control behaviour suggests how important it is to reveal and share the reasoning behind them, and the reasons why they are being suggested.

 

There’s a lot of useful thinking and writing that’s been done on creating security culture, and this post is merely a few initial words on the topic. I wrote a setup document for GnuPG, aimed at members of a society with secrets in which I am involved which has a mandate for the use of encryption which is not supported by a culture in which use of encryption is easy for non-technical users or even has much use in spite of the mandate. In that document I tried to include some background and links to further information about security culture, by way of saying how important it is to at least think about such things in any social group with secrets. In the same way that the encryption requirement by the US Grand Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis is essentially and largely mooted by the apparent lack of implementation among the membership, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has started down a pretty slippery slope of creating mandated behaviour and requirements that it cannot hope to maintain ahead of breaches of conduct, but rather only after the fact in selective punishment against those who happen to get caught. Without a security culture, these rules are mostly meaningless as far as stopping behaviours from happening and are really only rubrics that can be used to evaluate behaviours that have already occurred. In other words, it seems to me, these kinds of guidelines need to be part of a program of proactive education instead of taken as proscriptive measures to control behaviour, and where they are merely the later they should be transformed into the former. Guidelines like these need to create a culture in the implementation not create criminals in the breach.

But really, I think the exposure to the ideas of, and how to create, security culture can offer an essential and necessary set of skills for people in this modern day information age to understand and implement the many overlapping circles of information scope in our lives. (Just as I believe thinking about and deconstructing propaganda models and theory offer essential skills for resisting the influence of not just canonical propaganda but also in resisting the influence of pervasive and invasive marketing and advertising in this Western culture.)

For a general primer, I’d encourage you to check out check out a few documents which stand out in my memory as good initial surveys: Towards a Collective Security Culture, Affinity Groups and Why do you need PGP?.

For further reading, you may be interested in Activism and Security Culture, Security Culture, and Security Culture. Beyond those, I commend you to your favourite search engine for further study.

As a last note, I can’t help but suggest and recommend two works, in no small part because these two are on the list of works that appear in my own thoughts consistently, which I think connect to this post and the broader subject of resistance culture. First, both for the history of the resistance of but also the resistance to the international labor movement, I’d like to suggest an excellent history of Industrial Workers of the World, The Wobblies: The Story of the IWW and Syndicalism in the United States by Patrick Renshaw. And, secondly, for the history and role of Freemasonry in the resistance culture of colonial and early American periods of United States history, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 by Steven C. Bullock.

MK Enochian TEX 2011sept21

This was the first actual working my magical partner and I have done since deciding to work together. We had planned on starting our long distance Enochian scrying last week, but scheduling conflicted with our intentions.

We did some pre-planning two weeks ago, and corresponded via Internet over the intervening time. M created an outline based on our decisions (PDF, 40 KB) and our source materials.

For this working, we incorporated ideas from personal conversations with other practitioners, a workshop by Scott Wilde and Onyieh Jewel, and Lon Milo DuQuette’s Enochian Vision Magick: An Introduction and Practical Guide to the Magick of Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley as well as several of Lon’s in-person workshops.

I created an MP3 to help time our scrying (MP3, 73 MB) with gongs at 10 minute intervals.

 

Magdalene’s journal entry

9/21/11 10pm

weather-humid/rainy. high 60’s

Moon-  Cancer, waning crescent
Sun- Virgo

First Enochian working with JGB.  LBPR individually then did the calls/chants together.

30th Aethyr- TEX, calling Dozinal.

Didn’t see a damn thing!  Was very distracted and kept looking into the skype camera and seeing JGB’s candle and the shapes it was making.  Then couldn’t concentrate in the blacked out mirror.  Felt like it was a black hole pulling me into it.  Then when I closed my eyes, felt an immense weight on my shoulders and chest.  Crushing my heart.  The black shadow around JGB’s candle kept growing and wanted to expand and take over everything.  Breathing even felt harder to do, more shallow breaths.  The feeling was much more intense when I closed my eyes than when I was gazing into the mirror or JGB’s candle.

Felt really lightheaded and high when JGB was reading the call.  When I looked at him or tried to follow along, the feeling lessened but when i closed my eyes and just listened, felt very heady and like I was going into a trance.

The only visualization I saw was one I purposely put into my mind, trying to get things started and relax so I imaged a beach/ocean scene.  It didn’t stick and the heavy feeling took over again.

 

Kalokagathon’s journal entry

2011sep21 7pm
Sol in Virgo : Luna in Cancer : Anno IVxix era novis
69º clear and quiet

Prior to our meeting time: meal, pranayama, eucharist with mingled ingredient X from both of M & K, and prepared my working space.

Connected via video chat, and did a brief run-through of our outline. We resolved a few uncertainties and proceeded with the work.

Banishing. We had decided to each banish our spaces. I did Star Ruby (Liber XXV/Book 25) while M did LBRP. This was an interesting choice. M had LBRP recommended to her. I decided to try Star Ruby anyway. It was a bit distracting, as I plugged my headphones into the wrong jack, so could hear both of us. But, I loved hearing M’s voice as she vibrated the names for her LBRP. Beautiful!

Ceremony. We had decided that we would go through the prayers and letters together. There were some technical issues here as I think one or both of us were half-duplex so I didn’t get to hear M’s voice as clearly as I had hoped. Not sure what to do about that. When we got to the 19th Call, I read the Enochian and M followed by reading an English translation. We called the 30th Aethyr, TEX.

Scrying. We decided this time to both scry our own visions. We used an audio track to time our scrying, 30 minutes long with 3 gongs at 0, 10, 20 and 30. We had agreed to recite the governor Dozinal 3 times at each but the final set of gongs. During the scrying from 0-10 I had extremely vivid, visual and interesting imagery while gazing into the mirror, with candle and incense smoke against the reflection. From 10-20, my visuals ceased and instead I had simply a period of dizzy trancing with my eyes closed. At the 20 minute mark both M and I were done and journaling.

Journal of 0-10 minutes. An open air temple with Masonic black & white tiles, no roof. The four sons of Horus at the corners, in the shape of giant canopic jars in the position of the four rooks, were pillars for the temple.
To one side of the temple was a mountain, another an golden beach with azure ocean, then a deep cenote, and on the final side an expanse of sky with complex clouds.

M & K appeared in the temple, standing near and facing each other, smiling and we were met by a giant shrouded figure. This figure was male, but without any distinct features showing from beneath a muted turquoise coloured shroud. The figure placed a metal star flat on an altar that appeared at the center of the temple. M & K each produced flat metal Mem and Kappa glyphs which fit to the star. I took this to be an indication that the figure was an appropriate angel for this scrying.The shrouded figure then gave us a metal bee and a metal key but we didn’t place these on the altar with the rest. I had the impression that there really is something missing on the sigil on the right of the star, but also something else missing which was less clear where it might go. We were to leave the sigil pieces on the altar, but take the bee and key with us during the rest of the vision.

We were then alone with each other. Bright sun and warm but very pleasant. We walk hand in hand toward the mountain along a path which leads us to a golden pyramid with somewhat meso-american design.

We climbed to the top of the pyramid and perform Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass together, but at the end of that ritual we fling the goblet and paten from the top of the pyramid down the stairs against which they shatter. This felt like a joyful and appropriate thing to do.

From this point on the visuals become fragmented, but we spent time together along the beach relaxing and enjoying the environment.

Closing. After journaling, we closed and then discussed our experiences with each other.

Additional thoughts. M had a strong craving for chocolate, which she had the foresight to get at the store. I ended up having some raspberry coconut water sorbet.

My workspace had become quite warm since I had several candles and closed the window and door, so by the end I realized I was quite sweaty and hot.

During the preparation and opening our respective animals were quite noisy and fidgety, but during the scrying they both calmed down considerably.

I woke up the next morning having slept in for several more hours than usual with a feeling similar to a hangover though I’d had nothing but water the previous evening.

Sigil for magical partners

One of the recent things in my life is that I’ve been developing a relationship with someone who shares an interest in being magical partners together. One aspect of this came up as a suggestion from my partner that we might have a sigil of some kind to represent the combination of our emergent effort.


I’ve done some work in the past with bind-runes and sigils for imaginal landscapes, among other things; so I started to think about a kind of bind-rune with the initials of our magical names. I was also reminded of the ring my father’s father had made in France during WWII that has the family initials on it.

First, I created a series of images with the initials of our magical names arranged in different relationships with each other, arranging them in a variety of ways that seemed interesting to look at and different than the others.

This was basically just a test file to see what I see in the shapes and their relationships. I think there’s some great possibilities there. I sent this to my partner also so she could gander as well as so we could talk about our Rorschach-like test results for these shapes; immediately I see stars in some, but lots of almost organic shapes, including the last which makes me think of a flower or rose and for which I added some colours to make the glyphs distinct in spite of much overlap. I also see ways that the Mem-Kappa can echo both the M(agdalene) and K(alokagathon) as well as the initials of our civil names K and G. But, from this there’s definitely some interesting shapes here to play with and work on!

But going through the glyph relationships:

1. I see a star in the middle. also the Mem at the bottom is like a partial top of a G glyph. K & G being our civil initials as well as Mem & Kappa being the initials of our magical names, in reverse order of our magical names.

2. I see the hint of a heart in the middle

4. I see a hint of a tree

6. Another heart is hinted to me in the place where the glyphs join

7 & 8 I actually see a shape of a map of the US in these two, which echoes the two coasts. I also see the Mem and the serif of the K in each forming an arabic M which hints at some possible initialisms like in 1

9 I see a stem and flower here, perhaps of a rose

Of course, the sigil needn’t be so literal about these letter shapes, and could go more for a graphical lamen or waxen seal design, with symbolic elements; but this was an initial experiment.

I sent the glyph study to my partner, and she send back what she saw in these relationships.

My Roschach test is below… I’m trying not to look at your answers until I do mine so I’m not influenced!

1. ummm nothing!

2. flower or sea creature shapes

3. old pacman designs

4. swing dancers

5. bullfighter with a swirling cape behind him

6. old rod iron fence outside a garden

7. someone in a hershey kiss costume dancing with someone in a kit kat costume (like hershey park when I was a kid)

8. similar to 7

9. not sure, the color was throwing me off

Oh my… I’m a bit off from what you saw!!! lol. I think its a great start.

So, looking at some of the features we came up with from the glyph arrangements, I did some more work playing with the sigil idea as an inked-in pencil illustration as a draft of one possible sigil, but I think it turned out pretty good.

I know the key and bee are derivative of The Magicians: A Novel, but it was in my mind associated with the two of us because that’s what we selected for our first bookclub selection. The rest of the illustration is of a Greek kappa and an Hebrew mem joined so that they form a five pointed star in the middle. Of course, “every man and every woman is a star” but also in Crowley’s star-sponge vision the relationships we form are also stars in their own right. Thus, I think the star in the middle is a reminder of both our individual sovereignty as well as what we are building together.

For myself I like the idea of the bee actually facing down into the Kappa, like a descending dove, but also because the Kappa could be more of a flower. The Mem could be more keyhole shaped, or even could hint of a beehive. The key is intentionally but only slightly phallic, but I suppose there could be some detail for it to be more serpent like, as in a rising serpent.

The kappa could be wider and less tall, and the star might be smaller. Also, I wonder if there’s a way to bring a square and a hexagram into this also, or if that’s too much.

Another thought is that I’d like the sigil to be something that can be both very detailed and also something that can be quickly drawn, say as if next to initials or in place of initials on a guestbook or epistle.

Further it’d be spiffy if there were an email version, some kind of emoticon. “BK*MF” might be too much of a stretch … maybe just “K*M” … or “M*K” … I kinda prefer the ordering Mem Kappa, but in the illustration the Kappa on top forms the star; of course, there’s no reason why it can’t be written “M*K” whatever the arrangement of the sigil.

Also, I keep wondering what could be on the right side of the star … maybe that’s something for later?

Well, it’s definitely a start, but with tweaks and more thought this could be pretty nice.

One thought we had originally was to create some jewelry with our sigil on it. Certainly necklaces or something, but when I think about how I’ve actually used my grandfather’s ring as a wax seal, though the initials come out mirrored; I think about how having the eventual sigil as a wax seal would be pretty fantastic for using as part of magical operations, as well as the grand nostalgia from using the wax seal of our sigil on letters we might send each other. When this sigil, or another if we replace it, is far enough along; that’ll be a time to start exploring options for getting something custom-made for us using the design.

You wouldn’t hit a guy in a fluffy bunny costume would you?

It seems to me that the wider Pagan and Occult community has been using Wiccans as human shields. Nowadays it’s not “you wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?” it’s “you wouldn’t hit a guy in a fluffy bunny costume, would you?”

Somewhere mainstream culture has internalized the message that Paganism is equivalent to Wicca, and it seems like that might just be a matter of convenience that those Pagans in the mainstream have enjoyed the mistake. This is especially true whenever there’s some new ridiculous bit of hysteria which paints anything Pagan as Satanic or whatever epithet meant as a shortcut to thinking is applied within the time limit of a sound bite.

These days it seems to me that Wiccans are beards for not just dark Pagans but are being put into the line of fire for everyone in the wider community. Heck, Pagans are a varied and diverse group of strange bedfellows, so to speak; not to be so easily signified by a small sample.

(Maybe Pagans are an equivalent to the Anti-Federalists, a rabble rebellion collected together under a label for convenience because they’re allied in demanding to be heard, seeking personal rights and freedoms from the tyranny of conformity imposed by privilege and power and the mainstream. The joke that any two Pagans have 3 opinions is a kind of truism.)

 

Not too long ago there was an uproar over the dabbling done by O’Donnell in what she claimed was witchcraft. The general response I remember hearing from Pagans in the media was, “That’s ridiculous because whatever it was she was doing wasn’t real witchcraft! Witchcraft is all about fluffy bunnies!” That whole thing about the dabbling of O’Donnell as a witch seriously bothered me, and at the time I just didn’t mention it anywhere or to anyone; but I find myself thinking about it again.

Of course, the more recent and truly stupid insanity of the pedophiles in Wales that made the news is an example of what the community is really afraid of being linked to, characterized by and treated like. And, to be sure, in that case the acts of insane people have been used to colour the character of something they happen to be abusing in their implementation of the insane. I mean, they wore clothes and eat food too, so let’s all become nudists and breatharians in response to the implied and contagious evilness of clothing and food. The colocation of insanity or criminality with X does not make X insane or criminal. Insane pedophiles are insane pedophiles, and there’s nothing more that needs to be said than this tautology to demonstrate that their opinions on anything else is suspect. And yet, it seems like the logic of the media hype engine is the opposite: that somehow the opinion of insane pedophiles is suddenly the most authoritative on any topics about which they might be ranting than other more generally sane voices who might be trying to speak. I blame the media … and: Oh, the humanity!

However, beyond whatever distain I might have for the criminal and the insane and the liars out there, like Welsh pedophiles and politicians like O’Donnell; it’s the reaction from the wider Pagan community that bothered me about these things even more. The reaction from the community was essentially a broad and universal shock, shock I say, at being accused of anything resembling any unwholesome activity whatsoever, being accused of anything more suspicious than a fluffy bunny petting. It’s the Wiccan Wookie defense. Nothing to fear here, lookee cute bunny! Cute, 6-foot tall, very hairy bunny … with a crossbow; but, hey, it’s fluffy, so, you know, it’s a bunny! (For the life of me, it never occurred to me until just now that Wookies were actually Púca. Or, maybe highly evolved Snuffleupaguses … Snuffleupagi? Snuffleupagans! Pagan Furries FTW! Just, you know, wholesome and sane … *ahem*)

Okay, so here’s where the inane, weak, unsubtle thinkers are going to go off the deep end because I need to make a strong distinction between the baby and the bath water. Throughout I’m not suggesting a defense for heinous acts like pedophilia or politics, to which, if current events are any indication, criminal and insane people seem so attracted. I’m rather talking about the willingness of the Pagan community to jettison anything remotely dark or uncomfortable in order to avoid looking anything like that which might be confused with things criminal or insane. I’m not saying that real Pagans are into pedophilia or politics. Rather, I’m saying that the fact that there are pedophiles and politicians in the world is not a reason to reject the edgy parts of Paganism as if those parts didn’t exist. I’m saying that these two things are not the same, and are not related and should not be confused; and to the extent that they are confused, it should behoove everyone to help those intellectually challenged among the population to understand there is a difference. Or, at the least, it should be the intellectually challenged who should be identified as the problem, not the edgy pagans being falsely identified as something they are not by hysterical morons.

In understandably denying any connection whatsoever to ridiculous or heinous acts, the community feigns, with a straight face, the nigh incomprehensibility of engaging in anything which might require more than a G-rating. And that’s just disingenuous, because if anything the reality of Paganism is worthy of a solid R at the box office, or it’s just more New Age noise. Whether it’s a Gnostic Mass or a Great Rite, even symbolically, there’s something going on that someone somewhere would get uptight about. Moreover, once on the slippery slide away from truth, all other real and true expressions become suspect.

Look, here’s one thing: people kinda know when someone’s not being honest. They may not be able to prove it, but I think there’s some sense where people just generally know something’s not on the up and up. They may be motivated to suspend disbelief for some reason, but I think deep down people know even when really practiced liars lie. So, when Pagans go out in the world and pretend that there’s nothing edgy about Paganism, I think people’s internal alarms go off. I think it does more harm even in the successful denial than would the unsuccessful attempt to disabuse the morons about their faulty reasoning. It’s like speaking truth to power, one has to speak truth even when speaking truth itself is edgy and dangerous. (Mind you, I’m not counseling the kind of suicide in the face of overwhelming mobs against which even Martin Luther King Jr realized nonviolence would painfully fail; but that there’s need to stand up against irrationality and injustices and singling out.)

 

Also, while I’m talking about this, I should be clear that I really haven’t experienced anything that I myself would call evil. Even though, no doubt, there are some reactionary idiots somewhere who would even claim eating marshmallow Peeps™ is a form of pure EVIL™; and gods know I’ve enjoyed my share of brutally microwaved Peeps in my instant s’mores (Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Kyrie eleison!); I don’t really know from first hand experience that there’s any or a lot of what I might think of as evil action going on. (Frankly, I’ve experienced things far more likely to be characterized by an observer as dark or evil that had nothing soever to do with esoteric practices in any way than I have esoteric practices that might be characterized as such.) But, that doesn’t mean I think it’s not possible, or even likely, that somewhere there’s something going on. (I mean, who am I kidding? I was pretty much oblivious to the pervasive cocaine use in the bathrooms of my high school, so what do I know?) Throughout history, one person’s angel is another’s demon; but there seem to also be people doing various kinds of edge-seeking who are unfairly demonized. I’ve experienced a lot of edge-seeking and intentionally iconoclastic behaviour, but not really anything evil by any definition I’d use except in jest or intentional hyperbole. But, even still, I do recognize that there are true evils going on in the world. Again, I’m not defending true evil here, but rather defending edge-seeking work.

I can imagine that there are people engaged in activity they intentionally and seriously hope is evil and that I would consider calling evil. I also imagine that of these people there are a vanishingly small percentile who are contentious practitioners, where the rest are thrill-seekers of some kind or another seeking to do things that shock. In regard to those looking to shock, if it weren’t one thing it would be another; it’s the ends not the means that matter, or rather its not the method but the image. For the thrill-seekers, the trappings are just accidental.

Then, again, there’s also, I have no doubt, a subsection of those thrill-seekers who are desperately in need of professional help, who are engaged in activities due to mental imbalance; but moreover those people would be mentally imbalanced no matter what activity they were doing, so the specific activity is actually entirely irrelevant. Crazy people are crazy. Period. For these people it’s crazy turtles all the way down, and they’re all out of turtles.

 

One of the most recent documents added to the collection at The Hermetic Library is a story by Yeats called The Sorcerers. This purports to be a personal narrative of an encounter with some “dark” practices. Within the story, Yeats talks about those engaged in evil acts, and details some practices of animal sacrifice and communing with “evil powers”

“The sorcerer then took a black cock out of a basket, and cut its throat with one of the daggers, letting the blood fall into the large bowl. He opened a book and began an invocation, which was neither English nor Irish, and had a deep guttural sound.” [via]

Practically a scene straight from Maya Daren’s Divine Horsemen, but, you know, Irish.

 

Okay, I’m definitely not claiming that this story related by Yeats is fact. Who knows? He was a writer so he wrote, right? Whether the experience was true, partially true or fancy isn’t my point. It’s what got me thinking about this again, and why I ended up writing this. Here’s a story with animal sacrifice, and yet I found myself questioning the idea of posting that section of the story as a quote to the public forum of The Hermetic Library’s facebook page. I realized that there might be reactions from reactionaries. I ended up posting that very quote to the feed, in part because I was thinking along the lines in what I’m writing now. So far, there’s been a predictably juvenile response to the fact that the words “black cock” appear in the quote; but other than that I’ve not seen the reaction I thought might appear.

This self-editing seems pretty widespread. I know I’ve sometimes skipped over posting some interesting quote or another from a new document I’ve added to the library because of how it might be hysterically perceived, not just in the context of EVIL™, but in other ways by those reacting to a quote who mobilizing their righteous indignation without bothering to explore the context or complexity or, frankly, maybe even without reading the actual quote itself. People have gotten indignant about one quote or another and that usually says more about them than it does about any particular quote per se.

 

(Some of this is learned defensive behaviour, and it’s a reaction to how some pretty insistent people use quotes as a way to push particular agendas. So, some of the reactivity I’ve seen to quotes I’ve posted seems to be about assuming that I’m expressing a hidden agenda in my choice of quote. This is one of the insidiously damaging things that I see happening in the online community as a result of the behaviour of those who use quasi-contextual or at least heavily curated quotes as a maneuver to prove something or other else they want to force home. These quote pushers are not people interested in discussion, but are rather interested in using quotes to stop discussion; as appeals to authority mustered to silence those ideas that they don’t want to hear expressed or to force conversation in a particular way. Or at the least, they use quotes to convince themselves of the righteousness of their crusade. It’s about intent and motive, and those can be obfuscated by façades of reasonableness and tactical syntax.

There was one time, for example, that I posted something from a period piece by Crowley, and was accused of valourizing misogyny. My thought is that not posting anything that might be seen as mysogynistic would be to, in effect, white-wash over that, and would actually in the omission do more to valourize or at least normalize that as non-exceptional, as not worth mentioning. But, moreover, it is by posting and hopefully thereby talking about such things that a more accurate and broad perspective is formed, and a parallax is created between one expression of thought to another.

In another case, I posted a particular quote with a link to the source and someone responded saying, “Where did you get that idea?” Um, try clicking on the helpfully provided link to the source to find out, I thought, and read it yourself. But it was clear that the response was assuming that I necessarily by posting agreed with the statement and was pushing some kind of agenda. They were triggered and taking revenge in their response.

Really, this is the basic stuff of academia, people. I become increasingly convinced we don’t need universal service, but rather universal University. If only I had faith in the success of University to do the job … Hell, even at a place like Evergreen they could mostly only create a conducive environment, not ensure a result. There were still those who couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t. Woe to the hope for joy at a lesser institution!)

 

At last year’s Esoteric Book Conference, there were presented some images from the Richel-Eldermans Collection, which had been intentionally left out of the publication of The Occult Reliquary as a preemptive measure to avoid potential hysterical reactions those images might have caused even with context. And, notice, even here a fortiori I’m not going to describe the content of those images but leave that to the greek chorus of your imagination to describe, or, you know, take a trip to The Museum of Witchcraft to see them for yourself, you lucky you!

We seem as a broad group to have internalized a lesson about the need for secrecy in the face of potential witch-hunts of one kind or another. It’s not just the self-identified witches that need to be concerned about the public turning into a mob looking to burn someone, figuratively or literally.

But, at the same time, I think the existence of this cloak of cuddly white-light does a horrible disservice to ourselves. Not the least of which is the fact that any time the cloak is shown to be just that, there’s more chance of a more violent reaction by those predisposed to violent reactions in the first place.

Anyhow, I recognize that the overall need still for forestalling hysteria by keeping cloaks on some issues, but I also find myself lamenting the way that the white-lighters are both used as beards to form an ablative shield against the cultural bullies out there, but also are then used as whipping boys within the community as examples of scorn. That’s the kind of double standard that’s going to bite someone in the ass at some point because it’s a duplicitous deception as well as being cruel to the poor little bunnies.

The dirty truth about any truegeek cultures has always been that they are predisposed to eating their own young with viciousness and dark delight of shocking proportions. So, even if accusations of evil aren’t true in specific, they are true in some general tangential way. Geeks of any kind have historically been just plan mean to newbies, and that reveals a streak of nastiness that cannot be denied. In this case the young being eaten aren’t babies, but still there’s a kind of ritual sacrifice going on that’s more than even hazing.

(Oh, and, yes, I did just, with tough love, characterize pagans as geeks.)

As unfortunate as the bearding of Pagan culture might be, I think the community has to also recognize that it is both forcing the Wiccans into the fray all the while treating them, generally, as little children. It’s a children’s crusade against the mob. What I mean is the way that all these fluffy bunnies are the target of scorn and derision by the “serious” Pagan community but when push comes to shove, we seem to shove these same fluffy bunnies into the line of fire. The fluffy bunnies may be pawns in the game, but they’re our pawns; the fluffy bunnies are the first wave of integration between our sub-culture and mainstream culture, and we need them to be there as allies and emissaries. The fluffy bunnies represent the extent to which culture has changed, so I suggest that sacrificing them is tantamount to sacrificing progress.

Indeed, in another part of Yeats’ The Sorcerers:

“He would not tell me more, for he had, it appeared, taken a vow of secrecy.”

It really should be clear that secrecy has a manifold purpose in protecting people from people not just the secrets from people or people from secrets. So is it really so inconceivable that edgy things happen somewhere in the community? Is it really so hard to fess up and face up to the bullying? When it comes to edgy expression within the wide pagan community of experience, I think the Lady and Lord, while wearing rabbit-fur lined cloaks, doth protest too much.

It’s a disservice to the potential for culture change inherent in the counter cultural confrontation of both willful ignorance and self-righteous morality to raise the level of discourse around consensual practices which can and must be seen in distinct relief to the practices of insane and sick people. It’s a disservice to hide our naughty bits behind the fig leaves forced on us generically by the pervasive paternalistic judgments of Judeo-Christ-Islamic culture.

I mean, I know I’m not the only Pagan that yelled a figurative or, in my case, literal “Fuck Yeah!” at the scenes of gritty and realistic ancient Paganism in the HBO series ROME, amirite? Not all pagans are Wiccan, and neither are all witches Wiccan. The Wiccan rede is not universally subscribed to, and it is just incorrect to characterize all pagans as holders of that belief.

We’re an edgy lot; and should be out, loud and proud about that. Besides, it’s getting really itchy and hot in this fluffy bunny outfit.

orthodoxy

“All the weak and undeveloped minds in every religion or country have only one way of loving their own ideal, and that is to hate every other ideal. Herein is the explanation of why the same man who is so lovingly attached to his own ideal of God, so devoted to his own ideal of religion, becomes a howling fanatic as soon as he sees or hears anything of any other ideal.

This kind of love is somewhat like the canine instinct of guarding the master’s property from intruders; only the instinct of the dog is better than the reason of man, for the dog never mistakes its master for an enemy, in whatever dress he may come before it.”

— Vivekananda, Bhakti-Yoga.

There are an awful lot of people in the history of the world that believed their way is the only way to freedom, and anyone not making the same choices as them deserve slavery of some kind, death or inquisition. The irony seems to be that the belief that there’s only one acceptable path to freedom is paradoxically a kind of slavery itself, and also seems historically to end with heinous acts of genocide.

If that dust they shake off as they leave is the crust of such intolerant hubris, I’m sure they’re equally happy to go.

Unless I’ve misunderstood your point, I for one hope you’re never in a position to make that call for me or anyone else. I’d willingly join the army raised to fight against you if you were.

I’m sure every act of injustice and slavery has begun with a similar statement of hubris about a single acceptable path to freedom.

Paradigms 2

I previously posted some initial thoughts about paradigms in, honestly, a kind of screed. From the content of that post, it may not be clear why I think the topic relates to my category of esoterica, I think this continuation will tie those together usefully. I note that Mark over at Darkline made some of this connection already based on my previous.

It’s already been over a year since the previous Ask the Initiates panel at Sekhet-Maat, part of a weekend of activity around the annual Thelemic Symposium. Although it’s come up before and since, I recall especially that one of the questions I was asked by the students was what I thought about the reality of magick and magical entities. Now that the Ask the Initiates panel came around again, the topic came around again as well but I may have brought it up myself because I was thinking about it.

My answer has generally been that If I take seriously the notion of “as above, so below”; it simply doesn’t matter whether my experiences are due to some logically positive objective materialism, purely artefacts of my method and mechanics of perception, or even more abstractly simply contained only within a Popperian third world. In otherwords, I reject the premise that it needs must be answered in an Aristotelean way, that I must answer whether these things are either true or false, real or not real, and that I must accept the particular epistemological stratum in which another intends to hunt for snark.

Not only is the snark a boojum, you see; but, these are particularly my boojum. The reality of these entities in question is an epistemological one, not an ontological one; and most definitely not a phenomenological one since the answer is most emphatically about personal consciousness and not a universal. The question of the ontological and phenomenological reality of magick and magickal entities is actually irrelevant to my ability to engage with them and the utility to me and mine of that work. But, the epistemological reality of these same could be of the utmost importance. The real question is not whether these entities have some objective existence, but whether I gain knowledge and experience through the interaction, the relationship. And, moreover whether I have a justified belief in them.

So, I say it doesn’t matter, except, of course, that it does matter in a way. It may be of the utmost importance that I believe, for the efficacy of a particular magical operation, for the usefulness of any knowledge gained in the experience, one way or the other. But, the important issue is that it may also, at some other point in time-space, be equally or more important for me to believe the opposite.

One of my favourite examples of this is Goetic or Enochian work. The operation is one which I might summon specific entities, with whom I work to develop a relationship, or, in cases, mastery over. One view is that the entity has an objective existence independent of my own cognition and experience of the interaction. However, another way of viewing this: I might be simply externalizing parts of myself in order to gain the distance necessary to integrate those parts of my shadow with which I could not otherwise engage. It may be completely necessary for me to not only act as if the goetic entities are real with independent existences, but also to actually, for some period of time, be completely convinced that is an objective fact.

If for the purposes of a magickal operation, I tend to believe one way or another on the question and the operation is not successful, then it may be necessary to change my mind, alter my thinking, or, change my consciousness in accordance with my will (to sort of make a mishmash of definitions). In other words, if a particular paradigm doesn’t seem to be effective, try another. (And I can’t help but wonder how someone unable to change their consciousness in this way is capable of doing magick at all.)

Here’s where I find myself thinking about the quote from the Principia Discordia: “All statements are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense.” The corollary to this might be that in doing magick one will likely need to be pragmatic and artful about the power and limitation of dogma. (I’ll stop before I make the claim that this is also the secret not just to magick but also to peace on Earth, but – Oops. Never mind.)

The mechanism by which this happens has, for me, always been about liminality as long as I’ve known the term. But, moreover, before I really had incorporated notions of the liminal into my thinking, this is surprisingly similar to the act of acting, or rather, for me, the act of being, on stage. For me there’s a concept of an “actor’s brain” which is essentially a doubling of consciousness wherein there is both a character and an actor. Where the former cannot know certain things, the latter must know them; and the “actor’s brain” is where these paradoxical states are reconciled, co-located. Similar to the audience’s suspension of disbelief, where they simultaneously believe and disbelieve the theatrical event; the “actor’s brain” is a place where two conflicting sets of wholistic personality and understanding co-exist, and inform each other, but neither completely subsumes the other. (There are things, in my direct experience, that the character side of the “actor’s brain” knows about how to be and behave which the actor side is unable to discover or fully understand or replicate alone.) In addition to being similar in my experience to the “actor’s brain”, I find this paradigmatic liminality to also have resonance with the notion of suspension in dialogue and Bey’s notion of an autonomous zone [also], and from there a whole host of other things.

Of course, there are other paradigms of acting, to continue the simile, than mine. There are those that are merely mechanical and those that are more fully intuitive. My particular paradigm is one I operate in because of the efficaciousness of that paradigm for me. For the mechanical paradigm, I find that more about performance than ritual, and to and for me theatre is always best when it is ritualized; the mechanical paradigm seems shallow and is to treat the theatrical experience, for both actor and audience, as one of simple deception and manipulation. For the more intuitive paradigm, I find that a slippery slope to madness as so many actors get lost on that road. But, that’s about the utility of these paradigms for me. However, for all these three, there are great actors that have operated in each.

Another example that has always come to mind for me is what I’ve come to see as the Renaissance paradigm shift of astrology. There seems to me a significant paradigm shift where previously the upper determined the lower. after the renaissance, the inner determined the outer. It seems to me that the understanding of astrology radically changed as the paradigm shifts of the Renaissance did. Whereas typically a modern view of the universe is that it is determined from the inside out, that the individual mind and perception of the world, one’s consciousness of the world, changes the world; an earlier view would see the individual as being determined from the outside in, that one’s consciousness was the last mile in a cosmic broadband connection to the divine. Whereas astrology might now see the vagaries of an individual reflected in the stars, that the quirks and foibles of the self are written above, that the individual choices are helped or hindered by the influence of the spheres; it seems to me that an earlier world-view would have seen rather that the self is a reflection of the divine whole, a facet of the larger totality of the universe, that the self is a product of the functioning of the spheres. So, in an older overall paradigm, the notion that the personality of an individual would appear and be amenable to study through the outer makes a great deal of sense. On the other hand, in the newer paradigm, the direction of influence is essentially reversed. In one the stars are the environment in which one acts, and in the other the stars are an intermediate layer in which the influence of cosmic order can be traced to either end, the above or below.

Depending on what kind of information I was looking for, I might need to approach astrology in a radically different way. You know, if one does approach it at all.

Paradigms are sets of meanings derived from observations. The observations don’t really change, unless I get better or different mechanisms and methods of observation, but the value of the meanings derived from those observations is directly related to the utility and efficacy of those meanings as they apply to the work; whether that’s the work of daily living, where the notions of newtonian physics and vector maths and a sensory feedback loop are useful to me as I try to cross the street with my life, or that’s when I’m engaging in a magical operation and trying to gain some effect through affecting efficaciously.

In this way the aphorism “as above, so below”, and its corollaries and co-legates under the wings of their ruling dux, the esoteric archidoxes of the seven hermetic laws detailed in the Kybalion, are all ways of saying paradigms matter but it is not necessary to hold on to them for dear life. “As above, so below”; “as within, so without”; and even “solve et coagula” – these are also structurally the same as the interplay between Self and the Other. There is the Jungian shadow to be integrated, and the self to be absorbed into the communal.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter to me if someone else believes in my experience or not. My “unsubstantiated personal gnosis” is justified to me to the extent that it offers some utility to me. As the Book says, “Success is your proof” … The danger is that I become a victim to confirmation bias, but that’s really a separate question of the scientific rigour of my work. However, the utility of UPG requires necessarily neither that it be shared nor confirmed beyond my own practice. My ongoing personal testing of that UPG is part of the work, such that it may become, at least personally, confirmed and possibly maybe even shared, but it is that the work is that matters more than what is the work, so the necessity is of a different order. It matters not what my paradigm is, but that I have one and that it works for me in the work I need to do when I need to do it. What matters is not the reality of what I do, but the reality that I do it.

In this case, as opposed to a more strictly defined view of the sciences, replicability by others is interesting but not necessary strictly speaking for the value of my esoteric science, and the paradigm in which I operate my scientific method of the work, to be valid and sufficient. However, that’s not to say that sharing and confirming with others is not also useful both as a check on my own work, but also in participating in a community of workers on a shared syncopated operation, perhaps as in the formation of an egregor over time. But, this shared work and my personal work can exist, as much as it is possible for anything to do so since things necessarily on some level exist in relationship with each other, independently of each other. Neither is necessarily significantly diminished by not participating in a system-in-focus with the other, though those connections do necessarily exist in some larger or out-of-focus systemic relationship. In each case it doesn’t, except when it does, matter so much what I’m doing, so long as I’m doing it; and visa versa, it doesn’t matter what work the egregor does, so much that the work works.

In this way magick more closely resembles an engineering black-box problem than an effort at scientific experimental replication. Where the latter is attempting to repeat the method to arrive at the same result, the former is trying to sufficiently repeat a similar result through some method to be determined as necessary.

Therioi

I’m not sure but it’s most certainly earlier that I started being interested in etymology, but I definitely recall the effect of my meager semester of Latin from freshman year of high school. I know without a doubt that I got a couple extra answers correct on my S.A.T. because of that class.

I find myself periodically lamenting not having been able to take more Latin, but it wasn’t offered again and (really, who am I fooling?) I totally slacked off in that class anyway. I also find myself lamenting the lack of a better grounding in the classics, that I know I would have resisted had it been required, but would have no doubt utilized that often in my life had I had it.

As it is, my Latin joins my French, Spanish, Japanese, Irish, American Sign Language classes and my dabbling informally with another dozen or so (not the least of which are Klingon, Esperanto, Mohawk, and so on and on). All things at quite less than any functional basis let alone fluency, and really more closely resembling trivial acquaintances.

Anyhow, it should be no surprise that when I read years ago a poem about Star Goddess in Victor Anderson’s Thorns of the Blood Rose, I immediately parsed the name in that work, Quakoralina, into the speculative macaronic parts “quak-oral-ina” which to me immediately suggested “quake”, derived from OE cwacian meaning to “shake or tremble”, “oral”, from L os-, or- meaning “mouth”, and “-ina”, from L -ina which is a diminutive feminine ending that my dictionary safari at the time suggested could even mean “Our Lady”. So, ever since then, I’ve connected Star Goddess in Feri to a title “Our Lady Orgasm” in my own mind.

At some point in the last couple of years (apparently this was Dec 2007), I was on another dictionary safari for something or other (was I maybe looking again at the debate between the using “fora” vs. “forums”?) and tangentially ran into the Latin root fera, meaning “wild animal”, and thought of the word Feri. Previously, I’ve made sense of the name Feri through a colocation of Fae and iron and, using the Irish , for “king”, “royal Fae/iron” (Did I come up with that one or did I actually see it somewhere? Not to be confused with Iron Chef at all!) or “workers of the Fey” or as an anagram for Fire, being perhaps a hidden blue flame. But, Feri could be ferī, a masculine plural nominative of L fera, which, since the masculine is used to denote mixed genders, could now equate to “wild animals of mixed genders”. How interesting and fitting given the wild lascivious freedom said to be regained from recovering the Black Heart of Innocence.

Well, I don’t know why it took so long, but in the last couple weeks it suddenly flashed to mind that the Latin word fera is related to the Greek root thēri- which, of course, is in the word thēria, “wild beasts”, and thērion, “wild beast”, which last along with ΤΟ ΜΕΓΑ ΘΗΡΙΟΝ, “The Great Beast”, are names used by Aleister Crowley.

And, of course, now that’s present in my mind, it’s like a wild beast in its obviousness tromping through my china shop. For example, it’s plainly staring me in the face on the Wiktionary page about the Latin ferus, so how did I not see it before now?

I know it’s a speculative thing really, but this flashed to me as another possible way of creating connection and reflection for myself, at the very least through the process of hermetic drift, between the ideas and traditions of Feri and Thelema. And, you know, could conceivably, though this is not attested anywhere I’ve seen and may be controversial, be more possible evidence of some measure of influence between the two.

I probably should have said this at the outset, but better late than never: I’m not speaking from any authority about Feri; in any case, I’m only speaking from any authority to, for and from myself; my mind is my own, in several senses of meaning. I suppose at this point at most I’m an interested outsider anymore. But, at the very least this can’t be shocking to anyone else from Reclaiming or Feri that’s participated in a Gnostic Mass and therefore has surely also seen reflection of Star Goddess on the altar there, right? And, anyway, I’d already suggested this when I noted the quote in ABA of a connection between Aiwass and “the God of the Yezidis” that in turn suggests, and is further explored in the footnote in that source, Crowley had connected Aiwass with Melek Taus, including that both are “messengers”. Although not really “explicit” in the direct quote from Crowley as I wrote then, this connection is pretty damned apparently being made. In spite of an almost psychotic flurry of messages to me via every possible method of contacting me once I’d pointed it out, I was excited and surprised to have that other flash of connection then too. (Though I was quite a bit less so once I returned from being out and about and I found the hounds had started hounding and bounding around; especially after all that to then finally agree and even get enthusiastic about finding peacock feathers. Yeah, not that I’ve anything against hounds per se, but I’m really more of a cat person, my own self.)

(I’d sure like to get my eyes on a list of books that were in Victor Anderson’s library out of curiosity! It seemed like there was some idea of a list in something I read about pentacles and trees by Valerie Walker)

And, through backpropagation, as a Greek equivalent to the Latin, I can also personally see using Therioi as an equivalent to Feri.

Update 30mar10 @ 8:07am:

I keep meaning to note somewhere and never seem to find a place, and here is at least as good as anywhere, if not topical: every time I see Liber AL II.28, I am struck by the homonym/synonym there:

“None, breathed the light, faint & færy, of the stars, and two.”

So not to be all, you know, interpretive of Liber AL, but, one could say the light of the stars is faint and færy; the light is star goddess. Nuit is a færy light. And, elsewhere one could find that her colour is black, but really blue and gold.

You know, just sayin’.

Paradigms

Way back in the day, I studied the philosophy of science. I also studied the sciences. I pretty much left it behind as an active study, but these things informed and inform and will continue to inform my engagement with the world. My youth was informed by scientific study and my childhood informed by the character Spock. You know, that counts for something, anyway. I do not now consider myself to be a scientist, though I feel that I continue to apply a scientific attitude in my engagement with the world. So, I sometimes find it a bit surreal when I’m accused of being otherwise.

In specific, I’ve come to understand that I engage the world informed by the science and scientific method I’ve learned, and an attitude of scientific philosophy, which is at odds with the deathly serious certainty held by defenders of a religious faith in science, or, more generally, anything at all, I suppose. Even more generally, I feel I’m an edge-seeking thinker, looking at and wondering about those places where anomalies demonstrate the vulnerability of paradigms to shift. (The particle to the wave of that is that this same thinking is also pattern-seeking.) I think that means that I hanker to have a, sadly twarted, healthy humour, in myself and others, about accuracy. One thing I do is experiment with how rules breakdown in interesting ways and what that means. You know, I’m a Munkchin. (Anyone interfering? 3 … 2 … 1 … Time’s up! I kill Medusa and gain a level.)

I suppose defenders of the faith tend to feel a paranoid kind of fear of anyone, so I shouldn’t take it personally, willing to look for anomalies, or who point out the difference between fanatic faith in one, true paradigm and the real method and philosophy of science. And, they are happy to externalize their feverish insecurity onto others by claiming they’ve got the truth of a thing and anyone that is even willing to question that thing is at some kind of fault. You know, that’s usually when the righteous accuse other people of being witches, of some kind or another. Sometimes those accusations are purely out of fear. Other times those are out of some measure of strategy and sociopathology. The former is merely sad, the later, however, is most scary and something to validly take personally and seriously since it is thwartsome of liberty of thought.

The predictable fiasco that follows this realization is that defenders of the faith, machiavellian or otherwise, in a pique of persecution complex, then preemptively, or at least with more melodrama and passive-aggressive forum shopping, breathlessly turn about and accuse those intolerant of intolerance of being intolerant instead, and thus the whole thing devolves into a recedingly bizarre and sinister farce from which the only escapes are taking names and tossing people to the lions. (See Crowley’s new comment on Liber AL II,57. Unfortunately, I’m all out of lions. Does a ginger tabby suffice? “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” I need to refill my hipster PDA, it’s getting full of names.)

I keep meaning to go back to my notes and figure out all the texts that were required in my philosophy of science course, but the only one I remember for certain is Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

The ideas introduced by Kuhn have been misused quite a bit, and the ubiquity and emptiness of most usage of the terms “paradigm” and “paradigm shift” has greatly damaged the utility of these term and the original ideas. Because of misuse, many valid and important points about and supported by these ideas made may be misheard or ignored.

Paradigms are internally coherent models which explain sets of observed phenomena. The knowledge, observation, of phenomena is understood within the context of a paradigm, and are made sense of through the coherence of a particular scientific model. A paradigm shift does not change the observed phenomena, but it does change the understanding, the meaning, derived from the phenomena.

This is the difference between knowledge and understanding. Understanding is changed through scientific revolutions when paradigms shift. Phenomena only change when the method of observation is improved, and then it is not really the phenomena that change but rather the observation of them.

There are those that legitimately toil within a paradigm, doing the day to day work that is involved with applying the implications of a particular paradigm in an almost mechanical way. They mainly and merely seek verification of their current paradigm, usually through application, and maybe occasionally the falsification of another. I know my personal bias is showing here; I’m sure it’s all quite rewarding to those that tautologically find it rewarding.

There are also edge-seekers willing and able to do new science. By a willingness to contemplate anomalies, and the possibility of falsifiability or inexplicability within a current paradigm, edge-seekers are able to approach with a real scientific attitude the interchangeability of paradigms. A paradigm is useful to the extent that it explains phenomena, and harmful when held onto in spite of or in the face of falsification or inexplication.

But, I’ve also noticed, you probably have too, that there are defenders of the faith. These are the ones that use the banner of science to champion a particular paradigm as truth instead of using the method and philosophy of science to become more accurate (see xkcd 701, including the hoverover, for one clue to discern the difference: as opposed to waving the banner of “science”, the use of actual science does not always give welcome answers to the wielder). These defenders are devoted to discovering nothing that upsets their existing paradigm and are so very often over-willing to do what it takes to prove that to others, with a fanatic’s frisson and fervor.

Defenders of the faith seem to be focused on purity of doctrine and sub-cultural identity maintenance. That’s not the method or philosophy of science. It’s definitely also not minding one’s own business. It’s being a busybody, both sneakily behind people’s backs and but also brazenly in the open, and then running as quickly as possible to touch the flag pole of “science” as a rhetorical convenience only when necessary to avoid being tagged “it”.

(I suppose to be fair there’s also, to fill out the obvious fourth frame, those that don’t use science at all, and so on. These might be called kooky, whereas the defenders of the faith are creepy; neither are Addamses [also], but I also suppose it’s no mystery that both are kind of ooky. But, I further suppose, as long as there’s Wednesdays around, I’m kinda cool with this fourth.)

The key to scientific revolutions here is the rough ashlar, the anomaly, the notion that all paradigms contain their own seeds of destruction, in that they cannot and do not explain everything. You know, say it with me: they are maps, not territories. But, that failure becomes a fulcrum for the builders. Paradigms are meanings derived from sets of observations, theories derived from observations. It is the anomaly that initiates change, and the power of the scientific attitude is an active spirit that is both able and willing to go to those edges and contemplate change by climbing to the top of the pyramid just to see from a different perspective, with all the other potential benefits that accrue therefrom as a bonus. And, the stone rejected by the defenders of the faith becomes the foundation of a new temple, levered into place on the fulcrum of change.

It’s important to also understand here the difference between function and form. Real scientific attitude does not prejudge or prejudice the form that is derived from the function of thought, but rather only the method by which the function of scientific thought is enacted. Rather, it is the religious faith of science which prejudges and prejudices the function of thought to condition the form derived therefrom. Mind, both are subject to the human condition, which could lead to a wide tangent discussing metaphysical concepts. But, since these metaphysical concerns are the same for both cases, I chose to make my calculus on the differential. Scientific method and attitude is a function that does not determine, aside from metaphysical concerns, form.

Eventually, people pushing one, true paradigm end up saying or doing ridiculous things to defend the privileged position they’ve given their pet. The example that springs to mind most strongly is the possibly apocryphal example, heard through reading Robert Anton Wilson (What book was that, anyway? Was it The Earth Will Shake or Cosmic Trigger?), of the committee which consistently dismissed evidence of meteors because the idea of a meteor did not fit the prevailing paradigm. This is an egregious example of the defenders of a faith rejecting observation in order to preserve a paradigm, but no doubt there are many other and other less egregious examples throughout history.

The notion that all paradigms have limited boundaries of applicability, that they contain their own sets of inexplicability, means that the activity of defending a paradigm as one true anything is inherently nonsensical and illogical and unscientific. And, vehement hatred of other paradigms, or those operating within different paradigms, is bogglingly, self-evidently, torturously backward to the very idea and philosophy of science. It seems to me, that kind of vehement hate is a failure of humanity to live up to the potential afforded by the idea and philosophy of science as a function which liberates them from tyranny of form determined for them by faith.

The implication of this structure of scientific revolutions suggests to me is that the people of the world need is not advocacy, violent or otherwise, of another one, true paradigm; but, rather to grow up and evolve to the point that they don’t have the maniacal need for there to be one, true paradigm. Like Herbert’s last book written in the Dune series, it’s the messianic impulse from which humanity ultimately needs to be and becomes free. We need to be free from the tyranny over ideas and thought and understanding that the notion of one paradigm to rule them all implies and requires.

Real science, science that is honest with and about itself, recognizes that understanding is always provisional, and susceptible to radical revision at any point not just when new, unexplained phenomenon are observed; but further that the same phenomena could at any point be explained simultaneously via radically different paradigms. And, that observation is dependent on methods and tools which can never be perfect or exact but rather are more or less accurate, always have a margin for error and have a mechanism of observation which can be questioned.

Real science is a fiery liberation of thought; not thought shackled to a rock, perpetually pecked at by birds. Whether out of revenge or not, being shackled for thinking is the ultimate reward for standing idle in the face of defenders of the faith victorious. Being pecked by birds is the constant conscious reminder of paradigmatic anomalies ignored. The only escape is escape. Either break those chains or refuse them in the first place; or be resigned to fate and hope for rescue, like some outmoded formula of the damsel in distress in a tattered prom dress.

And this, to me, is the difference between a real scientific attitude, the function of science, and the rigid form of religious faith in science. A religious faith in science conflates observed phenomena and the understanding that is derived from those phenomena. And, the religious faith in science approaches both phenomena and understanding with various levels of non-skeptical certainty. A real scientific attitude recognizes that the accuracy of observation is never exact, but is conditioned by the qualities of observation. A real scientific attitude recognizes that understanding derived from observation is always provisional in the face of additional or more accurate observations, including the possibility of a need for radical paradigm shift to explain new phenomena. A real scientific attitude generally seems always skeptical not certain. A religious faith in science generally seems always certain not skeptical. Real science seems to express itself in its followers through rigourous methods but flexible understanding. A religious faith in science seems to express itself in its followers through ruthless methods and rigid understanding. A real scientific attitude is adaptable and ecstatic, whereas a religious faith in science is as atrophied as any foolish lover of Medusa ever was.

I think I bring, as best as I am able, the ever-provisional understanding of this theoretical structure to the way that I engage the world, others and myself. While I generally feel it’s the best thing for me to do (except when it’s not), I’m also open to the possibility that can change for me. To the extent that I have my liberty of thought undiminished by another’s rigidity and faith, my attitude does not require others to do as I do or think as I think. However, I suspect I will continue to be vocally intolerant of intolerance to myself, or to those around me whether close to me or not, when I encounter it. At least, until I get more lions. Or, find a way to tolerantly chop off Medusa’s head.

Heliocentricity

I’ve found myself thinking off and on over the [insert your favourite lengthy time interval here] about calendars. I’ve been interested in various calendars at various times, for some value of “interested” which ranges from genuine curiosity to amusement. A few of the calendars that come to mind off-hand which I’ve found interesting include the history of the Gregorian, the Discordian calendar, (although not strictly a calendar rather than a system of coordinated metric time) the Swatch @Beat, various cultural/ritual Lunar calendars, the 13 Moon calendar, the French Revolutionary calendar, and, recently, the Thelemic calendar.

Believe me when I say that I’ve gone on many an Internet safari looking over various articles and also seeking a pocket watch which only displays the solar and lunar locations, at the minimal, or more recently offers the functions of a planetarium.

Among the various thoughts I’ve had recently is the increasing sense that the Gregorian calendar appears to me to be more heliocentric than the Thelemic calendar. The Thelemic calendar system is supposed to be more appropriate than the Gregorian for a heliocentric age as it is purported to escape the unscientific notion of geocentric arrangement in the heavens. Of course, the reality of scientifically appropriate and accurate relativism means that any point can be the apparent center around which things more or less orbit, even if Occam’s Razor does preference some answers over others, but to intentionally build a system which places that point of reference at a solar center requires a notation that reflects that viewpoint, not another; or else the message of the system undermines what it is meant to mean.

The indicators for the Thelemic calendar are the zodiacal house and degree in which the Sun appears and the house with the degree in which the Moon appears, both of which are notations of the apparent path of those bodies through the heavens as they move from the vantage point of the Earth. This notation represents the viewpoint that the Sun and Moon move, or at least tracks their apparent movement as if from a stationary Earth. Although this does use the only two celestial bodies for which retrograde motion isn’t an apparent issue, which is merely a mask that the model still presents this phenomena if other bodies are looked at in the very same way, it’s still from the perspective of those bodies moving as if around Earth. This calendar also has the further disadvantage of not necessarily being coordinated universal time, and instead can offer not only different calendar notations from different places on Earth, but is also ambiguously unclear about whether the notation is from one place on Earth. For example, one might use the Thelemic time server to read out time from a coordinated time or from the apparent notation where the observer is standing on Earth. Again, this is not only ambiguous but is conditional based on the apparent movement of the heavens as it appears from some point on earth. That’s pretty darned geocentric for a system adopted in order to represent a heliocentric intent.

A discussion of this notation as a way of “tracking of the sun and moon through the zodiac” can be found at Thelemapedia’s Calendar article. The specificity of the system clearly implies a mobile Sun and Moon from the viewpoint of the Earth and the observer.

The Gregorian calendar, however, is actually a bit more ambivalent. It could be said of the Gregorian calendar that the year marks the point at which the Sun returns to the same point in the sky as viewed from Earth, but could also be said to represent the Earth returning to the same point along its orbit around a stationary Sun. The advantage here is that whether from a stationary Earth or a stationary Sun, the notation is the same, and thus is flexibly useful across paradigms. Further, the notation is universally coordinated for users of the same calendar except for the minor caveat of the International Date Line. Thus, since the Gregorian calendar is, aside from a minor issue, more universally coordinated (not talking about the clock here, but the calendar) no matter where on Earth one is, and can be said to represent the journey of the Earth around a stationary Sun, it is definitely more heliocentric than the Thelemic calendar.

In other words, one of the useful things about the status quo Gregorian system is that it is amenable to various paradigms of thought on centricism. This flexibility of meaning, this ambivalence, is part of the system’s longevity. Any novel proposal must somehow overcome this utilitarian and somewhat universal appeal to have any hope of general adoption.

However, and here’s a comparative-benefit alternative affirmative case, there’s a way to create a more heliocentric calendar than either the Gregorian or Thelemic systems. Simply use instead the apparent house and degree of the Earth from the viewpoint of the Sun, instead of the apparent house and degree of the Sun from the viewpoint of the Earth. Essentially, this is diametrically opposite a position in the sky from the Thelemic notation of the Sun from a geocentric position. This is nicely metaphorical and poetical, since the one-hundred and eighty degree dichotomy neatly mirrors breaking from geocentric to heliocentric as well moving radically between Aeons.

(I’ll avoid the obvious preciousness of calling this alternative the Griogairian system. “Oops! … I did it again.”)

For the minor indicator, one could use the Moon, assuming the realization that this is as the Moon travels about the mobile Earth, which makes some sense to me since it nicely echos the Collect language, “… so that we may in our particular orbit give out light and life to them that revolve about us …” [see], but using a lunar notation from the viewpoint of the Earth is by definition geocentric, even if it is the minor index of the notation, and thus counter to the intent of switching to a heliocentric model; and, a lunar position from the viewpoint of the Sun would just simply be unreasonably confusing, violating Occam’s Razor, and thus run counter to the intent of switching to a more rational, modern and scientific calendar.

One might decide instead to use for the minor index, say, the house and degree of fast moving Mercury’s apparent position from the viewpoint of the Sun. Mercury, the messenger, king of jesters and jester to kings, as it dances like a crazed piper close to the throne of the gravity well. (Mercury sure holds appeal for me because of that correspondence, if this were about advocating my own personal system. But, there may actually be something which will remain unexplored here about using personally or situationally relevant planetary influences to mark time.) Another possibility is to use Mars, since there’s some correspondence with Ra-Hoor-Khuit that is particularly sub-culturally relevant. But, the point remains that the major indicator should be the movement of the Earth around the apparently stationary Sun, or else the notation is simply not heliocentric, in spite of claims otherwise.

One could go further, and like the concentric rings of the Mayan calendar stone, develop a notation for larger periodic movements. The precession of the equinoxes may not be suitable, since it’s the apparent precession from the viewpoint of the Earth; but, could be used for its symbolic relation to the Aeons. Another option is to develop some indicator based on the travels of the Sun around the galactic core, but the gap between the cycle of the Earth around the Sun to the cycle of the Sun around the galactic core may simply be too wide to be useful. Perhaps one of the other planets as it moves around the Sun, or the periodicity of a particular comet, would be suitably longer in period while still being a notation from the viewpoint of the Sun. The most useful of these longer periodic movements would be ones that could be verified visually in some fashion through reasonable astronomical observation and some calculation, instead of something that would not be verifiable through some observational technique or only through calculations.

It seems to me the Thelemic calendar actually moves further away from a heliocentric notation, not toward it; and fails to provide a suitable universally coordinated notation, since it offers two plausible notations for date-time at each geographic location.

For example, depending whether I am using my timezone or not as my point of view, January 1, 2010 EV at 00:00:00 could appear as either (using no offset):

Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 13° Cancri : dies Veneris : Anno IVxvii æræ novæ

or (using an improbable, but funny, offset of -666 minutes, near the International Date Line):

Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 20° Cancri : dies Veneris : Anno IVxvii æræ novæ

Further, January 1, 2001 EV at 00:00:00 could appear as either (using no offset):

Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 18° Piscis : dies Lunæ : Anno IVviii æræ novæ

or (again using an improbable, but funny, offset of -666 minutes, near the International Date Line):

Sol in 11° Capricorni : Luna in 24° Piscis : dies Lunæ : Anno IVviii æræ novæ

While these examples only demonstrate differences by degree, other specific times on this planet will also have more dramatic differences in zodiac as well, but certainly minute and second. And, to be fair, the documentation of the Thelemic Time Server does make clear that the difference in degree based on location on Earth is negligible, natheless it does exist. And, since we’re talking about science, accuracy is a matter of sensitivity in measurement.

And, most importantly, notice that the canonical Thelemic notation offers no indication of what offset is being used, are approximately twice as long, and are more syntactically complex than the alternative status quo. Canonical date-time in Gregorian would generally offer some time zone indication, be shorter, and quicker to parse. It’s possible that the time and time zone would be also specified in conjunction to the Thelemic notation, but this would mean using neither canonical nor purely Thelemic notation.

These examples of Thelemic notation also mix diversely different symbol sets, since each have different bases. There’s base-10, base-12, base-26, and so on. There’s alphabetical and numeric and symbolic. This notation also mixes two languages which makes it either detached from the vernacular or else makes it pseudo-Latin. These two points alone suggest that the notation is unnecessarily complex and not well designed.

It may be worth noting here also that by being more granular than the smallest unit used by the Gregorian, a day, the Thelemic calendar is actually overlapping two different systems. The Thelemic calendar actually offers a granularity which requires two systems under the status quo, the Gregorian calendar and the system of time told by a clock. This might seem to be a useful simplification, but rather, and very often, the Thelemic calendar system is used in conjunction with times given by clock, thus it does not actually simplify over the symbiotic relationship between calendar and clock of the status quo since that relationship is maintained. Also, generally, the proponents of the Thelemic calendar do not rail against the clock, rather only against the calendar of the status quo; so, those proponents cannot be said to actually be proposing the simplification of dissolving the two into one … at least, um, in this case.

Further, it’s worth noting that the Thelemic date system is computationally obfuscated when compared to common numerical representations of the Gregorian date system in the same way that the Roman numeral system is computationally obfuscated when compared to the Arabic numeral system, as there is no canonically correct way to note a Thelemic date in purely numerical notation [see]. Whereas, for example, even the 13 Moon calendar has a computationally useful canonical notation, such as representing December 20, 2012 as:

12.19.19.17.19

which is computationally convenient. That’s not to say that the Thelemic notation is impossible, as is clearly demonstrated by the reverse lookup facility of the Thelemic Time Server [see]; but, rather that it’s more obfuscated and thus has less comparative utility because it does not offer a clear and canonical numerical notation.

For example, a decimal notation for the Thelemic calendar could be something like:

ANO::CC:DD:MM:SS::CC:DD:MM:SS

where the order is from greater to lesser, with year first followed by the major index and then minor index (which, by the way, is also disordered in the current Thelemic notation as major, minor and then followed by the greatest index of year). The first CDMS is the constellation, degree, minute and second of the major index, and the second is the second; and finally the digital representation of the Thelemic years since The Equinox of the Gods in 1904. This notation could be used in a less granular way, say by dropping minutes and seconds, like representing January 1, 2001 EV at 00:00:00 (using no offset) as:

96::10:10::12:18

(which means Sun in 10° Capricorn and Moon in 18° Pisces in the year 96). Additionally, for even more granularity, the seconds could include decimal fractions.

“96::10:10::12:18” is significantly simpler, of greater utility, and more concise than “Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 18° Piscis : dies Lunæ : Anno IVviii æræ novæ”. This decimal notation is also less obfuscated and still simpler and of greater utility than the more abbreviated Thelemic notation which uses mixed symbol sets of alphabet and zodiac. Obvious proof of this is that this decimal notation could appear on a simple LED digital clock and be understood.

Therefore, it seems to me a reasonable conclusion that a more properly heliocentric time notation than either the Thelemic or Gregorian calendars offer would be to use the universally coordinated, and unambiguous, position of the Earth relative to the Sun instead of the apparent position of the Sun relative to the Earth.

I also feel it worth reflecting on the fact that in general novel time and calendar systems have to my eyes failed because they are more complex, and thus more unwieldy, or less precise, and thus less useful, than the status quo system of notation and calculation. For example, the Swatch @Beat was actually less granular than the standard second, though it was universally coordinated and metric; and that lack of granularity actually was one reason, but certainly not the only, why it did not develop a wider following. (Another relevant criticism of the Swatch @Beat was that while it was universally coordinated, it used as the mean the location of Swatch HQ in Biel, CH. Using an UTC based on Boleskine in a Thelemic system would also be subject to this same criticism.) In this case, the Thelemic calendar appear to fail, as demonstrated above, to improve on the Gregorian calendar system in both of these areas: ease and precision. It fails ease because of the difficulty of conversion and use in daily activities for general application. It fails in precision because it requires much more notation to mark precise date-time, and even if a more precise degree is noted with both minutes and seconds the notation is still of ambiguous offset.

Obviously a ritual or religious calendar has less necessary need to oblige the users with general ease and unambiguous precision than a civic or secular calendar; but offering both is something that will aid in the cross-over of a primarily religious calendar into common use for civic and secular purposes.

But, even aside from these issues, the Thelemic calendar fails to actually deliver on the intent of being more suitable to a heliocentric worldview because it is actually quite geocentric in notation. The claim that the Thelemic calendar notation is more heliocentric that the Gregorian is simply false, and there is a demonstrably better notation in which it is possible to be more heliocentric than the Thelemic calendar. Though this alternative I’ve explored does not answer the issues of ease or precision either, my alternative suggestion succeeds as a comparative benefit because it more fully meets the intent toward heliocentricity.

A true and obvious advance in ease and precision is needed from any novel proposal in order to have the chance for civic and secular adoption, and the current Thelemic calendar system and notation does not meet that test of modern utility and applicability no matter how laudable as a poetic, symbolically-rich, religiously significant or qualitative system it may be. This and it’s utility to sub-cultural identity formation by simply being different actually seem counter-productive to adoption in the mainstream of the core meaning of heliocentricity.

Conclusions

Not only does the current Thelemic calendar and notation system fail to best the Gregorian for utility and adoption, but it also fails to be the best way to present a heliocentric model and paradigm when compared to either the Gregorian or an alternative. In fact, the Thelemic system is not only geocentric but also opaquely observer-location dependent; which would fit with the Aeon of the Child if it were indicated, but would be even less convenient or universally coordinated.

Based on this thinking, I have a few concluding suggestions that might be adopted to improve the Thelemic calendar and notation system. One or more of the following could be adopted:

  • Change the major index to the heliocentric model by rather noting which constellation the Earth is in from the viewpoint of the Sun, which would be canonically and clearly heliocentric.
  • Change the minor index to the heliocentric model of noting which constellation some other body, Mercury or Mars, is in orbit around and from the viewpoint of the Sun. It would be nice for this minor index to offer at least as much, if not more, granularity than a clock in order to allow the simplification of resolving both calendar and clock into a single system, but if one continues to use a clock in symbiosis then that is not as necessary a feature, and perhaps even undesirable to have overlap.
  • Consider adding an even longer index, such as the Great Year or more to the point some index which represents the motion of the Sun around the galactic core, which adds that the Sun also moves, not around the Earth, but around another larger center.
  • Create a standard decimal notation which uses only numerals in base-10 with only the minimally necessary punctuation for clarity, such as ANO::CC:DD:MM:SS::CC:DD:MM:SS or optionally ANO::CC:DD::CC:DD when less granularity is needed. Even if the larger issue of the model isn’t made more heliocentric, the utility of a simple decimal notation added to the status quo for both humans and machines would be an improvement.
  • If an actual heliocentric model and notation is not adopted, at the least the existing system could be standardized on an universally coordinated viewpoint, from Boleskine for example. This would mean that there would be no ambiguity about parallax from one location on Earth to another. Otherwise, some method of indicating offset should be included in the current Thelemic notation.
  • Beyond all of the above, knowing that a nano-century is PI seconds long, means to me that the Gregorian system is cool and interesting. Some detractors of the Gregorian system (especially the 13 Moon people who are constantly crying that “it makes no sense!”) tend to miss how interesting it actually is and might consider being more friendly and knowledgeable about the historicity and story of it.
  • In general, detractors of the Gregorian system (especially the 13 Moon people) seem to not know much about other more or less modern attempts to change calendaring systems. Becoming more familiar with those other attempts might offer insights into why they weren’t effective that can be used to further reflect on the calendar change they support, and offer ways to modify their proposal to be more likely adopted.

Update 21jan2010 @ 2:44pm:

Clay F. suggests to me that the paradigm for the Thelemic system is egocentric not heliocentric, which is a possible paradigmatic meaning of the system.

However, while the Thelemic system is inherently observer-dependent, it fails to note even the possible use of the offset of the observer, if used at all, and thus does not clearly specify an egocentric over geocentric paradigm. Thus, if it is meant to be egocentric, it also fails at that. To succeed it should include at least the offset, but might fully specify the location on Earth by latitude and longitude and maybe something about which individual it is that is making the observation, such as a short biographical statement or motto. But, a truly egocentric model would include epicycles, and other subjective notions. Even Earth would be tumbling about underneath Ego like a spirograph. Oh, so very post-modern in a neo-romantic way. But, then it continues to fail utility and convenience, and is still and moreso certainly not likely to be widely adopted.

He also pointed out that another issue I didn’t mention with the minor lunar index is that it is not unique to a particular date, and that without more accurate notation, a particular solar and lunar set of degree can reoccur for times separated by a lunar month. His suggestion to resolve this specific fault is to drop the lunar index but include the planetary day in the notation, such as “sol in 1° aq., dies jovis”.

He also pointed out as an oddity that the Thelemic system is using the tropical not sidereal zodiac.

Update 25jan2010 @ 9:54am:

Stephen C. suggests an interesting possible paradigmatic shift for the Thelemic system which didn’t really occur to me, and that is to see the system as not to really focused on the observer location but on Sun as being in the center on a line between Earth and the sign.

This is sort of seeing the relationship as being like a teeter-toter, with Sun as a pivot, or fulcrum. Instead of Sun constantly cock-blocking the current constellation, like a cat always trying to sit between you and the TV, Earth and the current degree along the zodiac chase each other around Sun, like Enterprise and Reliant around Regula I in The Wrath of Khan. There’s something about this that seems interestingly reminiscent of the notion of an alternate Earth in the opposite orbit from Earth prime, hanging out in L3, like divine brothers, sons of Sun, battling over solar inheritance. There’s also something to this that seems appropriate to the switch from LVX to NOX, with a persistent shadow of sorts marking time as a celestial-scale sundial.

However, I think if this were the paradigm one wanted to suggest, then the notation might better reflect that by iconographically representing this relationship. It also doesn’t address the other issues about which I made suggestions.

Thelemic marriage

There’s been lots of talk about whether vulgar events should be celebrated, whether holy days or holidays, at the lodge. But, should events that people are going to do anyway remain unmolested by Thelemites? For Thelemites to ignore them is to say it is better to have these events occur without explicit and overt Thelemic themes and relationship, than to have them but inject them with Thelemic philosophy so that they are infected with something more than an unexamined and old way of being in the world. A perennial example is the hand wringing over whether to have some event at the lodge for Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve, which I feel is an example of the dangerous slide toward alienation from engaging in and living in the world while at the same time to not celebrate them with the contagious virus of a Thelemic message is to leave these things unexamined from an intentional, experimental, and hopefully radical social perspective.

Recently at the lodge we’ve had several weddings. These events were beautiful ceremonies were two people celebrated their desire to be joined together. However, the ceremonies themselves, while appearing to be Thelemic, being part of a Gnostic Mass, and being based on the unofficial wedding ceremony by Helena and T. Apiryon, even after all that, really did not seem to me to fully realize an explicit expression that the result of the event was different than any of the other many marriages past or present.

One can apologize for the ceremony, for example by saying that it merely celebrates publicly an existing natural union, but even that need for apology just further demonstrates an essential disconnect that isn’t fully or sufficiently expressed or resolved. And, even the apology for form doesn’t itself realize a distinction between natural union and the lineage of marriage in intent. If a ritual design doesn’t clearly and conclusively enact the intent, then it’s not the right rite.

There’s also been a recent series of interesting exploration from a Thelemic perspective over at AC2012 of same-sex marriage, which then also necessarily reflects more generally on the idea of marriage itself.

I remember reading A History of the Wife and hoping for a happy ending which never came. Traditional weddings are events which already and obviously reflect many outmoded ideas not commonly held as well as many lingering vestigial notions still cherished. Marriages tend to include a lot of cultural baggage, including the ownership and oppression of women. They are commercial enterprises wrapped around commercial transactions. They are life-long commitments. They are monogamous.

As transactions, marriage is human trafficking. Although there are actually few cases, perhaps notably marriages of convenience, where any of the primary focus of the union is on a financial exchange or economic arrangement; the human transaction is mostly historical in the West, but continues in many cultures as a transition of ownership. (Mind, this is wholly different than the massive industry of marriage, which is focused entirely on the financial to the exclusion of the human, but that’s a fortiori!) The historic bride-as-property is still, however, some of the baggage of marriage; and, the protected, gated community of legal marriage is a de facto function of privilege and prejudice which offers social and economic bribes to the happy couple for playing along in the pantomime of putting others down.

As life-long, marriage is dead. Divorce and cuckolding rates alone disprove that marriage is actually what it pretends to be as a life-long commitment and that’s enough to move on, though more could be said. But, at least, divorce and cuckolding offer some kind of discharge from, to name a few fates, misery or suttee. And, for the most part we’ve laudably managed as a culture to give people a more reasonable chance to grow up before locking them in the first place into a myth without rational escape from emotional damage when things don’t work out, by jettisoning underage and arranged marriages. But, these escapes and modifications merely represent the frayed edges of the moth-eaten tapestry which still hides the truth that marriage as life-long is essentially escapist fiction.

As monogamous, marriage is impossible. (Or, at least impossibly rare!) Most people misuse the term ‘monogamy’. Its literal meaning is one marriage or union, but has come in common use to describe the habit of ‘one partner at a time’. And yet, people find it necessary to create sub-classifications such as ‘serial monogamy’ to clarify; but even that is technically an oxymoron. If either participant has ever had another partner in their life, then they cannot be called monogamous. If they ever take another partner in the future, then they are not ultimately monogamous. Again, the rates of divorce and cuckolding put the lie to this notion. The occasional diminishing exceptions, where not suspect, are remarkable, which remarkableness is merely more proof of this point.

Marriage itself as a term and a sacrament is not rationally based. The cultural understanding of what marriage is, is false on the face of it. It’s a lie of convenience. My tendency is to blame the whole thing on advertising and consumerist culture, but it could just be that people want to believe the romantic notions in spite of reality. But, that’s a form of insanity.

Marriage has always been about restriction. It’s a restriction of person as property, a restriction to bind people to unnatural behaviour, and it is an economic and social restriction. How much more un-Thelemic can it get than that?

Frankly, I think no government should have any say in who can or cannot consensually marry. (Mind, this is wholly and completely separate from legal protections from and punishments for abuse or rape, which should still stand severe.) All legal definitions and delineation of marriage should be abolished. The legal construct of marriage is used as a way of creating second class citizens, previously and still the wife and now moreover those excluded, and is a form which should be dissolved.

However, if abolition of marriage is not possible in general, then it should for Thelemites be specifically and consciously injected with more overt and explicit Thelemic meaning. It should be rationally based on the essential impossibility of exclusivity and the myth of monogamy. The institution needs to undergo a radical analysis and the ritual written to read aloud a radical message, or the event simply weakly represents the participants’ resignation to, and ratifies, a status quo of restriction. Unless it’s radically redrawn, it’s ritualized recidivism.

So if ‘monogamy’ is a lie and the term is misused, how does one talk about ‘one partner at a time’?

In the poly community, one way of talking about partners is to say, for example, “my primary partner, and I’m not seeking others now.” There’s language in the Gnostic Mass [see, also] which may be useful, as the language of the Collects. One can say a partner is “chosen and preferred”.

So if marriage is not of the things that it pretends, what could it be?

It is my view that marriage is a magical oath. It is an activity taken on for a particular period of time for a particular purpose. It is an inter-, intra-, extra- and supra-personal act of magick.

That is not to say that in the new aeon people cannot chose to be exclusive partners. After all, the collect offers “chosen and preferred”. However, a rationally based notion of marriage would contemplate explictly that the nature of relationships change, that people change, and that oaths are worthy experiments which are not always successful in accord with their worth as opportunities to learn.

The purpose of a magical oath is to learn, to grow, to experiment. It is a method of self-discovery. And, it’s one that can be made with any other regardless of any category, or even alone. And, moreover, a magical oath requires no artificial legal or religious structures to keep people in or to keep people out.

When celebrated in this way, marriage can be rational and ritual, and can be renewed, in a year and a day or at some other periodicity, but is no longer a form of social, economic, mental or spiritual slavery of self or others.

At the same time, I recognize that I have still my own romantic notions to dispel, and my tears at witnessing these recent wedding ceremonies were full of yearning for myself, for another, for together; but it seems, within the current context of marriage, these are the remnants of cultural conditioning. Contrary to that conditioning, I still believe there’s a profound place for such ritual and magick union, and yearning for union, but not marriage at the price of being unconscious or silent about the implications.

(Hat-tip to Fr. Khabs Kaos for the conversation which led to writing.)

Andromeda Klein is unrepentantly and uniquely kickass.

Andromeda Klein

I ran into mention of Frank Portman‘s Andromeda Klein in one of my various frequent search safaris. Here was a “young adult” novel that showed up on my radar because of a surfeit of esoteric references. It seemed unlikely that the story would live up to the seriousness of the references that brought it to my attention. But, even the first few pages seemed thick with terms that most readers might not manage to get past.

For just a minor example, in the first few pages one runs into references to Hermes Trismegistus, Thoth, Mrs. John King van Rensselaer, the ancient Egyptian city Hermopolis, mention and description of several specific tarot cards including Two of Swords, the term ‘soror’, the Warburg Institute, A. E. Waite, Aleister Crowley, Francis Yates, Pamela Coleman Smith, Celtic Cross spread, the Qabalah, some Hebrew letters, the world of Yetzirah, the Sephera Chokmah, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Giordano Bruno, Madame Blavatsky, witches, Lemurians, gnomes … and, not last or least, bone disease. This is all within the first ten pages … of a young adult novel.

I mean, I’m into this stuff and so I can hardly imagine what it would be like to read this story if I were coming to it fresh without background. Picking up this book for a newbie must be a bit like going into an initiation of sorts. One might have some sense of the general idea that’s going to be explored, but the specifics are going to be a surprise unless you’re the kind that ruins that sense of adventure by reading ahead. But even still, there’s this sense that things just won’t necessarily make sense right away, and maybe only make sense after doing research over time.

King Dork

And, the story is definitely thick with references and only some of them are explained at all. My initial thought was that for the generation that’s never been without google or wikipedia, that’d be a good thing … reason to look stuff up and find things on their own. It definitely doesn’t apologize for the data, and after finishing the novel (in spite of the glossary unceremoniously placed at the end) there are many references that aren’t explained. Seems like the author’s first novel, King Dork might be a bit like that too, actually; including having a glossary at the end, but with different kinds of references. Frank Portman seems to not make much by way of concession in talking down to the reader. That’s actually kinda refreshing. I’m not sure it’s the best strategy for a nominally “young adult” novel, but it’s definitely different. And, really, why not have a difference from the bazillion bland books being bandied about by bookshops as hopefully half a fraction as attractive as Harry Potter, books heavy on the fantasy but light on the quality. Here’s a book that takes the laudable chance that standing out, and being different, is worth it in the end. But, this doesn’t seem to be a book for kids. Definitely this seems like something for an older target audience than kids, and, indeed, the suggested age is 14 and up. But then again, kids nowadays …

Okay, except, here’s one thing that struck me. The cover of this book seems to have a gratuitous lightning bolt.

Andromeda Klein detail

My first reaction was that It seems an annoying thing if the only reason that’s there is to resonate with Harry Potter fans. There’s no reason for it that I recall from the story, so it seems simply to be deceptive visual marketing. I’m not saying the cover isn’t nice. I like it.

Andromeda Klein EP

Frankly, I like the cover of the two song EP [also,et], which music was composed and sung the author, better as visual art, but the book does have a nice cover design, though not spectacular. Again, it’s different than the many copycat covers trying to simply knock off the Harry Potter cover styles, but in a way that kind of makes the superfluous lightning bolt even more cheap as a design choice. Then again, it occurs to me that I can rationalize the cover as a graffiti riff off the Harry Potter cover font and design, with a self-consciously mutilated printed page; that is to say, this could represent a DIY-culture statement of self-conscious identity both claiming and disclaiming connection. Other than that, the cover is brilliant in the same way that the GranPré covers for the US Harry Potter books tie into some main part of the plot without giving anything away in a spoiler.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at the hardcover, be sure to check out the inside of the dustcover. There’s a great, and even more great because unnecessary, touch there. (If you want to check it out, there’s a picture of that here.) At first sighting, I thought it was an alternate cover meant to look like one of Andromeda’s school textbook or notebook covers, the kind I was always doodling on back in the day my own self. But, it’s mainly just a bonus bit of design, which is as entirely appropriate to the story as the primary side of the dust cover. (Some day one of these series of books is going to make the spines create an interesting image on the bookshelf when they’re next to each other, and it’d be neato if this idea of using an alternate cover design were how that’s done.)

As I read Andromeda Klein, I felt the pacing and delivery to be appropriately punkishly quick and even a little syncopated (especially given the author’s background). For me it’s fast-paced with information, but it’s also fun. Could I even say a hint of Tom Robbins in feel to me? Sure, I can say it. There are lots of things that are revealed in the story, and not just plot points. There are a lot of terms, concepts and ideas that are explained a paragraph or more past where they first appear. But, there are also some that take a lot longer or aren’t explained at all. In at least one case, I found myself wondering if the choice to not explain a reference was strategic: Anton LaVey is mentioned but the abbreviation “CoS” is never explained to “Church of Satan”. That choice seems a bit ironic since there’s a bit of appropriately absurd satanic panic included in the plot, but it might just be one example of something that is simply never explained. Seems to me this would either be something a reader would love or not love, and that’s another refreshing thing; instead of being denatured in order to be more accessible.

Look, this is to Harry Potter or Harry Dresden as The Invisibles series is to The Illuminatus! books. It’s punk, damnit. Andromeda Klein is grounded in the gritty reality of a world where kids do things like have sex, drink, cut, die, fight, and, of course, are attracted to the occult. This is also a world where both kids and adults can be troubled, irrational, suspicious, narrow-minded and cruel. But, there’s also striving to find meaning and connection. And, for a rare few, there’s the drive to develop and change the world, even if that’s just one person at a time starting, like a well-known conversation between Krsna and Arjuna, with the self.

This story has a style, which seems to be the overall style of the author, which isn’t compromised. That’s a delightful thing. The story might have been told without this style, but why? Why make the telling of a story just another bland porridge of words lulling the reader along easily toward a final “meh”? The style of this story makes the reading of it an experiential example of the way the main character thinks and sees the world. Some of this distinctiveness is mediated by the realization that it isn’t completely unique since it appears at first blush to be the author’s overall style as well in King Dork; but, it really works for this character and this story natheless. (This, of course, must needs be tested by reading King Dork, ASAP!)

The references are a bit thick, and it’s also got its own idiom. There’s a lot to decypher in this story, just like in much of the source materials contained in the esoteric books mentioned within. Won’t say or imply it’s Clockwork Orange level of idiom, but to me it’s got a kind of Whedonesque flavour in its willingness to develop its own language and quick (oc)cultural references. At first it seems to be doing self-conscious name and concept dropping, but I came to like it. It’s part of the fun. Won’t say or imply it’s a got a lot of hidden meaning that requires one to actually treat the text to analysis through esoteric techniques, but the story demonstrates and models the main character going through a lot of esoteric thinking, pattern seeking and connection exploring.

One of the consistently fun dimensions of this story for me was the use and playfulness of language, terms, concepts, idiom, malapropism … it’s word play without being superfluous. Unlike, say, a Xanth novel where the story simply seems to end up being a delivery method for word play which came before or independently from plot development, instead the word play is integrated and an essential character to the development of this story and character, where language and the fractured nature of that is a reflection of the nature of the main character. Not a few times, I thought to myself as I was reading a passage with a fun malapropism: I wish I could more spontaneously talk like that. The only other time I recall right now I’ve felt that was reading some Heinlein dialog, the parts where there are several conversations going on at once, syncopated. I feel this is a unique experience of the written word when compared to others nominally intended for the young adult audience, although I somewhat gather that there will be a similar sense to the author’s other work. The point is that this story definitely has a voice, and one that was compelling to me.

Andromeda Klein has got a lot in there to offend uptight parents and squares, with magick, sex, drugs, death, language and more attitude. Even those uptight about esotericism will likely get tweaked. It’s kind of refreshing, actually. There’s way, way too many stories with weakly developed “magic” in them. I mean, she does an LBRP in the library and is actively practicing Liber Jugorum, for just an example among many. And the frankness about which a wide number of topics are discussed is interesting and similarly refreshing. It’s spiffy.

The author’s approach to a wide variety of topics is refreshing and unique. Probably nothing exemplifies this more clearly as a single example to give the character of the rest than the simple fact that Aleister Crowley is not a boogeyman in this story even though he and his work are included both implicitly and explicitly throughout the story. But, these references are matters not treated with sensationalism or as an ersatz archetype of evil, both of which are so very often the case when authors seem to take the easy, lazy way out. Rather, the life of Andromeda Klein is suffused with fictionally drawn and developed, to be sure, but also essentially normal and natural magical practice and rite and thinking in both action during the story and exposition of events outside the timeline in the book.

All this, you know, talking about interesting things, can’t come without cost, of course. I read that one of the author’s appearances at a school was cancelled because of parent complaints. And, I think this actually is the book that all the reactionaries thought Harry Potter was, as far as even only the esoteric references go. But, you know, even if you took all that out there’d be plenty left to cheese off the same kind of people that couldn’t even handle Judy Bloom, maybe enough even on just about any single page. However, I’m really heartened by the statement on the copyright page that “Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.” That statement doesn’t appear on the copyright page of the edition of King Dork that I picked up that includes a preview of Andromeda Klein, so that statement appears to be uniquely in this book. Good on them, anyhow, to stand up with and for a work like this. And, I suppose one of the best things for getting the word out would be for more people to freak out and thus only advertise wider that it exists but also essentially prove that the book is something worth reading.

I once lamented the treatment of magick in stories like Harry Potter and others, essentially convenient literary mechanisms with no real meaning or necessity. What would a story look like if it were written with real magick in it, I wondered. Well, this story may be the closest thing to what I imagined yet. The Universe moves or not for Andromeda because she’s making progress working on herself and her environment in accordance with her inner drive to find and then fulfill her own individual purpose.

This story shows a kind of magical thinking that isn’t offered in other stories. It’s explicitly ceremonial and symbolic. It’s not just a MacGuffin or Deus Ex Machina to drive the story, it is the story. Rather, magick literally has personality. Moreover, magick has several characters. There is a demonstrated Intelligence, and that makes the story surprisingly intelligent.

I find myself feeling that Andromeda Klein will have a place next to The Various and Below the Root for me. While reading I held up that hope it would hold up. At times, I even crossed my fingers. In fact, for me the comparison to Below the Root is apt, especially because of the way that Snyder’s novel was frank about sex and drug use as well as also being similar in that it faced complaints from parents and adults for that treatment.

And, know what else is cool? She’s not an orphan. it’s a little thing, but that’s refreshing too. Of course, there’s Harry Potter and quite a few current literary protagonists like Lyra and Lirael and Sabriel and Dorothy and Superman and Batman and even Dahl’s Matilda was essentially, if not technically, an orphan until the end of her story. Further, there’s Moses and Vulcan/Hephaestus to name only a few more historical examples. The archetype of orphan is an almost obligatory line item in the pedigree of literary children with special powers, and it is extremely overused even if I also recognize that it has very strong resonance. [see,et,et] As I read the story, I actually had a creeping dread that Andromeda would turn out, somehow, to be an orphan just because of how overused that trope is in such stories.

However, while not an orphan Andromeda is very much a rough ashlar, of course, but the formula is different. She still fulfills an archetypal function which represents a flawed origin. Andromeda is Batman to Harry Potter’s Superman. She is not miraculously the chosen one, but rather has gotten to be who she is through hard work and lots of research. Andromeda is maybe a post-modern Everyman or Chauncey or Zelig, on a kind of Fool’s journey toward attainment, even so far as to starting out, not as the blank protagonist, but rather as a physically, socially and emotionally flawed former sidekick to her late best friend. So, actually, in some ways, Andromeda is, perhaps, like a young Robin in a universe where Batman died too soon and his parents didn’t (See, because even Robin was also an orphan!), learning to become Nightwing on his own, without actual super powers but still a hero with amazing skills and a story worth telling.

As I read this story, it was in my mind’s eye like a mashup as if Welcome to the Dollhouse [also] would have been directed by Alfonso Cuarón [see].

The library angle is definitely a nice touch. The excitement I thought I’d feel while reading is what I thought I’d feel reading Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat after such heartfelt recommendations from the librarians I once worked with, though for me Weetzie Bat didn’t quite live up to my built up expectation. There’s not nearly as many library science references as there are esoteric ones, but there’s mention of interlibrary loans, reference desks; and, the politics of the public library as part of a library system and in the community is definitely part of the story.

So, honestly, after finishing the book, I’m actually not entirely sure that the ending was quote-unquote satisfying. But, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This was a story that was also unique in that it wasn’t a perfect Hollywood ending wrapped in a perfectly explained and ordered bow. Like many European or non-Hollywood films, I’m left with the experience of a compelling story, regardless of some notion of being satisfied, that I could hardly put down and read the whole way hoping for it not to end all the while looking forward to each new revelation. There’s ambiguity left over at the end, even if there were, to be honest, also a couple bits of dénouement that had me rolling my eyes or feeling an opportunity was missed, and not just sequel-ready ambiguity. Sublimely, some of that ambiguity is around the ultimate nature of magick, and that such a central element to the story is left as an exercise for the reader to decide about for themselves seems to me to be a beautiful thing because first and foremost it rejects a fantasy of magic for a truth of magick. In fact, I can imagine how hard it might be to develop a sequel to this story, as there’s so much character and world development in the esoteric references and thinking that to re-hash that, as sequels often are forced to do to bring new readers up to speed in case they’ve not read the first installment, would require re-telling so much of the same story as to be ponderous and overwhelming. This could easily be forever a standalone novel, even with the left over ambiguity. Maybe even better because of that left over ambiguity after all.

Even though I find the ambiguity and uniqueness praiseworthy, I find myself drawn to wonder idly where does Andromeda fit in the Wold Newton family and how long until there’s an appearance of Andromeda in Wizard Rock. Perhaps these are just whimsical questions, but I did find myself wondering about them.

However, in spite of, but moreover maybe because of the apparent flaws; I, for one, would happily read the other, as yet unwritten, 21 volumes of Liber K. And, I recommend this book to both you and your precocious, precious little snowflakes.

Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman [kindle, paperback]
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
August, 2009
ISBN: 0385735251 (isbn13: 9780385735254)
Hardcover, 432 pages

Hermetic.com

And now the method to my madness … probably still makes no sense. However, the reason I was thinking about the meaning of the term “hermetic” a while ago should be clear.

But, the thing I’ve been madly working on for at least a hundred hours this week? What have I been hammering and sawing on? Sanding and painting?

Well, the cat’s out of the bag now! Al Billings has transfered The Hermetic Library and the Hermetic.com domain to me. I’ve become the custodian and caretaker of one of the most important esoteric sites on the Internet, and one that’s been online pretty much since the beginning.

The Hermetic Library

The Hermetic Library was created in 1996, in the early days of the commercial Internet, and is one of the most comprehensive and popular resources on the Internet for the kind of information in its collection. Hermetic.com is justifiably famous, and perhaps a little infamous, as the source for an amazing collection of information useful to every researcher and student of esoteric studies and the modern Western tradition. Many students over the last decade found their start and much information useful to them by perusing the materials of The Hermetic Library and started their own electronic libraries by downloading pages and pages of content for their use and research.

Over a decade after being founded, Al was looking for someone to take over The Hermetic Library and Hermetic.com, and my name came up in a couple conversations. Introductions were made, memories remembered and the library was transitioned to a new caretaker. The rest, so to speak, is history yet to be written.

The Content

The collection is, by and large, of a spiritual focus but not the areas of spirituality that you will generally see within the mainstream of Western culture. The collection at the library houses materials related to Hermeticism and magic that would not otherwise be available, especially online.

The content currently exists in two main groups. The first group is content that is archived and presented which otherwise might not be available because there’s no one to maintain it or for some other reason. The other group of content is the sub-sites for particular luminaries.

It would have been unfortunate to lose this amazing archive or any of the sub-sites to the Wayback Machine. If The Hermetic Library didn’t exist people would probably go to Wayback or a torrent to get it … or worse and more likely to a site unfriendly to O.T.O. But, keeping Hermetic.com alive on the web means that it can be leveraged to increase traffic to local body sites, Grand Lodge and International. It can also lead to book sales, through linking to the published books with related content. In fact, I’m already seeing this begin to happen as I’ve added such links. And, it can lead people to becoming interested in membership and initiation in the Order, or at least in Thelema.

The loss of Hermetic.com wouldn’t stop people from getting the content. It would stop people from getting that content from a quality independent site. It would stop people from getting the content in a manner that supports O.T.O. and can be leveraged to bring O.T.O. more eyeballs and book sales and members. The loss of Hermetic.com would silence a supportive voice for the Order and Thelema.

I will, no doubt, stand up and be counted as believing that having this content online on a site which is fully part of the thelemic and O.T.O. community and, moreover and a fortiori, that is friendly to the Order; will do more to help both the Order and members than any alternative. Well, that’s just pure physical and spiritual gold. Hermetic.com is a voice speaking to the good against any other site which might not.

Hermetic.com is an existing powerhouse for promulgation and I only see that increasing if it can continue building. The more content there is in The Hermetic Library the more valuable it is to the people that use it, to our esoteric community, and to O.T.O. specifically.

The content on Hermetic.com has been an important part of the esoteric community for so long. The relationship has obvious reciprocal benefits as people can find what they are searching for and more people are attracted to the site, but the loss of interactive history when there is no such archive is something I work to avoid. I’m looking forward to working with luminaries new and existing who want to be on the site, not because they’re a luminary, to which I’m mostly immune anyway; but, because it’s about shared history as well as the future. The past is what helps the future become and become more through feedback.

I see sponsoring sub-sites on a high-traffic site like Hermetic.com (it’s really phenomenal looking at how fast the traffic adds up as I add tracking to pages) as being either a service to luminaries that do not have sites (for whatever reason) in order to get them exposure, or as a way to feature a luminary with a primary site in order to get people to see both their content and to find their primary. I plan on developing more such relationships in the future as well as work with those that have been on the site to increase the value to everyone of being part of The Hermetic Library. Either way, being on a sponsored sub-site is free advertising.

I have so many plans that involve the site as a part of the community, fully engaged as a partner in the online presence of the Order, and as a service to the world in promulgating the message along with the Order. But, also as a service in general to the world, which I feel is sorely in need of more Hermeticism and all that entails.

The Future

This opportunity to take on Hermetic.com is huge, and exactly the kind of thing that I love to do. I’ve got years and years of plans already in the works. I’m actually really freakin’ happy to get to do this stuff. It’s the kind of thing I’m meant to do, I think.

I look forward to working with the people with content already on the site as I continue to update and improve the site. And, I’m going to be looking for new content and building new relationships.

If you are familiar with the site you may already notice a few changes, but I will be rolling out some more as time goes by. I have in mind to keep to the spirit and excellence of the site, while adding content and improving the old pages. I’ll also be working to introduce the site to a wider audience, including adding a presence on social networking sites and other ways to engage the audience of people coming to the site.

There’s also the idea of using excerpts and samples to draw people to full articles or the additional article on an author’s primary site. Even a fully developed article on Hermetic.com that duplicates content from an author’s main site can be beneficial if it draws traffic to their primary or gets that article exposed to more people. There’s a lot of synergy in cross-posting content, and creating relationships with other sites.

As an example of a totally new project, one of the things that I have in the back of my mind is to create an oral history project page for The Hermetic Library with materials to help people create oral histories with the people they feel have been important in their lives, in their work and Work – this is to say, preservation of history is something I whole-heartedly support.

Also, I’m going to be working to get in the loop with any changes or updates that people with content on the site have going on. I have all kinds of ways I can feature the news about a new book or event through the site, and that’s just the kind of updates I hope to offer the site’s audience about those people with sponsored sites.

The Social

I’m pretty focused on exploring how to leverage the site, and the content to drive interest in the published books, O.T.O. as an organization; and, to create a lot of synergy with other sites, local bodies, individuals and so on. I think one of the biggest advantages to having me take on the domain is that I’m really interested in the synergy the site can generate to increase awareness and traffic to O.T.O. sites, and for individuals who have sponsored sub-sites.

As I’m beginning to see just how many people come to the site, it’s obvious that there’s a lot of traffic. I’m only tracking a small set of pages, and already the trend on that set will be millions of eyeballs every year. Who knows how many there are total? I’m going to be watching this as I make changes too, to see if the numbers trend up.

But, really, a supply of millions of fresh esoteric eyeballs? I mean, what would you do with millions of eyeballs? I know! Right? Build a freakin’ monster, of course!

For example, in the coming months, not only will I be doing basic updates and improvements, but I will also be introducing new ways to increase interest in the material and O.T.O. both. These include social networking, which I’ve already begun, and other projects.

I know there are things I can do to maximize the benefit of having content on Hermetic.com especially now that it’s likely going to see even more content and more traffic as I add and improve the site. I’m looking at ways to becoming more synergistic with other resources and social networking, and so on, including cross-referencing with Thelemapedia, and other ideas I have.

Another thing that’s new is connecting with social networking. I can make announcements featuring incremental or monthly updates to the site, to keep awareness about the site fresh by posting those to The Hermetic Library accounts on Facebook, Twitter and even Delicious links … and from there inform the world!

I can make the site more friendly and easier to navigate. I can also make it easier for users of the site to let others know about the content by adding social bookmarking links to each of the pages. I can add links to purchase books through Amazon for not only content that’s on the site but also for content that can only be found in print, so people can easily find the material to build their their personal library even as they might also use the site to search for a quote or material.

As I move the site into more interactive space, with social networking, any interactive tools I implement might attract the crazy. This is a good heads up to me about creating interactive services which might be abused. I will need to include this in my thinking, as something to be on guard about. But, as long as there’s some way to deal with that, the benefit for the site, and thus also to the users of the site only increases.

This increasing benefit from interaction means not just the context of the text, but of the audience to the text, the authors to the audience, and the audience to the audience. That means also relationships with partner websites, and organizations, such as various local bodies, sites like Thelemepedia and O.T.O. [also] itself.

I’m trying to create the ideal conditions for the emergence of an integral esoteric bio-mechanical social web of interdependent physical, intertextual and hypertext forms … or, to coin a term, the Interintegregor!

I think I’ll come to Halloween dressed as this new superhero. It’s a superhero. It’s a freakin’ monster. It’s a desert topping!

The Feedback

Well, this is where you come in. Yes, you. You’ve been to the site, maybe even been a devoted user. But, even if you’re new to the site and have just started to explore what’s there, you’re part of this. Thank you very much for being a part of the history of what has made Hermetic.com a great site on the Internet, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Hermetic

The term “hermetic”, or “hermeticism”, is one that gets used a lot in esoteric study. There’s several meanings for this term, and there’s oppositional terms. Inspired by the possibility for a project recently, I thought that one of the first things I would do is to outline my own thinking about the term and how I use it. I wanted to do this so that I could think about the scope of what a project focused on hermeticism or using a hermetic viewpoint would look like. This is not so much meant to be a serious treatise on the topic, but rather an exploration of my current thoughts and ideas. This is more of an exploration than an essay, a marker at the beginning of a journey to help me see where I was when some point down the road I look back.

Hermes Trimegistus

The term hermetic is related to Hermes Trimegistus, the thrice-great. In fact, the late Latin term hermeticus is as much to say alchemical, and is derived from the name Hermes Trimegistus [see,amzn,amzn]. This is the hellenic Hermes-Thoth and, also like Ganesha being the scribe of the Mahabharata [amzn], is an archetypal magico-religious figure.

You know, one of the earliest references may not be to thrice-great but rather to triple-hero. This makes me instantly think of Triptolemos, literally threefold warrior, a demi-god in the Eleusinian mysteries [amzn,amzn] who was sometimes priest of Demeter, sometimes inventor of the plow (which is then a kenning or synecdoche for agriculture). Also, in the tripartite social structure of indo-european society [amzn], the semi-divine hero often fulfilled all three categories, being magician-king and warrior-poet and farmer-laborer combined. For example, Triptolemos already mentioned; and Orpheus who’s magical music commanded even the rocks and trees to his bidding, who was one of the warrior-poets of the Argos in the Odyssey [amzn], and who cursed the bees of the bee-keeper. These semi-divine heroes walked the line between human and divine with the task of both upholding and challenging the world-order [amzn,amzn]. Also, it seems to me that to pass into life and through the two veils of the tree of life, that of Paroketh and of the Abyss, is to be thrice-born.

So, the term hermetic means related to Hermes Trismegistus or the many materials he was supposed to have written on the topics of alchemy and magic.

The term hermetic is also a more general term for the overall syncretic tradition that is evidenced in much of the specific Western esoteric traditions. In other words, the term hermetic, includes those parts of the western tradition which use the hermetic modality in their thoughts and works. These include a cornucopia of what often seem to be wild-eyed, fridge, and alternative groups throughout history: Alchemists, Rosicrucians, esoteric Christians, Kabbalists, Theosophical and the Illuminist or Perfectibilist currents within Freemasonry. This current continues in many of the modern occult and esoteric traditions, especially with so many having some connection or exposure to the materials from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a true nexus point in the Western tradition.

This is to say that the hermetic philosophy is a kind scientific illuminism, which further term is familiar to those who’ve read Crowley [amzn]. This hermetic modality is a philosophy that attempts to relate, perhaps universalize, magico-religious principles. To the extent that this universalization denatures the originals, I think that’s not a good thing; but to the extent that this philosophy is one that normalizes the diversity of human understanding of the human relationship to the more-than-human, in essence facilitating the conversation between the blind men about the elephant, there’s enormous value.

Hermetic vs Mosaic

One way I often use the term hermetic is to mean esoteric and symbolic. So not more generally semiotic, but more specifically symbolic within philosophical, spiritual and religio-mythic contexts. Although, clearly, semiotic analysis and interpretation are useful. An example of this in use is from Campbell’s An Open Life [amzn]:

“Now, the distinction between the Mosaic doctrine and the Hermetic doctrine is that the symbols which are shared are interpreted historically by the Moasaic tradition, and in the Hermetic tradition they are interpreted spiritually. So there grew, during those first centuries of Christianity, a whole literature of the Hermetic sort in which the symbols, interpreted in the orthodox Christian tradition as historical, were being read in a proper mythological sense. And these then began to link the Christian myth to pagan analogues. The Gnostics, for instance, were in that boat. But the orthodox Christians insisted on the historicity of all these events.” (p77)

Notice that this introduces the oppositional relationship between hermetic and mosaic. I suppose it’s quite possible and reasonable to see Campbell as the source from which I started to use the terms hermetic and mosaic as meaning symbolic and literal. I don’t know now where or when I started to use these terms, so it seems as likely as any.

These two oppositional terms also for me have connotations of fun vs. boring as well as flexible vs. uptight, permissive vs. strict. Beginning to become more poetic in my analysis, I also see this opposition as curious vs. close-minded and multivalent vs monovalent and polysemious vs. synonymous. Maybe even to go overboard I also think of many other oppositions when using hermetic and mosaic: nominalist vs realist, existential vs essential, freedom vs slavery, existentialist vs positivist, empiricist vs realist, allegorical vs tautegorical, antinomian vs legalist. I could go on and on.

Clearly, I have some value judgements about this pair, and have a bias toward the symbolic, mythical side. I feel that the hermetic thinker is one that is curious and skeptical, one looking to test propositions instead of blindly accepting them. The discipline of symbolic thinking seems to me to be one that is necessary in the face of a modern world where propaganda and persuasion, in the form of not just political discourse but also in marketing and advertising, seem the most common styles of communication. Many times I find myself baffled by people who’s mode of thinking is mosaic, and most likely they by me.

To make my string of comparisons less pejorative to the literal, perhaps these can also be seen as meaning, to hint at the Tantric, expansive vs contractive, and thus akin to the Alchemical solve et coagula. Following this thought, these two form an functional set necessary for change to occur, just as the action of solve et coagula results in transmutation. This is the tug of war between the Asuras and Devas that results in the churning of the waters of the world through the action of the Axis Mundi so beautifully represented at Angkor Wat [amzn]. This is the analysis and synthesis of the ancient dialectic, the thesis and antithesis of Hegel leading to synthesis, and the dialogism of Bakhtin [amzn]. Seen this way, these are the yin-yang, the unity of duality, and here were now back full-circle to ideas of Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism and more, which can be seen as coming under the umbrella of Hermeticism; thus, the opposition is contained by one of the polar pairs, just as the yin contains the yang.

It is to me no small irony that another meaning for hermetic, which I’m not talking about except for here, is to be tightly sealed or impervious to outside influence (although also derived from Hermes Trimegistus) [see]. Because this seems to me to be generally the opposite of the meaning I’m exploring. Hermetic is a one word oxymoron. But, then again, here’s the unity in duality. And, indeed the universalist movements within the overall hermetic umbrella are a form of this contractive, simplifying, unifying effort even within what I take most often to be the opposite.

This opposition-within-position is completely non-Aristotelean, and warms the cockles of my evil little black heart. This is philosophical wabi-sabi. Put that in your pipes and smoke it, you frakkin’ Randroids!

Hermetic Drift

I’m not sure where I first heard the phrase hermetic drift but it’s a great description of the kind of lateral surfing through correspondences that often happens when thinking about esoteric topics, ideas and terms. Connections can be made between things which are symbolic, even poetic; not based necessarily on logic or science. The risk seems to me that this can become a trap in Chapel Perilous or a dinner-date with Choronzon (Watch out for those meat pies, Saturninus! [see]). There’s a term for the mania of seeing connections and patterns everywhere in meaningless or random data, apophenia. It is possible to get lost in Chapel Perilous and go insane unless one is prepared.

I’m not saying hermetic drift is a Bad Thing™. I’m just saying it’s a double-edged sword, so be conscious of where you’re swingin’ that thang.

Some of the worst of the new age is an overbearing universalism, which seems to me to even become appropriation. This denaturing of difference is the worst kind of old-school anthropology, like the Romans trooping around always engaged in a procrustean project to transform others into the familiar: “Oh, when you say Odin, you mean Mercury! Why didn’t you say so?” This seems to be one of the major projects, and thus I think failings, of movements like Theosophy; this essentially anti-intellectual, anti-academic haze that everything is the same and differences are mistakes in people’s understanding of their own traditions; it’s hierarchically arranged so that the so-called expert always knows better than the actual practitioners. This kind of expertise is really just another hall of mirrors, the echo chamber for the expert to see only what they are already conscious of in themselves everywhere else [see]. That kind of expert might as well be a brain in a jar never really engaging beyond their own illusions of self.

But, hermetic drift can be fun at parties, but probably not that useful for panty raids. Then again, no reason not to try anyway, I suppose …

Hermetic man vs Mosaic man

The old Golden Dawn was really uptight about the use of the inverse pentacle. Seeing the pentacle as the five elements, with spirit being the point either up or down; the inverse pentacle had spirit beneath the rest of the elements. The triumph of matter over spirit could be seen as being lost in the world of illusion. However, it’s also possible to see the inverse pentacle as being the process of manifestation, and thus an appropriate pair with the upright pentacle; this is the lightning path bringing manifestation down and the snake wending back up the tree of life.

In a pyramidical arrangement, the elements form the base with spirit as the apex. The capstone of an ancient pyramid was said to have been golden, and seems like a better representation of the perfect ashlar. This perfect ashlar is not cubical but rather, like the Benben, representative of the primeval mound that rose from the primordial waters before the beginning of time, sacred as the place where the first rays of the sun-disk fell to create the universe. In the Amarna period, the Aten disk’s rays were hands extended giving the symbol of life, the ankh.

From Yates’ Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition [amzn]:

“The Egyptian Adam is more than human; he is divine and belongs to the race of the star demons, the divinely created governors of the lower world. He is even stated to be ‘brother’ to the creative Word-Demiurge–Son of God, the ‘second god’ who moves the stars.” (p27)

Indeed, “Every man and woman is a star” [see,amzn], and “… a star in the company of stars …” [see] ring true to my ears. And, moreover, part of my own daily practice has been what I’ve called an Orphic spell, reconstructed from my reading on such things, a spell spoken to the guardians of the underworld by the initiated:

I am a child of earth and starry heaven. But my race is of the stars, as you well know. I have come here guided by the gods themselves. I am parched and dying of thirst. Let me drink from the well of memory.

Moreover, from the short “The Crimson Permanent Assurance” from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life [amzn]:

“Exec #1: Item six on the agenda: “The Meaning of Life” Now, uh, Harry, you’ve had some thoughts on this.

Exec #2: Yeah, I’ve had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we’ve come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One: People aren’t wearing enough hats. Two: Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person’s soul. However, this “soul” does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man’s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.

Exec #3: What was that about hats again?”

Again, from Yates:

“… the difference between Hermetic man and Mosaic man, the one created divine, the other created out of the dust of the earth. The fall of Hermetic man is more like the fall of Lucifer than the fall of Adam.” (p27 footnote 1)

This distinction reminds me also of the notion I recently read in a collection of Steiner essays, The Temple Legend [amzn], of the Sons of Abel, or sons of God, and the Sons of Cain, or the sons of Man; those of Men to prepare the worldly and those of God to prepare the divine.

To equate hermetic man with the one created divine versus the mosaic man who is divinely created but of the earth is like the dichotomy between the upright and inverse pentacles. One is spirit triumphant over matter, the other is matter triumphant over spirit. Both are necessary parts of the process of creation, or existence.

The person that is developing a relationship with their divine self, whatever term one wants to use for that, and whether one thinks that that exists ab initio or is created through the process of communicating with it, either way this connection is made through developing a relationship; is a process by which one might be said to be remade from a mosaic into a hermetic being.

Then, in combining the two ideas, I might suggest that to think symbolically is to be closer to divinity. It is the mythological level which is more divinely imbued and more divinely directed. This is, I think, to say something very similar to how practitioners of traditional chinese Feng Shui talk about Chi, and that the information form is more important than the physical form [amzn].

I have running through my head right now the spoken word by Robert Anthony on Trance Mission’s track “Every stone’s dream” [amzn]:

“Every stone is light slowed down, tied in a knot; and light is every stone’s dream.”

Further, therefore, allegory and symbol seem then to be the way the mind of the divine works. To understand even a bit of the divine is to understand art, poetry and music; to be touched by metaphor and myth; and to realize that all is metaphor, all is in flux; and, flux is merely the appearance of waves on an ocean too vast and deep to ever be fully comprehended.

il Bagatino for all your esoterica needs

I’ve added il Bagatino to my website.

Although I recently posted about the new Witch Girls section of my site, it’s actually not a section. It’s really a sub-section of Pasquariello which is where I tend to keep community related things, things about social activities and so forth. Up until today, that major section is where I’ve also been keeping my writing and thoughts about esoterica. I’ve been planning on this for a while now, and today’s the day, as they say.

Il Bagatino is a lesser-known character in commedia, but also happens to have been one name for the tarot card most often called Magician, or Magus. He’s a trickster and a twister. The card is also sometimes called the juggler. Quite apropos. Anyhow, this is the first new major section to my website since I added my blog, I think; so, it’s been a while since there’s been as big a change. (Oh, I sort of forgot about my whole Unbook site … but that’s sort of a separate site … well, okay, okay, so it’s maybe not so rare a thing. But, hey, look! It’s still a shiny new thing.)

I’ve moved a section of stuff from Pasquariello to Il Bagatino that really did deserve its own home. And, along with this new category for my blog, Esoterica (although, it appears the category link is snafu until there’s more than one post in the category because of redirect chaos), I hope to, you know, actually add stuff over time. Generally, I imagine, like other things, that I’ll continue to blather about stuff on my blog using the tag or in email and so on. Then as things start to cohere into something more like an essay or collection of ideas, that is when I’ll add whatever that is to il Bagatino. And, from there, well, let’s just see what happens, yeah?