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.

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.

Enochian Magick Lecture at Sekhet-Maat on Oct 23th

This Enochian Magick Lecture is actually going to be a full day of enochian magick and ritual at Sekhet-Maat Lodge on Saturday, Oct 23th, 2010. Starting at 12:30pm there’s a series of talks until 5pm. Then there’s some great unstructured time to hang out, grab some food and talk before heading back. Finally, at 8pm there’s an Enochian Group Ritual for those that attended the rest of the day’s events. Scott Wilde and Onyieh Jewel are coming down from Horizon Oasis in Seattle to do this workshop.

Enochian Magick Lecture - lecture & group ritual with Scott Wilde and Onyieh Jewel - Sat Oct 23, 2010 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge

Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo at Sekhet-Maat on Sept 16th at 7:30pm

I’m helping to organize this event, and it’s going to be great. Richard Kaczynski, author of the newly revised and expanded Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley, is coming to Sekhet-Maat Lodge 1409 SE Stark in Portland for a lecture and book signing on Thursday, Sept 16th at 7:30pm (Doors open at 6:30pm).

This will be a free event!

For more information: Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley.

About the Lecture

This fascinating and informative lecture will begin with an overview of the life of Aleister Crowley and then the audience will have the unique opportunity to select which parts of Crowley’s interesting life they are most curious to discuss in depth (poet, painter, mountaineer, occultist, etc). Richard Kaczynski will be able to cover as many of these special topics as time allows. This will then be followed by a book signing where attendees can have their copies of Richard Kaczynski’s newly revised and updated Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley and other books signed by the author.

About Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley

“Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo: the Life of Aleister Crowley is the one biography that is absolutely necessary for anyone who wishes to know more about one of the most creative, seminal, and misunderstood figures of the last hundred years.” —David Tibet, founder of Current 93

“This is not only the most carefully-researched, detailed, and informative biography of Crowley yet written but also a remarkable insight into the nature of magic itself.” —Ronald Hutton, author of The Triumph of the Moon

The name “Aleister Crowley” instantly conjures visions of diabolic ceremonies and orgiastic indulgences—and while the sardonic Crowley would perhaps be the last to challenge such a view, he was also much more than “the Beast,” as this authoritative biography shows. Perdurabo (the magical name Crowley chose when inducted into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) traces Crowley’s remarkable journey from his birth as the only son of a wealthy lay preacher to his death in a boarding house as the world’s foremost authority on magick. Along the way, he rebels against his conservative religious upbringing; befriends famous artists, writers, and philosophers (and becomes a poet himself ); is attacked for his practice of “the black arts”; and teaches that science and magick can work together. While seeking to spread his infamous philosophy of “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” Crowley becomes one of the most notorious figures of his day. Based on Richard Kaczynski’s twenty years of research, and including previously unpublished biographical details, Perdurabo paints a memorable portrait of the man who inspired the counterculture and influenced generations of artists, punks, wiccans, and other denizens of the demimonde.

Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley - lecture & book signing with Richard Kaczynski - Thu Sep 16, 2010 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge

Musicka Mystica Maxima in New York on Sep 21 & 22, 2009

Holy crap. This is like … Woodstock or something. And, the two day pass is $27 … yeah, that’s like free … only a little more than a yuppie food coupon, fer crying out loud! Who’s child do I have to sell to get to New York in Sept for three days?!

Musicka Mystica Maxima [also,et,et] festival presented by Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A. at Santos Party House, New York, NY.

21 and 22 September 2009

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A. is proud to announce:

“Musicka Mystica Maxima” festival presented by Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A. at Santos Party House, New York, NY

http://www.santospartyhouse.com/

September 21 and 22 (Monday and Tuesday)

Two nights of musick made by practicing magicians or practicing musicians whose work celebrates the magical lifestyle, as well a public performance of ceremonial magic ritual.

Confirmed line up includes:

* GENESIS BREYER P-ORRIDGE with THEE MAJESTY http://www.myspace.com/theemajesty (featuring Bryin Dall and Morrisson Edley)

* Larkin Grimm http://www.myspace.com/larkingrimm

* Nautical Almanac http://www.myspace.com/nauticalalmanac

* Spires that in the Sunset Rise http://www.myspace.com/spiresthatinthesunsetrise

* Amber Asylum/Kris Force http://www.myspace.com/amberasylum

* Monica Richards (of Faith & The Muse) http://www.myspace.com/monicarichardsmusic

* arrington de dionyso/Old Time Relijun http://www.myspace.com/arringtondedionyso

* 4th Sign of the Apocalypse http://www.myspace.com/4thsignoftheapocalypse

and more to be announced!

Love is the law, love under will.

And, they’ve announced a couple more luminaries:

John Zorn and Bill Laswell added to Musicka Mystica Maxima!

Reminder about T. Thorn Coyle in Portland at Sekhet-Maat on Jun 12th

Self Possession and Drawing Down the 'I am' flyer thumb

I thought I would post a reminder about this event in case you’d forgotten or might decide to attend. I’ve posted about this before, but It’s an extra chance to work with Thorn in addition to the weekend workshop. I’ll be making some great food for the signing after the presentation. If you’re feeling rambunctious, you could bring a potluck item to share and show off; but, there’s going to be a great variety of stuff including veggie sushi rolls and pizza, both handmade by me just for you … and, um, everyone else that shows up!

T. Thorn Coyle
Self Possession and Drawing Down the ‘I am’
Lecture and Book Signing

Friday, June 12, 2009 ev, 7:30pm
1409 SE Stark St., PDX

No Advance Registration – Arrive Early! Doors open @ 6:30
SML members attend free. Others please contribute.
Your contributions keep the lights on!

Complete information here:
http://bit.ly/Coyle0417

Self Possession and Drawing Down the 'I am' - lecture & book signing with T. Thorn Coyle - Fri Jun 12, 2009 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge
Self Possession and Drawing Down the ‘I am’ with T. Thorn Coyle
Fri, Jun 12, 2009 e.v.

T. Thorn Coyle event flyer available for download

Self Possession and Drawing Down the 'I am' flyer thumb

I posted before about the T. Thorn Coyle lecture and book signing at Sekhet-Maat Lodge on Jun 12th at 7:30pm. And now there’s a downloadable PDF flyer for the event which I just added to the event’s page.

You can check out Self Possession and Drawning Down the ‘I am’ and download the flyer PDF over at the website of Sekhet-Maat Lodge.

This is going to be a really interesting event, I think. It’s a chance to hear Thorn talk about her new book which makes strong connections between the idea of self-possession in Feri and the ideas in the western ceremonial tradition of achieving Knowledge and Conversation and the Great Work. When I first started hanging out at the lodge I kept thinking about how and whether to “cross the streams” at various times. Well, here’s a perfect example of what I wondered about. At any rate, it’s a chance to work with Thorn for people new to her books or long time practitioners. I’ve only had the chance to work with Thorn one other time for a weekend workshop, though her influence on other people I’ve worked with has been recognizable. Thorn is like a hot knife through butter. If you can make it to the lecture and book signing, I definitely suggest it.

Self Possession and Drawing Down the 'I am' - lecture & book signing with T. Thorn Coyle - Fri Jun 12, 2009 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge
Self Possession and Drawing Down the ‘I am’ with T. Thorn Coyle
Fri, Jun 12, 2009 e.v.

T. Thorn Coyle at Sekhet-Maat on Jun 12th at 7:30pm

T. Thorn Coyle is going to be in town for a lecture and book signing at Sekhet-Maat Lodge on Jun 12th at 7:30pm.

T Thorn Coyle
T. Thorn Coyle
Self Possession and Drawing Down the ‘I am’
Lecture and Book Signing

Friday, June 12, 2009 ev, 7:30pm
1409 SE Stark St., PDX

No Advance Registration
Arrive Early! Doors open @ 6:30
SML members attend free.
Others please contribute.
Your contributions keep the lights on!

Complete information here:
http://bit.ly/Coyle0417

—–

T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected teacher. A spiritual seeker her whole life, she has studied the craft of magic for more than twenty-five years. Thorn combines her esoteric studies and work with her Gods and Guides to form a practice that honors the fertile dark and the limitless light. Mystic, musician, dancer, activist, and author of Evolutionary Witchcraft and Kissing the Limitless, she makes her home near the San Francisco Bay.

Self Possession and Drawing Down the ‘I am’

We are not unified, but we can be. Discover the importance of Self-Possession, also known as Knowledge and Conversation or the Great Work of the alchemists. Why is this key to magical practitioners of any tradition? What steps are precursors to this state of integration? What energy work can we do to aid this process? We will explore the theory behind it and engage in some practices to draw down our divinity. Intone the “I am” as a spell to become fully human and fully divine.

About _Kissing the Limitless_ by T. Thorn Coyle

“A magically refreshing breath of air! Thorn Coyle is a true modern adept who has mastered her subjects, her craft, and most importantly, herself.” —Lon Milo Duquette

_Kissing the Limitless_ is a manual for self-liberation through magic, providing a complete system of spiritual practice to help serious seekers tap the unlimited possibility of their own divine natures. By practicing the Great Work of the ancient alchemists and magicians, readers are guided into self-possession—constant communication with their divine selves—and connection with the Limitless Divine. Set up as a detailed training course using contemporary techniques that echo those hinted at in antique sources of wisdom, it includes tools for soul balancing, energy cycling, shadow and dream work, tarot and meditation. Readers will learn to open up “life power” and access breath, will, and desire—the key components of effective magic—to reshape the world.

This book is a synthesis wrought through many years of Coyle’s personal spiritual work, her teaching, and deep esoteric study. Though Kissing the Limitless has entry points for beginners, it is primarily designed for the advanced magical practitioner wishing to ‘Know Thyself.’ Wholeness and union with our own God Soul, also known as our Genius, our Authentic Self, or our Holy Guardian Angel, is within our grasp. We can become fully human and fully divine in this lifetime.

Reception and Book Signing

Food & Drink
Feast on a substantial selection of complimentary hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages. You’ll also find wine and beer available for purchase.

Vending
Sekhet-Maat Lodge will have a selection of items for sale, including Kissing the Limitless and Evolutionary Witchcraft by T. Thorn Coyle, other relevant titles, Abramelin Oil, mugs, stickers, SML lamen t-shirts, posters, and more.

Self Possession and Drawing Down the 'I am' - lecture & book signing with T. Thorn Coyle - Fri Jun 12, 2009 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge
Self Possession and Drawing Down the ‘I am’ with T. Thorn Coyle
Fri, Jun 12, 2009 e.v.

J. Daniel Gunther at Sekhet-Maat on May 2nd at 7:30pm

Initiation in the Aeon of the Child

This is a lecture and book signing for the new publication Initiation in to the Aeon of the Child about which some pretty great things are being said. My understanding is that not only is this not simply a whistle-stop on a book signing tour, but this is the only planned event for the book, with books available for purchase at the event; but, I suspect they will go quickly so reserving a copy when registering for the event will be a good idea. The signing will also be a reception with food and drink and even some vending such as other valuable and rare books from Seattle’s Night of Pan Books.

Time to buy that new red dress for your Scholar’s Mistress and take her out for a night on the town …

J. Daniel Gunther is a life-long student of esotericism, mythology, and religion. A longtime member of A∴ A∴, the teaching Order established by Aleister Crowley, he is considered one of the foremost authorities in the field. He serves on the editorial board of The Equinox and acts as a consultant and advisor for numerous occult publications.

In this ground-breaking book, author J. Daniel Gunther provides a penetrating and cohesive analysis of the spiritual doctrine underlying and informing the Aeon of the Child, and the sublime formulas of Initiation encountered by those who would probe its mysteries. Drawing on more than 30 years of experiences as a student and teacher within the Order of the A∴ A∴, the author examines the doctrinal thread of Thelema in its historical, religious, and practical context.

Initiation in the Aeon of the Child - lecture & book signing - May 2, 2009 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge
Initiation in the Aeon of the Child – Sekhet-Maat Lodge – May 2, 2009 ev

stele of revealing 2

revealing five and a fraction quatorzain in free pentameter

0

In the infinite twilight curve above
a descending point of sunlight is love
both are witness to this declaration.

I

In the finer infinite horizon
cycle from rise to set and set to rise
tracing time traveling eternally
here then stands a man, dead but immortal,
in the holiest of holy places
confidently aloud with pure voice raised
he has taken the communion of blood
and by the moon has already been judged
within view of the royal golden throne
this priest of the scorching ruby sun
with funereal offerings of bread, beer
and many prepared meats from land and air
to the lord of power and dominion
he says as the sky’s veils are opening,

II

“O, be praised on high, ineffable one
ruler of gods through power and dominion,
who shines forth from horizons as his throne
make clear pathways beyond death and through
for my soul, my shadow, and my spirit
in true mysteries I am an initiate
so that I myself might shine forth at death
as one illuminated by the presence of truth
past dangerous tricky traps through the west
make clear a way for me to the place
of creator and complete creation,
the height of noon and setting of the sun,
of becoming motion and milky rest,
the rising and enwombed midnight distant.”

III

“Although I am dead, immortal I am
for having partaken of communion.
I see yet another approaching dawn.
Prepared as priest of the scorching sun,
I passed sentinels and was judged worthy
proving I am from the fraternity
of those much like myself sworn to protect
and initiated into secrets
I am also the son of a woman
who knows the celestial music sung
by artful and devoted advocates
heard in their spheres by the planets
but know that melody in truth is hers
mistress of mistresses of the universe.”

IV

Witness now this man saying to his self,
“Oh, heart, to me from my mother a gift
you faithfully kept me alive on the earth
do not then testify in the trial of my worth
do not stand as a witness against me
do not fail that faith now you are free
under the the eminent, immanent sun
to speak in the presence of my judge,
the lord of afterlife resurrected.
My body may have died and descended
dissolving again in mother’s embrace,
by death my immortal self thus released
has in the sky the other stars rejoined.
Though dead, I am remembered and reborn.”

*

Those left behind will remember and say,
“Giver of life sustaining ecstasy
give in reward the gift of renewed life
when this beloved traveller arrives
in the holiest of holy places
confidently aloud with pure voice raised
he has taken the communion of blood
and by the moon has already been judged
within view of the royal golden throne
this priest of the scorching ruby sun
has with diligence and devotion learned
to fulfill his true will while on the earth.
He shall live under the warmth of the sun
with love and fear among the living again.”

stele of revealing 1

In the infinite curve above is a point of love
both are witness to this declaration

In a finer infinite of time
stands a man, dead but immortal,
in the holiest of holy places
he has taken the communion of the moon
and has been judged worthy
in view of the throne
this priest of the scorching sun
with offerings of bread, beer
and many meats from land and air
says to the
lord of power and dominion
the opener of
the veils of the sky

“O, holy one, may he be praised,
with power and dominion,
who rules the gods,
who shines forth
from his throne of horizon
make clear pathways beyond death
for my soul
for my spirit
for my shadow
I am initiated in the mysteries
so that I myself might shine forth
as one illuminated by truth
make clear a way for me
to the place
of creator and creation,
the noon and setting of the sun,
of becoming and rest,
the rising and distant resting place of the sun.”

“I am dead but immortal
when I can see the horizon
as a priest of the scorching sun
I have taken the communion of life
and have been judged worthy
I am from the fraternity
of those like myself
protectors and initiates
of and into the secrets
a child of midnight
the son of a woman
who knows the music sung
to the celestial sphere of the sun,
mistress of the universe.”

Says this man to his self,
“Oh, my heart, gift from my mother,
you faithfully kept me alive on the earth
so do not testify in the trial of my worth
now as a witness against me
do not fail that faith in me now
in the presence of the sun,
lord of the afterlife.
Although my body has descended
into the earth
and in death my real self
has become a star in the sky
may I be remembered and reborn.”

Those left behind remember and say,
“Oh, deliverer of those still alive under the sun,
definitely give the gift of resurrection
so this man, dead but immortal,
and who has taken the communion of life,
shall live under the warmth of the sun
to fulfill his true will while on the earth
with love and fear among the living again.”

stele of revealing notes

I was thinking about a project for myself. I was going to check the Stèle of Revealing and figure out the best modern translation of the hieroglyphics into my own interpretation. Well, I forgot about the modern transcription of the Stèle in the back of The Holy Books of Thelema. So, I took that and did the rest of the project. I didn’t go to The Book of the Dead and use the passages that the text of these things is based on, but that is something I could do.

I started with two additional ideas. The first is that for egyptian art, images are also fully meaningful words. This is based on ideas from Reading Egyptian Art. The second is that I wanted to tease out the meaning of the names of places and entities instead of leaving them opaque.

So here’s my notes, which I didn’t do a great job of keeping track of my sources; since this is mostly an artistic project. But, I may want to go back at some point fill that in with good ones. I honestly didn’t get too strict about where I got my information from if it seemed mostly reasonable to me.

  • behdet: the winged solar disk, Heru of Edfu, he with coloured
    plumage, world saviour, protector of the sacred
  • re-herakty: horus on the horizon, all time, beginning to end
  • wesir/osiris: he sees the throne, immortal dead, the deceased
  • sem priest: funereal high-priest, shaman
  • monthu: nomad, war god, struggle, striving, scorching sun
  • thebes: waset, was; power; cult center for The Powerful, wasret;
    power, dominion; bull penis; animal of set
  • karnak: The Most Selected of Places
  • ankh-af-na-khonsu: he lives for khonsu
  • khonsu: the wanderer, the moon, devourer of hearts (devourer of hearts ~ eucharist, love under will)
  • justified: pure of voice, judged worthy
  • seat: throne, from the horizon
  • re: noon sun, the creator
  • atum: the first, the creation, the completion, setting sun, to be
    complete
  • kephre: the motive force, the becoming, the rising sun, self created
  • hathor: House of Heru (the falcon, the distant), the place of rest, the milky way, mother of light
  • son of a man: inheritor / in the traditional role / from the family
  • bes: protector – introduced, initiate
  • en: to, for, belonging to, through, because
  • mut: world-mother, primeval waters, uniter of two lands, queen of heaven
  • bes-en-mut: child of midnight, initiate into secrets, fraternity of initiates
  • amun-re: setting sun – noon
  • taneshi: land of nesh?

NOTOCON VII ~ Vendors redux and volunteering

Well, there was a slight hiccup for the online vending application. If you used the online vending application before Feb 11th, please re-apply. There were technical difficulties with the tool in the form of me making a typo and not testing after making changes to the config.

However, there’s now also an app for those interested in volunteering on the contacts page, and a note about volunteering from the Onsite Assistant.

NOTOCON VII ~ Seattle, WA ~ Aug 7-9th, 2009
NOTOCON VII: the seventh biennial National Ordo Templi Orientis Conference
August 7-9th, 2009 EV ~ Seattle, WA

NOTOCON VII ~ Vendors

The Vendors page is up and the vending application process is open for NOTOCON VII:

Vending will be open throughout NOTOCON VII. Please continue to watch this page for further vending related updates. Currently, the vending application process is open, and will be open until full. We will first begin accepting initiate vendors on February 1st. If there is still space available, we will then open to non-initiate vendors on April 1st.

Things are starting to hop quite a bit more, as NOTOCON is just around the corner now.

NOTOCON VII ~ Seattle, WA ~ Aug 7-9th, 2009
NOTOCON VII: the seventh biennial National Ordo Templi Orientis Conference
August 7-9th, 2009 EV ~ Seattle, WA

Thelemic Symposium 2009 ev at Sekhet-Maat on Mar 28 at 6:30pm

The eighth annual Thelemic Symposium at Sekhet-Maat Lodge has been announced. It will be on Mar 28, 2009. Doors open at 6:30pm.

Thelemic Symposium is a panel discussion and question/answer session engaging the considerable experience and knowledge of three long-time Thelemites. We are proud to present this, the eighth annual Symposium, featuring panelists Eliza McBryde, Michael Kolson, and Dathan Biberstein.

Featuring panelists Eliza McBryde, Michael Kolson, and Dathan Biberstein - March 28, 2009 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge
Thelemic Symposium VIII – Sekhet-Maat Lodge – March 28, 2009 e.v.

NOTOCON VII ~ speakers, presentations and registration is open

There’s a bunch new over at the site for NOTOCON VII today. I put up the speakers and presentations information. So, you can check out some of what’s going to happen over the conference. The formal schedule and vending aren’t up yet, so there’s more to come. But, there’s definitely several of the presentations I’m interested in, and a couple of those I won’t be able to go to … C’est la vie!

Also, even more importantly, registration is now open. There’s a couple of first-come, limited-capacity events that one can choose to attend as part of registration, but only one of them I can actually go to.

Still, it looks like there’s going to be quite a lot going on that will be interesting.

NOTOCON VII ~ Seattle, WA ~ Aug 7-9th, 2009
NOTOCON VII: the seventh biennial National Ordo Templi Orientis Conference
August 7-9th, 2009 EV ~ Seattle, WA

Update 1jan09 @ 11:49pm:

There’s a post now over at the official NOTOCON VII Blog about registration being open. I think there’s going to be something posted to the blog about the speakers and presentations soon also.

NOTOCON ~ National Ordo Templi Orientis Conferences

I made a big update to the root NOTOCON ~ National Ordo Templi Orientis Conferences sited today. I’ve had this mostly ready for a while, but had some last minute changes to make, was waiting for the AIT site to be up, and needed final go-ahead. The update features archives of all previous NOTOCON sites for which a site existed. There are two stubs for the earliest NOTCON events, which I hope to fill in with more information as I collect it.

Also, I’ve started the cross-promotion of sites. So, this update includes links to both the new AIT and the already existing Kaaba sites. And, over at the new AIT site, I’ve added cross-promotion to NOTOCON and Kaaba in the sidebar.

Advanced Initiator Training 1 at Knight Templar on Mar 14-15, 2009

The new website for Advanced Initiator Training is up now, in advance of the event at Knights Templar Oasis in Salem, MA on Mar 14-15, 2009.

“Advanced Initiator Training is dedicated to providing active initiators with resources to grow in their skill, professionalism and education as initiators and to help active O.T.O. initiates increase their knowledge and skill in regards to our initiation rituals.”

Registration for AIT 1 is now also open for those that can attend.

The site design is supposed to look very much like the site for the Kaaba Colloquium: Thelemic Leadership Seminar, but this site is much less back-end heavy and has some other small changes.

Eventually, I hope to have cross-promotion between AIT, NOTOCON and maybe even Kaaba. These various O.T.O. events are all examples of a desire for excellence.

Gnostic Mass at Sekhet-Maat Lodge

Last week I completed some promotional graphics for Sekhet-Maat Lodge to help people spread the word about the weekly celebration of Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass [also] every Sunday at 3pm. I posted the final images to the Lodge’s promotion page.

Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass every Sunday at 3pm at Sekhet-Maat Lodge, O.T.O.

There’s actually three versions on the promotions page, including one for social networks and one for rich-text e-mail signatures. You can check out the various drafts I went through, starting with a pretty lame first draft, over here.