Tag Archives: Poetry

Initiation, Art and the Inner Ontological Shift

An Interview with Sasha Chaitow, Academic Director of the Phoenix Rising Digital Academy:

In our technologically ravaged age we often lose sight of the inner resources necessary to fully express our creativity and intellect. With the ease that comes with digital art, the deeper connections that the creative process requires and engenders is something that can be passed over in the lust for immediate results.

Studies in the humanities are facing strained support from the mainstream Academy. As scientism increases its stranglehold on our culture we hear the continuous hum of critique that philosophy, poetry and literature have had their day, it’s time for more practical concerns.  In this environment it has become more important than ever for serious scholars to seek outside the Academy to create institutions that support and encourage society to continue seeking a deeper understanding of life that goes beyond corporate interests or shallow scientific discoveries.

Sascha Chaitow is director of the Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, an online initiative to “to reinstate appreciation and scholarship of philosophy and culture.”  Phoenix Rising allows scholars a place to continue to address the depth of culture, and, through digital communications, presents a new avenue for these discussions to happen on a global scale.

The potential of the Esoteric Renaissance is well represented by individuals who embrace the full spectrum of our times. As an artist, scholar and innovator, Sasha has embraced the potential of technology to explore areas that many futurists neglect in their forecasts.  In the following conversation Sasha discusses her artistic practice and provides insight into the interstices of art, culture and Tradition.

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What inspired you to pursue painting?

Synaesthesia and music. I’ve always been synaesthetic – a quality (aka condition!) meaning that I associate sensory input from one sense with that of another. In my case, it means that I visualize images, colours and shapes, when hearing sound or reading text.  It all began with Jim Morrison’s poetry when I was 14, and I later traced his sources and drew inspiration from the Beat authors, then moved to Blake, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and John Milton. This led to an enduring interest in the Fallen Angels mythos and Gnostic cosmology, which was also essentially my lead-in to the study of esotericism. I quickly reached a point where the images my mind would generate when reading poetry in particular would form in a constant cascade, which I felt compelled to bring into reality. I have always accompanied my paintings with excerpts from the texts or poems or song lyrics that inspired them because for me they are an integral part of the work itself.

How can the artistic process aid in initiation?

In its most simple form, initiation is an inner ontological shift – one which I conceive of as an ongoing, immanent process. Traditionally (within the Western Esoteric Tradition), initiation for the individual is supposed to be a process of understanding, connecting and uniting body, mind and spirit so as to produce a very special kind of perception of the world and our own existence – something that Patrick Harpur calls “a different way of seeing” which Joseph Campbell also describes beautifully in Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Now, the creative process leads to several leaps of faith and a lot of inner work, whether one is esoterically minded or not. The process of creating anything is an extremely powerful one, which demands that the artist (or musician or poet or writer) reach past his/her very self into that invisible realm of Ideas that Henri Corbin termed the Imaginal mesocosm. It requires a very specific frame of mind and way of seeing the world – one which I believe artists of all kinds do naturally. For it to become an initiatory process however, the artist needs to consciously examine the thought processes that s/he follows when “visited by the Muse.” This inevitably leads to soul-searching questions, many of which are difficult and which I suspect lie at the heart of the “tortured artist” stereotype. Yet if one persists, one becomes conscious of being a part of the creative impulse within Nature itself – one comes to understand the imagination quite intimately, and in the process, learns a lot about oneself.

Initiation has become very strongly embedded within formalized ritual in a good number of esoteric systems, but to my mind the act of creating an art-form is a ritual in and of itself, even if the motions of that ritual involve laying out the tools of one’s trade, creating an atmosphere appropriate for working in, tuning one’s instrument, rather than what we would traditionally consider ritualistic acts. Hence, following a number of esoteric thinkers over the centuries, I am quite convinced that the creative process is a powerful, if not a supreme, initiatory vehicle for anyone with a predisposition to explore it, and I also believe it is also open to everyone, regardless of talent and artistic bent; hence its healing power as witnessed in the various art therapy systems. It is not the technical result which is important, but conscious engagement with the creative process.

What inspires your art?

Symbolism, wordplay, double entendres and palimpsestic meaning.  Or, put another way, anagogical thinking (See Angela Voss’ excellent essay on the topic). I am far less interested in exploring visual techniques than I am in finding new and surprising ways to communicate layered meaning so as to surprise and engage the viewer.

I see visual art as a language and draw heavily from the emblematic and esoteric symbolic traditions in order to tell whole, layered stories –  through a painting. I like dealing with uncomfortable or equivocal meanings that somehow relate to central esoteric concepts; the question of evil for example, or that of initiation itself. A number of my more recent paintings deal with the initiatory journey itself, and I have made use of a number of ancient and archetypal symbolic conventions presented in portrait form. Even if the viewer does not consciously comprehend each of the symbols, it is my belief that in some way they resonate with the unconscious mind.

Are there specific art movements that focus more heavily on the “artist as initiate” than others or is this a common theme in art?

Although it has appeared a number of times as a source of inspiration, I don’t think I would go as far as to say that it is a common theme as such, though I would be surprised if the sensations and thought-processes I have mentioned above are not familiar to all artists, regardless of the technique or philosophy they choose to express. Looking back in time there are artists whom we may consider initiates on account of their depth of esoteric insight, yet they may have considered themselves tradesmen or artisans, or something else entirely.

Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Poussin are some such examples. Artistic movements that show a clear awareness of this concept make their appearance in the 18th century, as part of the early counter-Enlightenment, and those aspects of Romanticism that were most influenced by Illuminism. It was widely discussed by Fabre d’Olivet, Saint-Martin and elaborated by Novalis, Schlegel, and Pierre-Simon Ballanche. The poet was respectively seen as “the recipient and transmitter of revelation and a divine universal language,” “a priest who will lead humanity to its eschatological fulfillment by relinking the world here below and divine transcendence,” while “poetry is the intuitive faculty of penetrating the essence of beings and things. 1

In addition, the 19th century French Symbolist movement was almost entirely inspired by this concept as put forward by Josephin Peladan, an eccentric and greatly misunderstood figure in the history of both esotericism and art. Peladan’s work and vision is in fact the topic of my PhD thesis, in which I hope to rehabilitate his image, to some extent at least!

Who are your favorite “artist initiates”?

To answer that it depends how strict I should be about defining the term “initiates”, as I believe that all artists are initiates, whether they realise it or not,  not only restricted to those movements which consciously attempted to utilise art to such ends. They would certainly include the Renaissance Masters, especially figures such as Gustave Dore, Bosch and El Greco, the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood (Rossetti in particular), and a good many figures from the Symbolist movement,  such as Jean Delville, Gustave Moreau, Carlos Schwabe, Nikolai Konstantin Kalmakoff, and Nikolai Roerich.

One cannot leave out the poets such as Rimbaud and Baudelaire, nor the musicians and dancers, such as Stravinsky and Nijinsky. Then, of course, there is Wagner, who, controversies aside, was also an immensely influential figure for the 19th century symbolist movement and whose theories Peladan developed.

Are there any contemporary artists that you think elaborate on this idea?

Indeed, though there are different categories: those artists who may have no knowledge nor interest in these concepts, yet whose art communicates breathtaking insights, artists who deliberately seek to use their art as a mode for communicating these ideas, and those who go as far as to incorporate art and ritual as well as to develop these concepts still further.

Some wonderful contemporary artists who depict overtly alchemical and other esoteric themes include  Laurence Caruana, Eleonore Weil, Vincenzo Marano, Karena Karras, and Madeline von Foerster, among many others. I think this concept is also at the heart of the performance art so frequently found in occulture and pagan festivals in recent years.

How are the visual arts like alchemy?

Although there is a danger of oversimplification in terms of historical and cultural relationships between the two, nonetheless both art and alchemy have immense transformative powers, and both require the uninterrupted input of the active imagination (see Dr Voss’s article linked to above, as well as the seminal article by Henri Corbin – Mundis Imaginalis ), which in turn,  they both enrich.

Both art and alchemy are processes of becoming, of manifestation and of metamorphosis, which only yield as much as is put in. Both of them are acts of Poïesis (creation or manifestation), and the supreme act of love, according to Socrates, is “a begetting in the soul which strives for the Forms, the only way to possess immortality and true happiness.” 2 In this sense, they are alternative routes to the same end, making use of the same driving force (Eros) in order to reconcile dualities and imperfections in matter and in Man, and a means to achieving immortality, whether in the form of an image which by its nature is timeless, or of the Philosophers’ Stone, which in this case is a clearly symbolic and philosophical end in itself.

Do you think that today’s alchemical practitioners have the view of becoming “conscious (intermediaries) in the process of redeeming dualities between man and nature, matter and the divine.”?

I daresay that depends on the practitioner! That particular process could be described as being the epitome of medieval and Renaissance alchemical practice, wherein it would be unthinkable to separate theory and practice, and those who did focus on practice for material gain were disdained as charlatans of the lowest order!

In modern times, the opposite seems to have occurred, as thanks to Jung the spiritual aspect of alchemy has by and large been isolated and cut off from its practical side. The reason this is misguided, even though it has its own value as a spiritual-psychological way of seeing the world, is because Nature – material nature and her correspondences with both Man and the Divine – are at the heart of alchemical work.  To truncate that means that one is no longer practicing alchemy, but a form of spirituality inspired by alchemy.

Is it possible for art to have the same effect?

I firmly believe that it is, with one major caveat, as expressed above. The artist is always in danger of losing touch with material reality, and many artists do truly suffer from the “tortured poet” syndrome. One esoteric explanation for this relates to the effect of the spiritus mundi: expressed beautifully by Franz von Baader:

“[E]very true poet or artist never escapes a doubled affect or emotion. Each yearning after the manifestation or incarnation of the Idea [Sophia] in any case has the complementary effect of pain and even anger against the refracting Substance.”

Baader is referring to both the imperfection of the manifested image compared to the Idea, as well as the ‘labour pains’ experienced in the conflict with the spiritus mundi, explained by Arthur Versluis as corresponding to “the demiurge of the ancient Gnostics: the power of selfishness, of acquisitiveness and of power-over.” 3The manifestation of this effect is the dark, melancholic, Saturnian  side of art, abounding with ‘metaphysical despair,’ or ‘incandescent melancholia’ explained in modern terms as ‘the expression of the attitudes, the feelings and the ideas of a man who has left static mechanism but has not yet arrived at a reintegration of his thought and art in terms of dynamic organicism. 4 Its alchemical correspondence is of course the nigredo phase of the prima materia – so necessary and brimming with potentiality which can be manifested once the dark night of the soul (allegorical, figurative, or literal) can be overcome.

  1. 1. Antoine Fabre d’Olivet, La langue hebraïque restituée, (1815-1816) F. Schlegel, Novalis, Athenaeum (1798-1800)
  2. 2 Robert Cavalier, “The Nature of Eros ,” http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/Cavalier/80250/Plato/Symposium/Sym2.html
  3. 3 Franz von Baader, ‘On a Lasting and Universal Spiritual Manifestation Here Below,’     in Arthur Versluis ed., trans., Wisdom’s Book, pp. 241-247 (p. 245) – Arthur Versluis, Wisdom’s Book, p. 16
  4. 4 Morse Peckham, ‘Towards a Theory of Romanticism,’ repr. in. Gleckner and Enscoe, Romanticism: Points of View (Detroit, 1962) p. 242 cited in Wouter Hanegraaff, ‘Romanticism and the Esoteric Tradition,’ Gnosis and Hermeticism, pp. 245-7 (p246)

Sasha Chaitow is the founding director  of Phoenix Rising.

Sasha Chaitow  is a graduate of EXESESO MA Western Esotericism (Exeter) and MA English Literature (Indianapolis-Athens).  She is assistant professor in Religious Studies at the University of Indianapolis Athens, and also an artist, writer, and events organiser. Her research interests include art and esotericism, mind and consciousness, ritual and initiation, and Modern Greek Masonic history.She is also an artist, painting portraits on commission and alchemically surrealist-symbolic images on inspiration. Sasha directed the 1st International Phoenix Rising Conference entitled “A Dying Society or a Renaissance for the 21st Century, ” which took place on 6th & 7th November 2009, in Athens, Greece. She was also coordinator for Greece for the 2008 Esoteric Quest Conference, on the theme of Ancient Greek Mysteries and Philosophy, hosted by the New York Open Centre and which took place on Samothrace, Greece.

Phoenix Rising Digital Academy

Online courses in Western Esotericism, Philosophy and Art are made globally available by an international faculty of accomplished scholars seeking to reinstate appreciation and scholarship of philosophy and culture.

This independent academic initiative is a direct response to the closure of many university programmes in the Liberal Arts across Western universities, and to the perceived need for better academic representation of neglected aspects of Western Esoteric Traditions outside formalised academia. Phoenix Rising Academy is the first such initiative globally to combine serious scholarship of these topics at entry-level with digital learning technology. For 2011 the Academy offers 39 courses covering numerous topics across the spectrum of Esotericism and the Arts, ranging from introductory courses in Esoteric topics to Occultism in pop culture and more.

In a time of cultural crisis and widespread misinformation, this Academy’s purpose is to offer accessible and accurate information on a broader scale, with an active interest in bridging the widening gap in the humanities. Online and live events and intensive seminars are in planning for various locations in the UK and Greece.

Visit www.phoenixrising.org.gr for full course listings and detailed information about the Academy’s philosophy, structure, faculty and activities.

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If the land is being poisoned, Witchcraft must respond…

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The Old Ways have never been forgotten, but false histories propagated during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras still taint our understanding of what is commonly called ‘witchcraft’ and the hallucination of rationality has enchanted many of us to miss the signs all around us that Isis remains unveiled. Our images are often either skewed toward malefic personas bent on the corruption of society, or people lost in a feverish illusion damning them to a life of futile imagination.

We think of the infamous ‘witch hunts’ that raged through the Renaissance and Reformation, or are mislead by the rationalist attempts to cut the chord of the reality of the ‘witch’ in order to counter the fires of malice and ignorance that caused so much suffering. Between these poles we’re pulled back and forth while the Truth walks freely around these easy classifications.

In the contemporary setting other groups have arisen to take claim of witchcraft, such as Wicca and certain Neo-Pagan sects, attempting to use the powerful image of the witch as a centering point for their practice. Beyond all of this, however, lies a more subtle truth.

Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimetch are the proprietors of Scarlet Imprint, a publishing house that specializes in exploring contemporary esoteric currents. Their Work is focused on revitalizing the Path and practice of  Magic, and rediscovering the long line of Tradition that ebbs and flows through the Art. They were kind enough to take a few moments to discuss their thoughts on the Craft and it’s place in our time,  offering up a potent rejoinder to all who walk the Crooked Path – “If the land is being poisoned, then it is witchcraft which must respond, and do so with compassionate anger.”

What is different about the Witchcraft that you espouse and something like Wicca which more people are generally aware of?

We should probably define Wicca to begin with here, as the English usage refers to the initiated witchcraft tradition invented by Gerald Gardner (and subsequently copied by Alex Sanders) rather than as an umbrella term for various flavours of neo-paganism which it is often taken to mean in the United States. Wicca is essentially constructed around a core of the Masonic grade system, the ritual accoutrements of Solomonic grimoire magic, and a liturgical Crowley cut-up with a sprinkling of folklore. It has no demonstrably older codified origin than the 1940s. The work of Ronald Hutton here seems decisive. Furthermore, claims of any traditional witchcraft survival are taken in Europe with a pinch of salt. Though there may be fragments preserved in some groups and families, it hardly constitutes a cultus which is rather an inspiration rising from the example of Austin Osman Spare. If you want to understand European Witchcraft then you would be better to start with Catholicism, which is the old religion.

Certainly Gerald created a very workable fusion of the material available to him, and one which fitted the spirit of his time and certainly Alex and Maxine had more flair in their presentation of it. Wicca fused with a spirit of sexual liberation and a rebirth of female and earth-based spirituality. It was bolstered by the myths of Murray and Gimbutas.
It was a necessary stage in the re-emergence, or re-imagining of witchcraft.

Yet Wicca has profound limitations, in the same way that the Golden Dawn and the OTO have profound limitations. These are the limitations of its time and its founders. They are systems in entropy. We would ask those who consider themselves witches, rather than more narrowly wiccans, to look at the source material. To consider that Gardner and Sanders did not have the access to what we do now, and that their world is very different to ours. We suggest that their witchcraft should go beyond that of their godfathers.

This is a world in crisis, we are seeing a mass extinction of plant and animal species, the death of the oceans, climate change, and peak oil. It is not only our way of life, it is life itself which is under threat. Wicca did not predict this and neither did Liber Al vel Legis. We need a culture of radical resistance that understands that we are part of the whole ecology, that we are intimately connected to the web of life. Witchcraft has this vision.

Furthermore, Witchcraft is the recourse of the dispossessed, the powerless, the hungry and the abused. It gives heart and tongue to stones and trees. It wears the rough skin of beasts and turns on a civilisation that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Reading fantasy novels is not a valid response, and neither is hiding in a thicket of studied archaic English and obfuscation. Witchcraft is rooted in the land, whether that is Benevento, Cornwall or Pennsylvania. If the land is being poisoned then it is witchcraft which must respond, and do so with compassionate anger.

We hope to, and do, find many points in common across all expressions of witchcraft: the connection to the land, work with familiar spirits, herb and plant lore and malefica, to name but a few. We differ in our focus in that we are actively engaged in the world and that comes from both an apocalyptic and eschatological understanding of events. We dare to utter prophecy.

Our position is quite distinct:

Witchcraft is a force and not an order or cult.
Witchcraft is non-hierarchical. It utilises the rhizomatic structure of underground resistance.
Witchcraft is unbridled female sexuality. It is the woman who initiates.
Witchcraft is folk magic, the magic of the people and for the people.
Witchcraft is a myth, an invention, a story, and one which though drawing on the past, clothes itself in the symbols of its time.
Witchcraft is oracular.
Witchcraft is found in the ecstatic possession state.
Witchcraft flies to the Sabbat.

We insist that Witchcraft has power and requires the use of drugs, sex and ordeal.

The example we follow is that of Michelet who saw in the figure of the witch a revolutionary spirit, this is something which Alkistis discusses in XVI. We do not mistake these stories and myths for history, but we harness their emotional power to transform the future.  ‘
Of the modern writers, we feel it is Jack Parsons who embodied the spirit of witchcraft, which is one of revolution and of the power of female sexuality. The Goddess who possesses these qualities, and who speaks to us is Babalon.

How is Witchcraft and the pursuit of knowledge tied together? Are Witchcraft and Gnosis the same thing?

Knowledge enters us through the body. This is an internal alchemy which requires huge emotional reserves and cannot be accomplished in icy detachment or by effort of Will. The highest form of this knowledge is Love. The process needs passion and heat.

Ritual is the orchestration of the primal states such as innocence, fear, flight and fight and their alchemical transformation through experience.

Witchcraft concerns itself with mystery and it is through the gates of mystery that we come to knowledge.

Our counsel is to forget the nebulous modern use of terms such as Gnosis and concentrate on Work, or perhaps here we can use the German term, kraft.

Why are people so reticent to meet with the full impact of Magick? The major avant garde artists of the 19th and 20th century were all heavily involved in esotericism, whether organized or through individual practice, but it seems most practitioners today are happy with a few popular occultists they can reference.

Art has become a commodity. A tool of commerce, as safe and dead as a shark in a formaldehyde tank. It talks the empty language of advertising. These so-called artists are merely reflecting our secular society where spirit contact has been lost, and we have been alienated from the raw forces of nature. They have nothing to draw on, and their patrons reward their product which is destined for the vaults of investment Banks.

This is in stark contrast to the avant garde which ardently pursued the esoteric arts in paint, word, gesture and life whether implicitly or explicitly. This was done for art’s sake, for the sake of life. In our litany of Saints we must include Artaud, Nijinsky, Rimbaud, Jarry, Genet, Arthur Cravan, Kinski et al. Like Debord, we can say that we have been led by poetry and the belief that we should carry out its programme in reality.

To be alive is to be able to respond and resonate to works of art, literature, poetry, sculpture and dance. These are all forms of evocation, invocation and possession which inspire us to create our own.

By focusing on popular occultists, if that is not in itself an oxymoron, their wider context is lost. Is our idea of Crowley not enriched by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley? Can Spare really be the only painter of note? Our minds should range widely.

10349208_1042164132480125_2802212991339206395_n.jpgWhat is worse is the claustrophobic drawing room atmosphere that surrounds a small selection of occultists whose biographical details are deemed more important than the living practice of magick. It is time to turn over the tables in the temple again.

Perhaps we must ask, where are the avant-garde esoteric artists today?
Magick is reflecting that absence of art in our materialist culture. If a work of art is truly of value it should be able to stand without ‘esoteric’ as a prefix, which is often simply an excuse for poorly executed derivative doodling. Magick can seem to be a myopic ghetto, a support group for losers seeking affirmation from an uncritical and needy subculture.

But there is an antidote: All art is magic, again something many of our writers emphasise in XVI. We continually encounter, correspond with and seek out artists. Our readers write to us and reveal a deeper and richer seam than the truncated internet profiles suggest.
Art cannot help but pursue the esoteric, as it goes beyond what is acceptable in search of the expression of truth. Art will not stop at the surface. Canvases are being savaged, poems wrought, movements found. The full impact of magick will unfurl in this century with a raw artistic beauty as those with nothing left to lose will choose to dare all.

How are poetry and magic related?

Intimately. Poetry is invocation, evocation and congress with the world of spirits. Poetry is vision which makes the mysterious manifest. Words carry their shades with them, they strike like shamanic darts. In vocalisation, rhythm and incantation the body resonates into other worlds and we are renewed by these glimpses. Poetry is also work. Hammered into shape, ruthlessly wrought, it is the process of self mastery.

Our answer could also be, read Peter Redgrove, Ted Hughes, Penelope Shuttle, Rene Char, Gysin, Shakespeare, Bukowski, Hafiz, The Song of Songs, the metaphysical poets, read everything and read it aloud.

We are totally committed to poetry as an art form, which is why we published Datura, and why we have followed up that commitment with a call for submissions to our next anthology Mandragora.

What do you see as a means to draw more neo-pagan and Wiccan groups into environmental thinking? It seems an obvious fit, yet there is very little action there.

Collapse. The inevitable decline of modern consumer capitalism which is in the final rapacious phase of destroying our natural resources cannot fail to wake people up.

The lack of movement is because many of those professing witchcraft are urban, industrial, sedentary and plugged into the internet rather than the biosphere.

Hunger, scarcity, ecological disasters will create a new generation of pagans who will have to find solutions. The speed of the rise of this new social movement will be completely unexpected.

Already those with eyes to see will have seen the signs of change. John Michael Greer seems to be doing this, and there are clearly other individuals such as Raven Kaldera with their fingers in the soil. There will be many others.

Those groups which do not understand eschatology will simply be unable to interpret the catastrophic chain of events as they celebrate a wheel of the year which has broken from the axle. Nostalgia is no protection from the end of the age of oil and a witchcraft which does not recognise this fact is irrelevant.

What myths would best invoke ecological responsibility?

The critical lie we are currently confronting is that of infinite economic growth on a finite planet with finite resources.

This pernicious myth can be traced back to the Bible which is full of ecological horror stories as the chosen people murder their way to dominance and cut down the sacred groves at the behest of their tribal god. Christianity continued this insane trajectory until their invisible god was replaced by the invisible hand of Adam Smith and finally the insanity of the Chicago school which believes that everything is for sale and profit alone is G_d.

The American dream is simply a variant of this myth structure supported with both an inquisition (Homeland Security) a devil, (the many-headed Al Qaeda) and a New Jerusalem (for sale piece by piece in your local Wal-Mart and propagandised for incessantly by Hollywood).

The myth we choose to oppose this with is Revelations. We read this by recognising the defamed whore as the pagan Love and War goddess, Her history made explicit in The Red Goddess. And we are all whores, proud to celebrate the luxury of our living flesh. In divine intoxication we seek communion with the Beloved. Every drop of blood sacrificed to the grail. Love cannot be bought with any other coin. We celebrate life, in radical opposition to the archons and our bridal bed is the battlefield of the earth.

By understanding the Antichrist, Dragon and Beast as Her lover we challenge man to be the equal of woman.

By disentangling the stellar myths we orientate ourselves.

By seeking and drinking from the forbidden grail we intoxicate ourselves with Her wine.

We recognise the continuity of this myth in the work of John Dee and Edward Kelley and further, we take this as a dynamic process which flowers in our midst.

When we say myth, we are stating that this is our direct living experience of Babalon that this story is being played out through our bodies. Her time is Now.

Shamanism seems to be an element that is missing from the outer manifestations of the Western Tradition; Jake Stratton-Kent and your own practice seem to be trying to bring that back into the fold. When/why did this practice fall away?

It never does. The practitioners simply go through periods of vilification and periods of mass ecstatic participation in defiance of the approved State religion. Whether this is the Dionysian cults or free festivals or rave culture, or ayahuasca, the shamanic connection cannot be prevented from spontaneous eruption and attendant social upheaval. But we do not mistake everyone who drops acid as a shaman.

The Western Tradition has fallen over itself to be respectable, and in doing so has pulled its own claws. Seeking tax status and social acceptance it has been craven in the war on some drugs, the war on consciousness expansion, and has rather tried to ritually script altered states rather than explore genuine ones. This is hypocrisy.

Our own work and that of JSK shows that divine intoxication is a central part of the Western Tradition.  From the goetic use of psychoactive incense to flying ointments, to the spiked ritual wine, the use of dance and drumming, to the role of the necromancer and psychopomp, this is the true Western Tradition and one which has retained the shamanic elements, most notably through a coded survival in the grimoire tradition. Jake is explicit about this in Geosophia, and we can also point to the work of Aaron Leitch in this context. The drugs do work, but they need to be part of a wider discipline.

Would you agree with Ralph Metzner that Alchemy/Shamanism/Yoga (in there various expressions) form the core consciousness changing technologies of humanity?

We could equally say drugs, sex and rock and roll, preferably in combination with each other. The magical body needs to be built, rather than simply a well stocked library, and it is perhaps the physical and subtle energy building practices which have been neglected in the West. As we work with a Goddess of Love and War then we understand the importance of being able to run energy, whether to fuck or to fight.

What is it that draws you to Jack Parsons?

Jack, like Henry Miller or Bukowski, was fuelled by a deep love for woman. He understood that the source of witchcraft is the body of woman. He grapples relentlessly with the need for liberation, ideas of sexual freedom and social change. He sings for the new woman in the way that Nietzsche tells us of the coming of the Superman. Jack stands on the threshold of change, and dares to innovate, dares to dream. Now it is for women to create the Witchcraft following the teachings of their own bodies. We are post-Parsons as much as we are post-Crowley, and it is time for this generation not to fixate on dead pin-ups and their magical misadventures but to have the courage to start the fires in themselves.

In The Red Goddess I am as critical of Jack and I am of Crowley or Dee but his story still needs to be told. He is a vital link in the history of Witchcraft. The telling of his story can span the gulf between the magick and pagan communities.

I love the idea of ” gnostic strategies for liberation.”  Does this concept encompass all forms of Gnosis? Psycho-Spiritual-Physical?

We mean: By any means necessary.

What are the best techniques for seeing through the spectacle? Is it unique to each individual?

The spectacle is increasingly unique to each individual, and the individual is increasingly homogenised.

The technique simply put, is to turn off the connections whilst ensuring you are building a community to sustain you and your loved ones.

Decouple from the failing structures. Simplify your life. Build parallel structures utilising a mix of high and low tech solutions. Find the others.

If you have no price you cannot be bought.
If you do not want anything you cannot be bribed.
If you are not frightened you cannot be controlled.

Understand that the Empire has ended, that what you are seeing is a mirage, an afterimage of the age of exuberance. It has no more reality than the light from a distant star whose rays are transmitting the ghost of a body which was extinguished millennia ago. Your paper money is worthless. Your career a trap.

Every individual is on their own path, but there are physiological and psychological principles that are generally applicable. Methods for destroying normalcy bias are essential to pursue and are explored in the essay Seeing Through Apocalypse in XVI. We must be vigilant, and constantly devising methods to sabotage the architecture of control.

Is it easier to operate outside of an Order or organization these days?

Perhaps we could say it is imperative to operate outside an Order. Though we recognise the value many gain from fraternal structures, they are woefully out of date, clustered around secrets which are not only published all over the internet but are often simply threadbare.
Our suggestion is that individuals honestly appraise the methods of transformation most suitable to themselves and work either alone and/or with their peers when necessary to reach attainment.
Orders whether intentionally or not, represent restriction and only seem to mould people into poor copies of their guru. Magic is not about being a follower or a spectator, let alone suckered into the latest personality cult. Hierarchical orders tend to self preservation through an artificial construction of secrets and the drip feed of complex sounding jargon dressed up as teaching. Human history is full of these pyramid schemes. Enough of this. We would like to see the individual brave enough to walk their own path, whilst recognising that they can learn from others and contribute to the evolving paths of those they touch on the Way.

What do you see as the next step for Magick in the 21st Century?

We are in a position of radical change where eschatology will be of vital importance. The world is entering a period of revelation, the like of which has never been seen. It is going to get hotter, and magick will be born from the female furnace. We predict that women will take a place in magick that they have not had since the ancient world. We predict revolution.

The publication of the grimoires has given us our magical history back. We are weaving together the severed ends of the Western tradition. Jake Stratton-Kent has done an immense service in reconnecting us to the Ancient Greek Goes, the PGM and the Picatrix. These are our ancestors, these are our goddesses, gods, demons and heroes. Finally we are getting right with the restless dead rather than ransacking the tombs or striking empty pop culture postures.
We are learning that we have a Western Tradition which is not 14th Century Qabalah and deco Egyptian dress-up. We have stellar lore, spirit contact, entheogens, possession states, poetry and bodywork.
Our Tradition can enter into an equal dialogue with the New World, which has preserved other missing fragments, just as the Arabic world preserved the teachings of Egypt and Ancient Greece. This is more honest than engaging in neo-colonial exoticism that seeks to exploit the darkness of the Other. From this fusion we can achieve an erotic explosion of human potential. A future that has a rich magical ecology which is engaged with the world of humans, plants, animals and entities. One which respects and works with the forces of nature. Where woman and man encounter each other as equals. This will not be achieved without struggle.

What are Scarlet Imprint’s upcoming plans? What should we anticipate next?

Everything we do is sub rosa, our stratagems are always evolving.

www.scarletimprint.com

Biographies –

Peter Grey –

Peter is a writer, the author of the acclaimed devotional work for Babalon, The Red Goddess.
He is the co-founder of Scarlet Imprint. He is an exponent of the antinomian and libertarian strand of the western magical tradition. his work comes out of physical praxis. his path is one of ordeal, ecstasy, and Love.
Much of his time is spent in the mountains following his devotional path.
he has spoken internationally and contributed articles to many magickal journals.

Alkistis Dimech
Alkistis is a dancer, artist and writer; her work explores the erotic, irrational and primitive, using techniques derived from Butoh, asian dance and martial forms, as well as shamanic practices to access states of expanded consciousness.
Alkistis is an alumnus of the Courtauld Institute and the school of oriental and African studies.  She has studied Butoh under Ko Murobushi, Masaki Iwana and other Butoh Masters.

She is the co-founder of Scarlet Imprint.

The rules of the field, the pasture and prairie…

PAN
By Vincent Starrett

First Published in The International – Vol XI, Issue 11

***

In a dim grotto of the wood, they said,
Great Pan lies dead;
And then they flew
Laughing across the sand, but paused anew,
Clad in white chastity, upon the brink —
Shy fawns at drink,
Half-frightened by
The murmuring treetops and the water’s sigh —
Viewing the wood with half-alarmed grimace
For a strange face.
The goat-eared Pan,
They said in bravado, is not a man
But a dead god; an antique legend sung
To charm the young.
And then the sea
Robed them in living jewels lavishly;
Clasped his wet arms about them — ah, so slim! —
Drew them to him.
Beware, old sea!
Dost thou not fear Pan’s maddened jealousy?
Dost thou think, too, that Pan is dead and cold,
Deep in the gold
Dead leaves of fall,
Leaving all this to thee as seneschal?
Long since thou heard the cloven hoof resound
Upon the ground;
Since thy pale glass
Gave back his image. Ah, the years may pass
But Pan lives yet, for love is more than death.
Hear’st thou a breath
Hot in the wood,
Where in thy youth the shaggy lover stood.

***

The rules of the field, the pasture and the prairie, the laws of the deep wood, have been usurped by the civilizing forces of human law. Gentle pastoral moments of reflection, the raw release of energy  between predator and prey, the procreative force, all fit poorly in a society organized for commerce and progress. Pan, god of panic, nature unbound, seems to have no place in our new world.

Our visions of life’s potential, filtered through the lens of law, fail to capture the living mythology the surrounds us, the truths that lie undying in the depths of our stories.

There are some, however, who sense the faint stirring of rebirth, a green face in the field, a word in the wind. Divine madness stirs the leaves where it will.

“Hear’st thou a breath hot in the wood….”

*Commentary originally posted in a slightly different form at [ open myth source ]. Special thanks to John G. Bell, Chief Librarian and Curator, of The Hermetic Library at hermetic.com for putting Vince Starrett’s poem up online and drawing attention to it. If you have some time I highly recommend checking out the rest of the wonderful jewels that lie hidden on the site.

 

On Behalf of a Flickering Shadow by Zac Odin