Back in 2005, three chaos magicians decided to start a podcast, in part inspired by those other podcasting chaos magicians, the Viking Youth. A name was required, and coming across the automated prophetic magical head of St. John the Baptist in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, I wondered if the ‘Baptist’s Head’ might be appropriate, considering we would be talking about magical matters. Duncan and Shawn liked the name, and it stuck.
Five podcasts in and Shawn had left, and Duncan and I had found ourselves embarking upon an unexpected and marvellous magical journey. The Baptist’s Head became a record of our progress in completing the Great Work of Magick, sometimes known as awakening, realisation, liberation or enlightenment. Just over one year had passed and we had achieved the first traditional Big Step in reaching our goal (called Crossing the Abyss in the Western tradition, or ‘stream entry’ in Theravada Buddhism), we had generated enough material for our first book, and it was obvious that the end destination of the Baptist’s Head would be our respective awakenings. Traditionally, there is one more Big Step before full liberation, and I entertained myself with the absurd notion that we might produce another two books, one for each successive year, with the next step and final awakening conveniently occurring within that time frame.
I still can’t believe they did.
If you think that stretches credulity, consider the following: not only did both Duncan and I become enlightened within the same time frame (we really do have a strange relationship), but our awakenings were predicted a year before during a magical operation undertaken on a whim to contact the Great White Brotherhood, or the One True Body of Saints.
Early on in my magical progress, I had been identified as ‘The Camel’, which as far as I was aware simply indicated an animal in service to humanity, and the path of Gimel on the Tree of Life that leads to Kether the Crown (God). For me, it was also a symbol for Truth, the crux of my new definition of magick (hence the title of my little book The Camel Rides Again!, which re-introduced the concept of truth into magick after the extreme relativism of postmodern magick). ‘Camel’ also played upon Kamael, the name of my Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), and KIMIL, my ‘word’ (a personal magical formula traditionally revealed during the process of awakening) that incidentally led to my development of English Isopsephy (see the English Qabalah calculator in the side nav) and my adaptation of Centring Prayer for working with the HGA.
Up until my enlightenment, my practice had been heavily magical, as the above demonstrates. But with my final awakening, and as predicted by the Great White Brotherhood, I dropped the trappings of tradition and became concerned with the phenomenon of enlightenment as a human event, not a magical or religious one. My priority became presenting the unity of those traditions that all described the same natural, human experience of realisation, and I began the Open Enlightenment project. Isn’t it time we were honest about spirituality?
Subsequently, whilst travelling in America, I chanced upon a copy of The Sufis by Idries Shah. Turning its pages, everything was suddenly brought full circle:
[T]he Arab mystics, anciently known as the Near Ones (muqarribun), […]believed that essentially there was a unity among the inner teachings of all faiths. Like John the Baptist, they wore camel’s wool, and may have been known as Sufis (People of Wool)…
So I was a ‘camel’ indeed! Was the original Baptist one too?! It is important to note that (according to Shah) the Sufi is not just an Islamic mystic (Shah even goes so far as to say Sufism predates Islam), but a true Sufi is anyone who has reached enlightenment, being beyond the confines of any one tradition or religion.
Shah had a lot more to reveal regarding the Head of the Baptist:
In Sufi terminology, ras el-fahmat (head of knowledge) means the mentation of man after undergoing refinement – the transmuted consciousness.
As legend has it, the Knights Templar was accused of worshipping a head, sometimes called a ‘Baphomet’ or ‘Bafomet’. Could this be a corruption of ras el-fahmat? Or perhaps bufihimat (Arabic abufihamat), the ‘Father’ or ‘chief seat of understanding’? It’s worth noting that the Arabic root for ‘knowledge’ or ‘understanding’ is FHM, the same root for the word ‘black’:
The Baphomet is none other than the symbol of the completed man. The black head, negro head or Turk’s head…is a crusader substitute word for this kind of knowledge.
The shield of Hugues de Payen, the co-founder of the Templars, carried three black human heads, and the ‘wondrous head’ theme recurs throughout medieval history. Pope Silvester II made a brazen head, and Albertus Magnus spent thirty years making his marvellous brass head.
The artificial head is not made of brass. Artificial it is, in that it is the product of ‘work’ [the Great Work] in the Sufic sense. Ultimately, of course, it is the head of the individual himself.
In Arabic, ‘brass’ is spelled SuFR, connected with the concept of ‘yellowness’. The ‘head of brass’ is a rhyming homonym for ‘head of gold’, which is spelled in exactly the same way. The Golden Head (sar-i-tilai) is a Sufi phrase used to refer to a person whose inner consciousness has been ‘transmuted into gold’ by means of Sufic study and activity… …
In Arabic, ‘brass’ is spelled SuFR, connected with the concept of ‘yellowness’. The ‘head of brass’ is a rhyming homonym for ‘head of gold’, which is spelled in exactly the same way. The Golden Head (sar-i-tilai) is a Sufi phrase used to refer to a person whose inner consciousness has been ‘transmuted into gold’ by means of Sufic study and activity…
The phrase, ‘I am making a head,’ used by dervishes to indicate their Sufic dedication in certain exercises, could very well have been used by Albertus Magnus or Pope Silvester, and transmitted in the literal sense, believed to refer to some sort of artefact.
So right from the beginning, and oblivious to our ignorant minds, the Baptist’s Head was literally a hidden Western symbol for enlightenment, and our ‘building’ of the site with the exploits of our magical progress was none other than the making of our own ‘heads’!
The final synchronicity here is the fact that the magical organisation that introduced me to Duncan, and thereby inadvertently led to the Baptist’s Head project, has as its patron the ‘spirit of the life energy of our planet’, depicted in a composite form of man/mammal/reptile (sometimes known as the Sabbatic Goat), and called Baphomet.
I’m at a loss to describe exactly how all of this occurred, but ultimately it doesn’t matter; what matter is: when are you going to make a Baptist’s Head of your own?