Category Archives: Essays

What is the Baptist’s Head?

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.

However:

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…

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?

Understanding Actual Freedom: a magical perspective

In the Western tradition of enlightenment, known as magick, there is a conceptual tool called the Great Chain of Being that can be used for ascertaining the nature or aims of a teaching or tradition.

The Great Chain of Being can be described as a series of levels of experience that constitute the totality of reality. This is a simple version: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, non-dual.

With each successive stage (or holon as Wilber prefers to call them, as they transcend but include the previous stage) there is a growth in awareness. For instance, a beginner in meditation may at first become aware of the frantic activity of the mind for the first time, and with continued practice will eventually begin to experience spiritual events, such as states and stages. Eventually the growth in awareness will reach the Non-dual, and enlightenment occurs.

This growth or climb up the stages, from the gross to the subtle to the unconditioned, is called initiation by magicians, as well as by many other genuine enlightenment traditions.

But not all teachings are really initiatory; some teachings are presented by people who have no experience of real initiation. The symbols, terms and culture of genuine traditions are appropriated by pseudo-initiates for whatever purpose (fame, delusions of grandeur, escapism, etc). The new age scene is a great example of a pseudo-initiatory movement.

Pseudo-initiates are easily spotted because they cannot help ‘confusing the planes’. ‘Confusing the planes’ simply means confusing one level of experience (say the mental) with another (say the non-dual). When someone thinks an intellectual insight is enlightenment, they have confused the planes.  When someone thinks happiness is enlightenment, they have confused the emotional level with the non-dual level. I’m sure you can find many more examples.

Pseudo-initiates are prone to confusing the planes, because having no experience of initiation they can only use terms reserved for the spiritual and non-dual levels to refer to their own limited experience of physical, emotional and mental events.

However, there is something a lot worse than the pseudo-initiate, and it is called a counter-initiate.

If genuine initiation is a growth upwards towards the higher levels, and pseudo-initiation is no movement at all – usually stalling at the imagination or mental level – the counter-initiation is actually a movement downwards.

The counter-initiation first denies the spiritual, then the mental, then the emotional, eventually reaching just the physical alone. Counter-initiation is pure reductionism, and its goal is unconscious oblivion, with the eventual denial of the physical itself.

Why would anyone desire oblivion? Because it is the imagined ultimate escape from fear. Fear of the world, each other, reality, and death.

The counter-initiation is a parody of genuine initiation, and confusion of the planes occurs for the counter-initiate as a complete reversal of the levels: the physical becomes the non-dual. Note how closely this resembles ‘emptiness is form’ and other non-dual teachings; but the difference here is that the counter-tradition is based on confusion, not clarity; separation, not Wholeness.

Some members of the Dharma Overground – a site dedicated to honest, practical enlightenment – have become proponents of a movement called Actual Freedom. To cut a long story short, some of their comments have not been received well by some of their peers, and so I thought it might be a good idea to examine the facts in light of the above model of initiation.

So where does Actual Freedom fit into this model?

From the Actual Freedom website:

Actual Freedom offers a third alternative to either remaining ‘normal’ or transcending the normal by practicing an awareness of an ‘inner’ world to rise ‘above it all’. Actual Freedom is an alternative that offers not only the elimination of the self, that lost, lonely, frightened and very, very cunning entity, but the elimination of the Self, that superior God-like spiritual entity as well.

Actual Freedom is to be free to constantly delight in the physical universe, its immediacy, its infinitude and its purity. To be this sensate, sensual body with awareness freed of any psychological entity whatsoever, enabling one to fully live this moment of being alive. At last to be a free autonomous human being, one emerges into this paradisiacal fairy-tale physical world where a veritable smorgasbord of sensual pleasures become apparent. With heightened senses one is able to see and experience the actual world as it is without the grey-coloured glasses of ‘normal reality’ or the rose-coloured glasses of the ‘spiritual’. Then and only then one is able to realize one’s destiny. Then one is able to be the universe experiencing itself as a sensate human being.

Already made your mind up? There’s a lot more.

Richard, the founder of this movement, actually states ‘Everybody has got it 180* wrong’. So instead of aiming up – as in the usual spiritual quest – we need to turn around and go in the other direction: towards the physical.

Actual Freedom actively denies the spiritual, while attributing the usual descriptions of the benefits of spirituality to the physical level of experience alone. We are told that a purely physical existence will bring freedom, peace, harmony, happiness and compassion (although Richard prefers the term ‘harmlessness’). These are all things promised by enlightenment, or realisation of the non-dual.

Furthermore, a moment of being aware of the physical alone is described as a PCE, or Pure Consciousness Experience. Richard is equating the physical with Consciousness itself! This is another parody of non-dual experience.

Here Richard describes the ego and the soul:

Given that the instinctual animal ‘self’ in humans has morphed into a sophisticated and cunning psychological and psychic identity that appears to live within the flesh and blood body, it is obvious that the instinctual animal passions can only be eradicated by eliminating both the psychological ‘self’ and the instinctual ‘self’.

The elimination of one’s ‘self’ needs to be total – both ‘who’ you think you are as a social identity and ‘who’ blind nature has programmed you to instinctively feel you are … in spiritual terms, both the ‘ego’ and the ‘soul’. The good news is that with the extinction of who you think and feel you are what you are will emerge – a flesh and blood human being, free of malice and sorrow and free of any metaphysical delusions whatsoever.

He equates the ego with the psychological self, but instead of the usual understanding of the soul as a spiritual entity, he claims the soul is nothing but the ‘instinctual self’. Here the soul is reduced to the lower emotional/higher physical level of experience. Again, a complete reversal of the planes.

There are many more examples to be found, but let’s skip to the final and ultimate parody of enlightenment itself. What can we expect when the ‘social identity has been disempowered’ and we are ‘actually free’?

One can apperceive prime characteristics that actual freedom factually shows. In psychiatric terms, for example, these are called:

1. ‘depersonalisation’ (selflessness … the absence of an entity that is called ego and Soul or self and Self).

2. ‘ale
xithymia’ (the absence of the affective faculty … no emotions, passions or calentures whatsoever).

3. ‘derealisation’ (the condition of having lost one’s grip on reality … the ‘real world’ is nowhere to be found).

4. ‘anhedonia’ (the inability to affectively feel pleasure … no hormonal secretions means hedonism is not possible).

Depersonalisation is a psychotic parody of no-self.

Alexithymia is a psychotic parody of equanimity.

Derealisation is a psychotic parody of emptiness.

Anhedonia is a psychotic parody of non-attachment.

This is as close to living oblivion as one could hope for: feel nothing, desire nothing, think nothing, imagine nothing.

Survey says…

Actual Freedom is a counter-tradition.

Richard is a counter-initiate.

If you are a practitioner of Actual Freedom, you have been seduced by a parody, and your spiritual development is literally heading in the wrong direction.

Psychosis is not enlightenment.

My advice (like you need it!): drop it now, and get back to the good stuff. Theravada, Magick, Sufism, whatever; anything but this crazy shit!

The Tempe Working Explained (Part Two)

DUNCAN: Looking over the text of the second working, a lot of it is explicitly concerned with the difficulties of communicating with Tempe. We certainly knew there was a problem, even if we weren't aware at the time exactly what it was.

ALAN: Yes. The vision began with the rune NIED, inverted, which indicates: 'setting off on the wrong path and that to continue in the same manner will result in failure'. Because of the pointless occult speculation we'd forced Tempe into during the last working, this second operation began with completely the wrong intent and expectations.

DUNCAN: We just kept at it, though, until he gave in and started to talk with us. There were some interesting results from the part where you asked him: 'Who is Alan? Who is Duncan?' He stated that you were 'a head on a platter made of a fountain of white light' (i.e. The Baptist's Head!). Me, I was: 'The wand. The snake. The eye in the pyramid'. In March this year, after I'd heard about your enlightenment, I received a spontaneous vision whilst I was meditating in which I saw a vast eye staring at me, and then my soul was transferred into the inside of a pyramid where your soul was already waiting. I've described this in more detail elsewhere, but it's quite clearly a prophecy that my enlightenment would occur after yours. Yet again, Tempe is not predicting a specific event or giving an 'answer' to questions, but throwing out a kind of synchronistic marker – i.e. I'm not 'the eye in the pyramid' in any specific sense, but his provision of this symbol loaded my subsequent vision of the eye and the pyramid with a huge whack of synchronistic meaning than it wouldn't have had otherwise.

ALAN: I was obsessed with finding out whether the speculative articles I wrote after the first working were correct or not. His answers with regard to two of them are non-committal, but I think his response of 'an energy biding its time that is not going in a particular direction' with respect to what I wrote in Unreasonable Foresight is a polite way of saying it's all fantasy. He was telling us a faked alien invasion was not going to happen, and then I insist on asking him how to prepare for it! At this point he gave us the tarot card, THE SUN, which indicates we should enjoy life by concentrating on the positive and looking for its realisation. It was his attempt to get us back on track, but once again it proved futile. As we continue to persist, he gives us the Greek letter Omega, which means 'last'. I think now that he was trying to tell us this nonsense must come to an end!

DUNCAN: After this he falls silent and I start to sense explicitly that he doesn't want to answer these sorts of questions.

ALAN: Didn't stop us, though. We take his presentation of the rune ANSUZ to mean the ability to sail through the coming crisis. But this probably meant at the time 'will you please just let go of all that crap!'

DUNCAN: And next there's some interesting stuff about the 'false messiah', which was the meaning we took from the references to the Yemen in the first working. Including that freaky bit when he gave me the number '555' at exactly the same moment as you were looking at the clock (which I couldn't see) and had noticed the time was '5:55'.

ALAN: It's not there in the original commentary, due to our confusion, but 555 is a number that represents me, as discussed in my magical record. It all makes complete sense once you consider that I am the 'false messiah' who 'is imprisoned at the moment' – i.e. I'm not enlightened! The false messiah is also described as 'a head on a stick', which I think demonstrates Tempe's sense of humour. I ask him when I should set up a new magical order and he replies with an image of tunnels at the end of which is something nasty. As I discussed elsewhere, this simply means: 'When you're enlightened'.

DUNCAN: He combined that last image with a specific message: 'You are with someone. An older figure. Near water or on a boat. It is positive. 33'.

17'N 92'E

ALAN: 33 = Indian, blessing. This is quite obviously the eighty year-old guru I met in India.

DUNCAN: Which brings us to those freaky co-ordinates! '1792. 1813 or 1830.'

ALAN: Tempe's answer here is stunningly precise. On the day of my enlightenment, I travelled to the Andaman Islands, which match the first set of co-ordinates: 17'N 92'E. It was here that I formulated the idea of Open Enlightenment (OE), the new 'magical order'. 18'N 30'E is the border of Egypt and Sudan, where I ended my around the world trip at Abu Simbel. This is without doubt the most mind-blowingly accurate prediction Tempe has made, which he provided at a time when I was actually planning to travel the world in the opposite direction.

DUNCAN: I went on-line and checked it out for myself, and I think it needs pointing out that the co-ordinates are not spot on. The first set, for instance, are actually somewhere at sea to the north-west of the Andaman Islands. But both sets are obviously in the right area. It is quite mind-boggling, especially given that neither of us at the time had any detailed understanding of longitude and latitude and – as you say – your travel plans were completely different back then.

18'N 30'E

ALAN: When I asked him if there were anything else he gave me the word 'Caesar'. Whilst attending a beach party in the Andaman Islands, I saw a man dressed as Julius Caesar. Tempe also mentioned 'a boat' and 'swallows'. In April, I visited Thailand and on a white-water rafting trip (which most certainly involved a boat), a man struck up a spontaneous conversation with me about swallows. These were separate events from my meeting with the guru. So, again, we're left wondering whether Tempe's predictions are just synchronicities, or whether it's better to consider some of them as referring to a number of events but rolled into one answer.

DUNCAN: In the next part of the working we waste a lot more time on pointless questions, but as we turn to the theme of when we're going to get enlightened the answers become more revealing again.

ALAN: The meaning of the answer in my case is even now not entirely clear. He describes an unusual character like 'the German character Eszett surmounted by a cross', which we've not been able to trace.

DUNCAN: I think now that this might have been ɮ or lezh, a symbol for 'the voiced alveolar lateral fricative', the guttural L-sound that in Classical Arabic is represented by the letter Dad. Mo
st people pronounce this sound with the left side of the tongue. The Prophet Mohammed, reputedly, could pronounce it on both sides at once. This symbol might therefore be taken to mean: 'something that only a prophet can'. It's not clear, is it? What Tempe said regarding my case, however, was a bit more obvious: 'A honey bee. A dart. A lance.' After I heard of your enlightenment, I contacted my Holy Guardian Angel and asked what I needed to do in order to finish up the process. My HGA communicates through the runes and the answer I received was: TIR (inverted), BEORC, WUNJO. In all his communications, my HGA has used WUNJO to represent enlightenment. BEORC resembles the letter 'B'. TIR is in the shape of an arrow. Tempe, then, was looking forward to this message from my HGA, but the 'bee' is actually a 'B', and the 'dart' or 'lance' isn't literal, but the symbolic representation of an arrow that is TIR. It's that same mode of synchronicity rather than literal prediction.

ALAN: After this I asked him whether out work was related to the prophecy of Crowley's successor given in The Book of the Law. Tempe replied with an image of plants and bulbs that flower and die with no trace, yet return the next year. And then the image of a monk. I think this makes it clear that our work is a different but successive expression of the tradition of magick. We didn't grasp this at the time, though, and it seems from this point as if Tempe has finally had enough and becomes frustrated with the method of communication.

DUNCAN: Our attempts at allowing him to possess us physically proved pretty lame, although some of the stuff he said when speaking through you seems clear enough.

ALAN: Yeah: 'The basis is to advance, not to stall and wonder… It is done. I'm gone.' He's being pretty explicit. We've spent the most part of this second working wasting his and our time with the pointless speculative occult fantasy.

DUNCAN: Luckily we got mostly back on track in the third working. Those synchronicities with the tarot in the third working were pretty amazing, even at the time.

ALAN: Yes, but now I've got some new stuff to add…

The Great Work Accomplished

I arrived in India with great expectations. The Tempe Working had predicted – amongst other things – that I would meet a member of the Great White Brotherhood somewhere around the Bay of Bengal, who would somehow take my magical development in a new direction. In addition, the same man had appeared within an Enochian vision as a gnome, carrying a pineapple, who directed me down the throat of a dragon or beast. English Qaballah revealed the pineapple as a symbol for the Supreme Ritual, which led me to expect the Brother to teach me a new method of insight that might eventually lead me to attain the grade of Ipssisimus, or arahatship as it is known to the Buddhists.

Shiva

18th January

My wife and I landed in Mumbai, which is without doubt the worst place I've ever been in my life. Starving millions, abused and emaciated animals, rubbish everywhere, defecation in the streets, pollution equivalent to smoking two and a half packets of cigarettes a day, con men and women on every corner, countless beeping cars clogging the roads, and no mattresses or running water in our hostel. I'm not going to mention the toilets.

21st January

Decided to visit Elephanta Island just off the coast of Mumbai. The boat ride is only an hour or so, but looking back you can't see Mumbai due to the pollution. This part of the Arabian Sea is so polluted it can no longer support marine life.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the island was a moored boat with 'AA' painted on the side, the name of my particular tradition. The island is home to a number of fifteen-hundred year old cave temples, all dedicated to Shiva, with a huge and glorious three headed statue of Shiva as its centre piece. Would Shiva be playing a role in my magical development? I certainly found the main temple to be a very sacred place, especially around the central lingam.

A few weeks before I set off travelling, I asked Tempe to clarify a portion of the prophecy he had made about my travels. Tempe had said there was 'something nasty at the end of the tunnel', and this troubled me. Exactly what was this 'nasty' thing? I received the image of an oriental dragon, and a man in black robes whose face was hidden in shadow. Was this the Adversary, and a Black Brother, respectively?

After returning from Elephanta Island, we caught a sleeper coach to Goa (we were ripped off for the tickets and we didn't get a wink of sleep during the fourteen hours due to the driver's insane driving). It occurred to me during this journey that perhaps the man in black robes was me. My recent visionary work with Enochian magick had presented my magical development in terms of the dragon slayer myth. Doesn't every hero become the monster he slays by virtue of acquiring its skin or pelt, such as Heracles and the lion? Is the monster not the source of the hero's power?

Was I to meet and slay the Adversary?

22nd January

Arrived in Anjuna, Goa. A car drove past with 'AA' painted on the side. Took a shower and got electrocuted.

That night I had a very vivid and terrifying dream of small cobras trying to burrow under my skin, which I frantically tried to pull out.

23rd January

Pondering the night's dream, I passed a statue of a cobra on a stall near the beach. What was the significance of the cobra?

That evening we watched the film Kill Bill at a bar. Two permanently brain damaged ravers who had taken one too many pills were sat behind us, occasionally shouting nonsense at the screen. At one point, one of the losers began to repeat 'a five pointed star' (the symbol of my tradition), like some kind of delirious human oracular machine.

24th January

Saw 'AA' on both a menu at a cafe, and on the grills above my apartment window.

25th January

A little investigation on the internet revealed that Shiva is one of 3 manifestations of Buddhi, the other two being Vishnu and Brahma. In other words, Shiva is the embodiment of the Supreme Truth, or enlightenment.

As I passed a sculptor's stall, I noticed a three headed statue similar to the one at Elephanta Island. The reverse of the statue was a cobra. The sculptor confirmed that indeed, Shiva sometimes appeared as the King Cobra, the largest snake in India.

Had my dream about resisting the cobras entering my body revealed a fear of enlightenment?

Was the Adversary what my separate self perceived as death? Or better yet, was the Adversary the embodiment of fear based on ignorance? (Isn't all fear based on ignorance?)

27th January

On this day I met Shiva on the beach, where he tried to sell me stickers of Ganesha and the rest of the family. Ok, not the actual god, but an Indian bum who just happened to be named Shiva. After buying the stickers (I do love Ganesha), Shiva told us we should travel to Gujarat. Not being people who ignore the advice of a god, we spent the next few hours revising our route. Now we would take in the south coast all the way up to Chennai, where we would catch a flight to the Andaman Islands, before heading back to Kalcotta, then west to Bodhgaya, Varanasi, and eventually Gujurat.

30th January

We had left Goa and arrived in Panaji the day before. I had been slack on the magick front, so I decided to do a tarot reading. It told me I had been slack on the magick front. Here I began a daily routine of core HGA practice and tarot, which I recorded in my magical diary.

5th February

By now we were in Mysore. It dawned on me that perhaps I should have planned our route to include as many opportunities to meet enlightened people as possible, instead of leaving it up to chance. So I looked up Ramana Maharshi's ashram in the Lonely Plane India guide. It just so happened that his ashram was already on our route. In addition, the guide told of how Maharshi's favourite mountain, Arunachala, was apparently where Shiva first appeared as a flaming lingam.

Who needs planning when you've got prophecy?

6th February

Arrived in the small mountain town of Ooty.

At night I dreamt of a guru, venerated by Hindus and Buddhists alike, who was actually a demon. His teachings were empty proverbs. Despite his incredibly violent and unpredictable nature, I felt no fear and greeted him politely. Surprisingly, he responded in kind.

15th February

A fortnight had passed with many an adventure, but none of them magical. When we arrived in Verkala, I was beginning to despair at India. Nothing was safe to eat, everyone was a liar and my wife and I we
re exhausted.

In our room I found a copy of Vivekananda's The Law of Success, which can be summarised as:  'Don't think you can change the world, but always serve others'.

It seemed as if the ignorant view that life was something that happens to me, almost as if I were a victim, had crept back into my life. Was I losing faith? Should I ask the AA for a sign?

The Gnome?

16th February

We visited a restaurant overlooking a cliff near the beach, and sat at a table next to a man on is own. Within seconds he was talking to us: He was Lance Vickers, a rich Canadian construction entrepreneur. He had been in Verkala for 5 weeks, but was planning to visit the Andaman islands in the near future. This set off alarm bells: was Lance the prophesied gnome?

My interpretation of the Tempe Working had led me to expect the gnome to own a boat, but Lance didn't like boats (he was flying to the Andaman Islands), let alone own one. Tempe had also mentioned a tattoo, and although Lance had none, the first thing I heard him say was a comment about tattoos to a passer by. Lance was also interested in Buddhism.

However, what caused me and wife to look at each other wide eyed was when Lance said the following: 'You know the video to Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall, where every now and then a gnome falls off the conveyor belt? Well I asked my brother who they were, and he said they must be those people that end up in jail. I said 'No, they're the entrepreneurs!''

If ever there was an indication that Lance was the gnome, surely this was it? He had actually identified himself as such! It looked like the AA had given me my sign after the doubts of the night before.

Lance then suggested that when we visit the states we should drive up into Canada from Boulder. It appeared as if we were being given new travel plans again, this time to ensure I would visit Vincent Horn of Buddhist Geeks fame.

We would bump into Lance a few more times over the coming week, but eventually we parted ways due to individual travel plans. I was left puzzled as to what the apparently missing details (such as a boat and a tattoo) meant in terms of Tempe's prediction.

Aurobindo

24th February

We arrived in Puducherry to discover (to my surprise) that it was home to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's ashram. We inquired about staying at an ashram hostel, but the receptionist (I think she was French) was conceited, arrogant and unhelpful.

25th February

I visited the Aurobindo information centre to see if I could learn more about the guru. Had he left any enlightened students behind, and if so, could I meet them? The nice man behind the desk informed me that Aurobindo left no lineage and that in order to get enlightened one need simply read his writing. I found this very lame, so I asked if there was anyone around who was actually enlightened. The man told me that 'things' happen at the ashram, and he knew people that these 'things' had happened to. It sounded like an injunction to me!

26th February

Over the weeks I had been progressively ill with food poisoning and acute diarrhea, and on this particular morning I was feeling very pissed off with the beeping of car horns, the mosquito bites and the sewage smell. Whilst scowling and swearing to myself ('India is a dirty shit hole full of ignorant superstitious people intent on ripping me off') as I walked down the street, I looked at an old Indian lady going about her business, and suddenly saw that even here, in this god forsaken country, the Absolute was here.

It was very quiet and serene at the Aurobindo ashram. There were many devotees shuffling through the grounds, taking it in turns to pay their respects at the samadhi (the mausoleum). When it was my turn I copied the devotees and rested my head, with eyes closed, on the stone samadhi. At first, the samadhi felt as if it were physically moving under me. Then I saw a light, and the vision of an old Indian man with flowing white hair (can't say it really looked like Aurobindo though). I retired to a wall around the courtyard and meditated, feeling full and at peace. Just as I had experienced it with Andrew Cohen, and then with Nuit during the Gnostic Mass, the Divine was definitely coming from and located at a point in space/time, in this case the samadhi. How the hell did it do that?

Two yellow flowers fell out of the sky and hit me as I sat there. Did these represent Aurobindo and the Mother? Looking around bemused, I saw that they had actually fallen from the central tree of the ashram.

I was struck by the fact so many from so far had travelled here in order to worship the ideal of  enlightenment. It is often cited how in the West we have no lineages and our learning is book based, and yet here we had an Indian sage who actively promoted this approach.

I returned to the samadhi. I saw light again, experienced REM, and then a vision of a triangle, followed by the alien egg from the film Species.

28th February

I awoke at 3.30am in order to watch a bonfire being held at Auroville in honour of its inauguration. Returned after breakfast feeling very inspired, so I booked an appointment to meditate in the spectacular Matrimandir.

I had been reading Guenon's Man and his Becoming around this time, particularly about the Hiranyagarbha, or World Egg, which represents the possibility of all life, also known as the subtle manifestation. As I booked the appointment for the Matrimandir, I discovered that it too represents the World Egg.

Would I be 're-born' after entering it?

1st March

I visited the ashram again at 6.16pm, after a beer or two. Still felt the peace and fullness.

Arriving back at the hotel, I turned on the TV to find the film Species just starting. Was the vision of the egg at the ashram linked to the Matrimandir?

2nd March

A certain sadness had begun to take hold; I was craving the peace of Truth. What was I doing chasing after it? But why was I still not enlightened? I wondered if this was how disappointed Duncan felt during the loss of the transmission from Cohen. I consulted the tarot as to what to do, and got the Magus. So I put together a little practice for an ashram visit.

Meditation in the ashram took the form of surrender to the samadhi/Aurobindo/Mother, and then I explored how the emptiness actually manifests. The Divine was simply not there, and yet still it radiated from the samadhi. Was it a result of my subjective viewpoint of the samadhi? After all, at this stage in the process of enlightenment I could experience emptiness in any phenomena simply by reflecting upon it. And yet the phenomenon occurred in the ashram before I'd even sat down to perform the injunction. Could it simply be that ignorance still dominates the Magus's perception of
an object without a willed investigation, and so those phenomenon that are 'closer' to, or less ignorant of, the Truth appear to 'give off' emptiness or the Divine? Hence the appearance that emptiness is located in space/time, when it is actually above and beyond all phenomena, and so located everywhere and nowhere.

I had been having doubts about just how willing I was to authentically surrender myself to the lying fantasist that was the Mother. That night I dreamed of my step mother standing in a field and holding a child's hand. The child was Ramana Maharshi. She told me 'Do not go looking for the Supreme Lord in the fields'.

I came to conclude that my step mother was the Mother (a mother that is not my mother), Maharshi was the supreme realisation, and that I had a false belief that my final realisation rested upon a sincere approach to the Mother; or, in other words, the Mother cannot stop me becoming enlightened. Exactly what was I concerned about?

3rd March

The Matrimandir appointment was at 9am. It's a fantastic building, and the central chamber reminded me of an Enochian vision, with the world's largest man-made crystal set up in a very Enochian fashion (resting on 4 sided Aurobindo star, on a marble sign of the mother).

And the instructions for the 'concentration' within the Matrimandir? No talking, coughing, resting heads against walls, or chanting. I pressed the guide for an actual instruction. He talked about two kinds of 'concentration' that we could do: static (on a fixed idea like love) and dynamic (such as listening to a piece of music or exploring a theory). In other words, we were to have a good long think! I asked that if the crystal is the focus, are we supposed to think about what it represents? The answer: it was up to us!

The guide told us that the Mother had seen Auroville in a number of visions, and that it was only a matter of time before the vision descended the various levels of manifestation and reached the material world. It occurred to me that this is the very meaning of the World Egg.

Apparently the Mother saw no money, no police, and a united human race (perhaps she just had a vision of Burning Man?).

I am always surprised by the amount of people who are unable to sit still and silent for 2 minutes. Many were resting their heads against the walls. One man looked as if he had been there for days: legs spread out, head back against a pillar, arms outstretched and facing upwards, as if begging for relief. The fat bastard was actually part of my group and had only been sat down for 5 minutes.

Disappointingly, there were no immediate effects from the world egg. Was the result still to come?

Arunachala Ramana

We left the same day for the small, hardcore Hindu town of Tiruvannamalai (sic), once home of Ramana Maharshi, and arrived at 7pm. I was excited to be there. Surely there would be an enlightened devotee of Ramana who might be able to 'finish me off' as it were, and end the process of enlightenment that had begun three years previous? After all, Maharshi's technique goes straight for the centre point, the last barrier between the self and the Absolute.

Next door to the hostel was the Manna cafe, and on the noticeboard was a number notices for instruction in self enquiry, reiki, bamboo flute tuition, dance and other assorted New Age guff. Amongst the adverts for spiritual instruction, one stood out due to the claim that the teacher was spiritually awakened. His name: Arunachala Ramana. This just happened to be the same name of the hostel where we were staying. He is an american who claims to have become enlightened in 1973 through seeing a picture of Ramana Maharshi in a bookshop. His satsang was invite only, so I took his number to give him a call.

In bed at about 10 pm, a subtle 'transmission' effect, very similar to the Cohen event, began to occur. Bliss, a feeling of coming home, and the realisation that I've been enlightened before, were all in attendance. Was this because I was near the mountain Arunachala, which Ramana claimed was his guru? Was it a result of the Matrimandir? Or was there an enlightened devotee in the building?

4th March

During the morning my wife and I saw a corpse in the street. Later, I found out that the Maharshi ashram was actually a few hundred meters from where we were staying. 'This may explain the vibes!', I thought.

Visiting the Maharshi ashram, we discovered something very different from the tranquility of Aurobindo's ashram. Maharshi is venerated as a traditional Hindu saint, with the burning of copious amounts of incense, the singing of the Vedas, and the 'feeding' of the samadhis (Ramana's, his mother's, his dog's, his cow's, etc) with milk; self enquiry, along with any enlightened devotees or lineage, were completely absent. This was very disappointing, especially as I experienced no vibes whatsoever.

What happened next was frankly bonkers and quite embarrassing. To cut a long story short, we were convinced to walk a part of the way up the mountain with no shoes on (we had to take them off to visit the ashram) by a man (it later transpired) pretending to be an official guide at the ashram. He took us to a secluded spot, joked that we should have sex, and disappeared. We thought he was clearly insane, rested our sore feet for a minute, and began to leave. As we did, the guide came running out of the bushes, red faced and sweaty (he had obviously been masturbating), as (it later transpired) two of his young friends turned up to 'join in'. He then did his best to convince us to get drunk with him, as we hobbled back to the ashram. I reported the man, and the manager of the ashram found it hilarious.

You couldn't make this shit up, but that's India for you.

We returned to the hall to meditate; but I was overwhelmed with disappointment. This was certainly not the experience I was expecting at Ramana Maharshi's ashram.

Later I called the Arunachala Ramana ashram to book myself in for the satsang. We were required to visit the day before the satsang to undergo an orientation and registration.

5th March

I was determined that today was not going to be like yesterday. We decided to get some bananas to hand out to the poor and the stoner sadhus, and we planned to give away our cigarettes and our modest amount of cannabis too.

We bought some flowers for a puja to Ganesha at the main Hindu temple. If anyone can help, Ganesha can. As we were buying some bananas, a sadhu approached me with a golden spear. I suddenly remembered the weed in my pocket, and gave it to him. Without unwrapping the packet, he looked at me as if he already knew what it was, and thanked me sincerely. The sadhu then handed me a lemon, saying it was 'very good''. He had obviously just lifted it from the bowl of lemons next to him on the fruit stand.

The temple was magnificent and sprawling. We visited the lingam that Maharshi visited as a child, and burned some incense to Shiva. A guide approached us outside in the courtyard. We told him we had no money, but he could have some cigarettes if he took us to Ganesha. The guide led us to a large orange statue of the elephant-headed god, and led a very minimalist puja. We placed the flowers on the ground with two bananas, and burned an incense stick. I didn't feel as if I had connected with Ganesha properly, so as we parted company with the guide, I remembered the lemon, and went back to Ganesha to make the offering. Standing there in silence, I suddenly felt Ganesha's presence manifest in the statue and a great love welled up inside me. Om Ganapati!

We returned to the Maharshi a
shram to meditate in the grand hall, where we bumped into the manager of the ashram who asked, rather sincerely, if we were OK today. Om Ganapati!

After the meditation, my wife told me how she felt inspired, like she was ready to begin something new, perhaps a vocation, which she later investigated on the net. Om Ganapati!

Later that day it was time for 'orientation' at Arunachala Ramana's AHAM ashram. Lovely big grounds, very peaceful. We went up to the roof top where we met Vivian, a long serving staff member of the organisation. She told us a little bit about AHAM, before our one-to-one questions would begin. What followed was a good hour of conversation and debate.

She told me I was already awakened, just like everyone else. So I asked her why AHAM existed. She replied 'Why not?'. I asked her if she could give me any pointers on teaching enlightenment as I wished to set up a similar organisation in the future, to which she replied 'The future doesn't exist, only the present, so why does it matter?'. I asked her if she planned to wear clothes tomorrow or eat any food. I put it to her that if I wanted to build a roof like the one above us, could she not tell me how they have done it and what problems I might encounter? Why was it not the same with an organisation? To try a different tac, I asked her if it was possible for two fully awakened people to talk about how best to make a roof. She replied I'd have to ask them. She then told me there have been no problems, there is nothing to relate. Why couldn't she have just said that in the first place?

She asked me what questions I'd like to put to Arunachala. I started with 'In your opinion', but she cut me off to say, 'He doesn't have opinions. He doesn't have a mind, or thoughts'. I could hardly hide my incredulity. I suggested that maybe he has thoughts, but he is not attached to them. She concedes that yes, he probably does have thoughts. Phew!

When I related my interest in maps, stages and recognisbale features leading up to enlightenment – stating very clearly that I have experienced some of these stages prior to my knowledge of any maps or models and that some people seem to get enlightened in very different ways – she dismissed the very idea and stated that they have nothing to do with 'that' at AHAM.

Vivian then talked about their 8 day graduate program, where the student gets a buddy who has already graduated, in order to help them through. I asked her if a graduate is actually enlightened. Bizarrely, this completely threw her, and she eventually blurted out 'Well I don't know!'.

I was convinced that Vivian was clearly not enlightened, even after 30 years of working in an organisation that supposedly facilitates such a thing, nor was she even aware if the program has actually enlightened anyone. And she had the audacity to spout pseudo-advaita at me as if she actually knew what she was talking about.

It was made clear that any questions about teaching enlightenment from a practical point of view, running an organisation or the process of enlightenment that Arunachala may have gone through prior to his enlightenment would be answered with 'But who is this 'I' that wants to know?'.

We finished off with a little pointing out exercise. Before coming, I had done a tarot reading on how best to proceed with AHAM, and I had been told 'to be open'. I think I was quite courteous and tolerant during the conversation, and I did bite my tongue a number of times. So I mustered up some interest and did my best to try out the exercise. I was told to think of a problem. I picked enlightenment. I was then instructed to write the various emotions and thoughts surrounding this problem as a web diagram, with 'I am' in the middle. Surprisingly, fear came up as part of the problem. When I had finished, Vivian asked me to consider what all of these elements had in common. The answer, of course, was 'I am'. Whenever I have a problem, I was told, I could perform this exercise to realise that I am none of these emotions and thoughts, only pure being, and that the negative emotions would then 'dissolve' in awareness.

Back in the town, we were stopped by a German woman for holding hands. Apparently this causes rape to occur in the town, as it frequently does on the mountain, especially to foreigners. I said a lot of things to this woman, and a lot of those things were swear words.

We booked our flight to the andaman islands that night.

6th March

It was time for my satsang with Arunachala Ramana. On the way to the ashram, I actually felt ready to give the whole enlightenment thing up. I was sick of it!

'The Sanctuary', where the satsang would take place, was a nice room with two large pictures of Jesus and Ramana Maharshi. Comfy seats, and a large throne for Arunachala. There were about nine people already sat in silence, most of them meditating with their eyes closed, in a classical pose or holding a mudra.

I had brought questions to ask Arunachala. Vivian announced no note taking; we were beyond academic or intellectual learning now.

I had a sense of excitement, anticipation. This was the first time I would be interacting with an enlightened person. How should act? And what about the Supreme Realisation itself? I felt some fear at what the experience of that realisation might be like, and my heart raced. Going with the flow, I employed the 'I am' technique from the day before, in order to calm down.

Arunachala Ramana entered: a tall, bulky fat man with cropped white beard and hair. His shorts were humongous in order to cover his overhanging gut. He had two very bad tattoos, one on each forearm: an outline of the state of Texas, and a scroll saying 'Mother'. It seemed like an effort for him to walk; but he looked nothing like an 80 year old. His bulk explained the size of the chair. He sat and pulled up a foot rest, sighed a bit, and looked round the room.

Suddenly my conceit around what it meant to be enlightened was apparent. I closed my eyes. I had held an unacknowledged conceit around process and practice too; they had no bearing on enlightenment whatsoever. How could they?! I was in a strong absorption state; but this too was obviously unrelated. And finally: a stupendous fruition, with white light and a feeling of expansion. And with this I acquired knowledge of the Supreme Truth. Even emptiness or the non-dual had nothing whatsoever to do with enlightenment! A vision appeared of Arunachala holding a scroll, that when unfurled had only two words written on it: 'I AM'. Vajras made up the ends of the scroll, and the phrase 'The Path and Purpose are One' was heard.

I opened my eyes. What had just happened? I wasn't completely sure, but the meditations, poses and mudras of the sangha were patently absurd. Just exactly what did they think this behaviour would achieve? Why were they here looking to Arunachala for something he could not possibly give them?

By the end of the preliminary hour of silence (9-10am), Arunachala began the question and answer portion of the session. Vivian must have provided the questions we told her we might pose Arunachala the day before, because he picked up a piece of paper and began with 'So we have two questions from Alan and Ruth.' He started to read out the first question, when I interrupted him. 'I no longer have any questions', I said. Arunachala asked me if I then understood what it means to be enlightened. I replied 'Yes!'. He then moved on to answer the next question.

It occurred to me that I had just awakened; and funnily enough, at the exact point when all the maps and models predicted I would. I felt finished, complete, whole. This was a knowledge, not a state or trance. Most peculiarly, I saw tha
t my future was not concerned with magick per se, or with any tradition for that matter. My destiny lay not at the hands of the authors of The Book of the Law; the ultimate, absolute truth, and so myself, was beyond it all. It would take me a week or so before my new vision would begin to take shape.

For the next hour, Arunachala held forth, without once resorting to the pseudo-advaita crap Vivian had come out with the day before. However, Arunachala seemed to believe that the initial results of the self enquiry technique – mastered within 8 days – is the same thing as awakening. Perhaps this is because Arunachala – just like Ramana – was already enlightened when he first tried such a technique, therefore leading him to conclude that it must lead directly to awakening for everyone.

Outside, during the informal 'fellowship' period, both myself and Ruth were disappointed in the fact that no one spoke. They remained as if still in the satsang: silent, some with eyes closed, some even laughing to themselves as if privy to some incredible cosmic joke. I got the impression that Vivian really didn't like me, especially after interrupting Arunachala. Sadly, no one even mentioned the fact that I had publicly announced I had just become enlightened not half an hour before. Was this because they simply assumed I had just understood self-enquiry? Did they believe themselves enlightened because they had taken part in an 8 day program? Or could they not entertain the idea simply because I was obviously nothing like Arunachala, who at one point even said that he had no answers, it was only the being that spoke through him that did?

I bought a DVD of the session just to get my enlightenment on film, and noticed the large Ganesha statue in the garden. Ganesha was there at the beginning (my first magical act to kick start the process) and at the end! Om Ganapati!

On the way back to the hotel we agreed to discuss what had happened for both of us and what we got out of the experience at a nearby cafe. Ruth was to be the first person I would tell I was enlightened, and it seemed like such a ridiculous thing to say. However, Ruth suspected what had happened (which isn't a surprise considering I announced it at the satsanga; what is more of a surprise is that no one else did) and told me that she got very excited on the way to the cafe. At this point I felt very lucky indeed; not many people would act so appropriately (one ex of mine would have been absolutely disgusted at such an announcement). To have a partner who can understand what it means to be enlightened and back you all the way is a blessing indeed.

It now seemed obvious that Arunachala Ramana was the prophesied hierophantic 'king' or 'caesar', with a tattoo, who would provide the 'supreme ritual'. He had led me down the throat of the adversary – the 'something nasty at the end of the tunnel' – and I had 'slain the dragon'. And the whole experience was to take me in a completely new direction.

However, the fact that I encountered the gnome symbolism prior to this whole experience suggested that myself and Duncan had perhaps made the error of amalgamating many of the predictions or symbols provided by Tempe into a description of just one event. Future experiences, such as encountering the boat and the 'swallow' symbolism, would corroborate this (see The Tempe Working Explained (coming very soon) for more).

Latitude and Longitude

My first day as an awakened person was to last 36 hours, as we travelled non-stop to the Andaman Islands: the very co-ordinates supplied by Tempe during the second working. I saw the trip as a well deserved holiday from the task of getting enlightened, before my life's real work could begin.

As we travelled, every now and again Ruth would ask me if I felt the same. I would check and I always did. However, old habits die hard, and I found myself trying to hold on to awakening (even though it was way beyond such a notion) and fretting that it might go (again, which was impossible). The conceited nature of these two actions were abundantly clear to me, but I cannot say I suffered from them.

A million questions now sprang up to replace the hundreds I had before awakening, and I would spend the coming days developing new ideas about enlightenment, whilst wrestling with the old, useless habits and perspectives based on chasing it.

16th March

I received news of Duncan's enlightenment, and I was surprised at my own surprise that it would occur just then. However, after considering everything else that had happened with The Baptist's Head, it made perfect sense.

I couldn't wait for what we were going to do next!

You Can’t Be Serious!

Are Alan and myself really claiming to be enlightened?

Yes, we are.

Are we serious?

Completely.

But we're also up for answering queries and criticisms from anyone who's interested enough to have any. In fact, I've taken the liberty of answering a couple that no one has even put to us yet. (But I bet they're thinking them!)

Why do you claim to be enlightened when everyone knows that's impossible?

The Buddha got shirty sometimes when people asked him this. He would reply with similes of blind men presuming to tell sighted people there's no such thing as colour. A declaration that enlightenment is impossible from someone who hasn't made the proper efforts to see for themselves carries no authority, of course. But the general question whether enlightenment is possible is completely valid and deserves a considered response.

Enlightenment entails an encounter with something that lies beyond experience: the Absolute. The assumption that enlightenment is impossible arises from the contradiction in the proposition that this unknowable can be known, or that that which is not a part of experience can somehow be sensed.

I used to hold this view myself, and no one was ever more astonished than me to discover that the confrontation with the Absolute simply makes this everyday logic of 'this or that' redundant.

If we wonder that something outside our experience can be available to our experience it's because we have identified a particular range of our awareness as 'us', as 'our experience'. Yet, in reality, we are simply not what we appear to ourselves to be. When we take the trouble to look, the self cannot be found in any sensation, idea, feeling or thought, but is something beyond all of these. The self, therefore, is already not any part of experience. The encounter with the Absolute, then, does not bring us into contact with anything alien to or in contradiction with the true self. Enlightenment is the moment when we realise that this everyday logic of 'this or that', 'self or other', does not apply to our true identity.

Buddhism teaches that there are six realms of existence: hell realms, hungry ghosts, the animal kingdom, the human world, the realm of the warring gods, and the heavenly gods. But it states that to be born in the human world is the most fortunate of births, because only in the human world is there the possibility of enlightenment. Clearly, there is something special about being human with regard to the process of awakening.

I've started to wonder whether this special human attribute isn't something specifically to do with our cognition, something to do with how we can know and react to truth. Because the attainment of enlightenment turns on realisation: the truth we arrive at through our understanding doesn't remain at the level of ideas, but enters into experience, into our existence. At the moment of realisation all of our efforts to get enlightened are finalised into a new relationship with reality. We become the fruit of our efforts.

If we understand magick as the art of experiencing truth, it might be said that human beings can become enlightened because they have the ability to practise magick.

You've simply deluded yourself by meditating too much!

This one, I imagine, is likely to be levelled at us by the green meme, postmodern crew. If you believe you're enlightened, they might say, then that's how it will seem to you; it's 'true' from your perspective. They might even add: And that's okay, because there's nothing worse about that reality tunnel than any other, as long as it's the one you've chosen to go down.

Unfortunately, the critic who assumes that being enlightened simply entails believing yourself to be so is probably going to be the least inclined or able to grapple seriously with the practices that actually lead to enlightenment, and thus unlikely to gain a direct understanding for themselves that this is not how things stand.

It took me three and a half years to arrive at that moment of awakening which occurred last month. Three and a half years spent meditating every day, or going off on retreats. During those sessions I looked closely at my moment-to-moment experience and disciplined my mind away from fantasies, speculation, idle philosophising, to concentrate exclusively on what was there in front of me, in immediate awareness. And the rest of the time, when I wasn't sitting in meditation, I was trying to do exactly the same thing in my daily life.

Does looking at what's right in front of you seem likely to lead to delusion? Does it seem likely that someone who has dedicated him or herself to this practice for a number of years and continues to do so will be more 'deluded' than someone who, on the basis of no experience whatsoever (because, according to him or her, there couldn't be any authoritative experience) has simply assumed they know better?

You decide!

Enlightenment

On March 6th, 2009, a Twitter message from Alan in India lit up my screen at work: It is finished.

This could mean only one thing: he'd attained arahatship, that degree of understanding traditionally described as 'enlightenment'.

Wonderful news. But now what? One of us getting enlightened meant The Baptist's Head had fulfilled its aim. So what would follow? And strongest of all were the feelings about how this impacted upon me: envy, frustration, fear that I might never achieve the same level understanding.

Bodhi svaha! I tweeted back to Alan, at the same time resolving to bring myself to the same level as soon as possible.

The Powers That Be

The last couple of fruitions in my meditation practice had been biggies. I'd sensed I was close, and had even wondered whether I might get there before Alan. (That would have been sweet! I'm pretty sure I beat him to stream-entry, by the way, but I've been trailing ever since.) It was time to obtain some heavy-duty guidance so, that same afternoon, I lit some incense of Abramelin, banished the temple, and invoked my Holy Guardian Angel.

The presence of the angel came through very strong. In answer to my question 'How can I make the grade of arahat as quickly as possible?' it gave me three runes: TYR (reversed), BEORC and WUNJO.

TYR (reversed) BEORC WUNJO

WUNJO was easy enough to decipher. It symbolises joy. In all communications my angel has used it to represent fruition or enlightenment. The outcome seemed assured, then, but how to make it happen quickly?

TYR reversed, according to the book I consulted, symbolised impatience and effort incorrectly applied. I had stepped up my practice recently in a bid to precipitate a final breakthrough. This was worrying; it was evidently the wrong approach. BEORC, however, was more positive: it represented a birth or coming into being. 'Any schemes in the works should be implemented right away', the commentary advised me.

I asked for a sign from my angel. The sky outside the window, which had been empty, instantly filled with birds.

Arahat Weekend

For the weekend of March 14-15th I'd reserved a place on two workshops with dharma teacher Christopher Titmuss who, I imagine, is no stranger to enlightenment. I'd also booked a two-week residential retreat at the beginning of April at a Buddhist centre. These would form the elements of a new plan: I would ease up on my meditation practice and try to relax into enlightenment, rather than forcing it through; and I would try to use the retreat and the contact with Titmuss as catalysts.

Yet even before deciding this – in fact, right from the moment I'd received Alan's message, a softening in my practice had already begun to set in. It had already begun to seem absurd to attempt to 'pressure' Emptiness into a conclusion. But after only a couple of sittings, this softening itself also became problematic.

I was confident that I was well-established at the level of realisation before enlightenment, known as 'third path' or anagami. This stage is characterised by the appearance of Emptiness to the meditator over extended periods, or 'in real time'. The apprehension of Emptiness, however, was limited to a particular point in my field of awareness, specifically associated with with my brow (ajna) chakra. Emptiness always gave a strong impression of being on one side, with me on the other side, set against it, although there was a paradoxical awareness that both were actually on the same continuum, as if situated at different points along a mobius strip. There had also been experiences – usually at or approaching fruition – when me and Emptiness would flip places, sometimes with Emptiness seeming 'over here' and me on the 'other side'. From my reading and my contact with highly-realised practitioners, I'd been led to believe that enlightenment comes when 'me' is completely identified with Emptiness, or – in other words – the process of identifying the self with sensations comes to an end through its having been seen for what it is.

So how was I to make that final jump from identifying with sensations to identifying with Emptiness? The softening tendency had already led to my abandonment of formal vipassana practice. It simply seemed more natural just to sit with Emptiness. But what was I supposed to do with it? If I focused my awareness on Emptiness, it solidified into an object of concentration, and I would find myself moving up and down through the various concentration states, or jhanas, which was pleasant enough but wasn't leading to any new insights. Yet if I left Emptiness alone and just sat, this seemed to go nowhere either, except into increasingly more contentless states that at times seemed to slip into that almost utter cessation known as nerodhi samapatti.

When in doubt, ask someone who's been there and done it! The workshops with Christopher Titmuss synchronistically rolled around. Titmuss doesn't teach meditation on these dayschools; instead he talks, and encourages people to talk to each other. Probably he's learnt the hard way that people don't themselves tend to like to learn the hard way, but talking about psychological stuff is the most likely inroad to the dharma that most modern westerners would be willing to follow. His themes for the weekend were: 'Does Anything Really Matter?' and 'The Powerlessness of Now'. Titmuss is a compassionate and lovely man who oozes realisation from every pore. By the end of the weekend I was so calm and focused on the dharma that in itself this seemed to have an effect. At the end of the first workshop, I asked if he would listen to a question about my practice. I briefly described where I'd got to. Instead of the struggle I'd had explaining myself to teachers in the past, he seemed to know exactly what I was talking about and what I needed.

'You don't need to practise anything,' he said. 'Just attend to that which is not Emptiness.'

That was it. I was confident this advice would prove correct. It was Saturday evening, and I sat two further sittings in which I put Titmuss's advice into practice. I noticed no particularly unusual states during these, except the feeling that my practice was moving forwards again. It felt 'right'.

The Eye in the Pyramid

A few days earlier, at the beginning of the week, I'd had a vision during my morning sitting. First, I'd seen an eye: unblinking, persistent and staring. Then I'd felt myself picked up and moved. My 'soul' was being transported. It was taken to a pyramid and ushered directly through the walls into the innermost chamber. Radiant white light filled my being as I entered. Inside, also bathed in white light, Alan's soul was waiting.

It was so cheesy it made me chuckle, but there was no denying the unusual power of the vision. Success seemed assured, but there's no oracle I've ever come across that seems able to put accurate timescales on its predictions. It might be years before I joined Alan in our gay Egyptian hideaway.

The timescale that Destiny was working to turned out to be far different from anything I'd expected.

Completely Unexpected

On Monday 16th March I woke at 2.50am wondering if someone in the building had put their washing machine on maximum spin. There was a sensation of heat and a strong, fast vibration in my solar plexus. It was a moment before I grasped the cause of the feeling was internal. And then, a moment afterwards, I noticed consciousness had changed in some strange way. There was a feeling of collapse and relaxation. A peculiar absence of striving.

I waited for a few minutes. If this were a dream or trance, then it would pass. But although the vibrations faded, the alteration in consciousness remained; in fact, it grew, and a sense of utter certainty established itself.

I knew it was done.

I got out of bed to meditate. Looking inward, I saw the configuration of the mind had changed to a degree I'd only experienced before after gaining a new path. When I tried to resume the practice that Titmuss had given me – 'attend to that which is not Emptiness' – I couldn't, because the practice had become redundant. Emptiness was apparent, but it was no longer set against or beside anything. The structure of my mind had shifted so that now, wherever I looked, everything was Emptiness.

My personality being the thing it is, I was gripped with doubt, anxiety, fear. Was this what it seemed? Would it last? But the doubts, anxieties and fears were arising against the background of this new configuration, where there was no sense of a separate me set against anything. So although my personality was doing the kind of thing it usually does, its products were seen through effortlessly as soon as they arose, or with the merest reflection.

Often, indeed, there are still things I experience that include a sense of 'me'. But under the new configuration these have become just that – i.e. they are experienced not as 'me', but as sensations giving rise to that. The whole, entire field of awareness is shot-through with Emptiness, which seems the most salient aspect of the new understanding. It is this that prevents 'me' from setting itself up in opposition to anything, as it used to. The old solid and separate 'me' has been stifled at its very root, and seems unlikely to return. This domination of the field of awareness by Emptiness is what is meant – I assume – by the saying 'Emptiness is Form', which is the realisation upon which arahatship depends. There is, then, a sense that all phenomena (including the sense of a perceiver) arise against a background of Emptiness. It might be described as seeming as if phenomena were 'blocking the view' of Emptiness; as if true seeing would occur if it weren't for all these impressions of objects in the way. From this perspective I understand the saying 'in the seeing, just the seen; in the hearing, just the heard', etc., which supposedly describes the moment-to-moment consciousness of the arahat.

A few minutes after 4am I returned to bed and slept. I dreamt that someone brought me a selection of nice PVC trousers to try on. I chose my favourites, then stood and performed the song 'Bombers' by Tubeway Army. I was aware that probably I looked absurd, but I enjoyed the song and the singing anyway. Why hadn't I done this sooner? I wondered.

I woke again at 6am and everything was in the same new state. I got up, meditated, and my observations were again the same.

The teaching and the workshops with Titmuss had created the space for the most unexpected thing to occur. I'd never expected it to come so soon, nor for it to be like this – which is a good indication that it really has occurred, because I still remember how third path (anagami) was completely beyond my wildest expectations. As this is too, with its bizarre mix of the ordinary and the strange. Of all the paths this one bears the strongest resemblance to no path at all.

Nothing has ceased of its own accord. Rather, an understanding has been arrived at that enables a view through and beyond everything that continues to arise same as it ever was.

I can't pretend the last week has been a blissful joy-fest. There is a lot of integration to be done. My obsession with enlightenment is unfortunately still in place: I catch myself obsessively scanning my inner processes for traces of unenlightened behaviour, checking I still 'have it', even though this makes no sense. The habits and obsessions are seen through as they arise, yet the tendencies that give rise to them are still fully active. My mind gives the impression of a flywheel mechanism that's no longer needed to carry the strain it used to, and now it's spinning super-fast, out of control, because there's nothing else for it to do.

On the two nights following awakening I was again disturbed by vibrations and heat in the solar plexus. Each night was weaker than the last, and there has been no recurrence since. I've also been bothered by headaches and migraine-like symptoms for a few days. These, too, seem to be passing. What remains at the moment are anxiety-dreams, which, I'm hoping, are a means for all the obsessive tendencies and unhelpful impulses that have grown up around my dogged pursuit of enlightenment over the years to blow off some steam and perhaps one day cease.

In the meantime, I intend to get on with things, just as I've always tried. I'd be untruthful if I said there's absolutely no change to everyday awareness. This path seems to have a very subtle background sensation, like the mental equivalent of constantly falling backwards. It reminds me of looking up into a colourless sky and watching snowflakes come tumbling down.

Magick and Enlightenment: A Recap

During the introduction to some dharma workshops I attended at the weekend, everyone was invited to say something about their practice and their connection with Buddhism. Explaining myself to a Buddhist group was an interesting exercise in making clear the relationship between magick and the dharma.

The aim of the Western Magickal Tradition – I explained – is the same as that of Buddhism: enlightenment. The specific act of magick that fulfils this aim is known as The Great Work. The magician achieves The Great Work through the invocation of an entity known as The Holy Guardian Angel. The angel leads the magician across the Abyss, which is the gap between our ordinary perception and metaphysical experience. This culminates in the magician's first awakening, a temporary experience of enlightenment. By engaging in further work with the angel, eventually the magician achieves union with it – which is equivalent to 'full' or 'final' enlightenment.

In Buddhist terms, the angel is a representation of Emptiness. Angel and Emptiness are the same thing. Magick is the art of experiencing Truth, so the Western magician uses the angel as a dualistic representation of non-dual, unrepresentable Emptiness in order to bring about a direct experience of Emptiness through magical means. Because it employs magick, the Western Tradition often proves the most direct and fastest route to the realisation of enlightenment, but it is not without certain risks to the ignorant and unwary.

Where the Western Tradition has fallen down, however, is in the clarity of its teachings. The Buddhist teachings are more straightforward, whereas western occultism has been subject to vigorous suppression by exoteric religion, and has also been corrupted and misunderstood by its own supposed practitioners.

The most common corruption of the Western Magical Tradition is the practitioner's inability or refusal to use magick in the realisation of The Great Work, but instead to limit its use to sorcery or 'low' magic. The Buddhists texts on meditation accept the development of psychic powers or siddhis as a corollary to awakening, and include similar warnings on the dangers of mistaking these powers as an end in themselves or a substitute for enlightenment.

In the Western Tradition, however, competency in magick is an absolute prerequisite for The Great Work. The reason for this is simple: to summon the angel, one must be familiar with the technique of invocation; to communicate with the angel, one must know how to work with spirits; to make decisions about directions to be taken, divination is essential, etc. In short, The Great Work demands proficiency in all areas of magick.

When properly understood as a genuine tradition, the Western Magical Tradition places magick in the service of enlightenment. As the magician moves surely and swiftly towards the realisation of the aim (which is inevitably successful because it is the expression of a magical act) then his or her magical abilities are developed and perfected at the same time.

It is for this reason that the Holy Guardian Angel is often described as 'the future magical self'. Union with the angel – let us remember – is the realisation of Emptiness, and so magick placed at the service of enlightenment bootstraps the magician into awakening to his or her ultimate nature.

What LAM Did for Us

Looking back through my magical diary, I was surprised to discover the important role played by the extraterrestrial entity LAM in the foundation of The Baptist's Head and my embarkation upon The Great Work.

Remember LAM? The egg-headed alien, assumed by many to be the prototype of our modern-day 'alien grey', inadvertently summoned into our dimension by an ill-considered magical working of Aleister Crowley? The very same whom Alan argued (convincingly, I think) is in fact only an inept invention of Kenneth Grant, spawned from his misinterpretation of an equally inept 'portrait' by Crowley of the Chinese sage Lao-Tzu [1].

LAM

A nest of synchronicites, with LAM at its centre, brought Alan and I into each other's orbit. I was new to magic at the time, but had joined a group of which Alan was also a member. I had been reading Promethea by Alan Moore and remember being struck by how Moore rendered the tarot card 'The Judgment' as Harpocrates, 'the silent god', with the face of Harpo Marx [2].

On the way to a meeting of our group I listened to a podcast by The Viking Youth, which contained the first references I'd heard to the supposed connection between space aliens, LAM, and Crowley's Amalantrah Working.

At the meeting, one of the rituals involved making contact with a 'machine intelligence' from the future. During this I received a vision of a alien 'grey', with its lips sealed – hardly surprising, perhaps, considering what I'd been reading and listening to. I mentioned my vision to Alan, who I hardly knew at the time. 'Have you done any work with LAM?' he asked. 'Funny,' I answered, 'I was listening to a podcast about him on the way here.'

Later in the same meeting, Alan presented a ritual that involved a petition to the Egyptian god Heru-pa-khered. As the name suggests, this god was the forerunner of the Greek Harpocrates and shares the same iconography: a finger against his lips in a gesture of silence. Both gods are also strongly identified with Horus.

It seemed that LAM was calling me, so on March 5th, 2006, I made contact with him for the first time, following the specific instructions provided by Grant. Immediately I obtained some odd results: such as opening my eyes as directed by the instructions, only to discover that temporarily I could not see; and reaching up to touch my face, only to discover I appeared to have no head! At the end of the working, I requested LAM to make a sign in the sky that contact had been established. A couple of days later, I found myself staring in wonder out of the office window with my colleagues, at a strange rainbow-coloured light in the daytime sky [3].

With results like these, no wonder I went back for more! The second working, March 8th, was less intense. I began to realise how LAM is not a 'personality' but more 'the idea of an operation; that one must do certain things to obtain a result'. Among other stuff, I was advised of the importance of the heart chakra and given a vision of 'black wine' that I must drink in order to change myself forever.

This last theme reappeared in the third working, March 12th, as a 'black sea' that I tried to enter, but caused a stir among the gods because 'I was not advanced enough'. I was advised to aquire an ankh, to meditate upon it and to wear it – which, later, I did. A boat came towards me, and this I took to mean that by working with the ankh I might cross the black sea.

The fourth working on the 15th included a prophecy: the arrival of a person. 'Look out for them and listen to what they say,' LAM was telling me. I was then told explicitly: 'Ask Festoon'. At the time, this was Alan's magical name. (Hey, I can't knock him: in those days I was going by the monicker of 'Frater Vacuum'.) The vision then presented an image of Alan looking through a microscope.

It was this explicit instruction from LAM that led to Alan and I discussing the possibility of working together, making podcasts and setting up a website – long before either of us harboured any explicit notion of 'The Great Work'.

Perhaps LAM's work was done at this point, because the fifth working (March 19th) was vaguer and inconclusive, and I began to wonder if he was actually having a positive effect.

The sixth (March 26th) was vaguer still. I had a sense that messages were being passed to me, yet I was – again – 'not advanced enough' to decipher them.

The seventh, and the last, on April 9th, was also unclear: 'a strong sense of silence about to be broken. Of a voice about to be heard… He expresses that which is on the borderline of communication'. And: 'there is information in the air and in the sky. It is in a material that we have not managed to decode yet… The communication is all around us, but appears in a form so mundane or indistinguishable that we do not perceive it as a signal'.

That was the last I ever heard from LAM – and the last he ever heard from me. Looking back, however, it seems there are clear precedents in these workings of what would follow: the crucial alliance with Alan; the 'black sea', as an abyss that I would cross (into 'stream entry'), but at the time was not sufficiently advanced to comprehend; the silence and the overlooked communications, which now could perhaps be read as a naive inklings of the notion of emptiness.

Thanks, LAM! You helped me a lot! Not bad, considering your origins in the insane ravings of Kenneth Grant. It would seem that even the most contrived and ridiculous imaginings have something to offer if approached in the right way. Or perhaps it was simply in his true identity as Lao-Tzu that LAM was guiding me along.

Notes

[1] Alan Chapman, 'Who Let The Greys In?', Fortean Times, No. 231 (January, 2008). Or see the version of the article on this website.

[2] Alan Moore & J.H. Williams, Promethea: Book 2 (Titan Books, 2003).

[3] After some Googling, the material cause of this seemed to be sunlight on ice-crystals in the atmosphere.

Spirit Communication: An Interpretation of ‘The Cross Correspondences’

The Cross Correspondences are often described as the best evidence ever produced for the survival of the personality after death. They are a voluminous collection of writings or 'scripts' produced by a group of mediums between the years 1903 and 1931, purportedly representing communications from a group of dead people. Chief among this group were three prominent and founder members of The Society for Psychical Research (SPR): Henry Sidgwick, Edmund Gurney and Frederick Myers.

The SPR was founded in 1882 and marks the beginning of organised research into the paranormal. Back in the day, paranormal phenomena attracted the interest of the brightest minds. Presidents of the SPR included professors, members of The Royal Society and even a Nobel laureate. Sidgwick, Gurney and Myers were themselves exceptional bright-sparks and after they passed on, members of the SPR reasoned that if anyone could produce evidence of survival then these three were probably better placed than anyone else – assuming, of course, they had survived. And so, a series of sittings with a talented medium was arranged, and – sure enough – communications from the three of them started to come through. However, these weren't your standard 'Fred wants you to look after his garden' type of communications. For starters, they arrived through a group of mediums, some of whom were aware of each other, but some of whom weren't and – in addition – were widely separated from each other geographically. What's more, some of these mediums contacted the SPR unprompted with messages from the dead individuals concerned, even though the project was a secret within the organisation.

The messages themselves contain floods of strange imagery and disjointed phrases, which were a puzzle even to the mediums who channelled them. Yet when they were examined by interpreters appointed by the SPR they were found to consist of allusions and quotations from an astounding range of classical and literary texts. Some of the scripts only yielded their full meaning when read in conjunction with other scripts, which – it should be remembered – had been produced by different mediums in different locations with no knowledge of what their colleagues were producing. The communicators from 'the other side' had been formidably versed in the classics, to such an extent that the interpreters were still teasing out obscure meanings years after the scripts been produced. Many of the references that emerged had highly specific relevance to the lives of the individuals from whom they had supposedly originated.

Star bedecked the head – the broidered robe – the stars singing in their spheres. You have made a mistake about the robe, but never mind – I want a simple sentence known to you and you will not write it. The love that waits beyond Death. Say that – try again – she looked long, gazing, gazing – piercing the distance with eager eyes, that is better the plighted troth – roses for a maiden dead say that try again Gurney – let the pencil move freely – Help – there is one who asks your help – try again. (Roy, 2008: 201)

This is just a tiny sample. Although the messages on the surface seem vague, senseless, or at the very least wildly indirect, this allusive and distributed form of communication had the advantage of validating itself against its supposed origins. It couldn't all be due to the imagination of the mediums concerned, but indeed appeared to be originating from several specific – albeit disembodied – personalities.

Yet if these texts are really the overpowering evidence for after-death survival that some people claim, why hasn't everyone heard of them? There are various solid reasons why not. Firstly, the scripts and their interpretation are complex: anyone who wants to form an opinion is going to have to take time out and study them and the context in which they were produced. (I certainly wouldn't relish writing up the topic for Wikipedia.) Secondly, although partial accounts of the scripts have appeared in public (for instance Heywood 1978: 75-87), for years the SPR kept researchers at a distance, because some of the material was of a highly personal nature. These days, however, everyone who might have been personally affected by the revelation of this 'personal material' has sadly passed on. For the first time ever, the complete saga of the Cross Correspondences has been told in The Eager Dead: A Study in Haunting by Archie E. Roy. The full story is more bizarre than anyone could have imagined.

Archie Roy is a conservative soul. His book is partly a eulogy of the Victorian era and it's hard to criticize him for this, because back then it seems people really did know their place and behaved themselves, yet had big ideas and achieved great things, and – due to precisely this attitude – Britannia well and truly ruled the waves. The original members of the SPR likewise were drawn from the ranks of the great and good among the British establishment. But the image of gentlemen scientists fearlessly confronting the great question of existence breaks down decisively, in my opinion, once the communicators beyond the grave started to reveal 'The Plan'.

To describe 'The Plan' demands a sketch of the relationships and personalities of some of the people involved. Members of the illustrious Balfour family were active participants on the SPR scene. Henry Sidgwick had married a sister of Arthur James Balfour, who himself subsequently became one of the sitters, thus adding a British Prime Minister to the roll-call of luminaries connected with the SPR, for he indeed fulfilled that office between 1902 and 1906. Arthur Balfour never married and was a very private individual. When you think of how Gordon Brown did the decent thing and got hitched as soon as it looked half-likely he might get the top job, you realise that Balfour wouldn't have stood a chance of election these days. However, he had fallen deeply in love in his younger days, with Mary Lyttleton, who died prematurely of typhus. For the rest of his life he remained faithful to the memory of Mary.

The entities sending their communications through the scripts implored that Arthur Balfour should sit with one of the mediums, a 'Mrs. Willett', whose real name was Winnifred Coombe-Tennant, at the time a well-known public figure involved in various aspects of social reform, and a British delegate to the League of Nations – who safeguarded her credibility by keeping her mediumistic activities a closely-guarded secret. The scripts that resulted from this sitting and subsequent sessions convinced Arthur Balfour – because of their references to intensely private matters that no one living could have known about – that the communications were genuine, and were indeed originating from his lost love Mary who was waiting for him beyond the grave. Mary afterwards became a regular member of the group of communicating entities.

Not content with reuniting divided lovers, the dead, it seemed, wanted to get even more 'hands-on'. Edmund Gurney declared his love for medium Winnifred Coombe-Tennant through the scripts, and slowly 'The Plan' was revealed: that Winnifred should bear a child, whose paternity would be shared among the dead communicators, although chiefly by Gurney. And this child would be no ordinary baby, but a messiah who would lead humanity into a new golden age of peace.

At the time, Winnifred was locked in a loveless marriage to an older man; happily, however, she discovered a mutual attraction to one of the sitters, Gerald Balfour, brother of Arthur. Gerald was also married – but no matter; the result of their liaison in 1913 was a son, Henry Augustus Coombe-Tennant.

Henry's true paternity was also kept secret – although the undisguisable ph
ysical resemblance and some dropped hints enabled various people to work out that Gerald was really Henry's dad. Gerald's wife eventually came to terms with what had happened; the reaction of Winnifred's husband, however, has gone unrecorded. So what of the new messiah, Henry Coombe-Tennant? I know what you're thinking: the fact he's not a household name doesn't bode well for the authenticity of 'The Plan'.

Given his pedigree, it's unsurprising that Henry turned out to be another bright-spark. He went to Eton, then up to Cambridge, and from thence into the army. He saw active service during the Second World War, was taken prisoner by the Germans, escaped, and parachuted back into active service again, this time as a secret operations agent in occupied France. What Henry did after the war is not a matter of public record, because he worked for the British intelligence agencies, particularly in the Middle East. By this stage of his life he was aware of the grand destiny that had supposedly been mapped out for him, yet the people close to him and 'The Plan' began increasingly to despair of how he seemed less and less likely to realise it. The final blow to their hopes came in 1960, when Henry underwent a religious conversion, became a Roman Catholic, and entered a monastery. Major Henry Coombe-Tennant became Dom Joseph Coombe-Tennant. He died at the monastery in 1989.

The full story of the Cross Correspondences is indeed a very tangled web – and this summary isn't the half of it! Archie Roy's book runs to almost six hundred pages and involves far more than the outline I've presented here. But let's break down what we've got so far:

1. Members of the British establishment engage in communication with spirits.

2. The spirits communicate in a specific kind of language, and assist in the decoding of the message as part of their communications.

3. The spirits issue prophecies and injunctions for the purpose of bringing about historical change.

4. The communications culminate in an injunction to perform a sexual act that contravenes the moral codes of the era.

We can call this work 'psychical research' if we like, but in 1582, when John Dee and Edward Kelly undertook something strangely similar, it was regarded differently.

Unsatisfied with his progress in the fields of science and mathematics, Dee, a close advisor to Queen Elizabeth I – and probably a spy in her service – began seeking contact with angels and to this end enlisted the services of Kelly as his scryer or medium. The results of their work included books of prophecy and magick dictated in the angels' own language, 'Enochian'. The angels also instructed Dee and Kelly to travel around Central Europe and reprimand its monarchs for their ungodly ways. Amazingly, they did so, and yet somehow avoided execution. The end of their association came shortly after the spirits instructed them to swap wives. Dee was horrified by the prospect of this 'cross-matching', as he called it, but was convinced it was the will of God, and so in May 1587 it went ahead. The traditional interpretation of the breakdown in the magical partnership of the two men is the failure and embarrassment caused by the wife-swap, but this is perhaps debatable (Tyson 1997: 32). A circumstance not often mentioned is that a son was born to Dee's wife the following February (Woolley 2001: 295). Dee never raises the question of the child's paternity in his diaries, but he must have wondered.

And perhaps we're left wondering too: whether it's inevitable that anyone attempting sustained work with spirits, whether in the name of 'science' or 'psychical investigation', will eventually be talked into committing some kind of faintly absurd sexual faux pas. By the time the participants find themselves considering whether they should make a baby so he can become a messiah and save the world, or should swap wives in order to realise the will of God, perhaps they also need to admit they abandoned scientific method a long way down the road behind them.

What they're doing is dubious science, but possibly effective magick. Sex magick, of course. Imagine if the spirits had asked Aleister Crowley to perform a similar act. He wouldn't have batted an eyelid, because the advantage of Crowley's approach is clearly visible in this context: by consciously freeing himself from the taboos of his culture through sex magickal practice (he was, after all, a contemporary of the SPR researchers) Crowley side-stepped the neurotic torments of guilt and disgust that Dee endured and the SPR sitters also had to contend with. Crowley also forearmed himself against the embarrassment, the disappointment and sense of anticlimax that possibly scuppered the Dee-Kelly working, and perhaps also spoiled the outcome of the SPR communicators' plan. Crowley's approach immures the magician against a further possibility: that the spirits are simply dicking the participants around. Whether you understand 'spirits' to refer to independent entities, or repressed psychological complexes, in the cases of both Dee and the SPR it looks suspiciously as if the spirits were pushing the sitters beyond the limits of what was considered acceptable behaviour, just so they could roll about laughing.

Meric Casaubon (1659) was among the first to express in writing the opinion that the spirits with whom Dee trafficked were devils, not angels. It's difficult to decide whether the 'cross-matching' was proffered to Dee as a practical joke, or an authentic tantric working that might have widened his spiritual consciousness. However, the SPR communicators' plan for making a baby that would save the world is certainly – I'd suggest – tending toward a corrupted teaching. The idea that another person can eradicate your suffering is naïve. (Too bad that a great deal of modern Christianity is based on precisely this interpretation of the life of Christ.) A teacher might be able to point the way, but – putting aside wishful thinking – each of us must do our own work to liberate ourselves. Depending on someone else for this leads only to the dead-end of blind faith.

At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a strong messianic impulse at work in the culture. Within the Theosophical movement this took the shape of the belief that the child Jiddhu Krishnamurti was destined to become the World Teacher. In European society at large it might be argued that the ultimate manifestation of this messianic current was the fascist dictatorships of the 1930s. That Krishnamurti eventually rejected his role as World Teacher, and spent the rest of his life teaching 'you must become liberated not because of me but in spite of me', suggests that the Theosophical messiah had far more spiritual weight behind him than the fascist ones.

The SPR communicators always claimed they were the surviving personalities of Sidgwick, Myers and Gurney, but the sitters were never completely able to eliminate the possibility of what they called 'super ESP' – the possibility that the communications came from a telepathic source that had access to the personalities and experiences of dead people, but was not those dead people itself. In other words, could something have been pretending to be the people concerned?

If the messianic nature of the teachings doled out by the spirits seems suspect, the question of the spirits' identity is doubly so. Here we arrive at the central paradox of trafficking with dead people. To affirm their identities as the dead, the spirits had to demonstrate they possessed the more or less intact personalities of the people in question. Yet if those personalities were indeed still active, then in what sense could they be said to be 'dead'? It would be more accurate to describe them as merely 'disemb
odied'. But then if they were disembodied, why did they demonstrate such a concern with earthly, bodily issues – the spirit of Gurney professing its love for the medium Winnifred, for instance; or Mary wanting to sort out hers and Arthur's relationship issues? The karma (in its proper sense) of all these dead people was still very much active. What's more, by engaging with it, the sitters were allowing that karma to continue to spin the wheel of suffering upon earth.

Our confidence in the dead is perhaps undermined even further when we consider the following description by the spirit of Gurney of the state that he finds himself in:

The nearest simile I can find to express the difficulties of sending a message – is that I appear to be standing behind a sheet of frosted glass – which blurs sight and deadens sound – dictating feebly – to a reluctant and very obtuse secretary. A feeling of terrible impotence burdens me – I am so powerless to tell what means so much – I cannot get into communication with those who would understand and believe me. (Roy, 2008: 178)

He seems to be implying that he's still subject to perceptions of some kind (sight, sound), to desire, to a division of self and other… If he's really dead, he doesn't seem to have made a good job of dying! Certainly, he doesn't strike me as a wise entity whose advice I'd be confident to trust; he simply sounds like a man with 'issues'. But what else could we expect of a personality that has survived death? It's just a personality, after all. And don't we have enough of those to contend with on this side of life – our own personalities included?

Dee adopted a preferable approach, electing to talk to spirits that had never been human. If their injunctions seemed bizarre at times, this was presumably because the sphere of earthly concerns was the only domain in which they could make their extra-human intentions intelligible to us.

I began Roy's book with anticipation, because I'd read impressive things about The Cross Correspondences, and I do believe they represent a magickal working on a comparable scale to the angelic workings of Dee and Kelly. But I never expected I would come away more suspicious of the SPR work as a consequence.

One of my suspicions is positive, however – and that concerns the assumption that the SPR working was a total failure. When Henry entered the monastery, there was still some forlorn hope that he might one day become Pope and change the world. He didn't, of course. But, like Jiddhu Krishnamurti, the Theosophists' intended messiah, there is the possibility that he attained personal liberation and in this sense transformed the world. It's too bad that Henry's upbringing and his work for the secret services instilled in him the habit of keeping silent about his personal experiences. However, among the effects left at the monastery after his death, Roy recovered the script of a talk Henry once gave about his life. It contains the following reticent yet suggestive passage:

[W]hen I was serving in Baghdad, I became involved in a sequence of events and experiences whose significance seemed to me to transcend their actual content. I don't want to be questioned about these events or experiences. It will be sufficient to say that there was a period of profound mental and physical suffering, during which (if I may put it this way) my own ego, which had for so long been the self-sufficient centre of my inner life, disintegrated. I have grown a new ego since, of course, though not a self-sufficient one, but at that time there was nothing to hold me together. I was in pieces, and if the pieces were to be reassembled, a new principle of unity would have to be found. (Roy, 2008: 538)

If Henry during his time as a monk attained personal liberation, it might be argued that the SPR working was the most glittering success imaginable. If so, then maybe the universe itself had the last laugh, for from the reanimated karma of undead spirits Henry had been born, and had been considered a failure by all concerned because he failed to live up to his promised destiny. Yet perhaps, in Henry, that undead karma at last found its cessation, and he attained a form of fulfilment that the dead souls who fathered him simply couldn't match.

References

Heywood, Rosalind (1978). The Sixth Sense: An Inquiry Into Extra-Sensory Perception. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Roy, Archie E. (2008). The Eager Dead: A Study in Haunting. Brighton: Book Guild Publishing.

Tyson, Donald (1997). Enochian Magic For Beginners. Woodbury MN: Llewellyn.

Woolley, Benjamin (2002). The Queen's Conjuror: The Life and Magic of Dr Dee. London: Flamingo.

When Magic Turns Paranormal

This is a loose transcript based on my notes for the talk I gave at The Colours of Chaos (Conway Hall, 6th September, 2008). Some of the themes covered I've previously addressed elsewhere on this site, from a slightly different angle, in: 'Synchronicity, The Paranormal, Psychotherapy and Magic.'

Two Types of Magic

I would like to suggest that results from magical acts come in two flavours.

Sometimes people say to me: 'I got a spectacular result from some magic the other day. I wanted a new job, so I did a ritual. Then I looked in the newspaper, saw some ads, sent off for an application form, had some interviews, and then I got a new job.'

My reaction: 'Oh. That's really amazing. (Not.)'

But then a part of me thinks: Well, it's about the person's experience. They experienced the result as amazing, so that's what happened for them.

But then I see sense again, and I just can't help concluding: 'No. That's not magic. That's just getting your shit together and acting like you've got half a brain.'

It's only the second flavour of results that I would bother to call 'magic'. This is the type that also makes good stories. The first type doesn't, because they simply follow the rules of everyday cause and effect: you get a job by applying for one, whether you've done a ritual or not. Good stories are based on screwing about with events, or unexpected coincidences and significances.

I did a working recently to get myself abducted by aliens. (I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.) Various things happened (I don't want to bore you) but it reached a climax when, a week after the working, a friend and I were treated to a procession of UFOs right outside my window. In fact, half of Sussex saw them; there was a wave of UFO sightings across the south of England that weekend, which was reported in the local press.

Now that's what I call magick! Okay, it's not fair to compare an intent to get abducted by aliens with an intent to get a new job. Agreed. So, instead, let's compare the relationship between the intent and the result in each case.

Regarding the aliens, I'd expected the result to be a vision, maybe, or a lucid dream. Instead, I saw three UFOs and half the county got involved in a UFO flap! (The fact that the 'UFOs' were actually Chinese lanterns isn't relevant, because I don't believe in flesh-and-blood aliens anyway; but a UFO flap is a UFO flap!)

Case One: I want a job, I do a ritual, write-off for and get a job. The everyday laws of cause and effect are not being stretched.

In the case of the aliens, the probabilities against the result that manifested seem much higher. You get that wonderful buzz – the thing that keeps a lot of us doing magic, I suspect – that feels as if the whole universe is being levered into position, as a consequence of the working that we've done.

Actually, it hasn't, and later on I'll suggest why not.

The Paranormal

Question: Should any result gained through magic be viewed as a paranormal event?

Does it depend on how you define 'paranormal'? Perhaps you're expecting me to do that here, but I'm not going to, because I'm guessing we're already broadly in agreement: telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, clairvoyance.

What these boil down to, I'd suggest, is a violation or bypassing of the laws of cause and effect that usually obtain in our experience of mind, time, matter, and the mundane senses.

It's not that I want to big-up these 'laws of cause and effect'. All I mean by them is a set of assumptions by which we normally make sense of the happenings in our daily lives.

Paranormal phenomena, on the other hand, do not belong among these everyday happenings. For most people, the paranormal arises spontaneously, unexpectedly, and is generally unwanted. However, magicians are not 'most people'. Most magicians, I'm guessing, have experienced the paranormal. Some of them as the direct result of magical workings; although many, or perhaps most, as the unexpected side-effects of magical workings. What sets magicians apart from 'most people' with respect to the paranormal is this intentional aspect. We set out to make something unusual happen. Most people do not invite these sorts of things to happen to them.

So, there's a relationship between magic and the paranormal, but it's not as simple as saying that magic is the means by which the paranormal is caused. For instance, there are other kinds of people besides magicians for whom the paranormal manifests through intention.

I want to examine one of these groups of people: they don't use ritual, instead they use experiments. They don't have ouija boards or go into trances, instead they have various bits of hardware and – most importantly – statistics. They call themselves parapsychologists. But just like magicians, sometimes they persuade the paranormal to manifest in their laboratories.

Parapsychology

The history of parapsychology begins with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which was founded in 1882. Early paranormal research now reads to us like after-dinner parlour games. Interesting, but anecdotal. A shift occurs in the 1930s, coming from Duke University in North Carolina, where J.B. Rhine for the first time concentrates exclusively on a quatitative approach toward the paranormal.

Whately Carington

I want to concentrate on a parapsychologist from the transitional period between the two approaches, by the name of Whately Carington. An unsung hero. Obscure. Most likely to be mentioned in connection with the researcher Samuel Soal, the British equivalent of J.B. Rhine.

Soal set out to replicate Rhine between 1936 and 1941. He had 160 subjects. More than 128,000 trials. After five years of results he'd discovered nothing above chance.

It was Whately Carington who suggested to Soal that he re-examine his results and look for 'displacement effects'. By this, Carington meant that although the subject might give an incorrect guess to the card they were supposed to be guessing, how did their guess compare with the (also unseen) card that had been turned up in the previous trial, or the card that was about to be turned up in the next trial?

When Soal did this, he discovered that two of his subjects had scored hits several millions above chance – but on the trial before or after the one they were supposed to be guessing. Soal was able to replicate these results in subsequent experiments.

Hang on! If a subject is correctly guessing not the current card, but the one that comes after it, in the future, is this telepathy or precognition?

Carington had recognised the importance of displacement effects as a consequence of his own experiments, which were as follows: he collected a couple hundred volunteers; gave them a pile of prepared questionnaires; every evening at the same time he opened a book in his study and made a drawing based on a random word; he left the drawing over his fireplace, then he locked the room until next morning.

These days we'd call it 'remote viewing'. Carington's subjects were invited to remote-view the drawings (they lived all over Britain) and record their impressions on the forms. The results were assessed independently, and were found to indicate
scores significantly above chance.

After a while, Carington decided to enclose a photograph of his study in with the forms. He simply wanted to heighten his subjects' sense of participation in the experiment. He did not expect what happened subsequently: the number of hits jumped up dramatically.

The photograph was playing the part of what Carington would later call a 'K' object or 'K' idea. The 'K' object increased the number of hits – Carington theorised – because it supplied a link between the subject and the drawing. By showing them the study in which the drawing hung, it seemed to have the effect of putting the subject more fully in mind of the target, the drawing.

'K' Objects

Carington's view of the paranormal gets around the alternative view that the paranormal relies upon transfer of information, or energy, or particles between people. Or that it depends upon some kind of latent or exotic sensory ability. Instead, he held the view that entities are linked and give rise to one another in a manner similar to how ideas are linked to one another in the mind. Carington looked to the classical philosophical notion of 'The Association of Ideas' as the key to understanding paranormal phenomena. The 'K' object works because it forges a link between between the subject and the drawing.

In magic, 'K' objects are everywhere!

A ritual is a 'K' object: the symbolic link between an intent and the magical result.

The ritual often involves further objects acting as 'K' objects, usually in one of two flavours: (a) sympathetic magic ('like attracts like'; a symbolic representation, such as an effigy of the person who is the target of the ritual); or (b) associative magic ('the part is connected to the whole'; such as hair, or blood of the target, or a possession of theirs). You don't need these things; often the ritual itself is enough of a 'K' object – Carington didn't need the photo to score above chance. But it helps! And I've often heard magicians express the view that you can't beat a good magical link in order to really nail a result in sorcery.

Parapsychologists and Magicians

Hang on! The magician has ritual, the parapsychologist has their experiment, but it looks as if they're both doing magic! Both are expressions of intention, setting up an intentional situation in order to create a link to a desired outcome.

The paranormal is the violation of classical cause and effect. So, it seems, is magic. If I command a goetic demon to bring me cash and I discover a wad of twenties in the street the next day, this is not the usual relationship of cause and effect that obtains between myself and money.

But the laws of cause and effect are never violated to the extent that what happens ceases to have meaning. (Is that possible?) As Carington suggests: the paranormal adheres to the laws of the mind. ('The Association of Ideas.') A demon is a 'K' object; a concept to form a link between me and some cash. This makes no sense in terms of classical physics. But the idea of a demon fetching me some cash is perfectly comprehensible in terms of how our minds work; what's not to understand?

Carington was writing in the 1930s and 1940s, so didn't have the benefit of a later idea, which squarely addressed the notion of meaningful, non-causal correspondences between events: synchronicity.

Synchronicity

Carl Jung published his essay 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' in 1952.

Synchronicity is a very useful idea for thinking about magic and the paranormal. Without it, you tend to be left with many loose ends. For instance, how do you tell the difference between telepathy and precognition? What seems telepathy may be someone remote-viewing the result of the trial in the future – i.e. precognition + clairvoyance.

Arthur Koestler, another key figure in parapsychology, was one of the first to suggest how synchronicity helps us out of these kinds of problems. Koestler was interested in quantum physics as a model for the paranormal. Trouble was, each type of phenomena seemed to require a different quantum-physical model to explain it. In the case of psychokinesis, where everyday objects start rolling around, some kind of interface between the quantum and the level of classical physics would be required.

It can't be right to have different explanations for different bits of the paranormal when, as we've seen, those bits aren't really distinct anyway. Luckily, synchronicity does all of the job in one go.

Jung suggested there was a separate force at work in the universe apart from causality. We don't have to look only for a causing b. It might be, Jung suggests, that given a, then b sometimes likes to happen with it. ('Likes to happen' is probably the best our language can do to describe the synchronistic relationship between things.)

Telepathy can be viewed not as a biophysical mechanism, but as a correspondence between my intuition and thoughts in someone else's mind; precognition as the correspondence between my intuition and events in the world; even psychokinesis: a correspondence between my intention and the physical behaviour of an object. I concentrate. It moves. A cause? Or a correspondence?

Lovely. But unfortunately acausal, meaningful correspondences between mind and matter are very difficult to conceptualise.

An example of synchronicity: the famous dream of the gold scarab. A patient of Jung is telling him her dream of a gold scarab, when a golden beetle flies through the window.

The scarab in dream is matched with scarab in reality. The meaning of the scarab hieroglyph kfr (rebirth, renewal) is matched with the effect it has on the patient.

It's this same idea we found in Carington: the idea that events give rise to one another not only through cause and effect, but also through the meaningful affinities they share, which Carington referred to as The Association of Ideas. Related more in the way that ideas in the mind are related than the way that objects in classical physics are related to each other.

Synchronicity: great idea. Unfortunately Jung doesn't always handle it particularly well. Acausality is not an easy concept to handle. Sometimes Jung seems to suggest that synchronicity occurs because of the activation of an archetype. In the case of his famous patient: the activation in her unconscious of the archetype of rebirth (scarab) led to the synchronicity. But that has to be wrong, because in that case the archetype would have caused the synchronicity (no matter the exact mechanism), and causal is supposedly the one thing that a synchronicity isn't. Beware the Jungians!

The practice of magic, psychotherapy, parapsychology can be said to 'cause' synchronicity only in a very limited sense, in that they provide a context in which synchronicity is invited to arise. In the same way that going to school provides a context for learning; going to school doesn't cause learning to occur.

We have to distinguish this 'context' from what occurs within each specific example of a synchronicity, or within each act of magic. Having a dream about a scarab can't be said to have caused a golden beetle to fly into the room – that's a truly acausal event – but the practice of Jungian psychotherapy certainly did provide a context for this to happen.

Synchronicity and Magic

The most common outcome from magic is synchronicity pure and simple. Fairly commonly a synchronicity will arise as an unexpected side-effect, alongside or instead of the exp
ected result. The type of thing which, when you first start magic, leaves you thinking 'it's just a coincidence that would have happened anyway, even if I hadn't done a working'.

After about a hundred of these, you might stop talking about 'coincidence' and start to enjoy the feeling that your magic is able to lever the whole of reality into an altered shape all around you. But this attitude is just as dim because, once again, it's causal. I really don't advise you to go around believing that you or your magic causes the acausal.

But rituals can in themselves cause certain things to happen, and I think this may account for the 'lame' type of magic I mentioned at the beginning. Someone may perform a ritual, and the act may cause them to focus their efforts seriously enough to actually apply for a job, which they may not have done otherwise – and surprise, surprise, they get one.

Is this magic? I'm still loathe to admit it. The ritual may be said to have caused a result, but it caused it in a way that (a) was definitely causal, albeit on a psychological level; and (b) doesn't need any explanation outside of a bit of ego psychology.

The Transpersonal Factor

Where a true synchronicity occurs the 'K' object acts at a transpersonal level. All I intend by that is that there's no immediate cause – physical or psychological – at the individual level to account for the result. In the case of Jung's patient, no amount of personal development, visualisation, imagination, going to the gym, reading books by Ken Wilber could 'cause' a golden beetle to fly in through the window. And yet a beetle flew in.

What is this factor that somehow takes the K object onto a transpersonal level?

(You're expecting me to tell you, aren't you?)

Well, it's a mystery. In magic, it has been called 'True Will' (by Aleister Crowley) or 'Kia' (by Austin Osman Spare). In Buddhism, 'buddha chitta'. In Daoism, it's 'the Dao'. In Platonism, 'the One'. In Jungian psychology, 'The Self'.

Sometimes it arises in magic, sometimes not. If it could be guaranteed, then it probably couldn't be said to be acausal, because in that case we would have found a means to 'make' it happen. Nevertheless, as one progresses along the magical path its appearance becomes more common, and the experience of it becomes more integrated into everyday life. It even starts to have effects outside of intentional magical acts. One's whole life begins to become synchronistic. In Daoism there is the term 'wei wu wei' – 'doing without doing' – which seems to be describing this state.

Two things about this transpersonal factor are clear: (1) it's acausal; (2) any amount of wanting or willing it to happen guarantees that it won't. This is why the dreaded 'lust of result' has such a deadening effect on magic. Wanting something to happen fixes the 'K' object on the individual, causal level, and you get no result, because all the 'K' object does is put you in mind of how badly you want a result – or perhaps you get only an egocentric, psychological result.

Conclusion

Are all magical results paranormal?

No. Some are psychological.

What is the relationship between magic and the paranormal?

At the risk of sounding cheesy, reality is stranger than our habitual ignorance allows us to perceive. The paranormal arises out of the influence on our daily lives of this realm beyond our ignorance. Magic is one means, among others, that enables us to shed our ignorance and experience the transpersonal reality that lies beyond it.

I hope this has provided food for thought, and some structures for thinking around the relationship between the paranormal and magic.

Sources

Carington, Whately, Thought Transference (New York: Creative Age Press, 1976).

Heywood, Rosalind, The Sixth Sense (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978).

Koestler, Arthur, The Roots of Coincidence (London: Pan Books, 1974).

Mansfield, Victor, Synchronicity, Science and Soul-Making (Chicago & La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1995).