Category Archives: Magickal Practice

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.

Tempe: Instructions for Use

Tempe: Astral Representative of The Great White Brotherhood.

Tempe is an astral representative of the Great White Brotherhood. As his name suggests, he exists outside of time and possesses powers of prediction and foresight. As a member of the Great White Brotherhood his principle concern is The Great Work, or the enlightenment of others. As such, questions pertaining to future events are a nuisance to him; but he is more than happy to dispense strong trance to the aspirant, or information that will prove useful to individual magical development.

The baptists’ history with Tempe can be read in the following articles: Part 1, Part 2, A Short Commentary and Part 3.

The method for contacting Tempe is simple: furnish the altar with his seal (see picture); banish the working space; and burn some incense (abramelin is apt, as is anything of a mercurial nature). Adopt a meditative posture and then invoke Tempe by inviting him to join you. (I leave the details up to your imagination.)

Close your eyes and wait for contact. This may be experienced as a direct vision of Tempe, or you may simply feel a strong trance coming on. The session will conclude naturally with the end of the vision or trance.

As the aim of this working is not specifically a vision, Tempe may be invoked before each daily meditation session as a meditative aid.

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).

A response to claims I do not ‘get’ Grant

Since the publication of my articles Chinese Whispers: the Origin of LAM and Kenneth Grant: Pseudo-Initiate, I’ve been accused of not ‘getting’ Grant. These people tell me I fail to understand that it doesn’t matter if Grant’s stories are true or not. After all, he’s being ‘creative’.

I’ve been a practising Chaos magician for over a decade. I once put a psychic suppository up my bum (and convinced a room full of magicians to do the same) in order that I might entice a sentient celestial brick with a tangerine so it could communicate via the tarot the correct astral address for me to ‘post’ my wish in order for it to materialise.

I once contacted the healing spirit the Electric Blue Oraculon by randomly selecting numbers from a phone book that were then chanted in order to ‘dial’ the spirit’s secretary, who we then spoke to by dunking our heads in a bucket of water. The fun part came when we thanked the spirit with cigar smoke.

I know how to be creative when it comes to magical practice, and I believe it is a piss-poor magician who requires real world evidence before he can take ownership of his magick.

Yes, I believe Grant has made up the entity named LAM, who has no historical basis in the magick of Aleister Crowley. This has not stopped me working with LAM on a number of occasions (with very strange results).

Would LAM be any less interesting or ‘real’ if Grant said ‘Look, I made this entity up! Would you like to meet him?’ Would Spare be any less magically innovative and respected as a magician if Grant hadn’t spread bullshit stories about his powers? The truth is, magical creativity doesn’t require lies, and if the lies are not even part of magical practice, on what basis do you consider them ‘magically creative’?

What experience is afforded to the magician by the Spare myth, or the idea that LAM is an extraterrestrial that interrupted the Amalantrah Working, or the notion that Crowley long sought the Grant Clan Grimoire, or that Grant is the successor to both the OTO and the Zos Kia Cultus, or that Crowley didn’t utter the word of the Aeon – it was Grant?!

At best these are simply self serving lies; at worst, they are a deliberate obfuscation of the practice and purpose of magick.

Kenneth Grant is responsible for more confusion within the occult scene (and let us not forget the knock on effect this has had on the crap written about UFO/Satanic abuse on the net) than any one else. I think I would be giving him too much credit to believe he has done this on purpose; and so that’s why I consider him a Pseudo-Initiate. For all his ‘creativity’, he has actually only been magically creative once, and that was with his instructions for contacting LAM.

Please, if anyone can provide another example, I’d love to hear it.

Kenneth Grant: Pseudo-Initiate

Kenneth Grant (born 1924) is a British occultist, founder of the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, and author of The Typhonian Trilogies (which includes his most celebrated work Outside the Circles of Time). 

Grant is currently enjoying a modest popularity within occultism, largely thanks to his autobiographical accounts of his relationship with the two greatest pin-ups of twentieth century magick, Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare. 

As a prominent figure within occultism, and significant contributor to the history of twentieth century magick, just what is Grant's take on magick? What concepts does he promote within the occult sphere, and what exactly did he learn from Crowley and Spare?

Grant’s Typhonian Trilogy

Grant has written nine books expounding his magical thought, and I think Alan Moore, reviewing Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative in Kaos 14, sums it up best when he says:

To open any Grant text following his relatively lucid Magical Revival is to plunge into an information soup, an overwhelming and hallucinatory bouillon of arcane fact, mystic speculation and apparent outright fantasy, as appetising (and as structured) as a dish of Gumbo…Sometimes it seems as if inferior ingredients have been included, from an unreliable source: the occult data and the correspondences that simply fail to check out when investigated, knowledge that appears to have been channelled rather than researched…

For all its inaccuracy and impenetrability however, Grant’s work is strangely absorbing. Imaginative and eclectic magical systems, much like ex-theosophist Michael Bertiaux’s colourful Voudon Gnostic Workbook (which, I kid you not, includes instructions for contacting the spirits of the ‘Hoo’ and the ‘Doo’), can offer a highly entertaining view of the world, as chaos magicians have enthused for decades. Suggestively, Grant gives an overview of the like-minded Bertiaux in his Cults of the Shadow, and I think both can be considered contemporaries of the school of occultism that I like to call magical fantasy.

But within Grant’s work, beside the joy of arbitrary and creative occult connections, we come across many supposedly factual feats of magick that defy credibility, and in terms of Grant’s relationship with Crowley and Spare, a number of stories that appear self serving.

Grant’s relationship with Crowley

Grant met Crowley towards the end of his life in 1944. A year later, Crowley wrote a letter (recounted in Remembering Alesiter Crowley) to the young twenty-one year old stating exactly what he thought of him:

This is a terrible defect in your outlook on life; you cannot be content with the simplicity of reality and fact; you have to go off into a pipe-dream.

Crikey. I wonder what Ol’ Crow would have made of his Typhonian Trilogy

It’s not all bad though; later, in 1946, Crowley went on to note:

Value of Grant: if I die or go to USA, there must be a trained man to take care of the English OTO.

In other words, there was no other ‘trained man’ in England at the time, and Crowley recognised some potential in Grant. If the correspondence in Remembering Aleister Crowley is anything to go by – with every other letter from Crowley expressing his disappointment with Grant – we can surmise perhaps Crowley overestimated his young Chela…  

Ordo Templi Orientis

With Crowley’s death, Karl Germer took over caretaker duties of the OTO, and Grant went on to set up the New Isis Lodge in England. Unfortunately, Grant got ‘creative’ with the New Isis manifesto, falsely identifying Germer as the ‘World head of the OTO in the Outer’, and implying his endorsement. Grant got the boot, mysteriously changed his mind about Germer’s role as OHO, and proclaimed himself the genuine successor to Crowley. After all, didn’t Crowley identify Grant as a possible successor in the note above?

The Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis (TOTO) was born, and never mind that Grant was now the self proclaimed successor to the Great Beast Himself, the TOTO was more importantly going to carry on Crowley’s vision of the Great Work….wasn’t it?

In Starfire Vol. 2, No. 2, the TOTO officially states its ultimate aim:

Briefly, the plan comports the eventual dissolution of all existing terrestrial governments. For these governments will be substituted ‘kingdoms’ administered by specially appointed ‘Kings’ of OTO, in the Tenth Degree. The Kingdoms will, in turn, be subject to a central government directed by a ‘Supreme and Most Holy King’ who shall be the Outer head of the Order. The Kings will be assisted by members of the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Gnosis in the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Degrees. They will prepare the way for Opening specified Outer Gateways to permit the influx of a great regenerative Magical Current.

When the entire Planet becomes Thelematized by the vibrations of the Typhonian Current, then only will it have been prepared for restoration to Those that once possessed it, and that originated the initial life-wave.

What a beautiful, beautiful dream…

So just to clarify: the Great Work isn’t enlightenment for yourself and then everyone else, but the preparation of humanity for the arrival of our space brothers. Ok…

LAM

If we are to believe the account set forth in The Magical Revival, Grant was privy to one of Crowley’s greatest secrets, especially bequeathed to Grant in the form of a pencil drawing of a large headed individual. According to Grant, the subject of the drawing was an extraterrestrial entity called LAM, who contacted Crowley during the Amalantrah Working in 1918. LAM has since become a focus for the magical work of the TOTO.

I’ve covered the available historical evidence for the origin of the LAM portrait in my article Chinese Whispers: the Origin of LAM to which I refer the reader, so let it just be said that the publication of Crowley’s ‘big secret’ has obviously resulted in a few book sales and a certain notoriety for Grant.

Grant’s relationship with Spare

Grant met the artist and sorcerer Austin Osman Spare in 1948, and much like his relationship with Crowley (see Remembering Aleister Crowley), Grant spent most of his time providing Spare with material goods until his death in 1956 (see ZOS Speaks!).

Secret Grimoires

Whereas Grant’s kow-towing to Crowley only resulted in the gift of a shitty drawing, his brown-nosing of Spare was a much better pay off: a number of never-before-released magical texts penned by Spare, all of which he published after Spare’s death (most notably The Logomachy, The Zoetic Grimoire: The Formulae of Zos Vel Thanatos and The Living Word, all reproduced in ZOS Speaks! Encounters with Austin Osman Spare). Again, Grant was revealed privy to a great magician’s secrets, which can now be yours for a measly £40.

The Myth of Spare

In his books, Grant promotes a number of stories related to Spare that have largely become occult folklore. For instance, Spare supposedly received his occult education from a witch called Paterson. The development of her myth can be tracked through Grant’s books: The Magical Revival (1972) states Paterson was descended
from a line of Salem Witches, and could materialise thoughts; in Cults of the Shadow (1975), Paterson is the embodiment of ‘the sorceries of a cult so ancient that it was old in Egypt’s infancy’; with Outside the Circles of Time (1980), she becomes ‘Yelg Paterson’, ‘who had spiritual rapport with disembodied American Indian sorcerers, who in time long past had established a Gate for the Great Old Ones’; finally, in Outer Gateways (1994), ‘Yelg Paterson’ transforms into ‘Ye Elder Paterson’, confirming Spare’s initiation into a Lovecraftian Mythos lineage.

Despite the fact Spare never mentions the witch Paterson in any of his books (in fact, Spare claims his method of sorcery as his own invention. See my article Austin Osman Spare and the Source of his Magic); there is one reference to Paterson outside of Grant’s work, by Spare’s friend Frank Letchford, who supposedly heard Spare mention the witch in vague terms. However, it is unclear how much of the information concerning the mention of a significant woman from Spare’s past is coloured by Letchford’s contact with Grant. As Letchford says, ‘[Paterson’s] portrait is said to appear in The Focus of Life’. Said by whom?

Grant was also responsible for perpetuating stories of Spare’s incredible magical prowess, such as the time Spare conjured an elemental in the form of a ‘green mist’ that drove two occult tourists mental (Man, Myth and Magic). Grant was somewhat caught with his pants down after claiming in Nightside of Eden that a ritual involving a sigil of Spare’s resulted in a number of deaths, only for Doreen Valiente to give a very different account in The Rebirth of Witchcraft.

It would however be unfair to simply point the finger at Grant as the sole arbiter of the Spare myth. Sadly, it seems Spare was just as much a magical fantasist as Grant, and ludicrous accounts of Spare shaving without the aid of a razor or growing his schlong so large no prostitute could accommodate him can be found in his correspondence in Zos Speaks! Encounters with Austin Osman Spare. That is of course if Spare actually wrote all of those letters…

Zos Kia Cultus

Not only is Grant the self confessed successor to Crowley’s OTO, but he is also the supposed co-founder and successor of Spare’s little magical group the Zos Kia Cultus, despite the fact Spare never mentions setting up such a group. 

Typhonian Magick

In summary, we can see that Grant has constructed a self serving magical fantasy based on what he managed to ‘inherit’ from his time with both Crowley and Spare, namely a strange drawing and some grammatically confused manuscripts.

Despite his numerous ‘mathematical proofs’, dubious accounts of magical rites and second rate channelled material, nowhere do we find a record of Grant’s engagement with the Great Work of Enlightenment. Has Grant obtained the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel? What about crossing the abyss? 

With no experience of the key elements of the Western Tradition, on what basis is Grant considered to offer an adequate opinion of magick?

Has Grant ever understood magick? A quote from Outside the Circles of Time, a favourite amongst his supporters, is rather telling:

One final point is here relevant, and I state it without apology. It is not my purpose to try to prove anything; my aim is to construct a magical mirror capable of reflecting some of the less elusive images seen as shadows of a future aeon. This I do by means of suggestion, evocation, and by those oblique and ‘inbetweenness concepts’ that Austin Spare defined as ‘Neither-Neither’. When this is understood, the reader’s mind becomes receptive to the influx of certain concepts that can, if received undistortedly, fertilize the unknown dimensions of his consciousness…

…One cannot over-emphasize or over-estimate the importance of this subtle form of alchemy, for it is in the nuances and not necessarily in the rational meanings of the words and numbers employed that the magick resides.

So let me get this straight: the function of the non-dual (Neither-Neither), which Grant appears to believe can be found in his ideas (the reason Spare called it the Neither-Neither appears to have escaped him), is to give the reader a glimpse of a possible future, and in order to practice magick, we need only read Grant’s books?

Wow – and there’s me thinking magick is a ritual practice that results in the direct personal experience of non-duality.

Explains a lot about the popularity of his books though.

Further Reading

Austin Osman Spare and the Source of his Magic

Chinese Whispers: The Origin of LAM

The LAM Workshop: A Dialogue

Kaos 14, edited by Joel Biroco

The Voudon Gnostic Workbook by Michael Bertiaux

Starfire Vol. 2 No. 2, edited by Michael Staley

The Rebirth of Witchraft by Doreen Valiente

ZOS Speaks! Encounters with Austin Osman Spare by Kenneth and Steffi Grant

Remembering Aleister Crowley by Kenneth Grant

Nightside of Eden by Kenneth Grant

Outer Gateways by Kenneth Grant

Outside the Circles of Time by Kenneth Grant

Man, Myth and Magic, edited by Kenneth Grant

The Magical Revival by Kenneth Grant

Cults of the Shadow by Kenneth Grant

Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative by Kenneth Grant

Intersubjective Enlightenment: Case No. 3

At approximately 1.30pm on 13th April 2008, travelling south between Kings Cross and London Bridge on the Northen Line of the London Underground, I suddenly found myself experiencing non-duality or emptiness. At first, I thought this was one of the periodic plateau experiences of non-duality characteristic of the grade of Magus, or the Third Path of Theravada known as Anagami, until I began feeling as though I were ‘coming up’ on a strong entheogen. I’ve experienced this twice before, both times in the company of Andrew Cohen. Sat across from me was a small Indian man in an oversized suit, purple tie, with a thick black ‘tache and hair do. He was staring at me. 

He continued to stare at me for a good five minutes, before turning his attention elsewhere – but wherever he looked, he maintained an expression of complete detachment. 

I got off the tube, and before I could tell my girlfriend what had occurred (she had sat a few seats away from me), she said she had noticed a strange Indian man staring at me. The awareness of non-duality began to fade a few minutes later.

This event has led me to reconsider both mine and Duncan’s experiences with Cohen. At the time, I considered the experience a transmission of enlightenment – something passed from one person to another, a bestowing of the same level of development to someone less advanced, through physical proximity.

However, considering both Duncan and myself were not permanently enlightened as a result of our meetings with Cohen, the fact I’ve experienced a number of Fruitions when in Duncan’s company, and in light of the event recorded above, I am now inclined to believe that enlightenment, or non-duality, is experienced intersubjectively between individuals sufficiently advanced within the metaphysical process, through any kind of sensate contact (i.e. by sight, physical proximity, sound, etc).

Rather than positing some absurd ‘field’ or substance that is ‘transmitted’, I prefer to entertain the idea that what happens during intersubjective enlightenment is nothing more than recognition. The Absolute Self within one person recognises itself in the other, and God sees himself in a mirror.

The non-dual is not a unit, nor is it divided; but duality is the illusion that it is so. Hence the manifestation (as a result of the process of enlightenment) of the non-dual through two individuals must necessarily be expressed as a shared experience (the non-dual being undivided) from each individual perspective – in other words, enlightenment becomes intersubjective.

This means that although someone less advanced in the realisation of enlightenment might have a profound experience of inetrsubjective enlightenment due to the presence of a more advanced practitioner; it does not shortcut the metaphysical process, nor does it bestow enlightenment as a permanent adaptation. 

I wonder if Duncan is getting intersubjective at his retreat…

The Secrets of Kundalini Yoga

The shaman was not the first great mystic sage… he was simply the first master of kundalini / hatha yoga. – Ken Wilber [1]

Friday Night

It was Yogi Bhajan [2] who exported the secrets of kundalini yoga to the West, and turned it into a movement. The tantric basis of kundalini yoga dates back many centuries. [3] Yogi Bhajan himself was a Sikh, which is the reason western kundalinis often sport turbans and rename themselves Singh or Kaur. There are a lot of kundalinis in Brighton. None of the yoga halls, alternative health venues or community halls in the town is without its kundalini yoga class.

Since Yogi Bhajan died, no clear leader of the movement has emerged, but Karta Singh [4] must come close. When I heard he was coming to Brighton, and that – perhaps worried the number of Brighton kundalinis-in-training wasn't high enough – the organisers had decided to open the event to the public, I took the opportunity to attend. Now, I'm no stranger to a bit of kundalini. It's good stuff, and I recommend you give it a try. But I wasn't prepared for the effects of four solid hours under the tutelary auspices of a master.

Karta Singh's plane was delayed, so Ishwara Kaur, Brighton's foremost yogini, got us started. After ninety minutes it became apparent she's no fluffy bunny either.

The aim of kundalini is to awaken the energy that slumbers in the form of a snake coiled at the base of the spine. Exercises are grouped together in sets, known as kriyas, which are designed to fulfill specific purposes – for example: to strengthen the spine, stimulate the immune system, or cleanse the aura. The exercises themselves consist of yoga poses or short sequences of movement, mantras, breath-patterns, hand gestures (mudras) and body-locks (bandhs) served up in various combinations and sustained for longer or shorter periods. 'Shorter' is preferable, because keeping the exercises going is challenging and often painful. That's the whole point. Kundalini works on the ego as welll as the body, breaking down the ego's hold over the mind in remarkably short order. Frustration, anger, tears, despair, trembling, cramps, exhaustion: these are sure signs that it's working. As US Marines are reportedly wont to say: 'Pain is weakness leaving the body.' Kundalinis would probably replace 'weakness' with 'ego'.

By the time Karta Singh showed, I was already in an altered state. No other form of yoga I've tried gets me as high in the same way. My vishuddha and ajna chakras were glowing and spinning, and my ether body buzzing like a neon display sign.

'Good evening,' said a voice.

I opened my eyes, and there was Singh in his guru's robes, turbaned, bearded, every inch the spiritual mentor. (Apart from the French accent.)

Although I didn't receive an 'enlightenment vibe' from Singh (in the way I did from Andrew Cohen) he struck me as serene and wise, far more approachable than photos of him on the web suggest. He's fond of laughter, and has a habit of making wacky remarks – during one of the exercises assuring us our hands were being kissed by angels. This reminded me of passages I'd read from Yogi Bhajan's lectures.

Karta Singh began his discourse. It concerned pranayama. Great, I thought, we're just going to sit and breathe. Little did I realise the gruelling hours that lay ahead. It was billed to finish at 9pm, but gurus seem to make up their own timetable as it suits. We simply kept going and going. As I lay on my back, legs widely parted in the air, describing circles in opposite directions whilst obeying Singh's injunction to 'breathe through the feet', I finally realised that 'a little bit of pranayama' had never been on the agenda.

My memory of those hours is a haze of pain and ecstasy, but one exercise sticks out: I was standing, legs apart and knees bent, leaning forwards straight-backed, hands on knees, performing a version of 'breath of fire', where the focus of the breath was higher up than usual – at the top of the stomach. At first, I couldn't work out how to do this breath. Suddenly, I stopped thinking and my body took over. It started panting violently through the nose, every breath as strong as a sneeze. I shook all over. And then I realised this wasn't even the half of it: I was holding onto something. Cautiously I let go, and the panting grew more violent, as if an energy in my stomach were trying to vent itself. An energy so limitless, it felt as if it would've reduced my body to jelly long before it exhausted itself. But even then, I knew I wasn't being totally honest with myself: a tiny part of me was still holding on.

No doubting it, kundalini yoga has powerful and interesting effects. Yet I haven't donned a turban and joined the crew, and here's why: I find it a tease. It breaks down the ego and splits you wide apart, so you leave behind mundane awareness and become hypersensitive to your body and the transpersonal.

But then you stop. Time to go home.

Kundalini sets me up – like nothing else – for some serious meditation. It supplies rocket fuel, and a solid launch-pad that a subsequent hour of vipassana meditation would've ridden to the centre of the cosmos. But once they're cleared for take-off, the kundalinis seem to call it a day.

My personal inclination upon finding ecstasy is to take it apart. That's what vipassana meditation does. But for the kundalinis, with their tantric leanings, ecstasy on its own will do just fine. They know what they want and they know how to get there quickly.

My experience concurs with Wilber's suggestion at the head of this article – that kundalini yoga can't get you enlightened, because it doesn't press beyond ecstasy. But it will transport you with ease into those subtle, shamanic, transpersonal, psychic realms.

At the end of the session with Karta Singh that familiar frustration was waiting: I was all jizzed up, but denied my money-shot. Just like tantric sex, there was a definite climax, but it was something more subtle. It was as if, before I'd started, I'd been like a bottle of salad dressing, all shaken up and cloudy. In the serene place to which Singh had taken me, the constituents of my being had separated out. For a while, I perceived acutely – in a way like never before – the distinct differences between my physical, ether and astral bodies. There was the physical body, mute and dark; the etheric, also localised, but buzzing with sensate energy; and the astral, vehicle of thoughts and consciousness, which belongs to no place.

Maybe it's high time that instead of pointing out the shortcomings of kundalini I simply incorporated it into my practice, combined with vipassana. It's certainly a technique I intend to keep on using – more than ever, considering the powerful reminder I received the next morning of the sorts of experience and powers kundalini confers.

Saturday Morning

I woke at about 7am, full of energy and raring to go. My girlfriend was fast asleep, and her response to my suggestion that we might get up made it clear we wouldn't be going anywhere for a while. Fine, I thought, wrapping her in my arms and settling down. I'll meditate for a bit. Ken Wilber meditates in bed. Why shouldn't I?

All was going well. Lying in bed presented
me with a different set of sensations from usual, and I was investigating these, until suddenly I heard myself breathing heavily, on the verge of snoring. This surprised me, because my mind was clear and I'd assumed I was awake. I realised, however, that I'd entered the lucid dreaming state.

Excellent, I thought, abandoning meditation and turning my intention toward an interesting lucid dream. I found myself outside a Co-op, in Brighton town centre at night. The police had arrived, called by a woman being hassled by a man in the checkout queue. The queue was long, and tempers were becoming frayed.

I floated up and down the pavement with delight, overjoyed at lucid-dreaming again. But unfortunately my excitement spoiled the concentration, and I felt the dream-state slipping beyond my grasp. I clung on, but the decay was unstoppable. After I'd woken, I tried to get back in again. I lay awake, then hit on the technique of imagining I was spinning around and around. This brought me to the threshold of another lucid dream, but didn't quite take me in. Then I became aware of an intense buzzing sensation spreading all over my body, which I'd experienced before, and recognised as the tell-tale sign of an oncoming out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, this also failed to get off the ground. But I had entered some kind of interesting state nonetheless. I found I was capable of putting my 'body' in a different position from my physical body. At one point, I was even standing by the side of the bed, aware that my physical body was lying in the bed. (Maybe this counts as a 'full' out-of-body experience. What holds me back from declaring it so is that I wasn't able to perceive my physical body from the other body. I only felt my other body, whilst retaining the knowledge of what my physical body was doing.)

That's when it happened. I gradually became aware of voices and sensations crowding around. They were spirits, all talking at once, some closer than others. The way they chattered compulsively about mundane things convinced me these were voices of the dead. One of them talked about Margaret Thatcher, in a way that made me assume she (the voice) had died during Thatcher's premiership. Another was the voice of a woman from Brighton. Some of her children had been taken into care. Someone had died: whether it was the owner of the voice, or one of the children, wasn't obvious. What was clear was that the voices – all of them – belonged to very unpleasant people. The woman who had lost her children talked insistently about her right to have them back. She didn't recognise it was her cruelty that had resulted in them being taken away in the first place.

The voices crowded closer and multiplied. I grew scared, and realised this is what true mediums must experience and deal with all of the time. These spirits were using me, feeding on my energy. It was like logging onto the astral internet, and every evil hacker had seen I had no spiritual firewall and was trying to hijack my equipment. I felt the spirits begin to 'penetrate' me. It was horrible; a sensation like cold fingers reaching into the back of my head.

My first inclination was to make a noise, in the hope my girlfriend would hear and wake me. But, as is often the case when trapped in sleep paralysis, all I could muster was a feeble: mmmm mmmm! I heard my girlfriend's sleepy breathing, and knew it hadn't worked. So I opted for the novice's favourite; the thing they teach you in Magick 101; a Phil Hine special [5]: I visualised a pentacle.

The spirits didn't vanish in a satisfying flash of octarine, but they stood back. They quickly regrouped at the perimeter of my mind, from where I heard them still, but they couldn't penetrate me any longer. When they started to scream at me that the pentacle was pathetic, that I was a useless magician and they would break through again, I knew I'd got them beaten. So I woke up gently, at my leisure.

I lay this experience solely at the door of Karta Singh. Kundalini yoga might not get me enlightened, but it seems a sure-fire way to make me psychic! The experience of being able to discriminate between my physical, etheric and astral bodies seemed to provide the platform for what happened the next morning. Those spirit-voices were so strong and clear, I didn't doubt for a second their authenticity, or that I hadn't – for a moment – tuned into a level of consciousness that genuine mediums are receiving twenty-four seven.

Some confirmatory synchronicites – as if any were needed – showed up after I'd turned on the radio, and immediately heard a news report about Margaret Thatcher being taken into hospital.

I commented to my girlfriend that it seemed especially odd, how all the voices I'd heard were female.

'Is it March 8th today?' she asked.

I did the calculation: 'Yes.'

'It's International Women's Day,' she grinned.

Notes

[1] Ken Wilber, Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution (Varanasi: Pilgrims Publishing, 2004), p.87.

[2] For a biography of Yogi Bhajan, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Bhajan.

[3] See Julius Evola, The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way (Rochester VT: Inner Traditions, 1992).

[4] For a web biography of Karta Singh, see the website of his kundalini yoga school: http://www.amritnam.com.

[5] See: Phil Hine, Permutations, p.9. This is an eBook available at: http://www.philhine.org.uk/writings/pdfs/perm13.pdf.

Crossing the Abyss: How to do it and what to expect

This is transcript of Alan's solo podcast Crossing the Abyss Part 1: How to do it and what to expect.

In the Western Sacred Tradition of Magick there is an event known as ‘Crossing the Abyss’, which marks a certain milestone in the magician’s magical career.

Due to the histrionics of Aleister Crowley and the general degeneration of the Western Magical Tradition since his death, many contemporary magicians usually regard the abyss as a metaphor for going through a period of depression, losing a job or significant other, as a catch all term for any kind of initiatory crises whatsoever, or as nothing more than a fictitious magical attainment dreamed up by Crowley as a device for inflating his ego.

However, based on my own personal experience and that of others, I can tell you that crossing the abyss is only a metaphor in so far as it describes a specific, unique, one-off, personally verifiable magical event peculiar to the tradition of magick, although there are equivalents found in other traditions.

What is the Abyss?

The abyss is that which divides the relative from the absolute. Any experience whatsoever is relative, being an expression of a relationship between one thing and another. Quantum physics, Transactional psychology and postmodern thought all tell us that we are born relative creatures in a relative world, with our everyday reality being a unique construction based on our own peculiar conditioning, habits, biology and environment.

Sadly, it appears as though this realisation is as far as most magicians get in terms of understanding the world, hence their attitude to crossing the abyss as just another arbitrary metaphor for just another relative and subjective experience, because after all, aren’t all magical techniques, traditions and experiences of equal value?

Well, no, and this is what crossing the abyss is all about. One plane of relative experience is the mystical or profound. The language used to describe mystical or profound experience is known as metaphysics, and crossing the abyss is part of the metaphysic of magick. Just like every other plane, the metaphysical is dynamic – our experience of it is progressive, and we can grow and develop at the metaphysical just as our bodies grow and develop at the physical level of experience from foetus to adult.

To cross the abyss is to begin a metaphysical process that will lead from a reality composed solely of relative experience to one that includes the absolute for the first time. It is the beginning of magical maturity.

It should be noted that crossing the abyss has sometimes been equated with the destruction of the ego, but this is misleading. Yes, metaphysical experience transcends the relative self, but it is inclusive, not destructive or dismissive. If we first consider the hand and then the body, would it be correct to say the hand is destroyed by such a growth in awareness? The same is true of the growth in awareness from ego to absolute, and this is no more illustrated in those magicians, gurus or holy men who attain to enlightenment or the completion of the Great Work and yet still remain egotistical, sociopathic shit heads.

What is the Absolute?

It’s important to understand that there are many metaphysical events besides the absolute, such as various trances, states of absorption caused by concentration exercises, visions, psychic and magical experiences. None of these events, including those experiences that result from the absolute, are the absolute itself. If it comes and then goes, it is most assuredly relative.

Being beyond the relative and subjective, the absolute is not really an experience as such, as there is no experience or experiencer so to speak, but to refuse to talk about it on these grounds is firstly to risk failing to recognise there are techniques and an identifiable process that can lead to the absolute, and secondly, to reduce the Great Work or enlightenment to nothing but the intellectual realisation that words are inadequate for accounting for reality. I will therefore be referring to the absolute as an experience for convenience sake.

The absolute occurs as part of the metaphysical process, which proceeds in stages, and it isn’t something that can be practiced like a trance state and experienced at the whim of the ego. At first, the absolute will occur during the process as a peak experience, or as a momentary ‘blip’ in reality. As stated earlier, what happens during the ‘blip’ cannot really be accounted for with language, but the most useful term I’ve found to describe it is the Buddhist Theravada concept of emptiness, although the experience really isn’t anything like an absence, a negation, a void or a nothingness. I urge you to go and experience it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

The results of experiencing the absolute may include but are not limited to: overwhelming bliss, a sense of coming home, an increase in compassion, the realisation of the Truth, perfect happiness and all round good times. If that isn’t reason enough to want to cross the abyss then I don’t know what is.

Eventually the magical developmental process will lead to the occurrence of emptiness as a plateau experience, when emptiness becomes progressively more obvious during real-time, fading in and out of the 'background' of reality, regardless of whether you are in the temple meditating or eating your lunch in the canteen at work.

The final stage of the process is the occurrence of emptiness as a permanent adaptation i.e. instead of identifying with an unknown, the self know finds its centre of gravity with emptiness. The divide between the relative and the absolute is abolished and the Great Work is accomplished.

In the metaphysic of magick there are three grades that designate the three stages of the process. After crossing the abyss and the occurrence of emptiness as a peak experience, the magician becomes a Magister Templi, or a Master of the Temple. When emptiness occurs as a plateau experience, the magician attains the grade of Magus; and with the permanent adaptation of emptiness, and the accomplishment of the Great Work, the magician assumes the final grade of Ipsissimus.

How do you cross the abyss?

There is only one act a magician can do to the cross the abyss, and that is to gain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The Holy Guardian Angel is the embodiment of the absolute. The Holy Guardian Angel is a means by which the relative self or ego can interact on its own terms with that which is above the abyss.

Once the knowledge and conversation is attained, or the magician has entered into a dialogue via vision and synchronicity with the angel, the magician will be led through the developmental process, which occurs as a cycle with stages, with the angel providing the right teachings and techniques at the right time. This usually means a daily meditational practice, but when I crossed the abyss I went through the first cycle using a daily ritual of sun worship. As a relative entity, it follows that there will be methods relative in their usefulness for each magician at each stage. In other words, it's different strokes for different folks.

So
how do we actually gain the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel?

Being the absolute, it doesn’t follow that the relative self or ego can command the angel to appear or make contact; rather, it is the angel that must initiate the conversation, for the angel transcends but includes the magician. The correct attitude to be adopted then is one of surrender – the magician must open himself up to the absolute, to give up all he has, has been or will ever be in favour of the knowledge and conversation of his angel. The relative self or ego must take a back seat if it is to begin the process of union with the absolute.

A devotional ritual involving the surrender of the self to the angel should therefore be constructed and performed daily, for the rest of your life, or until instructed otherwise. Note that the surrender must be genuine – if the relative self or ego doesn’t really want to let go then you are wasting your time. Of course, for most people this does take practice, hence the rather lengthy traditional invocations of the angel such as the one given in the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.

It may be that the relative self has a number of issues preventing the correct practice of surrender, and these will need to be addressed before success in the work can be expected. Similarly, if the magician has no real magical skill or experience, how is the angel to affect communication?

Before attempting to gain the knowledge and conversation the magician should have a good solid grounding in the basics, especially divinatory methods, dream and visionary work, plus a degree of intimacy with synchronicity.

In Crowley’s order of the A.’.A.’., we find a magical syllabus for practicing magick peculiar to each plane of experience in order to prepare the magician, and grades are conferred based on the acquisition of competency at each level.

However, it should be made explicit that these grades do not describe the metaphysical process as the three grades above the abyss do. The grades below the abyss are simply designations of magical competency within certain areas, and are only ever conferred by man; those grades above the abyss describe a process independent of the accomplishments of the relative self or ego, and can only be given, as it were, by the absolute.

In other words, you do not need to engage with Crowley’s A.’.A.’. grading system, or attain each of the grades below the abyss, before attempting to gain the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The absolute and the metaphysical process are not a system, and they are not dependent on any syllabus or on any one’s opinion of it or you. If you want to join the A.’.A.’. proper, you need only gain the Knowledge and Conversation.

Since Crowley’s day practical magick has moved on somewhat, and if you want a good solid practical magical education in order to prepare yourself you could do a lot worse than taking up the pseudo-tradition of chaos magick for a few years.

How do I know I’m crossing the abyss?

To recap, crossing the abyss is going through a metaphysical process, starting with the acquisition of the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and ending with the occurrence of the absolute, or emptiness, as a peak experience for the first time.

The division, or the abyss, between the relative and the absolute will have been crossed for the first time, and as this can only ever be said to occur once, the crossing of the abyss is necessarily a one off event. While it is true that the metaphysical process doesn’t end there, and that the magician will cycle through the same process again and again, the attainment of the experience of the absolute is akin to losing your virginity – you can never go back, nor can you say you lose your virginity each time you have sex thereafter.

If it helps, you can consider crossing the abyss as being deflowered by God.

The metaphysical process is made up of a three-part cycle, consisting of a plateau, a trough and a peak. It is the successful completion of the first cycle that constitutes crossing the abyss, and you can expect the following:

The plateau is a period of novelty, where magical practice is interesting and progress is steady. Insights come easy, and the plateau culminates in an event I like to call Naïve Enlightenment. Naïve Enlightenment can include, but is not limited to, the following phenomena: trance states, dissolution of boundaries, visions of bright light, feelings of bliss, oneness, vibration, love, great enthusiasm for Non-dualism, the belief you’ve experienced God/the Tao/the Truth, the belief enlightenment has occurred as a single event, as opposed to a process.

The trough quickly follows Naïve Enlightenment, and practice becomes difficult and unpleasant. The success enjoyed during the plateau is gone, and the magician can experience any number of negative emotions, at varying degrees of intensity, in regards to perception itself. The trough can include, but is not limited to, the following phenomena:  feelings of fear, disgust, and hate, desire for deliverance, psychosis, unpleasant bodily sensations, and sleepiness. The trough is sometimes referred to in other systems as the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, and can last anywhere from a few hours to a number of years, the latter usually as a result of buying into the Naïve Enlightenment event.

The Peak arrives with a gradual equanimity towards phenomena: peace is made with perception. Magick is no longer the slog it was during the trough, and a certain feeling of mastery prevails. The peak reaches a climax with the occurrence of the absolute as a peak experience, and this marks the attainment of a grade, being the grade of Magister Templi if it is the magicians first time through the cycle.

The cycle then begins again, and it usually takes a few more cycles with peak experiences before the absolute occurs as a plateau experience and the next grade is attained.

So far, so good. Everything I’ve said isn’t too dissimilar to many other developmental models, but what sets crossing the abyss apart is the fact that it is a magical event. As such, the cycle doesn’t just manifest in an emotional or perceptual way, but on many other planes of experience too. During the crossing you can expect all kinds of bizarre synchronicities, magical visions, manifestations and interactions with entities.

It goes without saying however that there will be one entity you will have to deal with during the crossing, and that is the denizen of the abyss, Choronzon.

Choronzon can be considered the embodiment of what is experienced during the trough: fear, disgust, and most especially confusion. How Choronzon will manifest, both as an entity and on other planes, is unique to each magician, but how to deal with him is the same for all. He should be met with silence and acceptance, and the same goes for the
fear, paranoia and confusion that will arise in his presence. Your angel will provide instruction in any specific rituals that might need to be performed.

For an account of my meeting with Choronzon, please see Crossing the Abyss Part 2: The Encounter with Choronzon.

It is often said that crossing the abyss is a terrifying event – but this isn’t necessarily the case. The trough can last anything from a few minutes to a number of years and can vary greatly in intensity with each individual. Apart from my encounter with Choronzon, crossing the abyss wasn’t really all that terrifying.

You might be wondering why, if you can achieve the Great Work or enlightenment through other much simpler, less poetic systems of attainment, such as vipassana or Zen, you might want to consider attempting the Great Work the magical way.

The answer is simple: the Holy Guardian Angel is the fastest, most efficient means of metaphysical development I have ever come across. Working with the angel means progress is no longer a question of conscious deliberation, and the angel is in the position of knowing your self better than you do. Who better then than the angel in providing instruction?

The fact that the magician undergoes transformation on the basis of magical vision does not mean the magician is any less engaged with fundamental insight, or simply dealing with the content of his mind – rather, the relative self is afforded the opportunity of dealing with the process of insight on its own terms in a dualistic fashion, being the complete antithesis of the life denying asceticism of most systems of purely meditative practice.

Conclusion

The abyss is the divide between the relative and the absolute. To cross the abyss, the relative self must engage with the absolute, by attaining the knowledge and conversation of the holy guardian angel through a habitual ritual of surrender. Once this is attained, the magician will begin the metaphysical process of union with the absolute, which occurs in cycles made up of three stages.

The first time through the cycle is known as crossing the abyss, and the magician can expect to go through a novel plateau with a trance event known as Naïve Enlightenment, a trough with an encounter with the denizen of the abyss Choronzon, and a peak with the occurrence of the absolute for the first time.

The magician will then have attained the grade of Magister Templi.

With repetition of the cycle, eventually the absolute will occur as a plateau experience, and the grade of Magus will be attained.

Further repetition will eventually lead to the occurrence of the absolute as a permanent adaptation, the Great Work will be completed and the magician will have attained the grade of Ipsissimus.

Obviously, there is a lot of work involved. So what are you waiting for? Go and get deflowered!