Friday, 15 April 2016 12:36

A Ramble

A Ramble

The following consists of a write up of the notes I made for an hours lecture entitled ‘A Magical Quest’ for the Bristol Quest Conference. 12/3/16.

I usually speak by expanding upon a list of main points I have made, so herewith the notes rendered into proper sentences with a few digressions and expansions.

It consists of part Autobiography & History, part Philosophy and Practice.

Getting born 1953 made me aged 18 in 1971, just as the whole countercultural thing began to kick off bigtime in the UK.

I got taught religion (Anglican Christianity) in school as truth, and I also got taught science which basically implied that the bible consisted of nonsense. I gave my daft old RI teacher as hard a time of it as I could, getting caned by the headmaster only once on that score.

Science represented power and knowledge to me; I very much admired Dr Who, the wizard scientist, since watching the very first memorable episode aged 11. (JFK got assassinated on that day and I don’t remember any of that at all.) Chemistry rather than physics attracted me in secondary school largely because they taught atomic theory there first; and partly because of an adolescent love of explosives, rockets, and pyrotechnics. (I still have all my fingers and eyes, some of my contemporaries lost a few.)

Going up to London University, I found life easy, we had full employment, dole, student grants, cheap housing, and Cheap Paperback Books! We also had women at Goldsmiths teacher training college, art-rock music, acid and dope, the last of which I didn’t enjoy much, so I do remember the seventies. Oh happy days, London had the air of a slightly down at heel place full of amazing second-hand bookshops and eccentric people.

A massive alternative movement developed, it seemed easy to drop out, and easy and attractive to reject the values of our parental generation.

At university I rapidly became bored with chemistry, we just seemed to go over the same old stuff we had learnt at school but in excruciatingly tedious detail, so I started to read magic instead.

I never had any career advice apart from playing at home the Careers boardgame which introduced the then revolutionary idea of having multiple careers in a lifetime. At grammar school they assumed you would either become a clerk or go to university and think of something whilst there. I gradually decided I wanted to become a wizard, when and if I ever grew up, that would provide me with an excuse to research and experience zillions of things.

Reading books like Paul Huson’s ‘Mastering Witchcraft’ proved a revelation and an inspiration, you could actually ‘DIY’ this stuff yourself, make your own wand and try out some spells!

Eliphas Levi’s books ‘The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic’ and ‘The History of Magic’ proved further eye openers. Levi’s vision of magic had a fairly scientific perspective and he asserted the primacy of the will and imagination of the magician, following the ideas of Schopenhauer rather than basing them on the old traditional Neoplatonic model.

Then I went on to read and experiment with Crowley, the whole Golden Dawn corpus, and much else.

After university I did a couple of years schoolteaching science in London, as you did then if you had only a pass degree and a love of short working hours and long paid holidays.

The London Illuminati circa 1974 – ’78 proved interesting company. They mostly consisted of public school drop outs with interests in esoterics and writing and included such luminaries as the brilliant and delightful Lionel Snell, the dour but clever Stephen Skinner, the gentleman and scholar/drunk and yob Gerald Suster, and the gifted but maniacal Charly Brewster. With some of them as members Stoke Newington Sorcerers briefly flourished.

Austin Osman Spare became a major influence, he had developed a stripped down system of magic based on accessing the subconscious mind to uncover the will and imagination and parapsychological abilities. Importantly for me he hadn’t presented himself as an almighty magus for emulation like Aleister Crowley, I already had severe doubts about thelemic theory and the religion of crowleyanity.

Before leaving London I wrote Liber Null – Book Zero, it consisted of a mix of Experience, Lore, Theory, and Aspiration.

What can you do with Magic, how can you do Magic, what does the word ‘Spirit’ actually mean, what does ‘Spirituality’ mean? Liber Null represents my first stab at these questions.

I then set off overland to India and Australia with my girlfriend for a couple of years. Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan offered hard travelling, heat and dust and filthy food and lodgings and some dangerous natives. Arriving exhausted and underweight in India we felt immensely relieved to find beer and bananas on sale and a generally welcoming atmosphere.

I spent a lot of time reading English translations of Tibetan esoteric writings in the library at Dharamsala in the Himalayan foothills. These have many interesting parallels with old western magical practise and philosophy, plus some strangely modern touches – like imaginary god-forms. 

Indian spiritual traditions did not impress. The Gurus and Holy men all seemed like scoundrels; yoga seemed like a performance art for beggars. Religion as practiced looked like a family party with extravagantly baroque décor, iconography, and mythology. Indian society seemed to have very limited concepts of compassion or equality, except for cows of course.

Thence to Goa, but we rapidly tired of the stoned hippy beach scene. Instead we got together with some other travellers and built a boat and sailed it down coast as far as Cochin where a typhoon wrecked it; and almost us as well, scotching the madcap scheme to take it round the cape to Sri Lanka.

Thence to Australia direct as you couldn’t enter Burma then. I blagged my way into a job building dodgy fibreglass catamarans for a firm that specialised in cutting corners and we founded the Church of Chaos with a bunch of white natives. This did not outlive our stay but it provided a vehicle for plenty of experimental ritual and a bit of public performance art.

Thence we went back via Indonesia Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, to India, where I rewrote Liber Null, and eventually to Yorkshire, for no better reason than I knew Ray Sherwin there.

A very active magical scene based around The Sorcerer’s Apprentice bookstore and Ray Sherwin’s house in East Morton occupied me for two years and we both did stints as supply teachers.

I re-published Liber Null – the red edition, and wrote Psychonaut, and our working group started adopting the term Chaos Magic.

James Gleick published ‘Chaos, The Making of a New Science’, and we formally adopted the eight rayed star of Chaos, a symbol borrowed from the fantasy author Michael Moorcock.

Chaos Magic defined itself partly by its opposition to Thelema, many of the early Chaoists had come from Thelema, we used magical techniques and ideas pinched from all over, but with a distaste for Crowley worship and the theory of True Will. (Original Sin?) The IOT formally formed itself as a magical order in this period.

Thence back to India for another year, mainly to see Nepal, and thence to Bristol, for no better reasons than an acquired distaste for Yorkshire and the fact that my girlfriend had friends with a couch to spare there.

After another stint of supply teaching we started a natural products business in a tiny lockup shop, and then a family.

By then in the mid 80’s, Chaos magic had become the flavour of the Aeon in the world of off-white magic. Weiser in the USA publishes Liber Null & Psychonaut.

I form a Bristol IOT temple and Chaos International magazine gets published by fellow enthusiasts

Ralph Tegtmeier, an esoteric seminar organiser, invites me to lecture in the German speaking world with him as translator and organiser.

Things go well and we decide to try and form a wider order, The IOT Pact.

Personally I do all this to meet interesting people and as a spur to developing my ideas. I have tended to find just one serious collaborator to work with at a time for a period of a year to five or more years.

Things really take off over the next 5-6 years; temples spring up in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, USA, and London. We have big annual meetings in Austrian Castles.

I write Liber Kaos. I regard this as the more thoughtful and demanding of my first two books, but the cover and appearance the publishers chose for it never seemed appropriate to its contents.

I present myself as a knowledgeable practitioner and theorist of magic, not as a cult figure, and the order seems to grow and thrive on the basis of autonomous temples and a semi-democratic annual general meeting in some splendid German or Austrian castle.

These proved a splendidly productive but exhausting few years, the ideas of planetary magic, Aeonics, Ouranian Barbaric, the Equations of Magic, and liber KKK all come from this period.

Then the Ice Magic catastrophe occured. Ralph Tegtmeier under the influence of martial arts guru Helmut Barrat, tries to set up an authoritarian cult like structure and subvert the orders membership.

Eventually after a somewhat Pyrrhic victory in which Ralph and his supporters get forced out, I decide retire for an indefinite period. I have a growing family and business to attend to as well as some challenging theoretical problems in the quantum and cosmological domains to deal with. I leave the IOT Pact to develop as it wills.

I write Psybermagick as a bit of a knockabout of criticism of what I rejected and a list of things I thought worth looking into.

Then after some 15 years Maybelogic tempts me back into the public domain. Robert Anton Wilson’s friends and relatives launch an online seminar service to raise some funds for the old guy’s terminal care. It turns out as a surprisingly interesting and productive idea, and after it has fulfilled its purpose I create Arcanorium College online. The stimulus this provides inspires me to write The Apophenion and The Octavo, and feel like I get getting a second wind after my long sabbatical spent in thought.

After a titanic struggle the principles and the maths of Hypersphere Cosmology come together into a coherent whole, and it suddenly achieves widespread attention clocking up over 300K reads and a lot of correspondence. The quantum domain however remains unfinished business…….

I go back and have a look at the UK IOT Pact, but find myself not pleased with what it devolved into. The IOT began with wild iconoclasm and creativity but these didn’t seem sustainable and it seems to have failed to settle down and develop a longer program of sustainable productive works. They say that any esoteric movement tends to end up with either commercialism or a police raid. In other words, once the initial creativity has gone it either tends to settle down into something formulaic and marketable or it continues to get wilder or sillier till something regrettable happens.

I recently joined the Bristol Druid Grove. The Neoplatonist style material in the official OBOD teachings do not greatly interest me, but the civilised people involved and the monthly rituals and activities do.

OBOD probably has settled down these days and seems to concentrate on preserving what it provides, a fairly broad umbrella for people interested in a wide variety of esoteric ideas.

I recently wrote The EPOCH, my summary of what I find interesting in Neo-paganism and Magic, and where it may evolve to in the future. It consists of 3 grimoires, Elementary, Planetary, and Stellar – or Futurological. It comes with a set of elemental, planetary, and stellar icons on large cards. We did not intend these primarily for use in tarot style divination, although they will serve for this. Rather we intended them primarily as altar icons for use in works of invocation, evocation, and illumination. Matt Kaybryn and I worked on it daily for a full four years.

As I near business retirement age I think I may have some provisional answers to my questions of what do ‘Spirit’ and ‘Spirituality’ and ‘Magic’ mean for me.

I have adopted a species of Radical Materialism: -

The Radical position asserts that no mind-body or spirit-matter duality exists, the universe consists of entirely ‘material’ stuff but this stuff does a range of amazing things, it has a wave-particle duality, quantum weirdness, non-local and a-temporal effects, parapsychological effects and all, and probably more. ‘Mind’ consists of what brains do. Spirits thus exist inside minds, but this doesn’t mean that they cannot have psychological, parapsychological and other effects beyond the brains which support them. The universe almost certainly contains lots of minds besides ours.

I think this can explain most religious and magical phenomena.

Spirituality just means the way you live your life, courageously, inquisitively, and with compassion…..or not, some people acquire very unpleasant ‘spiritualities’ but everyone has one.

Magic, well that all comes down to experimenting with extraordinary beliefs and ideas and trying to do extraordinary and almost impossible things.


Lastly, a little ditty to mark the beginning of the EU Referendum Campaign

Who do you think you are kidding Mrs Merkel

If you think we’re on the run

We are the folk who will make you think again

We are the folk who will stop your little game

Mrs Merkel ain’t you heard

We will not surrender

On June the Twenty Third!

So who do you think you are kidding Mrs Merkel

If you think Old England’s done


P.S. Obama wants the UK to remain in the EU mainly because that will allow the Americans to stitch-up the whole of Europe in one go with their TTIP trade deal which remains highly secretive and controversial and almost certainly in their interests rather than ours. Try googling TTIP to see the problem.

Read 17835 times Last modified on Tuesday, 26 April 2016 13:29