Archive for March, 2013

“The bones is yours, dad. They came from you!”

Watch that, please. It contains a secret for you. I’ll come back to it in later pieces. For now, just watch and absorb it. Let it seep beneath the skin of your mind, settle amidst its semantic sediment. There, amongst your jumble of impressions and compressed perceptions which form the bedrock of your sense of self, let it sit like a seed.

And like a seed, it’ll begin to quietly germinate; send out questing shoots to twine about what’s already there.

If you’ve read the previous post in this series, then you know this is meant to be a practical way of using storytelling in magical and spiritual work. You already know that this is bare bones; the necessary framework which, when combined with inspiration will enable you to raise an army of ideas which you can press into service to enrich yourself and empower your work. You know that this is being done this because it needs doing, and because people are asking.

But, if you haven’t read that, then please do, because the posts are connected, like the hip bone’s connected to the leg bone. Without reading them all, following may become more difficult than it has to be, and that’s contrary to what you want – quite naturally.

Unnecessary difficulty is something we’ll be dealing with when we begin talking about transformation later on, so for now let’s confine ourselves to saying that difficulty and difference, while looking similar, are not obviously connected.

Note that suspiciously behaving obviously there, and note it well, because it’ll be important to us, both now and later. It may even haunt us, a little.

Right now, obviously, we need to talk about about storytelling, before the magical bit. We need to discuss how to tell stories, and the best way for me to do this is to show you, because contrary to popular belief storytelling isn’t an intellectual thing. This may seem airy-fairy at first, and yet there’s a reason bones are involved. Stories need spines, need frames, need reasons to go on, just like you.

And unlike you, they’re immortal, so killing them is…not easy…

sadhu

Consider then, a seeker of esoteric knowledge. The kind of person who wanders the earth because of the whispers in their mind; driven by something insatiable which stirs in their breast, something unquiet nests in their gut. That kind of person is the person who visits the sadhus and the yogis, who disturbs hermits with their restless questions, and petitions taoist immortals for their secrets.

That kind of person who calls up angels and demons and commands them to give them wisdom, who strides into Buddha’s grove and begins digging under the bodhi tree.

They travel far and wide to learn the secrets of the mind and soul, the mysteries of meditation. Until, one day they encounter, upon a mountain close to the roof of world, an ascetic. This ascetic is rangy and ropey; sinew and tendon and leathern skin all wind-chapped and burnt by the cold of the highest places.

The seeker comes and seats themselves before the ascetic. “Teach me,” they say. “For I must know all you know.”

The ascetic shrugs. “I am no teacher. I cannot teach, for I have divested myself of all but my practice. Go where you will.”

“Tell me of your practice?”

“I cannot. My practice is all there is.”

“It is said that you can change bodies at will. That you learnt the art from an evil sorcerer who lived only so long as he did not leave the charnel ground. That you may travel faster than the winds.”

“These are stories,” says the ascetic. “And my practice is all there is.”

Imagine the seeker’s consternation! Would you pursue that further? Would you continue to press, as the seeker did, or would you go elsewhere, I wonder? Press the seeker did – yet always the response was the same.

All night the seeker waited, until at last the sun rose and, cold, tired and hungry, they realised with a start that the ascetic had vanished! Where he had been, a pile of rose petals lay.

Yet, as the sun fell warm upon the seeker’s face, they could not help but think that that they had been taught something, even if they had not realised it yet. Carefully, they climbed down the mountain, and by the time they reached its base, evening was drawing in. Seeking shelter at a nearby inn, they enquired of the innkeeper as to the ascetic’s disappearance. The innkeeper pointed over to a nearby table, where sat a man of indeterminate age.

“The storyteller’ll know,” he said. So over went the seeker, and asked the fellow about the ascetic’s fate.

“Ah, that one’s easy,” said the storyteller. “For he was a yogi, trained in the art of yoking his own body as you would yoke oxen to a plough, or a horse to a chariot. He hitched himself to the rising sun, and left the earth behind.”

“How do you know this?” asked the seeker. “I asked him of his practice and he would not tell me anything.”

“Not would not,” said the storyteller. “Could not. There was no room in him for anything but his practice.”

Surprised, the seeker replied. “How do you know this? Did you know him before he took up his practice?”

The storyteller gave a crooked smile. “Yes, though that is not why I know what has happened. I know that because I taught him thus.”

Well, you can imagine the seeker’s astonishment, can’t you?

“You?” the seeker asked in disbelief. “But you are a mere storyteller! He was a master yogi!”

“Precisely so.” The fellow’s grin grew wider. “A mere storyteller, as he was a mere yogi.”

The seeker thought for a moment. “So, it is you who taught him to yoke himself to the sun?”

The storyteller smiled still further. “Buy me a drink, and I will answer you truly, traveller.”

So over to the bar went that seeker, and bought a drink for himself and the storyteller. As it was placed before him, the other said:

“How is it that I have beer to wet my throat, though I have spent no coin?”

“Why, you promised to tell me truly of the yogi, in return for a drink.”

“Just so. Something for nothing. It is you who wished to know – it is your desire which I have manipulated, your body I have moved with simple words.”

The seeker stared at him. “You have tricked me then! You know nothing of the yogi?”

“I did not trick you. I merely showed you what you wanted, and how to get it. You did the rest. I am a mere storyteller, as he was a mere yogi. This is all that I am, as his practice was all there was for him. I taught him many things: I taught him how to change bodies at will. I taught him how to move faster than the very winds themselves.”

“But he said they were just stories.”

“Just so,” replied the storyteller. “And yet, did he not vanish? Was he not a master yogi? Did he not discover that mastery from my stories?”

“So you claim, but I have seen no proof. You could be lying or making things up.”

The storyteller laughed. “I am a storyteller, there is nothing else but that. And as for proof, well, allow me to tell you a story…”

embodied

And don’t worry, you’ll get your proof, as sure as that seeker will, for we shall be revisiting those two throughout the series. But for now, let’s consider the simple matter of that free beer, shall we?

The storyteller did something we do every day, he asked for something. Just like our seeker, he wants a particular thing – he has a goal and uses communication to bring the seeker into a situation where their goal and his are the same. To do that, he has to create the conditions for it to occur, has to create a route for the seeker to reach the same place that he occupies – or to use another metaphor, he has to make sure they are on the same page.

To extend the metaphor further, in order for the two of them to be on the same page of the script, there must be a script. Here, the storyteller has taken the other party’s communication, his words, his questions and curiosity, and folded them into the script, so that quite naturally, the seeker follows along. They’ve been very carefully led into the world that the storyteller has created.

And, you might ask, does the storyteller do that? Quite simply, he uses his knowledge and experience, and conveys – perhaps we might even say transmits – that impression using using every faculty he has. This is where the physicality comes in, and you can gain some insight as to how from performing a simple exercise:

For ease, the emotion I use here is anger, because it’s the most easily accessible strong emotion for most – but you can use almost any strong emotion for this experiment.

Think of a time you were experienced that strong emotion. Remember where you were, who you were with, what time of day it was – was it day or night? Were you alone, in public or private?

Really imagine it as clearly as you can – the things you saw, the things you heard, and more importantly what you were feeling in your body at the time.

Slowly, surely, you’ll begin to notice things as you do this, as you’re evoking those feelings. Your body may begin to tense up in a particular way, your breathing shifts, and you can even move about a bit to see how moving feels in that state.

Once you’re sure you’ve noticed how the memory affects your body, let the memory go – relax, do something else, banish or whatever.

A short time later, begin by mimicking the body posture you had earlier in the experiment, and – here’s the important bit – don’t use the memory at all. Instead, focus solely on the body and its sensations. If you find your mind drifting, that’s fine, just bring yourself back to that body, as if your attention was a flashlight playing over your skin, shining through muscle and bone. As you do this, remind yourself that you’ve done this posture before, that you know how to experience this. Because you do.

Note: If you’re using anger and find yourself getting frustrated by your mind moving, by all means use a different emotion like say, lust or joy. To be honest though, that’s actually a sign the exercise is working.

Try this with a variety of ‘embodied emotions’. If you’re really curious, take notes of how your thoughts behave in different moods, and how people react to any given embodiment. Play around, have some fun – notice how some embodied emotions are easier to evoke than others, notice how easily other people’s presence and mood can alter the length of the embodiment. Notice what embodiments you enjoy, and what you’d rather not do – what feels best for you.

Above all, don’t worry if the embodiments last varying times – a few seconds is as good as an hour. The key is to begin to deliberately explore your individual body responses.

So yes, play with it – leave a comment or two if you like. This ties in to the next post, which will deal with the other vitally important part of storytelling and magic – the voice.

Until next week – have fun, OK?

This isn’t for you. This isn’t for you, if you dream of wealth and power. This isn’t for you if you want to experience a transcendent reality that will allow you to escape your woes and live in bliss. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, all right?

Because I what I am going to talk about now is dirty. It’s black and hard and cold and inescapable. It’ll break and remake you into something different. Something that not everyone is going to like, because it will bring change to the way you think and feel. It will drive you to crave a kind of absolute being, to do it or die. I’m saying this now, up front, so you can’t tell me I gave you any false promises, that I didn’t warn you about this road.

Are we clear? Are we clear that this is something to pursue without mercy, without flinching? Are we clear that you will gain strength and wisdom from sources others regard as nothing more than useless waste? Do you understand that what I’m going to share with you?

Maybe you do, or maybe you merely want to. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is sharing this, in giving you the bare bones of it, because it is needful to do so. Because there is more to the world than is permitted by our culture. Because somewhere, in the night, in the wilderness, in the desert of their lives, someone is crying out. Someone needs this, even these fragments. Maybe it’s you. Maybe not.

Nevertheless, this must be done.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. – Ezekiel 37:4-9

Imagine, for a moment, that you can do this. That you can stir life where there was none before, put meat on bones and give people new lives.

Imagine you knew some Art, some skill of taking the divine breath, the animating spirit, and giving it to things. Or perhaps imagine, as you breathe, as you take the breath into your lungs, that you are but one part of the vast web of life which connects all things. Imagine that you could manipulate that breath, that force, could wield it like a weapon, to harm or heal?

Imagine if that Art, that use of breath was the very thing that drove both poets and kings, heroes and monsters. That shaped dreams and laid low your enemies, summoned spirits and brought you to the tables of the gods themselves? Perhaps even an Art which inspired every inventive, creative, curious act that the species had ever performed?

Inspiration. Yes. Just that – and the Art is the use of the same, the use of that principle which makes cells divide, makes hearts beat and stars burn. The principle that drives your lungs like bellows fanning the flame of your existence. And what an Art it is, that allows you to modulate your breath and body, to sing songs and tell stories!

To speak and place your thoughts, your emotions, your pictures in someone else’s mind, irrespective of distance. If they sense this Art, you may touch them!

That’s the poetic part – the shimmering vision conjured into being for you. It may seem airy-fairy, but if you’ve ever been caught by the wind, you know what I mean. You know that the wind knifes and burns, carries the cold in to steal your breath. You know how you want to hurry to shelter, to get out of its grip, to be shielded against its howling fury.

Maybe some of you have experienced a tornado, or even a hurricane or blizzard. What could you do, except hunker down and wait for it to pass?

“I said now, no hidin’ place
When the water start boilin’, no hidin’ place
World catch on fire, no hidin’ place
Down here, no hidin’ place
Yeah, I went to the rock to hide my face
But the rock cried out no, no, no, no hidin’ place down here.”

Nothing to do, but pray, to hope for the best, that your life wouldn’t be torn apart by forces you could never, ever hope to control. Forces that were here, long before any creature crawled out of the ocean. Forces against which the strongest nations, the richest 1% were as helpless as the poorest homeless person. So it’s not about how powerful you are, or how weak. How rich, or poor.

All those are part of the bulwarks of culture, the walls of the house we erect against the storm, or the creeping knowledge that we’re all going to end up as dust and void eventually.

And what of that Art? The Art that can take anything and use it to make you thrive. The Art that is afragile, that takes the inescapable and thrives on it?

Me, I call that blackest sorcery there is. The kind that will get you what you need, in situations where others are totally, utterly lost. Where they have no frame of reference because they’re not in Kansas any more, and they turn to you, because you can open doors and make things happen.

You can guide them in the dark, because you gave up trying to see like them years ago. Because you rely on a different sense, that faculty of Art which allows you to increase your influence, to manipulate circumstances in your favour, and the favour of those you care about.

The Art that understands that though you may think you need to go There & Back Again, you don’t and indeed, you can’t.

There is no escape.

So, this is the introduction to a series of posts which lay out the bare bones of that Art, to the basic skills you’ll need, and things you’ll need to think about, if you want to incorporate and use storytelling in your magic/spiritual work. It’s the bare bones because it needs doing and I haven’t seen any other magicians other than Alan Moore & Grant Morrison touch this with a damn barge pole, and even then not practically. When I am told that people want more than these posts, I shall share more – though not necessarily for free.

I say that because there is value to this, and because I can teach this stuff. But I have to be asked – them’s the rules.

See you on Wednesday for the next post.

lancaster2

This is Hanging Town on a good day. Lovely, isn’t it?

Gods go walking, whatever the weather, around here.

It’s raining, and the sky is slate grey. People hury past the window, busy with their Saturday errands, hunched against the rain. They’re lucky it’s not snow – spring has poked its head up, then hit the snooze button and rolled over. I’m drinking coffee in a cafe whose walls are lined with books. The townsfolk flow like the rain in the gutters, past the museum, slipping down this street to bypass the market crowd.

Earlier, I’d passed the used book-stall, the hog-roast, and the stall that serves samosas and bhajis as well as a subtly spicy curry for under a fiver, run by a smiling Muslim woman and her husband. Past the smokehouse stall with its fish and meat preserves, local and organic. I’d watched the snake of people by the cash machine, waiting for their chunks of currency from mechanical mouths.

Upstairs, in the cafe, there’s a children’s play area. Right now, there’s a children’s party going on, and the faint strains of “Happy Birthday To You.” filter down the stairs. An old friend’s daughter is up there, golden-haired with the same name as the Lady of the Brisings Necklace, she who gets first pick of the battle-fallen.

Nine years back, I remember sitting in his flat, high as a kite, psilocybin whispers calling from the teapot. It’s an ordinary china thing, chipped spout, stained in the right places. My mug is empty, and my head is full of the negotiations between several kinds of intelligence. I remember three streams, though gods know how many there really were, as fungi meets Hoffman’s problem child, with me in the middle.

Past the handshake stage now, we are. Now there’s a conclave, a conspiracy; memory unfolds like a magic carpet, surrounds me in all directions. Time becomes space.

It’s such a rich weave, that carpet. So many threads, all bound together, it’s pile of infinite depth, a Mandelbrot masterpiece. I watch figures through the wall, limned in mauve, going up and down a staircase that doesn’t exist in the early years of the 21st Century. Later, I find out that the bathroom on the other side of the wall was crafted out of servants quarters, with the back stairs being there to serve the needs of the 19th Century owners. But like I said, those stairs don’t exist any more.

Nine years is a long time, in your early twenties, but really, it’s just off to one side. Two hundred years is a little way past the wars, which are themselves further up from the massive weighty presence of the Castle which sits upon the hill. One wing a Roman Fort, the other a Crown property, and another a working prison, at least until a couple of years ago.

Popes and Cardinals cluster together under white smoke, poison and power, burrowed into the old, half built dreams of Roman expansion, ruined and sacked in potentia by the Goths who wander blithely through streets stained with the blood of long forgotten Senators, stone still vibrating from years of passing Triumphs.

Cock your head and close one eye, and maybe you’ll see it. All of it spread out – the All-At-Once. The Dreaming. The Storytime, whatever you want to call it.

It’s a Saturday and gods go walking, whatever the weather, around here. It’s a Monday and I’m writing this with AC/DC in the headphones. Somewhen, a drought is ending and Gordon’s found the route, the road to get there. He’s scribbled a map that could mean anything to anyone else, unfolding a piece of paper, sigilising ‘X’ marks the spot, marking out the landmarks that’ll show him how to get there.

It’s the nineties and a Scotsman is thinking about shaving his head, walking to Varanasi and having sex with an old woman who’s a twenties flapper, and absolutely coincidentally, an incarnation of Kali. He’s thinking about Kathmandu and the alien abduction experience which lies next to John Lennon in the bed with Yoko. Ganesh holds up his hand and the mouse runs over your feet as old broken-tusk quietly demolishes the obstacles. Batman leaps from the rooftops to avoid the cataclysmic powers of the New X-Men

In a pub in London, Austin Spare sketches a working-class lad from Newcastle as he smokes his way past the half-way point of a pack of Silk Cut. Over in a corner, a man from Northampton is thoughtfully munching on a sandwich, wondering how a man who looks like Sting managed to find him and tell him the secret of magic.

Down in Hastings, a dying old man reaches out a hand to touch the stone wall of the chamber in which his wife’s voice is dictating the Book of the Law. His other hand writes a letter to a man who works at JPL by the name of Parsons, who lives on the dark side of the moon. Meanwhile, Parsons’ partner hammers on a typewriter with Tom Cruise and John Travolta signing his cheques.

It’s a Saturday and gods go walking, whatever the weather, around here. It’s a Monday and I’m writing this with AC/DC in the headphones. Are they headlining this personal gig, or is System Of A Down the band to end all bands? After all, they’re playing too, commanded by algorithim as the stream runs.

Round and round go the particles in their merry-go-round, and the Higgs Boson keeps screaming out its presence. “Look to the left, you bastards!” Niels Bohr shrugs apologetically at it, then carries on his conversation with Einstein, whose hair keeps changing length and obscuring his vision at inconvenient times. Wolfgang Pauli walks into a thousand labs and disrupts a million experiments and Young curses his name as the universe dances, behaving like a coquette, showing a bit of particle, then a bit of cheeky wave, to keep the running dogs of physics salivating.

Newton and Galileo are having a picnic beneath the stars, on a blanket lent to them by Agrippa.  Old Heinrich is mocking Weyer for trying to fit the howling spirits of the Goetia into the court model. They are, he explains, with Dr. John Dee nodding vigorously in agreement, far more messy than that, despite the old relationship they have with the machine-messengers of Yetzirah.

Walk a little on, and you’ll find Ghede cracking dirty jokes with Hecate down at the crossroads. The place is chock full of offerings, groaning with plenty. Tobacco smoke and rum, incense and spilt semen. The air is smoky from coprse candles, vibrating with buried witches and criminals all, laughing in their graves.

Pale Christ with face the colour of night leads his  black Galilean warband of shape-shifting Kundalini adepts through Africa, burning enough Frankinscense to smoke an aeon of priests. Mitocondrial Eve nudges her Neanderthal brother-in-law as they pass by, but the dutiful father is too busy watching his offspring school the Atlantean priest at backgammon while the Neighbours fuck Nimrod right up.

“Build a tower,” they laugh. “YHVH will shit a brick when he sees it.”

There’s more than enough bricks to go around – a billion unbuilt pyramids long abandoned by Ethiopian Pharaohs, since they’re dancing with the Exu and the crew, all sipping the bourbon Marie Laveau brought them.

And in the muddy banks of the Milky Way, an ibis dips its head, eye shining like the moon.  It’s a Saturday and gods go walking, whatever the weather, around here. It’s a Monday and I’m writing this with AC/DC in the headphones. System Of A Down too, along with some Finnish industrial of dubious provenance. It’s a Friday and there’s a hailstorm on the edges of the moors that stings the skin, gauntlet of ice thrown down by the gods. The black pylon of Set nestles close, clothing a Victorian Jubilee folly, and we smile and laugh, as clear skies rest amidst the storm, the ancestral shade of Fr. Aossic smiling out of the skull as we share a beer.

Listen then – for this is not about time, but space. About location and association, not time or aeon. They say narrative binds time, puts things in order. But that misses the point – it’s merely a  matter of navigation. It’s easy to pay lip service to the idea that the map is not the territory, but the truth of it is that the territory isn’t even the territory!

Whisper it close and sing the songlines, and tell the tales that are looking after country. Do that and you have a territory, a place to be – an origin from which to begin. Maybe you can call it Turangawaewae the place where you stand tall? Sing the songs then, tell the tales, and you carry it with you, in your blood. In your people’s blood, their works and dreams.

You have no people, I hear you say. I have no roots, no gods, no ancestors, no songs to sing. I am a stranger in a strange land, an alien land which has no rules. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look behind, and ahead.

Stretching in all directions, as far as the eye can see, is the place where you begin. You are from here, and you are from now. You stand amidst the All-At-Once, Your eyes seek out and recognise shapes, sounds and shapes. When you speak of this moment, you will say, I am here, I was here.

And as soon as here becomes here, there becomes there. And vice versa.

Gods go walking, whatever the weather, around here. It’s raining and the sky is slate grey. Between the busy people the Wanderer wends his way unseen to time-bound eyes, but here in more than flesh and blood. Wotan, Woden, Óðinn – whatever you call him, he stalks the streets, the paved cobble-stones, as surely as Gotland forests or the shores of the fjords.

The All-At-Once, the kosmos of the esoteric vision, of wizard-eyes gives no shits for immanence or transcendence, for above or below. Arguing whether you did something directly or indirectly is pointless. What matters is that it happens, and in the All-At-Once all that matters is navigation.

Which begins, always and ever, with that first step. Because there is only ever one.