I’ve been busy. Busy working behind the scenes on a number of projects which has meant the Bare Bone blog series has had to go on hiatus. But, that hasn’t stopped me from drinking from the well, and observing what people are talking about in the small pond which is the occult blogosphere. There are a variety of recent entries which have inspired me, which I shall point to each in turn, but this post has been fermenting in my head for weeks.
Strap in then folks, for this shall be a VI special, for good or ill. Skim-readers might want to look away now.
I shall reproduce something I put up on Facebook and tumblr last night, with a slight correction:
“Tonight I sat beneath a Yew tree in a nineteenth century graveyard, hailing the Allfather and toasting the names of dead magicians in the spaces between the worlds.Three magicians sang the runes and wove the Alu about us, drinking deep from the meadhorn in symbel. The wind hissed through trees and the calls of rooks and crows wheeling above us in the twilight opened doors to ancient places.We do not forget our dead. We talk with them. We sing with them, we drink with them. This is the way of things, even now.“It’s a funny old place, the Kali Yuga.” said one of us.And so we laughed – and I like to think they laughed with us.”
Here’s the thing – if there is a time to recognise the period in which we live, the period in which most of what we consider human history to have taken place in, as the Kali Yuga, that time is now.
If you look at them hard enough, any concepts of a Golden Age, whether that be Ancient Rome, Greece, or the post war years of the late twentieth century, fall apart. There is always a process of decay, of falling apart in unpredictable messes. There’s always people abusing power and authority and screwing themselves up. Always the Black Swan.
Fortunately, the length of the Kali Yuga is variously any way from six thousand years to 4.2 million in duration. I say fortunately because it really illustrates the point that any Golden Age is something that exists in the realm of the mythopoetic and the magical as far as human memory goes.
Or to put it another way, squarely in the realm of the Weird. Which is precisely our turf. This is where we live, or if we don’t it’s where we might be better off.
Because contrary to popular belief, you can jack into the Weird from anywhere, if you’ve practised tracking its spoor. You don’t need to live in the woods to find it, though perhaps it might be easier because it’s easier to adopt different cognitive habits away from the human hive with its constant attempts to shape the values of your existence through mediated experience.
Cities can be seen as necropolii, as brooding presences, as Ultra-terrestrial presences coming from somewhere so far Inside it might as well be Outside. The ancient draconic powers and solar temples which erupt from the earth, protruding into consciousness and bending the courses of our thoughts, words and deeds. The fierce misty being-ness of spirit-haunted mountains that hold up the roots of the sky. The placid mere that lies a mirrored, bottomless portal to another realm. The hollow hills where gods and heroes and fair folk sport, and dance and play.
The Weird is Perennial. The Wyrd is Primordial.
I: The myth of being Special
Nick Farrell has an interesting blog up about Julius Evola, and I suggest you read it when you have the time. I don’t agree with all of it, but he rightly points out that you may think you’re special if you can talk to spirits, but if you can’t change a fuse, what then? Similarly, over at Runesoup, Gordon’s latest has lots of good points in it as usual, so I’m going to quote liberally throughout this piece:
“Meritocracy is about as real as democracy. This problematises the dispensation of (legal) advice.”
Notice that point, because it’s integral. Evola, for all his faults, and there are many, coined a phrase: “Aristocracy of the Soul.”
In his last work, he suggested that said aristocrats would “ride the tiger” of the Kali Yuga. Now, you may be thinking:
“But VI, since when did you start agreeing with one of the influences of the European New Right? I thought you were a massive lefty cripple?”
Appearances can be deceptive, as can classifications – because the notions of Left and Right are essentially false flags. What we have now, as Gordon has so eloquently pointed out in previous posts is a ruling party of hyper-rich plutocrats intent on building bigger walls in their gated archontic paradise so that the rest can’t get in. Politics, as ever is about the Spectacle – bread and circuses thrown about for votes to give people the illusion of ‘power’ while carefully maintaining the fiction that the Ruling Party have this real quality of influence and you don’t.
(This is essentially the biggest and first lie ever told. Magicians, on the other hand, know that everything influences everything else. More on that later.)
The biggest error made by people who unconsciously understand the Weird (and quite a lot consciously) is that they believe difference equals either superiority, or inferiority. The second biggest error is that we are all the same, or that we are all unique. None of these perceptions are solely correct.
Anyone with a basic grasp of genetics will be able to tell you that diversity is key to survival of a species. That’s why notions of race are errors in taxonomy – extensions of the basic reflex to divide the world into Us and Them. So why is there this reoccurring urge towards an idea of purity? Why is mixing bad, and destroying the other folk – or keeping them away from you – something that keeps cropping up?
Simple – because we don’t like to lose. We don’t like to have things ‘taken’ from us, either.
Here’s the tricky bit though, and I’ll say it again. The Weird is Perennial. The Wyrd is Primordial.
Now, what has that to do with aristocracy – literally ‘rule by the best’? After all, who gets to decide who is better than whom?
Hold onto your hats, because I am about to do a linguistic number on you:
best (adj.) Old English beste, reduced by assimilation of -t- from earlier Old English betst “best, first, in the best manner,” originally superlative of bot “remedy, reparation,” the root word now only surviving in to boot (see boot (n.2)), though its comparative, better, and superlative, best, have been transferred to good (and in some cases well). From Proto-Germanic root *bat-, with comparative *batizon and superlative *batistaz (cf. Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch best, Old High German bezzist, German best, Old Norse beztr, Gothic batists).
boot (n.2) “profit, use,” Old English bot “help, relief, advantage; atonement,” literally “a making better,” from Proto-Germanic *boto (see better (adj.)). Cf. German Buße “penance, atonement,” Gothic botha “advantage.” Now mostly in phrase to boot (Old English to bote).
better (adj.) Old English bettra, earlier betera, from Proto-Germanic *batizo-, from PIE *bhad- “good;” see best. Comparative adjective of good in the older Germanic languages (cf. Old Frisian betera, Old Saxon betiro, Old Norse betr, Danish bedre, Old High German bezziro, German besser, Gothic batiza). In English it superseded bet in the adverbial sense by 1600.
better (v.) Old English *beterian “improve, amend, make better,” from Proto-Germanic *batizojan (cf. Old Frisian beteria, Dutch beteren, Old Norse betra, Old High German baziron, German bessern), from *batiz- (see better (adj.)). Related: Bettered; bettering.
better (n.) late 12c., “that which is better,” from better (adj.). Specific meaning “one’s superior” is from early 14c. To get the better of (someone) is from 1650s, from better in a sense of “superiority, mastery,” which is recorded from mid-15c.
Got all that? Good. Then:
aristocracy (n.) 1560s, from Middle French aristocracie (Modern French aristocratie), from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia “government or rule of the best,” from aristos “best” (originally “most fitting,” from PIE *ar-isto-, superlative form of *ar- “to fit together;” see arm (n.1)) + kratos “rule, power” (see -cracy).
At first in a literal sense of “government by those who are the best citizens;” meaning “rule by a privileged class” (best-born or best-favored by fortune) is from 1570s and became paramount 17c. Hence, the meaning “patrician order” (1650s). In early use contrasted with monarchy; after French and American revolutions, with democracy.
So, looking at that what have we got? Shifts in meaning from the 14th Century onwards? But that’s not all! Look at that “government by those who are best citizens”, “most fitting” – and that’s just the Greek. Combine that with the Germanic senses and what do we have but those who provide advantage, relief and help to make things better?
So, at root, an aristocracy were those who were the best citizens in a city-state. Those who upheld the city, its values, and made it a better place by their own nature and decisions.
So what form would the aristocracy of the soul take? Surely those who upheld and made the soul better, increased its advantage, followed its dictates. Those who were perhaps not individualistic for their own sake, but were in fact held to a principle which was so deep Inside as to be Outside themselves? The kind of person who hitches themselves to a different wagon, who follows a different rhythm?
All very well, you might think, but what does that matter in terms of magic and existing in the Kali Yuga, which by definition is supposedly when those principles have crumbled, if they ever existed in the first place? After all, it’s fruitless to try and reach back to halcyon days, to retrogressively attempt to purge the elements which, in a desperate attempt to make sense of things, we wrongly and foolishly blame for the Fall.
Quite simply this – if the rules have changed beyond recognition, reconstruction-as-was is impossible. You have to salvage what you can, and use it to construct something new. This is the essence of creativity, ideas thoughts and technologies melding together to produce something new. Something that answers the dictates of your soul.
And that’s when you start walking the knife-edge.
That’s when you suddenly realise that the magician’s path ( and throughout this, please understand magician as synonym for “active participant in the Weird” which includes witches, sorcerers and cultivators of ufo-gnosis, and diviners in the entrails of pop-culture) requires going walking on the dark side when needed.
It may require diving into uncovering archontic oddness, letting facist and racist memes into your psychic clean-room and poking through them to see if there’s any nuggets of wisdom hidden in the shite. It may require empathising with your hated enemy, in engaging toxic memes and people and letting them pass through you.
It may require certain antinomian thought processes, certain repudiations of societal values and social mores. It may even require a systemic restructuring of your personality.
Then again, it may not.
But you have to be prepared that it might, and you also have to be prepared to emerge from the rabbit hole once in a while and smile and laugh and do seemingly ordinary things which have suddenly assumed new meaning.
Because the Weird differentiates you. It sets you apart. It doesn’t make you better, or worse than anything – just as Hunter S Thompson said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
And you are Weird.
II: Notes on the Perennial Dreaming for the Working Weirdo
The Weird is Perennial. The Wyrd is Primordial.
Just suppose, for a second, that I’ve been influenced a little too much by Gordon’s blog.
Just suppose that I, as a thirty something white person, am even capable of understanding the tiniest fragment of the antipodean Aboriginal plethora of ontologies.
Just suppose that there’s an odd connection between dreaming, the Dreaming of Gaiman’s Sandman, the Aboriginal realm in which those folk go walking, Alan Moore’s Immateria from Promethea, and the place where stories come from.
Just suppose that, for a moment, these places, and states of being are not at all the same, and yet, they serve as pointers to a daimonic reality which interpenetrates the ordinary and is inextricably present always, even if you can’t always see it.
Just suppose this place of utter difference has no name, but is mirrored in the soul, whatever the hell that may be. Just suppose we acknowledge that names and words colour perception, and make you more likely to notice certain things than others. Just suppose I call it the Primal Night of Images, or if I want a quick shorthand to myself, a Dreaming (and that’s when I don’t call it That Place I Know Of)
Just suppose that it is full of things which are constantly changing, shifting and moving with a pulse all its own. Call them currents, energies, spirits, entities, informational complexes – they are an integral part of that place.
They’re made of the same stuff as it, and so are we.
Now, bear in mind that this is just-supposing. It’s not even a model, nor a theory, nor an argument for reality or fiction. What it is, is Weird. What it is, is everywhere, and everywhen and all-at-once. What it is, can be pointed to by this from Gordon’s latest:
“Those dreams you have in the early morning where you go through your entire work day and then the alarm goes off and you have to do that whole day again. The dream version is the real one… with dream logic.
Secondly… drink from a deeper well. Here’s […] what happened when an old street sweeper came up to him while he was talking with his neighbour:
I thought I’d misheard. He said, “I can see an image of the emperor right there on that rock.”
Huang and I looked at the rock and back at the sweeper. Huang was not interested. “What are you bullshitting about?” he asked. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The sweeper smiled and asked, “Are you saying you think I’m not a cultured man?”
“What I’m saying,” Huang said, “is that you’re not making sense.”
The sweeper gave him a look, and turned, instead, to face me. “I can look at anything, and pull the essence from it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how ordinary something is; in my eyes, it becomes a treasure. Do you believe me?”
Huang was irritated: “Old man, I’m trying to have a chat with our foreign friend here. Can you not disturb us, and go back to your work?”
The sweeper kept talking—faster now, about ancient Chinese poetry, and the great modern writer Lu Xun—some of it too fast, and the references too obscure, for me to understand. He sounded somewhere between interesting and bonkers. Huang had had enough, and he poked fun at the man’s countryside accent. “Come back after you’ve learned to speak Beijing dialect,” he said.
Under his breath, the sweeper said, “As long as it’s a dialect of human beings, it’s legitimate.” But Huang didn’t hear him. He’d waved him away and wandered into his house.
I introduced myself. The sweeper’s name was Qi Xiangfu. He was from Jiangsu Province, and he said he had come to Beijing three months ago. Why did you come, I asked.
“To explore the realm of culture,” he said grandly.
“What kind of culture?”
“Poetry, mainly. Ancient Chinese poetry. During the Tang Dynasty, when poetry was the best, every poet wanted to come to Chang’an,” he said, invoking the name of the ancient capital, the predecessor to Beijing. “I wanted a bigger stage,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether I succeed or fail. I’m here. That’s what matters.”
It doesn’t matter whether I succeed or fail. I’m here. That’s what matters. And that bigger stage exists – because magicians have been roving all over it since we first cottoned on that it was possible. It’s not a simple vertical line from Overworld to Underworld, with world in between. That place moves, even if you can remain deluded enough into believing yourself still. Every part of reality is capable of being the axis mundi, the omphalos, including and especially you.
Because that place has its own logic, and if it interpenetrates where you are sat right now, then it is accessible. Gordon again:
“My economic situation is bigger than it has ever been, but it is also more precarious than it has ever been. In less than twelve months I have outlasted three bosses and two entire teams. I am literally the last elf in corporate Middle Earth.
All those suggestions to work hard and dress for the job you want to be in and make your boss look good and be the first in the office but never the last one out. They’re all bullshit. I work nowhere near as hard as a strawberry picker and I didn’t see any of them sitting next to me at the breakfast meeting.
Informing the Sun Tzu is the notion that a leader or emperor can have the Support of Heaven withdrawn. In a situation where the emperor acts contrary to the best interests of the people/state/universe, the general is no longer bound to do his bidding.
Aside from the fact I now have an image of Gordon in elf-ears while at his desk, the point stands. If the Support of Heaven is withdrawn, if the actions of folks are no longer in accord (participatory-with-and-acknowledging) with that larger Place-I-Know, then things start going a little cock-eyed.
Now before I get accused of rolling over in some kind of surrender to spiritual forces, recall what I said. Magicians are Weird too. That means, as Jason so succinctly put it “You Should Know Better”. If you are to be a gateway, an avatar and co-creator with the Weird, that means you need to get right with your Weirdness.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up ordinary life, but rather there is no such thing as ordinary life to you. There is only life. If you’re not pursuing what brings advantage to your soul, then you have no place claiming aristocracy – in a sense you’re just as bad as those who seek, to use a metaphor, to ‘rule’ without the mandate of ‘Heaven’.
Because here’s the thing – if you acknowledge that everything influences everything else, then you cannot act alone. Even from a principle of isolate intelligence, you are always part of something larger. Perhaps that’s counterintuitive in the Kali Yuga – that while there is no objective cosmic order to be found, one can nevertheless be manifested in our lives whatever happens, a kind of amor fati, or love of one’s fate, come what may.
To quote from Nicholaj Frisvold over at the Starry Cave, there is a “Royal Memory” component to the magical:
“Insofar as we can speak of morals related to a ‘witch’ or a ‘sorcerer’ it might be within these parameters we find a given moral taking shape. We know from researches in Byzantine, Bogomil and Balkan Craft conducted by Radomir Ristic amongst others that both ‘witches’ and Bogomilian Gnostic sects used the traditional ideas of kingship as a guiding line for how they understood the world and their position within it. This is exemplified by the ‘Witch god’, it being the patron of witches or the Magister of a synod or group, being referred to as ‘the silver tzar’ , holding a regal dominion in the image of night and moon, just like the fey kings and queens, a mirror of the temporal solar reign bound by time and constraints
The witch would then be someone who held the laws of nature in awe as a directive for deciding upon the right course of action. A king or queen amongst witches would be someone who possessed memory and was able to recognize repeating patterns and decide upon the rightful course of action. This link with memory would also access the power of the muses, where prophecy and poetry would be amongst the many avenues available for the king and queen to enter the fields of memory and bring forth predictions for the future. This would enable an understanding of Fate and through this a need fire would be kindled as the king or or queen would be seen as natural representatives for a given land and people: a leader amongst its own.”
The morality of the magician or sorcerer is one that is Weird – that is to say it manifests as an express part of their existence, a literal private law (from which comes the term privilege)and hence one is able to say that while it may appear amoral, in actuality it is the strictest form of tapu/taboo.
What’s more, insofar as the Weird is Perennial, it may irrupt into the ordinary in a form peculiar to locale and people. Thusly while the praxes of people across the world take many different forms and shapes, and should never foolishly be classed as the ‘same’, they are all nonetheless rooted in the participatory urge that arises from the human soul. This is what enables syncretism to occur, for though purists decry a loss, the fact remains that if the syncretism is a valid way of connecting, then participation may occur.
This isn’t to say for example, that one should perform syncretism willy nilly. Far from it. Often the valid connexions come from the Perennial realm, appearing in strange and unusual shape. The key point is pluralism, as opposed to monoculture – one may find it in the strangest of places, for the Dreaming is infinitely creative. Fundamentally, the magician is part of a whole – an avatar of strangeness. Whether they be the wandering wizard or the spirit worker in the pay of the narco-gang, or the goes called upon to soothe the restless dead, there is no denying that.
Jack and I have often discussed how folk-magic is often the most potent kind, being as it partakes of reference to ancestral culture, location and practice. In short it’s a kind of magic which acknowledges the Dreaming magic in the environment, rather than merely the temple.
It is the magic that turns dry Psalms into heartfelt pleas and desires, expressions of love and devotion once more. It is the magic that does not dismiss the dead, but keeps them close and honours them with wisdom. Turns streetlight into haloes and roads into snakes we can ride to other realms, skull and bone into hallowed home, and soil into holy ground.
Yet as we have said, it walks a knife-edge in some regards, attracting notions of superiority and the like in some quarters. For myself, it took many years and deft encouragement from my gods to be comfortable using the swastika as meditation symbol, given its stained history of hate in the West.
Yet I remain even more convinced that magicians may serve as guardians and voyagers in those perennial realms, dedicated to the merciless betterment of themselves and those they love and care for. I remain convinced that we can create opportunities for people to drink from a deeper well, to serve as keepers of Memory and to do our best to reveal the possibility of increased mobility, in living in new and creative ways and giving the finger to the archons who would convince us we have no birthright save what they give us.
I don’t think I’m alone.