Archive for April 6th, 2015

I messed up and typo-ed principle instead of primitive in the previous post. It’s since been corrected. Sorry Gordon, my bad. I do want to raise something brought up in the comments though.

And I’m not wrong. You’ve mistaken a suburban obsession with old timey country wisdom -and a cosplay fetishisation of taking grimoire ingredients literally- with some sort of ranking of English counties. If you want to talk about Cornwall, go nuts, but don’t say I’m wrong when I can point at any number of tumblogs or instagram pictures from Minnesota or wherever working to precise formulae from 250 years ago across an ocean, from a place they will never visit.

I get that, and for the most part I agree with you, but honestly I shall stick by what I said, precisely because while you are right about all those tumblogs, instagram pictures etc, the fact remains that there are people there who’re not obsessed with those things, and it seemed to me making a blanket statement like that stuck in my craw. You’re quite right. Cornwall is STILL a fucking shithole in many ways, which is precisely why people who are there (a small proportion, granted) were and are working, operative magical types in order to survive. What I wrote was not about defending some mythical ranking or any such thing, but precisely about that.

Perhaps I did misread it, but nevertheless, I think that differentiation between the folks who are fetishising things, and actual folk living and working and doing things on the ground needs making clearer in general discussions – in general occult discourse as a whole there is an assumption that ‘Everyone is like me.’

I’m not saying Gordon thinks like that – his work has proven not, in my view. However, there’s an assumption prevalent in Western occultism that everyone has the same time, money, resources etc. A kind of faux-egalitarianism which only seems to pay lip-service to the marginalised individuals who practice magic. Look at the prices of books, or academic texts. They’re almost prohibitively expensive for folks on the edges.

What exists there then, is word of mouth based on practical experience, not some fetishised ancient lineage. That’s the kind of stuff that spawned some of the nineteenth century crap we’re still having to deal – mythical fertility cults for goodness sake.  As if we know what one of those is.

So, just in case it isn’t clear, I have no beef with the general content of what was written. I did indeed say it was a good post, and that our esteemed London Correspondent was not in fact, wrong.  It’s just that paragraph which I feel is easy to mis-take – just as it appears I did. But I’m fairly sure my points still stand to some degree.

Ruined_Cornish_tin_mine

I was originally going to call this one Tellurian Gothick and the ‘k’ would have been important, like the ‘k’ is supposedly important in magick. Then, I realised that would make me a bit of a pretentious knob. I mean, what kind of person goes round adding extra ‘k’s to perfectly good words in order to be a special snowflake because they’re afraid their audience will get all confused?

So, instead, I picked the road of pre-supposing the audience of this blog would be able to follow what I’m talking about. This is probably a mistake. But, probably not as big a mistake as our beloved Antipodean Down South made in his latest post at Runesoup –  Chaos Magic: Fracking the Spirit World

Oh, it’s a really good post and you should all read it. Particularly dwell on this little gem, if you would:

I think the time has come to unilaterally declare that any magical premise you wish to hold for all but the shortest of time periods must have consciousness as an ontological primitive.

I’m not going to tell you what that means. It bears meditating on, that consciousness as an ontological primitive.  Because words are tricky and consciousness is trickier. It’s quite capable of holding double, triple or n +1 meanings. The levels of information in that sentence are staggering, as are the number of paths you  can take through it. Study language long enough, and you begin to realise that it’s perfectly possible to twist it any which way in order to influence the world. However, what people don’t often realise is that language can also twist you up.  

So, I urge you – take that sentence and read it as many ways as you possibly can. Because everything we say also carries unsaid, unnoticed potentials; shadowy possibilities that lead us into a twilight world.

And that’s where Gordon, gods love him, has made his mistake.

[Th]e traditional witch types don’t like to hear that toad bones and the rest of these icky ingredients are proxies for some symbolic/psychological language and that 18th century Cornwall was not an intellectual mecca of folk wisdom but a hillbilly pirate shithole (which is way better, anyway).

Them’s fighting words my ‘ansum. Because, you see, I happen to be born of that hillbilly pirate shithole. Born and bred, with traceable family going back to the 1500’s, at which time the parish records become…scanty. And them’s fighting words, not because Gordon is wrong – which he isn’t by the way, because it’s totally better to have come from that sort of place if you’re some kind of wizard, rather than somewhere full of Enlightenment wonder. Or at least, I think so but I’m biased.

Trust me. Go to Cornwall and pretend, even if you’re  not, that you’re some sort of witch or wizard. See what the place gives you. Then, tell me it’s not its own place with its own dreams and spirits and Wyrd interface points where lights in the sky met ghosts and witches and sorcerers.

No, they’re fighting words because. frankly, he’s missed a trick in a post dealing with fracking the spirit world. That’s not his fault though, because after all it’s barely half a paragraph that’s made me want to write this. But it’s still a mis-take.  He’s grasped at the language and, while it’s been delivered effectively enough, there’s so much further he could of gone. But he’s busy, so why should he comb over his use of metaphors?

Why indeed. So it falls me to point out the thing that wasn’t conveyed. See, the hillbilly pirate shithole was, up until 1998, famous for something. Something it was famous for, at least 2500 years ago. Something that was done there beyond even that, from around 2100 BC.

Mining.

Dig a hole for FOUR. THOUSAND. YEARS. and you’ll find a Cornishman at the bottom of it. Go to Australia, America, Africa, and you’ll find people who left to mine elsewhere when the markets crashed. You’ll find Cornish names anywhere there are long term mining operations. You may even find folk who were not born there, but studied mining there at a specialist college nonetheless.

I’m not joking. I went up to Cumbria the other year and found Cornish Miner’s cottages. So, you need a whole digging, get someone  from Cornwall. That’s the way it’s been for as long as we humans have had alphabetic script.

Now, by now I’m sure some of you’re wondering what this has to do with magic. So here’s where the Gothic comes in – the Goths being a  barbarian  tribe, which perhaps most famously, sacked Rome. Gothic becomes a pejorative term in the Renaissance when applied to certain architectural styles of the mediaeval period, as opposed to the Classical styles – synonymous with ‘that barbarous Northern European Shit’.  Of course, being barbarous northern Europeans, the terminology stuck. Mediaeval spires and archways become Gothic,  and in no time at all, a form of Romantic literature springs up with its characters and events haunting Gothic arenas.

The use of the word of ‘haunting’ is deliberate here. The fusing of the fantastical and the modern can be seen in Dracula or Frankenstein. There’s a real sense of the uncanny in the Gothic – a kind of spiritual or existential unease. In German, the equivalent is Schauerroman or “shudder-novel” – albeit, as Wikipedia puts it:  However, Schauerroman’s key elements are necromancy and secret societies and it is remarkably more pessimistic than the British Gothic novel.

haunt (v.) 
early 13c., “to practice habitually, busy oneself with, take part in,” from Old French hanter “to frequent, resort to, be familiar with” (12c.), probably from Old Norse heimta “bring home,” from Proto-Germanic *haimat-janan, from *haimaz- (see home). Meaning “to frequent (a place)” is c.1300 in English. Use in reference to a spirit returning to the house where it had lived perhaps was in Proto-Germanic, but it was reinforced by Shakespeare’s plays, and it is first recorded 1590 in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Related: Haunted; haunting. Middle English hauntingly meant “frequently;” sense of “so as to haunt one’s thoughts or memory” is from 1859.

Because you see, the dead aren’t supposed to come back. It’s against the rules. Just like it’s against the rules for there to be things we can’t understand, can’t pin down to one thing in particular, or another. As I’m writing this, we’re approaching the festival of the most widely known resurrection story in history – Easter. For there to be a creeping strangeness, a wyrdness in the ordinary world, well…it’s not very civilised, is it?

I’ve talked about our terror of incompleteness before, and also how it might allow us to perceive holiness – in The Ruins of Absence:

And with each passing year, still it conjures. In its presence, the stone possesses a power, a power which reaches out across the centuries. Human ingenuity suffused with inspiration, from an urge to mimic and create awe and glory; a massive undertaking to speak of the service of divinity.

For some, that divinity reaches out as a sense of holiness, and that is a wonderful thing because holiness presents a wholeness which you may use as a reference point – a greater pattern perhaps, or simply the notion of smooth-running nigh endless complexity; an emergent biosphere which has developed its viability ins spite of, and also due to, circumstance.

For others, the very fact that these ruins might be conceived by some kind of sapient intelligence echoes the notion that divinity is a property of both sapience and sentience. Either that fusion creates the notion of divinity, or it is suffused with it –  mankind as microcosmic avatar of the macrocosm; children of the very gods themselves.

1200px-Whitby_Abbey_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16785

To suggest then, that the Gothic is, as was once true, synonymous with vandal – yet another barbarian tribe – is  to suggest that which disrupts and breaks ordinary modes of experience. Whether that be ruined landscape or the uncomfortable sensation that we’ve moved into taboo territory, where our superiority is not by any means assured, the Gothic disquiet remains. Even just looking at our words for ghosts suggests that these are apparitions, they appear and disappear in accordance with their own logic:

ghost (n.)
Old English gast “breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon; person, man, human being,” in Biblical use “soul, spirit, life,” from Proto-Germanic *gaistaz (cognates: Old Saxon gest, Old Frisian jest, Middle Dutch gheest, Dutch geest, German Geist “spirit, ghost”). This is conjectured to be from a PIE root *gheis-, used in forming words involving the notions of excitement, amazement, or fear (cognates: Sanskrit hedah “wrath;” Avestan zaesha- “horrible, frightful;” Gothic usgaisjan, Old English gæstan “to frighten”).

Ghost is the English representative of the usual West Germanic word for “supernatural being.” In Christian writing in Old English it is used to render Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)), a sense preserved in Holy Ghost. Sense of “disembodied spirit of a dead person,” especially imagined as wandering among the living or haunting them, is attested from late 14c. and returns the word toward its likely prehistoric sense.

Most Indo-European words for “soul, spirit” also double with reference to supernatural spirits. Many have a base sense of “appearance” (such as Greek phantasma; French spectre; Polish widmo, from Old Church Slavonic videti “to see;” Old English scin, Old High German giskin, originally “appearance, apparition,” related to Old English scinan, Old High German skinan “to shine”). Other concepts are in French revenant, literally “returning” (from the other world), Old Norse aptr-ganga, literally “back-comer.” Breton bugelnoz is literally “night-child.” Latin manes probably is a euphemism.

The sense of appearance is key. Because apparitions occur all the time. You’re actually perceiving several hundred now. Why? Because perception is weird. This is why the perennial 1st year philosophical questions revolve around the hoary old chestnut of whether trees falling in forests when there’s no-one about make any sound. Or what the sound of one hand clapping is.

When things appear in our perception, we think of them as ‘real’ and when they’re not perceived by us, we just don’t give them the same brainspace. We’re not wired that way – and it’s not surprising because usually what we perceive is likely to either be a threat, or to be useful in some way. So the tree falls in the forest, and yeah, it makes noise – specifically it disturbs the air and impacts on the earth and kicks off vibrations, which are then perceived by myriad perceivers. And you know, some of those perceivers may not have ears.

So the question becomes, what actually do we mean when we say ‘sound’? Because there’s never no-one in that putative forest. But we’re not there, are we? So of course, we say there’s no-one there. Because we’re arrogant, anthropocentric apes and what we mean is NO ONE LIKE US.

Nothing and no-one we recognise as ‘like us’. Which bluntly?

Is. Fucking. Naive.

Naive and probably responsible for every environmental and social screw up our species has ever made. The sound in the forest only exists as that sound, that particular shape or flavour, because we’re there. Because we interpret it that way. So when Gordon comments about wholly imaginary friends, he’s right. Because everything is imaginary. We’re Image-Making, Story-Telling Machines.

And the secret that magicians know, be they Chaos Magicians or not, is that everything is made up. Even you.

Actually especially you.

And this is why you’ll get magicians falling over themselves to say its all psychological, that it’s all in your head. Because they, we, are smug bastards. We’re the children of Hermes, that messenger of the gods, whose silver tongue translates information just as he pleases. We’re the interpreters of signs and omens. We’re ones who go to war with your nightmares, and we’re the ones who can craft them too, because…shhh…it’s a secret. We can kill you with a word. Eat up your insides, leave you a hollow shell. Heal the aching wound in your soul that you never knew existed.

And post-modernism says, it’s OK, everything’s made up. You can interpret it how you want. It’s all psychological. And that’s like crack to naive, arrogant, anthropocentric apes who think their interpretation is the only one that matters.

It’s baby’s first mindfuck. And the thing with that kind of realisation is, it’s something that stays with you. It’s even more insidious, because it gives you a leg up, results wise, over someone who doesn’t know that we create what we experience via the interpretive matrix of our bodymind.

Now, I started writing this on good Friday, and it’s now Easter Monday. What a nice three day period for a post to gestate over, eh?

You might notice, that in the comments on Gordon’s post, he’s basically said he didn’t forget the mining in Cornwall, that it’s an Easter egg. Fair enough, say I. The thing with an Easter egg is that it’s only going to be received by those who know its there. Like a real Easter Egg, you have to find it.

A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to – Gandalf

Consider me then, the Cornishman at the bottom of Gordon’s post then. Mining away, like my folk have done for several thousand years.

knockers

Because if there’s something a miner will tell you, it is this: It’s not safe down here. Not at at all. At any moment, something might give, a prop might weaken, a spark might ignite some gas that rises up. Maybe it’s the same gas that the Oracle of Delphi used to huff. Maybe not. But there’s deep water here, hidden pressures, to say nothing of the Knockers, those chthonic spirits and long-dead miners that beat out an eerie rhythm in the dark.

See, the Earth’s a giant, and at any moment, that subterranean Lady might decide to swallow me. So I make my deals, leave my offerings; I cast the last of my pasty into the night and whisper a prayer, then its on we go. I can say there’s no-one here, but that doesn’t stop the pressure. Doesn’t stop the  echoes, down here. And no matter how much I might tell myself it’s just my imagination, the press of the rock around me says otherwise.

Has always said otherwise, to those down here. Down in the Deep Below, working in the dark, waiting for the shine, the gleam of light reflected back on the eye.

I live in Lancashire. I’ve felt the Earth quake as they fracked over in Blackpool. And she doesn’t quake here, not hardly at all. But it’s fine to frack, because they say it’s safe, those barons of industry, who love their paper representation of gold so very much. And thousands of years of Cornish folk laugh in my ear: Perfectly safe, my ‘ansum  they whisper mockingly from blackened lungs, clotted with time, bones knocking together with their laughter. You’m be leavin’ soon enough. 

And of course, they are right, those old ghosts. The Unearthing occurs, and the rivers run red. That’s just the way it is.  There’s stones and bones down here, a hollowed out honeycomb. And those who walk above forget; right up until the thin crust cracks and the Earth yawns open to swallow cars or houses, devouring our markers of civilisation.

Tread careful, cock. There’s a good lad.

And what happens when you can’t leave? What happens when the way becomes hard, and you’re sat in the middle of the wreckage of everything you thought you knew?

See, the thing is? You can’t just extract in isolation. Oh, you can pretend you might. Just like you might pretend that the forest is silent, merely waiting for your presence. But you’d be wrong, wouldn’t you?

See, here is the heart of it, friends. Creation isn’t a Roswell crash-site. That is, if I  may say, a spectacularly easily misinterpreted metaphor. Because such a metaphor implies that the Wyrd comes in from Outside. Actually, all it does is intrude on our perception. Creation isn’t Eden, either, or not the Eden you grew up hearing about, some neatly maintained and ordered garden.

No. For while it is abundant, there is no wall. Eden is full of lions, jaguars and other things that have no interest in your human perspective. You will create the experience of being eaten, to be sure, but you will still get eaten.

Yes, as Gordon says, we have done little to nowt with the data on Western heart attack NDE’s, and that’s crappy. But he’s off the mark in assuming those neolithic shamans would cry at the wastage, I reckon.  Why? Precisely because the data is about a situation that does not concern them. It concerns only those who match that type of evidence.

It’s like suggesting the Stanford Experiment says something about humanity as a whole rather than a certain class of American college students in the 20th century.

Similarly, just as we don’t actually know what the psychological actually is,  we have no bloody idea what ‘consciousness’ is. Just think about that for a second. We have absolutely no idea what we are, or how we fit in the larger universe.

The ethos behind chaos magic is good. It’s practical. Find out what works, and use it. The way it goes about it though, is definitely a product of its 20th Century Western Enlightenment mindset. Ask anyone not completely immersed in that mindset, and you’ll find that the magic they use already works well enough for them for practical purposes.  Because if it didn’t they wouldn’t use it. Neither would those marginalised in Western society. It wouldn’t keep developing, shifting, fusing and syncretising if it didn’t confer some advantages.

Which is, of course, what Gordon is saying, using deliberately provocative metaphors. Because Chaos Magic is a reaction against Western Magic’s tendency to ‘do’ magic solely as a intellectual or spiritual exercise. Of course, this is actually reaction against certain nineteenth and twentieth century forms of ritual magic. Because, at heart, that’s just rooted in Enlightenment snobbery, which itself can ultimately be laid at the feet of Monotheism for giving us the idea that there is an Absolute, transcendent aspect to so-called ‘reality’ which renders everyday life irrelevant.

There’s a reductionism at the heart of modern and post-modern Western thought which says that there must be an answer that covers everything; just psychology, all made up, etc.

Anyone with any hardcore magical experience eventually needs to take off the stabilisers, throw away the training wheels and progress beyond Baby’s First Mindfuck. Because once you leave that to one side, you begin to realise just how deeply bloody weird existence is. And that means you have to recognise the massive multiplicitous plurality involved in every single breath you take.

The world is alive, a Pandaemonic All which, when you embrace it, blows our brains to pieces and confronts us with our chronic naivety. You soon realise that you’ll never, ever be in control. The best you can do is learn how to ride the roaring flux.

Remember the quote from Gandalf above?

Well, have an addition: A wizard always says precisely what they mean to.

Of course, what they say, can mean many things. And that, is the point.

“The right word is not the one that names the thing but the word that gives the effect of the thing.”
— Marshall McLuhan

Twilight language. Shadow-communication.

It’s that effect which is important, and since we live in that plurality, we have to accept that words and practices may be different when we go places or enter different conditions. There is no one size fits all method of survival, of waxing and thriving well. Because magic, as with all life, is about that. Finding out what allows you to be you, more completely

Which means our metrics may be very, very  different. You might be a corporate lawyer, or a crippled bearded madman, I dunno.

And I find myself wondering, how many times will you read mine or Gordon’s posts? How many paths will  you take – if you’re willing to go beyond Baby’s First Mindfuck and into the Gothic, barbarian, feral Night?

Because remember, you can’t extract anything in isolation.

So, from the bottom of a hole filled with bones and stones…

Be seeing you.