In a way, it’s fitting that my first post after the blog’s return from being hacked is written under the influence of morphine. After all, mankind has enjoyed a close, if somewhat fraught relationship with the poppy, for thousands of years.
Whether that be out in Afghanistan, China, the opium dens of Britain and America, or even the Romantic poets and the Victorians with their laudanum and other preparations, it’s been around for a long, long time. It’s in my particular system for health reasons which I shan’t go into here, but suffice to say the last few months have not been particularly pleasant.
Why do I bring this up? Possibly, to explain the nature of this post, and to ask for some forgiveness if yr. humble correspondent strays from the paths of relevancy. Yet also to mention that, though it took me weeks to read, my conciousness ebbing and flowing, my attention wavering from print after only a few moments like the proverbial stoned ape, I really enjoyed Gordon’s first book.
In case you didn’t know, that’s Star.Ships: A Prehistory Of The Spirits and it’s really good. Like, 2001-monolith good. Somehow, Gordon’s managed to distil down a slab of something which, if you approach it with an open mind, might very well give you some new ground to recontextualise myth amd magic. Let it into your brain and see where you end up.
But this isn’t a review. No, this is – actually I don’t know what this is, but I was occasionally nicknamed Coleridge at university, so you’ll have to forgive my fugue and put up with a sort of juxtapositional quotefest:
WE ARE THE WITCHCRAFT. We are the oldest organization in the world. When man was born, we were. We sang the first cradle song. We healed the first wound, we comforted the first terror. We were the Guardians against the Darkness, the Helpers on the Left Hand Side. Rock drawings in the Pyrenees remember us, and little clay images, made for an old purpose when the world was new. Our hand was on the old stone circles, the monolith, the dolmen, and the druid oak. We sang the first hunting songs, we made the first crops to grow; when man stood naked before the Powers that made him, we sang the first chant of terror and wonder. We wooed among the Pyramids, watched Egypt rise and fall, ruled for a space in Chaldea and Babylon, the Magian Kings. We sat among the secret assemblies of Israel, and danced the wild and stately dances in the sacred groves of Greece.
(John Whiteside Parsons, We Are The Witchcraft)
Before we knew how to farm, before we lived in villages, before we even knew how to make pots, we built a star temple on a hill. The simplicity of this statement belies its astounding implications. […] We did not build Göbekli Tepe in Southeastern Turkey because a surplus of stored food allowed a priestly class to emerge and tell us make-believe stories. We did not monitor the movements of the stars because it told us when to plant crops, because we weren’t planting crops.We built Göbekli Tepe because it expressed something about ourselves and our place in the universe. The temple complex restores the quest for meaning to its preeminent place atop the goals of human life. Philosophy is rescued from being a mere nighttime hobby of farmers to being the defining human trait, that which we value most. This is what the site’s discoverer, Dr Klaus Schmidt, means when he says that the cathedral predates the city. It may well have been the coming together for spiritual reasons that birthed settled cultures, rather than the other way around.”
Star.Ships: A Prehistory Of The Spirits, Gordon White
All very well you might say. But who is this John Whiteside Parsons? Originally born as Marvel Whiteside Parsons, named after his father who left, and then latterly becoming known as John?
Around here, we call him Jack Motherfucking Parsons. Look him up. You’ll find he has a crater on the dark side of the moon named after him, helped found what became NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, worked Ritual Magic with L Ron Hubbard – yes, that L Ron Hubbard, and blew himself up in a lab explosion. This is the guy who looks so terrifyingly like the father of Tony Stark (Marvel Comics IRON MAN) that I swear it’s one of those Things.
Why do I bring this up? Because as well as introducing Grady McMurtry to Thelema, he is instrumental in our attempts to get. To. The. Stars. A scientist, Thelemite, magician, libertine, who gave us jet fuel and Solid Rocket Boosters. Like Dee he had a dodgy partner – L Ron was his Kelley in some senses. There are even the wife swapping parallels.
Now, no disrespect to my Thelemic chums, but if the OTO had as much pull and celebrity influence as the Church of Scientology does/did, perhaps it might be further along with the whole Thelemic worldwide project, eh? But, no matter.
Therefore our name is Lucifer. We are on the side of freedom, of love, of joy and laughter and divine drunkenness. Therefore our name is Babalon.
Sometimes we move openly, sometimes in silence and in secret. Night and day are one to us, calm and storm, seasons and the cycles of man, all these things are one, for we are at the roots. Supplicant we stand before the Powers of Life and Death, and are heard of these Powers, and avail. Our way is the secret way, the unknown direction. Our way is the way of the serpent in the underbrush, our knowledge is in the eyes of goats and of women. (Parsons, Ibid)
“While Laurasia may be the ‘containing narrative’ for Western magic, many of its spirits are at least Gondwanan and potentially Pan-Gaean. You can even make the case – and I do – that ‘true’ Western magic, devoid of its much, much later onboarding of Neoplatonism, is a practical application of a Pan-Gaean world-view: God may exist but its existence is materially irrelevant; the Trickster/Devil is the gatekeeper and lord of culture; and it is recourse to local spirits and the dead by way of sacrifice that is the most commonly performed action. The witch is a very old woman and she has been on a long, long walk.” (White, Ibid)
It’s been interesting, hasn’t it, the discussion of the Devil in various blogs, within Wicca and Witchcraft? Even Llewellyn has authors getting in on the act too. Somewhere I can hear a chuckle as a Wanderer throws up the horns, walking along the corpse-paths of starry night. And then there’s the film, The Witch: Black Philip and the dark woods:, all warm-mouthed and living deliciously, hot buttered young crumpet and old hag dancing in Sabbattic Nightflight.
Ochre-red handprints, human and otherwise, pressed on the stone roof, the curvature of the Earth propelling us Down and Into Abyssal Starry Gulfs amongst the immortal, feral dead – all unbound, justified and ancient. Uttering barbarous words that are no words in any mortal tongue because they’re the language of the shining angels, the black and hungry birds. Lucifer – Light-bringer. Morning Star The name for Venus. High in the heavens and within her Sibylic Mound within the Earth.
The combination of the bird – most often the vulture – and the head is repeated several times throughout the entire site. During the 2012 season, a larger-than-lifesize, realistic human head in the talons of a large bird was discovered in a deep sounding trench in the main excavation area. This is an image that is well-known from Nevali Çori and is thus highly suggestive of the continuation of ‘headlessness’ and the special significance of the head from the deep Palaeolithic into the post-agricultural era. Other carved heads have been discovered in the fill of various enclosures, and are curiously evocative of some comparatively nearby cultic practices in Jericho, ‘Ain Ghazal and Tell Aswad, where human skulls were removed from corpses and given new faces made from gypsum plaster before being installed in ancestral shrines. As far back as 26,000 years ago (doubling the distance between Göbekli Tepe and us), graves where the skulls have been painted with red ochre are found. From the same era, the Gravettian graves – found across Europe – often contain headless skeletons or sometimes just skulls. (White, Ibid)
We are the Witchcraft, and although one may not know another, yet we are united by an indissoluble bond. And when the high wild cry of the eagle sounds in your mind, know that you are not alone in your desire for freedom. And when the howl of the wolf echoes in the forests of your night, know that there are those who also prowl. And when the ways of your fellows about you seem the ways of idiocy and madness, know that there are also others who have seen and judged – and acted. (Parsons)
To place things in context – nobody is talking about a single Ur-text, no singular method of hierarchical transmission. The words and phrases, Gondwana, Laurasia, antediluvian – these are mere placeholders. No early twentieth century Perennialism here. No nineteenth century Murrayist Old Religion which requires slavish reconstructionism. The palm tree becomes oak, becomes ash. The mundus imaginalis, in all its intermediary intercessory wonder, reaches out. There have been a hundred Atlantises, a thousand – the wisdom teachers who carry the memories of a drowned land are legion, because of the nature of stories and Being. Because there have been events and times which must be kept as doorways, preserved as the very vessels which carry us to the realm of the stars.
As above, so below is not merely some comment on the tendency of humans to plot the movements of the heavenly bodies. Nor is it solely a statement on the holographic, holistic nature of so-called reality. It is an aid to memory, a signpost to communion. For it says that the stars are not, have never been, apart from us. That stellar chthonic realm, that endless arching curve of the velvet heavens, is us.
The way up is the way down. That constellation of Tricksters with ten thousand faces, those daemonic culture heroes – strange-grifters all. That legion of daemons led by some hoary-headed thing of laughter, wonder and terror. That feral band of night-dancers, terrible in its singular gravity, curving space and time, twisting it into lemiscate knots to hover above the heads of charlatans.
There’s an awful marvel here, friends.
marvel (n.)c. 1300, “miracle,” also “wonderful story or legend,” from Old French merveille “a wonder, surprise, miracle,” from Vulgar Latin *miribilia (also source of Spanish maravilla, Portuguese maravilha, Italian maraviglia), altered from Latin mirabilia “wonderful things,” from neuter plural of mirabilis“wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary; strange, singular,” from mirari “to wonder at,” from mirus “wonderful” (see smile). A neuter plural treated in Vulgar Latin as a feminine singular.
miracle (n.)mid-12c., “a wondrous work of God,” from Old French miracle (11c.) “miracle, story of a miracle, miracle play,” from Latin miraculum “object of wonder” (in Church Latin, “marvelous event caused by God”), from mirari “to wonder at, marvel, be astonished,” figuratively “to regard, esteem,” from mirus“wonderful, astonishing, amazing,” earlier *smeiros, from PIE *smei- “to smile, laugh” (cognates: Sanskrit smerah “smiling,” Greek meidan “to smile,” Old Church Slavonic smejo “to laugh;” see smile (v.)).
From mid-13c. as “extraordinary or remarkable feat,” without regard to deity. Replaced Old English wundortacen, wundorweorc. The Greek words rendered as miracle in the English bibles were semeion “sign,” teras “wonder,” and dynamis “power,” in Vulgate translated respectively as signum,prodigium, and virtus. The Latin word is the source of Spanish milagro, Italian miracolo.smile (v.)c. 1300, perhaps from Middle Low German *smilen or a Scandinavian source (such as Danish smile “smile,” Swedish smila “smile, smirk, simper, fawn”), from Proto-Germanic *smil-, extended form of PIE root *smei- “to laugh, smile” (cognates: Old English smerian “to laugh at, scorn,” Old High Germansmieron “to smile,” Latin mirus “wonderful,” mirari “to wonder”). Related: Smiled; smiling.
Because it was never about us. Never. The human was never the centre of the universe. Instead, that central point, that crossing place, that axis mundi which has wizards and wonderworkers trapped in trees or hanged from them? That place of dismemberment and reconstitution that makes worlds, the place where angels descend and shining folk take us apart and put us back together so that we may see anew with ancient eyes?
That is where we stand. Only in that meeting, in that moment. That’s the doorway to eternity.
I shall let you into a secret, dear friends. This has taken me days to write. Days to put the letters next to each other. (Morphine, you understand.)
Yet, you’ll read it as a whole thing, a complete object. You’ll never see the false starts, the moments lost, staring blankly at the screen, while raw emotion and wordless thought crashed together like waves of an ocean. You’ll never see it unless I let you, unless I show you. The logic of it, of Gordon’s book, meets William Blake in my mind.
Jerusalem, the emanation of the giant Albion. The shining city of Imagination upon a hill. They made a hymn about it, but so many thought they were speaking of a desert place, a distant place.
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen? – From Milton: A Poem by William Blake.
A question there then, from Blake. Did Jesus, the living divinity long held distant in time, walk these shores? Did Milton, with his tale of the fallen Lucifer, the descending rebel angel, serve as Virgil to Blake’s Dante? And if Lucifer the Lightbringer is applied not only to Jesus, but to Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter – what then?
If there is a Meeting Place, then there are Meeting Places. Multiple, Plural. Altars, shrines, holy places. Tapu places. Places you don’t want to go at certain times lest you be taken Under The Hill into those timeless fairy realms. Places that exist that way, not because of superstition but because of memory, but because of the wyrd interconnected nature of things.
This has taken days to write, as I have said.
While this place was down, I’ve been on and off tumblr, and I became aware that apparently, some folks think analysis is antithetical to chaos magic. I mention this, because of Jack Parsons. Because of the calculations and the mathematics of John Dee. Because of the curvature of the earth and the raising of the stones and the movements of the stars. Because of the teaching of herblore and surgery and healing and harming. I mention this because Gordon runs a chaos magic blog and talks about experimentation and results, and floods and geopolymers used to build the pyramids in his book.
>I mention this because when we come together at that meeting place to share stories and ideas, when we cast our minds back to ancient lands where ancestral grains lie, the grandfather of the strains which give you bread today, we find that the division is not there. We find the cathedral instead, the star temple. We find magic, not as an exclusive thing of bits and pieces, but as whole fabric. We find it born when high wyrd meets the human mind, and in reaction, like a body breaking out in hives, we find culture, that attempt to grasp to shape, to understand, to acquaint, to have knowledge of.
Humans it seems, by our nature, are a Gnostic species. While we cannot speak for our cousins the hobbits, or the Neanderthals or the Denisovians, we can nonetheless find them in our DNA. We knew them, biblically, Gnostically. We found these Others, and we met them, and now we carry them with us through time.
This has taken days to write, periods of time. Of comings and goings. Yet you are seeing, reading, only one thing. Which is the truth of the matter? Knowing my opiatic status, my poppy process, what changes? I live in the 21st century. I was born towards the end of the twentieth. Yet, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve uttered the words from the Greek Magical Papyri, barbarous names from 350CE and centuries before. Lost count of the times I have called upon the Headless One, with mouth aflame.
“In a compelling example of the sort of non-human logic described at the opening of this chapter, we have the Headless Rite. Straddling the modern and supremely ancient world, it is an invocation of an asterism that led tribes across the globe for tens of millennia, that had ‘headless’ star temples raised in honour of it and its consort where hunters would feast, take drugs and learn the skills of grain cultivation, that became associated with stellar immortality (and still grain) to such an extent that great stone maps of it were built upon the earth. In a transparently shamanic survival, alignment with this asterism conferred kingship over the realm of the spirits. So potent was the initiatory power of headlessness – to have one’s head in another realm – that it has survived into two of the three great religions of the Near East in the form of John the Baptist, who ‘initiates’ Christ and thus brings that same promise of victory over death back down to earth.How or why could you possibly improve on that? There is no need to toddle off to Devon for a ‘shamanic initiation’ weekend. The blood spilled at Göbekli Tepe still stains the Headless Rite’s words of power. Speak them.”
In those moments then, there is and always was, a communion. A connexion which is transpersonal, transtemporal. In those moments then, I do not touch the Old Religion. For there is no Old Religion, just a tribe of apes having their bodyminds blown to smithereens. The Religion & Science comes after in a desperate attempt understand, and all one can leave behind are reports of the signs and wonders, the bones and ribs of fallen starships wrecked on the shores of time. The myths are memory, the prophets learning the tales well enough to integrate them into their body and blood so very intimately that uttering them opens a pathway, raises the wreck of those vessels.
The severed head becomes the doorway, the ancestral stream, and we find that City, that Star Temple on a Hill, waiting for us in whatever clothes we need. This is not about some unbroken lineage. Rather it’s that the things which found lineages and make connexions never went away.