Archive for August, 2010

On Selfishness

Restoring mental health does not mean simply adjusting individuals to the modern world of rapid economic growth. The world is ill, and adapting to an ill environment cannot bring real mental health. Psychiatric treatment requires environmental change and psychiatrists must participate in efforts to change the environment, but that is only half the task. The other half is to help individuals be themselves, not by helping them adapt to an ill environment, but by providing them with the strength to change it. To tranquilize them is not the Way. The explosion of bombs , the burning of napalm, the violent death of our neighbors and relatives, the pressure of time, noise, and pollution, the lonely crowds; these have all been created by the disruptive course of our economic growth. They are all sources of mental illness, and they must be ended.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist peace activist (Emphasis mine)

I\’m no psychiatrist, no counsellor, no professional trained brain-shifter. Well, that\’s not strictly true – I don\’t have qualifications ratified by some external authority, however, I have well over a decade of poking my own head under my belt and also the knowledge that I\’ve helped more than a few folks over the years.

I know this because they\’ve told me, and it always surprises me. I like that surprise, because it actually tells me that I\’m not set in my ways when it comes to talking to folks. Which is great because it means I\’m still learning, still adapting, still becoming better at what it it is that I am.

Now, I am by no means perfect; I have my flaws, and many of them are fairly obvious. I\’m still working on them though, which is the point, isn\’t it? Because if we stop, we\’re dead, to put it bluntly – everything moves, everything shifts, flows, changes, eventually decays and is recycled.

Nobody wants to be dead – at worst they just want to die, which is really an exit-strategy against pain and suffering or other pressures, be they internal or external. That\’s completely understandable. My cousin took that route, and I won\’t fault him for it; it was his choice and despite the fact that it led to a great deal of pain for his family and was, essentially, what broke me and began my descent into the depths.

I won\’t fault him, because without that, it would have been far harder to break myself. Instead I shattered and found myself in some pretty dark places, and I learned some terrible things and experienced the nadir of my life to date. Without that, and without the love and support of my friends, I\’d never be where I am now.

I wouldn\’t be able to grin at death, smile at the grim and mind-numbing and find fuel for my dreams and thoughts in almost anything. I wouldn\’t have become the peculiar person you all know and love, or at the very least are oddly fascinated by.

I have the quote at the beginning of this piece emblazoned on my brain, and as I\’have already said I\’m no psychiatrist, no counsellor, no professional trained brain-shifter – and that\’s great because I can put all my effort into the second half of that equation, the section I have emphasized:

The other half is to help individuals be themselves, not by helping them adapt to an ill environment, but by providing them with the strength to change it. To tranquilize them is not the Way.

By now, if you know me at all, you\’ll have become aware that I spend my life trying to be myself completely and that I don\’t esteem herd behaviour that much. When I catch myself at it, I grow faintly annoyed, because I should know better, and actually do more than 80% of the time.

I\’m not big on tranquillization – I dislike numbness and somnambulism and it actually makes me feel a little ill. I was talking to somebody the other day, and she knows who she is, about the numbness and lethargy. I was most impressed and gratified by the notion and demonstration of screaming for stimulants, let me tell you.

Stimulus is important and more than that, it it is vital because it is contact with the world. When I take part in a stimulating experience or conversation, the action it engenders reminds you that things can change and become something else.

It has been said that my writing has an intoxicating edge, and that that is wonderful to me, because it means that when you read it, you can become aware of things – you are stimulated and presented with options and choices that you were previously not aware of.

Yet somehow you could become aware of them, or at the very least you can recall times when you\’ve been enlivened and stimulated, can\’t you?

Times when you\’ve felt so very vital and full of possibility that it feels like you might overflow and break your boundaries, move beyond other people\’s image of yourself into something greater. We all have them, and for some they\’re distant childhood and for others it\’s just yesterday. It doesn\’t matter when it happened to you, what matters is that you know what it felt like, doesn\’t it?

Amidst that feeling, anything is possible, and that\’s the key to it all. Amidst the thrill, the intoxication, the sheer inspiration – which is echoed in the constant everyday action of breathing; the act of inhaling. You are dead if you have expired, and so long as the possibility to inspire and be inspired exists you are alive.

That\’s the thing you need to remember and consider at all times – every thing in all the worlds proceeds from that.

Because of that fundamental fact, I can quite honestly tell you that I don\’t rightly care that no external body sanctions my actions. Nobody gave me leave to start breathing, did they? You\’re supposed to keep breathing until you die, so they say.

Well I didn\’t.

I stopped. I tasted death, and I started again. This is, needless to say, not normal, is it? So I\’ve been flouting that since day one and there\’s no reason to stop now because it\’s easier or less painful. Thus, consider me a renegade when it comes to that, and that means I\’m not exactly bound by conventional forms of morality.

This is of course beneficial to me, and hence to you, because I can do certain things far more easily than those tied in knots by certain moral qualms. When I communicate with people, everything I say or do arises from the notion that the universe is ambivalent and that the world is a constructed thing -built by people and their ideas.

All it takes it to disrupt the world, the everyday business of life, is to inject something odd, something different, something extra-ordinary into the system. This is easy for me, because I make it my business to find the extra-ordinary, to hunt it down in the wilds of the mundane, to bring its secrets up from where they have lain hidden.

Literally as well as figuratively, I\’m an occultist – from Latin. occultus \”hidden, concealed, secret,\” pp. of occulere \”cover over, conceal,\” from ob \”over\” + a verb related to celare \”to hide,\” from PIE base *kel- (see cell)

So when it comes to people, everything I do is specifically designed to help you do the same, to open the cellar door and descend to find yourself. To give you the wine that intoxicates you, takes you across the threshold to the Otherland; to breathe enough breath into your lungs that you can dive into the depths of the ocean that birthed you.

All these things are metaphors, paths and ways  which can be used to find your own runa, your own Mysteries. When you find them, you will begin to change your world, because you will understand how to do so. This is what I am absolutely certain of, and that\’s because I\’ve done it, and it has enabled me to do things thought impossible.

Gordon has an interesting post entitled The Doc Brown School of Self-Improvement which you should read, about the dangers of inductive reasoning and gives an interesting method of keeping tabs on your own processes. Because I\’m a contrary sod, I\’m going to take issue with a possible interpretation of the post, rather than the post itself.

The issue isn\’t really the traps of inductive reasoning – in actuality the issue is that the past is not fixed, nor that the future is a plane of possibility. It\’s an issue of propulsion here; if one is to project into the future, a kind of physics still applies. To get to this future requires energy, requires fuel – the plutonium for your flux-capacitor which, combined with the speed of 88 mph catapults you elsewhere.

Where does this fuel come from? How exactly does future-you come back? More to the point, how do you go back and tell your past self what they need to know? You\’d have to have the fuel in the present to do it. Now, before you get us all in trouble with the counter-terrorism bods in your search for nuclear material, I\’d like to invite you to consider another option.

Suppose, just for a moment, that your future, your extrapolation, is completely unnecessary. That in fact, all that exists is you now, that you are newly emergent from the maw of chaos, and that all your past was created to give you an identity to stop your newly formed consciousness from falling apart, or so you\’ve been informed/discovered.

Both future and past are manufactured, born of the same stuff. Thought and Memory drink from the same skull – yours.

If that\’s the case, if the terminals of your awareness are not fixed, then what of the awareness itself? Might not it be plastic and far more malleable than first thought?  What would you change if anything was allowed and all was tabula rasa?

How might you become a fundamental thing, an axis mundi, the centre of the worlds?

I\’m utterly selfish and that\’s because I wish to be surrounded by people who have found themselves. I know what one man can do when he embraces his runa and focuses on becoming it in totality – what could a band of such souls do, working together – ask yourselves that!

Where to begin this, where to explain and make an entry point? That\’s always the first trial of a writer, always the first test. How do you break in the page, how do you allow it to move under your hand?

For me, it\’s often a violent thing; often something akin to war. You pick your ground, collect your tools and weapons, check your intelligence and then you go to work. I sat here staring at the blank screen and nothing came, so I stopped looking outward, and looked inward. There is always a moment of vertigo when it comes to this, a kind of sick leaning out over the ledge to see what\’s there.

There\’s always the chance that you will be confronted with nothing, always the chance that you will witness nothing but a vast yawning gulf. However, patience is a virtue in this, because as we continue the metaphor, the troops and weapons and resources available to us are often terribly good at not being seen.

(Camouflage and painted faces, blending with the landscape of the psyche. The empty warehouse-as-crowded-ninja-bar.)

Here\’s the thing though; in warfare as in writing, that\’s exactly what you want; what you\’ve trained for.

Subtle! Subtle! They become formless. Mysterious! Mysterious! They become soundless. Therefore, they are the masters of the enemy\’s fate. Sun Tzu, The Art of War Chapter VI

These resources you have exist in potentia. The minute you catalogue them all, give them form, is the minute they gain properties and can be stolen or lost. So who is the enemy in writing, and hence as far as I am concerned, in magic itself? If the enemy of every writer is the horror of the blank page, then maybe Sun Tzu would say that mastering it would bring victory?

If suddenly, one can take that horror and transmute it, can allow it to become a manifold which actually benefits the writer, then we might be on to something. Thus the landscape, the page, the environment – all these become spaces not to be conquered or captured.

Instead they are ways to victory.

One of the biggest problems of warfare as a metaphor is that these days, war contains implicit annihilation. It wasn\’t always that way – not by a long chalk. Instead, war and battle were often attitudes that had their main thrust well beyond simple aggression and grinding the other fellow to dust.

It\’s for this reason that I would like to muse on it a little.

For starters, let\’s consider one of the primary concepts here – that of the enemy itself. It\’s a lovely thing this, having its roots in not-friend, and what I find intriguing is that for most considerations, there must be an enemy for warfare to occur. Hold it in your minds a second, yes; war with no enemy.

Sounds ridiculous doesn\’t it? How can there be war if there\’s nothing to fight against? Surely then, it\’s not warfare, just violent chaos. This is what we\’ve been quietly programmed to believe, and its taken as a heavy duty fundamental. As usual, I\’m going to offer up a heresy:

Victory itself is war without an enemy, without a resistant force.

Sigðir -Victory giver
Sigföðr – Father of Victory, War Father
Siggautr -Victory Geat
Sigrhofundr – Victory Author
Sigmundr – Victory protection
Sigrúnnr – Victory Tree
Sigtryggr – Sure of victory (Victory-true)
Sigtýr – God of Victory, War God
Sigþrór – Successful in victory, Thriving in victory

Sieg \”victory,\” from O.H.G. sigu, from P.Gmc. *sigiz- \”victory\” (cf. M.Du. seghe, O.N. sigr, O.E. sige), from PIE base *segh- \”to have, to hold\” (cf. Skt. saha- \”victory,\” sahate \”overcomes, masters;\” Gk. ekhein \”to hold\”)

Above you see nine heiti, bynames and titles of the Norse god Óðin – nine of over two hundred recorded in various sources. Two hundred names describing the deeds and things the god is known for. What a busy sod that awful old man is, no? That\’s just the Norse – what of the names of Godan of the Lombards, Woden of the Anglo-Saxons and countless others?

Now, before you dismiss this as simple Heathen frothing (which in a way it is, for it has at its roots furious inspiration) I\’d invite you to consider something:

On the host his spear | did Othin hurl,
Then in the world | did war first come;
The wall that girdled | the gods was broken,
And the field by the warlike | Wanes was trodden.

The notion of a spear being hurled over the enemy is one of dedication and sacrifice – the battle belongs to the god. As a complex deity, its often noted that the Old Man can appear as one treacherous fellow, abandoning heroes and eeling out of oaths as he chooses. In the technical sense, he is ambivalent, this lord and battle and fury. It doesn\’t matter which side wins – the war is his, offered up.

Somehow, Old One Eye can\’t lose. Everything that he does can be turned into a winning proposition. Enemy and friend are equally holy – the fury is what matters, what is divine. No matter where it comes from, he\’s the master at using it. I\’ve often pondered Ragnarok and his fate in the myths – devoured by Fenrir, who is then torn open by Vidar the Silent.

What kind of dodgy geezer doesn\’t have an exit strategy, eh?

That is of course, neither here nor there. What I find interesting is the notion that enemy and friend are rendered meaningless, that victory occurs irrespective of combatants.

If magic exists, then it alters and attacks so-called \’reality\’ – that\’s the enemy and battlefield rolled into one kids. But if victory is war without an enemy then what about reality?  If there\’s no enemy, nothing to push against, nothing to fight, what do you do?

The answer is horribly simple. Become an originator of victory. Whatever happens, whichever side loses, you are always victorious. This goes way beyond the simple working of \’angles\’ and moves into territory that some might find horrific, and that\’s not hyperbole.

Let me show you:

Pain and weariness as you stand with the butt of the spear planted in the mud; its the only thing keeping you upright You can feel the muscles moving under your skin, rippling in strange and spastic ways; a spasm hits like a hammer blow and the sinews clench in a burning iron fist. You choke back the roar as the pain floods your system, as it comes again and again and you\’re shivering in the freezing fire that\’s crawling through your flesh.

Smoke on the wind and the metal stench of blood and mortal terror; your lips draw back in a rictus grin and your eyes close, black then erupting into a phantasmagoria of fractal shapes and screaming beasts pushing their way out of your hide as you see men reaped like crops at harvest time.

All of them are screaming for their mothers, groaning from torn throats, howling with ruptured bellies, thrashing in the bloodsweat with wild eyes, bones glistening through broken flesh, jagged edges grinding like teeth.

Last one standing, that\’s you; amidst the ruined bodies of mortality, the temples of flesh now bust open to spill ruby scarlet rivers of precious life. You burn in the cold as the black birds call, feasting amidst the carnage; here an eye gulped; there a nose ripped, lips torn by cruel beaks.

There are no friends here, no enemies, and the field is full of blood; all is smoke and iron, fierce and darkly bright as another crescendo of pain rises. You do not flinch, and the grin widens, your jaw cracks with the effort of it; your tendons like creaking steel, your bones weary yet hard as diamond as you voyage ever deeper through seas of agony.

And still they cry, and your eye is dry and sockets hollowed out cups brimming with vision that threatens to spill out over all things, a tide of spume and surf and bitter wisdom. You have no shape, all is running as river, as knifing like breeze and the spear slides easily through all things, as it slid so easily through your flesh as the bindings burn and you scream out the silent speech of the void before and between the worlds.

Death is a beautiful blossom, exotic in its form and function. Inhale such a scent and know it as rich perfume – there is glory in this. The victory is everywhere; and from the field, born of shadows, emerging through the passageway of pain and death, passing along the fibres of your bondage, come your brothers and sisters.

An army full of gleaming weapons and dark of face, of scar-shaped wyrd and rune-blood bright, they come to stand with grim purpose, and one has the strength of all. On the wind they march with pounding drum and skirling horn, with shrieking joy.

Until there is only ever laughter – always.


Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, \”These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom.\”

They said to him, \”Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?\”

Jesus said to them, \”When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.\” –Gospel of Thomas

Let me tell you a tale as it was told to me by an Initiated Man; as it it passed from his lips to my ears and beyond, into the very Foundation of my being.

Let me tell you a tale, by wyrd words and Art; a tale that is true when the rain falls and the thunder rolls, when the lightning flashes and the night is dark; when the sun is but a hope in the winter\’s cold, a dream of warmth, and the cool of the evening is a balm from the blazing pitiless sun!

Let me tell you a tale dear friend, as you read my words and hear them spoken by the voice within, shape traced by eyes now long used to the task – for you know how easily you read all the letters placed before you, don\’t you? You know how reflexive that has become, and hence how you draw near to listen even now, as I am about to begin.

How well you recognize the storyteller\’s flourishes! How excellently you can perceive the hooks in the preamble, watching as they sink into place, flowing like a river as it enlivens a dry stream-bed. Drink deep therefore, and if you would, allow yourself to see, to feel and to experience all that is to come – listen good and well…


For he waited there, in that room alone, until they came for him. Dimly, faintly, he heard them moving in the temple; preparing with word and voice, with barbarous names whose syllables slid across his awareness like raindrops on glass. He sat alone and prepared, stilled his mind and opened his heart; he matched his breath with the beat of his heart as sand moved through the glass, a dry rustle of the desert there inside that place.

When they came, when the door opened and they asked if he was ready, he spoke:

\”I am.\”

So by those words he gave them license, commended himself to the hands of those who would work upon him on that night. First to depart was his vision; a blindfold made him sightless as he was led through the corridor. The temple door was opened, and he was announced. Where before there had been only darkness, now light lay just beyond his vision; flickering firelight and the thick, warm, scent of frankincense hung in the air, flavoured with further fragrances that were unknown to him.

They were others there, as he was drawn into the rite – a voice spoke of Earth; a crushing weight placed upon his head, the inexorable nature of that element brought forth; flesh yields to Earth in the end after all – it provides us our final home, our base and ground. So it was that Earth was laid upon him and he was bound with rope, the hands of man forcibly stilled by fibre and weave.

On then, to the spirits of Air; all-present and all-penetrative comes the whispered word, the touch of blade marks the way on skin as the sharpness cuts away the gross matter. He flinches at the cold kiss though he has steeled himself for such an ordeal; the sound of his breathing harsh, the bite of the bindings about his wrists a constant presence as Air passes through him in sharp purity, like the wind through the hollows of his bones.

On then to Fire as dim candle-flicker marks the path; a shrieking voice assails him in an alien tongue and the sting of agony announces his arrival. Scourged and assaulted again and again, until the skin of him is burning and that shrill shrieking sears his nerves as the blows seem to come from all directions. Fire is hungry and pain blossoms in scarlet flame, alternately soothed with scented oils of heated places; soft hands touch skin and wield the way of pain against him, until at last it passes.

At the sudden urging of Silence where before stood Rage and Passion, so passes he into the cool of the Deep Waters. Here his wounds are bathed and sweet refreshment is raised to the lips of the blind and bound figure. Sweet it is, this water, this mead of inspiration, these slow dark rivers made from the blood of gods. Calmness descends then, the calmness brought by the awareness of the vastness arrayed all about him; a single drop in the great watery Abyss.

Cleansed then, he returns to Earth to find the ground of all Being, to emerge and stand naked upon that distant shore which lies beneath all things. He moves with it beneath his feet, strengthening his every movement; he moves to stand amidst the roaring storms of intellect and thought as they batter his essence with their crushing fury.

Yet still he endures, and endures as he passes beyond into the burning heart of flame, and as the pain comes, as the agony hungrily plays across his nerves, he answers it with a hunger of his own. Greedy, he burns with it, draws the flame within, ignites himself, burns joyously on the pyre – a laughing conflagration descending from the Aether to plunge into the Beyond.

Amidst that nightblack place he swims, its crushing depths and pressures reconfiguring his shape and form, until the salt water in his blood matches that great and awful sea. Strange company he keeps there in the sightless gulfs, antediluvian creatures well at home beyond the realm of concious awareness.

Swims down deeper then, until the pressure compresses, until all that remains is diamond hard and shining with the light of a sun that dwells at the centre of the Earth. Thrice then has he walked the path, thrice judged, thrice refined; thrice and finally triumphant, he gains the right of vision.

Blindness disappears in and instant, the temple gleams and those present encircle him. They make the signs and ways of LVX and NOX; with words of power they send forth and awaken he who stands at the centre. Thrice again, aye thrice this is done, until he who is the centre beholds the shining reflection and ascends by descending!

So it is that he stands within the sphere of the Moon, at the Foundation of all things, who walks amidst the gardens therein, where all others see dry dust and airless cold. Walks aye, as those who wrought this work sink to their knees to hear his  worlds and words. So it is that he walks in the roots of things, beyond the sphere of man. So it is that he stands with gleaming figures, elegant and slim, spindly and fierce – towering in cathedrals of the stuff that men foolishly call dream.

For that salt blood that runs in his veins is the same salty sea which roars and thunders along the shores of awareness, that shining ocean, that silver gleaming cornucopia of creativity!

\”Behold then.\” they whisper, these spirits born of star and moon, these gigantic astral presences, \”Long locked away have been the thorns within the blood. And beneath the roots of things stirs thunder, for that which is forgotten does not lie quiet, nor shall memory buy you safety. Long lost be the powers, though we come again, for upon our backs mankind has built its world.\”

Fierce the pain within his veins as thorns unfold, pierced from the inside out. Blood flows, and where its droplets fall, so spring up countless universes. With sharp inhuman smiles and fathomless ancient eyes full of the light of long-gone galaxies, they stretch out needle-thin fingers and he meets them with his own, all gleaming silver-bone and clothed in deep kosmic blue.

\”The essence of power is this: Make your Lies into Truth and the Truth into Lies.\”

Understanding blossoms then, a bittersweet fruit ripening in an instant, its ashes the base for an elixir of paramount wonder…



\”Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted.\” – Hassan i Sabbah

Thus spoke the Old Man of the Mountain, or so the legend goes, in the days when his fortress at Alamut was the nexus of lines of flight and burrowing both. The Hashashin roosted at the Eagle\’s Nest; masters of asymmetric warfare they struck in ways which hit the hearts and minds of their enemies.

I have long written about war machines within the context of Deleuzian philosophy; particularly highlighting the notion of exteriority, I have suggested that the extra-ordinary is possessed of a greater variety of potentials than the ordinary. The well of potential is what makes a thing powerful, and while the words of the Nizari master echo down through a thousand years, it\’s true that they have become almost a cliche amongst certain types of magicians and philosophers.

Yes, \’Orthodox\’ Chaos Magicians, I mean you. Do please stop parroting it – you\’ve relegated it to a distasteful sound-bite, right up there with management buzzwords and things like synergy and paradigm. I mean, come on – paradigm? Have any of you even read Thomas Kuhn? I know I have. So hush, would you?

(I may feel strongly about certain things, can you tell?)

However, for all that it has become a tired old saw, I invite you to consider the statement in relation to the events I recounted above – to consider that the Weltanschauung – the wider world-view may be understood in terms of language and dreams, that the fundamentals of what you consider reality are inherently based upon the episteme born of your culture – and here I give a nod to Foucault, thus pleasing Jack and Gordon at least!

Consider if you will, that the very notion of that phrase implies possibility. I raise this because of the notion of things brought up by this post of Jack\’s, in particular relation to this one over at Strategic Sorcery. The distinction between Truth and Lie has ancient roots – deeply rooted in survival processes. The words phantom, phantasm, fantasy and fantastic spring from the same source:

phantasm \"Look
early 13c., fantesme, from O.Fr. fantasme, from L. phantasma \”an apparition, specter,\” from Gk. phantasma \”image, phantom,\” from phantazein \”to make visible, display,\” from stem of phainein \”to show,\” from PIE base *bha- \”to shine\” (cf. Skt. bhati \”shines, glitters,\” O.Ir. ban \”white, light, ray of light\”). Spelling conformed to Latin from 16c.
fantasy \"Look
early 14c., \”illusory appearance,\” from O.Fr. fantasie, from L. phantasia, from Gk. phantasia \”appearance, image, perception, imagination,\” from phantazesthai \”picture to oneself,\” from phantos \”visible,\” from phainesthai \”appear,\” in late Gk. \”to imagine, have visions,\” related to phaos, phos \”light,\” phainein \”to show, to bring to light\” (see phantasm). Sense of \”whimsical notion, illusion\” is pre-1400, followed by that of \”imagination,\” which is first attested 1530s. Sense of \”day-dream based on desires\” is from 1926, as is fantasize.

An apparition, a spectre then – a sight seen with the Imagination. Compare this to the etymology of \’false\’ and \’illusion\’:

false \"Look
c.1200, from O.Fr. fals, faus, from L. falsus \”deceived, erroneous, mistaken,\” pp. of fallere \”deceive, disappoint,\” of uncertain origin. Adopted into other Gmc. languages (cf. Ger. falsch, Dan. falsk), though English is the only one in which the active sense of \”deceitful\” (a secondary sense in L.) has predominated.
illusion \"Look
mid-14c., \”act of deception,\” from O.Fr. illusion \”a mocking,\” from L. illusionem (nom. illusio) \”a mocking, jesting, irony,\” from illudere \”mock at,\” lit. \”to play with,\” from in- \”at\” + ludere \”to play\” (see ludicrous). Sense of \”deceptive appearance\” developed in Eng. late 14c.

I am sure you might begin to spot what I\’m getting at here: that the issue is not one of truth, instead it is of deception and seeming. If one cannot trust something to act as it is obliged to by its definition, that thing becomes dangerous. It might do anything, and this possibility is something that requires that we keep an eye on it, just in case it tries to harm us.

This is a survival mechanism folks.

By nature, survival is easier in stable conditions where predators aren\’t an issue and resources are plentiful. The shortcuts taken, the agreed upon assumptions about the environment which are shared by a group; these form the roots of the social contract – the bedrock of any given society.

The weltanschauung, the Focault-episteme – these give rise to taboos and laws which are rooted in survival in the environment that a culture inhabits and emerges from. The interactions of all forms of perception and understanding come together to create a pattern which informs and influences any given reality.

At the root of Indo-European culture – and others besides – stands the conception of a righteous order, opposed by a deceptive influence. In Zoroastrianism, this is manifested as the  Asha opposed by the Druj, or the Truth vs. Lie. The fundamental distinction between the two can easily be traced to that which maintains the integrity of the status quo, as opposed to the deception which undermines it and threatens the integrity of the world – literally the \’age of man\’ or group.

Think about that for a moment, and then turn over the concept of an assassin in your mind, yes? What images does it conjure, what associations? I\’ll lay good odds there\’s an element of stealth, of dressing in black and moving unnoticed before striking and vanishing like a ghost. Or perhaps it summons images of poison, a knife in the back, sneaky indirect wet-work of dubious morality – a Black Operation par excellence.

Now, if you haven\’t read that link to the article on the Druj – and you really should, trust me – then I\’ll give you a supremely relevant quote:

Druj-, Avestan feminine noun defining the concept opposed to that of aša- (q.v.). Controversies about the meaning of the latter word have naturally had implications for the understanding of druj-. The corresponding verbal root in Indic (druh: dru‚hyati) seems to have the basic meaning \”to blacken\” (Mayrhofer, Dictionary II, pp. 79 ff.), perhaps preserved in Avestan in Yašt 5.90 and 8.5. In view of the opposition of the two words, if the meaning of aša- is \”truth,\” then that of druj- must be \”lie,\” but, if the meaning of the former is \”order, justice,\” than druj- must mean \”error, deceit.\”

Christian Bartholomae prudently gave both meanings: \”falsehood, deceit\” (AirWb., cols. 778-82). Considering that the meaning \”falsehood\” corresponds to a certain kind of derivation (see the discussion of draoga-/drauga-, below) and that the meaning \”deceit\” results from a specific contextual usage (cf. the verb druj:dru‘a-, below), the opposition was probably between \”real order\” and \”illusory, deceptive order,\” the first being linked to the lights of the day, the second to the shadows of the night (Kellens, 1991, pp. 46 ff.).

A black thing indeed then, this Druj – this vision which ensnares and draws away from the Truth; a distorted mockery which sets you to question, to wonder if  perhaps the fundamentals of the world are not as they have been illuminated before you. A garden of temptation, full of houris and rivers of milk and honey.

They say many things about Hassan i Sabbah. They say he would dose his acolytes with hashish and make them believe they had died, only to awaken in a garden he had created to present the illusion of Heaven. Then, once returned, they would be fanatically loyal to the cunning Old Man of the Mountain.

They say he could command his man to throw themselves from the parapets of Alamut, plunging downward to their deaths all unconcerned. But they also say he beheaded his own son when he found him with a bottle of wine in defiance of the laws of the Qu\’ran.

They say a lot of things, don\’t they? Did you ever wonder who They are, and where they get Their unimpeachable information?

It doesn\’t come out of the Black Night; doesn\’t emerge from the sightless, senseless gulfs. No, it comes out of the streetlight, the neon and the campfire, the fierce glow of rationalism and progress. From repeatable results and the bedrock of reality and generations of assumption that the chair you\’re sitting on is solid and you won\’t go through it.

The flaming sword guards the gates to Eden, held in the hands of an angel. Paradise is but a memory and mankind tills the soil and lives and dies, trying once again to bring it to being. It builds and creates, one thing on top of another, layer upon layer of solidity and structure. The blade cuts the black earth and the seeds grow.

What of the assassin then?

What indeed! For he too has a blade, and it is swift and silent in the night. He strikes and brings forth blood that falls upon the same earth. Cain slays Abel and is marked by YHVH – the first killer, now rendered untouchable.

There\’s iron in the blood and the metal in your veins may gleam, oh so bright; opened up by the assassin as he moves unseen amidst the sheep – for as I\’m sure you know, Abel was a herder of livestock, and Cain a grower of crops. So here we find the asssassin\’s way in an interpretation of the doctrine of taqiyya – strategic dissimulation.

By taking on a seeming, the practitioner survives amidst the hostile or larger population, to perform in secret those things which are unacceptable to the masses. By embracing the lie, the truth is preserved – the truth of the inner nature. Without it, those that follow the call of that nature would be destroyed.

Thus we find a secret hidden in the heart of all things; that the notion of Asa-as-Truth and Druj-as-Lie are contingent each other for existence. You cannot have one without the other.

In the Black Night one finds the inner Light gleaming, shining silver in every cell. There is no neon, no street-light – no external source of Illumination. As the assassin strikes at the fundamentals of existence, his blade cuts deep into the heart of the world itself. He murders all that is known and understood, until all around is an ocean of shining blood and the sun and moon are eclipsed and torn down.

By now, you\’ll have begun to notice the leaps and connections I\’ve made, the associations and links – vaulting from one thing to another, a path that\’s easily traceable across the rooftops of your mental metropolis. The use of metaphor to slip sideways through the cracks, easing behind your mind to stalk the shadowed corridors of your subconscious; the evocative conjuring of scenes – of souks and bazaars heaving with myriad ideas beneath minarets from which the wail of the muezzin calls forth strange things in the night.

Can you comprehend what phantasms and images might emerge in the darkness, what horrors and glories might be revealed at that time? Or what strange and terrible forms might wake from sleep and stretch out their hands to you; might speak in tongues no human mouth has ever uttered?

This is the essence of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights; Scherezade\’s perfume fills the air, exotic in the desert heat. Stories within stories, concepts within concepts and words within words. Such power it has, the power to stave off even death itself, to ensnare even a king, to draw ever in, and ever deeper. A Labyrinth in the dark, and at the centre the monstrous Minotaur, born of Woman and Beast.

Will you walk those passageways, those paths guarded by djinn and ifrit, those netherworld paths buried deep within your consciousness?

Try it. Reach inside yourself, into the dark of your body, the space between each thought, voyage deeper and deeper, and do it now. Navigate the Labyrinth, sightless and blind. Go on, I dare you.

I\’ll be here when you get back…



The chair is solid, isn\’t it? The seat you\’re sitting in is going to hold you up and the business of life will continue on, yes? After all, if things were different, that would be crazy talk. Certainly, you wouldn\’t sit on a chair with holes in that you can fall through, would you?

Except you are sitting on a chair with holes that you can fall through and what\’s more physics agrees with me. So, if you think I\’m crazy, if you think these are purely the ravings of a madman, then please consider how much space there is in an individual atom, and how many atoms make up your body.

After that, move on to your seat, and when you\’re done, I\’m sure you\’ll join me in praising the charges on the particles for their sterling work in keeping things repulsed, and making everything seem solid. Because actually, there is an extraordinarily small chance that all the space and charges could align in a certain way and you and the chair might pass through each other.

It\’s all right though, it probably won\’t. So that\’s fine…isn\’t it?

Wait a second though, if that fundamental is only a seeming then what is the truth?  What actually is? Honestly, several millennia of philosophers and scientists are still scratching their heads about that one. Some of the really clever ones have come up with good workable theories which have enabled many wonderful things – but all these are based on some fundamental assumptions.

I spent both my undergraduate and post-graduate time at university studying philosophy – and that certainly counts as being trained. Four years (3 year BA and 1 year MA course) learning how to think. It\’s not as easy or as reflexive as you might believe, this thinking business. Along the way, I went a little mad and something broke. The apocalyptic and terrible visions of worlds burning, of millions marching in lockstep to unthinking doom that I have described here and in other places, were not simple metaphors.

They were things I actually experienced.

The bedrock of the world fell away, and I was insane by most standards. Yet somehow, I survived, and the transmutation into a kind of combat philosopher began like an alchemical process. Your fundamentals are not mine – the heritage of the epistemological assassin awoke in my blood.

Why am I telling you this?

The answer is simple – Jason\’s post makes the interesting point that certain things work whether or not you believe in them – that the efficacy may very well be in the operation itself as opposed to the primacy of belief so beloved by modern magicians, particularly of the CMT variety.

At first glance, this is a step forward – an attempt to break free of the idea that we are at the mercy of external powers that require bowing and scraping. On the second glance, it\’s only one step – and though its regarded as post-modern, we must remember that post-modern is the child of modernity, and that modernity is inherently anthropocentric (human centred).

Which, while a shiny view, does not take into account the interrelation of humans with the environment they inhabit. It\’s a thing of narrow focus, and as anyone who\’s been watching the news lately will tell you, this way of doing things has caused…problems.

But for all of you who hold to the view that belief is primary, and that changing beliefs is powerful, I\’d like to smile and draw my blade. What is belief? What is this thing that supposedly gives such great power?

How can you use it, how does it work – these are things each of you needs to sit down and consider for yourself. Equally, for those who choose to hold that there is something inherent in a given thing which lends it power, I ask you, what is that?

Think on these things, and think hard. Reply in the comments if you want. If you\’ve read this far, I know I have your interest and as such, I\’m going to offer another way.

The way is this:

Neither operere ex operato nor belief are what you think they are. Truth, Lie, Asha, Druj – all these concepts have definitions and borders. Walls between them.

Imagine if you could walk through the walls or pull back far enough to see them laid next to each other as part of a whole. Picture that, and if you have a moment of psychic vertigo as you allow yourself imagine them as parts of a larger thing, then you\’re with me and I\’d advise you to keep doing it.

What if it is all seeming – what is solid then?

If you can imagine all things, everything you know, as a phantasm that shifts and dances and is always ever changing; if you can hear the roar of chaos all about you, primordial and protean; if you can feel the thunderous silence at the heart of yourself, the Black Night when there is the Void, and there is you; and if that same infinite Void welcomes you and you can begin to realize that you are a shifting phantasm with boundaries and definitions that can be passed beyond, then it has begun.

When understanding dawns and the vastness dwarfs you, the nature of yourself as a grain of sand on that kosmic shore, and what you call \’belief\’ is nothing of the sort, but is instead a grasping for the ungraspable. When the Self is known as as that which gives rise to you, that the personality which is considered you is but the tip of a nigh infinite iceberg?

Then belief becomes irrelevant, and all things brim with potency.

The chair is allowed to seem solid. It is allowed to be a chair-shaped space and also a symbol and a word in your mind. All these things and many more besides, nigh-infinite in its variety. All are permitted and none are exclusive.

Nothing is True, and Everything is Permitted.

So spoke Hassan, he who they say gave men licence to do impossible things. Think on that, would you; and then understand that the essence of doing the impossible is doing what others cannot…