Sea, salt, moor and mine.
When I was young, I sat eating a pasty in Padstow, watching the tide pull at the fishing boats in the harbour. Brine in the air and sun in the sky – busy lives happening down narrow streets. Pots and nets stacked and piled all about, for this was a working harbour and the gulls knew it.
City-dwellers might call pigeons rats-with-wings, but those of us who\’ve lived on the coast, we eye the herring gulls with wariness. A double edged sword, they\’re the thing that mark the land when you come in from the sea; they wheel and dive and scream. They\’ll get into your rubbish and divebomb you if you get too close to their nests, which means anywhere there\’s coastline, you run the risk of precisely delivered streams of bird-shit and shrieking rage.
A friend of mine had a whole season of this when some gulls nested on a lampost outside his house. Every entrance and exit was a feathered gauntlet. Sometimes, now I am way up North, I still hear them crying and see them dive – I\’m only a couple of miles away from the Irish Sea now, rather than the Atlantic.
Sometimes I catch the pressure of a coming storm, smell the brine on the wind with fat salty raindrops. It\’s not entirely the same – the sea up here is generally calmer than the roaring surf of my boyhood and teenage years – but it\’s enough. Just like the Town Hall clock rings out over Hanging Town in an echo of the church in the Vale of Lanherne where my Dad was Rector. Monday night was bell-ringing practice there, and also here – the Catholic Cathedral is just up the hill, after all.
In twelve days it\’ll be 14 years since I came up North. 14 years since Dad and I parked the car next to the square with its statue of Queen Victoria, all copper-greened and opposite the Town Hall, both erected by the Baron\’s family.
12 days until I\’m 33.
Aye, and yet, the pasty is still ripped from my hand.
The shock reverberated through me, echoes of it rippling out even now. The thieving bastard bird rips sustenance from my grip, for it does not care for my supposed human superiority. I am struck by disbelief, hard and fast with the rapid beating of wings.
And here\’s the thing – harbours are to give you safety from the storm, a place to cleave to when the vicissitudes of the open sea become too much to bear. But sometimes, the storm rages and the waves crash and the wind howls and the sea roars over the harbour wall.
That\’s just the way it is – sometimes the sea reminds you that it\’s pounded these shores for a million years. Sometimes, you are reminded that the very fact of a harbour means that the sea can come right in. That it\’s already here and there would be no harbour without it.
Safety only exists if you recognise that life is fundamentally unsafe.
I didn\’t grow up in Padstow. I grew up in and around Newquay, famous for pubs, clubs and surfing. Jumping off the harbour wall was a Thing for many of my friends, as was surfing itself. Take a dive off the brick, into the waters, falling like a bomb.
(The shock of impact as you break the surface tension, the awareness that you are now in a different medium.)
We begin our lives in salted waters. Our veins are full of it, that and iron, you see.
So in magic, we\’re taught that we must go out to meet the weird. We must alter our consciousness, we must go to a sacred place. We must walk along the harbour wall in preparation for our deep dive; moving to the edge, the boundary and the fold where space and time are not what we would call usual.
We speak of timeless wisdom, as if the wisdom of Time were a separate thing; our mundane lives are not where the magic(k) happens, or so we think. How many times have we been urged to bear a magical name, to create a magickal identity – a suit we put on to do the work?
The best way to swim is to swim naked – deep divers have known this for years. Yet it\’s insane to begin the journey naked right? Surely the best place to strip is in the car-park or right before you dive?
There is, we think, a place we must go to meet the spirts and wights, the daimons and gods – even if it\’s just a place in our heads. RO has a lovely piece up on self-delusion and the importance of paying attention. Because the thing with payment is that it has very little to do with money and everything to do with reciprocity.
Before money, there was barter. Before duty and covenant and pact, there was respons(e)-ibility.
This is the key fact folks. Your life is a series of responses to stimuli, filtered through a framework of learnt patterns. On a larger scale, these patterns form a culture, but on a subtler level, they are incredibly mysterious – because all cultures are founded on responses to Mysteries.
When a culture loses connexion to the Mysteries that founded it, things start to – and I mean this quite precisely – fall apart.
The responses are formed by contact with the Mysteries, and this is what keeps a culture from becoming moribund or mundane. Patterns and responses are reconfigured by Mysterious contact.
And this is not merely a one-way thing – because everything responds. When a people believe themselves separate from the Mysteries, they start to divide the world.
But anyone with a basic understanding of physics will realise that one affects the environment simply by being in it – sitting alone in an empty room still affects the distribution of the air, just as a body displaces water when we dive, and sends ripples throughout the sea.
It is impossible not to respond, and where your attention goes affects the environment precisely because where that attention goes affects your responses.
That place we are told we should go, inside our heads or our temples or sacred places? They are all the same place – and this is because our entire world is inside us. Wherever we go, we carry it with us.
Except we don\’t go, do we?
1. Nu! the hiding of Hadit.
2. Come! all ye, and learn the secret that hath not yet been revealed. I, Hadit, am the complement of Nu, my bride. I am not extended, and Khabs is the name of my House.
3. In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found.
4. Yet she shall be known & I never.
5. Behold! the rituals of the old time are black. Let the evil ones be cast away; let the good ones be purged by the prophet! Then shall this Knowledge go aright.
6. I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death.
7. I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle. \”Come unto me\” is a foolish word: for it is I that go.
8. Who worshipped Heru-pa-kraath have worshipped me; ill, for I am the worshipper.
9. Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains. – Chapter II, Liber Al
This then, is why the kosmos is alive and vital. There is no part of it which does not touch another; the rocks, the trees, the skies and the caverns below will respond to your attention. They may not respond in the way you wish, but they will respond – it is impossible for them not to, and in doing so, influence your perceptions and responses.
To mangle a koan by way of Robert Anton Wilson: Who is the Master who makes the grass green?
We go through such a rigmarole in order to say Hello to the Mysteries, only because our culture does not recognise that we are already beyond the pale! We are always on the harbour wall, always Out There – on the promontory, the finger that strains to touch the numinous. Except of course, there is no strain at all!
We are already swimming in the Abyss; doing the backstroke while Supernal wonder pours endlessly down to refresh us, and the glories of the world well up below us.
You are always here, so say the spirits, smiling one moment and wrathful the next. Welcome home, Stranger. Welcome amongst your kin, oh Prodigal Child, with your games of journeying and living and dying.
This is what synchronicity is – a flash of memory of the interconnected whole, the constant contact of mankind with Mystery. For our entire existence, we have been Mysterious – the core of our identity, beneath the chains of long-disconnected patterns, is always fierce and daimonic.
That\’s all that the ego is, by the way – a set of patterns and responses. You can talk about killing the ego all you like, but in reality you are restructuring the patterns and responses in such a way so as to align with your Primordial Nature. You are re-cognising your relation to the kosmos. In essence, we are mating ourselves to the polar reality of existence – the fact that what we see as opposites and apartness is in fact part of a continuous whole.
We not only abandon magical identity, but the notion of identity-as-separateness as a whole. Thus we can sing the songs of our ancestors, and speak the words of gods-as-our-words. I becomes We as we fall backward into the arms of those Beings who are responsible for us, and for whom we are responsible.
The kosmic isolation is thus an act of supreme trust, for we are singular in purpose – a veritable familiar horde. We are re-configured to recognise the roaring silence of our existence in all its inevitable unfolding.
We do not own the land, the land owns us. The Sovereign and the land are one.
Where we stand is the omphalos, for we are the axis-mundi, the axle about which the wheel of time and space seems to turn, endlessly spiralling out in aeons and kalas and cycles of black and gold.
A breath, a moment, a word; allowing ourselves to return to the wisdom of innocence we find all phenomena to be at once empty yet hued with a nimbus of Being which reveals the sage fury of the immortals.
Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.
Allow yourself to recognise the utter primal strangeness of the so-called ordinary, with its absolute belief in the fixedness of thought and feeling. Witness the bizarre insistence of humanity regarding real and not-real.
For example, as I say: Your thoughts and feelings are not real – they are in fact passing fancies which seemed like a good idea to play with at the time.
The chances are, some part of you would disagree.
Of course they are real! So the script runs. They\’re important. How dare you say that such a vital part of me is not real! Stop invalidating me! Stop oppressing me and reducing me and my sense of self! Fuck off!
Oh dear. We\’re a bit tangled up aren\’t we?
Because if I were to say that your thoughts and feelings were real, many would agree. Of course they would – it\’s self-evident. Cogito Ergo Sum.
Just sit that with a bit.
What a beautiful piece of chicanery!
Real is good. Real is True. Real is Valid.
Conversely not-real is bad. Not-Real is False. Not-Real is Invalid. Except in polar reality, the equivalency doesn\’t hold up.
Both real and not-real are surrounded with a cloud of seeming-to-be. Take away the value judgements laid upon the poles and we are simply left with the fact that we are indeed the Master who makes the grass green.
(Psst! It\’s all green. The Stone of Lucifer? Green. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes and the Jade Books of Heaven? Also green.)
What\’s wrong with the fact that our thoughts and feelings are not-real? What does it matter that they shift and change beneath us, rippling like a veil? What\’s wrong with the notion that it\’s all a game, that our sufferings are exquisite craftings wrought by the patterns we have learnt unconsciously parsing stimuli and responding to them?
If real and not-real are like those optical illusions – duck or rabbit, young woman or hag, then what? If the actuality is both and neither, what then?
If I settle back and breathe, remaining open-hearted like a child, regarding all things with innocent interest, aware that I know nothing really – what then?
Because I\’m not a young boy any more. Nor am I the teenager going to University. Nor am I the man 12 days away from his 33rd birthday – I\’m much more than that.
And if I\’m not those things, then what? Conversely, what if I am all of them, right here and now? Twenty odd years of knowledge suddenly descends on a young boy as the bird takes the pasty and leaves only an empty hand behind.
Quid Pro Quo.
What gnosis might he find in that empty hand? Imagine twenty years of considering that empty hand! Twenty years of study with a child\’s mind. What happens as I type with that empty hand, now?
Well, I\’ll tell you something – I\’m smiling.