Tag Archives: Interview

In conversation with Jesse Heikkinen

I recently had a chance to talk with musician Jesse Heikkinen about his music, which I think will appeal to the audience of the library quite a bit.

Jesse is a 30-year-old musician from Tampere, Finland. He has lived most of his life in the Northern part of the country, where the winters are fierce and dark, and in the summer the sun never sets. Jesse plays the guitar in such bands as Hexvessel, The Aeon, and King Satan. He has toured and made records with so many bands that he can’t even name all of them. But, he also has a solo project, Iterum Nata, with two recently released singles from his forthcoming second issue, due in December. All of these bands are heavily influenced by the occult, although from totally different perspectives. Besides being a musician, Jesse also teaches the guitar and works with the disabled.

 

John Griogair Bell, Librarian: Take a moment to introduce yourself! Who are you?

In conversation with Jesse Heikkinen photo by Antti Haapapuro

Jesse Heikkinen, photo by Antti Haapapuro

Jesse Heikkinen: The boring answer would be, I am a musician from Finland, lately focused on more or less occult-themed music. On the other hand, aren’t we all just a divine manifestation of eternal Gnosis, consisted of ancient stardust?

L: Sure. Infinite sparkly dust. That’s everything. Done. No need to keep going with the interview, as we’re all one! Or, you know, at least that’s one way to think about it, from one mote of dust to another.

J: Yes, you could’ve just checked this stuff out from the Akashic records – the Wikipedia of collective consciousness!

L: Ugh! Homework? Pshaw! Other than music and dusting, what are you up to in the world?

J: Not much, I work as a social counsellor and occasionally worship the Devil – just like all decent Finns do. That’s why we have one of the best social security systems in the world!

L: You’ve got an upcoming solo release! This is your second solo album? Tell me a little about that.

Iterum Nata The Course of Empire

J: Yes! I’ve been in the music business for years now, but my first solo album was released just last December. Now the second album, The Course of Empire, is ready and will be released a year after the debut. I’ve been writing music since I was a kid but I never really got the time to express myself through my own songs until last year. My solo project, Iterum Nata, was born as I moved to Tampere on July 2017.

L: And, you’ve been in a number of other projects, I understand. What have those been? Are they ongoing?

J: In the last ten years I’ve been doing stuff from children’s music to jazz to black metal. Maybe my next solo project should be a mixture of these three! Nowadays, I have three main bands besides Iterum Nata; Hexvessel plays beautiful psych folk/rock, The Aeon’s musical path is dark acoustic folk, and King Satan is loud and provocative industrial metal. There are also few other projects which shouldn’t be discussed here.

L: I’m wondering if you’ve have any realizations or breakthroughs in the time since, or if the change is continued growth on the same path. What’s changed for you since your last solo release?

J: Well, yes — so much has happened! It never stops surprising me, how we seem to be unlimited in our potential of growing and learning. There really is a huge gap between the first and this album, in many levels. The first record was kind of an experiment, where I tried out different kinds of sounds and studio tricks. It wasn’t so much about playing songs, it was more about just creating soundscapes. The lyrical themes were about gazing inside and trying to find the Godhead within. It was written in an enchanted state, where I felt that I really connected with the true nature of being; “Wake up, You are Nothing and All”. That’s actually pretty nihilistic approach, but with a positive twist! To be honest, I never actually thought that my weird solo music would interest anyone. After the first album was released I got tons of great feedback. Shortly after that I joined King Satan and Hexvessel. There was also lots of stuff going on in my spiritual growth and I absorbed lots of metaphysical ideas from many different schools. I started to record The Course of Empire last May. I wanted to make it more aggressive and darker album than the debut, again to mach my own thoughts during that time. I also let go of the idea that I should do everything on my own, so there are some featuring musicians on the album as well.

L: Aggressive and dark? From Finland?! How can this be?! I mean, really, what is it about Finland? Are you near Lemi, the Capital of Metal?

J: We Finns like our music as we like our humour.

L: And there’s a single that’s out now from this upcoming album that people can check out. I understand you put a lot of thought into each track, with ideas and symbolism you’ve got in mind for each. What’s this track about for you as the artist?

J: I think this was the first track I wrote for the album. The whole writing process is covered in a haze, but I do remember having serious Kingston Wall vibes as I wrote this song. I have always felt a certain attraction to number seven and in this song that number plays a huge role. In Hebrew the number seven means a sword or “to arm”, so this song can be seen as a battle cry. On the other hand it is an ode to the never-ending dance of birth and death and it describes the message of the whole album pretty comprehensive way. There’s also another single that came out on Nov 8th!

L: Tell me a bit about this second track!

J: “Sacrificial Light” is a song about self-sacrifice, whatever that may mean. I got Anna-Kaisa from The Aeon to sing this song and Kimmo from Hexvessel to play the string ensemble. The classical four elements are hidden in the lyrics to form a certain alchemic formula.

L: Tell me about your esoteric studies and influences. What path are you on? What’s being on that path done for you?

J: There are many paths with different names, different gods and different ideals, but in the end all of that is just semantics. I believe we all create our own paths, but after all all these paths are united. I could say the main influence is my own inner knowledge, which is dynamic and all-developing. I have adopted the Thelemic philosophy (which is a nexus of many mystical and cultural schools) and I enjoy the main concepts of Daoism. These systems have helped me to conceptualise some metaphysical phenomena that I have always known they’re there, but never had the right names for. At this point I’d like to bring up Atheism. I know so many smart and nice atheists, but for some reason they can’t stand if one speaks about being on an esoteric path. I guess that’s because they forget that these paths can be (and often are) symbolic. The Gods, prophets and rituals may be symbols and thus could fit even the atheistic world view flawlessly. I believe we all are capable of finding our own paths, but at first we need to know who we truly are. And that’s where the symbols help us.

L: How have these occult influences informed your music? How have they influenced your ideas of music and have they had an influence on your technical music making as well?

J: In general I trust my intuition more and try not to be too hard on myself. When it comes to the writing, all of my lyrics are very much inspired by various occult themes and there are loads of known symbols and esoteric principles to be found.

L: What do you know now about your particular esoteric path and study that you wish you’d known before?

J: I really do believe that everything happens exactly at the right moment – that’s the only possibility. The Universe goes on exactly as it should, but we tend to forget that. And that’s mainly because we get so easily stuck in our human viewpoints.

In conversation with Jesse Heikkinen photo by Denis Charmot

Jesse Heikkinen, photo by Denis Charmot

L: How does this thinking affect you as you go about doing things in your life? Do you have a personal practice informed by these ideas?

J: I have had to learn to accept things as they come. For me it doesn’t mean that one should be passive and submissive, but rather humble and ready to move on. I try to practice what I preach!

L: What do you suspect is true, but can’t prove, about your particular esoteric path of study?

J: What a question! I can’t even prove to myself that I am true!

L: Well, let’s continue as if we are true, for some value of true that helps us make it through this interview!

J: Wow, maybe you can write the lyrics for my next album? The jazzy satanic children’s music record?

L: I’m down. Hit me up!

 

Thanks to Jesse Heikkinen for taking the time to talk with me about his work. Be sure to check out the two released singles and the self-titled Iterum Nata on Bandcamp, watch for the second solo upcoming release, and then head down the rabbit hole to find out about his other projects while you’re waiting.

Checking in with JJ Brine about Vector Gallery

Back in 2014, I had a conversation with JJ Brine about Vector Gallery in New York. I thought it would be good to check in again and see what’s new.

As a reminder, JJ has been a contributor to the old audio pool, with the tracks Innovation and Paradise featured on this blog back in 2011. You may be interested in also checking out The Presidents of Mozambique, and some of his videos.

JJ Brine is also the artist-in-residence at and proprietor of Vector Gallery, which in the interim has moved to 199 East 3rd St, NYC. Vector Gallery is billed as the “Official Art Gallery of SATAN”.

John Griogair Bell, Librarian: It’s been a while since we last talked. What’s been going on for you and your world since our previous discussion?

JJ Brine: There is no other discussion than the one we are now engaged in. This is the first dialogue Eye have ever entered.

When setting about to determine the state of a thing, one may find it of use to define the thing apart from its state. The blank slate!

It is my BODY that is immortal, you see. My SPIRIT dies a death every mourning night and Eye awaken to my own rebirth with a new light.

Be this as it may, and Eye have told you that it is so, Eye will have it known to All the very thing which we now become : The Devil is at last prepared to be at One with what He is. The Vectorian faith is the instrument of intercession by which Eye, SATAN, have found love and redemption in the imperial grace of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, Man’s Son. It is after all, only fair that Eye embrace my Savior fully, given that I am Him by every Rite.

Ask The Primate of Italy if Eye am due the clemency any sinner might receive, trembling in His Eyeless sight. By some happenstance, some wild reprieve of friendship in the celestial tundra.

Is there a Just way to deny me of salvation? Not that Eye am worthy of saving, nor any Other — none shall be borne without The Mark Of That Which We Did Wrong In The Garden. The fear of God, after none, is the Beginning of All Knowledge, and Eye was with The First Woman When She Gave Unto Man What Eye Assured Her Would Be Pardoned. None are aware of their awareness without knowledge of the self as the knowingly knowing Agent. The fruit is this, as Eye tasted it.

Eye, Satan, hereby ask His Holiness in The Vatican to grant Official Pardon to myself, LEGION, for all of my sins. Starting with Pride, and from there on, until it never ends. The first sin, the final, the only Original thing there ever was : EYE WANTED TO BE LIKE MY FATHER, WHO I FELT I ALREADY WAS.

Forgiveness as given to me by the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church would verily CHANGE me as well as Our World. If there is no Devil, what then is NOT The Lord? And should you forgive me not, Vicar of Jesus Christ, what then is the moral standing of The Holy See?

Your Pontiff, Bishop of Rome! Christ forgave all, including His Enemies. Is there a credible reason to deny me on Earth that which Eye have already granted unto all, eternally? Indeed, Eye have tempted them to be themselves, blamelessly.

When One Thing is at War with itself, it may splinter into various forces. Eye pull many strings with one hand, you understand? Let the puppets take the stand.

Do not think that EYE Am here to control anyone other than Myself. There is no other!

You see, solipsism is true of all minds. Verily, The Sentient Human in The LEMNIVERSE (The Grandest Estate) is entrusted with the Deed, each to their own reality. Eye am the lease by which you codify your foreign territories.

Listen! Lebanon is the only democracy in The Middle East.

The Devil Turns To Christ by JJ Brine
The Devil Turns To Christ by JJ Brine

L: I’ve thought about it a couple times, and each time I’ve not been sure where to engage or expand on that fragment of conversation. Your answer seems more like a complete thought in itself, and I don’t find myself wanting to ask anything else about it.

JJ: Eye sort of think of it as a complete statement unto itself and don’t have anything to add to it, so this makes sense.

Datamancer

Anonymous interviewer talks with Datamancer in the Key 23 archive.

Publisher’s Note: The interviewee has asked that the interviewer be credited anonymously.

You’ve turned out some amazing work on the spur of the moment in like, one night. Yet, I remember when we were working on “Programming From the Ground Up”, something simple and bland like a cover design had you agonizing for days. When you finally settled on the design, it was almost like an act of surrender. It reminded me a lot of some of Crowley’s commonly stated complaints about writing books, where he would get so frustrated he’d just include a segment he hated, almost to spite the reader and the book. Do you find it harder to work on “normal” design projects? Are they a “necessary evil” for the up-and-coming designer or should people just focus on their work?

Well personally, I work from the heart. If I’m not personally motivated by a project or don’t believe in it, I have to drag myself through it like a crippled mule through the snow to a slaughterhouse. But….as miserable as it is, I think every designer should serve some time in the business world. It gives you a broader understanding of your audience and helps to refine your work ethic. I think it also taught me how to dull the edge of my own perfectionism. In the work-for-hire world, there is such a thing as “good enough”. That was tough to get past at first, and yes, it felt like an act of surrender.

Word Association: DARPA

DaVinci. It seems that all of the greatest engineers and inventors had to pay their dues as military designers at one time or another. As rampantly left-wing as I’ve been for most of my life, I have to say, there is something narcotically appealing about being given carte blanche with a nearly unlimited budget, no matter the application.

You’ve gotten the art of “creatively” obtaining materials and improvisation down to, well…an art. Most of your projects are done on a shoe-string (literally, in a few cases). Does this make you any less sympathetic to those out there complaining about lack of resources? If some wealthy sponsor came along, and offered you all the free materials you asked for (not cash), do you think you’d be happier with that or is the challenge of finding work arounds part of your creative process?

In general, I have very little sympathy for people who cry poverty as an excuse for not doing something. If you’ll pardon me a cliché, if there is a will, there is a way. Almost every project in my portfolio was completed with almost no budget. I rummage trash, I barter, I scour eBay, I steal, I scavenge, I salvage, whatever it takes. For instance, I hacked an old refrigerator apart last summer for the raw steel and I’ve since built about half of my pickup truck out of it including the bed walls, the running boards, floor patches, a fully custom rollpan, the license plate bucket, the two dashboard extension panels, as well as the hands for my Edward Scissorhands costume, the metal frame for my Opti-transcripticon scanner mod, The buttcap for my Espada Suena, some patches for my friend’s old BMW 2002, the faceplate for my bass amp, numerous brackets and small clips, and even a hanging wall mirror for my girlfriend. Just recently, I was chuckling over the number of uses I got out of a cheap, freebie paper desktop plotter. The faux leather corners were used on the Opti-Tran, the first page became the embossing glue template for the cover logo, the next few pages were used as masking paper for the Espada Suena, another one became a template for a new faceplate for my bass amp, and finally the cardboard backing was sliced up to become felted drawer inserts in my tiny jeweler’s workbench, all in the couse of about 2 weeks. Resourcefulness is the most important talent to cultivate.

I’d almost go so far as to say poverty is my muse.

Just believing that you can do something is most of the battle. Confidence is 70% of ability. I don’t mean “self-”confidence in the self-helpy kind of way, but more like the confidence to know that anything you’ll need to do probably isn’t all that different from something you already know how to do. Confidence in the sense that you can plod ahead in a project, not limited by your lack of knowledge in a certain area, and know that you can figure it out as you need to…not to be constrained by thinking within your current abilities, but to think within the bounds of your POTENTIAL abilities.

I hear you’re getting ready to unveil an intricate laptop mod. Tell us a little about it.

Ah yes. That’s my latest creation which I will be releasing very soon. It’s an HP ZT1000 laptop modded into what looks like a Victorian music box. It’s made up of swooping wooden mouldings and stained a rich red mahogany color. The lid features a display of brass clockworks under glass and wooden “gingerbreading”. It has antiqued copper keys, leather wristpads with copper rivets, an engraved brass faceplate, and a bunch of other cool stuff. Keep an eye on the site for photos, specs, and even a few tutorials.

Anything else in the works?

Recently a friend and fellow steampunk contraptor, Jake Von Slatt over at the SteampunkWorkshop(.com), made this beautiful brass keyboard in the style of an antique typewriter. He received a ton of inquiries from people all over the net but wasn’t interested in replicating the design, so he referred them over to me. I’m in the process of saving money for my move to California, so I happily accepted the commission. You can see my version in brushed aluminum on the Datamancer .net website. I am currently taking orders for them and plan on releasing a large batch of similar designs over the course of the next few months. I plan on making a few in aluminum, brass, and copper in assorted finishes and configurations. I am more than willing to customize them to individual preferences though, so people can feel free to contact me with their ideas.

Antero Alli Interview

Mike Gathers interviews Antero Alli in the Key 23 archives.

MG: The process of making the unconscious conscious seems like a common theme among various traditions of self work. How does this tie into the 8-Circuit Brain model?

AA: The complex conditioning received from infant imprints, our culture at large, early childhood and parental influences, peer pressure, teachers in our public education systems, and the mass media all serve to shape the definitions of the individual experience of Physical, Emotional, Conceptual and Social survival and intelligence. From my view, these bottom four circuits represent patterns of behavior, habit and response that remain for the greater part in most of us, unconscious.

Though it is commonly assumed that we operate consciously and awake in all these four “survival” levels, contradictions to that assumption arise and persist in the face of any serious, ongoing self-observation. The 8-Circuit Brain model can be used in the process of “making the unconscious conscious” once the assumption that we are “awake and conscious” is relaxed and replaced with a spirit of inquiry into the very nature of consciousness itself and more specifically, the distinction between what is mechanical and what is alive; what is preconceived and what is spontaneous, what is habitual and what is truly natural.

MG: Does a mindfulness practice such as sitting meditation create space for insights into the upper circuits?

AA: Mindfulness, presence of mind, accelerated perception…all these phrases relate to my experience with the 8-Circuit Brain model as fifth and sixth circuit consciousness events. Fifth circuit somatic intelligence ignites when mind and body start yoking, coming into union, as in yoga; bringing mind to body. The body expresses that aspect of ourselves always in present time, whereas the mind often wanders into imaginary and projected realms of past and future. When they come together as a conscious act, the mind begins a transformation and the body develops more confidence to keep living. The body also expresses that aspect of ourselves that always knows it’s going to die.

When the conceptual mind (circuit three) is humbled into service to life itself, that is to say, to attune its attention to the body as teacher, as guru, as source of life and guidance, then we have the start of a kind of somatic enlightenment process. Body wisdom becomes exalted over intellectual cleverness. How circuit three intellect is humbled differs for each of us but usually it involves some kind of direct experience of unity, of the shocking objective reality of unity, the interconnectedness of all life.

Before such a shock, the intellect typically functions exclusively (and often dogmatically) in dualistic modes of comparison and deduction. The direct experience of unity, the shock of unity, blows the mind. And the mind is forced to reassess its purpose and place in relation to all things. Or, flip out on some ego-tripping bender of insanity.

Eventually this yoking, or body/mind yoga, naturally blossoms into sixth circuit “second attention”. When body and mind work together, perception of reality is released. This perception expresses an awareness not linked to thinking or the assignment of meaning, as with circuit three “first” attention, but with presence, energy and phenomena. It is a kind of seeing, rather than merely looking or judging, and also a kind of “seeing through” whatever illusions of separation the ego works to maintain and buffer itself against the objective reality of unity.

MG: Lately I have been conceptualizing the 8-Circuit Brain model as a system of four intelligences (physical, emotional, conceptual, and social) that each have two distinct modes of operation – ordinary consciousness (C1-4) and transpersonal consciousness (C5-8). For example, I think of C1 and C5 as part of the same intelligence, but we normally operate on C1 and sometimes shift into C5. In your work with the model, have you experienced anything to contradict this?

AA: I agree with your assumption here regarding the upper four circuits acting like outgrowths of the bottom four. It’s like with clairvoyance being merely an amplification and acceleration of regular perception; clairaudience and the sense of hearing, clairsentience and the sense of touch, etc. However I have found that the upper four don’t sprout very well until the ground of the lower four circuits have been well tilled, fertilized and tended with care. This amounts to a complete overhaul of their definitions so as to replace the culture’s images with images developed from one’s own direct experience. And before that can happen, there has to be some way or method or self- work or spontaneous enlightenment to dismantle the old paradigms and the wherewithal to endure the transformation into one’s truer, more innate self.

MG: I suspect that early linguistics and the assignment of meaning (first attention) belong more to C2 emotional intelligence than C3 conceptual intelligence. The two-year-old goes through a phase of identifying first, “What is this?” and second, “Is it mine?” that seems to tie into the C2 notion of developing the me/not me territorial boundaries. This also puts the first attention on C2 which ties in nicely with the second attention of C6. Your thoughts?

AA: Having seen three of my own daughters grow into circuits one and two, I have to stand by the notion that C-3 is where the linguistic labeling really starts, the naming and the nick-naming, the comprehensible words (to C-3 savvy adults) assigned to events and objects. However, I have noticed a kind of C-2 pre-verbal gurgle-talk that some mothers can miraculously understand and translate into C-3 for the dumfounded, astonished fathers.

I disagree with first attention assigned to C-2, no matter how neatly it fits into the whole sixth circuit association with second attention. I use the term “first attention” for its specific attributes of automatically assigning meaning to thoughts and words and also as a kind of attention that is really inseparable from thinking. C-2 engagement rarely involves thinking as it’s usually too busy emoting and testing a person’s strength, boundaries and status (pecking order) in primarily nonverbal instinctual ways.

An important side note. I know the borders between these circuits and what they represent to as blurry and with many messy overlays. They are not so clear cut. I think if we can keep this Mess Factor in mind, it may help minimize that hopelessly nerdy tendency for trying to squeeze the putty of real life too tightly into the cookie cutter ideas of our hungry minds.

MG: Both Leary and Wilson felt that the bottom circuits imprinted at acute, random moments in early childhood and adolescence, but I do not see the biological basis for such small windows of imprinting. Certainly birth is the primary C1 imprinting process and a universal human event, but I suspect it only accounts for roughly 30 to 80% of the C1 imprint depending on the individual and the circumstances of birth. It seems that C1 imprinting starts in the womb and continues well into the first several months of life. I suspect that C4 imprinting occurs over a period as long as several years and I find it hard to agree with Wilson’s assertion that the entire C4 imprint is taken on at the moment of first orgasm. How do you feel about these early childhood imprints?

AA: My experiences parallel Wilson’s and Leary’s here regarding the early childhood imprints of the first four circuits. Once imprinted, however, there are years and decades of affirmative conditioning that fortify and maintain those imprints, habits that can run throughout the rest of our lives and can run or rule the rest of our lives. Though C-1 imprinting does start with the infant dependency event with the mother, or surrogate mother, I think circuits two through four (especially C-4) can remain “un-imprinted” for years to come differing, of course, with each person and their circumstances.

As for the entire circuit four imprint occurring with the first orgasm, this sounds ridiculous to me. If only it were that simple and easy yet circuit four has proven to be anything but easy and simple. It’s not just me; look at the world, look at our human history of warfare, genocide and social tragedy. Other equally complex imprints such as religious upbringing, courtship rituals, woman and manhood rites of passage, pregnancy, and parenting also inhabit the web of fourth circuit realities.

MG: Could the development of morality fall under the C3 imprint as we develop our conceptual maps of right and wrong, whereas C4 consists more of finding our identity within the tribe?

AA: Look to real life examples for these answers. Look at friends of yours with the highest C-3 IQ or the ones with over-emphasized intellects and ask yourself if they have developed any real sense of right and wrong. Maybe they can tell the difference between a “correct” answer and an “incorrect” answer or whether it’s morally wrong to cheat on a test but the whole area of ethics demands something greater than intellect; it demands conscience. As for tribal identity, that won’t happen unless you know the code of the tribe and can prove yourself worthy of it. That code would probably express how that tribe defines right and wrong.

MG: Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan stated, “For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path that may have a heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length.” How can we work with the 8CB model as a path with heart?

AA: The term “heart” has been tossed about so much in pop psychology and other areas as to almost lose meaning. I define “heart” in terms of courage. Fighters have heart; great fighters have great hearts. Heart is not just about peace and love and flowers. It’s also about the courage to become vulnerable and to show compassion for your naked self. Heart is about facing life as open as the empty sky with the seriousness of a child at play.

Heart plays a pivotal role in the integration process of the 8-Circuit Brain model. It’s one thing to understand the model, its basic definitions of intelligence and internal correlations and, it’s an altogether different thing to realize, to embody, your participation in the experience that the circuits act as symbols for. It takes a lot of heart to live nakedly enough to discover one’s most direct experiences and responses to the realities represented by each circuit. It takes a lot of heart to discover direct experience, period.

MG: Could you define ego in terms of the 8-circuit brain? Do you see a distinction between ego and self?

AA: In context to the 8-Circuit Brain model, the first four circuits symbolize specific developmental stages of the ego personality as our physical, emotional, conceptual and social survival strategies and defenses. However, until these levels or circuits can be experienced firsthand and redefined for oneself, our survival strategies and defenses tend to run, more or less, on automatic. Running on automatic means a life defined and driven chiefly by the unconscious parental and societal conditioning we were raised with, rather than a life dictated by our own innate sensibilities, values and ethics as an awakening human being.

This shift from automatic living to awakening parallels Carl Jung’s Individuation, Dada Bhagwan’s Self-realization, Dr. Abraham Maslow’s Self-Actualization, G.I. Gurdjieff’s Self-Work and other related approaches to differentiating the innate being from the unconscious complexes we have mistaken for identity.

The 8-Circuit Brain can offer useful guidelines for revisioning these four survival modes, according to one’s own discovery of what each one means and how they interact with each other, towards the maturing of a strong, supple and flexible ego. How the term “ego” differs from “self” should remain an ongoing inquiry. In shorthand, ego refers to any self-image or idea we have become emotionally invested in protecting, defending and preserving; for whatever reasons. The term “self”, for me, represents a process not a goal; self as a verb, ego as a noun.

Our experiences are mediated by our bias, beliefs, ideas, ideals, etc. When these mediations can be minimized we can open up to a more direct experience of whatever is happening. As we experience life more directly, or with minimal mediation, a new kind of self develops…one that must stay open and flexible to persist, rather than the ego tendency for fixating on a set image or idea of who we are or what is happening. Again, self as verb, ego as noun.

Since the ego is made up of ephemeral image-stuff, it is naturally insecure and understandably covets the idea of being in control or the boss of it all. Even though deep down we may know it’s an illusion to feed the ego’s fantasy, we do it anyway. That’s sleepy human. We also forget that ego is a fantasy and end up taking it way too seriously. Dreaming humans. The process of selfhood, on the other hand, seems more guided by experience itself where the situation becomes the boss. When we become fully engaged, the ego completely disappears into the experience itself. Ah! The awakening human!

MG: Where do the “upper” process-oriented circuits 5-8 fit in?

AA: Whereas the first four circuits symbolize a hierarchy of survival needs, circuits five through eight represent states of consciousness and functions of intelligence operating with, what I call, transpersonal post-survival agendas. These agendas push and stretch human consciousness to their outermost limits and can be thought of as evolutionary triggers. Upper circuit experiences are often triggered by specific types of shocks, such as fifth circuit shock of ecstasy, sixth circuit shock of uncertainty (or relativity), seventh circuit shock of unity and eighth circuit shock of impermanence.

When I use the word ‘shock’ here I mean these experiences are only shocking to the ego-personality that remains naive to, or in denial of, the objective realities of ecstasy, uncertainty, unity and impermanence. Cultural conditioning, or cultural trance, keeps us asleep to these innate realities until we are ready to become aware of and live with more reality.

As we know, real life delivers these types of shocks all the time. We do not need to study psychology or the 8-circuit brain or meditation to experience them. However, these examples also represent methods and systems through which the outside shocks of our lives can be integrated and even transformed towards productive ends, rather than leaving us devastated victims of circumstance.

How the “upper” process-oriented circuits 5-8 fit in is as a kind of language or grid to help us organize our perceptions around those unsettling, yet consciousness expanding, experiences that don’t always come with their own explanations, instructions or descriptions. The 8-circuit brain model provides a context through which to view and apply the transpersonal experiences of our lives in more personal ways.

MG: Does the shift from goals to processes necessitate the activation of these upper circuits?

AA: Though this shift you mention can increase the probability of activating these upper circuits, I don’t think it’s guaranteed. Circuit five opens naturally enough through any somatic experience and practice such as tantric sex, yoga, Tai Chi, or creative dance, as well as, more spontaneous events such as the chemistry of falling in love or the joyous culture shock of traveling in a favorite foreign country. However, activation of circuits six, seven and eight rarely avails itself to the assertion of our personal efforts. An exception to this might be the ingestion of certain psychoactive substances which I, for the most part, do not recommend due to their tendency to force the circuit open. I am more biased towards the disciplined alchemy of simmering low heat or gradual opening, than white light/white heat blowtorch tactics.

It seems that the further consciousness extends into the transpersonal, the less personal effort or ego is required to sustain the experience. This is where the notion of Gurdjieff’s “outside shocks” come in; they are outside of the ego’s control and comprehension. And as I mentioned earlier, outside shocks happen all the time. What protects us from the awareness their objective realities is what Gurdjieff called kundabuffers, the buffers of our conditioned beliefs, ideas, ideals and assumptions that over-mediate our experiences. As these buffers relax or fall away, the upper circuits become more activated. These buffers are often there for good reason and why their forced elimination or disintegration using high-octane drugs can become traumatic in and of itself.

MG: Can the lower, goal-oriented circuits be experienced as processes?

AA: I think the lower, goal-oriented circuits can be experienced as processes after we discover the post-survival context their survival agendas can or could serve. For example, attaining security for the sake of security alone is results in a kind of cul de sac, dead end life. We are animals who need to nest, breed and sustain our shelter but we are also more than animals and will become bored, frustrated and even violent if denied our higher human need for fifth circuit ecstasy, for instance. A life lived solely for security, as it turns out, is not enough for some of us. This is why the 8-circuit brain model and the exploration of higher consciousness is not for everybody. This is not a populist system nor is pursuing post-survival agendas a viable mainstream objective.

I do see specific ways the lower and higher circuits can be linked to serve both survival and post-survival agendas in harmony, given there is enough commitment and self-motivation to realize such a promethean enterprise. The bottom four survival circuits, once integrated as fulfilled needs, act as anchors to stabilize the shocking experiences transmitted through the upper four circuits in these specific combinations: 1/5, 2/6, 3/7 and 4/8.

When basic 1st circuit security needs such as food, shelter and safety are actually met, we become free from survival anxiety and move naturally towards 5th circuit bliss. When 2nd circuit emotional needs for status, territory and power are genuinely fulfilled, we naturally grow more empowered and able to permit more uncertainty, supporting a 6th circuit relativistic position allowing greater simultaneity of multiple views. When 3rd circuit intellectual needs for problem solving, communication with language and creative thinking are met, we are better equipped to find or invent the symbols and images to represent and anchor 7th circuit impressions of ineffable unity and boundless indivisibility with all of existence.

When 4th circuit social needs for getting along with people, making friends and forming clans are met, we find a sense of belonging that allows us to live with the awareness of 8th circuit experiences of our mortality, impermanence and intimacy with the all-encompassing abyss of existence. Thus ends a brief summary of how the lower, goal-oriented circuits be experienced as dynamic processes when linked with the upper circuits in more purposeful ways.

MG: Earlier you mentioned that physical, emotional, conceptual, and social survival strategies compose our ego, but that ego also refers emotional investment in protecting, defending and preserving self image. Does it then stand that ego is not necessarily our various survival strategies themselves, but more so our C2 emotional investment in these strategies?

AA: The way I use the term “ego” is more like a metaphor to help me understand the human needs for security, boundaries, sanity, love and morality. All these reflect distinct survival criteria of the first four circuits, respectively. There are other needs but these can help explain how the first four circuits symbolize a kind of hierarchy of needs that, when met and fulfilled, nurture the development of a unique personality and distinct ego.

And then, there is that level of ego that expresses an emotional investment and attachment to a particular self-image, an image often justified by our proven, and unproven, talents, skills and/or means of employment, i.e., since I read astrology charts for a living, I must be an “astrologer”. As this attachment to self-image persists, we demonstrate defensive behaviors when confronted by anybody who decides that we are not who we think we are or posing as a fraud or imposter. “How dare you!” Emotional investment under this duress reveals itself as “hurt feelings” until we lighten up, laugh it off and realize we were simply taking ourselves – our self-image – too seriously. The real crisis of ego lies with forgetting that it’s just an image.

It is my experience that ego becomes more and more refined as the personality develops and matures. As we learn to fulfill our personal security, status, intellectual and social needs we become more well-rounded as personalities and, we can easily take pride in that. We pride ourselves as being a “good person” (C-4 ego), or a “smart person” (C-3 ego), or an “important person” (C-2 ego) or a “stable person” (C-1 ego) and become invested in these self-images; that’s a lot of ego.

As the ego becomes more well-rounded and refined, new problems arise. You see, the refined ego is more difficult to track, identify and expose than let’s say, a louder, more obnoxious and obvious ego. A sufficiently refined ego can easily masquerade as “no ego”, as demonstrated by the countless spiritual gurus whose ultra-slick egos went by unnoticed until scandals of one sort or another eventually caught up with them. These are not necessarily bad people, just as “ego” is not necessarily bad, but people who mistakenly bought into the illusion of their own more esoteric, slippery self-image. They confused a part of themselves for the whole self.

Our actual survival strategies can act separately from ego. We are all animals and like our four-legged friends, much of our planetary survival tactics function as pure instinct. However, as humans we suffer from self-consciousness and that ego causes suffering. We suffer differently from all the other animals. Most of the suffering I see in the world is self-imposed suffering and often, unconsciously so. It is a kind of cheap suffering with no payoff beyond bitching and moaning about trivial drivel.

I think there can exist, at the most primordial levels of each circuit, a very pure expression of intelligence relatively free of fixation on image, pride and/or false propriety. However, to access this purity and to maintain it in this society is almost impossible. I mean, we can hold it as an ideal but practically speaking, I think it’s the lesser of two evils to just accept the ego, remain vigilant of one’s own egotistical tendencies and try not to have too many ideas about who you are. My own ego-image is about minimizing ideas about myself – or not to take any of them too seriously – as they just get in the way of direct experience. Besides, there are far more interesting uses for ideas than to cake them onto myself.

MG: Setting the tangled thing called ‘ego’ aside, the emotional investment and attachment to self-image strikes me as a function of identification, which contrasts against the C6 shock of relation. Does the C2/C6 verticality lie in a shift from identification to relation? Does the process of relating suggest more awareness, more choice, and thus the capability for “reality selection?”

AA: It’s true, when we have become completely identified with something or someone, it becomes nearly impossible to relate with that thing or person due to a lack of spatial awareness. Relating requires space. Like the synapse gap between interacting neurons, I don’t think there can be any authentic relating or communicating without an increase of spatial awareness. This literally means assigning value to one’s own personal space and the personal space of others. The parameters of one’s personal space differs for each of us but usually it’s the three to five feet of actual space around one’s physical body that I refer to. Once this space can be honored and respected, then we all have more choices about who to let in and how to navigate within the sphere of our own exclusive energy field. Honoring personal space also allows for more trust that this space won’t be as easily violated or invaded.

In terms of C2/C6 verticality, I see the fixed idea you are attempting to impose – that identification belongs to C-2 and relating to C-6 – over what is essentially a fluid and unpredictable state. But people can and do get fixated or overly-identified in C-6 in ways that are not C-2 involved, that do not involve the emotions. This happens often enough with those training to become psychic or clairvoyant who forget to anchor (or ground) their newly opening third eye and its relativistic outlook in the body itself, in emotional honesty. In the extreme, they become emotionally disconnected and their previous clairvoyance, or clear seeing, turns into a clear cruelty to others and ultimately, themselves.

‘Reality selection’ is a C-6 term I use for an attribute of perception that allows for the simultaneous existence of multiple realities sharing equal value. This C-6 attribute carries a strong relativistic bias where no status or prioritization of realities has been assigned yet. Pure awareness. Reality selection is made possible by the relaxation of the first attention and the activation of the second attention. This can happen by accident, as with certain outside shocks to our attention, and/or it can occur with conscious training.

The first attention is that awareness linked to thinking, language and the automatic assignment of meaning to what is being observed. The second attention is that awareness linked to presence, energy and phenomena without any projection of meaning involved. The second attention is what Carlos Castaneda wrote about in his “don Juan” books when we referred to “seeing”. Many of us look but do not see, in other words. Reality selection is a metaphor for the process of dialing into the different bands of the spectrum of realities opened up by the second attention. What you do, or can do, with that vision depends on how well anchored C-6 is with C-2 emotional reality, or how engaged you actually are with your feelings, passions and the motivation to make things happen.

MG: In my own experience, I can “see” the differing perspectives (realities) of various individuals, but I have trouble integrating all those perspectives; I struggle to “dial into” them as you suggest. Tim Leary used to say, “you can be anyone, this time around,” but that has not been my experience.

AA: When you talk about integrating all those perspectives you’re really reaching towards C-7 experiences of cosmic unity but that magnum of indivisibility cannot be forced, contrived or “integrated” as any conscious act. To do so expresses the C-3 ego arrogance of attempting some unified field theory by imposing conceptualizations over something that remains essentially unfathomable to intellectual scrutiny: the underlying interconnectedness of all existence.

C-7 intelligence lives with and knows the existing unity weaving all those perspectives together. They are already integrated. The trick is anchoring this experience of unity – which is at essence beyond words and beyond duality – with C-3 intellect using symbols, language and images that can communicate that somehow. Those of us opening up to C-7 also become responsible for maintaining our sanity which involves maintaining our communication lines with other minds. Without this C-3 anchoring, our consciousness drifts far and away beyond the body and mind and, from the bodies and minds of others. Many assigned to our mental asylums are actually C-7 casualties who never found or created C-3 anchors. Their ghost ships sail the high seas of eternity, forever and alone.

As for Timothy Leary, he was perhaps the most misunderstood famous person of the 20th century. I think what Leary meant when he said, “you can be anyone, this time around,” was that through conscientious use of LSD one could re-imprint their nervous system and, if you were willing to die to your old self and be reborn anew, transform your life accordingly.

MG: Earlier you mentioned experiencing firsthand and redefining the circuits for one’s self. Could you say more about the process of defining one’s own terms?

AA: This process of defining one’s own terms reminds me of a C-1/C-5 process we explore in the paratheatre work around expanding what we call our “movement vocabulary”. As animals, we all express a distinct movement style, an instinctive way we move through space or how we enter a room for the first time without thinking about it. This personal style forms the basis of an entire movement vocabulary made up of a set of specific patterns of motion in the way we walk, crawl, run, and otherwise move across the floor through space. ‘

In paratheatre work, we strive to expand and stretch our movement vocabulary beyond the comfortable and habitual so as to discover entirely new ways of expressing the physical instrument. On a C-1/C-5 level this amounts to defining the terms of our physical self-expression. But to do this, we first must expose the existing conditions of our limitations, where we are in a rut and mechanically repeating the same old movements over and over, again. And so that marks the first stage of this process. After we become familiar enough with our particular rut, we explore what we call ‘movement taboos’…moving in ways we normally wouldn’t due to shame, or fear or embarrassing exposure of some kind. Breaking our movement taboos opens up the playing field for redefining our movement vocabulary and liberating a wider, more dynamic range of motion.

I think we can apply this same principle of defining and redefining our terms to the other circuits, as well, given that we remain true to the distinct integrity of each one, i.e., their emotional, conceptual and social realities.

MG: So defining and redefining our terms isn’t so much a simple C3 exercise of labeling each of the circuits and what they mean to you, but rather a much more rigorous practice of determining one’s “comfort zone” in the context of the reality or medium of that particular circuit, and then moving past that comfort zone into a new areas of experience?

AA: Exactly. There’s a reason why self-work is called self-work; it’s actually difficult and requires effort, rigor and diligence. When we’re defining C-3 terms it can be as simple as renaming, labeling and making any symbolic adjustments necessary to change the lines on a map. But when addressing the other seven circuits, we really have to yield to their innate values, properties and attributes or we’re fooling ourselves. Each circuit has its own code, or language, that can be detected and learned by any illuminated C-3 intellect that has outgrown its tyranny for imposing its conceptual code onto everything else. An illuminated mind gives off more light of perception, allowing greater receptivity to the signals, patterns and codes originating in the other centers, or circuits.

The process of identifying our various comfort zones in the various circuits is key to understanding the nature of formidable forces of habit, inertia and redundancy there. When our various physical, emotional, conceptual and social habitual comfort zones can be exposed, I think we stand a greater chance of stepping outside those parameters and going against the grain, you know, rattling our cages a bit more. Sure it can be uncomfortable; genuine growth usually is. Sleep is comfortable. Invest a priori status on comfort or living a comfortable life, and you will go to sleep. If that suits you, then you can be content with that. But you will not grow or evolve beyond whatever habits maintain that zone.

In conversation with Steven A McKay

I recently had a chance to talk with author Steven McKay about his writing, which I think will appeal to the audience of the library quite a bit.

Steven was born in 1977, near Glasgow in Scotland; lives in Old Kilpatrick with his wife and two young children. Steven also plays Jackson guitars and sings in a heavy metal band when they can find the time to meet up. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with the Open University, and then decided to follow a life-long ambition to write a historical novel; which has become a full series.

The cover for the forthcoming Blood of the Wolf, the fourth novel in Steven’s series, based on Robin Hood, was recently revealed, and the book itself should be available around June.

Steven A McKay Blood of the Wolf

 

John Griogair Bell, Librarian: We initially got in contact when you responded to something I posted on Twitter asking for real people following the library to get in touch. So, thanks for reaching out, and saying hello. Would you like to introduce yourself to the audience of the library?

Steven A McKay: My name is Steven A (for Alaric) McKay and I’m a historical fiction author from Glasgow in Scotland. I also play guitar. I’m a big fan of the Hermetic Library—I browse it all the time on my phone when I’m out and about, it’s a fantastic resource!

L: Thanks for the kind words about the site. Formatting could be better for phones though, so I apologize about that bit! I’m always fixing things, but usually figure out some new way to fix things half way through the previous fix, and that causes things to break. But really, it’s a lot like editing. When do you know you’re done? When you can’t stand to look at it anymore?

S: No, I’m quite lucky in that respect—I generally write something once and that’s it. Some writers redraft their stuff endlessly—even throwing out thousands of words at a time—but not me. My editor will go over it, and my beta-readers will make suggestions too, but generally my first draft is very close to what is eventually published.

L: Some of the best stuff I’ve ever written is the stream of words that have come first to tongue and fingers, and woe to me when those have gone unsaved or lost. Trying to recapture the same first inspiration seems to always disappoint me.

S: Pretty much everything I write just comes out on its own. I mean, I have a basic plan of where I want to go, but it practically writes itself once I sit at the laptop. Sometimes it even deviates from my plan without me expecting it. I’ve had characters die unexpectedly in some cases but I just go with it and things end up better for it I believe. That’s why, when I get the occasional review saying my books are “predictable” I find it amusing, because I don’t even know myself where they’ll go once I start writing.

L: As an aside, there’s a funny bit of synchronicity that my paternal grandfather was born in Wishaw, not far from Glasgow. So, howdy neighbor! There’s a lot of interest in psychogeography and landscape in the readership of the library. Has your experience of the land, the terroir, had an influence and informed your work?

S: Wishaw isn’t far from me but I don’t know it well. I love the land in Britain and, yes, it certainly has influenced my work in a massive way. When I was first thinking about writing a novel I knew it had to involve the forests and streams and so on that makes up such a big part of this country. Robin Hood was perfect for that, living in the greenwood as he does, and being an extension of mythical figures like John Barleycorn. Put it this way—I once decorated my living room with green walls, dark green carpet, a blue ceiling and had plants, a little fountain and such around the place to try and make it as much like the forest as possible. It didn’t work and it looked silly but never mind, I was young and stupid …

L: By the way, can’t let this slip by: Is your band online at all, where readers can get a listen? And are you going to participate in the audio pool or anthology some time?

Alaric

S: The band isn’t really on the go any more, we only get the chance to jam occasionally, but I still sometimes write music for my book trailers. You can hear some of my solo stuff on Youtube or on Soundclick. The songs probably most interesting to library readers would be “Black Flame of Set” which is a kind of ritualistic metal thing I came up with about 8 years ago; “Slaves of God” which is probably the first song to have the chant “All hail Satan, All Hail Set, All Hail Jesus!”; and “Hope”. If you just want some good old fashioned hard rock, Def Leppard style, check out “We Two” which I play everything on, even the drums, or, if you need something heavier in the Iron Maiden vein, “Nocturnal Fire”.

L: Great stuff! I’m sure our readers will be interested in those. Speaking of readers being interested, you brought to my attention a couple of your novellas, specifically Knight of the Cross and Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil. What about these would interest the audience of the library?

Steven A McKay Knight of the CrossSteven A KcKay Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil

S: Knight of the Cross is heavily influenced by HP Lovecraft, although the “black eyed kids” and “Slender Man” folklore of recent years also played a part in the creation of it. I like to leave things open-ended and allow the reader their own interpretation of certain things, rather as Lovecraft did. There’s some magick and sleep-paralysis and things like that which I’ve had personal experience of many times over the years and I’d bet many of the Hermetic Library’s audience have too, right?

I’m a big death metal fan and I took a line from the Nile song “4th Arra of Dagon” for this book. The idea of a large group of crazed devil-worshippers chanting, “Arra! Arra! Arra! Dagon! Dagon! Dagon!” in an underground cavern was too good to ignore …That novella is being translated into German and will be out soon as Ritter des Kreuzes.

Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil is a more straightforward historical fiction tale, with the odd little reference thrown in for those that might spot them …

The main focus of my books so far is Robin Hood and anyone that’s ever looked into that whole legend will know there’s a lot more to it than just some guy in green waving a longbow. There’s quite a deep mythology hidden in there, with aspects of the Green Man, rebirth of winter into spring, the little man vs. the establishment, etc., all playing a part.

L: Seems to me that Lovecraft’s intentional verisimilitude meshes well with the kind of intentional LARP / Cosplay leaking fictive worlds into our everyday experience, like Heavy Metal creating a culture that supports itself and the narrative. We’re in our own imaginations, an augmented reality, at all times. So, yeah, I would expect that any practicing magick would involve direct experience, the method of science. But, moreover, we’re learning to develop that advanced technology as part of mundane life as well; magick being the practice of getting things done, but also of developing symbolic webs of meaning for some practical purpose.

I freaked out my Latin instructor in High School by mentioning some of the underground chanting in Lovecraft’s material once. Good times, good times.

There’s a timely timeliness to mythological depth as well. I mean, we tell our myths not around fire pits, but crowded around arcade cabinets or in online streaming channels; we no longer simply hear about our heroic myths, but viscerally participate in them as well; and identify directly with these archetypes through, frankly, forming them in pixel godforms. We’re telling these tales to ourselves, about ourselves nowadays.

S: Yes, and it’s fantastic! I mean, take a videogame like Skyrim. Not only did that have a wonderful story but it really immersed you in its world by allowing you to gather ingredients for potions and foods which you could craft yourself while resting in an inn with a roaring fire and a bard singing folk songs. I spent a lot of fun hours in the world of Skyrim. I think we’re very lucky to have that outlet for our imagination these days.

Of course there’s still a big place for books but, again, technology is really opening things up even there.

You can read a book on your Kindle, for example, in my Knight of the Cross, I mention in the endnotes about that Nile song and the chant in it. Nowadays you can use your Kindle or tablet to instantly find that song on Youtube, hear the chant for yourself and put it all together in your mind. It all adds to the immersion and the shared experience.

Similarly, I was listening to the new Graham Hancock book, Magicians of the Gods, on my smartphone using the Audible app, and he was talking about all these incredible places like Göbekli Tepe and Baalbek which I already knew about, but then there were other places I hadn’t heard of. Despite the fact I was in the middle of nowhere, in my car, I was able to use the phone to pull up the internet and research those places Graham was describing. That’s an amazingly powerful tool humanity has at our disposal.

Science has truly become like magick in my opinion.

L: The deep mythology of Robin Hood is perennial and evergreen, isn’t it? Especially at this moment in time, perhaps, politically and economically. There is a sense of having read the instruction manual, being familiar with these deep archetypes, but also, perhaps, of being trapped by them, yes? Isn’t that why it becomes essential to retell these stories?

S: We’re doomed to repeat history’s mistakes. When you look at the Robin Hood legend it’s all about a man being treated unfairly by the system, and, not just one man, but a whole segment of the population. You’re right, it’s relevant today just as it was 800 years ago because it’s still those with the most money who are controlling the populace via the mass media, big pharma, the war on terror etc etc. Robin Hood is a hero for all times and we could really do with someone like him in the 21st century to stand up and become a figurehead for the masses.

Of course, on top of all that Robin was just a man who liked a drink and a fight and I try to show that in my books!

L: You also mentioned your book The Wolf and the Raven as having been influenced by Aleister Crowley, and that there’s a very personal connection to the idea of hope in that work. What’s that about?

S: When I was writing that book—my second—I went through a very traumatic time as our second daughter was still-born. That whole period was really hard as it felt like someone had cursed me—everything was going wrong. For example, one day the shower broke, but I could still go for a bath so it was okay, but then the very next day the hot water boiler broke too, so even a bath was out.

Little things like that were just piling up day after day, on top of the major stress of the loss of a baby and I started to feel like I couldn’t take any more.

At that point I made a conscious decision to fight back and NOT give in to all the shit life was throwing my way. My by-word became “hope”. I even wrote a song with that title as I mentioned earlier (in Open G tuning, a la “That’s The Way” Zep fans!), dealing with the emotions I was feeling. Robin, the hero in the novel The Wolf and the Raven ended up taking the word as his own too, after a pep talk from the wise Friar Tuck…

Lots of gurus or philosophers believe in the power of certain words—from Thelema to Xeper or Indulgence or whatever. Well “Hope” became mine and Robin’s magical Word. I have a silver unicursal hexagram that I imbued with the word and I wear it every day to remind me of everything I’ve been through. It gives me strength to deal with all the crap life throws at every one of us.

When I was writing that book in particular I was listening almost exclusively to the Polish metal band Behemoth who also take a lot from Crowley.

So much of my creative process is infused with his spirit.

L: I’m sorry for your loss. But, and I hope this doesn’t seem trite or inappropriate, I’ve wondered about how it’s only the people that have truly gone through some shit are worth talking to about anything. The struggle is real, but it also makes us more real. (“It flows through us. It controls our actions but also obeys our commands.” Shoot me now.) I’ve talked to soldiers who’ve come back from combat that say they’ve been essentially changed in ways that cannot be understood by those that have not gone through that kind of experience. That seems obvious, in a way, until one takes the next logical leap: one cannot become fully human, develop one’s full potential as a human, without having suffered that kind of trauma. There are dimensions of Job’s humanity, for example, that cannot be realized by anyone else.

Something like a single word, “Hope”, is not only useful as a focus but a foundation or scaffold on which magick identity can be created, right? Whether we create from scratch or cultivate from unrealized potential, our magical selves require work that needs to be done, perhaps. The tools are real, have practical purpose, and, somehow, those that have taken up those tools and made it to the other side of the dark seem to me more real and fully human than those who have not found themselves forced the first step forward on what then becomes a seemingly inexorable drive to go—to Go.

S: What you say is correct, and it’s possible our trauma has made me a stronger person. Yes, it added to my life “toolbox” but to be honest it’s a tool I could have done without. I suppose it’s just part of growing older. When we’re 21 death seems so far away – then one goes through a horrible experience like a still-birth, or a soldier comes home with PTSD, or one contracts a terrible illness, and the reality of death becomes very, very real. And that’s when you truly start to wonder about an after-life, or what might lie outside the so-called “real” world.

That’s where a talisman, or a magical word like “Hope” comes in. Anyone that’s ever tried any sort of magick will know it’s real, never more so than when you’re harnessing all the experiences and emotions of life. Honestly, I was shocked at how my life changed when I began to “hope” again. I became thankful for all the good things in my life and stopped focusing on the bad stuff and it was like everything started to go well from that point on.

It was a real lesson for me—be thankful for what you have and try to stay positive!

There’s a place for mourning and it’s fine to feel sad sometimes but wallowing in it is the way to oblivion.

Hope!

L: That kind of aspirational energy is something I think I’ve also seen in the way that authors interact with each other, especially online. For example, there was a recent exchange between you and Richard Kaczynski about authors seeming to prize signed books more than non-authors. Certainly there might also be some sympathetic, maybe even some talismanic magic going on there. But I also have noticed how supportive authors tend to be toward each other; including how much I’ve seen you do on Twitter to help spread the word about other people’s work. I see that as a kind of collective servitor being built up, and it must help being part of that. How conscious is that, do you think?

S: I never thought of signed books as being talismanic but yes, in some cases I suppose you’re right. I have some which are just cool to have and it’d be nice if they were worth something in years to come, but that book of Richard’s—Perdurabo—really is extra special and I’ve been treating it with a lot more reverence than a regular book. Interesting point!

Much of the sharing I do on Twitter is purely in hopes of it being reciprocated though, I must be honest. Marketing is an act of magick in itself of course, one of the oldest forms!

L: And, there’s a little Aleister Crowley easter egg in Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil. Do you want to let the cat out of the bag?

S: Ha, yeah, no-one has spotted it so far, or if they have they haven’t mentioned it. The priest in the little English village of Brandesburton has a library with some very strange books in it … Perhaps if any of the Hermetic Library readers ever check out the novella they’ll see it. Do let me know if you spot it!

L: Although, somewhat obvious from the relevance of your books to the library audience. What’s your personal background and interest in occult and esoteric subject matter?

S: I was never really interested in the occult or anything like that until my late twenties, when I started to feel like something was missing in my life. I almost wished I believed in Jesus or Buddha or, well, anything like that. I found an initiatory school and joined them. I became an Adept by completing certain tasks which were all about self-improvement. I really did grow as a person during that period and I have a lot to thank that school for, but, ultimately, I’m a solitary person so I left them. Since then, I mostly just read Crowley’s books and try to understand what he was getting at.

The best thing any of us can do is read as much as possible and take whatever we find useful from each source. Crowley might have been a really shitty father and mate, but that doesn’t make his ideas worthless or “evil”.

I recently re-read John Fowles’ The Magus and was struck by the parable about the magician. I don’t remember that at all from when I first read the book a decade ago but now, it really jumped out at me. Read it online if you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s extremely relevant in this day and age with all the horrible crap being reported in the mainstream media around the world.

That’s what I enjoy so much about this kind of esoteric art, particularly Crowley’s —sometimes little nuggets leap out at you and make you go, “Aha!” and often it’s at the exact moment in life that you really need it. Synchronicity is an amazing thing.

L: You had mentioned to me previously about taking care not to overtly or at least overly advertise your esoteric interests. I’m personally quite interested in how the library can bridge some of the town-gown-tau divides and boundaries, but maintaining mainstream approachability while still doing the material justice is a bit of a tight rope, isn’t it?

S: Yes, because there’s always people out there with preconceived ideas about the likes of Crowley. Even people who call themselves Wiccans look down their nose at Aleister, calling him “evil” or whatever because they’ve read the press saying things about him. Of course, that’s ironic because many Christians would look at Wiccans, with their pentagrams and such, as being just as evil as Uncle Al. And from what I understand he actually came up with many of Gerald Gardner’s ideas anyway!

To an extent it’s understandable. Regular people read comments about sacrificing children and take it literally. Why wouldn’t they? Who would automatically assume Crowley was talking about masturbating?

So this is what we’re up against when facing a mainstream audience. It’s not because they’re stupid assholes, it’s because they’ve never put the time in to understand what the real meaning behind this occult stuff is and why would they?

Look at the headlines when Boleskine House went up in flames in December 2015. “Satanist’s house burns down!” was the gist of most of them. Crowley was no Satanist—Christ, some would say Anton LaVey wasn’t even a Satanist!—but that’s the public perception of anyone in the West who looks at things outside a Christian framework.

I bet if most folk actually read The Satanic Bible they’d think the majority of it was simple common sense.

To me, and probably most who have an interest in this stuff, it’s about thinking outside the box and improving yourself by working differently to how everyone else does.

So many people are shocked when I tell them I took my wife’s surname when we got married, for example. It’s just not the done thing in Western society. It’s antinomian and people don’t understand it. But it was perfectly normal to me because I felt no affinity with own family name.

The idea of “Do what thou wilt” is beyond most people who simply want to take it at face value and react against it, without taking time to understand it means making the most of your gifts rather than just being decadent.

Ultimately, all we can do is treat people well and hope they accept an interest in the occult doesn’t mean we’re all crazed devil-worshippers because that’s obviously ridiculous. As Ian Anderson once said (and I’m convinced the Jethro Tull mainman was influenced by Crowley even if he didn’t make it a big thing like Jimmy Page): “Somebody wake me, I’ve been sleeping too long.”

In this new æon, with the internet at humanity’s disposal, there’s really no excuse to be asleep any more.

L: Don’t even get me started about the stupid internecine prejudice between Neopagan Witchcraft and Thelema, which goes both ways; and it’s about perception of values as well as some deeply shitty gender stereotypes. There’s some history, but I feel there’s also plenty of the same nasty harassment and animosity as is being surfaced in other subcultures, like in Gamergate and so forth. It’s ugly, but I think is some internalize cultural level shit that hasn’t been worked out. And, so the “treating people well” part still, I think, has a long way to go, even among movements that are at the least nominally related through Uncle Al and Uncle Gerald having met and talked.

There’s been a lot of great work done to tease out what influence there really was on Gardnerian Witchcraft, but it’s clear there was some. For me, personally, I feel Uncle Gerald had his Word and it is Wicca; he was also closer in contact with Crowley, when they were talking, than anyone left alive today who is second guessing the relationship between these luminaries, so that cannot be so easily dismissed. Further, Gardner was contacted about leadership of OTO after Crowley’s death, so even their contemporaries knew there was an important connection.

In the end, people who want to purify either Gardner or Crowley, dare I say force them unto that self-same procrustean chopping block we’re still struggling to escape with our lives, make them inhuman; I think those efforts fail to realize it is exactly in their complex, real humanity that they are, if you will allow, essentially New Æon. If one’s prophets and saints and friends aren’t allow to have profound flaws along with profound strengths, I think there’s more delusion than divinity in them.

S: I don’t know much about Wicca to be honest but I do know someone who is very into it. I was shocked when I told her I was reading a Crowley book and she angrily denounced him as being “evil”. I can’t understand that mentality. I mean, she’s never even read any of his books.

Of course he had his flaws but as you say, we all do—that’s humanity!

Even the God of the bible had a bad temper and a vindictive streak, just ask everyone that drowned in the flood.

The trick is to ignore what society says you “should” like. Read widely and make up your own mind. There’s many things I read in Crowley’s books that I don’t agree with, and much of it I don’t even understand to be honest, but occasionally I’ll find a little nugget of gold that really shines out and I feel like I’ve gained a new level of understanding.

L: We’re also announcing as part of this interview a giveaway for a couple of the audiobook version of your work. Do you want to say something about what we’re giving away, such as which works and anything about the production of the audiobooks?

S: Well all five of my books are available in audio so I’m happy to give away a copy of whatever one the winners would like. Obviously these are historical fiction books, not occult treatises or even magically-themed works so take a look at my author page, read the blurbs and see what tickles your fancy!

I have five free downloads to give away—all you need is an Amazon account and the Audible app which is free to download on your tablet, smartphone or just your computer.

Not much to say about the production of the audio. My narrator, Nick Ellsworth, is a real pro (he was in a James Bond movie) and easy to work with so I don’t have any funny stories to relate. They’re just fun to listen to.

L: What’s next, and in the near future, that readers might expect to see from you?

S: Once my Forest Lord series is finished this summer (Blood of the Wolf will be the final book) I plan on going further back in time to dark age Britain, when the Romans were just pulling out and leaving us to it.

My main character in the new series will be a warrior druid and I’m really, really looking forward to exploring his magick. Real things like mentalism, sleight-of-hand, herb lore and charisma are just as interesting as shooting bolts of blue fire from your fingers in something like The Sword of Shannara and it’ll be fun to explore all that real magick while telling a good old fashioned tale of brutal ass-kicking, adventure and, maybe, love!

Look out for the first book in that new series around 2017.

 

Steven A McKay The Forest Lord series

The three books in Steven’s The Forest Lord series are Wolf’s Head, The Wolf and the Raven, and Rise of the Wolf. The fourth, and final, book in the series Blood of the Wolf should be available this June.

Be sure to also check out the novellas Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil and Knight of the Cross.

Head over to Steven’s website, where you can sign up for his email list and also get a free short story. Follow @SA_McKay on Twitter, via his Amazon author page, and The Forest Lord series page on Facebook.

(The contest for the free audiobooks on offer from The Forest Lord author Steven A McKay has ended!)

Grady McMurtry / Margot Adler

Grady McMurtry / Margot Adler is a video for a radio interview by Margot Adler of Grady McMurtry and others posted by James Wasserman.

“This interview took place at the offices of WBAI Radio in New York City in January of 1981. The participants are Margot Adler, Grady McMurtry, Alan Cabal, and Jim Wasserman.”

Louis Armstrong on His Chops

Animated audio interview with Louis Armstrong by Michael Aisner and James R. Stein in 1964 when the interviewers were in high school.

“You’ve got to be good or as bad as the devil.”

Omnium Gatherum: June 18th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for June 18th, 2014

Moon, clouds, smoke, skeleton hunt in the air from Restoring the Lost Sense: Jun 12, 2014, Craig Conley, Abecedarian
“Moon, clouds, smoke, skeleton hunt in the air” from Restoring the Lost Sense: Jun 12, 2014 — Craig Conley, Abecedarian

 

  • The Beast is Back — Erik Davis and Maja D’aoust interview Gary Lachman, Expanding Mind

    “Thelemic visions, magickal texts, and the tedium of transgression: a talk with occult historian Gary Lachman about his new biography Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World (Tarcher).”

  • Theosophical Attitudes towards Science: Past and Present — Egil Asprem

    As is typical for esoteric movements of the modern period, the Theosophical current exhibits a deep ambivalence towards the professionalized natural sciences. Active in the middle of the so-called “clash” between science and religion in the latter half of the 19th century, Blavatsky and the early Theosophists sought a critical reconciliation, guided by the quest for esoteric “higher truth.” The negotiation with science and religion was clearly present from Blavatsky’s first major work, Isis Unveiled (1877), which dedicated one volume to a criticism of each, and has continued to twist and turn in various directions until the present day.

    “Science” is, in short, a centrally important yet ambiguous “Other” for the entire Theosophical current.

  • Opting Out of the System — Inominandum, Strategic Sorcery

    The “system” is a house of cards that is perpetrated by force and fraud. I think that taking a stand against that in terms of magic and lifestyle is a worthy thing. But just like I say to people that reject materialism as anathema to spirituality: You must really live that view for it to have meaning.

    It is not a matter of your values and your magic being in line. It is a matter of making your life be about something.

  • Where the Occult & Pagan Community Lost the Plot — Nick Farrell

    The occult community is doomed to be hijacked by right-wing nut-jobs and other idiots because it has become paralysed by its own desire to be “spiritual.”

  • Theater as Plague: Radovan Ivšić and the Theater of the Weird — Jon Graham, Weird Fiction Review

    Like its counterpart in fiction, the theater of the weird exists on the margins of mainstream culture, where its deadly accuracy when targeting the shibboleths of the cultural consensus can be safely muffled before its subversive potency does any visible damage.

    For Ivšić, theatrical space offers the ideal spot for opening that space within the spectator that allows experience of individual singularity not as a rupture, but as a vitally essential difference that makes it possible for the world to breathe. He saw the play as the result of a dark conspiracy between the world and the individual, who intentionally withdraws from this relationship in order to return by means of the Trojan horse of fiction.

  • D&D Yoga — swi in collaboration with Sarah Dahnke and Eric Hagan [HT Erik Davis]

    D&D Yoga can be played in many ways. The varying flavors range from that of a guided narrative while people do yoga to a far more interactive experience where players are in conversation and play a more active role in the campaign. For the first trial, we thought it would be wise to veer closer to the guided narrative side of things. Players still made decisions and rolled dice to dictate a few directions that the story took but generally we wanted to see how the experiment would play out and then build from there. As we proceed into future events we are building more interactivity into the game.

  • Appeals Court Finds Scanning To Be Fair Use — NewYorkCountryLawyer, Slashdot

    scanning whole books and making them searchable for research use is a fair use

    the creation of a searchable, full text database is a ‘quintessentially transformative use’, that it was ‘reasonably necessary’ to make use of the entire works, that maintaining four copies of the database was reasonably necessary as well, and that the research library did not impair the market for the originals.

  • «Dracula è sepolto a Napoli, ecco dov’è la tomba» — Paolo Barbuto, Il Gazzettino

    «Il conte Dracula è morto a Napoli, è stato sepolto nel cuore della città ed è ancora qui»: c’è un gruppo di persone che da settimane percorre strade e vicoli a caccia del segreto.

    E non sono ragazzini sognatori, fanatici, esaltati, ma serissimi studiosi dell’università di Tallinn in Estonia. Sono convinti di ciò che fanno, sostengono di avere già in mano i documenti che provano la verità, così hanno avviato una campagna di ricerche sul territorio.

    “Count Dracula died in Naples, was buried in the heart of the city and is still here”: there is a group of people who for weeks along the streets and alleys in search of the secret.

    And kids are not dreamers, fanatics, exalted, but very serious scholars of the University of Tallinn in Estonia. They believe in what they do, they claim to have already got the documents to prove the truth, so they launched a campaign of research in the area.

  • From Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Songs Before Sunrise at “Save His Own Soul He Hath No Star” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti

    His soul is even with the sun
    Whose spirit and whose eye are one,
    Who seeks not stars by day, nor light
    And heavy heat of day by night.
    Him can no God cast down, whom none
    Can lift in hope beyond the height
    Of fate and nature and things done
    By the calm rule of might and right
    That bids men be and bear and do,
    And die beneath blind skies or blue.

  • Two giant planets may cruise unseen beyond Pluto” — Nicola Jenner, NewScientist; from the where-is-your-astrology-now dept.

    The monsters are multiplying. Just months after astronomers announced hints of a giant “Planet X” lurking beyond Pluto, a team in Spain says there may actually be two supersized planets hiding in the outer reaches of our solar system.

    When potential dwarf planet 2012 VP113 was discovered in March, it joined a handful of unusual rocky objects known to reside beyond the orbit of Pluto. These small objects have curiously aligned orbits, which hints that an unseen planet even further out is influencing their behaviour. Scientists calculated that this world would be about 10 times the mass of Earth and would orbit at roughly 250 times Earth’s distance from the sun.

    Now Carlos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain have taken another look at these distant bodies. As well as confirming their bizarre orbital alignment, the pair found additional puzzling patterns. Small groups of the objects have very similar orbital paths. Because they are not massive enough to be tugging on each other, the researchers think the objects are being “shepherded” by a larger object in a pattern known as orbital resonance.

  • ‘A Funny Kind Of Relationship’ Alan Moore On Iain Sinclair — Nick Talbot, The Quietus

    Whilst not quite a household name, instead occupying a liminal status maintained by a principled refusal to be involved in any Hollywood adaptations of his work, Moore is widely regarded as the finest writer in the medium, and it is difficult to imagine how the comic book landscape would look without the enduring influence of his exceptional work. But it is equally difficult to imagine how From Hell (1989), his first major work beyond the costumed vigilantes and superheroes genre, and also his Magnum Opus, would have looked had he not discovered the work of Iain Sinclair. A quintessential writer’s writer, Sinclair is a Hendrix-cum-Kevin Shields of the English language, mixing scholarly historical research, formal training and technical linguistic virtuosity with a wildly impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness prose-poetry delivery that is dazzling, dizzying, and for those with literary pretensions, frankly dispiriting in its apparently effortless genius. Sinclair’s subject is predominantly London, most often East London, and the relationship between its history, its continually shifting cityscape and the psyche of those who inhabit it. Sharing similar concerns, themes and stylistic flourishes with Peter Ackroyd, both with works appearing in the eighties and nineties, this uniquely East London-focused micro-genre came to be dubbed ‘psychogeography’. Soon complemented by Will Self and others, the movement could be interpreted as a response to the corporatist regeneration of London’s East End by the Thatcherite Conservative government in the 1980s. The spatial and historical density of London allows for an unusually potent and apparently limitless store of inspiration, but what marks out Sinclair in particular is his ability to see patterns, sigils and correspondences where perhaps the rest of us see dog shit, broken fencing and inane graffiti.

  • Eating Flower Spirits” — Sarah Anne Lawless

    Summer flowers are brought inside, painted the colours of sarees and gypsy vardos, and fill tea pots and canning jars. Nighshade, poppies, red clover, comfrey, daisies, sage flowers, and foxgloves. Some from the yard, some escaped from gardens into the neglected back alleys of the old neighbourhood. I know that by taking them home I am consuming them, making their already short lives even shorter, but I try my best to ask sweetly for their blessings before I snip off their heads and bring them home. I try my best to let them know why and what will be done with their beautiful sacrifice – their souls burned up like incense to be eaten by my own beloved spirits – eaters of flowers.

  • What Athens Has Got To Do With Jerusalem: The Marriage of Greek and Jewish Themes in the Apocryphon of John” — Dan Attrell

    This paper presents a summary overview of how the Apocryphon of John, an apocalyptic work drawn from the Nag Hammadi Library, is explicitly the product of an syncretism between Greek language/philosophy and Jewish mythology/mysticism in the 1st century CE.

  • Coincidentia Oppositorum: Exploring the Dialogue in the Recent Historical Literature of Medieval and Early Modern European Alchemy — Dan Attrell

    The study of alchemy has posed a number of complications for historians. Among historians of science who wrote as late as the mid-20th century, alchemy was perceived to be a mystical philosophy, an obstacle to the progress of „rational‟ chemistry, and even a pathology of the mind. This rather out-dated tendency toward knee-jerk dismissals has, however, been recently curtailed as the wider community of medievalists and early modern historians began to understand alchemy on its own terms, having placed it firmly within in the context of an ‘alchemical worldview.’ The recent dialogue among historians concerning alchemy in Europe has chiefly been directed toward (a) understanding of what ‘alchemy’ actually meant to the people who lived amongst it or practiced it themselves; (b) determining to what extent alchemy was interrelated with the religious consciousness of its practitioners; and most noticeably (c) reconciling or collapsing a number of exaggerated, artificial, and misleading dichotomies within our modern perceptions of medieval and early modern alchemy. Was European alchemy a ‘theoretical’ or a ‘practical’ art? Was it a ‘spiritual’ or a ‘material’ pursuit? Was it a ‘medicinal’ or a ‘metallurgical’ practice? How and when was ‘alchemy’ differentiated from ‘chemistry’? Were they ‘on the fringes’ of learned society, or were they at the cutting edge of knowledge as defined by traditional institutions? Were alchemists outright ‘frauds’ (Betrüger) or misguided ‘fools’?

    These are all questions which a handful of historians have recently tackled and shown to be somewhat misguided. Such dichotomies arose from the dialogue of recent centuries wherein scholars and theorists from various disciplines began exploring and reconceptualising alchemy and its history; each angle, each discipline, each perspective offered some rather rigid model for understanding alchemy, and many of these models crystallized into opposing camps. Alchemy, however, was never a static or monolithic pursuit and thus eludes any attempt to give such simple definitions. In response to this problem, it is this paper’s goal to flesh out the most recent scholarly dialogue – to outline and synthesize the most pertinent points made in the recent historical literature concerning alchemy. What I hope to show is how the most recent historical research tells us that ‘alchemy’ meant many different things to many different people at many different junctures in history, even among the relatively isolated practitioners of Europe. With no source of official authority such as the Church or the University to govern alchemy as a branch of knowledge, the art was free to take on and accumulate a number of its practitioners’ idiosyncrasies. Free as it was, as a model to explore and communicate features of the known universe, European alchemy was a rich and dynamic practice which contained within itself all of the artificial polarities mentioned above.

  • Rewilding Witchcraft — Peter Grey, Scarlet Imprint

    We have mistaken social and economic change for the result of our own advocacy. Marching in lock-step with what used to be called mainstream, but is now mono-culture, we have disenchanted ourselves, handed over our teeth and claws and bristling luxuriant furs. I will not be part of this process, because to do so is to be complicit with the very forces that are destroying all life on earth. It is time for Witchcraft not to choose, but to remember which side it is on in this struggle.

  • London’s calling: the city as character in urban fantasy” — Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent, Spiral Nature

    Each of these series draws on what I would say are the main characteristics of London’s soul. It’s old – continually inhabited since before Roman times; it’s powerful — but nowhere near as much as its past as the heart of an empire; it’s stubborn — enduring centuries of hardship and prosperity, adapting to huge changes in population and traumas ranging from plague to fire to Nazi bombs to the very modern stresses of wealth inequality. London changes — it has to — but there’s some core of its personality that always remains.

    Of course, London as a whole is the sum of its parts, none of which are quite alike — the genius loci of Camden differs greatly from those of Catford and Chelsea. But each also touch the greater gestalt of the place. Inevitably, the best way to grasp the specific psychogeography of a place is to walk its streets.

  • Weekly Apocryphote: June 8-14 — April D DeConick, Forbidden Gospels

    You have not come to suffer. Rather you have come to escape from what binds you. Release yourself, and what has bound you will be undone. Save yourself, so that what is (in you) may be saved … Why are you hesitating?

 

If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.