The Royal Art

Why practice magick today?  Isn’t this method of coming to know, and interact with the world, outdated?  Isn’t it really just applied psychology?  Can’t we accomplish the same things that magick promises through less transgressive, weird, and socially awkward methods?

 Every intentional act is a Magical Act.

– A. Crowley, Magick without Tears (MWT), Chapter 1

The implications of this seemingly simple statement are vast.   How are all our intentional acts “magical”?  Don’t we know how our intentions are translated into the result sought?  Isn’t this the opposite of magick?

Two generations ago it was supposed theoretically impossible that man should ever know the chemical composition of the fixed stars.  It is known that our senses are adapted to receive only an infinitesimal fraction of the possible rates of vibration.  Modern instruments have enabled us to detect some of these suprasensibles by indirect methods, and even to use their peculiar qualities in the service of man, as in the case of the rays of Hertz and Röntgen.  As Tyndall said, man might at any moment learn to perceive and utilize vibrations of all conceivable and inconceivable kinds.  The question of Magick is a question of discovering and employing hitherto unknown forces in nature.  We know that they exist, and we cannot doubt the possibility of mental or physical instruments capable of bringing us in relation with them.

– MWT (cont)

How do we move something from the unknown into the known?  By what mechanism is this transition accomplished?

When we first encounter some thing, or force, how does it appear to us?  Solid and already clearly defined?  A complete object?  A concept or idea?  An image?  A shimmering form or whisper?  Or simply as a vague longing?  A pull, or drive, that lies unknown and undiscovered?  Do we not first encounter new things through their absence, through the space that they should appear in?

We’re generally comfortable with the idea of “science” as an entirely adequate explanation of phenomenon, but when we move past the evening news version presented by the worshipers of the modern status quo, we discover that there is no such thing as “science” per se .  There are assumptions, methods and investigators.  There are theories and experiments.  There is an ever evolving collection of information… but there is nothing settled.  Many of the great pioneers of science would have disagreed vehemently with modern material reductionists.    Today’s complete explanation may be tomorrow’s laughingstock, and yesterday’s laughingstock may become tomorrow’s rediscovered wisdom; but all of these practices, in order to bear fruit, require a tireless curiosity and almost super-human insight that cannot be codified, measured or imparted by reading books.

The awakening of a new basic attitude towards existence is not the first thing that we must do, but the first thing that must happen in us… Only when this completely irrational, above – moral, and above – personal transformation has taken place inside of us will all instructions given here gain a sense. There is no directive and no rule which could replace this unique act or could be compared with it.

-Ernst Schertel, Magick: History, Theory, Practice

Science, as such, is a rather late stage development, both in human history and in the individual.  What is it based on?  What ability lets us peer into the unknown, the uncertain, the infinite and call things forth, into the world?  Isn’t this the fundamental human ability that distinguishes us from animals: not rational thought per-se, but the ability to create, as individuals?   How would you improve this ability?  What sort of actions would it require?  If these actions were successful, what would the practice look like, to others?

 Why should you study and practice Magick?  Because you can’t help doing it, and you had better do it well than badly.

-MWT, Chapter II

A Journey

Tonight, two friends and I are leaving the City of Angels for the “Valley of the Sun” .

There is something special about packing a bag and departing from the known, for however short a time period, that raises the energetic level of our lived experience.  It is something like dance: a motion that carries meaning.  While the place we are journeying to may be pedestrian for those that live there, and our own domicile may seem mysterious and exotic to other people all over the world, the very act of departing, and the uncertainty that comes with it, calls to something in our souls.  While the proverbial “road trip” technically requires a destination, this is only a formality.  The point is the pleasure of the journey itself, and the unknown that it carries us into.

Also the Holy One came upon me, and I beheld a white swan floating in the blue.
Between its wings I sate, and the æons fled away.
Then the swan flew and dived and soared, yet no whither we went.
A little crazy boy that rode with me spake unto the swan, and said:
Who art thou that dost float and fly and dive and soar in the inane? Behold, these many æons have passed; whence camest thou? Whither wilt thou go?
And laughing I chid him, saying: No whence! No whither!
The swan being silent, he answered: Then, if with no goal, why this eternal journey?
And I laid my head against the Head of the Swan, and laughed, saying: Is there not joy ineffable in this aimless winging? Is there not weariness and impatience for who would attain to some goal?
And the swan was ever silent. Ah! but we floated in the infinite Abyss. Joy! Joy!
White swan, bear thou ever me up between thy wings!

-A. Crowley, Liber LXV II:17-25

There is a tendency in the modern world to put “safety first”, but this attitude has done little to improve the quality of our lives.  Instead we have made the world monotonous, sterile and boring.  Even the relatively bourgeoisie days of this author’s youth seem a mad cap adventure, compared to what passes for childhood in the increasingly codified, styro-foam coated, bubble wrapped present.    As modernity increasingly removes all sense of the transcendent from daily life, it becomes harder and harder to risk ourselves in any great adventure –  to find anything worthy of risk.  This is why, I believe, we have become so concerned about the welfare of “future generations”.  We seek to put off the questions of our own time by invoking the struggles of our children and living for their sake.  Paradoxically, this tends to make our lineage less likely to survive into the far future, as a few generations of risk-averse, over-protective, indulgent parenting has succeeded in producing risk-averse, cowardly, intellectually and physically flabby descendants.

Anyhow, there’s no such thing as safety.  Life is a gamble.  From the moment of incarnation a million accidents are possible.  Miscarriage, still-birth, abortion; throughout life, until your heart beats for the last time, “you never can tell” – — — — and then you start all over again with your next incarnation!

-A. Crowley, Magick Without Tears, Ch, 80

Nietzsche put forward the idea of the “eternal return” as a way to test an individual’s fitness.  If life were repeated, over and over again, in all its unfair, strange, incomprehensibly terrible glory, would you rejoice or fall down weeping?  Are you strong enough to live for the journey, or do you need a safe pasture – well fenced,  to graze in for all eternity?

This is not a question of logic, but of fundamental orientation.  It can, perhaps, be called a matter of “taste” but this serves to reduce what is, essentially, a hierarchical difference in spiritual temperament to an issue of personal preference.    What is most vexing about the modern, socialized, corporatized world is not that it exists,  but that it seeks to put itself forward as the only rational type of existence – the ne plus ultra of human evolution.    This “one size fits all” approach to human culture is incredibly unpopular, yet it persists because people cannot imagine a viable alternative.  Despite this cultural myopia, the material for the construction of an alternative is out there – it exists.  It is, perhaps, not yet polished and “turn key” material, but that is what makes it truly dynamic and compelling: a risk, a gamble… a journey.

Democracy dodders. Ferocious Fascism, cackling Communism, equally frauds, cavort crazily all over the globe. The are hemming us in.  They are abortive births of the Child, the New Aeon of Horus.  Liberty stirs once more in the womb of Time.

Evolution makes its changes by anti-Socialistic ways. The “abnormal” man who foresees the trend of the times and adapts circumstance intelligently, is laughed at, persecuted, often destroyed by the herd; but he and his heirs, when the crisis comes, are survivors.

Above us today hangs a danger never yet paralleled in history. We suppress the individual in more and more ways. We think in terms of the herd. War no longer kills soldiers; it kills all indiscriminately. Every new measure of the most democratic and autocratic govenments is Communistic in essence. It is always restriction. We are all treated as imbecile children. Dora, the Shops Act, the Motoring Laws, Sunday suffocation, the Censorship— they won’t trust us to cross the roads at will.

Fascism is like Communism, and dishonest into the bargain. The dictators suppress all art, literature, theatre, music, news, that does not meet their requirements; yet the world only moves by the light of genius. The herd will be destroyed in mass.

The establishment of the Law of Thelema is the only way to preserve individual liberty and to assure the future of the race. In the words of the famous paradox of the Comte de Fénix— The absolute rule of the state shall be a function of the absolute liberty of each individual will. All men and women are invited to cooperate with the Master Therion in this, the Great Work.

– A. Crowley, Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, Ch. 5

Thoughts on “The Grey”

The fundamental principle underlying all justification of war, from the point of view of human personality, is heroism.  War, it is said, offers man the opportunity to awaken the hero who sleeps within him.  War breaks the routine of comfortable life; by means of its severe ordeals, it offers a transfiguring knowledge of life, life according to death.  The moment the individual succeeds in living as a hero, even if it is the final moment of his earthly life, weighs infinitely more on the scale of values than a protracted existence spent consuming monotonously among the trivialities of cities.

– J. Evola, The Metaphysics of War

Joe Carnahan’s latest film, starring Liam Neeson, is generating a highly polarized response.   Extrinsically, it follows the exploits of  a group of men stranded in the wilderness, as they try to survive and reach civilization, while they are pursued by an aggressive pack of wolves.   Existentially, the film is about finding a reason to live and struggle on, in a seemingly uncaring and meaningless universe.  Hence the name:  The Grey.

This struggle is, itself, nothing new.  All thinking men doubt and wonder.  The ancients, by their records, were no less thoughtful than modern man, although the manner in which they encountered the struggle for existence, and encapsulated its vicissitudes in art, poetry and music is foreign to us.   Where they saw gods and titans, we see only matter and brute instinct.  While it is still possible to rally one’s self  in the struggle against these cthonic forces under the present zeitgeist, the character of that “rallying”, and the possibilities it opens up for the individual, are markedly different today than those known by our ancestors.

Given all this,  it is obvious that the term ‘hero’ is a common denominator which embraces very different types and meanings.  The readiness to die, to sacrifice one’s own life, may be the sole prerequisite, from the technical and collectivist point of view, but also from the point of view of what today, rather brutally, has come to be referred to as  ‘cannon fodder’.  However, it is also obvious that it is not from this point of view that war can claim any real spiritual value as regards the individual…

If we proceed with this train of thought it becomes rather clear from what has been said above that not all wars have the same possibilities…

These points correspond, basically, to three possible types of relation in which the warrior caste and its principle can find themselves with in respect to the other manifestations already considered.  In the normal state, they are subordinate to the spiritual principle, and there breaks out a heroism which leads to supra-life, to supra-personhood.

-J. Evola, The Metaphysics of war

 This form of heroism is only,  in the West today, suggested by myth and legend.  Where encountered directly it is only in its negative and adversarial, counter initiatory form, as “fanaticism”.  The Islamic terrorist’s heaven of virgins is but a crude and childish echo of this promise.   At one time this form of heroism was, if not the norm, at least the goal of the trained fighting man.  This seems to have been universally the case among civilized people, regardless of “race” or land of origin.

The warrior principle may, however, construct its own form, refusing to recognize anything as superior to it, and then the heroic experience takes on a quality which is ‘tragic’: insolent, steel-tempered, but without light.  Personality remains, and strengthens but, at the same time, so does the limit constituted by its naturalistic and simply human nature.  Nevertheless, this type of ‘hero’ shows a certain greatness, and, naturally, for the types hierarchically inferior to the warrior, i.e. the bourgeois and the slave types, this war and this heroism already mean overcoming, elevation, accomplishment.

-J. Evola, Metaphysics of War

This is the heroic form displayed in The Grey.  While Liam Neeson’s character, John Ottway, never achieves anything transcendent, there is a dignity in his struggle with life and death that, to some extent, elevates him above the herd and grants him an initiation of sorts.   This possibility may remain open for some individuals today, but the door is fast closing.   While the warrior may find meaning in struggle itself, the markers that allow him to orient himself in this action must come from somewhere outside and “above” the struggle.  He must fight for something and, by necessity, against something else.  In the film, these markers are the absent family and loved ones of the stranded men, primarily children and “sweethearts”, which appear to them, ghost like, in moments of hardship.  While this is not, necessarily, a bad thing, these relationships depend on a metaphysical framework (romantic love, family, etc) which is quickly evaporating in the modern west.  The “for the sake of the children/women/free people at home” rhetoric of the modern state-run intellectual apparatus is an attempt to call up this kind of possibility, although what it actually results in is the third type of heroism, which Evola goes on to articulate.

The third case involves a degraded warrior principle, which has passed into the service of hierarchically inferior elements (the castes beneath it).  In such cases, heroic experience is united, almost fatally, to an evocation, and an eruption, of instinctual, sub-personal, collective, irrational forces, so that there occurs, basically, a lesion and a regression of the personality of the individual, who can only live life in a passive manner, driven either by necessity or by the suggestive power of myths and passionate impulses… they do not become base, nor deserters, but all that impels them forward throughout the most terrible tests are elemental forces, impulses, instincts and reactions, in which there is not much human remaining, and which do not know any moment of light.

-J. Evola, The Metaphysics of War

Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the plight of the modern “soldier”.  It is worth noting that the word literally means “mercenary”: one who receives pay for fighting, from the Latin word “solidus” signifying a coin ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solidus_(coin) ).  Fighting is not longer a sacred task, or the possibility of some grand adventure, but a “job”.   It may, perhaps, be puffed up by mythological references (god, country, “freedom”, somewhat paradoxically “safety” from one’s enemies, etc) but these phantasmal motivators are not living presences within the struggle itself.  At best they may motivate the soldier to throw himself into the struggle but, once inside, he can only hope to pull together the diverse, and often contradictory, telluric drives which threaten to tear his mind apart in their desperate struggle to preserve his physical existence and forge some kind of willed action out of the chaos.  This is the last form of heroism available and it is almost entirely a heroism in name only.   Here the personality is only the point of cohesion and, while it is better to be this sort of hero than none at all, the repercussions are significant.  The tremendous psychic energy of violence must be dealt with and, with no positive transmutation possible, the force simply grounds out.

Estimates say that one U.S. soldier attempts suicide every 80 minutes, and that the total loss of soldiers due to successful suicide is higher than losses in combat.  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2057061/One-U-S-veteran-attempts-suicide-80-minutes-Hidden-tragedy-Afghanistan-Iraq-wars.html).

It is a deep error to believe that it is only through military or police service to the modern state that heroic existence remains possible.  The defining condition of heroism is not necessarily physical action with weaponry, but courageous action, of any kind, for the sake of one’s convictions, in the face of risk and danger.  In this way, the conditions that make possible the higher forms of heroism are perhaps more present and accessible to every man, today, than at any time in history!

As the values of the herd become more and more firmly entrenched, thinking differently, speaking out, simply “going one’s own way” becomes increasingly more difficult.  What calls for heroism, today, is not struggle on the battlefield, or in the wilderness, but in the spiritual wilderness of our daily lives.  This type of “wilderness” is found everywhere the nihilism of the modern world touches: from the inner cities, to the suburbs, from the nation’s capital to the rough fields of Texas.

In the quiet and ordered periods of history this wisdom is accessible only to a few chosen ones, since there are too many occasions to surrender and to sink, to consider the ephemeral to be the important, to forget the instability and contingency of what is irremediably such by nature.  It is on this basis that what can be called in the broader sense the mentality of the bourgeois life is organized: it is a life which does not know either hights or depths, and develops interests, affections, desires and passions which, however important they may be from the merely earthly point of view, become petty and relative from the supra-individual and spiritual poing of view, which must always be regarded as proper to any human existence worth of the name.

-J. Evola, The Metaphysics of War

This is the struggle that, today, calls out for heroism.   It is not the threat of violence that we must fear, so much as the threat of meaninglessness and forgetfulness.   It is impossible to wage this struggle as the third type of “hero”.  It is a higher possibility that speaks to us in the struggle for individuation.  Even to rise up to the second type of hero would be, for modern man, a vast improvement and, for those few who “have ears to hear” and “eyes to see”, the great heroes of the past still beckon, as a new and future possibility.

Each act of man is the twist and double of an hare.

Love and Death are the greyhounds that course him.

God bred the hounds and taketh His pleasure in the sport.

This is the Comedy of Pan, that man should think he huntheth, while those hounds hunt him.

This is the Tragedy of Man, when facing Love and Death he turns to bay.  He is no more hare, but boar.

There are no other comedies or tragedies.

Cease then to be the mockery of God; in savagery of love and death live thou and die!

Thus shall His laughter be thrilled through with Ecstasy.

-A. Crowley, The Book of Lies, Ch. 34

All Men Desire to Know (part 1)

 

Everyone wants to know the truth –  not necessarily about this topic or that topic, but about the whole of life.  No one wants to be deceived about this fundamental concern.   Most are content with a shadowy, instinctive ,”feel” .  They may not be able to articulate the purpose of their existence, but they have, as Agent K says in the clip, “a good bead on things”.   This sort of background awareness of meaning may be sufficient for a certain type of person, or category of being, which the ancient Gnostics referred to as “hylic”.  Entirely caught up with earthly existence, the hylic views deep questions about “being” and “purpose” as either meaningless intellectual constructions or  frightening threats to the underpinnings of reality.  For this type “truth” as such has solidified, and become external and fixed.  Here it is the world system that manifests truth.  The individual is entirely separate from the active creation of meaning and, while a given person may be blessed or cursed with position or privation, the significance of these categories is determined elsewhere.

It is a sign of the general decline of the species that the hylic view not only predominates today, but is actively propagated by the dominant intellectual class as a form of state sponsored crowd control.   It is a rare person who tries to peel away the darkened film of  “the obvious” from any subject to reveal something alive and significant.  It takes an ever increasing amount of bravery to differ from the status-quo.   Even those individuals courageous enough to essay this adventure encounter grave intellectual difficulties: first and foremost, an inherited misunderstanding about the nature of knowledge, and truth, itself.

And he attains to the knowledge of them in their highest purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone, not allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the mind in her clearness penetrates into the very fight of truth in each; he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her-is not this the sort of man who, if ever man did, is likely to attain the knowledge of existence?  (Plato, The Phaedo, 360 BC)

Although written approximately 2000 years ago,  this description of the process by which knowledge is acquired does not fundamentally differ from the modern conception.  We seek to get behind phenomenon to the “thing itself”, which must exist on its own terms as an abstract representation.   Labeling something “subjective” is tantamount to denying its validity, and we feel we have only really understood something when we can express it as a mathematical formula, grid, study, definition or chart.  The supposed man of knowledge seeks to “get rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole body… hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge”.   Truth is here defined as what remains outside the perspective of any individual, save perhaps “god” –  an empty placeholder concept.  Therefore, the individual as such is a barrier to the truth, and should be discarded.   It does not require much imagination to chart the evolution from this concept of truth to the nihilistic ideologies of  Marxism and “scientific” rationalism.

But is this conception of truth in fact TRUE?

(To be continued…)

Quote of the day…

There is a highly popular school of “occultists” which is 99 % an escape-mechanism.  The fear of death is one of the bogeys; but far deeper is the root-fear—fear of being alone, of being oneself, of life itself.  With this there goes the sense of guilt.  The Book of the Law cuts directly at the root of all this calamitous, this infamous tissue of falsehood.

What is the meaning of Initiation?  It is the Path to the realisation of your Self as the sole, the supreme, the absolute of all Truth, Beauty, Purity, Perfection!  What is the artistic sense in you?  What but the One Channel always open to you through which this Light flows freely to enkindle you (and the world through you) with flowers of inexhaustible fervour and flame?

-A. Crowley,  Magick Without Tears