Sunday, 13 October 2013

Towards The Future: A New Blog

You will have noticed my blogging here has dried up to a wee dribble. Blogging about magick is a lovely idea, but since my available time has increased and i no longer live in the middle of nowhere I have reintegrated back into a community, and into practical magical work in group contexts. I have always said that magick is a practical thing for me, and from my personal work with the A.'.A.'., and my group work with the Irish Order of Thelema my life is already very full of the strange, and I don't need to live that out online. This blog has been an important undertaking, and there will surely be future thoughts on magick, the occult, and thelema.
But for this I would like to start a new space which is integrative of all that I am - as a craftsperson, a therapist, a thelemite, and as a citizen of the world. There is more to me and my work than the 'occult' and I would like to start again and to present the entirety of my being as a pursuit of my will, from my support of sexual liberation, feminism, and the political left, to my work with publishing, events management and art. I am so much more than dusty arcane knowledge and though I will still muse on magick and  general strangeness, I am more than that. So come and join me as I undertake a new adventure with more of the same, and lots more besides...

Thursday, 4 July 2013

REVIEW: Priest/ess by Michael Effertz et al



REVIEW Priest/ess by Michael Effertz

 & The Argument That Took The Wrong Turn by Michael Effertz





I have recently bought and read the book Priest/ess by Michael Effertz, and the chapbook The Argument That Took The Wrong Turn by the same author. Priest/ess sets out to make the case for the public performance of queer Gnostic Mass through the EGC, the ecclesiastical wing of the OTO. Though privately practiced and allowed, its public performance is currently prohibited by EGC policy.

I am writing this review from without, as a Thelemite (and a queer one at that), but it must be said from the outset that I have no involvement with the OTO or the EGC or history with these bodies. As such I am confining this review to the actual content of the book and I try not to hold a personal position on the queer gnostic mass, given my non-involvement with the mass and its administering bodies.



My initial musing with Effertz’s book was its high production value and aesthetic balance. It is a beautiful book to behold, hardback with gold coloured gilt, well laid out internally, with a beautiful illustration of Pan beside the title page.

Internally I learned a lot of deep personal interest. This book is laid out as a position and argument with supporting material. Effertz quotes liberally from voices within the OTO and EGC today, as well as Aleister Crowley’s own position on the ideas of sexuality and gender, many of which I had not read before, and certainly not in such a gathered anthology of source material.

The beginning of the core thesis speaks about the importance of critical thinking and unconscious biases. This prelude is an important one, both in the context of ‘the method of science, the aim of religion’, and also in the context of any conversation around sexuality and gender. Time and again we find people have deep rooted biases in these areas because they are rarely examined in a conscious manner using the consequent tools of logic, dialogue and supported argument. Though the subject matter is deeply charged, the book stays true to this method of science, making coherent and well supported arguments.

The argument is made from a slightly defensive place, already in reply to arguments against the public performance of queer gnostic mass, real or imagined. I can only assume these rationalizations are positions Effertz encountered in his individual search and though he considers official EGC policy as one of the sources, a lot is extrapolated official policy that may not be there. In such cases he considers this possibility and identifies conjecture on his part. He also argues and presents dual positions based on multiple interpretations of the same source.

This position seems more reactive than proactive in answering ‘no’ statements rather than arguing a yes position. It seems to perceive itself as arguing with rather than arguing for.

These positions in opposition to the public performance of queer gnostic mass and their rebuttals also run the risk of creating the mythological ‘them’, the other camp. In several places Effertz seems to define/ refer to such a camp using ‘they’ as a referential position. He also creates a mythological ‘we’, seemingly arguing the position of queer people in the OTO. The problem is this ‘we’ is from a book with a single name on the masthead (and a thelemic book at that!) and it seems to assume a position on behalf of others. Though he may be writing from his experience of conversations with queer thelemites, this is ultimately a personal position. At the same time ‘we’ is used extensively in his personal argument. This manner of writing is, from my perspective, quite political, quite divisive (‘them’ and ‘us’ - he even heads the argument ‘A House Divided’), and though well supported, there is a clear argument and position created through the use of rhetoric.

All of this may seem quite critical, but having been urged to think critically it is important to acknowledge this perceptual bias.

Throughout this book he is respectful to the OTO and EGC, and though he appeals for change, it is done in a tempered and reasonable way. The arguments are wonderfully supported by material from the EGC, the EGC primate, the OHO of the OTO and from Aleister Crowley himself. Following his primary argument are several essays.

I have had a lot of my own perceptual biases brought to the light of day through the arguments made here and the consequent reasoning. One area I am particularly grateful for was the discussion around gender identity. The EGC allows transgendered clergy to perform in their social gender for public masses, though Effertz spends a lot of time looking at what this policy says at present and the possible perceptual biases implied by the current policy. I must admit my understanding of gender identity, sex, and transgender is one I struggle with. By this I mean I have not really explored this facet of queer identity (queer being a term often used as inclusive of the LGBTQ community – individual but united in our diversity), but the essay Gender Ignorance, Or Good Intentions Are Not Enough by Pat Fields has been very educational, has caused a lot of thought on my part, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to come to terms with the ideas around gender identity. Effertz annotates this essay (by a non OTO member I assume) with specific reference to the gnostic mass and EGC policy. Though relevant, these annotations upset the flow of the essay and would have been better presented through proper co-authorship and editorial integration of the two materials.

Following this Effertz makes an argument comparing the prohibition of public gnostic mass with the ban on same sex marriage. I am unsure how I stand on this section as I see both similarities and significant differences. Still, this section is a strong support in the context of the other presentations of the argument.

The OTO is infamous as a ‘sex magick’ order – and the Mass, the OTOs central ritual, is described as a symbolic enactment of the 9*. This is widely described as a technique of heteroerotic sex magick. Or is it? The essay Pleading The Ninth illustrates that Crowley also described homosexual workings as 9th degree workings. I will not assume to know the inner workings of the OTO and its ‘secrets’, but this essay made for interesting reading, supported by extracts from Crowleys diaries/ records.

The book finishes with material from Crowley supporting the theme of queer work (of various kinds) and with the text of the Gnostic Mass.

Overall it is a good, well written book with a clear direction and argument, well supported by relevant sources. Its structure, and the use of position, argument, and citation, while maintaining a respectful tone make it an excellent example of an argued position.



The chapbook, The Argument That Took The Wrong Turn, is a follow on from the first. When Priest/ess was released an EGC bishop reviewed, and argued with several of the positions in the book online. This chapbook replies to this review, illustrating several perceived logical errors on the part of the EGC bishop. It clearly and concisely repeats the core themes of Priest/ess in this format. It is again a well-crafted argument and well supported.

I cannot help but take some exception to it from a human and fraternal perspective. Having brought out a book to argue a position (already from a defensive position, see above) and having gotten a reply from a senior member of the church it relates to online, the debate should, in my opinion, have continued online, or through the internal mechanisms for debate and dissent in the OTO and EGC… Instead, the publication of this rebuttal offers a rather indirect engagement through the use of this removed medium. To bring out a book with a position is one thing. To bring out a second book(let) in reply to an online review seems a bit aloof and self-vindicating in that it is static and offers a single perspective as opposed to online debate which has much more ‘to and fro’. I find the argument, though strong, though well developed, inappropriate in this form. Though not a member of the OTO I am a member of a fraternal thelemic Order, and I find it sad that this debate has taken to ivory towers rather than effecting real change or heated debate. In actuality there has been very little debate online in the aftermath of its publication. Though the booklet is socially odd (from my perspective), I do hope this important and enlightening thesis, found in both publications, is discussed and considered.

For me, I accept that such a process will probably happen behind the closed doors of the OTO and EGC. I offer my friends in the OTO and EGC the best of luck in considering some of the exciting content thrown up by Priest/ess, and though positionless, I have taken a lot personally from this book.

To buy this book visit Weiser Antiquitarian:  http://www.weiserantiquarian.com/catalogonehundredandeight/

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Fortified Island Journal Out Now

So when I said I'd be posting less here to work on other things, one of those things was Fortified Island, the journal of the Irish Order of Thelema. It is now done (at least until next equinox) and the digital edition is available for download.

 Fortified Island is the Journal of the Irish Order of Thelema. The Irish Order of Thelema is a 21st century vehicle of the law of thelema embedded in the cultural traditions of the land. This first journal has a central theme of Irish traditions. Content includes articles on: 
  • Thelemic Witchcraft
  • Geomancy and the Ancient Provinces of Ireland (John Paul Patton) 
  • The Three Realms (Lora O Brien) 
  • A Suggested irish Life Tree (Fr. Ildanach) 
  • The Chakras, the Nadis and the Cauldrons of Poesy (Brian Walsh) 
  • and plenty more including artwork, poetry, details of upcoming festivals and more!
 
Digital issues are available from: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/fortifiedisland1

Print copies will be made available locally in Ireland from early April on (if you can wait that long). Further details will be on: www.irishorderofthelema.com and on https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fortified-Island/118629444994400 If you have a shop in Ireland or the North and would like to stock the journal please contact me privately.
All proceeds from the sale of the journal go to the Irish Order of Thelema.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Holy Cow!

Holy Cow (Fr. Docet Umbra) Photography, collage, & digital manipulation Some source images taken from the logo of the Irish Order of Thelema

Malevolent Magick and the PC Patrol


Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law


We live in politically correct times, particularly in the Pagan and esoteric communities. From ethogens (visionary drugs) to ethics, the politically correct brigade, who are not everyone, but who feel empowered to speak for everyone, are very willing to tell us that drugs are bad and no one in the esoteric community ever causes magickal harm to others (amongst other things). It is this latter point I will today take complete exception to for several reasons.

The first of these is that in real, everyday life, pagans and esoteric folk can be just like everyone else. They know joy, and beauty, but also anger and hate. There is a curious opinion in the community that magickal malevolence is terrible, unconscionable  and just plain wrong, and yet the same people who hold these opinions are capable of such horrid behaviour to their fellow man. I am all in favour of having ethics, but I find it so curious when people have completely different ethics in their magickal and their muggle lives. Great if you're all magickal and shiny in your ideal magickal persona, but if your still an arse in real everyday life, that also counts, and probably more.

I am very influenced by the social definition of magick given by Aleister Crowley. Crowley defines it as the art and science of causing change in accordance with will , which is to say causing change under the knowledge and direction of higher principles.  Crowley makes no explicit differentiation between technical magick (rituals and 'spells') and other forms of causing change in accordance with will. I do not have two sets of ethics. I have one, expressed through different means but the same ethic. 

A lot of Pagan ethics are situational. From the law of thelema to the Wiccan rede, though an implied ethic is present, it is a call to think of consequences, as different situations call for different measures. It calls for measuring consequences, but not for inaction due to dogmatic ethical limitations. 'An it harm none of Wicca does not mean turn the other cheek (so someone can hit you again) or let people walk on you. It means weigh your options, do the least harm possible, but by all means stick up for yourself.

My second issue with the PC patrol is the claim Witches don't curse, magicians don't curse etc. History begs to differ and this is something unique to a modern PC patrol. In any of the traditional grimoires, there are explicit malevolent methods. In hoodoo, and in traditional Witchcraft there is an injunction that a Witch must be able to curse as well as be able to heal. If you go to the Witchcraft museum in Boscastle there is ample evidence for cursing. Even the mammy of Wicca, Doreen Valiente admitted to using a poppet and blackthorn sharps to silence a blackmailer. 

 For more on the Witchcraft of cursing, I recommend the Ethics of Malevolence by Sarah Lawless. 

Before moving on from Witchcraft, I would like to take on a very neo Pagan idea of 'threefold return'. This idea has no origins in Traditional Initiatory Wicca (Alexandrian or Gardnerian) from what I understand. It is a random innovation that is an altered Judeo-Christian worldview. If you do something wrong, you'll get slapped hard! If you do good, you'll be rewarded. To speak of this in terms of karma is also painful to hear because there is no such teaching in Eastern philosophy, and the very understanding of karma as retributive misses the point completely. Karma is an expression of the will, acting to align the individual with their true will.

In Thelema there are obvious militant streams, and precedence for cursing, particularly in Liber Al chapter three (that Ra Hoor guy likes his cursing!), and in Liber Oz. I was looking online for an article written by a British thelemite on cursing, but it has disappeared from the internet. At a loss for that, there is an interesting (and under heard) voice emerging in contemporary thelema, being Ryan Murray from Toronto. He gives the following lecture on Curses, Hexes and Magickal Destruction of Ones Enemies. I find his position intelligent, well considered and worth checking out.

(in multiple parts. Parts I- V  of which this is Part I)

Before its suggested, I am not advocating going out and cursing left, right and centre. What I am doing is asking you to consider all the options when in times of difficulty or trouble, and asking you to come to your own ethical position based on the circumstances at hand, not based what the PC patrol tell you is the status quo. 

And for you, PC patrol who may be reading this, don't tell me, or anyone else what 'we believe' or what we should believe. Uphold what you will, but don't interfere with my will, because I and many others don't believe in a completely literal harm none. With a magician or a witch in company, it might be better advice to 'piss off none'.

(spurned by recent comments that my position is unpagan and has no place in the community. For those who hold such opinions, you are not the community and you most certainly don't speak for me!) 

Love is the law, love under will
 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Study: Mysticism, Magick & Thelema online

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law

In a bid to methodically work through both the Book of Thoth and Aleister Crowley's magnum opus Book 4 I am working through one topic (Thoth) or chapter per week.
I have chosen to do this on the forums of the Irish Order of Thelema, sharing links to primary texts online, to resources, to other opinions, and sharing my own views on what I am reading and practicing.  
The point of this is to offer the possibility of peer learning, sharing opinions and resources. Though I may choose to post some of these materials here at a later stage, I would appreciate people who would be willing to go through a process of learning together. As such I invite you to join me on the forums at www.irishorderofthelema.com, and I look forward to interacting with you.
As a result of this, and other activities, I will greatly reduce my blogging here at Standing At The Centre. I appreciate the loyalty of my readers and I will still post, just less often Yet I feel I am also giving my readers an opportunity to come and interact on the forums of the Order, and to discuss Crowleys mystical and magickal system through these structured studies, and elsewhere on the forums. People of all experience levels and backgrounds are very welcome. 

Love is the law, love under will 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Firmly on the Earth I Stand



Firmly On The Earth I Stand
Aspects of Cosmology In The Irish Order of Thelema

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

0. Introduction


  • I have recently received some enquiries about what the Irish Order of Thelema is about Is it all ceremonial magick? What is Irish about Thelema? The following was originally posted on lashtal.com and has been slightly amended for posting here. The Order has a different significance to different people, but the following gives a sense of our cosmology and outlook.


The Irish Order of Thelema and its immediate historical antecedents have been experimenting and working with Irish cosmology to express both the universal stream of thelema, and the traditions of the land of Ireland for almost 20 years. This work has included research into the historical cosmology of the Irish, as well as experiment based in these researches, developed through active magickal and meditative work with the land and Her occupants.
The Order also uses the cosmological systems of the East and West including the Chakras and the qabalah as analogous to the initiates experience.
So what is cosmology? Cosmology could be simply called a 'reality map', a means of categorising and understanding the experience of the navigator. This includes both the outer world and the landscapes of the individual’s inner experience. The Order is set up to offer progressive experiences and development through Irish cosmology, and through systematic development through the methods and tools of the Western Mystery tradition. The basic outline of the elemental degree system of the Irish Order of Thelema is given in full in the Orders constitution which is available on our website.
The following is a brief introduction to some of the cosmological themes used by the Irish Order of Thelema. But this is by no means intended exclusively as an introduction to the Order; it also aims to offer themes that any person working in a modern syncretic Irish tradition might draw upon in their individual work.

1. The Classical Elements

The first tier of the initiatory system of the Irish Order of Thelema is called the elemental series. This makes reference to the five elements of ancient Greece, also in prevalent use in the Western mystery tradition. These elements are earth, water, air and fire. These four are joined by the fifth principle of aether or spirit.
The four, being earth, water, air and fire are attributed by Plato as pre-Socratic. The fifth element, called aether, was added by Aristotle as the quintessence. Aristotle rationalised that as the other four elements were 'earthly' and corruptible, that there was a fifth element which is eternal (aether is based on the Greek for eternity). This is a foundation people from a general Pagan background will already be familiar with.
These building blocks connect all things. This sense of interconnectedness is also found in the Irish tradition. An example of this is the Song of Amergin:

I am the wind on the sea
I am the stormy wave
I am the sound of the ocean
I am the bull with seven horns
I am the hawk on the cliff face
I am the sun's tear
I am the beautiful flower
I am the boar on the rampage
I am the salmon in the pool
I am the lake on the plain
I am the defiant word
I am the spear charging into battle
I am the god who put fire in your head
Who made the trails through stone mountains
Who knows the age of the moon
Who knows where the setting sun rests
Who took the cattle from the house of the warcrow
Who pleases the warcrow's cattle
What bull, what god created the mountain skyline
The cutting word, the cold word.

The four elements are related to the four compass directions with the point of the observer being the fifth element of spirit. This same attribution applies to the space of the lodge room in the work of the Order. Though the elements are not the only symbolic motif (or even the main one) running through the work of the Order, as a modern syncretic tradition we work with a holistic yet intelligible synthesis of working images.

For those who would like to work with the gaelig for each of these elements, the following translations are offered.

Earth: Talamh (ground)* Water: Uisce * Air: Aél * Fire: Tine * Spirit: Imbas; Menme1

1. A direct translation is difficult. Dia (God) has often been used. I have chosen Imbas (inspiration, a force of spirit in matter) or Menme (mind; idea)

2. The Five Provinces of Ireland

The Irish Order of Thelema works with a fivefold division of the island based on the five traditional provinces, being Ulster, Leinster, Munster, Connaught and Meath. To speak of the traditional provinces is in a way a misdemeanour as there have been numerous other divisions of the Island. A document from our Orders archives explains the complexity of this question:

The Mythology and history of Ireland has involved numerous divisions of the Island, some established by the various mythical races of invaders, others have been based on the changing fortunes of dominant Clans and Families, through to more modern influences such as the Normans and the English.  Even in the apparently straightforward provincial divisions which have survived into modern times the situation is far from simple. The Five-fold division of the Island has, at varying stages been based on Ulster, Leinster, Connaught, and East and West Munster. It has also been taken as consisting of the four main Provinces, with the later addition of the Province of Meath, the geographical extent of which varied widely. Other periods have seen the island treated as a unity, or divided in half by the Eiscir Riada etc. etc.

In spite of this, our work needs to start from somewhere. Ours starts firmly based on the fivefold division of the island, and the attributes of these provinces found in The Settling Of The Manor At Tara. The divisions of the provinces are worked within the borders as they appear in contemporary Irish geography. The fifth province of Mide is defined as a point of unity at the centre of the Island. No such fifth province exists in contemporary Irish geography, though a connection to Tara, outside Navan in modern day county Meath, as the seat of kingly sovereignty could be seen as representative of this quality. Alternately the site of Uisneach in modern day Co. Westmeath, as the seat of druidic power could be seen as representative of this quality. A model has also been developed for an alternation between these two representations of the quality of centre and sovereignty, Tara and Uisneach, through the progression of the Celtic year.
In the Settling Of The Manor At Tara Fintan also attributes qualities to these five provinces. These fivefold qualities are the titles and one of the layers of symbolism of the elemental degree system of our Order. When asked of the partition of Ireland and its cosmological attributes, Fintan says:

‘Easy to say,’ said Fintan: ‘knowledge in the west, battle in the north, prosperity in the east, music in the south, kingship in the centre ’.

Fintan further elaborates on the attributes and boundaries of these provinces in great detail, providing a workable correspondence set for both working on an island wide basis, and for working with the directions (and centre) in any ritual space.

3. The Four Cities

The four cities is another important aspect of the symbolism of our Order. The Four cities are mentioned in the Yellow Book of Lecan and in the Second Battle of Moytura. The description in the text for the second battle of Moytura is as follows:
The Tuatha De Danann were in the northern islands of the world, studying occult lore and sorcery, druidic arts and witchcraft and magical skill, until they surpassed the sages of the pagan arts. They studied occult lore and secret knowledge and diabolic arts in four cities: Falias, Gorias, Murias, and Findias. From Falias was brought the Stone of Fal which was located in Tara. It used to cry out beneath every king that would take Ireland. From Gorias was brought the spear which Lug had. No battle was ever sustained against it, or against the man who held it in his hand. From Findias was brought the sword of Nuadu. No one ever escaped from it once it was drawn from its deadly sheath, and no one could resist it. From Murias was brought the Dagda’s cauldron. No company ever went away from it unsatisfied. There were four wizards in those four cities. Morfesa was in Falias; Esras was in Gorias; Uiscias was in Findias; Semias was in Murias. Those are the four poets from whom the Tuatha De learned occult lore and secret knowledge.

The 'cities', unlike the provincial attributes do not have clear directional attributes. The 'Northern islands of the world' may be a description of a non- physical place, analogous to the astral plane of contemporary magickal cosmology. Fantastical islands are also described in the Imramma texts, and may represent non ordinary realities encountered by the faidh (ovate). Within the Order the treasures of the cities, and the cities themselves have been linked with the fourfold provinces, excluding Mide. Although there is no known historical precedence for this, this arrangement allows work with the full set of forces in the Irish tradition, developing a modern tradition of work based on experiment and experience. The exact nature of this synthesis of symbolism including several other elements is revealed to initiates of the Order as they progress through the elemental cycle.

4. The Law of Thelema in the Irish Order

At the centre of our work is the law of thelema. Thelema says ‘do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’- or be true to your higher ideal. Each person is unique, with a unique path in life, led by higher principles. The idea that each person has a path that is unique to them, and that you should mind your own business (don’t interfere with another person’s path) are the core principles of Thelema. Beyond building a society based on personal development, mutual tolerance and freedom, there is the work of the individual on a path.
There is often an antiquated opinion that thelema is exclusively about ‘ceremonial magick’ and the works of Aleister Crowley. Certainly there are people and groups who are dedicated to duplicating the work of Crowley, but the work of the Irish Order, like that of many others, is innovative, and primarily post Crowleyian. This is to say we started with a question – what is relevant today for a person living on the island of Ireland?
Thelema is a philosophical outlook, and many people who have come to the Order walk associated paths with associated values, including so-called esoteric or pagan paths. As each person’s path is individual there is no inherent incompatibility between the work of the Order and the individual work of a spiritual path. 

5. The Three Realms

Neart mara dhuit,
Neart talamh dhuit,
Neart nèimhe.
Mathas mara dhuit,
Mathas talamh dhuit,
Mathas nèimhe.
Power of sea be with you,
Power of land be with you,
Power of sky.
Goodness of sea be with you,
Goodness of land be with you,
Goodness of sky.
Collected by Alexander Carmichael

In as much as the provinces represent the horizontal cosmology of our order, the three realms represent the vertical axis of the world tree and our relationships with elemental forces, forces of soul/ self, and the realm of the archetypes/ Gods.
These are also the three realms of the shaman, as well as various other expressions of threefoldness including the Thelemic threefold of Hadit, Nuit and Ra-Hoor -Khuit. In the Irish tradition the vertical axis is invoked in such a way as to place the individual at the centre as the world tree. In the epic of the Tain the threefold is expressed as land, sea and sky. Based on an island, land beneath, waters around and sky above declares a natural order as well as an occult cosmology through the world tree.
Tied with this image are the three realms of the shaman. At the roots of the tree we have the aspect of sea/ water. This has a strong link with the unconscious and is analogous to the lower world of the shaman. Here the initiate encounters the ancestors and the nature spirits.
The bark of the tree can be experienced as the middle world; the here and now, but lived consciously with the forces of nature recognised as manifestations of spirit. The being of the land is aspected and personified through conscious living and observation of the subtle processes of the natural world.
The top of the tree can be viewed as the upper world of the shaman. Here the higher archetypes including the Gods and higher spiritual dimensions, such as the cities and the lords of the cities, are encountered.
The tree can alternately be imagined in the tradition of the life tree of the Qabalah (a school of jewish mysticism) with its roots in the sky and growing down into the underworld. The development of the image of the bile/ crann (the axis as the world tree) is an individual work which is best understood through personal meditation and experience.

6. Further Aspects

The cosmology detailed here defines the world around. The inner world of the individual is also a ripe subject. Many of the threads introduced here and others are explored more deeply in the first edition of the soon to be released journal of the Irish Order of Thelema, which will be released at the Vernal Equinox, so watch this space. 

Love is the law, love under will

For more information on the Irish Order of Thelema visit: