Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic: talk footnotes

cthulhutalkpic

On 3 December I gave a talk at Treadwells on about how Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos – both in his hands and in those of his contemporaries and followers – had been a surprisingly potent influence on modern occultism. It seemed to go pretty well… for the first time ever, a talk of mine was both sold out and had a ticket waiting list!

Sadly, plans to video the talk fell through, but there was an audio recording made: hopefully, Treadwells will get that posted sometime soon for you.

Quite a few of the audience asked for a list of footnotes and links for the stuff I referenced, so here we are.

First thing is the bit of research I didn’t get the chance to do… ST Joshi’s mammoth Lovecraft biography, I Am Providence, which looks fascinating. (I did read some of his shorter essays, though – start here.)

LOVECRAFT

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/10/13/heres-why-h-p-lovecraft-matters-more-than-ever/

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/09/ghostbusting-lovecraft A great thinkpiece on Ghostbusters as the most optimistic expression of the Mythos.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/20/ten-things-you-should-know-about-hp-lovecraft

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society are at http://www.cthulhulives.org/

Their history: http://www.cthulhulives.org/whatisit2.html

(This is where you can get the excellent Miskatonic University t shirt I wore, by the way.)
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jun/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview6  The Michel Houellebecq HPL piece.

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/pauwels-bergier-and-lovecraft.html

http://lovecraft.wikia.com/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos

Official history of the tabletop roleplay game:

http://www.hplovecraft.com/life/myths.aspx

 

http://www.chaosium.com/on-call-of-cthulhu/

Alan Moore on his published and upcoming HPL comic books:

http://thequietus.com/articles/16129-alan-moore-providence-cthulhu-philosophy-language-lovecraft

Plush Cthulhu history:
http://www.toyvault.com/history.html

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2012/mar/07/cuddly-cthulhu-hp-lovecraft-merchandising

On HPL & the World Fantasy Award furore: http://www.elizabethbear.com/?p=2513

Me on True Detective and The King In Yellow: http://www.spiralnature.com/culture/hype/true-detective-flat-circle-chapel-perilous.html

FICTION

As ever, one core aspect of my talk was Adam Possamai’s theories regarding Hyperreal religion. You can read my in-depth introduction to his ideas in the Darklore journal here:

http://darklore.dailygrail.com/samples/DL8-IV.pdf

MAGIC

My main source for the history of chaos magic and HPL’s influence was The History of British Magick After Crowley by Dave Evans: it’s not specific about the influence of Robert Anton Wilson on the original cohort, but his thought is clearly present.

If you haven’t done it already, read Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati. If you have, then read it again. And if you ever get the chance, see the play.

Fnord.

If there’s any specific questions about the talk, please drop them in comments.

campuscrusadecthulhu

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Sisters – A Thought Experiment

Imagine there are three sisters. Identical triplets.

Each of them shares a passionate enthusiasm for occult mysticism, and has had more than one mystical experience (an Unverified Personal Gnosis, if you will) with a godform. As a result, each has assiduously attempted to follow what this contact, and their resulting studies, has shown them. Each tries to follow their indicated Path with respect and understanding. None make any claim that their path is universal or the One True Way.

Here’s the differences:

The first sister’s worship is of a deity which is not from the culture or ethnic group of her birth.

The second sister worships an ancient god, but their worship does not resemble any of the reconstructions of that system, and parts of her praxis are at variance with the historical record.

The third sister worships a deity only found in pop culture.

So: which one of the sisters is Doing It Wrong the worst?

Show your work.

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Doctor Who: Time Heist – a review in 3 pictures

THIS

PLUS THIS

EQUALLED THIS

Nice and smooth.

My man Mr. VI – no, not the one up there – has noted the gnostic and alchemical elements of the episode. I’ll add that, if you count The Doctor twice (because The Architect), the heist team/Invisibles cell is five people…

 

FOOTNOTE FOR THE EXCESSIVELY GEEKY

The Leverage team can be modelled as having the same format as an Invisibles cell, based around the 5 element structure this:

AIR: (Yellow) – Leader – Nate Ford

EARTH: (Black) – Logistics – Alec Hardison

FIRE: (Red) – Combat/Security – Elliot Spencer

WATER: (Blue) – Psychological Ops – Sophie Devereaux

SPIRIT: (White) – ‘Heart’ – Parker

(There’s also the Brains/Hacker/Hitter/Grifter/Thief pentuplet from the show, but we’ll put that to one side for now…)

In Time Heist, the same Invisibles cell structure would apply, if you include both of The Doctor’s roles:

AIR: (Yellow) – Leader – The Doctor

EARTH: (Black) – Logistics – The-Doctor-as-The-Architect

FIRE: (Red) – Combat/Security – Psi

WATER: (Blue) – Psych Ops – Saibra

SPIRIT: (White) – ‘Heart’ – Clara (damn it)

 

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Update: Darklore 8, More Spiral Nature, Slenderman Talk

Things continue to happen…

The biggest is the appearance of volume 8 of Darklore, on sale now.

The line-up is:

  • Mike Jay dives into the strange history of ‘sane hallucinations’

  • Martin Shough investigates the ball lightning enigma, and the way science has approached the mystery as compared to the UFO phenomenon

  • Joanne Conman discusses her revolutionary theory about ancient Egyptian astronomy

  • Daniel Bourke compares modern accounts of post-death consciousness with the descriptions of the world beyond found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead

  • Cat Vincent examines the rise of pop culture-based, hyper-real religions

  • Blair MacKenzie Blake revisits the strange history of the Shaver Mystery craze

  • Lucy Ryder explores the history of ‘corpse roads’ through archaeology and folklore

  • Ray Grasse asks the question: what does it mean when weird things happen?

  • Martin J. Clemens looks into reports of a 24,000-year-old pyramid in Indonesia

  • Robert M. Schoch explores the nature of death and consciousness

  • Alistair Coombs goes in search of the ‘Cult of the Cosmic Bull’

  • Greg Taylor reports on the ‘dying light’ witnessed by some people at the passing of a loved one

You can also read my article “Believing In Fiction: the Rise Of Hyperreal Religion” as a free sample here (pdf).

Also upcoming (hopefully 24 September)  is the next post in my ongoing Spiral Nature column The Hype: This time I’ll be talking about a very personal experience in the use of pop culture symbology in magic, and issues of cultural appropriation. Hint:

Oh, that knife…

Finally, a reminder that my talk for the London Fortean Society “Searching For Slenderman” takes place in a couple of weeks. Venue is The Bell pub in London’s East End, on 8 October at 7:45PM. Tickets are £3/£2 concessions.

Here’s the blurb:

The Slenderman. Born barely five years ago in an online Photoshop competition, this faceless creature’s mythology rapidly spread across the internet, inspiring video series, Alternate Reality Games, stories… and nightmares. Earlier this year, its influence may have led to the attempted murder of a child by other children. A creature of pure fiction, drawing blood. Cat Vincent takes a look at the origins, evolution and implications of this most modern of monsters.

Hope to see some of you there.

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Serenity

(No, not that one.)

 

There’s this prayer. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s called the Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve hated that prayer ever since the first time I ever it, and I finally figured out why.

It’s those first three words.

“God grant me…”

No. Fuck no.

Starting that group of words with those three not only contradict the meaning of the rest, but cheapens them. Everything else about it is so utterly true that the prelude makes it the worst kind of lie.

And, if you think that prayer is a sub-set of spellcasting (and of course I do), it’s the most selfish, passive-aggressively whiny spell I can possibly think of.

That kind of courage, self-insight, wisdom? That’s not something that should be granted to a person. That needs to be earned. Tested in actual experience, by facing your own choices ruthlessly and dealing with them, and their consequences, with utter honesty. And, of course, surviving that experience.

Getting it through other means is like beating the final boss in a game with cheat codes – a meaningless victory which teaches you nothing at all.

Having a god just give it to you? That’s not a miracle.
That’s a bribe.

Go find it yourself. Then, you might find serenity.

 

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One of *those* dreams…

I’ve been a lucid dreamer ever since I was a kid. Things can get… intense in there. Also, having ruined upgraded my mind with extensive pop culture magical workings, a lot of that sort of thing turns up in my dreamscapes.

Even by my standards, the dream I had Sunday/Monday this week was a doozy.

I was investigating a haunted/cursed English Stately Home with an unidentified female companion. (She didn’t say much, looked maybe a bit like Clara in Doctor Who – which would explain why I didn’t talk to her much, ‘cos I can’t stand Clara). Not unlike my old Athanor Consulting tradecraft – a careful walk through and scan of the place, assuming combat conditions. Found what looked a lot like a grimoire which, when picked up and opened by Not-Clara (typical!), annoyed the local entity I’d been sent to deal with.

Said entity was a bit tasty, to put it mildly. It immediately possessed the entire building and began to form the stones into a giant humanoid shape. In the middle of doing this, John Constantine stepped out of the shadows… just in time for me, he and Not-Clara to grab the stonework and be pulled up onto the giant golem’s shoulder. The monster strode across the night-time English countryside, clearly with some awful purpose in mind.

While clinging on, I got the sense that the thing wanted to ‘meet’ the Queen. As in, kill her. For some reason, this bothered me (dreams can be weird like that), so I got out my phone.

“Who the bloody hell do you think you’re calling?”, John asked.

“Who do you think?” I replied – and dialed 999.

When the operator answered, I said “This is a Cobra 666 alert, repeat Cobra 666”, and got put through to, basically, the Ministry Of Magic, Covert Ops Division. I identified myself, noting that I was with ‘Designation Conjob’, told them what was happening, and told them to have the Queen immediately helicoptered to (my birthplace of) Gravesend, Kent.

I had, it seems, a plan.

It was apparent that the stately home (before going all Transformers) was somewhere in Essex, because we were approaching the river Thames from the North. This formed the basis of my plan. As the Stately Golem started to wade across the Thames to reach the Queen, I gave John a nod and we shouted together these magic and holy words…

“OI! CHUMMY! SOUTH OF THE RIVER, THIS TIME OF NIGHT??”

This distracted Stately Golem just enough for me to blind it in one eye (with the laser pointer/wand I always carry), which in turn gave me a few seconds to cast a spell: using the motto of the City of London (in a riff off Kate Griffin’s magical system in her urban fantasies) Domine Dirige Nos (‘Lord, Protect Us’), I called on Old Father Thames. Two huge hands made of water appeared and pulled the golem apart… throwing Constantine, Not-Clara & I into the water.

Not-Clara and I swam to the Gravesend side of the river, climbed out up some old stone steps. Standing waiting for us on the bank in the fog, bone-dry and smoking a cigarette, was Constantine. He smiled, nodded, walked off saying “Nice one. See you later, mate.”

I yelled after him (very sensibly) “I’m not your friend, John! I’m just a colleague!”

Not-Clara and I walked into the fog and, I swear, as I started to wake up, theme music started playing.

The music was this:

(the middle-to-end section with the Beatles-like orchestral crescendo).

That was a good’un. Never had theme music in a dream before, and the South Of The River gag was marvellous. That’ll do, subconscious – that’ll do.

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My Fortean Times feature on Slenderman

So, this happened… I wrote the cover feature for this month’s Fortean Times.

Ever since I first read FT as a kid (when it was still a fanzine rather than a professional monthly), I had a dream that I’d be in its pages some day – maybe in an article about weird shit, possibly in a review or even a memorial in the Strange Deaths column!

To not only be commissioned to write for them, but to get the cover first time out, is literally a dream come true – and the highlight of my writing career so far.

Huge thanks to FT editor David Sutton for asking me to write for them, Jenny Coleman for her interesting alternate view of Slendy alongside my piece and Etienne Gilfillan for the beautiful cover art.

Issue 317 of Fortean Times is out now.

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Me, Jung and Constantine

…and because it’s that kind of week, the video of me and Daisy Campbell doing the combined Carl Jung/John Constantine street ritual for Cosmic Trigger as mentioned here just went up.

Thanks to cameraman Nic Alderton for this.

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Update: Hyper-real in the Year of the Slenderman

It’s been a while since I put up a post – a lot’s been happening. For one thing, I turned fifty years old – and honestly, it feels pretty good.

I have a new monthly column at the venerable occulture site Spiral Nature: called ‘The Hype’, I’m taking a look at currents in occult-related pop culture which are sliding further into both the cultural mainstream and the ‘real’ world. The first piece sets up my angle of attack (using the perspective of sociologist Adam Possamai and his theories on hyper-real religion – hence the name). The second article considers the way True Detective brought the cosmic horror of The King In Yellow to a far wider audience and the third, up today, considers The-City-As-Character in urban fantasy – with a specific, personal focus on London.

(My interest in Possamai’s models will also be involved in my next piece for the Darklore journal, coming later this year.)

I’ve been doing more for Daily Grail, including my partial review/flag-waving for the upcoming stage adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiography Cosmic Trigger which promises to be extraordinary (there’s a crowdfunding campaign for a planned 23 November premiere in Liverpool – get on that!). I’ve also done a review of the recent Current 93 gig at Halifax Minster church and the NSA’s facial recognition algorithm seen in light of the prescient (and excellent) TV show, Person Of Interest.

And then there’s Slenderman…

At this point, pretty much everyone has heard about the shocking events in Wisconsin: the attempted murder of a twelve year old girl by two of her friends, trying (allegedly) to sacrifice her in order to become Slenderman Proxies. News agencies across the world have been trying to get a handle on this ever since – I was interviewed for The Guardian a few days after it happened. Then, two more cases involving Slenderman happened – one was a similar attack by a child upon her mother, the second an aside in the multiple cop-killing in Las Vegas by a husband-wife pair, whose interests included right-wing extremism and cosplaying as Joker/Harley Quinn and Slenderman.

Two days after the latter attack, it was the fifth anniversary of Slenderman’s birth – I noted the occasion for Daily Grail.

And… I’ve been commissioned by Fortean Times to write a feature on Slenderman for the next issue. This is a big deal for me, to put it mildly. I hope to do the subject – and the fall-out from the Wisconsin tragedy – justice.

It’s a strange world, and getting stranger by the day. Be safe out there, folks…

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Slenderman: Fight Fiction With Fiction

I had the great pleasure of giving a talk about Slenderman (based on my two Darklore articles, but expanding on the practical occult aspects) at the celebrated Treadwells bookshop in London on 25th November 2013ce. Now, the video of the talk is available on YouTube.

If I can clean up the audio, I’ll post the Q&A session later.

As I had a few requests for it, the transcript for the original script is below the cut – but you’l have to watch the video for my hilarious improvisations and my appalling Alan Moore impersonation!

 

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