For purely reference reasons…

…here is the text of Paul Kingsnorth’s essay Elysium Found, written in praise for the documentary Arcadia (and used to publicise same), and withdrawn by the author after multiple accusations of green fascism.

 

(On this subject, I couldn’t possibly comment – oh no, wait, I’m about to do exactly that at Daily Grail.)

 

1346. A hostile French man-o-war approaches the Cornish coast. Is the sky grey, overcast, heavy? The sea is certainly churning. The vessel approaches the village of Padstow, where the crew prepare to drop anchor and make a sortie onto English soil. Then, on the beach, appears a strange creature: some horse-like being, dancing, whirling, kicking. It is like no other beast they have ever seen. Behind it process humans in red robes, carrying torches. The creature and its followers line up on the beach, daring the enemy to land. The ship turns, and makes for the open sea.

1588. The Spanish Armada approaches the Dorset coast. Sir Francis Drake, who as well as being an admiral, explorer and pirate, is also a witch, summons his fellow coven members high on to the cliffs at night. They circle in the dark, murmuring secrets. Together they summon up a great storm, which crashes down upon the approaching enemy ships and scatters them. The Armada fails. England is saved.

1805. Like the Spanish before him, the French Emperor Napoleon prepares to launch an invasion of England; but a group of Sussex witches have other ideas. Gathering on a full moon, as Drake and his fellows had done three centuries back, they too work a weather spell, calling up a south-westerly which leaves Bonaparte’s fleet stranded in the port of Boulogne. The invasion is called off.

1940. Following the calamity of Dunkirk, the magic island gathers its people to itself once more. On the eve of Lammas day, seventeen witches from different covens across the south of England gather in a pine grove in the New Forest, draw a magic circle, light a fire and raise a great ‘cone of power’, which they direct at the mind of Hitler in Berlin. The psychic message they project is stark: you cannot cross the sea. Again, the expected invasion never comes.

Perhaps these stories are true. Perhaps they are not.

This is a magic island. The land speaks through the people, the people speak of the land. They dance, naked or clothed, around the stones and in the streets. They climb over the broken walls that ring the housing estates, they gambol through the fields. There are fires in the hillforts at night, and things move in the woods, seen or unseen.

This is a magic island. It knows how to defend itself.

The truth was in the soil.

What if magic is real? What if the power of place speaks through the human forms that walk its surface? What if the truth is in the soil? These are the questions that Arcadia invites us to ask. No questions are less fashionable, or more dangerous, in the age of the Machine. Like the land itself, Arcadia provides no answers that can be comfortably categorised. Like this island, it is a multiplicity.

Children play in streets empty of cars. A community holds hands in a ring around a church. Naturists dance in the meadows, ridiculous and free. Wide eyes smile in black and white. A strange beast shimmies away from the camera. Men are dressed as walruses, sheep; a transformation is affected that for a second becomes real. There is a strange dreamlike quality to this lost Elysium. Dream and reality here are one; really, they were never anything else. This is folk magic. It is the summoning of a world we have lost.

What is this land?

This is our land of lost content.

What if we are the breath of the land? What if a place creates a people, and not the other way around? If we believe that to be true, we had better start paying attention to the songs we once sung, the stories we once told, the dances we once performed around the elms and through the closes.

This is England. There is nowhere else like it on Earth.

Arcadia is like a bucket of cold water to the face. Wake up! it shouts. Wake up! Look! This world you see on screen is alien, and yet it brings a shiver of recognition. What is that in the trees? What do I see from the corner of my eye? I have been here before.

Here is aboriginal Britain. You thought it was gone beneath a deluge of motorways and malls and screens and engines and scurrying human feet. Much of it is. But what remains? What remains, and what will you do with it?

A land of a great magic. A land of great mystery.

The island known as Great Britain is both of these things; less so than ever, but still, if you know where to look and know who to talk to, you can hear the old songs still sung. It is not always humans who sing them. All lands, all places across this wide Earth, are home to magic and mystery. The complex of human relationships which spring from those lands, the clots of shared behaviour which we call ‘cultures’, are distinct from each other because the places whose stories they tell are distinct also. A mountain people tells different stories to a people of the plains.

Britain no longer has a culture. Instead, it has a civilisation, and magic is anathema to civilisation. Civilisations suppress magic, and mystery, and beauty, and wonder. They overlay these rough superstitions with a patina of money and reason and progress, ringed around with border guards of scorn and dismissal. Civilisations are the enemies of real places. But magic will not be rooted out. Hidden, perhaps, around the edges of the fields; but never grubbed up.

A shadow has fallen on the land.

Patriotism has taken a beating in recent decades. The guardians of our civilisation tell us that attachment to place and tradition is reactionary, backward, dangerous. Like magic and mystery, attachment to land and history are things which belong to a dark and grim past, and should stay there. We are all progressives now. You are romanticising a past that never existed, they tell us. But it did exist, and not long ago. You can see it here, flickering in black and white. I defy any Briton to watch Arcadia and not feel a surge of patriotism; the real kind, the old kind. Not an attachment to monarchy or church, institution or government, idea or ideal, but the old pull of the land you walk on. The ground beneath your feet.

On this screen, the official flag ceremonies of the State – clean, white, ordered – contrast with dark soil, feathers from a dead bird, crooked old folk customs, half-whimsy-half-Wicker Man. The soil is older than the State, and will outlast it. But there is nothing to be scared of. It’s only magic. Listen. Watch.

Listen, watch, and you will see that the place, the landscape, is the star of this film. There is little human speech, and the human bodies that play across the screen are like fireflies in a forest at night. They are part of the scene, they light it up, they distract the eye, cause a few intakes of breath, but they are incidental in the end. The great, brooding presence of the trees is what frames the picture. The darkness around the edges, inviting and fearful.

What is this land?

There are spirits in every well, and each is subtly different from the other. Places do not take kindly to being homogenised. They don’t like being talked over. They like the people who sit by them and pay attention. When you pay attention, what do you notice? Do you feel the land breathing you in, then out again? What if you are the breath of the place? What if these dances, these songs, these rituals and ceremonies are a sensory image of the personality of the part of the Earth that manifests them? A folk map of Britain would show us the speech pattern of each river, the face of every field and spinney, the curve of every hill painted pewter by the moon.

We need a new humility and a reverence.

What happened to our Arcadia? We stopped listening to it. We stopped dancing, we moved away, we started listening to the chant of the Machine instead. It is debt we chase now, not the moon. We are individuals, not parts in a wider whole. In a broken time, it is taboo to remember what was lost, and that fact alone makes Arcadia a revolutionary document. Look, it says. This is how it was. This is what was broken. At night, when you lie awake with your phone flashing under your pillow – do you miss it?

One night we wake when the moon is nearing full, and we turn off the phone or grind it beneath our heel and we dress quickly and step out onto the grass, which is wet with dew. In the air we can hear cars and smell diesel but beneath that, and above it, something else. A thin, high song is being sung just beyond our horizon. We start to walk towards it.

Is something calling our name?

The moon is so bright tonight. Where is that song coming from? It seems to be all around. When we stop, we can hear it clearly. Now, dimly, we can see something approaching in the distance. It is coming closer.

It is not how they said it would be.

Now we find ourselves asking, in words we have heard before, only recently: what is this land?

A voice answers: it is you.

‘And so we return and begin again…’

Been a minute, folks… but I’m back. Part of this has been a series of woes with my former web hosts – fuck you very much, FatCow, and bless you Kay Orchison for saving my ass – the rest.. well, you can read about that below: this is the newsletter I just sent out.


IN WHICH YOUR NARRATOR BECOMES A VERY DULL CYBORG

(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of surgery and depression.)   

Thanks so much for sticking with me post-GDPR purge, after an absence of… oh shit, that long??

Well. Honestly, I had a good reason…

Basically, I was losing the use of my hands throughout 2017.

It started near the end of 2016. Kept up most nights with shoulder pain. Went to the doctor when the pain started to get worse and carry on through the day; I was also beginning to experience numbness down my arms and into a couple of my fingers. The doctor – a chap half my age, with the cheerful arrogance only an English public school can inculcate, told me it was “posture”: subtext, “sit up straight and get some exercise, you fat old man”.

Within the next couple of months, the numbness had spread to most of my fingers on both hands, and the chronic pain was joined with sudden shooting pains from the neck down to the fingertips. (On the 0 to 10 pain scale doctors use  – where my 10 is “waking up after the second debridement for my gangrenous foot, screaming like lava was being poured into the wound as soon as the general anaesthetic wore off” – the shooting pains were an 8, and happened daily at random.)

A better GP saw me, thankfully: he immediately put me on the waiting list for an MRI and started me on fentanyl for the pain. Not a fan of opiates, but I accepted them eagerly.

My last newsletter went out 5 October ’17. At that point, I could no longer hold a knife safely enough to cut vegetables for cooking, and I had sunk into the worst depression of my life.

All I could see was what I was losing. Typing became nearly impossible; clumsiness was my norm. I’ve done some martial arts: I could no longer make a fist. I picked up some stage conjuring skills in my youth, literal legerdemain: I could not even hold a coin securely. When I touched my wife’s skin, I could barely feel her.

Day by day, my life… emptied.

The MRI happened a couple of weeks before The Indelicates’ October Ritual: an amazing event that I was honoured to be involved in, and one where the magic (mental and/or otherwise) was just enough to carry me through.

The diagnosis: two ruptured cervical discs, complicated by bone spurs growing into my spinal nerves. Basically, early onset arthritis had eaten part of my spine and was now chewing on my central nervous system. I was put on the urgent waiting list for spinal surgery.

The surgeon in Leeds was very clear on the possible failure modes of the operation, to the point of bluntness. Though the odds were below 1%, the first three on the list were:

Death; paralysis from the neck down; mutism.

This did not improve the depression, to put it mildly. I spent the next two months basically preparing to die. Badly. (I’m not a stranger to fear, for one reason or another. This was worse: a constant dread, empty and cold. The light fading from my life.)

I had the operation on 11 December. That morning, I held my wife as close as I could manage – her patience and love for me throughout was the only thing that let me hold myself even slightly together.

The nurse came to get me, walking me down to the operating theatre. I felt like I was on death row. But I put one foot in front of the other, all the time whispering to myself the prayer which has been my saviour for much of my life:

I must not fear

Fear is the mind-killer

Fear is the little-death which brings total obliteration…

The surgery is called anterior double discectomy with fusion. The surgeon cut my throat on the right hand side at the front, tilted my head back to open the entry wound wide enough for access. My larynx was clamped and pulled to one side – hence the possibility of mutism – my spine revealed, the broken discs were removed, replaced with sheets of titanium. The two vertebrae were encased in a web of more titanium and held in place with what’s basically a Meccano bar screwed to the front of my spine.

I woke up slowly in the recovery room. I could speak. I could move my fingers and toes. I was lucid enough to explain to the nurses what Fortean journalism is…

Within hours of the operation, the feeling began to return to my numb fingers. I was discharged the next day, already better than when I went in… apart from the spectacular scar across my throat.

I recovered well; did my physio and rested lying flat and still like a good lad. By mid-January, I was almost back to my normal self…

…and then my wife and I fell to a flu which lasted four whole months. Just over it now, mostly.

So, that’s where I’ve been. Shit, as they say, happens.

Some time back, I was involved with the nascent Grinding movement: the community of DIY transhumanist experimenters partly inspired by the Warren Ellis/Ivan Rodriguez comic Doktor Sleepless. I have now finally become a cyborg… of a very commonplace, mundane type. No extras, no upgrades. But I got back most of what I thought I had lost forever which, frankly, is far better.

The tech which really helped me through this was all external. As I could no longer hold books in my hands, I got a tablet holder with a gooseneck attachment, which I clamped to the headboard of my bed: this, along with a Bluetooth mouse, let me read ebooks while flat on my back. The other device which helped a lot was my smartwatch: earlier in the year I finally surrendered my beloved-but-obsolete Pebble Time and got an Android one. The cheapest one on the market, the Ticwatch E, which is no worse in the most important area of battery life than the more expensive ones. The voice-activated Google Assistant became a new limb.

While I was down, a lot of interesting things have happened in the aftermath of the work I’d done earlier that year: the Discordian/Wonderist current has grown mightily – Salena Godden’s poem ‘Pessimism Is For Lightweights’ (a philosophy which I struggled to maintain throughout my problems, usually not that successfully) has become both a rallying cry and an installation at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery (an old haunt of mine).

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of John Higgs performing the talk which gave that poem its’ name at the Cosmic Trigger play’s last night, and of my closing ritual for the event which birthed Wonderism. As a celebration of this, Daisy Campbell is sharing the video of the Alan Moore/Adam Curtis panel which happened between those two, only to subscribers to her newsletter. (Sign up here. Trust me on this, it’s something to see. cosmictriggerplay.com, bottom of the home page.)

The next event from this gorgeous and insane crew is Catch 23 in Sheffield: a one-day event on 7 July, along the lines of the Super Weird Happening in Liverpool last April Fool’s – 14 hours of wacky fun, great music and as much Wonderism as you can handle. It will mark my first public appearance since the op. I’ll be holding an upgraded version of my Defence Against The Dark Arts introductory workshop – times like these, kit which is needed more than ever.

(Oddly, Sheffield is hosting my only other gig booked this year, an event by the British wing of the IOT. I’l be talking about pop culture belief systems, and the cunning-craft of Hookland. More about that soon, I hope.)

As for the Brexit curse? Well, you tell me…

I read a lot while I was infirm. Most of it was fairly light fare – a shitload of daft action-packed urban fantasy and thrillers. I only read one book twice: Nick Harkaway’s astonishing novel GNOMON, which you really should have read by now. If not – fix that. It’s the most mind-altering work of fiction I have read since The Invisibles.

Also watched a lot of telly – one thing I enjoyed more than I thought I would was the adaptation of Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, the first episode of which aired on my 54th birthday: some of the changes made for TV worked really well for me. I loved Chris Conner as the hotel AI Poe, and I had one of my getting-wisdom-from-pop-culture moments from the combination of Quellism and the Envoy training, as personified by Renée Elise Goldsberry’s performance as Quellcrest Falcolner: I see a strong connection to the cunning-craft, and have found a kind of Zen strength during my recovery, in her phrase;

We are Envoys, and we take what is offered.

(And while we’re on the subject… I’ve also been inundated during my recovery with ideas and pieces of prose for my long-delayed book on pop culture belief systems, New Gods and Monsters, which is, finally, an actual work-in-progress. The book couldn’t be written until the Trumpian era, with its twisting and the orthodox religious resistance to the postmodern killing of the Grand Narrative: now, it has an ending.)

Oh, and THEY SAVED THE EXPANSE!

That’s about all I can manage right now. Thanks for reading… I hope little intervenes before the next time.

Long Live The NHS.

DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #5: The Authenticity Rant

Posted here for reference, one of the most important things I ever read in a comic book: the rant on the nature of ‘authenticity’ in music, personality and life from 2007’s Doktor Sleepless issue 5, “Your Imaginary Friend”.

I gave a spoken-word performance of this piece in 2014 at Treadwells as part of my talk ‘Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic‘.

(Worth noting that an earlier issue also contains the retelling of Alexandra David-Néel’s tulpa experience, which I discuss in my recent academic paper The Tulpa In The West.)

I was also recently delighted to discover one of the ur-texts for this piece: Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music by Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor  (ISBN: 9780571226597, which has the Big Bill Broonzy information and a treasury of other tales in this fascinating area. A must-read if any of this interests you.

All rights to this piece remain with writer Warren Ellis, artist Ivan Rodriguez and Avatar Press.

doktor5.3

 

It’s 1991. Richey Manic is carving something into his arm because Steve Lamacq has suggested that The Manic Street Preachers lack an essential authenticity. What’s echoing in the backstage room is the voice of Ian Brown, still saying “Cos it’s 1989.Time to to get real.” In 1999 Godspeed You! Black Emperor start releasing CD’s sleeved in untreated cardboard. Intended or not, it denotes authenticity. Keeping it real. Like brown paper bags from Muji, founded 1980: Full name Mujirushi Ryohin, which means “No Brand, Quality Goods.”
Godspeed You! Black Emperor didn’t play the media game. Half of them were anarchists, and all of them hated the music industry. But of course they had a brand. You can’t help but notice that Naomi’s Klein’s book “No Logo” had a fucking logo on the front. Godspeed’s brand was authenticity. That’s what they had to sell. And if they didn’t sell records and gig tickets, then they were just 12 guys in Montreal eating ramen until they died. Richey Edwards couldn’t be Richey Manic, THAT RICHEY, unless he sold you on the concept that he was 4 real. Ian Brown and the Stone Roses couldn’t be that band, the band of the moment with the authentic voice that turned out to be the band in the right place at the right time and raised everyone up – unless they were more real than you.

 

Around the turn of the century Justin Timberlake began to carry around with him a group of black vocalists, whose job it apparently was, in live performances, to declare how “real” Justin Timberlake was before he began to sing. In 1938, sharp-dressed bluesman Big Bill Broonzy who’d been tearing up Chicago, played New York for the first time. But a blues guitarist in a good suit brewing up the primal muck of rock n’ roll with drummers and bassmen didn’t seem authentic enough to the Carnegie. So the concert programme described him as a poverty-stricken farmer who “had been prevailed upon to leave his mule and make his very first trek to the big city.” And they had him do acoustic guitar blues on his own. From there to his death twenty years later, he booked pretty much nothing but solo acoustic gigs. Because fake Big Bill Broonzy was deemed the authentic version.

 

No matter that he pioneered electric instruments in the blues, and was also recording with people like Pete Seeger, who wanted to take an axe to the cables when Dylan went electric in 1965. He changed his story in later years, but he was clearly offended by Dylan’s sudden inauthenticity, that maybe he’d been championing a fake all along. Because no one ever knew, or every one pretended to not know, that Bob Dylan was a fictional person. His authenticity was entirely constructed. Bob Dylan and Superman are the two greatest American myths created in the last century.

 

Who the hell wants to be real?

 

In 2006, Bob Dylan’s playing ” The Levee’s Gonna Break” Except the song’s called ” When the Levee Breaks” and it’s by Memphis Minnie. And she’s playing it in 1929, a few years before she moves to Chicago to tear up the town with Bill Broonzy. Who’s Memphis Minnie? One of the other great electric blues pioneers. And her name is actually Lizzie Douglas. And she’s not from Memphis either.

 

Authenticity? Authenticity is bullshit. Never more so than today. We can be anyone we can imagine being. We can be someone new every day.

 

You know why Grinders never got any respect in this town?

See if any of these comments are familiar:

‘You should be happy with who you are.’
‘Be yourself’.
‘That stuff is just fake.’
‘Don’t get any ideas above your station.’
‘Take that shit off.’
‘Dress Properly.’
‘Why can’t you be like everyone else?’

 

Yeah?

 

We are not real enough. We are not authentic to our society. Free speech does not extend to our own bodies.

 

But you know what? Back in the days before the internet, a kid called Robert Zimmerman said, “Fuck that, I’m going to be the man I dream of being. I’m going to be someone completely new and write about the end of the world because it’s the only thing worth talking about.” And that was one guy in Minnesota, in the same decade the telecommunications satellite was invented. Imagine what all of us, living here in the future, can achieve.

 

Be authentic to your dream, be authentic to your own ideas about yourself. Grind away at your own minds and bodies and become your own invention. BE MAD SCIENTISTS.

 

Here at the end of the world, it’s the only thing worth doing.”

 

Announcing my first book: NEW GODS AND MONSTERS

I’m immensely happy to announce I have sold my first book.

New Gods and Monsters will be published by Daily Grail Publishing next summer.

Here’s the pitch:

“To a new world of gods and monsters!’
-Dr. Pretorius, in The Bride Of Frankenstein

Despite the predictions (and hopes) of some, the early 21st Century of the Common Era is not a time of less religion than before – 85% of the planet’s population profess to hold some religious belief. But… some of those beliefs are a long way from orthodoxy.

As a result of the rise in popular culture in the last century and the increasing speed and density of communications media to carry it, the modern world has a plethora of stories – avowed fictions among them – about religion, myth and magic to chose from. Increasingly, peoples’ beliefs are directly affected by these stories. Some believers take metaphorical comfort and confirmation of their own orthodox beliefs from them, some incorporate part of pop culture into their belief system… and some even take these fictional tales and treat them as the basis of their own new religions.

New Gods And Monsters is the story of these stories – how they began, how they became popular, the influence they can have on us and what they imply for a future seemingly ridden with religious strife.

This will be an expansion of my previously published thoughts on hyper-real religion, Slenderman, multi-model occultism and basically everything I care about, heavily revised and re-examined – plus a lot of new material on how mythology and stories intersect our modern world.

Catch-up: Speaking on Fandom, Religion, Robert Anton Wilson

Been a while since I updated, and a fair bit happened in the interim… (and I’m not even mentioning the many splendid gigs I went to!). The last 5 weeks were especially busy.

The end of July had a personal first: I was invited to give a lecture at an academic conference, based on blind-read peer review selection of my paper. This was a big deal for someone with no college at all!

The conference was on Fandom and Religion at the University of Leicester. It was a fascinating three days. Science fiction and fantasy fandom was only a small part of the range – there were great talks on the religious aspects of everything from Polish football teams to music fans (two talks alone on Bono!).

My talk was called The Tulpa In The West (which you can read at that link to academia.edu) here’s the abstract;

The concept of the Tulpa first appears in Western thought within the writings of world traveller and mystic Alexandra David-Neel in 1929, in her book Magic And Mystery In Tibet. In David-Neel’s account, the Tulpa (which she translates as ‘thought-form’) is a human-form, physically manifest ‘spirit’ entity created by her Buddhist-trained visualization and meditation. After creating her tulpa, she lost control of both its form and intent, having to eventually banish it back to wherever it came from. This concept has infiltrated both popular culture and the occultism of the 20th and 21st century.

Authors such as Walter B. Gibson (the creator of The Shadow) and comics scribe Alvin Schwartz have used the tulpa concept to describe elements of fictive reality leaking into the ‘real’ world. The tulpa has appeared in a variety of other modern works, ranging from TV shows such as Supernatural to the near-future science fiction comic book Doktor Sleepless. It also formed a major element in the origin of the fictionally-derived but potent urban myth of The Slenderman, and has led to magical practices such as the chaos magic ‘egregore’ summonings and the internet-originated, fandom-adjacent act of ‘tulpamancy’. I discuss the rise of this Westernised conception of the tulpa, its considerable variance from the actual praxis of Tibetan Buddhist worship and its implications for both our post-structural, ‘hyperreal’ society and modern occult praxis.

My enormous thanks to the scholars who organised, spoke at and attended this conference, who were uniformly kind and friendly to an unschooled weirdo.

Last week was a double-header. Some of you might recall my involvement in the stage version of Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger (as co-worker at the Liverpool street ritual which channeled the synchronicity powers of both Carl Jung and John Constantine, and then my being the surprise celebrant for director Daisy Campbell’s impromptu wedding the day after the premiere last November)… and that I gave a talk earlier in the year at Senate House Library on the subject of Wilson.

On 27 August, I gave a very expanded version of this talk at my beloved Treadwells bookshop, which seemed to go down well. I’ll hopefully be posting a YouTube video of the talk over the weekend for those unable to attend. As Daisy, Kate Alderton (who played Arlen Wilson in the play) and my Daily Grail colleague/instigator/KLF biographer John Higgs were in the audience, it was quite the reunion… and one which continued into the next day.

On the 28th, John Higgs held the launch for his new book, ‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The 20th Century‘, which I can’t recommend too highly. This book deserves to be as big a hit as A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME & read by far more of its purchasers.

It takes all the major developments through that century – from shifts in art and culture to the end of empires, the birth of science fiction and our networked world – and not only explains their development lucidly and ties the whole lot together, he makes it downright hilarious in places. (Especially how he explains postmodernism by comparing it to Super Mario Bros.)

It was great to see the enthusiasm for John’s work here, and meet up with even more of the Cosmic Trigger crew. Even more exciting: Daisy unveiled plans to bring the play to the US in 2017, the tenth anniversary of Bob’s Death. Santa Cruz, Ca, 23 July. Make a note!

Talks and talking

I did a podcast a couple of days with my friend and fellow Grinder Mikey Pirate (who is totally not the leader of an Asteroid Death Cult): we talked about the usual stuff – hyperreal religion, metafiction, Trickster Gods, Slenderman, Babylon 5‘s Rangers and why those who cosplay the Engineers from Prometheus might not be the nicest people to have over for a cup of tea.

Here it is:

 

Next week, I’m giving two different talks in London on two consecutive days:

22nd April, I’m speaking at the Royal College of Art’s Battersea campus (RCA students only, sadly) on neopaganism, the hyperreal (again), authenticity and Midsummer.     Details here.

On the 23rd, appropriately enough, I’m giving a talk on ‘Robert Anton Wilson – Gnostic Agnostic’ at the University of London’s Senate House Library’s ‘Marginal Presences’ Symposium – there should still be tickets available for this, and you can learn more here.

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: you can listen to it here:

 

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.jasoncolavito.com/pauwels-bergier-and-lovecraft.html

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

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/

(This is where you can get the excellent Miskatonic University t shirt I wore, by the way.)

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

The Michel Houellebecq HPL piece. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jun/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview6

 

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

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.

Continue reading “Sisters – A Thought Experiment”

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.