RAW MAGIC & other talks

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The video of my Treadwells talk “RAW MAGIC: The Occultism of Robert Anton Wilson” is now up at YouTube.

As the machine ran out of memory five minutes before the end, the finale is a slideshow over the audio.

The Q&A session after is split off into a separate audio with slideshow, which is here:

Many thanks to Christina and co. at Treadwells for being the marvellous hosts they always are, Marco Visconti for shooting the video and especially Nic Alderton for volunteering to lipsync the audio just as I was about to maim everybody who ever worked on iMovie!

I’m also very pleased to announce another event I’ll be speaking at: Spirits Of Place, in Liverpool on 2 April 2016:

A series of interlinked talks, readings, and interviews taking their cue from their surroundings: Calderstones Park, the carved neolithic stones which give the area its name, the City of Liverpool, and the county of Merseyside as a whole.

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS SO FAR

Ramsey Campbell (author)

Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent (author)

John Reppion (author)

CALL FOR PAPERS

The organisers would welcome abstracts for twenty to thirty-minute papers/talks/presentations which use some aspect of the geography, or history of the event location as their jumping off point, core, or root. Suggested topics include but are in no way limited to:

Neolithic burial mounds and Rock Artwork

Fictional works set in, around, or inspired by the locale

Beatle-lore

Prehistoric Liverpool/Merseyside

Local myths and legends, ancient and/or modern

The Allerton Oak, oak and treelore

 

I’ll be giving a talk about urban magic and the dérive – no doubt with a mention of things like the Cosmic Trigger street ritual at Jung’s bust in Mathew Street. Hope to see some of you there!

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.

Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes

I am pleased to be able to post the video of my 12 February 2015 Treadwells talk on ‘Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism’. My huge thanks to the Treadwells staff as always, especially to Marco Visconti for filming and editing the talk.

The YouTube video went live on 27 February – tragically, this was the day Leonard Nimoy died. Out of the huge respect I had for the man, and how he embodied the concepts of IDIC which I explored in the talk, I waited to post this until now.

(And, not long after, Terry Pratchett also died. I’m glad to have given both these gentlemen some small tribute here.)

As some of the audience requested, I have a few footnotes on the talk below.

Continue reading “Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes”

Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic: talk & footnotes

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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”

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)

 

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.

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.

 

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.