Jake Stratton Kent vs Magickal Lodges pt 2   19 comments

Welcome back, Aspirants!

In my last post, I shared with you an “anti-secret society” manifesto posted by Jake Stratton Kent to my Solomonic group, along with rebuttals made by myself, Nick Farrell, Peregrin Wildoak and others.  In case you are just joining us, I want to make it clear that Jake and I are friends who each have a deep respect for the work and scholarship of the other.  So this isn’t any kind of in-fighting or conflict – it’s just a healthy fraternal debate that has brought up all sorts of interesting points.  If you haven’t read my last post and followed all the links I provided, I urge you to do that now before reading on…

You all caught up now?  Good, let’s continue:

In this post, I’m going to share Jake’s Open Message to the Golden Dawn Community, which he wrote in response to the rebuttals he received to his manifesto.  But before I do that, I want to offer a few more introductory paragraphs about the work Jake and I have been doing over the last several years.

Jake and I have never actually collaborated on any joint projects.  We are simply two guys with similar interests/goals who know one another via several internet forums.  Some of our work appears together in an anthology or two from Scarlet Imprint,  And Jake has told me that he received some amount of inspiration for his Geosophia from my publications about the grimoires’ relation to shamanic vocation.  (I wonder if he was mostly being nice when he said that.  lol)

The goal that Jake and I share goes somewhat beyond merely redefining the Solomonic grimoires and the concept of goetia for occultists.  Our true secret conspiracy is to plant seeds in what we believe to be the modern age’s fertile soil for a new kind of occult revival.

When you look at indigenous cultures around the world – native America, Africa, South America, the Caribbean islands, etc – you will quickly discover they all possess occult traditions and folk magick that dates back hundreds and thousands of years.  We can point to examples in the ATRs (Santeria, Palo-Mayombe, Voodoo, etc), Mexican Brujería, Native American Shamanism, and even syncratic folk traditions like Hoodoo and Hexcraft – just to name a few.  While all of these traditions have been influenced by outside sources (such as Christianity), all of them have persisted in their cultures without a historical break.  Their brands of occultism are true living traditions, with relevance to the entire host culture – not just a few isolated scholars and religious sub-cultures.

Western culture, on the other hand, does not enjoy this reality.  Our occultism and folk magick developed naturally for thousands of years, and then hit the massive brick walls of the Roman Catholic Church and (later) the Age of Enlightenment.  During these periods magick was first outlawed, and then ridiculed, so that it finally became a relic of the past.  Western culture moved on without its shamans and lost its connection to its native spirits – leading us ultimately to the world of corporate rule and rampant consumerism we all suffer from today.

Of course, this is not to say that Western occultism was successfully stamped out.  Throughout the centuries, the Light has been kept alive by a few obscure individuals and several mystical groups – but the common “man on the street” either doesn’t know any of this exists, or is vaguely aware that “some wackos” engage in strange religious practices.  For most Westerners, occultism has zero impact on their daily lives.

By the time we got to the late 1800s and early 1900s, Western occultism was literally starting from scratch.  As Jake has pointed out, the modern occult revival launched primarily from a masonic model.  And it pieced together what it could from dusty old books found in nearly forgotten archives, a few early archeological digs in Egypt, a largely watered-down understanding of Buddhism and heaping doses of psychology and Jungianism.  They did the best they could with limited information (and an overwhelming Christian bias) – and they really did achieve a lot under the circumstances.  It was the birth of the modern lodge-style systems of magick.

But what the Golden Dawn, Thelema and even Wicca have never achieved is the re-establishment of an occultism that is relevant to the day-to-day life of greater Western culture.  We remain obscure sub-cultures.  How rare is it, for example, for a layperson to seek out their neighborhood Golden Dawn wizard or Wiccan when they are facing hardships in their lives?  For healing or exorcism?  For rituals related to birth, marriage or death?  For that matter, how often does a Western layperson even consider the Gods and spirits who share and govern their world, or think even once about how to strike a balance and harmony with such entities?

What Jake and I – and a good many others  – see in the grimoires are manuals to accomplish all of the above.  They contain catalogs of the native spirits of the West, and the shamanic methods of interacting with them.  True shamans don’t learn their art in university or lodge-style settings – they learn directly from the spirits.  And the Solomonic system is designed for the very purpose of showing us how to contact them and re-establish the Western Goen.

The magickal lodges aren’t designed for this purpose.  I’ll return to that thought shortly – but for now I want you to keep all of the above in mind as you read Jake’s Open Message to the Golden Dawn Community:

An Open Message to the Golden Dawn Community

Various sources inform me that some of the Golden Dawn groups recognise their past failings and are ‘moving on’ now or soonish – that’s fine, even credible.

Meanwhile we have all sorts of attitudes and misconceptions in the occult community, originating precisely from the Golden Dawn, plus some help from Crowley and Grant. It doesn’t matter whether  Crowley is/was popular with this or that faction of the current Golden  Dawn community. If it is a community, it has a lot of work to do helping folks unlearn a lot of bullshit, and make space for better information. Sure, some Masonic tendencies in the occult community are not  entirely Golden Dawn related, but some very unhelpful and generic  problems DO originate in that area.

Particularly as regards traditional Goetia – to which the ‘standard bearers of the Occult Revival’ have done an immense collective disservice. This in several ways, and I need not emphasise Mathers’ editing and attitude flaws in his Key of Solomon or the still near universal semantic problems stemming from the Mathers/Crowley publication of the Goetia of Solomon. Waite’s ironic dismissal of the grimoires is also a comparatively minor matter. Aaron and others are quite capable of clarifying these details if need be. There is a more serious philosophical matter, which should alarm Western occultists across much of the traditional spectrum. It requires measured, reasonable but effective action, and cannot be avoided.

Mathers introduction of the Qliphoth into modern occultism has resulted, against considerable precedent, in an ‘anti-cosmic philosophy’ as one of the main features of modern Western Occultism. This is a disaster for Hermeticism and Neoplatonism, to which the Golden Dawn current among many Western schools essentially belong. These are positive philosophies, even with the inheritance of the ‘spirit/matter dichotomy’ inherent in Plato – which to a large degree Iamblichus resolved. The involvement of the premier occult ‘Secret Societies’ in Gnosticism – with its own pessimistic undercurrents – is also something Magical Orders need to clarify very firmly indeed.

The role of the Qliphoth in neo-occultism is also a greater disaster to understanding and reclaiming Goetia as a major formative ancestral current within Western Magic. Spirit work as a central part of western magic, long ‘demonised’ and driven underground, involves a spirit pantheon, traceable as early as the second century AD, and with older elements. These ‘Aerial spirits (demons or ‘third order angels’) have no real relation with the qlipoth whatever. The ‘fall out’ from the early revival as now represented in some quarters represents essentially a  whole new layer of demonisation, for which the legacy of the Golden Dawn bears much of the responsibility. This has social and philosophical ramifications which have to be considered, by would be Hierophants and Orders alike. Again, Grant’s contribution to this fiasco does not absolve the Golden Dawn legacy of responsibility for the ‘clear up’. I stress also that an ‘anti-Satanic’ crusade would not be constructive, what is required is due acknowledgment of the authentic goetic tradition. The ‘anti-spiritualist’ clause in the Magical Obligation is an additional obstacle to true progress in the ‘spirit work’ aspect of traditional magic. Methods involving states of passivity and loss of control should not be subject to an ideological taboo at the very base of the Pyramid.

Additionally, the Secret Society model has had a major impact on witchcraft, another aspect of my original statement. The ‘bogus history’ and resistance to change inherent in this model has not been useful there. Other strands of the modern ceremonial community  have also inherited problems (such as antipathy to spiritualism) from  the GD/AC legacy. One influential secret society has only added one  book to their curriculum since 1947 – that’s not a good precedent for  an occult vanguard. This all results from the self referential tendencies in the Secret Society model. A closed door to stop knowledge getting out eventually stops it getting in. To repeat, its all very well you guys  moving on – but you have a hell of a job catching up and clearing up,  not only your own act, but the semi generic mess your past mistakes  have encouraged.

Don’t just set up shop with some shiny ‘new improved’ labels. Occultism doesn’t need a new flavour in an old package. It needs to encourage self education regarding its traditions, from authentic primary sources and up to date research. It needs to understand the Western Tradition as a continuum, not a series of consumer niches  and disjointed re-enactment styles with no inter-relationships or  mutual influences. Rather than letting occultism get dumbed down   and commercialised through their neglect, the Mystery Schools must  exemplify Magic as an important formative aspect of Western Culture  and be worthy of their Calling.

Otherwise what’s the point of them?

First in my response, I’d like to address Jake’s comments about the Qliphoth.  I don’t want to spend much time on that here – since a really awesome discussion about the Qliphoth in Western occultism was already held on the Solomonic Group, and I highly recommend you check that out.

Moving on from that, I want to focus upon what I see as Jake’s misunderstanding of the proper role of secret societies in Western occultism.  (Derived, I suspect, from his negative experiences with some lodges from his past.)  While he makes several worthwhile points in his manifesto and open message, I still believe he is “conflating apples and oranges” in his feelings toward secret societies vs. folk magick.

As I said in my last post, I agree with Jake on several issues.  The old magickal lodges did get several concepts wrong, and many of those concepts ended up permeating the whole of Western occultism.  Work needs to be done to correct this:  hence books like Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, Geosophia and others.  Western occultism does not begin and end with the Golden Dawn.

Where I disagree with Jake is in his overall dismissal of the lodges themselves, and his suggestion that their continued existence is holding back the current Western occult revival.  Sure, as I stated previously, the lodges are not going to revive the Goen or make his services accessible to the standard Western layperson the way the Santo is available to his people.  But this doesn’t mean the lodges don’t have an important role to play.

In Secrets…, I devoted chapter three entirely to the subject of shamanism and the role it plays in society.  I then devoted chapter four entirely to the subject of the “temple faiths” and the social role played by the priest.  From there I argued that the Solomonic tradition was a melding of these two roles – an inherently priestly art that also requires one to fulfill the role of shaman to the community.  In other words, it involves all of the spiritual rectification and purification required to elevate oneself closer to God, but then asks one to turn back toward the world and use his new-found wisdom and power to help others with the most mundane issues.

As an illustration of this, I point to the Key of Solomon the King, which suggests one should “acquire the rank or degree of Exorcist” before attempting its spells.  That meant ordination in the Church and appointment to the Order of Exorcists.  And the Order of Exorcists wee doubtlessly the most “shamanic” of the priestly cast, being in charge of healing and dealing directly with the everyday problems of the people.

Acquiring the ordination is simply a method of gaining the spiritual authority necessary to be taken seriously by the spirits and angels.  (This is a subject I cover in some depth in Secrets…)  In this light, here is the response I posted to Jake concerning my involvement in both the Golden Dawn and Solomonic magick:

You are correct that the orders are not going in the direction that you are pulling. Even my own Solomonic work (which you know is pulling in pretty much the same direction as yours) is done outside the confines of my order. But I just can’t see my work in the order as some sort of detriment to my Solomonic work.

In fact, my work in the order plays a rather important role in my Solomonic practice. No, I don’t blend the systems – I don’t use Golden Dawn rituals and techniques as a basis for the grimoire magick. However, the grimoires *do* happen to mention in places that some sort of ordination is helpful in performing the magick. In other words – it helps if one undertakes some form of initiatory process.

I’m not a Catholic, so becoming a priest in the Church isn’t going to happen. However, I am a Gnostic and a Hermeticist – and as such I became “ordained” by working my way through the Golden Dawn’s Outer Grades and into the RR et AC. I have sat as Hierophant – which you could translate as “High Priest” – in my Temple and initiated others into the Tradition. (Currently I am a past-Hierophant, but I will sit as Hierophant again when my turn comes back around.)

In fact, I joined the Golden Dawn entirely on the orders of my Guardian Angel. For me, this is how I gained the spiritual authority necessary to hang out with the angels and spirits of the grimoires. When they say, “John Dee we know, Agrippa we know, but who are you?”, I reply, “I am Aaron Leitch, Frater Odo Caosg of the Isis-Urania Mother Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” – and it does indeed carry weight.

I’m certainly not saying that is the *only* way to gain the necessary spiritual authority. But it was the way for me, and it works. And I see just as much relevance in the order as I see in what you and I are doing with the Solomonic material outside the orders. The fact that they are different does not make them mutually exclusive.

LVX
Aaron

In essence, I believe what we are seeing in the current expansion of Solomonic and other systems of folk magick (including hoodoo, hexcraft, fam-trad witchcraft, etc) is the revival of Western shamanism.  What we are seeing in the growth of the Golden Dawn and other secret societies is the establishment of the priestly side of the occultism coin.

Sure, we’ve got plenty of priests in the Church, but they are largely divorced from and hostile to occultism, and thus cannot play a relevant role in the return of a shamanic culture.  (Crowley may have been correct when he suggested their day had passed.)  Today, a new kind of priestly caste is required for that to happen – and such a priesthood, in the form of secret societies like the Golden Dawn , is currently in its infancy.

If you look at ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Sumeria, Babylonia, Greece, early Rome, etc. you find examples of Temple priesthoods and common folk magick co-existing in harmony.  Each had its role to play in the daily lives of the greater community.  The two were not mutually exclusive and in fact supported one another in many ways.  I don’t believe either side of the coin – priestly or shamanic – must be abandoned in order for the other to prosper.

19 responses to “Jake Stratton Kent vs Magickal Lodges pt 2

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  1. Ah Aaron, why do yo post these interesting topics when I need to get some work done!

    First up why do you and others consider todays/last centuries dominant cult (“Paulainity”, RC / Anglo splinter groups) to be any different to the religious movements going before it? Have you not yourself said in your last entry about the Greek/Roman religious systems displacing earlier individual/gnostic practices (I believe your term was shamanistic or Geos). Just as the Northern Odinisic faiths developed over earlier ones.

    And in that light look about you! See who is the unquestionable leaders of revealed truth now that the churches are emptying. See there robes of white, their grimoire clipboards and research materials, their electronic altars, and speech that is indecipherable to the masses. These priests, like their predescessors have some glorious and inspirational prophets of the divine light of creation…and they have their laypriests right down to their witchdoctors in the back alley prescribing their snakeoil for ailments they don’t comprehend.
    Do not the people flock to them? Are the sects not fighting over whose truth is correct? Do the princes and merchants of the realm not get wealthy by marketing the product? The religion is still there growing strong…

    PS I disagree strongly about your observations on the grimoire traditions “growing”. We might have rather differing views on growth. I like to collect when I can afford it, real grimoires; for interest and profit. But frankly the modern stuff is fading. There is more magic potency in some of the blogs I’ve read, and better quality writing, than in some of the modern grimoires. And since they’re starting to look at el-cheapo options and pulp…it’s a sign of the times there.

    • Hey Mist,

      By “growing”, I wasn’t talking about the production of new modern grimoires – many of which are as disappointing to me as they are to you. Instead, I was speaking about the growing interest in the old grimoires – not just as historical curiosities, but actual interest in picking them up and putting them to use. There is a Solomonic movement out there, and it seems to be on the rise.

      • Yeah, that IS cool. I get that cross between Disney’s King Midas and kid-at-christmas feel every time someone puts some up. Part of the beauty is to be able to look back and find sources/explanations for the stuff we have inherited, see who their influences were, which cultures influenced development…and even more important which pieces have survived despite cultural influence!

        Although a few of the modern grimoires and treatises are well worth reading I’m sure everyone agrees. (to be fair to those who do write and produce quality).

  2. I’m really enjoying following this discussion and learning a lot. Regarding your point about the priesthood however, doesn’t this pre-suppose that both shamans and a priesthood are necessary? If there were enough working shamans, why would it be necessary for there to be a priesthood? Or in other words, how do you differentiate between the roles of a shaman in a society and a priest in a society? Specifically, what role do you envision them playing in your ideal vision of an occult revival?

    • I think it was Roman culture there were priests which did all the god bothering bits and offerings etc, and there were temple officials which ran the temples and ceremonies and took care of what we would look toward community celebrants to perform (including I assume sale and advice on personal home/ancestral altars that every family had and father officiated on). The two jobs being regarded by them (and many other cultures) as incompatible (the former being too sacred – and probably people too unworldy :) and the latter requiring more people and business skills than memory/ritual ones. )

      As the RC church has arisen in the Occidental world the former job has been phased out by interests in the latter….

  3. Trying to decide which blog to comment on was so challenging — the story and discussion seems to be sprawling out all over the place!

    I don’t know that I’m uniquely qualified to comment on this, but I spent some time in the arms of one of the great American Anglican seminaries. And I spent some time doing solo GD-style work. And some time in a Masonic lodge. And some time working with vegetable alchemy. And some time practicing Wicca and Druidry solo, and in groups. And I’ve been working through Strategic Sorcery and Rufus Opus for Hermetic material… So I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve dabbled. But I’d also claim that I’ve dabbled deeply in Mother Church, in the lodge, in solo work, and in group work.

    And it appears to me that all these different methodologies have important lessons to teach, and none of them can be, or should be, completely dispensed with. I’m prepared to acknowledge that some of this is a debate among wizards who are trying to understand the tradition. But I don’t feel like my own personal work reaches back to ancient Greece and the goen; it’s rooted in Renaissance practice and 19th century Freemasonry and Trimethius and the Druidic Revival (and Thomas Taylor’s Orphic Hymns, though eventually I wrote my own). I might wish it extended deeper, and I can read the Greek Magical Papyri and find ancestors of the stuff that I work with today… but is it the same current?

    I mean, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I live on a different continent than my ancestors of 60 generations ago… a continent with its own plant and animal spirits, its own cycles of time and transition, and its own modes of birth and growth and decline and decay. I can adapt some material from the Mediterranean and from Celtic lands to this new land we call North America (or more specifically what we now call “New England”, since I think that this new land is more diverse ecologically and spiritually than just ‘one America’).

    And our immediate ancestors, yes, had witchcraft. But they also brought Freemasonry here for other reasons than just escaping Anglicanism. They invented The Patrons of Husbandry and the Knights of Pithyas (someone just gave me a ritual book for the Grange from the 1950s the other week, and it’s AWESOME!). John Winthrop, former governor of Connecticut, was a practicing alchemist, and traded ideas and tips on working with local plants, with women who were later accused of witchcraft (while he was away overseas on colony business — he pardoned two of them when he came back).

    Anyway, my point is… I wouldn’t have as much access to and knowledge of magic without the lodge tradition; but I wouldn’t understand the lodge tradition without also having had in-depth understanding of the Church tradition; and I wouldn’t really be able to work in either tradition well at all without the solo work I’ve done on my own. The three are an interlocking set of experiences for me, and I wouldn’t give up any one of the three even if it gave me greater strength and power in the other two… if anything, I feel that working my way through the initiatory experiences in some of my groups has made me more effective in work in the other areas… but I’m effective in group work because I do solo work, and because I care about my more mainstream religious experiences.

    To argue that these are separable, one from another, strikes me as … hmm… missing the point.

    I’m reminded of a trio of gentlemen I met while in college. One was an American who had decided to ordain as a Buddhist monk, and practiced all the time. One was a dance instructor in my college, but that was just his day job; his original training was as a Bon shaman from Tibet. And the third was a Tibetan layman who ran a store. The Eastern cultures which have this ‘unbroken thread’ of tradition extending back in time… don’t they have multiple modes of practice of their magical traditions?

    More recently, I was looking through a book on Haitian Vodou (I never know how to spell that any more). And I was struck by the fact that there was a veve or sigil of the drummers. That there was a secret society of the drummers, or a lodge if you will. Turns out that there are a number of such ‘secret societies’, including one that involves dressing up in big cone-shaped costumes of twigs and branches, whose members imitate the spirits of justice, and call out and warn public rule-breakers. The Duvaliers’ secret police, the Tonton Macoutes, at least masqueraded as such a secret society, didn’t they? And doesn’t Haiti also have the Church? And solo practitioners?

    Maybe there is an “unbroken thread” in the West, too. I mean, if you look at a solid-color scarf, it’s hard to imagine that all those complicated whorls and loops and rings and dropped stitches and errors and rows upon rows of knits and purls are one thread. But they are. Even a multi-colored scarf with lots of complicated cabling and dropped stitches still consists only of a few basic individual stitch-forms. If we apply that metaphor to a society’s spiritual traditions, we see a similar pattern: We can call them solo work, informal group work, formal group work, and public/community work. Those are the stitches. But they make a whole society. They weave the scarf, beginning to end.

    An imperfect metaphor, at best. But it’s late, and I’m new to the debate.

    • The Orphic Hymns come from Roman period Asia Minor, and the ‘goetic’ tradition as ‘Greek shamanism’ is inseparable from Orphism for much of its early history. Mich else of your experience seems to be Neoplatonist in one form or other – and a glance at Iamblichus shows his Theurgy closely linked to the papyri.

      >I might wish it extended deeper, and I can read the Greek Magical Papyri and find ancestors of the stuff that I work with today… but is it the same current?

      what does Western Magical Tradition mean?
      Not a series of unconnected re-enactment styles, but a continuum. A syncretic continuum at that (embodying that sense of continuity is one of the things I like about the Golden Dawn btw)
      Sure, there are philosophical and theological overlays at several points in history, but there are also some very closely connected themes that function – practically speaking – with a good deal of consistency.
      As for ‘currents’ that’s largely where individual preferences and points of access come into play, but the commonalities remain and are important

      Jake Stratton-Kent
  4. Ah got to read it through.
    There are spiritualists and there are spiritualists. A well present piece on this is given in the biography regarding Gerald Gardner, who on his return to England searched for mediums that would truly be able to reach the deceased. He met many a con and cold readers but in his hour of desperation he met ONE person that reluctantly showed her talent. I believe it is that kind of “spiritualist” that the GD did not wish to empower, where mystics whom have an alternate path weren’t turned away (unless they were suspected of said spiritualism).

    I think perhaps Jakes “crisis of faith” is misplaced. The role of our “Temple magic” is not that of the shaman or mystic. Nor is it to improve people despite the “claims on the brochure”. As those who are working are starting to find I think. We are not teachers, we are not the fish or the hook to feed the Seeker his path, nor to set their foot on the path. Nor are we his priest to slave away in his community so he can ignore his gods through religious obedience.
    We are the 42 watchers.

    • I don’t have a crisis of faith, I have a sense of history, of where magic has been, but also where it is going. This isn’t about me other than I’m the one expressing the informed opinion. A few folks seem to have missed that one way or other, so here’s another contribution.

      Secret Societies and other models

      In case it should be thought that a few negative experiences with occult lodges is my whole raison d’etre for recent posts, some further comments are appropriate. Firstly, that is far from being the case, I’ve been interested and involved in the whole area of ‘community models’ for a long time, as well as watching events in the occult world for several decades. Obtaining an overview of important ideas, events & models in the occult sphere is – for me – an important aspect of my occult work.

      I’ve been involved with several types of community, occult and non-occult over the years, and observed a good deal.
      For instance, there is often a gap between the ‘theoretical’ model behind a group, and the one actually in place.

      For instance, the ‘coven’ model typically revolves around either a charismatic individual or a couple; perhaps those in whose home a lot of meetings take place. Once the coven reaches a certain size, some individuals ‘hive off’ to form a new one along similar lines. This is well understood to be the natural model across much of the witch community, not including solo practitioners of course.

      However, a similar default ‘model’ actually occurs in a good many cases of localised magical groups who are not identified as witches. In other words, a local ‘Lodge’ may actually function similarly to a coven, though without the built in provision for ‘hiving off’.

      I’ve noted too that Order structure does not carry any guarantees of ‘institutionalised excellence’, no matter how tightly worded the Constitutions and bylaws. There may be a very active and creative group of Order X in one town, and a very poor one in another town – same rules and regulations, different individuals and chemistry. In time the ‘Lodge’ that performs well peters out after some individuals move on. More importantly, its good performance while it lasts has no inherent link with the supposed model regulating events.

      Other models of relevance include the ‘Commune’ – which in some cases may also be the real model of a ‘good Lodge’. A ‘Commune’ does not have to follow the ‘Abbey of Thelema’ model, communes may equally involve separate dwellings, with considerable interaction, some shared meals, task rotas etc..

      The ‘Mass movement’ is another model that has been employed by occult oriented groups, with considerable success. Examples include the Theosophical Society (now much reduced but still unmatched in terms of influence on world events &c).

      Another ‘non-order’ model was the Temple Ov Psychick Youth, a very effective international ‘network’ structure involving local groups and individuals. TOPY incorporated aspects of a ‘fan club’ model, but was a great deal more; while some groups organised as Orders function as little more than fan clubs!

      There is another example of an effective and & long lived community which I decline to mention by name, but to which I owe a great deal. Its founder declined to explain its inner workings, which he described as a “Mystery”, and claiming nothing for the community “except that it is one”. This is the real goal of any magical group, not to go through what it takes to be the expected motions – such as organising as an Order – but being a real community organised in the most empowered and least limiting manner possible for its given task.

      ALWays

      Jake

      Jake Stratton-Kent
      • I too have been involved in many groups and done much solo-work due to my isolation. Both esoteric and exoteric.

        Frankly. The leader is everything. I have to tip my hat at Krishnamurti’s message on that. I have seen excellent system being the breeding grounds for even failure, and systems that have nothing but a few wild straws giving great revelations (check the actual Reformed Druids of North America archive, or the starting surge of Church of All Worlds – they cut some new ground (old ground revisited after darkages) but fell into a community.)

        There seems to be a real balancing act, Enough Gilgamesh to lead the team and build groups (to make food, comfortable housing, build computers for Interwebz), yet enough wild Enkidu at heart to step away from the crowd and away from the wine and brothels in to the dark caverns and wild spaces. From what I see, one can’t follow the system to build enough character to be a leader, and it is through following that much of existing communities deal out validation.

        IMO, as always.

  5. Sorry to be the posting troll. But do you or Jake have any recommended (English!) readings on Iamblichus (outside of Wikipedia) that covers his writings or theories. My own consideration of Plato is that one world is mental…eg the number “3”, it’s identity as a reified object, and thus mental concepts such as 3+3=6 can be resolved mentally and in other abstract ways. Where the material world there is no “3”, only 3 individual somethings, or 2 somethings and a related third something. with no abstraction, thus 3 somethings and 3 somethings -might- be 6 somethings but it is limited to Counting/Whole/Rational occurrences. Thus in the material world the number of eggs a elephant lays and the number of eggs a chicken hasn’t laid are equivalent, while in the more abstract realms a difference exists. Thus I am curious whether Iamblichus has resolved this dichotomy (thus potentially overcome Plato’s Cave, or whether he is only acted as an apologist by misinterpretation of the underlying principles. …After all we should look at such data with modern minds, not just to copy the past.

  6. Dear Jake, I really enjoyed your post. In general I wholeheartedly agree with the analyses of the current situation and the line of development you propose. This is the direction in which the Hermetic Order of the Temple of Starlight is developing. I think it is important for western society to reconnect with the shamanic past and to renew the contact with the spiritual earth. Good translations of the ancient grimoires is important and a re-evaluation of the masonic model as well. My view is that the masonic model developed from the mediaeval guilds and was a method to survive the burning times. To that end secrecy was effective. Today we have to grow past that secrecy, step into the open and become part of the establishment again. That is our best assurance against suppressive tendencies in our modern world such as the ‘family filters’ on the internet, who filter out esoteric websites. My plea is that we not only initiate and ordain modern priests but also develop a system of ‘diploma’s ‘. To achieve that it is of the utmost importance that temple start working together, discuss and share knowledge. In LVX Ina http://www.templeofstarlight.eu

    • IMO, the masonic system was developed to fulfil a couple of needs. (1) formal spreading of trade knowledge and skills via heirarchy (what we would use trade newsletters and standards for today), (2) a systematic way of imposing trade quality and rules on guild members especially those of journeyman or travelling nature, including the spreading of operative advances in technology and warnings about clients/locations, (3) teaching of associated skills such as project management, budgeting, ordering, planning, marketing and accounting to trade standard which is also where involving non-operative “masons” would be useful, (4) as a method for seeing younger members had socially acceptable peers to associate with especially for recreation and to keep them from causing trouble or becoming victims of crime, (5) to ensure the members, especially younger members had good food and drink especially when away from home or while unmarried. (6) They were being instructed in a repeatable system that preserved and enshrined a systematic method of operation.

      The masonic secrecy operated as a trade secret and commercial confidentiality (for projects and workmen) as well as to protect the methods of teaching as well. It also made sure that only proper members would receive advantages that came through paidup membership (eg the “cheap” food, contacts, occasional giftings from new members etc).

      Sadly modern Freemasonry is going that same way as our failing education and government systems. It has many experts at the top, well trained, many years experience, lots of rank and bling…. that have totally lost touch with what they were doing. And we’re seeing it more and more, they get more education, more degrees, more PhD’s, bigger salaries and followings…yet the world crumbles around them. Few are able to keep in touch with the heart of the matter.

  7. Hi Aaron,

    It’s Monday morning here which may explain my tone and the length of this comment :)

    I am all too happy for folk to criticise the GD; I’ve done a fair bit of critiquing myself. However, I get taken aback when the criticisms are so dog’s balls obvious it suggests we GD folk cannot think for ourselves. I agree with a lot of what Jake says, but maintain (as I did on Nick’s blog) that these criticisms are known to most GD folk and have been or are being addressed.

    I genuinely wonder who Jake is referring to? What Order exactly has included only one new book on its curriculum since 1947? I assume it’s a Crowley one, and maybe ‘the curriculum’ is really the list of Holy Books? If so, that’s pretty much in keeping with religious groups’ valorisation of the works of their founders.

    As for the rest – the Qliphoth, spirits, trance work etc? What Orders and teachers is he referring to? It’s obviously not you, nor Nick, and I assume not Chic and Tabby or Pat – all of whom are very innovative and open to change and expansion. Nor any of the established and sensible groups I know personally, who are far different than what is being presented here. By the time someone reaches 5=6 in an genuine Order they are thinking for themselves, have lost any notion of Mather’s work being accurate or infallible and will search out and research their own conclusions and systems of magic. It may not all get on YouTube, but it is there – including, of course, spirit relationships trance work etc.

    As for the impact of ‘bogus history’ and ‘resistance to change’ within the secret society model on witchcraft. Well, yes 50s and 60s British Wicca inherited this, misunderstood it and reproduced it. Gardner, remember, was never a practicing (only paper) member of any functional occult Order, so he really had little clue. But as soon it hit the hippies in the states in the late 60s, this model quickly went the way of the dinosaur. The rapid and ongoing change in Wicca and witchcraft since the 70s shows this completely; it has devolved and mutated into numerous variants, many with no secrets and net-published ceremonies. But here’s the thing, and speaking only from my Australian experience: in terms of decent spirit relationships, work, ‘shamanic’ communal healing, depth trance work etc – it is exactly those initiatory groups that work more like a secret society, rather than the public faery-lite festival ‘circles’, that can actually do the fucking job!

    On another matter, and addressing your own thoughts, Aaron: I am not sure if the brick wall hit by the development of western occultism was essentially the Roman Catholic Church – except for the Roman part! State run Paganism in the latter stages of the Roman Empire was denuding to the native ‘shamanic’ traditions of conquered peoples as much as Christian theology. The “world of corporate rule and rampant consumerism” is, I feel, an essentially Roman imperial outcome; the Empire, as several scholars note, just changed its name. This is not to say, of course, that orthodox Christianity was and is not harmful to the occult traditions.

    In answer to your questions re general folk seeking out GD magicians and Wiccans: many of these needs were once met (in England at least), up until the mid 19th century by local cunning folk. Most had a Christian basis but still worked with spirits and magic. The decline of the popularity of cunning craft and popular magic is directly linked to these questions. This decline, I feel, is answered as much by the changes in general society than a lack of integral occult traditions.

    Hardships and healings and exorcism – these two huge areas of the cunning person’s bread and butter work (including bewitchment as part of exorcism) are shown by any studies done in the field to have been affected by the rise of the welfare state and the rise and spread of effective medicine and the materialist bias and worldview inherent within it and the myth of ‘progress’.

    Hatch, match and dispatch – when were these overseen by magicians and ‘shamans’ in the west? Certainly not after the Christian advance. As for considering the gods… again the valorisation of success of the material/secular worldview has placed these ideas as the domain of kooks.

    Most of those people who feel the need to consult on these matters today access one or other of the popular ‘new age healers’ (who, as Ronald Hutton argues, function a bit like modern cunning folk, sans bewitchment). In this case then, I fully support and agree we GD folk, Goetic magicians and others should be functioning as modern ‘shamans’ – for the simple and stark reason, WE DO IT BETTER (and cheaper). Thanks :)

    • Just a note Peregrin on the mid 19th Century stuff you mention. That would coincide with the rise in wealth in England and the Continent, and the popularity of factory service living (ie groups of employees, rather than trade&servants), just as the scientific approaches were coming to the layfolk and commercial enterprises (ie shops) were starting to increase supplyside economics (as opposed to being more service or homestead/manor-gentry orientated).

  8. Peregrin, no-ones denying that they are being addressed – by several groups now carrying the flag of the GD, and to their own satisfaction. What you don’t appear to recognise is that the problems don’t just affect contemporary GD groups! They effect the ‘scene’ influenced by the GD and by GD material in earlier phases, also by some current factions under the GD or Thelemic banner to this day. So, many things very much extant that we may thoroughly disown are the result of the GD/AC influence in the past and present. I’m glad the issues are quote ‘dogs balls obvious’ – odd expression, since ‘dogs bollocks’ means ‘great’ – but is it unreasonable to expect the GD to encourage the wider community to follow suit in dropping some of the bad habits the GD and its offshoots once helped encourage? Or – say – help promote well informed access to important aspects of magic that in earlier phases were – uh – underdeveloped or unwittingly misrepresented? Encourage good habits of self education while dumbed down culture does the opposite. I don’t think so, those would be worthy intentions, and not beyond attaining.

    Oddly, while I agree about Roman State religion (and most other examples!) the late period also saw many active private religious associations. Some of them I suspect a goetic magician and a magical Mason might be equally at home in. Their power was certainly limited by the state, and of course triumphant Christianity was even less accommodating. So I can identify with much of your post. Indeed, this goetic magician has functioned as a community shaman on and off for a long time – particularly in Wild Wessex, and yeah, I’m better at it than the New Age hucksters, as well as cheaper. :D

    So, hiding our light under a bushel is really not an option, that appears to be the emergent consensus :D

    Jake Stratton-Kent
    • “dog’s balls” downunder means unmissable (and to a degree, somewhat unpleasant to view/comment on)

    • I am personally surprised at the poor and even misinformed view on hypnosis which is still held by some ceremonial magicians and pagans. Considering practitioners are qualified (or so they say) in hypnotherapy, and altered state work is a common practice; I find it surprising that such misinformation and prejudice persists. (to name one practice that has changed wince the GD inception)

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