Hail Eris! Discordia in Sheffield

When Sheffield-based Notwork 23 held their recent Catch23 festival, there was bound to be a strong Pact presence. Dave Lee was one of several with a part to play in the opening ritual centring on a double invocation of Eris and Horkos, the Goddess of Discord and the God that makes you keep your promises, becoming a heady affair of invocations of all the Colours of Chaos.

Soror Brigantia and Kite had planned on attending simply to enjoy not organising anything this time, as did other Pact people in the locality, but … ya know … Hail Eris and we got roped into the ritual too. Inclusiveness, appreciation of variety and passionate magical expression drove the ritual point-first into the Festival and pegged the whole fiercely sunny day firmly as we went on to experience- well …

There was a room dedicated to talks and workshops. Personal favourites included Dave Lee and musician/magician George Rogers collaborating in the working “From SNAFU to FUBAR, a working against the global war machine;” Ian (Cat) Vincent drawing on his vast experience for the workshop “Defence Against the Dark Arts” and the gong bath. That was an unexpected treat for someone who’d never bathed a gong in his life.

And that Kite guy was a late substitute speaker, giving a hot sweaty audience a rehash of how You Are The Experiment.”

Meanwhile, there was music going on everywhere, all day and late into the night, with a vast and strange variety from plain acoustic bands to Discordian musical happenings. There was a beautiful, mellow – if overwhelmingly hot – atmosphere, and we wound up talking all night with a succession of great folks we’d never met before.

Gotta admit it, we were jealous of Sheffield at this point. So well done to Notwork 23 and all the other disorganizations involved with putting this event together at the Yellow Arch Studios in Hipster Central, Sheffield. Special shout to Anwen Burrows, without whom- well, gods only know. Hail Eris!

Tales of Magic by Dave Lee: (10th Instalment)

Tales of Magic Part 10: The Further Adventures of the LUUOS

I mentioned earlier in ToM the LUUOS and its star-studded lineup of speakers. The LUUOS went thro various incarnations: the prototype Occult Group (1976/7) based round Amado’s followers, the full LUUOS (1978-87-ish), then finally a collaboration with the music society The Black Lodge, which eventually absorbed it. The Black Lodge people got their occultism from Goth album covers and the more sophisticated ideas from Temple of Psychic Youth material. I recall one of their organizers getting a tattoo of ‘93’ done. His mate asked him what it was about. He replied ‘I shall have to find out some day.’

But before the rot set in there were a few years of excellent regular events. One night, PD Brown, Ray Sherwin and I gave a rambling seminar about chaos magic, which was recorded and issued as a cassette tape called ‘The Chaos Current’. (I can’t find a link for any current edition of this). I first met PD on the Leeds-Sheffield bus. I was visiting my girlfriend, he his coven, as it turned out. He was sitting across the aisle of the bus from me. I could see he was reading a book entitled ‘The Book of Shadows.’ At some point he looked over and saw that I was reading ‘Liber Null’. The bus had to wait for half an hour in Barnsley to wait for another driver, so we two magical strangers went for a drink. Not long after, PD came up with the idea of a virtual magical working with an audio soundtrack, a fairly rare idea back then. He wrote and recorded ‘The Chaochamber’ and sold it as a cassette tape (currently available as a CD. (Not to be confused with the audio item ‘The Chaosphere’, by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice): https://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Magick-Audio-CDs-Chaochamber/dp/1935150499)

I started making incenses for magic in 1978 (see the forthcoming episode The Temple in the Squat) and PD asked me to make one for the Chaochamber. My first thought was: but there aren’t any attributions for Chaos! So I thought about the imagery that PD was conjuring.. the flight deck of an ethership in etherspace… and made a blend of some of the most alien and high-tech smelling perfumes I could find.

Later in the LUUOS timeline, we had a visit from Lionel Snell. He gave a great talk, taking us into magical thinking via elegant scepticism, and we treated him to a slap-up curry in the Arndale Centre afterwards. It was a Friday night in central Leeds, so it was a bit lively. One chap at a nearby table conceived a drunken fixation on Lionel, yelling, ‘Eyup Neil Kinnock!’ Lionel was amused, and unfailingly polite as the man crawled across the floor and grinned up at him.

We also hosted giant of the Northern magic world, Ian Read, who taught us a good deal about the core ideas of the runes. We were opened up to the wonders of ancient landscape magic by Brian Larkman’s fascinating talk on ‘the Illuminated Stones of Ilkley Moor’.

Typhonian Ken Cox gave a talk on Starting High Magick, and another on Monsters. Arch-Typhonian Michael Staley gave one on the Book of the Law. Mogg Morgan spoke about breaking gender boundaries in sexual magic, and Andrew Stenson introduced the AMOOKOS Tantric lineage.

Later, there was the infamous Freya Aswynn, proudly proclaiming in front of a poster about a remember-Kristallnacht event that the night in question was her birthday.

This tale will continue in a later episode about the end of the LUUOS and the Era of Zines.

Dave Lee is the author of several books, including Chaotopia, Bright From the Well and Life Force: Sensed Energy in Breathwork, Psychedelia and Chaos Magick. Visit his website and sign up for his newsletter.

Death and the Lovers

This was the theme of the Occult Conference 2018, held in Glastonbury by The Visible College. As soon as it was announced we suggested to the organiser, Sef Salem, that an event themed around Thanatos and Eros should have some input from a magical organisation with ‘Thanateros’ in the name. Surprisingly, he concurred.

It was quite a successful gathering all round. The IOT British Isles Section was active as myself and Section Head Soror Brigantia presented a workshop on the polarities of Black Saturnine and Silver/Purple Lunar magic, the Thanateros current in the raw. Here we find the tensions and paradoxical coincidence of opposites of beginning and ending, burgeoning life and decline into death, the Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away, from coagula to solve, each implying the other as two sides of a coin. We began by resuming the Star of Chaos and its paradoxes. We ended with a version of Pete Carroll’s insufficiently famous Thanateros Rite from Liber Kaos.

Shortly after our workshop there was that earthquake that measured 4.7 and originated from a few miles north of where we live. That means nothing, okay? It wasn’t our fault. Fault, geddit? Oh, never mind.

The following day we reflected on the ritual and workshop we had done the day before, recounting the Greek mythic lore of Chaos, Eros and Thanatos underpinning our work and discussed Austin Spare’s Death Posture in the light of that.

Next, past Section Head Dave Lee developed the Death Posture further, drawing on an article by our beloved brother Alan Chapman and on his own knowledge and experience of Connected Breathwork. He followed this with a practical workshop so that we could all have a go. This was an extraordinary experience.

More extraordinary though was the closing ritual of the Conference, which Soror Brigantia, Dave and I had devised, involving invocations of Eros and Thanatos and La Danse Macabre de la Vie, l’Univers et le Reste, manifesting as a giant double conga doing its DNA thing and splicing the entire Conference experience together.

And so it was done.

 

Check out Dave Lee’s Chaotopia website and maybe sign up for his newsletter.

Also see Alan Chapman’s website Wiser by Design and maybe buy his book on magic(k).

And then there’s the Kite’s Cradle.

Alan Chapman on the Death Posture

Austin Spare’s Death Posture has been aired in chaos magic circles quite a bit lately and is widely misunderstood. As far as we know, the best clarification of this technique was published by our good friend and IOT colleague Alan Chapman on the much-missed website The Baptist’s Head. It was republished in the print collection The Blood of the Saints, now out of print and going for silly money, but Alan has given us permission to publish the article again. Thank you Alan.

 

The Death Posture: A Definitive Instruction by Alan Chapman

Spare’s ‘Death Posture’ is the most misunderstood magical technique in the world. Ever.

The technique is described in The Book of Pleasure (Spare, 2005) and so I sympathise with any initial confusion readers may have concerning the posture; after all. Spare’s writing is demented.

However, a simple re-read of the page in question should be enough to dispel the confusion. I can only surmise from the absolute rubbish presented in many books, magazines and websites as ‘the death posture’ is due to the fact that most people cannot be bothered to read carefully.

The Ritual and Doctrine

The instruction is given in three paragraphs. Here’s how they are printed:

“Lying on your back lazily, the body expressing the condition of yawning, suspiring while conceiving by smiling, that is the idea of the posture. Forgetting time with those things which were essential reflecting their meaninglessness, the moment is beyond time and its virtue has happened.

“Standing on tip-toe, with the arms rigid, bound behind by the hands, clasped and straining the utmost, the neck stretched — breathing deeply and spasmodically, till giddy and sensation comes in gusts, gives exhaustion and capacity for the former.

“Gazing at your reflection till it is blurred and you know not the gazer, close your eyes (this usually happens involuntarily) and visualize. The light (always an X in curious evolutions) that is seen should be held on to, never letting go, till the effort is forgotten, this gives a feeling of immensity… whose limit you cannot reach. This should be practised before experiencing the foregoing. The emotion that is felt is the knowledge which tells you why.” (Spare 2005, p. 18)

It’s obvious, isn’t it? The death posture itself is completely open to interpretation. There is no ‘one’ posture; instead it ranges from holding your breath until you pass out, to staring at yourself in the mirror. And it can be used to ‘charge’ sigils.

Actually: no! What big fat hairy bollocks!

If we re-read these three paragraphs, we see that paragraph two (‘”Standing on tip-toe…”) “…gives exhaustion and capacity for the former.” In other words, it is a preliminary exercise for the instruction given in the first paragraph (“Lying on your back…”). As for the exercise given in paragraph three (“Gazing at your reflection…”), we are told: “This should be practised before experiencing the foregoing.”

Paragraph three is therefore a preliminary exercise to be practised before the instructions given in paragraphs one and two. The death posture proper is therefore given in paragraph one. So, to clarify:

1. Practice staring at your eyes in the mirror, until your reflection looks bizarre. Granted, it doesn’t help at this point when Spare tells you to close your eyes and visualise, and then goes on to describe something you should see (“an X in curious evolutions,” which I propose is the image left on the retina — indeed, there is very similar to a Buddhist exercise), but the point is that you concentrate on something, never letting go, until: “this gives a feeling of immensity… whose limit you cannot reach.”

Spare is quite explicit when he says this must be experienced before practising the death posture proper. In other words, you must have a degree of proficiency in concentration. Knowing Spare’s magical background, I believe he is here describing dhyana.

It should be noted that there is nothing special about this concentration exercise, as Spare explains a little later on: “There are many preliminary exercises, as innumerable as sins, futile of themselves but designative of the ultimate means.” (Spare 2005, p. 18). Once Dhyana is achieved, we can move on to the death posture itself.

2. The death posture requires a degree of relaxation, and to obtain this, you may first strain the whole body and hyperventilate. Of course, you could also go for a run or lift some weights — the aim is to be relaxed for the practise of the posture proper. Just to be explicit: holding your breath until you pass out is not the death posture.

3. So, once a degree of competence in concentration is achieved (i.e. you can enter a state of dhyana, or trance), you can practise the posture proper.

I believe the biggest difficulty with understanding the death posture lies with the fact that Spare appears to be telling us to lie down, yawn, smile and ‘let go’ of all of our worries. But that’s not correct. The posture is indeed lying on your back, relaxed, without a care in the world. However, if you think he is advocating relaxation for its own sake, you’re missing the point. If we take a look at the next paragraph. Spare says:

“…know this as the negation of all faith by living it, the end of the duality of consciousness… Know the death posture and its reality in annihilation of law — the ascension from duality.” (Spare 2005, p. 18)

The aim of the death posture is not to achieve ‘gnosis’ in order to ‘charge’ a sigil, but to experience the non-dual. Spare is talking about samadhi, or the experience of what he called Kia.

Spare elaborates on the practice:

“The primordial vacuity (or belief) is not by the exercise of focussing the mind on a negation of all conceivable things, the identity of unity and duality, chaos and uniformity, etc., etc., but by doing it now, not eventually. Perceive, and feel without the necessity of an opposite, but by its relative. Perceive light without shadow by its own colour as contrast, through evoking the emotion of laughter at the time of ecstasy in union, and by practice till that emotion is untiring and subtle. The law of reaction is defeated by inclusion… Let him practise it daily, accordingly, till he arrives at the centre of desire. He has imitated the great purpose… Thus by hindering belief and semen from conception, they become simple and cosmic.” (Spare 2005, p. 18-9)

The ‘primordial vacuity’, or Kia, is achieved by cultivating an awareness of immediate sensation. For example, instead of experiencing a sensation and knowing it as ‘tight’, simply experience the sensation. The correct mental attitude is that which is experienced when you laugh; you accept all experience and sensation (including the sensation of thoughts) without resistance.

If this attitude of inclusive awareness is cultivated by daily practice, you will eventually experience a state of non-duality and bliss.

The parallels between Spare’s instructions and those of the Buddha are quite striking. The death posture facilitates the same awareness as ‘insight practice’ or vipassana, which can only be practised competently once a degree of proficiency in concentration is achieved.

A Practical Summary

1. Practise concentration exercises until you experience dhyana.

2. Practise being aware of all sensations and experiences as they arise without fixing your attention on or identifying with any one thing. (The correct attitude can be engendered by smiling or laughing.) This is easiest to do when relaxed, so practising after physical exercise is ideal. Alternatively, taking up insight practice, vipassana or Taoist meditation will achieve the same result.

Core teaching

Of the sixteen chapters of The Book of Pleasure, eight deal exclusively with the non-dual or Kia, either expounding the virtues of the pursuit of the non-dual, providing instructions for achieving the non-dual, or detailing the resultant state once the non-dual is achieved and becomes habitual (which Spare calls ‘Self-Love’).

Spare is essentially concerned with hedonism. (I think the title of the book gives that away.) If you want the most ecstasy and pleasure possible, if you want the greatest degree of satisfaction, then you must concern yourself with the non-dual:

“The wise pleasure seeker, having realised they are ‘different degrees of desire’ and never desirable, gives up both Virtue and Vice and becomes a Kiaist. Riding the Shark of his desire he crosses the ocean of the dual principle and engages himself in self- love.”(Spare 2005, p. 1)

Self-love is the state that results from the habitual experience of the non-dual, obtained through practising the death posture every day. It is freedom from desire. Now tell me, which brings the greatest pleasure: using sigils to acquire a magical effect, or the transcendence of all desires?

For a long time. Spare has been feted as the father of ‘Chaos Magic’ and the inventor of Sigil Magic. But his greatest magical achievement, the central teaching of The Book of Pleasure has either been misunderstood as an arbitrary component of sigil magic, or completely ignored as the ramblings of a mystic.

With his death posture. Spare managed to boil down the essence of all meditative practice to a very simple, easy and enjoyable method of genuine magical attainment, and not for any lofty, spiritual purpose, but simply for the sake of pleasure.

If you still think magic has nothing to do with mysticism, or is concerned solely with the manifestation of material results, consider the title of the book responsible for ‘starting it all’: The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy.

 
Alan references the I-H-O 2005 edition, also going for silly money. Instead, get one of the more reasonably-priced collections of Spare’s writings.

Visit Alan’s ground-breaking website, Wiser by Design, buy his book Advanced Magick for Beginners.

Tales of Magic by Dave Lee: Next Instalment

Tales of Magic 9: The Training

It became increasingly apparent that my dream battles were dramatizations of inner conflict, not attacks from the outside. This awareness resulted in their going away for a while. I kind of missed them, but had learned an important lesson: What you believe is what you get.

In 1980 those conflicts surfaced into my outer world. Pretty much everything I had built over the years came crashing down – long-term relationship, job, home. My own Chapel Perilous was happening – I was living in a magical reality which was being revealed more and more as my old life fell apart.

Up to that point, my magical training work had been sporadic and undisciplined. This was when I started serious daily work.

This took two forms – basic sitting meditation, visualization, sigils, divination, dream diary as advised by Liber MMM, and also the Qabalistic inner planes workings such as the Middle Pillar and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

Another thing I had a go at was Liber Astarte. Reading Crowley’s Magick, I kept getting the name ‘Astar’, so that is the name I began my devotions to. Quite quickly, this morphed into Kali. One of the incidents that helped precipitate this shift was a strange find. In a house I’d just moved into, I found in the cellar, which I’d cleared out to use as an incense workshop, a small tobacco tin. In the tin was a large tooth, maybe the canine of a predator. It had a lovely curved line to it, so I carved it into a female shape, bored a hole through it and hung it from a thong. Here’s a diary entry from the night I consecrated it:

TUES 2ND SEPT: Consecrated the Figurine, saw a shaft of light enter it and forms swirling in the incense smoke… in the dawn I was awoken by cats screwing noisily under the window, banging against a sheet of tin.

One Saturday afternoon in 1980, after a coffee meeting at the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Ray Sherwin and Pete Carroll came back to where I was staying. They gave me a bit of a test:

SAT 8TH NOV Psychometry on Ray Sherwin’s Quartz Crystal: Back from SA coffee morning with Ray & Pete to PD’s place. I gingerly grasped the crystal and felt that something was trapped in it (I had suspected this from the nature of the challenge.) Felt a numbness in my face, then briefly, just as I was handing it back, I saw an angry orange ovoid with many wriggling legs. A crawling-skin sensation.

Ray said that it had appeared as purple and orange, and lobster-like, with many legs, and that it had been the thing that attacked him and caused his hair to fall out. The demon Tromes, from the Abra-Melin spirit list.

I came to realise that that event was a kind of interview for the IOT. Which I had passed.

Dave Lee is the author of several books, including Chaotopia, Bright From the Well and Life Force: Sensed Energy in Breathwork, Psychedelia and Chaos Magick. Visit his website and sign up for his newsletter.

Transformations Event Special!

I’m still knackered from the shindig. The Illuminates of Thanateros had an open Moot with added friends and allies. There was magic, learning, comradeship, inspiration, all you could hope for from an intimate yet broad gathering of magicians of many stripes. Chaos Magic, Thelema, Satanism, Discordianism, necromancy- what a mix, all playing together nicely in exemplary style.

The Transformations event, organized by the IOT, happened one day at the beginning of the first decan of Leo, the Cardinal phase of Fixed Fire. This is a decan of fierce vision, knowing what you want and how to get it, and unhesitatingly going out and doing it. The weather on the day proved every bit as hot and fiery, a further good augury for the event itself.

However the proceedings began the night before, courtesy not of the IOT but of the Ordo Templi Orientis and The Satanic Temple (London & UK), who arranged a sort of ecumenical welcome ritual — in the grounds of the Temple Church off Fleet Street, a monument to the Templars overseeing our joined-up magics. We celebrated with a small libation of Jägermeister, whereupon a gentleman arrived to tell us politely that they didn’t mind us holding a Satanic ritual but alcohol was not allowed. So after a tour guide description of the venue, we departed for the next ritual phase: bowling.

Alas, I had to miss the bowling, having a busy tomorrow to prepare for, but I’m told it was … erm, entertaining. At least I got to chat to some new friends first.

The Transformations event itself was well-attended, including some from the night before. The British Isles Section Head of the IOT, Soror Brigantia, opened proceedings with a discussion of Inward and Outward Transformations (I-O-T, geddit?) and a short puja to Ma Kali, for obvious reasons.

Another goddess present was Eris, who manifested herself in the timetable, necessitating a number of late alterations. But it all worked out in the end. Hail Eris!

For what followed, some names I cannot name, but Dave Lee, the Kite, Nikki Wyrd, Julian Vayne and guest speaker Jake Stratton-Kent were among those who wowed everyone present with a wide range of powerful presentations. Soror Wry managed not only to single-handedly manage the bonding ritual of the catering, but also a totally kick-ass ritual with no fewer than eight — count ’em — eight goddesses. As to what happened; well, you had to be there.

Bonding happened. There was overall a warm, friendly and appreciative atmosphere usually the mark of more internal gatherings. Members of orders and such will know what I’m talking about here. I made so many friends this day, including Zeke Apollyon of TST, who scouted us out a bar which we could take over to celebrate the awesomeness of the day. There was much networking, for it looks like the magical network is the new magical order.

I reckon there’s been a Long Dark Night of much of British life (the austerity economy dragging us down) but our occultisms seem to be picking up interest and vibrancy again. The consensus on our event is that there should be more like this, and I look forward to seeing how these various magical colleagues manifest future gatherings.

The conspiring has already begun. For example, as we heard on the day, Rob Rider Hill is running a “Salon du Voile” under the name Crucible Hermetic. Sef Salem of the OTO runs the Occult Conference from the Visible College. Cat Vincent and friends are organizing another Festival23. And Julian Vayne & Nikki Wyrd have just sat down after Breaking Convention. Search for these online and join in with this resurgence of interest in all things magical.

And of course, the British Isles Section of the Illuminates of Thanateros will be hosting more events too.

May you be transformed, and through you, the world.

Tales of Magic by Dave Lee (2nd instalment)

TALES OF MAGIC 3: A Busted Guru Game

Amado visited one of the group members and we had a meeting at her flat. He was a chubby, middle aged man with a goatee beard, who didn’t waste much time before trying to get me into bed. It turned out that this was standard procedure with every male in the group. His claim about the bed thing was that it had nothing to do with being gay, but was some kind of initiation. Right…

One member told a friend about his experience of Amado and the friend got quite seriously freaked out and summoned his magical mentor to deal with the ‘sticky qlipothic’ stuff they’d skried. Mentor Mike came up to Leeds and did some astral-warrior white-light magic on the ‘qlipoth’.

I wasn’t sure how much sense the white light thing made to me; it sounded like it was half way to religion, but Mike was a personable chap with a fund of interesting magical experiences. Meeting him started a whole new direction for a couple of the members in post-Dion Fortune-style astral work. That was one of the post-Amado directions group members went in. The other was Chaos Magic…

TALES OF MAGIC 4: The LUUOS

Those of us left after the breakup of the Occult Group decided to form a University Union society. In those days, this was very easy to do. You got 50 signatures and presented them to some Union official. This took just one afternoon in the Union bar. The students in that bar would have signed a petition for a Three-Legged Donkey Rehabilitation Society. The state some of them were in, that may well have been what they thought they were signing. Now we had a choice of meeting rooms and funds for presenters. We were the LUUOS, aka the Occ Soc.

Summer-autumn of 1978 I took up magic as a daily pursuit. Through the Leeds occult supply shop The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Chris, John and I met Ray Sherwin. He was one of the early speakers at the LUUOS, and spoke of the power of sigils to get you anything you desired.

Not long after, we hosted famous witch Patricia Crowther. Turnout was higher than any we’d had so far and we managed to get use of the Leeds Uni pyramid, a beautiful semi-underground structure all decked out in green, which delighted our wiccan guest.

My interest in Chaos Magic took off at this time. I’d finally found a magical model which didn’t require religious faith and didn’t try to forget how conditioned we all are by the ingrained anti-magical scepticism of the mainstream culture.

Dave Lee can be contacted via his website Chaotopia.