Being a True Believer

I like Sadhguru. He’s a very low-BS yogi. If you can’t bear to sit still for the 10 minute video (included below), I’ll give you his main idea in two sentences: we’re told to believe in certain things that have no connection to our lived experience. We should start with what we have experienced (even subjectively, in our UPG) and work from there. That’s a typical yoga perspective (work with the body first, then use that work to free the mind). But I think it’s good.

I find that even magicians, sometimes especially magicians, get rigid in their beliefs: I know the truth and the rest of you are doing it wrong. Sometimes, this comes from a profit motive (like saying, “My magic is the real shit and the rest of you are just playing—so pay me.”). Other times, this just comes from the sincere belief that there is One True Way (as I talk about here in “Everything is Worthless Except for my Own Occult System”).

We all believe things. We all have a subjective field of personal gnosis. But I think there is one reasonable belief we should all entertain: there is no one true way. Instead, we might benefit from realizing that on some level everyone takes Bruce Lee’s approach: absorb what is useful.

So I remind myself not to be rigid, to be open, to be flexible, and that just because I have tools that work doesn’t mean it can’t be done just as well without them or with different tools. 


Codex Whatever: Dark Fluff Occult Books and Personal Insignificance

The fact that there is a “dark fluff” genre of occult writing doesn’t surprise me.  Anyone who starts to look for meaning outside established channels of consensus culture encounters poorly written, poorly sourced occultnik marketing before long (sometimes immediately).  And it has forced most of us to carry on a lifelong search for better materials, more authoritative texts, and generally better sources—which does not automatically mean they must be more scholarly or academic. 

Rather, we tend to prize books that are responsibly and sincerely written according to the tradition in question.  This often means the author has done research to the best of his or her ability and access, but it could simply mean that the anecdotal parts of an occult text are framed as such and the speculation is carefully identified.

The quest for quality occult writing is particularly important to educated ceremonial magicians who care about the provenance and history of their grimoires and of the magical discourse still very much alive and well all over the world.  Like most of my articulate, reasonably sane, magically active associates, I am constantly seeking out new books.  It’s a side of the magical life I particularly enjoy—the research side, which has a magic all its own.

Two great examples of non-scholarly yet well-written and responsible occult texts might be THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy.  These two come immediately to mind because they are very explicit about what is unverified gnosis (UPG) and technique.  They set up a teaching dichotomy between anecdote and praxis to empower the reader in her own pursuits—not simply to aggrandize the experiences of the authors.

Unfortunately, for every Joseph Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent, Jose Leitao, Peter Carroll, Ramsey Dukes, Daniel Harms, and Peter Mark Adams, there are a hundred pretenders, who seem to be writing occult literature simply because it amuses them or makes them feel special.  No one ever got rich off occult publishing.  So the question I’ve asked for years is: why pedal worthless or pirated or wholly fantastical occult books?  Why would someone take the time and effort to claim that they have an insight or that they are the inheritor of a tradition that either does not exist or that they have never encountered outside their own imaginations?

I still don’t have a good answer to this.  The best I can do is come to the sad conclusion that some people need to feel special and wise.  In terms of cynical e-commerce, I can understand groups or individuals trying to interest potential followers by self-publishing low-cost occult books that promote their spiritual systems.  That’s just another form of easily identifiable marketing.  But just as there was a massive surge in poorly written mass-market Wiccan / neopagan texts in the 1980s and early 1990s, there now seems to be a horrendous glut of “dark fluff” grimoires, especially self-published through Createspace and Lulu. 

Last year’s dark grimoires of ultimate power.

So what is “dark fluff”? 

As a sorcerer for hire and a long-time member of the Studio Arcanis community of advanced practitioners, I often get public and private questions that go like this: I just bought Codex Diabolicus Maximus by Mordred Darktoe and I want to use it to destroy my ex’s life.  Does it work?  There is so much wrong with such a question (even in more subtle incarnations like: I’m wondering what your experiences with Darktoe’s works have been . . . ).  It’s one step removed from “spell begging” (where a person who has not done his or her homework asks a more experienced practitioner for a freebie) and it doesn’t reflect well on the questioner regardless of whether or not destroying someone’s life happens to be right or wrong.

As a conjure worker, I’m no stranger to people revealing that their innermost desire is to seek small-minded revenge on someone for some perceived wrong.  Usually, the preferred punishment is far out of proportion to the crime, having to do with a breakup, an undeserved promotion, an insult, or even someone not paying enough attention.  People (maybe most people) feel powerless and insignificant in their lives.  And if they have some kind of latent magical sensitivity but not a lot of confidence, they will seek out a conjure worker to help them get emotional satisfaction on a cruel world.

I understand and I listen to such requests without passing moral judgment.  Part of my job is to bring the client’s motivations and feelings into the light of truth where we can intelligently face them together.  Only then can we fix the situation.  This is the unpublicized part of being a spiritual worker in one’s community (even if that community is online). 

But sometimes the person has so much resentment, feels so belittled by the world, that she wants the power to subjugate everyone and everything: more money, more sex, more power, more revenge, more dominance.  This person has such a wounded ego, feels so wronged by life that she’ll never get enough.  When this happens, she doesn’t come to a sorcerer for work.  She wants to be the sorcerer.  And she falls prey to “dark fluff” occult marketing that seems to speak directly to her overblown desires.

In her lust for power, she’s blinded to the reality that 90% of the information in such texts is bullshit that comes from previously published, often lesser known, bullshit.  And therein lies the problem.  She’s receiving a cascade of dark-themed occultnik bullshit; she really wants it to be real; and she’s soon frustrated that she isn’t seeing results.  That’s usually when she comes slinking around to ask me or someone like me what I think of it because she’s worried that she missed a crucial step (or, gasp, that it is, in fact, utter BS).

Sure, everyone worries that all occult things are fake.  But this is not the sort of anxiety and doubt I’m writing about here.  I’m writing about predatory marketing that magnetizes and preys on the desperate emotions of people who have come to equate power with the ability to harm—because they feel powerless and harmed.  Certainly, I believe that paying back is a virtue and I am in no way against doing dark magic for justice and remediation.  There is a time to bless and a time to curse.  Knowing which is which is part of being a practitioner.  However, having a good BS detector is also essential. 

So how do you spot “dark fluff”?

The first thing I’m going to suggest is that you know yourself.  Self-honesty is very difficult.  Realizing that you feel small and injured and that you want revenge on a cruel world is a strong first step.  You don’t need to go to a spiritual advisor to have this degree of honesty but sometimes it helps.  An insightful stranger can often tell you hard truths that you can’t bare to admit to yourself.

The second thing would be to read widely.  This may mean that sometimes you will purchase occult books that turn out to be part of the BS cascade I mention above.  We all waste our money and time on a well-presented stinker now and then.  And the painful experience of realizing an author is offering you nothing of value is something we’ve all felt.  It’s an important feeling because it sharpens up your sense of what is and is not useful.

The third thing would be to look at the marketing around the book.  Does it talk about a secret tradition that you’ve never heard of, even in online forums?  Does it promise grandiose things, like becoming a living god, torturing your enemies to death, enslaving others, or calling up demons from fancifully named planes or dimensions that have no basis in historical occult literature?  Does it sound like (or even use language directly from) roleplaying games?  Does is present an overdone gothic aesthetic?  Does it seem like it was written in the tradition of “acausal Satanism” (i.e. The Order of the Nine Angles, a group whose vague Gnosticism has made room for many ill-conceived darkly fluffy occult groups and marketing schemes)?  Does it source the works or mythos of HP Lovecraft as if they were real without at least framing them as egregoric or chaos-magical constructions?  Does the author have a pen name out of bad fantasy fiction like “Severus Blackthorne” or something pseudo-Semitic like “Hassan ben Azazel”?  Does the work rely heavily (and usually indirectly, without documentation) on the works of Kenneth Grant, especially The Nightside of Eden, tossing around well-known names like Set, Belial, Samael, Lilith, Lucifer, and  Hekate?  Or, at the other extreme, completely made up “demons” that no one has ever heard of?  Not everything here will indicate “dark fluff” but as soon as you see it, your detector should start beeping.

                                           Not you.

The bottom line.

It’s good to seek power.  It’s good to take revenge when justice is due.  It’s good to pay back in like degree.  It’s also good to do magic, to seek out mysterious realities, states of mind, and uncover secrets.  Consensus culture (especially in the west) would have us believe that the only medium for having breakthroughs is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  But we know this isn’t the case.

When we truly realize that there is far more occult power in a Delta blues song about going down to the crossroads than in Baltar Venomblade’s Book of the Eternal Abyss, we know we’re making progress.  When we understand that marketing itself is a kind of mental magic that snares all of us from time to time, we can forgive our uninformed purchases of shit occult books and learn to find the good ones that will actually inspire, inform, and guide us further down the path of wisdom and capacity.

Everything is Worthless Except for My Own Occult System

Something I’ve been noticing lately in the various internet occult conversations I follow is a certain rigidity.  When someone says, “The Demiurge came down into my bedroom last night and told me how to immanentize the eschaton with DMT” or “I evoked Satan and discovered that Goofy is really Jesus Christ,” we roll our eyes.  Sure, maybe Goofy really is Jesus in that person’s subjective world, his Unverified Personal Gnosis, but that doesn’t make it so for anyone else.  Mistaking UPG for transcendent truth is easy to spot and it’s something magicians are particularly susceptible to when they walk the path of self-transformation.  One hopes they are mentally stable enough to avoid getting lost in a solipsistic world of their own creation.

However, sometimes it’s not as easy when the UPG is threaded into a whole spiritual system.  For example, you might be a member of a Golden Dawn-ish ceremonial lodge and that might really work for you.  Using the Golden Dawn techniques, as an individual on a daily basis and with your brethren, you have called down divine light, experienced higher states of being, worked with the Tree of Life, evoked spirits, balanced the elements, undergone initiation rituals, written articles about the tradition, attained the K&C of your HGA, and learned a lot about Western Esotericism in general and Victorian occult history in particular.  That is excellent and one very rewarding way up the mountain we sometimes call the Great Work.

But let’s say you have limited exposure to other spiritual perspectives and / or what you have learned about other systems has come through the stilted word of mouth of your lodge brothers, occult stereotypes, and irresponsibly researched occult books.  What then?  Then you might start shooting your mouth off about other people’s beliefs, saying, “Yeah, really there’s nothing to the Order of the Shut-Eye.  It was a con game established in 1953 by a disgruntled Mason named Dumblebore Wiggins as a money making scheme.  Everybody knows that.”  Meanwhile, members of the OSE are steadfastly doing the work in their tradition, making it work, and getting a lot out of it.  But because you’re so locked into one way of seeing things and believe you have found the TRUTH (i.e. you’re buying into UPG on an institutional level), you can’t allow yourself to accept that more than one perspective can be true simultaneously.

I know it’s a hard thing to deal with when your pet system—the one that has trained you and brought you into the light of its wisdom—says “Yes, my child, we are the keepers of the sacred flame.  AND ONLY WE HAVE ACCESS TO TRUE WISDOM” and yet the Dalai Lama seems to know a thing or three and some Satanist on the internet has been saying down-to-earth things that really do make sense and the members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary down at the Baptist Church do something suspiciously like hoodoo in their “candle service” and you can feel the power coming out of there on Sunday morning like ripples in the air.

When you notice such things, you have a choice.  You can vehemently deny their reality, saying that those practitioners are either deluded, stupid, charlatans, inept, or all of the above.  Or you can take a step past your institutional UPG into a broader universe.  It’s up to you.  Just don’t be surprised when you wind up spending most of your energy defending your personal gnosis at the expense of being able to learn what other perspectives could teach.

On Cursing and Being Cursed: a Hermetic Perspective

Unjustified curses are never as powerful as when they are justified.  This is because in order for a curse to work, the object of the curse has to resonate in sympathy with the curse on some level, usually subconsciously.  But when that person truly believes they do not deserve the curse, they will resist its vibration and the effect will usually be much weaker.

It works like this: the person performing the curse creates that vibration in her subjective universe as in any magical working (which I have at times referred to as “raising energy and putting it into a container”).  The vibration is sent through the Magical Link into the objective universe, where it waits at the periphery of the target’s aura, looking for a way to affect his subjective universe—the sum of all of his inner selves.  As with any type of magic done to influence another, the curse will vibrate in a certain way and attempt to cause a corresponding vibration in the target.

The third Hermetic Principle—that of “Vibration”—given in The Kybalion notes that:

All manifestation of thought, emotion, reason, will or desire, or any mental state or condition, are accompanied by vibrations, a portion of which are thrown off and which tend to affect the minds of other persons by “induction.” This is the principle which produces the phenomena of “telepathy”; mental influence, and other forms of the action and power of mind over mind, with which the general public is rapidly becoming acquainted, owing to the wide dissemination of occult knowledge by the various schools, cults and teachers along these lines at this time.  Every thought, emotion or mental state has its corresponding rate and mode of vibration. And by an effort of the will of the person, or of other persons, these mental states may be reproduced, just as a musical tone may be reproduced by causing an instrument to vibrate at a certain rate.  (http://www.sacred–

In this way, a curse will function by creating its vibration in the target, who will then radiate that vibration (usually without knowing it) into various aspects of his life.  All retribution and judgment begins with the Self or, as The Kybalion puts it in “The Principle of Mentalism,” “All is Mind.”

If the target, truly in the deep core of himself, believes he doesn’t deserve to suffer, he will resist the curse vibration on some level.  But, of course, to resist something is also to have a relationship with it.  This is how an unjustified curse can make mischief in the life of an innocent.  Essentially, by resisting, the innocent (consciously or unconsciously) accepts the reality of having to resist a curse and is then struggling against it and feeling some of its effects.  But those effects are usually short-lived, if still upsetting.

When the target has a damaged aura—i.e. a personality defect, a mental illness, a negative attachment, or an inner weakness—a curse will try to use that as a way to influence the target’s vibration, working through the place in his aura where it is harder for him to resist.  Magical workings (and curses are not exceptions to this) have a kind of intelligence to them—a guidance system that has caused some magicians to conclude that workings bring spirits to bear (whether the spirits are created, as with servitors and egregores  or simply attached to the work).

If a target has an unusually strong, resistant aura, a curse can be held at bay for a long time, sometimes even for decades, depending on the longevity of the curse and that of the target.  In the end, however, most curses will have to be dealt with somehow as only the weakest “blow over” on their own.  Legitimate curses (i.e. those not formed inadvertently through the psychic capacity of someone feeling extreme anger or hatred for another) can be complex works of magic with many contingencies and resources involved.  Like all magic, cursing is an art and should be taken seriously by those who feel they have been cursed.

The best way I know to deal with a curse is to have a competent spiritual worker cleanse and protect you.  Using our Hermetic model, this would amount to a magician, sorcerer, conjure doctor, shaman, priest, or other practitioner performing work that raises your vibration above that of the curse, causing you to radiate a beneficial energy and heal yourself.  Just as someone can be influenced to vibrate negatively, he can be influenced in the opposite.

For those who know what they’re doing spiritually (and / or who many not want to pay someone else), here are some texts on magical protection: Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune, Protection and Reversal Magick by Jason Miller, Magickal Protection by Damon Brand, The Witch’s Shield by Christopher Penczack, and Practical Protection Magick by Ellen Dugan   I am a bit skeptical of the last two texts on this list, but everyone has a different experience with magical books and you might find any of these helpful.