“Magic Shows” at Lapham’s Quarterly

Via Invocatio: Check the Summer 2012 issue of the online magazine Lapham’s Quarterly for an issue devoted to magic, small-w witchcraft, wonder-working, spiritualism, and carnivores versus vegetarians.

Then go back to Invocatio for more news on the study of Western esotericism.

The Top Ten Grimoires

The British newspaper The Guardian spins an article off historian Owen Davies’ recent book, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books.

But newspapers and magazines love “top ten” list stories, and here is The Guardian’s. (Obviously, I missed the original publication.)

Number one on the list?

1. The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses

Although one of the more recent grimoires, first circulating in manuscript in the 18th century, this has to be number one for the breadth of its influence. From Germany it spread to America via the Pennsylvania Dutch, and once in cheap print was subsequently adopted by African Americans. With its pseudo-Hebraic mystical symbols, spirit conjurations and psalms, this book of the secret wisdom of Moses was a founding text of Rastafarianism and various religious movements in west Africa, as well as a cause célèbre in post-war Germany.

But a certain American writer from Providence, Rhode Island, gets a shout-out too.

The Babalon Working and the Rise of New Paganism

Today I listened to a podcast by California ceremonial magician Carroll “Poke” Runyon about Jack Parsons, himself a magician and rocket scientist of the 1940s.

Runyon argues that the Babalon Working of 1946 in which Parsons participated prefigured on the astral plane the rise of Goddess-centered contemporary Paganism in North America.

If you are not familiar with this corner of American occult history, including Parsons’ connections with L. Ron Hubbard, Aleister Crowley,  Philip K. Dick, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the podcast will bring you up to speed.

A Different A.E. Waite Tarot Deck

Mary K. Greer discusses a forgotten Tarot deck designed by ceremonial magician A.E. Waite, whose collaboration with artist Pamela Coleman Smith produced the Tarot deck probably most commonly used in the past fifty years, at least in the Anglosphere. A new publication with commentary is planned.

The commentary will be based on Waite’s unpublished and extensive commentary on the images, which has led to a complete mapping of Waite’s “secret” correspondences to the Tree of Life. Marcus [Katz] says that this set of correspondences is so blindingly obvious and “makes sense,” such that he believes we will be astounded. It will be interesting to see if the mapping corresponds with the revised Tree of Life described in Decker and Dummett’s book. Also, this clears up a long-running controversy about whether the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was designed with Golden Dawn Tree of Life Associations in mind. My feeling is that it was, as Waite clearly uses these associations in some of his Order papers, but it’s also clear that he wasn’t really satisfied with them.

R.J. Stewart and the Old Ones

In this essay from 2006, R.J. Stewart discusses some of his teachers in occultism, particulaly Ronald Heaver (that’s Mr. Heaver to you), also known by the pen name of “Zadok.” (Bill Gray also figures in the essay, hence the plural.)

Before recounting my meetings with Ronald Heaver, I would like to share some brief insights regarding the teaching methods and general consciousness of the older generation of mentors in Britain. I am referring to those who, like Ronald Heaver, had come through both the 1st and/or 2nd World Wars. Few of them are left now. Many people today do not understand how different their methods were from those familiar to us in the last 20 years of spiritual, pagan, and New Age revival. There is, as a result, romanticizing, even fantasizing, about some of the founders of our spiritual and magical revival, and especially that powerful branch that relates so strongly to Glastonbury and the Sacred Mysteries. . . . .

Some of the methods of that older wartime generation of spiritual mentors may seem strange to us, but were essential to them in their day. This background, both individual and cultural, is helpful to our understanding of Ronald Heaver’s life and work, as he was of that generation, though in many ways he rose above it, despite a most difficult and dramatic life.

Firstly, many of these older generation teachers, mentors, and mystics of the British inner tradition, be they known or unknown, would teach different, even contradictory things, to different students. Therefore, students learning individually from one teacher, would each receive variations or even contradictions of the core teachings. This method was widespread, and was not as frivolous as we might think. Another method, which was well known, though supposedly secret, was to give an initiation or a confirmation of spiritual power, then tell the recipient that only he or she had received it. Years later, the recipients (plural) would find others who had had the same experience! There are typically certainly key secret phrases and dramatic unique subtle sensations, so no one (but no one) can fake receiving such spiritual empowerments.

In other words, you didn’t download the “Glastonbury” app and have instant knowledge, apparently. (Grumble grumble.)

Interesting stuff, worth reading.

Creative Visualization Doesn’t Work?

Or so claim researchers who publish in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Or is it just fantasies (winning the lottery, etc.) that don’t work?

But ultimately, Happes and Oettingen believe that positive fantasies are likely to scupper your changes of obtaining your goals. “Instead of promoting achievement, positive fantasies will sap job-seekers of the energy to pound the pavement, and drain the lovelorn of the energy to approach the one they like,” they write. “Fantasies that are less positive – that question whether an ideal future can be achieved, and that depict obstacles, problems and setbacks – should be more beneficial for mustering the energy needed to obtain success.”

What do you think of the experiment design compared to an actual visualization?

And this zinger at the end:

This study isn’t the first to explode the myth of a traditional self-help tool. A 2009 paper found that repeating positive mantras about themselves led people low in self-esteem to feel worse.

Gallimaufry with Book Porn

• “Interview, Chaos, Spiritual Machines, Circles, Readings, and Book Porn” at Plutonica.

A Heathen-metal concert review at The Movement of Sound. (That is one genre you won’t hear on A Darker Shade of Pagan.)

Anticipating a movie based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods at The Witching Hour.

Bo at The Cantos of Mvtabilitie lists favorite blogs, which must pass tests of both stylishness and spirituality.

Lovecraft’s Magick Realism

H.P. Lovecraft claimed to be a total materialist, so how did his stories become so involved with the realms of the esoteric and magical?

Eric Davis, in an essay titled “Calling Cthulhu,” writes,

This phenomenon is made all the more intriguing by the fact that Lovecraft himself was a “mechanistic materialist” philosophically opposed to spirituality and magic of any kind. Accounting for this discrepancy is only one of many curious problems raised by the apparent power of Lovecraftian magic. Why and how do these pulp visions “work”? What constitutes the “authentic” occult? How does magic relate to the tension between fact and fable? As I hope to show, Lovecraftian magic is not a pop hallucination but an imaginative and coherent “reading” set in motion by the dynamics of Lovecraft’s own texts, a set of thematic, stylistic, and intertextual strategies that constitute what I call Lovecraft’s Magick Realism.

Speaking of new Lovecraftian visions, I finally saw The Call of Cthulhu, a retro-silent movie released in 2005.  The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has more, much more, unspeakably more.

The Lovecraft cult has even reached the shooting sports: “Bullets over Arkham.”


An Important Magical Principle

It’s an old saying in advertising that “sex sells.”

This Cornell University professor may have demonstrated in the ESP lab something that magicians have known for a while.

The scourge of responsible psychological research stands behind me, wearing a red cardigan and an expression of great interest. “How were your results?” Bem asks. He points out that I scored better predicting the location of erotic photos—in Bem’s hypothesis, more arousing images are more likely to inspire ESP—than I did boring old landscapes and portraits. In this dingy lab in the basement of an Ivy League psych department, is the future now?

Professor Bem also has some ideas on sexuality and gender identity, as you will find if you read the whole thing.