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.


Review: A New Look at Enochian Magic

John Dee (possibly a model for Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest) was one of the most fascinating characters of 16th-century England: mathematician, navigator, occultist, etc.

Working with the trance medium Edward Kelley, Dee produced pages and pages of material, some claimed to be dictated by angels, about the supernatural realms.

Although based in biblical and non-canonical legends of the patriarch Enoch, this system of “Enochian magic,” complete with its own language (as melodious as Klingon) occupies its own space in the overall scheme of Western magic.

A new book on the system, John DeSalvo’s Decoding the Enochian Secrets, lets you see reproductions of Dee’s diaries and tables of “angelic” letters, photographed from the originals in the British Museum.

But as DeSalvo writes, “The angels never explained the use or application of these tables of Enoch that were transmitted to Dee and Kelley. Dee never recorded anything in his diary regarding these tables that could give us any insight into how to use them” (55).

A system  of meditations and invocations in the so-called Enochian language has been practiced over the centuries, and DeSalvo gives some instructions on how to begin with it.

Need to Put a Little Zip into Your Initiations?

Try the giant human centipede. As the man said,

Do you wish to separate the jolly good fellows from the dour sour pusses from those who seek to ASCEND TO THEIR SIDE DEGREES — but you suffer from lack of imagination when it comes to constructing elaborate hazing rituals and DEVICES?

For those times when a dark room lit by candles is not enough.

Gallimaufry with Grosbeaks

Black-headed grosbeak, evening grosbeak, downy woodpecker. Photo by Chas S.  Clifton
First black-headed grosbeak of the season (left).

If it’s Beltane, why I am still splitting firewood? Usually I observe the rhythms of the “Celtic” year by turning off the furnace at Beltane and relighting it at Samhain, using just supplemental wood heat otherwise. Not this year.

But during a brief sunny interval yesterday morning, the first black-headed grosbeak of the season landed on a feeder, and I snapped a quick picture through the window. That’s a downy woodpecker on the shadowed side, and up above, facing the camera, a male evening grosbeak—they have been hanging around for a couple of months, an unusual “irruption,” as birders say.

Other stuff:

•  The Beltania music festival happens next weekend, just down the road. The weather still looks iffy. A friend on a Colorado Pagan email list said that spring weather is “manic depressive.”  My own mental image for Beltane is snow on lilac blossoms.

• I liked this quote from an interview with Lon Milo DuQuette at Patheos:

I have a new book coming out in November (from Llewellyn) titled Low Magick — It’s All in Your Head, You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is. It’s autobiographic and contains stories of magickal operations I’ve done over the years. The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, facetiously using the term “Low Magick” to refer to any magickal operation one actual performs rather than those one just talks or argues about.

• Jonathan Ott, who gave us the world “entheogen,” had his home destroyed by fire, needs help.

• An article on depression and dreams offers this:

In the 1970s, psychologists noted that people suffering from depression also report more dreams than average. In fact, people who are clinically depressed may dream three or four times as much. The quality of REM dreams (also called “paradoxical sleep”) is different too: more intense emotions, more negative themes, more nightmares, and more unpleasant dreams, in general.

And consequently depressed people often sleep worse. It’s a vicious circle.  Processed food is also linked to depression—another vicious circle. Feel low -> eat worse, etc.

• The Pagan Newswire Collective has two new group blog projects: The Juggler, on the arts, and Warriors & Kin, about issues facing past and current Pagan military personnel. They will be added to my blogroll.