Monogamy and wot all

Another gonzo post, though I have been mulling this over for a few days following a coincidentally timed Facebook post by one the bestest Priestesses I know :)

So … of the top of me head …

Here I am not really making any comments on the idea of monogamy vs polyamory. I think this is a silly meme. How boring. Both can be wonderful. Both can be woeful. Which makes sense since both involve humans, and we are both wonderful and woeful. Often at the same time :)

I have no problems with folk in poly relationships. I have no problem with folk in monogamous relationships. I have no problems with folk outside relationships and practicing ‘free love’. I have no problems with folk in celibate relationships or people who practice celibacy outside relationships, consecrated or otherwise.

I am not interested in, and simply unable, to judge anyone for their sexual and intimate lifestyle.

I do however wish that all of these, and many other, relationship choices were simply, but profoundly that – CHOICES.

Now these choices may be made as a result of following our sexual orientation: that is some folk see monogamy, polyamory and wot all as sexual orientations. Personally, I am not completely sold on this model yet. If it is correct, it means that in today’s modern west folk have more options for fulfilling their orientations than ever before! And that’s a good thing, eh? :)

Sadly though, many folk simply slot into the societal mode of relating and do not make a choice (towards or away from their orientation?) at all – they simply follow how they have been raised or what is around them. And so of course, we need to examine the idea of choice, agency and informed consent as well in all this.

One thing I have noticed, personally, that the poly lifestyle (whether an orientation or not) has, since the 1980s, become more prevalent in the Pagan community. If it becomes a default mode of relating, that would be as unhelpful as default monogamy without conscious and careful reflection.

Advocates for the poly lifestyle often have many wonderful and valid critiques of unthinking and default choice monogamy. And so they should. However, some folk also say things like polyamory gives tools for expansion of consciousness and self-exploration.

Again, I am not sold on this idea. Polyamory gives no special tools. Nor does monogamy. Nor does celibacy. These sexual and intimate orientations are not tools for change. Tools for change are self-reflection processes, introspection techniques, methods of honesty, sharing with partner(s), meditation etc. All of these can and are worked with by monogamous and celibate folk as well as poly folk.

A poly life does not automatically bring about more tools for change – it is what we DO with the reality that our partner is bonking another person on Wednesdays and alternate Saturdays that makes the change. I have known plenty of poly people handle these things as badly as monogamous folk handle things. And boy do monogamous folk, on the whole, handle things badly! I remember one radio report that DNA testing showed that one in four children in the working class areas of Liverpool in the 1990s were not fathered by the man claimed as the father. :(

However, in a monogamous relationship we can learn to love the general by utter, conscious, deliberate focus on the specific. Through the love of the one, we love the many. Which is of course the aim of our spirituality. It is for this reason marriage became to be seen as a Sacrament within the Christian churches, and the only one that is administered daily by layperson to layperson – through the love of partner to partner. The importance of this sacrament is clearly shown by these words within the rite of Solemnization of Marriage from the Book of Common Prayer:

WITH MY BODY, I THEE WORSHIP.

A mighty and telling piece of liturgy :)

As (I hope) a somewhat conscious and focused monogamist, my partner IS the Most Beautiful Woman in The World (she really is!). My focus on her makes this so. I know this as much as I know the Body of Christ is present for me in the Eucharist. And so, privileged to be intimate, to love and adore the Most Beautiful Woman in The World, I am moved to acts of utmost humility and surrender. This beholding of her as the Most Beautiful creates that reality between us.

Conscious monogamy means we focus on a single person who, like everyone, is a reflection of divinity. In Hermetic terms they are the microcosm of the macrocosm and have reflected within them ALL the divine powers. In Christian terms they are created in imago dei, an image of the One. By conscious focus upon this single one, we access the One. By consecrating our focus, our sexual expression and our intimacy upon the centre of the circle, we receive the whole. Our partner, for us, becomes the gateway to the unlimited.

Through the love of a single one, we receive infinity; as they are unlimited. And we become unlimited by their love and sole focus. So there is no limitation inherent in monogamy – a common critique from a few polyamory folk.

In fact, my own experience is that it is the exclusive consecration of our sexual expression towards our Beloved that enables them to become more unlimited, provide more avenues towards spiritual communion and more unique ways of deeply relating than engaging with several partners in a poly relationship. But that is my own personal experience and in no way do I place it over others.

Thanks :)

Review: Letters of Light – the magical letters of William G. Gray to Alan Richardson.

I am not usually prone to envy. I did however, get a taste of that emotion when contemplating the subject matter of this book – Alan Richardson’s youthful correspondence with magical great, W.G. Gray. The lucky, lucky bastard.

The book is simple: a reproduction of many of Gray’s replies to Richardson’s magical and spiritual queries from 1969 through the mid-1970s. The wisdom, depth, compassion, simplicity and utter grounded spiritual presence moved and amazed me. And I was already highly appreciative of Gray and his place in modern magic.

I was expecting the letters to be more an outpouring of Gray’s personal opinions on topics mixed with material I was already familiar with. Instead the letters were alive and the answers from Gray touched on magical and spiritual topics were so succinct and honest they, at times, shook me. The spiritual and magical ‘currents’ behind the words, typed on an old Remington typewriter, remain present today. God knows how the young Alan Richardson coped with reading them.

For example, straight away in the first letter the statement of a constantly repeated theme:

This will probably sound awfully disappointing to you, but no matter where you go, who you meet, what sort of situations you get into, you will always be thrown back on yourself in the end, so –  you might as well start there in the first place and save an awful lot of time, worry, expense, and what have you’.

Simple. No inclination towards magical or spiritual jargon, yet the heart of magic. And within a month Gray, in a few lines, presents more sense on magical ‘contacts’ than that found in many groups and books:

By the way, don’t attempt to ‘hear words’, ‘just get it by contact”. The contact will sort itself out into English via your mind in its own time. In fact it is silly to expect English or any other human language on that level, for no one speaks like that there. Once you have build [sic] up your symbolic translating machine via the “Letters”, and so forth, the sense will “come English” all right.”

Brilliant. And likely more than a 17 year old could understand at all. In fact, the letters throughout the book provide a great amount of real, practical and thought out information on magical contacts and spiritual entities, proven over the years of Gray’s life. I’ve not read better aside from Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight:

It [the contact] will only answer you from the information you have “banked” with yourself, but the way the information comes out and the new knowledge you gain from this should have come from [the contact].

and

Put in childish terms (which are often clearest) the HGA [Holy Guardian Angel] is something (or someone) you and God invent between you as a communicating agency.

The same clarity of thought and obvious experience is present in Gray’s comments on many topics and questions, as relevant and as crucial today as then. In fact, many of the topics covered in the correspondence, even the same questions, are now being asked by newcomers on Facebook groups. The answers they receive (when they do) have to be filtered from masses of garbage and still pale against the wisdom Gray imparted to Richardson. This includes subjects such as: why do so many adepts prance about like dickheads; the role and place of sexuality in magic; the tension between tradition and innovation; and the pros and cons of joining magical groups.

Gray, typically, is very direct and blunt in his answers. Witness this reply to Richardson’s melancholic account of the ending of his relationship:

In this life you will not only have to learn how to be “alone” in your Self, but how to succeed spiritually with this process, so that you can become an Individual Entity in your own right … You are not looking for a mate really. You are looking for missing parts of your Self which you know “deep down” must be evolved.

and … something even more relevant to today with self and internet publishing:

Another question to ask yourself. Just how many what I call real occult books have been published in the last few years? The “occult explosion” is a myth invented by publishers to launch rubbish on the market.

Gray of course published many books, all of which were ‘real’ occult books, as is the one under review. Despite sharing (or whinging!) about how little money and reward publishing brought in (‘so much Malkuth for so little Kether’), he never succumbed to temptation to join the ‘occult explosion’:

Christ, I could write crap as well as anyone, inventing phoney “spells”, “masturbation by moonlight”, and all the bloody stupid irresponsible rubbish that hits the sales counter. BUT could I live with myself afterwards even if surrounded by rising royalties? No.

Despite these and other comments, I did, as Richardson suggested in his foreword, find myself surprised. Underneath these letters is one overriding quality: love. Gray loved magic, loved sharing his information and loved that the work may continue. This set of letters does this wonderfully. It has deep treasures and is actually much more relevant to the internet generation of modern young magicians than a single young man from the North of England.

Forget magical forums, forget searching for relevance on Facebook posts – this slim volume will enrich newcomers and experienced alike. A must for anyone wanting to apply magical principles to their life. Highly recommended.

Letters of Light – the magical letters of William G. Gray to Alan Richardson. Alan Richardson (editor). Skylight Press, 2015.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Skylight Press.

The penis and male force – a snippet from Isis and Osiris

If men are not led onto journeys of powerlessness, they will always abuse power. ~ Richard Rohr.

Out of all the myths worked into modern Paganism one of the most moving and powerful for me is that of Isis and Osiris. There are several different versions and several different components of this myth. And like all myth it is a living symbol, expressing eternal verities into temporal consciousness and conditions. There is no single ‘meaning’ to the myth; the meaning for any one individual is different to another, just as the meaning for us changes as we change from youth to maturity to old age. We live and embody the myth and are changed by it.

The snippet of the myth I wish to focus on here is that concerning the right, the correct, the Maat relationship of men and male sexuality in regards to the earth and to women. I am of course relating this from my own (mis)understanding and limitations and therefore am speaking only of cisgendered men; I cannot speak from the perspective of other gendered men.

In the myth, the evil Set, half-brother of the rightful king, Osiris, kills and dismembers Osiris into 14 parts. Afterwards the Goddess Isis, his queen and sister, gathers up the parts of Osiris to revive him, but cannot find his penis since it was thrown into the Nile River where it was swallowed by a bottom dwelling fish. Isis then creates a new penis from clay, affixes it to Osiris and breathes life into him to enact his resurrection. Only then does Osiris become lord of both the upper (earth) and lower worlds.

At this point we reflect on the words of Richard Rohr above: Osiris, through loss in battle, subjugation by his half-brother and physical dismemberment becomes utterly powerless. The thematic connection with aspects of the Paschal Mystery is obvious. It is this loss of power that enables Osiris to later become a just and wise ruler and king. He needs to die to his inherited and assumed male role and become utterly impotent.

Osiris’s restoration, the myth continues, is at the hands of and through the love and magic of Isis. The once powerful king is rescued by a woman, who herself in some versions of the myth becomes disempowered and forgetful of her divine nature during her grief stricken wanderings. The relation of divinity to power is profound in this myth, as indeed it is in the Paschal Mystery.

However, even when restored Osiris is lacking his most vital and visible symbol of potency, his penis. The myth is clear – in order for Osiris to rule both the worlds, upper and lower, conscious and unconscious, he needs to give up his penis, his male power. He needs to accept the assistance of his wife and Goddess and have a new penis, one made from and connected to the earth. Only then is he fit to rule in truth and balance, linked to the greater Earth.

On an esoteric level, this myth installs within us (when worked) the eternal verity that the male force, including sexuality, is not the prerogative of the individual man, but is a gift from the Mother, from the Earth. That is, sexual force in men and pubescent boys is not their own force but flows through their body via their connection to all life, and when transformed, respected and controlled, is a means by which they can connect more deeply to all life, to the Earth.

loversThis verity runs in direct contradiction to both conscious and unconscious attitudes to men and the male force within our culture. Common idioms and sexual slang position the penis as its own entity, its own force and it is not uncommon for pubescent boys to become so focused on and enamoured of their penis they give it a name. The penis, so the boy learns from the world around him, has its own agenda, often in stark contradiction to the boy or man himself. This was graphically illustrated in the comedy show Seinfeld, where ‘Jerry the brain’ played a chess game against ‘Jerry the penis’ to decide if Jerry the man should continue dating and having sex with a woman he actually despised. Underlying the humour here is a dangerous meme of knowledge; the penis is separate from the man, yet it can control a man’s actions. Men, we are told, think more with their dicks than their brain.

The Osiris myth opposes this enculturated view; his penis is from the earth, loving crafted by Isis – he rules by his acceptance of impotence and connection to both the earth and women. This truth is also shown forth (as well as many other things) in the Lovers Tarot trump as painted by Pamela Colman Smith, where Adam looks to Eve who looks to the angel.

“Don’t care if it’s brain dead. Don’t care if it’s limbless. If it has a penis” ~ Garunkel and Oates.

On a social level this verity indicates the need for men to give up male privilege. To accept we have assumed power, vitality, respect and force only through the fact that we are male, that we possess a penis. The power needs to be given back to whence it came, the larger world, women and the earth and we needs to accept true, equal partnership with women – this is not a sexual partnership and applies equally to straight and gay men.

The myth of Osiris and Isis gives us all this – and far, far more – no wonder it is a favourite of the Pagan community. Of course, we need not only to read but to embody, chant, work and enact the myth. Then we will understand. Thanks :)

Sharing – a rant

This is kinda a follow up to the last post. And then I’m done, as these problems seem to be more and more prevalent in the magical-Pagan communities since the internet. I’ll have said my piece and will move on to bunny pics or good news stories :)

First off, it should go without saying that I view the people mentioned (but not identified) in this post as images of the One, whole and divine and that I do not – cannot – judge their spiritual life. I am simply responding to what they say and do.

The other day I noticed on Facebook a rather new beginner to all things magical produce a nice little chart of the Kircher Qabalistic Tree of Life, complete the 22 paths, superimposed over the human body for meditation reference. Very nice and kind of him to make and share this publically. However, there was a mistake – he confused the non-Sephira of Da’ath with the Hebrew letter Daleth (and associated Path). The result was the path curved down in an arc to pass through the throat, as this is where Da’aath is most often corresponded in modern western magic.

The good chap responded well to my correction and changed the diagram. However, that is not the point: the fact that a beginner could even THINK of producing something for public consumption within their tradition astounded me. That he made a mistake did not: we all do that. It is the role of our elders and teachers to correct our mistakes – and it is our responsibility to accept the correction and not to share – or even worse ‘teach’ the mistakes.

Talking of Da’ath, I was once guest in a ‘traditional Witch coven’ who, among other things, worked the Middle Pillar exercise (cos traditional medieval Witch traditions were just full of modern magical Qabalah). When I asked if they taught the meaning of the Godnames associated with the exercise, their leader very proudly affirmed they did. However, when describing the name associated with the heart centre, YHVH ALH V DAaTH, he said it meant ‘God who is just below Da’ath’. At which point:

Of course, the High Priest had ‘figured out’ the name for himself – and well, yes YHVH is kinda translated as ‘God’ and the heart is below the throat … so it had to be right, eh? And he had TAUGHT this for years and a Coven had hived off from his coven with this ‘knowledge’. The point here of course is that his initiative to ‘figure it out’ was mistaken; he did not have the humility to even read correctly, let alone ask an experienced Golden Dawn magician. He did it himself. All hail the modern world!

I was also once asked to help a generic magical group with ‘a few problems’ they were having. I discovered their teacher had included the rubric directions for several GD rituals they were using. So they would literally stand up, wave arms around and recite:

“Say the Sign of Osiris Slain. Cross arms on breast. Give the L sign and say the Sign of the Mourning of Isis … “

It boggled me mind … and still does … Once more, this came from the leader’s personal ‘initiative’ without cross checking. All this comes from people thinking, “Yeah, I’ll have a go at this …” Which is kinda laudable, but without serious learning, humility, elders and tradition falls down so fast it’s painful.

So the message is simple: do not, do fucking NOT, share any information, teach people or whack some half-arsed muck up on the internet when you are a student or beginner. Wait, wait, wait until you are recognised by your tradition, by your elders, as qualified and empowered to teach.

Don’t have elders or a tradition? – bury your pride, accept some ego discomfort and get them – even if they do not ‘feel’ completely right to you. In any case,  as a beginner do not, ever, assume you know anything unless it is checked by someone you respect and does actually know things.

‘Nuff said. :)

Short and sweet – follow the rules

Another gonzo – no edit – post: I recently posted this on my Facebook page:

Free advice for any neophytes / novices / apprentices on my feed: do follow the structure and order of your group / school / coven / lodge. Do not think it doesn’t have to apply to you, or you’re somehow ‘different’. You’re not.

Responses varied with one basically saying that working beyond your grade (my term) is fine, so long as you are doing the work of your grade also. Any magic or practices you do will either not work or produce an imbalanced state from our unconscious that needs to be dealt with anyway.

I’ve heard this argument many times before and it seems a reasonable way of looking at things from the modern liberal, individual mind-set. However, there are – to my mind – clear problems with it. To wit:

THE REALITY OF SPIRITUAL POWERS. The above attitude is only relevant if we consider all the many blessings, beings, angels, powers etc spoken of in our various traditions as ‘within us’ – and any imbalance our presumptive actions produces would be from ‘our unconscious’. Of course traditional Christianity, traditional spiritual magic, traditional (re-booted) Paganism does not think this at all. The beings are real. And to throw in a deliberate ‘don’t do this at home’ warning, this from Israel Regardie quoting an anonymous student:

“The writer of the above method adds a note, which in my opinion is worth paying close attention to; it coincides with my own view as expressed elsewhere.

“There is reason for concern that some students may misinterpret certain of Crowley’s magical writings. For example in Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter IX, p. 69, he writes: `The peculiar mental excitement required may even be aroused by the perception of the absurdity of the process, and the persistence in it, as when Frater Perdurabo…recited From Greenland’s Icy Mountains and obtained his result.”‘

“Now there is no doubt that the ego, excited to the proper pitch, is capable of placing such a strain in the Astral Light as to cause some sort of manifestation, perhaps even that of the spirit it was desired to evoke (but more likely a phantasm masquerading as such). But without the presence of the Divine Force, such a being, once evoked, cannot be controlled, and there is no effective means of banishing it.

“Depending on the nature of the spirit, and the degree of its manifestation, it is likely that the spiritual progress of the magician is at an end – at least as far as his current incarnation is concerned.”

Ouch!

THE EGO. Let’s seriously think about what is going on here. When we join a spiritual group, take a spiritual director or guide or enrol in an esoteric school we are entering a relationship. We have consciously chosen this; no one forces us. We have consciously chosen to accept their wisdom and advice, because we think they have something we do not have at this time. They can help us unfold, to uncover the true nature of ourselves, the image of the One, who we really are – letting go of sin, or that which we are not. If we then, at some point think, ‘hang on, I think they are wrong’, we have an obligation to be honest and say that. Otherwise we taint that relationship with falsehood and we might as well not go on.

And, if our director or group says, ‘well, thanks for your opinion sunshine, but you still need to do it this way …” we have to accept that. Or leave the relationship. Because we have created a situation where our personal ego knows better than our teacher. And to enshrine the ego as better or more knowledgeable than our teacher or our Order is not a good idea. At all. It encourages all sorts of daft notions. Of course we do not need to do a whole guru-yoga number and listen to all the words and ideas of our teacher as the words of a Master, but we do need to respect them and believe they have more wisdom than us. Otherwise, what’s the point? As my pal Eric sings:

If we call for the proof and we question the answers
Only the doubt will grow

SERVICE. The biggest problem however with the notion that we can do things how we like, even if it damages us, throws us off kilter and makes us learn, and that’s all good, is the question of service. The spiritual life is one of dedicated service. If we go ‘off the rails’ because of our ego choice to do something our curriculum or spiritual director says we should not we have limited our service. Dealing with our ‘unconscious’ (or really-real problematic spiritual forces) means we have to focus on ourselves rather than others – and that is the exact opposite of the spiritual life. What a waste!

At this juncture we can look, cos people often do, at Aleister Crowley. Crowley was BADLY let down by his first teachers, George Cecil Jones and Alan Bennett who encouraged him and joined him in the practice of magic during his outer order years. As I have said, and keep saying, the GD (originally) followed the threefold structure, mirrored in the three Orders, of renunciation of the false self (Outer Order), followed by re-creation of a functional self, as directed by the Divine (who God made us to be) (Inner Order) to eventually embody the revelation of the eternal verities (symbolised by the Third Order). And the fact that the Third Order could never be reached meant something too in this schema.

The dangers of premature magic or depth spiritual practices are real, as are the results which are sadly visible in any modern Neo-Pagan and magical community. Simply put, we cannot use magic or spiritual practices to re-create a self that is still in a process of renunciation. This occurred with Crowley, and whereas once when young he wrote to A.E. Waite seeking advice from someone more experienced and committed to service, Crowley quickly became his own light and own authority. This did not end well. And while is there no doubt of Crowley’s intelligence, drive and originality, these were not realised in service for the world or others. His efforts and talents were misdirected towards his own squalid life and a set of followers and sycophants in Orders which he hoped, paradoxically, would produce enlightenment within the world at large. We can explain this anyway we want, but I apportion some of the blame to magic – too much, too early and too boundless.

THANKS :)

Short and sweet: why we need feminism

There is a little ‘anecdote’ I first came across in the 1980’s which is very interesting. I’ve found a version online:

A young man and his father are involved in a terrible car accident. Tragically, the father dies soon after.

When the young man arrives at the emergency ward, the surgeon says: “I cannot operate on this young man … he is my son!”

How can this be so?

Note: the man who died really was the young man’s father!

I am not sure now, in 2015, how powerful this is. But it really was in the 1980s and revealed to everyone to whom this was, carefully and innocently, asked how much internalised sexism they held, myself included.

Now … a couple of years back at dinner my smooch and I ran this past her intelligent and precocious 12 year old, raised I should add, with a goodly amount of feminism herself. I wish I had recorded her answers. She pondered and paused and worked it out. She contemplated solutions involving adoption, gay marriage and transgendered folk. But she did not, as all of us in the 1980s did not, come to the clear and obvious solution – the surgeon is a woman.

This moment was an epiphany for me, and though only anecdotal, spoke volumes of how, even though the causes of gay and transgender awareness and rights have progressed, the invisible and structural discrimination against women remains. And there are of course oodles of statistics to prove this.

I always try to look to the future, which is why I am interested in the ideas of our youth and which is why this occasion floored me more than a little. And recently, I have seen a group of (mostly cisgender and heterosexual) youth come to this conclusion about the most important ‘asset’ girls and boys have in being attractive: girls – their body, and boys – fashion. This deserves a mega frowny face for sure.

And so, yes, for these and many, many other reasons we need feminism.

Thanks :)

Short and sweet – how spiritual ‘authority’ may be a good thing

The modern liberal, progressive mindset in spiritual matters is really clear – we are each our own authority, our own truth and guiding force. We should not be hampered by exterior pressures, controls or authority. We find out own light. Right.

OK – but here’s the thing. A little while ago I spoke to a three people who each told a very similar story. They are all Christians, members of Anglican parishes. Each is also elderly. And each was raised to be homophobic. It was an ordinary part of their culture and upbringing, reinforced no doubt by the church attitudes of the post war era.

All three then reacted mightily and uncomfortably to their church’s openness and welcoming of lesbian and gay parishioners in recent years. It was just not right. All three felt like the church was wrong. Yet, all three stayed within the church, listened to the church and her priests as authority and stuck the course. They did not jump ship to another, less than gay-friendly church (of which there are dog’s plenty).

So each of these lovely people, over many years, met and befriended the occasional ‘gay’ person. They shared communion with them, sat in council with them, worked for the community with them. And in the course of all this  – only because they submitted to the higher authority of the church – all three learnt a lot about themselves. And they learnt about their gay sisters and brothers.

Each of these people spoke openly how they had changed, opened their hearts and become better people – not because they wanted to, but because they were directed to, encouraged to – by the actions of their church. One now has an ongoing and deep relationship with her lesbian niece, a woman she had seldom spoken to for decades. For this she thanks the church and curses her own prejudice that forbade this relationship for many years.

So … maybe, just maybe, spiritual authority can be a good thing. And maybe we do not always know what is best for us … just maybe :) Thanks.