I am not… you are not…

Some comments in this post refer to a current hot topic. At the first sign of folk not playing nice comment moderation will be turned on. 🙂

The main subject of this post has been bouncing around my head for a while, but crystallised this morning due to recent events. As a newly published author (By Names and Images – buy now!) I have arranged for a few reviews of my book. Try as I may, at the back of my mind I am a little anxious about these and other reviews – especially free-for-all online reviews at Amazon. Now logically, I have no reason to be, as noted experts in the field have already said good things about the book – in fact, the best one can say*. Still though…sometimes a little nagging itch remains at the corner of my consciousness. That’s when I remind myself:

I AM NOT MY BOOK

In any case, a recent post on Nick Farrell’s blog and subsequent comments has really put the spanners in the works of online review legitimacy anyway. Nick Farrell’s recent and very good book King Over the Water appears to be under sustained and organised attack in the review columns on Amazon. These appear to be instigated and orchestrated by David Griffin. Nick reproduces part of a newsletter by Mr Griffin as Imperator and Archon Basileus, asking his members to boycott Nick’s works, slate his books and post bad reviews.

I have elsewhere commented on this, and would only say here that I think asking members of a spiritual organisation, as head of that organisation to LIE (not having read the books) is a strange activity to say the least. No matter what the motivation, the ends do not justify the means here. By consciously lying, especially upon instruction, we necessarily distort ourselves. I cannot see why a spiritual head would encourage this. Of course, Nick could have made the whole thing up, but I have not seen any accusation of this by Mr Griffin or any member of his Order (who would have received the alleged newsletter and know the truth). [ Update: The newsletter was real. It is referred to in this recent post on Mr Griffin’s blog, where it states “one among us even betrayed thier sacred oath of secrecy and sent a copy of our rallying letter to Nick Farrell.” ‘Tis sad.]

So, I feel for Nick and imagine being in his place. Consciously I know that possibility of organised bad reviews, attacks or people using my hallowed work as a foil for their own venting and anger really shouldn’t worry me, as my ego identity is not By Names and Images. I have put a fair bit of energy, time, love and commitment into the book, but it is still not me. However, if I were in Nick’s shoes I am not sure, as the orchestrated spurious reviews and one star ratings stacked up, if I would not feel it a little and forget:

I AM NOT MY BOOK

It’s the same in all walks of life. I am not my blog posts; when they are attacked, I am not attacked. I am not my current project at work; if the CEO hates it, he does not hate me. I am not my son; when he is verbally abused, I am not abused.

The separation of ego-identity from our creations, our loves and our membership organisations is not always easy though. In pre-modern times when individual identity was more bound up with family, tribe, religion and country it was nigh on impossible for most people. These days we are more self focused and self-formative, so we are not liable to go into conniptions when a foreign leader verbally attacks our country. Well…

Bunny Bhagwan of the Rabbit Rajneesh

With magical and spiritual groups the situation is a little more complicated. Any magical group worth its salt develops and maintains a potent and living egregore, a group consciousness that has function outside any one individual, whether they be a regular member or the Grand Poobah. One of the functions of initiation and training is to link and infuse the new member into this egregore and the egregore into them. This occurs on many levels, and a good clairvoyant can actually discern the effects on the subtle bodies. When effectively created the bond, link and communion with the egregore can feel like the words of St Paul:

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

This intense linking is a two edged sword. On the one hand we gain incredible communion, strength, purpose and life. On the other, it can be hard not to feel as though we are the Order we belong to. This becomes dysfunctional in cults and magical organisations run in similar ways or drawing strength from the personality of its leader. This is one of the reasons lodges traditionally rotate roles and leadership.

In the Golden Dawn and those traditions working similar mysteries, it is further complicated. Paradoxically the deeper Adept degrees both promote surrender to a mystical egregore and make us more individual, more who we actually are. Adepts who have undergone and understood this mystery deeply (it’s all in the RR et AC 5=6) are therefore their Order, yet at the same time they are simply an individual separate from it.

Those who are likely to fly of the handle when they feel ‘their Order’ is being attacked are often those who have not deepened into this consciousness yet. We see this also in the zeal of newly converted members of any faith, spiritual organisation or self help group. New members of Alcoholics Anonymous often have a shiny adoration of the Twelve Steps and respond vigorously to criticisms of it. Those who have been sponsors for years, who have integrated the Steps into their beings, take such criticisms on the chin.

So the mustard cuts both ways. Those who feel upset and hurt when they perceive their group or Order is ‘being attacked’ can also choose to remember that:

YOU ARE NOT YOUR ORDER

Now, as a veteran of an Order that really was attacked – door broken down during a meeting, lodge equipment stolen – I may see things differently to most people, but the reality is that we are talking about bytes of information that transform themselves into pixels on screen. As I have maintained before, pixels on a screen are not an attack, even if they render themselves as different opinions and direct words. Thanks 🙂

* In case you’re wondering what they said: 🙂

“The book is the finest introduction to the Golden Dawn system yet penned and includes many never before seen highlights from the author’s years of oral instruction and training. A “must have” for every student of the Golden Dawn, beginning and advanced.” – Tony DeLuce, author, publisher and Initiate of the Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn.

“…An exceptional text … Peregrin’s reader-friendly style of teaching displays a joyous sharing of knowledge that demystifies complex teachings, revealing the “the heart and soul” of the Work. This book will be a treasured addition to every Golden Dawn magician’s library. – Charles “Chic” Cicero and Sandra “Tabatha” Cicero, Chief Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

18 comments

  1. asariah · March 25, 2012

    A very worthy post Brother!

    I am subtly reminded of my obsession with the film ‘Fight Club’:

    I Am Jack’s Raging Bile Duct
    I Am Jack’s Cold Sweat
    I Am Jack’s Complete Lack of Surprise
    I Am Jack’s Inflamed Sense of Rejection
    I Am Jack’s Smirking Revenge
    I Am Jack’s Broken Heart

  2. adamsmith2009 · March 25, 2012

    Greetings brother,
    I must say, this post is very timely. It has been grueling to see some of the posts going on, and sad. I watched one unfold earlier today on FB that was reminiscent of an old pulp fiction detective novel: “did you or did you not!!!…”
    I think it is excellent to see so many good books being published though, including yours (i was just notified my pre-order is on it’s way!), Nick’s, as well as a couple of our Order’s members as well. To see how the history of the Orders within our tradition have developed over time, their triumphs, their heartaches, their utter “HUMAN-ness”, and their failings, just brings home to me: all of my heroes have feet of clay…even the Magical ones 😉 If anything, it increases my compassion for humanity. Cheers!

  3. Anonymous · March 25, 2012

    Any chance the book will come out in electronic format? I would love to be able to read it on my computer or tablet.

  4. Peregrin · March 25, 2012

    Hi –

    thanks for the comments. @asariah – would not have immediately thought of this. Thanks 🙂

    @adam – Thanks. Yes, we are human, trying our best 🙂 What books from members of your Order are on the way? Did I miss anything?

    @anonymous…not yet. It is something I am looking into and will discuss with my publishers, the very cool Skylight Press. My son tells me it is quite easy to manage, so will look into this. Ta 🙂

  5. adamsmith2009 · March 25, 2012

    Yes there are two:
    The Key: Sethian Gnosticism in the postmodern world by Rune’ Odegaard
    The Magical Treatise of Solomon, or Hygromanteia (Sourceworks of Ceremonial Magic Series) by Ioannis Marathakis
    I’m waiting on both of them from Amazon myself. Ioannis’ book also has a forward by Stephen Skinner. I read a friends copy of Rune’s book, and it is such an easy yet informative read. Really good!
    Put them on your wish list:-)

  6. Arcad · March 25, 2012

    A good post, though I have to say I fear that often poeple want to attack teh individual when attacking their work since thi smay be the only way to get the individual. Also because ofteh this will cause a (not well thought through) reaction.
    There is much to say about the recent events but that would go too far here. I just have to say that it is sadeining me and it is rather confusing to say teh least to see teh head of an order, as you say, someone who is a spiritual leader, ordering his whole group to put out false statements. It speaks for itself and does not put a very good light on teh whole tradition. Funny since said head seems to be very concerned abot the overal reputation of teh whole tradition and community as such. Also funny that said head has critisized exactely this kind of behavious from other heads before.
    I truely hope that everyone in that order makes up their own mind and shows responsibility. Irrespective whether you agree with or like the content of a book or the author of it, in all fairness you need to read it first in order to make up your mind and then you may post whatever reasonable and well argued review you come up with.

    As a lawyer I oftenhave to deal with people testify in court giving false statement because someone told them what to say. I do not have to say where that leads to.

    I truely hope that common sense kicks in soon

    peace and love
    Arcad

  7. Arcad · March 25, 2012

    I just see that David’s last post is down. Hope it is not another hacking attack…

  8. Arcad · March 25, 2012

    I am a spammer… the post is still there, the link here did not work for me. Glad to see that

  9. Peregrin · March 25, 2012

    Hi Fr Arcad,

    thanks for the comments and common sense. I hope it kicks in soon around the community too 🙂

    Yes, I half expected the post to be… pulled… hacked…beamed up by aliens? Have made a copy anyway, just in case 🙂

  10. Peregrin · March 25, 2012

    ah, OK – he seems to have changed the URL. will update my link – thanks 🙂

  11. Mike Howard · March 25, 2012

    Having had some negative and hostile reviews posted on the Internet recently regarding my new book on modern traditional witchcraft I have sympathy for your position. You are going to get some bad reviews irrespective of whether the content of the book is good or not. The criticism of factual errors is one thing but many reviews descend into personal abuse because the reviewer or critic has some personal agenda or axe to grind and that is the case with my book. Unless bad reviews descend into libel and require a legal response I have always tried to ignore them. Getting into a public dialogue with those involved does not work as it tends to escalate the situation and the author comes out looking as petty as his or her critics. I wish your book every success

  12. Nick Farrell · March 25, 2012

    Hi Perigrin
    I would say that refusing to bow down to the will of David Griffin will automatically single you out for attack. All it takes is for David to believe that your book is talking about him and he will order his group to flood your book reviews with one stars. He told me last night that if I submitted King over the Water to him so that it could be censored and then apologized to him for a line he claims erroneously was about him he would call off his Internet trolls. Of course I told him to go forth and multiply. But David is used to bullying people who do not obey his will and until this attempt of his is shown to fail he will probably continue to do so. What I find strange is that he found 11 members in his order who were so much like sheep that they actually did what they were told. (although to be fair it is clear that David could not find enough people because he spent a lot of time sending the abuse himself from different accounts). If a chief ordered me to attack someone online (what ever the imagined justification) I would think they were acting like Zink and leave the order. I would say that this would be a basic and fairly obvious moral test for an individual as to whether they were suitable for esoteric work. Anyone who files online abuse while “obeying orders” immediately discounts them
    For what it is worth I don’t think you mention the AO in your book so you will be OK. All that will happen is Frater WA will automatically give you one star for the crime of not being David Griffin or mentioning him in a positive light.

  13. Nick Farrell · March 25, 2012

    Oh yes…..
    One of the things that should be telling about the reviews for King over he Water is that if you look at the names who supported the book they were all well known in the Golden Dawn community and they gave it five stars.
    David’s anonymous one star clowns are unknown.
    When your book goes out to review it will have the same thing. Most of those who are interested in the GD will know about David and his antics.

  14. Peregrin · March 25, 2012

    @ Mike, thanks for the good wishes. What is the title of your book you refer to? Thanks:)

    @ Nick, I am glad to see you seem to be weathering the storm well. Yes, I think the whole sorry episode shows up a lot of problems. I guess, since David claims membership of thousands and only 11 or so took him up on his instruction, we can deduce that less than one per cent of his members listen to the representative of the Secret Chiefs. Interesting. As you say, I imagine a lot of members took this as a moral test and refused to attack you. I hope in their refusal they purchase a copy of your book to see what the fuss is all about 🙂

    I agree, if I was in a group and was asked to do such a thing, I’d be appalled and vote with my feet.

    Oh, in case Frater WA is reading, who insists I am all pally with Nick and simply parrot him, it is obvious this is not the case. Nick has a singular ability to constantly misspell my name as no personal friend does 🙂

  15. Mike Howard · March 25, 2012

    It is interesting what Nick Ferrell says because that is exactly what has happened with my book ‘Children of Cain: A Study of Modern Traditional Witches’. It has been given bad reviews by those who are ignorant or are trying to empire build or rewrite history for their own purposes and given good reviews by respected and knowledgable people who know what they are talking about and come at itfrom a position of authority. My advice is to ignore the trolls and the muppets. Have faith in what you have produced and only take notice of those with real knowledge who recognize your work for its merits and say so. I have been in contact with Skylight Press and requested a review copy for my magazine ‘The Cauldron’ and I’m sure I will able to give it a favourable and recommended review!

  16. dirkt · March 25, 2012

    Nothing is worth clinging to as me or mine 😉

  17. Rebsie · March 25, 2012

    Regarding an ebook version of By Names and Images: yes, we’re up for that. We do digital versions of our books where there is a perceived demand and where the author wishes it. So if you want it, Peregrin, it shall be done.

    It is interesting to see how similar Mike Howard’s experiences have been – in fact, when the current GD rumpus blew up my first thought was how uncannily similar it was to what has happened in certain traditional witchcraft circles: i.e. people who claim sole rights to a lineage and use that “authority” to rewrite history and bully and harass anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The individuals who attacked Mike’s book also conducted a lengthy campaign of online harassment against a close friend and colleague of mine, so I’ve seen at first hand how warped these things can get. Mike is right that the only way to deal with it is not to waste energy on it or give them the satisfaction of responding in kind. They only make themselves look foolish anyway as they fly further and further off the handle.

    The fact that this same pattern repeats itself in different areas of the esoteric community just reinforces my view that ego is the most dangerous thing you can bring to the Mysteries. If you’re not grounded in a sense of humility and service then as soon as the power starts to flow, the ego bloats into something monstrous and soon loses all sense of perspective. As soon as you start thinking that your magic is better than somebody else’s, or that your lineage makes you somehow chosen and entitled, you’re on a path to devastating self-delusion – and usually at the expense of the magic itself.

  18. Peregrin · March 26, 2012

    @ Dirk – so, so true 🙂

    @ Mike, thanks for title. Will get it 🙂 Not sure how I missed it. Thanks too for arranging a review 🙂

    @ Rebsie – I do not think anyone could present these core problems more eloquently. Thanks heaps 🙂

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