George Pell and the SNAFU Principle

geroge pellCurrently in Australia much focus is being given to the incredible display of Cardinal George Pell giving testimony to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse via video link from Rome. I won’t report much of that here: Google and be amazed yourself.

What I will say is that Cardinal’s Pell’s repeated refrain of ‘I knew nothing’ about the vast amount of abusive and paedophilic behaviour occurring under his watch rings both false and true to me. Most of my contemporaries and peers think it is all a pack of muck-muck. However, while I think that, I also do not think that.

This seems contradictory and if the institution (the Roman Catholic Church) Pell represents was functional and healthy it would be so. But it is not, and the good Cardinal is the product of an institution that has taken the SNAFU principle to its apotheosis by including the concept of consecrated spokesmen of God at its highest points. Let me explain.

The SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up) principle as I read it as teenager in St Bob is explained in this diagram:

Here we may readily substitute workers for peasants, middle managers for knights, upper management for nobles and CEO for King. Or in Pell’s case, the laity, episcopacy, cardinals and pope.

SNAFU – power down and information filtered up.

The crucial element here is that power comes down from the top and information is FILTERED as it rises to the top. That is, the peasants learn very quickly to only tell the knights what they think the knights want to hear, who do the same for the nobles etc. Because otherwise a mighty shit storm will descend upon them from high. The result is the King knows less about what is really going on his kingdom than the most uneducated serf and his decisions will reflect that ignorance.

I remember when a school friend was elected as an MP and I was ranting to him about some of the more notorious decisions of former PM John Howard which showed he was about as ‘in touch’ with the Australian public as a starved shark. My friend calmly replied, ‘well, yes he would have been told that the most Australians think that way and honestly would have thought any other voice was simply being negative’. He knew the SNAFU principle well, my friend. Needless to say he did not last long in politics.

So, yes SNAFU. This happens in most structured organisations, even families. And it happens ALL THE TIME. I’ve seen it occur in the most mundane spheres, like the purchase of scissors for an office.

Now focusing on the RCC, the power and awe given to priests, let alone those higher in the hierarchy, is staggering. Most non-Catholics will not understand this. Most congregations back when Pell was a simple priest were taught to see Priests as something other than human. I’ve seen elderly parishioners almost wet themselves when a priest accepted their invitation to dinner. I was not raised Catholic but have studied the culture a bit from up close and my reports here are considered accurate by friends who were raised Catholic.

So once we have the concept of a divinely appointed, ordained person up high in the SNAFU pyramid we are in serious trouble. And let’s not forget Catholic Church has a highly regimented structure, founded on, and this is important, Roman Imperial principles.

And when we add to this the vast amount of power plays and manoeuvres in the church, the old boys club mentality, we have hit an even nastier level of dysfunction.  Then let’s add the practice of not removing from office men who are manifestly insane (and I have friends who suffered as children from such priests) simply because they are ordained. And let’s top it off with a situation far more crucial than purchasing scissors – the vile, extremely secretive, and not even admitted-to-the-consciousness abuse and rape of children. We have now entered the world of a byzantine cluster-fuck, mind-game, sandwich most people would not believe.

Within this incredibly abusive and dysfunctional ‘atmosphere’ (an esotericist would say ‘egregore’) the flow of accurate information would be extremely hard to predict, let alone manage. And even when news entered the consciousness, it would hardly be believed, let alone acted up. Then there would be dinner, a sermon to write and it would be shunted into the big bag of ‘I don’t want to fucking know’ we all carry around inside. That Cardinal Pell’s bag is larger, murkier and more evil than most seems beyond dispute. What he did this with, what he ‘knows’, does not know and what he does not want to know and what he will not tell, we cannot actually discern from the given evidence.

I am not here commenting on Cardinal Pell’s legal guilt or innocence at all. That is impossible to do, and we must resist conflating moral guilt based on our own limited knowledge with legal guilt. What I am exploring is the effects an incredibly dysfunctional church has on these matters of real, embodied evil.

Pell may have ‘to go’ as many people have said, and called on His Holiness to do, but the removal of Pell may not change a thing in the RCC itself. It will go a small way to redressing some of the pain caused to the numerous victims of known abusers under the authority of the Cardinal. For that reason alone, I also call for Cardinal Pell, now in his mid-70s, to retire gracefully and with full remorse. He should be willing and happy to ‘sacrifice’ his remaining years of power and prestige to comfort those who have been hurt the most.

Whether the RCC can actually change if Cardinal Pell (and others) leaves remains to be seen. I have my doubts. The structure is too fixed, too mired in dysfunction for any hope of a quick change. The most sensible thing on this I have seen was a tweet today from Fr Bob McGuire:

ALL general members (of the Church) wherever located must now occupy Catholicism from the ground up…as urged by Vatican2 in 1950’s.

Actually Vatican II was in the early 60s, but two points are clear: a groundswell is needed to sweep out the millennia of old filth, and the church changes very slowly. Typically moribund organisations require the generation in power that resists change to die before it can be enacted. It’s now half a century since Vatican II…

And even when there might be change in the RCC, I worry that it will not be be genuine and will come in a ‘New Labour’ form where the old dysfunction is masked in modern language, style and image – the Roman Empire learnt to adapt to local and changing conditions, remember. A new form can easily contrast the ‘old dinosaurs’ like George Pell but offer no real spiritual renewal.

This to me would be a tragedy equal to that on display in Rome these days. Because more children will be hurt, more abuse will occur and more pain will be caused. As a wonderful parish priest of mine concluded her sermon once:

Evil most often enters the world through the words of a reasonable man.

Let’s keep an eye out for those reasonable men.

Homeopathy – or where I lose some readers

There were two prompts for this post: a few headlines of articles regarding the possibility of homeopathy being banned or made illegal in the United Kingdom and a relatively recent Facebook friend add of a homeopath who saved my sanity some years back. More on that later. Now, I don’t like the idea of such a noble art, and one that is so powerful when used correctly, being banned so I felt I had to say something.

Many people I know and respect will likely think homeopathy is hokum at best or dangerous garbage at worse. No probs there, that’s quite logical, as it clear homeopathic remedies contain nothing physical that may promote health (or equally cause ill). There’s nothing in it, therefore it is at best a placebo the well-worn argument runs. And if the physical dimension is all you are concerned with, it all makes sense. Well done, have a cigar.

However, many of these same people also hold with and practice a number of different esoteric and ‘spiritual’ traditions which have the central motif and reality that something non-physical can impact upon and change the physical. Magic, in other words. You see where I am going with this – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and wot all.

To be fair, I used to be sceptical (if not scoffing) about homeopathy. This was despite never having used it myself (strike one) and practicing a tradition (the Golden Dawn) that historically included some leading homeopaths in London (strike two). My not-quite youthful arrogance took a third and final strike when the mother of my child used homeopathy during her labour. In that highly charged, between the worlds and sacred space, I could see the effectiveness of the various remedies prescribed by her midwife and witness the immediate help they offered for her labour.

Proof with the ‘Pudding’

After the birth of my child I studied homeopathy a bit more and decided to see how it worked more. Now the first wonders I beheld were those of my child recovering their full health finally after a nasty bout of chicken pox. Of course, this could all be subjective involving placebos and expectations from parents etc.

However, during the teething phase of infancy I came to love homeopathy and my homeopath. Our child, as many do, suffered terribly from teething and would wake in the night screaming and crying in pain. They were prescribed Chamomilla 30c as a remedy, in liquid form. These, and I swear by all that is holy this is true, were the results.

  • Infant (sleeping next to our bed) wakes in night screaming.
  • Befuddled dad reaches for Chamomilla, holds infant administers a few drops among crying.
  • 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 – crying subsides
  • 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – infant back to sleep!
  • Relieved dad collapses back, mum seldom woke at all.

How fucking glorious was that!?! Anyone who parented a night-teething baby would know what a miracle this was. Compare this with the results from Baby Panadol …

Of course, we can also invoke some form of expectation placebo effect here – but the results were still wonderful and saved my sanity, so even if it were ‘expectation placebo’, so what? Anyway, it was not any sort of expectation of results somehow being transferred from me to the screaming child (and hey, that possibility opens a whole new bag of worms).

I know this because by accident I once gave them Belladonna 30c, which was also by the bed for my partner. In this case NOTHING happened. The baby screamed on. I was confused, bordering on worrying. It had always worked before. It took me two minutes to finally check the bottle. Fortunately accidental dosage of homeopathic remedies is not poisonous and I administered the correct Chamomilla. Since they were already in lots of distress it took longer than ten seconds this time. It took 30. But I was still far ahead of those poor parents using paracetamol.

How It Work Then?

All of these, and many other instances, led me to investigate homeopathy further, and in summary I think it’s kinda like this:

Homeopathy, like a few other forms of ‘energy medicine’, works within a paradigm of physical and subtle bodies. It recognizes there are no actual physical molecules of Belladonna in its Belladonna remedy. OK. Got that? Cool.

So this means each and every laboratory test of homeopathic remedies are set up to fail. Because physical tests require something physical. We cannot get streptococcus bacteria in two test tubes, plonk penicillin in one and homeopathic sulphur in the other, compare and say, ‘see it doesn’t work!’ Of course it doesn’t work. It is not meant to work that way – all homeopathic remedies work only with the person.  We are not talking chemistry here but something just as wonderful 🙂

Instead homeopathy asserts there is an ‘energetic’ dimension linked to the physical remedy that may affect our subtle bodies and thereby help our own subtle bodies promote physical health. Our subtle bodies are affected by the ‘energy’ or signature of the Belladonna and the reactions there will cause us to heal ourselves. No outside chemicals involved. The physical Belladonna remedy we take is merely a carrier for this signature. There is no trickle down of ‘Belladonna’ from subtle to physical; only our own subtle body affects our physical and the remedy affects the subtle bodies alone. This is really important.

The whole concept of subtle bodies is the big break between orthodox scientific and homeopathic worldviews. But homeopathy at no time asserts its remedies directly affect the physical body. At all, at all. The planes are not confused. It has its own logic and supports physical intervention for the physical body while it addresses the non-physical to promote physical health. This is very important and I am sure homeopaths themselves laugh equally along with videos such as this:

Once we have established we cannot test homeopathy in a laboratory we have to include the human element. And here is where a little thing like human difference gets in the way of standard double-blind trials procedures. Since we are each very different folk (especially on the subtle body levels), the same ‘illness’, heck even the same infection caused by exposure to streptococcus, will manifest in many subtle ways. And each of us may require different homeopathic remedies and different potencies of that remedy to change the course of the illness. We may require a few different remedies, changing as we heal.

We cannot design a blind trial with one third of folk getting penicillin, one third a placebo and one third homeopathic sulphur. The penicillin will act chemically with the bacterium and ‘kill’ it in most of the people given it. But there is no guarantee sulphur would be the correct remedy for the people it is given to. Again, we can’t compare.

It is here I would say homeopathy is a much an art as it is a science. And skilled homeopaths practice an art tailored to their clients to produce the knowledge of what remedy is correct at that time. I would also venture to say that I suspect the inclusion of consciousness, conscious deduction and skill on behalf of the homeopath has something to do with the overall success also. This is a healing method that centres upon the higher dimensions of the person and the person healing themselves from those levels, so it seems to be consciousness would be an important part of the equation.

Like all things, I think we can only do so much on our own with store brought remedies and must consult a qualified homeopath for anything serious. I can do washers on leaky taps, but anything else I’m on the phone to the plumber. The same with our health. And really, I find it kinda strange that folk who attempt homeopathic healings themselves based on misleading ideas that are about and fail, discount the whole field. One may as well discount plumbing as a science.

A Merry and Quick Conclusion

So while folk like me are able to easily pull apart many of the objections to the idea of homeopathy being ‘false’ and while folk like me suffer less and sleep more than folk using conventional medicine, and while folk like me like the idea of people choosing their health methods for themselves, suggestions to ban homeopathy will always cause fiction. Of course, I am supportive of correctly trained and qualified homeopaths, clear in the areas of their art and not providing false or misleading claims and information. This is best produced by training and regulation not limiting and banning. OK. Thanks 🙂

Vicariously responding to tragedy: do no harm

As the recent terrorism deaths in Paris and Lebanon show, there is no shortage of death and misery in the world. These events also highlight the filters within our media, country and culture that either focus or ignore tragic events depending on proximity, culture and race. For example, we are not daily exposed via the media to the tens of thousands of preventable hunger and poverty related deaths across the world.

When events such as the Paris attacks occur – if they are widely reported – people have many responses. I think the best review of these was this sad cartoon by First Dog on the Moon.


One response Mr Onthemoon does not explore here is the conspiracy response.  Typically within hours of any mass shooting or bombing these responses pop up. My social media and news feeds are generally tailored enough that I avoid them. However, this morning I came across one on a Facebook friend’s page in response to the San Bernardino killings. Since it was on a closed group I will not provide details of the commentator:

Personally I don’t believe what happened in San Bernadino is anything other than a Gvt. hoax to attempt to take people’s guns away and hate on muslims (sic) and I’m disappointed in all who are falling for this type of media manipulation.’

Yup. Typical. I am not going to respond much to the child-like cry of ‘don’t take my guns!’ Gun control is another matter. Suffice to say, I am constantly surprised at how many intelligent, spiritual practitioners insist on their right to ‘bear arms’ among countless horrors and who devolve into adolescent or toddler pique when the concept of gun control is raised. Most of them are from the continental United States, young or middle aged men – indeed the exact demographic of people most likely to blow innocent people’s brains out with the guns they insist they have a right to own.

I am interested here in the conspiracy view. I suspect, and I have not read the literature on this, that the theorist, in responding with immediate views of government or extra-governmental conspiracy is simply reacting to the horror of the situation, in the same way as the avenues of coping Mr Onthemoon draws in the cartoon above. The conspiracy theorist, in her assumption of special knowledge that the rest of us do not have, is insulating herself against the raw horror of the events. It stops her being involved and gives a focus for her anger.

However, I do not accept that such responses are healthy. These ideas are not simply nutty memes. They cause damage. I cannot imagine the hurt of having a family member murdered in a mass shooting. And then to have some vicariously involved stranger from another city or country say it was a hoax? How cruel, really, how cruel can people be?

Conspiracy theories that deny the deaths of innocents or assume that they were somehow involved betray an inability of the theorist to empathize or sympathize with the survivors and families of the dead.

In the example above you and I (unless you’re a conspiracy theorist too!) are assumed to be media dupes. Now of course, it is highly unlikely the commentator, or any of the thousands no doubt similarly holding and sharing these views right now, have any PERSONAL knowledge of the events. That is, they, like you and I, are separated by time and space and relationships to the people and places involved. These folk are relying on media reports just as we are – albeit, smaller and stranger media. We are all (most of us) experiencing these tragedies vicariously.

So the burden of proof cuts both ways. Conspiracy theorists, like most of us, are seldom there when deaths occur.  THEY DO NOT PERSONALLY KNOW. And, even if these events were ‘a hoax’ it would be impossible for someone removed from the situation to KNOW after such a short time and no investigations. And if you do not know, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING that will cause hurt and offence. Simple.

Of course, I do accept that our governments and other bodies do on occasion act conspiratorially. However, the instant and blanket discounting of real people’s pain and suffering is not acceptable. These types of theories need to be stopped – both at the social level by not sharing them and vigorously questioning them, and at the personal level by the theorists themselves engaging in some thought and concern before posting or passing on ideas on social media. Please do not allow these ideas to spread unchecked.


Social and Political Change, some lessons from Magic

We will start with singer Kasey Chambers: “If you’re not pissed off at the world. Then you’re just not paying attention.”

Following this, I assume you personally wish for the world to be different and take some action towards that aim. If so you may already be familiar with the three, broad ways of changing the world, which I first learnt with the bodacious Joanna Macy decades ago. I will explore these with reference to the current situation in Australia with regards to asylum seekers and refugees. Do click on the links to find out more – there are some awesome people out there!

  1. Interfering with the systems of oppression or injustice via direct action, peaceful or otherwise. Here think Love Makes a Way and Mums 4 Refugees. This approach does not produce direct change, but rather buys time for the other approaches and exposes the systems of oppression – at the very least to the arresting police officers and judiciary.

  1. Changing the system from within – being part of the system of oppression or injustice to whatever degree we can (and can stomach) to change it or dismantle it from the inside. Here, think Labor for Refugees.

  1. Changing the consciousness of the society itself so that the system of oppression is exposed and dismantled. Here think of those artists and storytellers presenting a different version of the myth of refugees to Australia, such the group performing under the tag ‘We’re Better Than This’.

All three approaches have their strengths and can be very powerful. All three however are vulnerable to the systems of oppression they seek to change. Alternate views within ‘the system’ are sidelined or undermined; direct action protests are often outside the law and thus render participants vulnerable to a range of legal problems; and novel modes of consciousness and cultural myths may receive little exposure or funding.

These three approaches can be viewed diagrammatically as a triangle.

three methods triangle

I place the third approach, the change in consciousness of a society as the basal arm because it is required for any lasting change. For example, unless a society has a consciousness which does not see race as a discriminatory factor, all the laws and advances engendered by working the system and all the continued highlighting of injustice will not be enough. Oppression will still continue. Ask a black woman in the southern USA, a country with a black president and an enshrined equality before the law. Speaking recently to friends from Dallas, they mentioned how many folk there still have not accepted that the Confederacy lost the Civil War. The consciousness abides.

The nub of this problem I feel was unwittingly highlighted recently by Ricky Muir, an unlikely Australian Senator for the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party. Honestly I am not making this political party up. This is Australia.

“Crossbench senator Ricky Muir has revealed he switched his position on same-sex marriage after a fight with his wife in which he said he would disown his son if he was gay.

The Motoring Enthusiast Party senator announced his support for same-sex marriage earlier this year, linking the issue to rural mental health. “I did have very opposing views to what I have now, but that’s because it’s ‘monkey see, monkey do’,” Senator Muir told Annabel Crabb in an episode of Kitchen Cabinet to air on the ABC on Wednesday. “You grow up a certain way, you’re told certain things, you go with it.” (source).

Obviously whoever or whatever hegemonic force controls the lead monkey, showing other monkeys how to act, controls the game. As the world moves to embrace same gender marriage it is now acceptable for Senator Muir to hold the pro view. Really though, he is still a monkey. And so, to a large degree, are the rest of us. I remember being convinced that same-gender marriage would occur in my lifetime after reading a Time article in the late 1980s on how large companies were creating advertisements targeting gay couples with disposable income. Economics demanded equality and so it came to pass.

The question then becomes not how to change personally as society changes, but how to get novel and new justice based modes of consciousness embodied within the culture to produce social change.

To explore this, we can relate these three arms, interference, change from within and change of consciousness to the now famous 60’s maxim: ‘the personal is political is spiritual’.

pps three methods

I read this maxim as magician, someone who sees spirituality both in its traditional forms, which includes converse with non-physical beings and in a broader, wider scope that includes artistic vocation among other things. This is not a valorisation of the contemporary ‘spiritual not religious’ self-focus where we pick and mix our spirituality to accommodate our ego. Spirituality, whether traditional, artistic or novel in form must be concerned with the non-personal and the transpersonal. Fr Matthew Fox sums it up: ‘the test of a spirituality is in its justice making: does it create justice?’

The spiritual then, as the basal arm of our triangle is concerned with justice making, personally and collectively (politically). It is for this reason, Australia’s greatest Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, could make this bold statement about Labor governments (and I would say ANY government):

“In any civilised community, the arts and associated amenities must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be seen as remote from everyday life. Of all the objectives of my government, none had a higher priority than the encouragement of the arts – the preservation and enrichment of our cultural and intellectual heritage. Indeed I would argue that all other objectives of a Labor government – social reform, justice and equity in the provision of welfare services and educational opportunities – have as their goal the creation of a society in which the arts and the appreciation of spiritual and intellectual values can flourish. Our other objectives are all means to an end. The enjoyment of the arts is an end in itself.”

This really says it all. If we work for the artistic and the spiritual we achieve it all.

When we superimpose the two triangles upon each other we can see this. The personal links directly to the personal choice to interfere and risk legal penalties. The political is expressed through the political and economic systems that are changed from within. And the spiritual finds equation with the change of consciousness – except that this is seldom fully realised.

The reaction against religion in Australia and the modern secular west means our artistic and other modes of changing consciousness are seldom seen, promoted or empowered as real spiritual events and actions. The artists We’re Better than This, I mentioned earlier, are secular artists, not religious or spiritual. Yet, I would argue that by seeking to change the dominant myth of refugees in Australia they are seeking spiritual ends. Gough clearly equates the two and clearly places them as the raison d’être of government, as does traditional religion. And here is where liberals and secularists get nervous mistakenly seeing the promotion of spirituality and art as throwback to medieval Christendom or Caliphates. Not so of course for Gough who was modern, western and secular but with a vision lacking in virtually all modern politicians.

Fully linking the spiritual traditions and the non-human spiritual realties to the action to change societal consciousness is seldom done. There are a few traditions and churches that attempt this, but by and large the division remains. We can highlight the effects of this division by looking at magic.

One of the key symbols and tools within western magic is the Triangle of Art. This is a physical and outer representation of an inner construct, created in the consciousness of the magician.  A classic example of such a triangle is this:


The purpose of the triangle of Art is to evoke, to bring to manifestation in this physical world a ‘being’, typically an angel or spirit,  that embodies or will carry out the will or desire of the magician. This will, in spiritual magic, is always concerned with the spiritual and personal unfoldment of the magician or some repair or healing of others or the world.

The ‘being’ becomes manifest in the centre of the triangle. Around the arms are written divine names of special significance to the magician. When they are empowered and spoken their interior blessings interact to create the inner construct of the triangle and keep it integral and sealed. It is the interaction of theses blessings that creates the ‘interior atmosphere’ that will allow the ‘being’ to manifest. It is like fish bowl or a space suit in function, allowing something not here already on earth to be here temporarily. This temporary quality is then delivered to the magician by one method or another, and she is changed or she becomes the agent for changing the world.

The interaction and interdependence of these three divine names and powers is shown by placement of a divine name, separated in three sections, at each of the three apexes. Here we see this with the name of the Archangel Michael. This placement leads the eyes and the consciousness around the triangle, connecting each side with each other. Another concept in magic is of the ‘Triune Flowing Light’ which inherently is dynamic and interdependent flowing throughout the triad and bringing the interior forces into manifestation.

An absolute clear principle of magic is that outer actions are always mirrored by and embody inner actions, such as visualisation and prayer. Outer actions alone will never create magic.

So with reference to our other we can produce a social change Triangle of Art thus:

ta refugees

At the centre is the justice we are seeking. At the arms we place the interference of the system, the working within the system and change of consciousness. The ‘atmosphere’ that will allow the change we are seeking, in this case humane treatment of refugees, will come about through the interaction of these three arms, these three approaches.

However, this only represents only the first level we examined, the first triangle. To create magic, to bring compassion for refugees into this world, we need to include the other levels: the personal, the political and the spiritual.

Again, I contend the missing element here is the real, authentic, actual spiritual element that includes the reality of non-physical beings, shared consciousness and interior streams of blessing of hindrance. Without this connection, the spiritual dimension our Triangle of Art will remain incomplete and what we seek to manifest will not occur, or will occur partially or in a distorted fashion.

It is interesting that out of all the possible arenas of magical action, personal wealth, love, employment, healing etc, the most seldom taken up is that of social or political magic. It is rarely taught or even mentioned as a primary reason for magic, as I talk about in this post on the Iraq War. In some form though this approach has often been there in western magical and spiritual circles. To quote from my own post:

“Active political magic is one thing, though very much part of the Western Tradition (for example see Gareth Knight’s The Magical Battle of Britain). The inability or unwillingness to look beyond the obvious is another. Esoteric after all means ‘inner’, occult means ‘hidden’. As esoteric students, pagans or magicians we should be looking beyond what our media and our governments dish up. Otherwise we are not being conscious, which is the essence of all authentic spirituality. And once we become conscious of what is actually occurring, we must be moved to act against it, in some manner. After all, another hallmark of authentic spirituality is compassion.”

So to round things off, this post is a call to do exactly what I believe will create an effective Triangle of Art for manifestation of justice: the linking of the spiritual and the political via the personal. This will fully link the non-physical realms to our work and deepen the interaction of interference, working within the system and changing the consciousness of our world. Without this linking our Triangle cannot fully manifest what we are seeking and praying for.

I have attempted and attempt a number of these actions, the most public and recent for refugees described here. This current post is the beginning of a manifestation of more, where you will be invited to be part of healing the world via your person, your politics, your art, your spirituality and your magic. THANKS 🙂

Also published on Medium at:

Who’s Your Rosicrucian, Baby?

Currently there is a minor contretemps in cyber-land about ‘the Rosicrucians’. It all started with the webhost of the Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn (ROGD) being issued one of those lovely ‘cease and desist’ notices from a legal firm acting on behalf of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC). You can read it here.

Naturally that did not go down too well. On a podcast AMORC was given three ‘gongs of shame’ and other folk, like the Watchers of the Dawn, were not happy. I sent this email to the Grandmaster of AMORC seeking a change of heart:

“Care Soror,

I refer to the website and the statement therein regarding legal threats from AMORC in regard to the use of the phrase ‘Rosicrucian Order’.

As you will know there are many groups who use this term that have antecedents before the establishment of AMORC.

These groups, and many newer groups, have done and do nothing but promote the same mystical and fraternal ends of AMORC.

They are not competitors in a materialist business economy. They are sister organisations to your own.

I would respectfully ask that AMORC reconsider this approach and remove all threats of legal action against the ROGD and other Orders.

Already AMORC’s reputation has suffered badly from these actions and will suffer far worse it they continue. The modern Rosicrucian magician is individual in nature and will not respond well to what is seen by some as meddling or empire building.

Please reconsider your actions so we can all continue in harmony towards Perfect Peace Profound.”

RR et AC Rose Cross

RR et AC Rose Cross

Now, the nub of the matter appears to be the use of the phrase ‘Rosicrucian Order’. AMORC has used this for a number of decades and claims exclusive right to it. Hoh um. It only makes sense if we see the two words as referring to something specific and limited – i.e. AMORC. However, methinks, and most I think do also think, that ‘Rosicrucian’ here is an adjective referring to a spiritual path, and ‘Order’ refers to the type of organisation.

So, presumably AMORC would have no probs with ‘The Rosicrucian League’, ‘Debbie’s Rosicrucian Hair Salon’ or even ‘Joe’s Rosicrucian Bordello’? Equally we could have ‘the Wiccan Order’ or ‘the Crystal Kids Order’. Or wot not. For me it is clear, ‘Rosicrucian’ is beyond any particular group and refers to a form of western mystic, and I believe Christian spirituality (Bob Gilbert agrees).

I find this mess rather distressing for three main reasons:

Firstly, no one should really be calling themselves a Rosicrucian at all, at all. In modern English, the first two principles of the Rosicrucian Fraternity from the Fama itself are:

First, that none of them should profess any other thing than to cure the sick, and that gratis.

Second, none of the posterity should be constrained to wear one certain kind of habit, but therein to follow the custom of the country (emphasis added).

Seems clear to me, and the Golden Dawn RR et AC is very clear in their oath: “Finally, you must understand that you are never permitted to say to anyone not a member of this Order that you are a Rosicrucian”.

However, folk are free to call themselves whatever they want. I won’t stop them, or even glower at them from the corner. Well, maybe a little – which I confess I did upon my first meeting of a ‘Rosicrucian’, shortly after I’d started on this lark as a youth. The chap wandered up to me at University Philosophy Society’s wine and cheese night and after chatting for a bit on mutual spiritual interests, simply declared ‘I’m a Rosicrucian’. I choked on my cheddar. Being in awe of the Fama I was completely discombobulated. I knew AMORC existed but naively assumed its initiates would keep it all mum.

Secondly, this concerns spiritual groups, you know within the world but not of the world and all that jazz. Copyrights and lawsuits and wot all in this arena are pure farce and contrary to everything true religion and spirituality stands for.

Thirdly, despite it all, I have a soft spot for AMORC – stemming of course from the events in this post. And actually, all the AMORC folk I’ve met are rather nice. True, the AMORC teachings do not inspire me and I do not grok their approach, but they are generally lovely people. Certainly much better than most of the ‘magical Rosicrucians’ I’ve met and whom I’d never invite home to mother. I really do not want to see these folk getting more of a hard time from ‘serious magicians’ than they already do.

AMORC generally comes in for an elitist rap from magical folk, and I’m on record somewhere for stating I found little useful when wading through the monographs of the entire AMORC course, even beyond the ninth degree, held in a Perth library. However, some folk DO find it useful and AMORC does organise lovely tours to sacred sites across the globe. Generally I have found the average AMORC member to be blissfully unaware of their own history and appropriation of other Order’s materials etc. They are simply working through their chosen tradition and not looking too much left or right. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So, I really hope two things (1)  AMORC changes their mind and drops their pursuit of other groups using a similar name, and (2) any pissed-off magicians, some of whom are always looking for a fight, relax and chill and not take it too far. As the ROGD says on their website: “We continue to Work privately, silently, and namelessly.  “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

So I hope what could be a nasty ‘battle’ over names is avoided. If we stopped calling ourselves Rosicrucian, this would all go away anyway. And really, in terms of wanky, magical kudos, wandering around saying ‘I’m a Rosicrucian and it’s OK’ pales into insignificance to, “of course, if I were a Rosicrucian, I couldn’t tell you anyway.”


Aten’t Dead: public occultism and wot not

Well, Nick Farrell has done it again: produced a blog that pissed several people off and started much discussion. Not that there is anything wrong with that 🙂

Nick’s topic this time is the failure of public occultism, and his thesis is nicely summed up in the title, ‘Ten Reasons Why Public Occultism Is Dying’. Technically this is a little bit of an oxymoron, but you know what he means, so best not to nit-pick, wot? Some of the responses to Nick’s blogs have been great, but a few have attacked him personally. Not so great. No soup for you! I had my own ideas when reading his blog and these are a few of my thoughts. I am going to start by quoting the sainted Dion:

The pseudo-occultism of the present day, with its dubious psychism, wild theorizing, and evidence that cannot stand up to the most cursory examination, is but the detritus which accumulates around the base of the Mount of Vision. All such worthless rubbish is not worth the power and shot of argument; in order to form a just estimate of the Sacred Science we must study originals, and try to penetrate the minds of the great mystics… whose works bear evidence of first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds.

This is from ‘Sane Occultism’, back in 1938 CE when, interestingly, Dion was about the same age as Nick and with about the same many decades of experience in these matters. In a Facebook post regarding a reply to Nick, a wise occult historian made notice of an important fact: the ‘golden age’ of public occultism was actually between about 1870 and 1930 CE. Dion was writing at the tail end of this era, a time when several occult schools were closing or getting ready to close. She had directly experienced both the stellar peaks of British occultism and the less salubrious forms – and by Jove there were plenty of them.

dfmmI imagine Nick has had similar experiences. His and Dion’s views are certainly similar in parts. Nick expects that in a short time ‘public information on real occultism will slowly disappear’ and ‘the whole thing will fade, with occultism being part of the shadows again’. He writes:

The idea that if we put information out there humanity will work at it and watch it develop is a fallacy. It turns out, that the magic which is so freely available, is not the real thing at all. All a book, or a webpage can present is a fact, or opinion – a shadow on the wall. It does not make us the singers of the woven words than owning a cookbook makes us a great chef.

Dion said the same thing repeatedly in many books and articles, as have many other folk. Because in actuality the mysteries behind occultism have always been ‘in the shadows’, have always been ‘underground’ and hidden. There could be a hundred Orders in small city but the actual heart of it all is always behind the veil, large scale public occultism or not. This is the ‘first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds’ Dion refers to. It is the ‘True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order’ referred to by Paul Foster Case. It has been said that the secrets of Masonry (and other systems) could be shouted from the rooftops, but they would not be known as such and seem meaningless to those unprepared to receive them. My own experience is that this is spot on.

With reference to any ‘fear’ that public occultism will die, that the mysteries may be lost and wot not, I am reminded a of a chat I had with a couple of aboriginal elders a number of years back. I asked about the changes, the decimation of their culture, the challenges they faced with addiction and ingrained prejudice. Did they worry about their traditions getting lost? They replied that what they and their people knew came from the Land, and even if they were all removed from the Land, or killed, it would still be within the Land. And could be taught again to any who lived with the Land.

So, I am not all worried about authentic western traditions surviving; where they came ‘from’ is beyond all stain, damage and division and this source will always be ‘there’. Individual schools and Orders, traditions of practice may, and will, come and go. The song will remain.

ctAnd it seems to be these individual orders and schools that Nick has concern for. Most of his post addresses problems of approach, either the schools approach to the occult systems he obviously has so much respect for, or modern students approach to the schools and systems which are not respectful at all, at all. One of these schools is, of course, my love, the Golden Dawn 🙂 Nick writes:

‘The “real stuff” might continue but it is going to be even more exclusive than it has been. The great experiment in semi-public occultism which the Order of the Golden Dawn started has been a failure.’

Certainly, this appears to be the view of the Secret Chiefs of the AO who instructed members of the Order to cease active work and let the temples close post WWII (as described in these posts). Of course, the ripples from the GD are still actually moving outward. Nick himself was trained through one of these, the Inner Light tradition. Each day new folk are reading the published material and though ‘the Golden Dawn’ itself may be dead, the spirit behind it may easily be moving and using new vessels that have sprung into existence based on the literary and mythic presence the order still has. It all depends what we see as the limits of the ‘experiment’.

Many of the other problems Nick describes are not confined solely to occultism but are a cultural phenomenon; the quick fix mentality, the impact of internet and social media in the devaluing of expertise, the conflation of systems, the creeping presence of pop-psychology, the lack of respect for elders, etc. As the sheriff in ‘No Country for Old Men’ laments, ‘It’s the tide. It’s the dismal tide. It’s not the one thing.’ How do we change the tide? That’s a whole cultural task, not possible for little MOTO to work through 🙂


The question for me is not so much about occultism having a public or hidden face, but how we help folk to move beyond the sensible, beyond the veil into the heart of it all. Nick suggests he knows how: “I have had a few breakthroughs that have provided me with all the answers I needed to make magic work and why it doesn’t.” Nice.

This is assuming he is here talking of spiritual, transformative magic, not operative magic that will win us the lottery. So, that’s great, then. Nick suggests he won’t be sharing this publicly, like he has generously shared much in the past: ‘unlike the other revelations which I have tended to share with the wider occult community, I don’t have much impulse to share any of this outside my own magical order.’

Without any disrespect for Nick, I can’t quite work out the point of sharing that you’re not gonna share something really important. From my perspective, and I would say from the traditional esoteric perspective, these ‘keys’, as mentioned before simply cannot be shared, they have to be experienced. Good teachers and schools can point the way to that experience, but that is all. I imagine this is what Nick is writing about here.

Moving folk towards this inner experience, which must be undertaken by themselves, is one of the holiest and sacred tasks anyone can have. It is an awesome task and an intense privilege. I rate it as only slightly less awesome as helping someone die well. Sadly, most of the western occult systems are, to quote the Rev Dr Cynthia Bourgeault ‘merely fine-tuning the ego’. For me, as always, a way forward is service. We remove ourselves from the equation as much as we can, and we become more who were really are. To quote meself:

…modern 21st century magic should be about moving the mage from the centre of the circle, controlling all the forces he invokes (which is like, so medieval) to an awareness that at the centre we are interdependent on the entire circle of life, on the One and the universe that forms around us.’


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:


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 🙂