Avete #5 – Farewell

April 30, 2007 by  
Filed under avete, columns, defunct

Avete #5 - Farewell

Dear Readers, Writers & Staff,
I’m really pleased to see how well things are going here at Rending the Veil. It’s a dream come true for the guy who came up with the idea that started it all. I know that there will be dips and bumps in the road, but I’m pretty sure that when all is said and done, RTV will be held as a success.

For the time being, however, I’m bowing out. I’m simply not able to devote the time and attention to the project that it really deserves. Sheta has been doing a fabulous job as managing editor, and has gotten a lot of really passionate and intelligent people on board to fulfill a lot of the spots I should have been. A lot of the writers here are some of the best around, and I hope to see more people submitting articles and starting columns.

As for me, I’m going to be hitting the ol’ dusty trail for the foreseeable future. If I get any good ideas, I’ll submit isolated articles here and there, but as things stand I’m too distracted to keep my writing up to par. Hell, even this goodbye is short and very late!

I apologize to one and all for not pulling my weight and for the low quality of my submissions. Taking a few steps back like this ought to mean that when I do write for RTV, that it’ll at least be worth running.

Good luck to one and all, and to the Rending the Veil project as a whole! You’ve already made me proud.

In Peace Profound,
Nicholas Graham

©2007 Nicholas Graham. Edited by Sheta Kaey

Nicholas Graham is the author of The Four Powers. You can read his blog here.

Avete #4 – Experimental Magic

Avete #4 - Experimental Magic

I am not very experimental in my magic. At least, I don’t tend to come up with any interesting new ideas myself. I love trying out other people’s ideas, though, and am highly encouraged to find that so many other magicians are willing to put themselves and their reputations on the line to try new things and then write about them.

I’m proud to say that we have a few such magicians right here on Rending the Veil. Taylor Ellwood has just finished up a book that sounds amazing, entitled Inner Alchemy (Megalithica Books). Curious about the spiritual lives and magical functions of your own neurotransmitters and hormones? So is Taylor, but instead of just wondering about it, he studied long and hard and threw himself into the Work like a true Inner Planes explorer.

Lupa, also, is certainly active in the field and always open for a new idea. She developed an entire system all her own using snippets of various totemic paradigms and shamanic methods gleaned from anthropology and New Age materials, all mixed with her own ingenuity and quickly broadening range of experiences. Her first book, Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone (Megalithica Books) is not only a manual of real animal and totemic magic, but also a lasting testament to her efforts. I believe that FFBB will eventually be looked upon as a classic by totemic Western magicians just as Condensed Chaos is viewed by pragmatic magicians of all backgrounds and traditions.

Donald Tyson was one of the first occult authors that I myself encountered in my local bookstore. While Mr. Tyson and I may not agree on a number of points of approach to magic, that is irrelevant when considering the depth of his influence on my point of view on experimentalism and taking a new approach to an old subject. His books Enochian Magic for Beginners and Tetragrammaton (both from Llewellyn Publications) are excellent examples of Tyson’s willingness to reevaluate a case long since thought to be closed by the majority of seekers.

My own High Priest, Frater Barrabbas Tiresius, is in the process of editing a book (also from Megalithica Books) entitled Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick. My Coven brother Frater Griff and I have been privileged to be asked to experiment with and test out many of the rituals presented in that book. Any beginner to Western ceremonial magic could have no better textbook than The Disciple’s Guide. The ritual methods are demanding and challenging, but definitely beautiful and effective. I look forward also to the publication of Frater Barrabbas’s magnum opus, written many years ago as a textbook for “intermediate”1 magicians, The Pyramid of Powers. Frater Barrabbas is also notable for his acknowledgment of the importance of an energy structure which he calls “The Rose Ankh Vortex.”2

It would be close to sinful if I did not acknowledge some of the unsung experimental magicians of the past. Franz Bardon immediately springs to mind. He likely did not invent many of the exercises given in his most important book, Initiation into Hermetics, but he almost certainly put them together in their currently known forms and structures and perfected them through decades of training and teaching. It is my opinion that no magician, regardless of their tradition, can be without IIH.3

William G. Gray simply does not receive enough attention. The techniques and ideas described in Inner Traditions of Magic and Magical Ritual Methods are splendid! A thorough study of these two books, along with personal work with Gray’s concepts, will open up many new avenues for group and solitary ritual structures.

Dr. Israel Regardie is best known for his publications and explanations of the system of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. While that is his major contribution, he also made some fascinating attempts in alchemy (though only late in life did he realize what he had been doing wrong) and came up with some unique perspectives on the psychological and healing uses for Golden Dawn magic.

Dr. Georg Lomer is a name that very few people know, and that’s a real shame. His methods, described fully in his book Seven Hermetic Letters, are a bit ascetic for most people but serve as a beautiful method of spiritual development along Hermetic lines. Franz Bardon himself used to hand out copies of the Hermetic letters to his own students. That’s some pretty high praise!

Let me stretch back a bit further. Ficino, Mirandola, and Paracelsus may be historically important figures, but modern occultists hardly pay any attention to them. Ficino and Mirandola both practiced a kind of Orphic Tantra. The symbols of various spiritual agencies (mostly angels) were used as meditative foci, along with music and poetry, to bring the practitioner’s spirit in line with the higher spheres. A magician of this method would try to find illumination through meditation and intense prayer, the ultimate goal of which was to internalize the powers of those angels. While these ideas may seem old hat to us, it is only because such men as Ficino and Mirandola kept them alive. Paracelsus is best known as an alchemist and healer. He was controversial in his day for, among other things, recommending the use of methods similar to Ficino’s along with more “traditional” forms of medicine (tinctures, poltices, and the other standards).

There are many more to be explored and rediscovered, if we only think to look! I will close by encouraging all of my fellow magicians, whether Neophyte or Adept, to let your imaginations soar. Often some of the greatest ideas come from just saying, “Hey, I wonder what would happen if . . .”

Footnotes

  1. I use quotations because Barrabbas’s ideas of intermediate magic are very similar to everybody else’s ideas of extremely advanced magic!
  2. I have become quite enamored of this structure, and will soon be writing an article for Rending the Veil on the Vortex and some of its uses.
  3. Initiation into Hermetics, The Practice of Magical Evocation, and The Key to the True Kabbalah, in addition to some supplementary material, are all available in new translations from Merkur Publications. Many thanks to Taylor Ellwood and Frater Griff for pointing me toward Bardon in the first place!

©2007 Nicholas Graham. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Nicholas Graham is the author of The Four Powers. You can read his blog here.

Avete #3 – Magic is Not a Hobby

February 13, 2007 by  
Filed under avete, columns, magick, mysticism

Avete #3 - Magic is Not a Hobby

A friend of mine once asked me what I would do (magically speaking) if, suddenly, I had little or no leisure time left. He gave the extreme example of being stuck out in the bush and having to do my utmost to merely survive, not knowing whether or not help would arrive. Of course, the question is equally relevant to those of us who have jobs, school, families, and/or any number of other responsibilities.

My response probably came off as being a bit self-righteous, but I still stand behind the sentiment of it. Magic is not a hobby. It is not something that a person does just for the excitement of it. In fact, those who would try to use it as a means of excitement either are delusional or will quickly become bored and disappointed. Magic frequently takes a great deal of tedious work and preparation without much in the way of immediate reward. Likewise, magic is not something that a person could pick up in a weekend intensive and immediately achieve awesome physical results. If you’re a total beginner and you don’t believe me, go out, buy a medieval grimoire or one of those commercial spell books, try to make any of it work, then get back to me.

Magic is something to which a person must dedicate their entire life. Every act in life eventually becomes magical insofar as it furthers one’s magical development. Those who believe that magic is purely about fulfilling each and every whim and material or sexual desire will be as disappointed as the excitement seekers.

Let’s look at Wicca for an accessible example. Anybody who has read an introductory book on Wicca has run across the Wheel of the Year (the solar holidays, or Sabbats) and the importance of the Lunar cycle (the various lunar phases, or Esbats). Even in Crowley’s Thelema and in the Golden Dawn’s system you will find hymns and prayers to the Sun during different times of day and spiritual empowerment ceremonies timed to the Equinoxes. To some, these may seem like pointless little holidays or more excuses to party. Even many Neopagans take the Wheel of the Year and the Lunar cycles that way! I will not argue that they are perfect times to party and have fun, but that partying spirit goes along with the reverential treatment of the natural time cycles. “Reverence and Mirth” is a common phrase to hear in British Traditional Wicca, and it is also a good general approach to magic.

The celebrations of the Solar and Lunar cycles are not mere celebrations, but instead serve as a powerful magico-symbolic (or mytho-poetic, if you prefer) means of drawing even the most mundane aspects of life — those which we take most for granted like the phases of the Moon, the rising and setting of the Sun, and the amount of daylight during each season — into the realm of the magical and mythological. It is a means of both “materializing the Spirit” and of “spiritualizing matter,” not to mention of exalting the practitioner’s own awareness of these things into true consciousness.

Even the simplest spell often takes months of preparation, if you take into account all of the training that you must go through before you can make that spell work (not to mention gathering the various components and so forth you might wish to use). There is a degree of beginner’s luck in magic, whereby a total newbie might find that their first halting spell or two come out brilliantly, but you can’t count on that sort of good fortune to carry you through.

I will argue to my last breath that it is not outside the realm of possibilities for nearly everybody to find half an hour to an hour a day (as a fair minimum) for meditation and basic magical training. Even five minutes every day is better than a full hour only on Sunday. I repeat: magic is not a hobby. If you really want to be a magician, take the time and put in the effort and you will achieve your results. All the reading and talking in the world will not make you a wise mystic or powerful adept. Magic is a difficult way of walking the Path of Perfection, often creating as many obstacles as it dissolves, however it is also a means of finding Reverence and Mirth in every moment of life. Those of you who work and play hard in your magical quest will surely find the Grail.

©2007 by Nicholas Graham. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Nicholas Graham is the author of The Four Powers. You can read his blog here.

Avete #2/5 – A Little Rant About Antiquity

Avete #2/5 - A Little Rant About Antiquity

It still amazes me that some Wiccans insist on claiming that their religion has existed since time immemorial. That statement is only strictly true if we consider the 1940s to be too far back to recall clearly. Wicca, of course, is only one example of the general occult trend of ascribing antiquity to traditions and ideas in order to gain them more credibility.

I am not trying to offend Wiccans with this editorial. The fact is that I, too, am a Wiccan! At the time of this writing, I await my first degree Alexandrian Witchcraft initiation this very weekend. The difference between myself and some others, however, is that I do not think that any religion or system of magic has to be older than the birth of Christ in order to be valid.

The history of Wicca is a pretty simple one, all things considered. It does not involve the political intrigue of Christianity, nor the wars of Islam and Judaism. While there are aspects of Wiccan history that many of us will never know (not having been there), we can still be certain of the majority of the story. A summary, including a bit of theorizing on my own part, may run thus:

When Christianity came to power, it did not do so all at once as many priests and preachers (not to mention the public school system’s history classes) tell it. Instead, it was a gradual process which involved politics, war, and a few willing and peaceful conversions to sweeten the mix a bit. The paganism of Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Middle East, and the remainder of Europe did not simply disappear. In many cases, clear survivals occurred in which people of both common and noble stock were found to be practicing something akin to a Pagan religion within their own household or community traditions for centuries after the spread of Christianity. It is well known that many more subtle survivals occurred within the Christian traditions themselves, especially Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. The cults of the Saints, praying to icons (or “ikons” for the Orthodox Church), various holidays, and more cultural traditions than I know of are all clear survivals of paganism. As an interesting note, the word “superstition” itself comes from the Latin word superstes, which refers to a survival, or “that which survives.”

It is quite evident from the above that some elements of paganism survived for quite a long time right under the noses of Church officials. I don’t believe that we have to stretch to suggest that various family and small community Pagan traditions survived even into the modern day in certain parts of Europe and the British Isles. It seems quite possible to me that Gerald Gardner could have been initiated into just such a small community tradition in the form of the New Forest Coven.

The New Forest Coven was unlikely to have resembled what we would call Wicca today. More likely, it was a rather incomplete grouping of celebratory ceremonies, superstitious beliefs, and odd bits of folk magic. Gardner clearly had to fill in some gaps when he formed his own tradition, and he did so with the material which was extant at the time: the ceremonial, Kabbalistic, and Hermetic materials of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and of Crowley’s Thelema. Gerald Gardner was definitely an initiated member of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis in his day and was an enthusiastic Thelemite. I say this not to disparage the traditions of Wicca, but merely to show where many elements of Wicca find their source.

Many people read explanations and historical surveys like this one and immediately jump to the conclusion that Wicca is fabricated or fake. Such an attitude cannot be further from the truth, and here is the essential truth of the matter set down as clearly as I can make it:

It does not matter how old a tradition is or how it found its birth. What matters most is the relevance of the tradition for those who practice it. There. I’ve said it and I will not take it back. Those occultists and skeptics alike who speak disparagingly of Wicca because of its recent birth and mythologized beginnings need only look at their own traditions to see parallels. Even modern materialist science has been cobbled together from odd bits of scattered hypotheses put forth by numerous individuals, and has not existed in any real shape for more than a century and a half. Has modern science proved useless as a consequence of its recent advent, or the fact that many people still worship Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as gods? Hardly. Similarly with occultism. Most of what we call the Western esoteric tradition was born with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who themselves mythologized nearly all of their source material. Much of their ideology was lifted whole from the writings of Éliphas Lévi, who himself practically made everything up out of his own head. Much of the Golden Dawn’s practical material came from Francis Barrett’s The Magus, which was a very poor plagiarism of Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Agrippa’s material itself was cobbled together from numerous sources, including Zoharic Kabbalism, Hermetic and Pythagorean philosophy, and Catholic Neoplatonism. Despite all this, the Golden Dawn’s system of magic is still one of the most influential and widely used traditions today. I will not argue that the Golden Dawn’s methods are ineffectual, as they have proven themselves to me as being extremely powerful when used properly. All of this comes down to two essential points:

  1. There is no reason to lie about the origins of your own tradition. It is what it is, and as long as it works, there is no need to defend it.
  2. It is pointless to put down the traditions of others as long as they are effectual for those who use them. It is nothing but a waste of your time.

No matter what anybody else has to say about it, I will continue training with Franz Bardon’s textbooks in my office and then retire outdoors to dance naked under Luna’s light with my Coven. For as long as these methods work for me, they will be my philosophy, my religion, and my magical traditions.

©2007 Nicholas Graham. Edited by Sheta Kaey

Nicholas Graham is the author of The Four Powers. You can read his blog here.

Avete #1 – Welcome

December 21, 2006 by  
Filed under avete, columns

Avete #1 - Welcome

This section will usually be reserved for my pointless ramblings and insane rants. For now, however, I’d like to welcome you, one and all!

This project of ours would be close to pointless without the writers submitting their work and the readers submitting their eyes and minds. Thank you all for being here, even if your stay is short, and I hope that you can find something here to give you some new ideas or insight into old ones.

The purpose of this site is to act as a free periodical for the magical community. It has been my experience that there is very little any more for magicians who are not specifically Neo-Pagan, or who are Pagan but practice forms of magic or mysticism which are not particular to their branch of Neo-Paganism. I am a Neo-Pagan, so do not take this as being a dig on Neo-Paganism! Instead, we are trying to fill in a long-standing hole. Neo-Pagans have magazines such as NewWitch, PanGaia, and Pentacle, and e-zines like WitchVox. Even chaos magicians have plenty of periodicals devoted to their practice. Alchemists, ceremonial magicians, Kabbalists, Hermeticists, Neo-Shamans, and so on collectively have very little in the way of periodicals or even reliable websites on their chosen fields of study and practice. This is a situation that we hope to help, as both of us co-founders (myself and Sheta Kaey) are Kabbalists and ceremonial magicians, and I am a Hermeticist with a growing interest in alchemy! As you can see, we’re in this for ourselves as well.

It ought to be noted at the outset that Sheta and I do not draw sharp lines of delineation between “magic” and “mysticism.” To us, these things are inextricably linked and, as such luminaries as Franz Bardon and William G. Gray have pointed out, the true Initiate does not disregard either one in favor of the other. The power of magic cannot manifest without the stillness of mysticism, and the stillness of mysticism can hardly come to fruition without the power of magic to bring it into the Kingdom of Manifestation. Thus, when we say “magic,” we are usually referring to both at once, or some combination of the two. This is why you will find articles here on subjects as diverse as the nature of consciousness, ritual magic, sorcery, meditation, Tantra, and psychology. A good magical practitioner seeks to find the unity of her whole system.

I hope that you enjoy our efforts, and the garden of delights planted for us by the many artists and authors who have volunteered to contribute. Please tell us what we can do to improve this e-zine of ours and what sort of content you would like to see. Also, if you don’t see content that you think should be here, don’t feel shy about submitting some work yourself! It has become a motto of mine that we’re all in this together, and it could not be more true than about learning and growing in the Great Work of Magic.

©2006 Nicholas Graham. Edited by Sheta Kaey

Nicholas Graham is the author of The Four Powers. You can read his blog here.

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