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"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."


THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Monday, April 17, 2017

ENOCHIAN MAGIC: THE CRY OF TEX, THE 1st AETHYR

NOTE: This is the first in a series of Enochian inspired visions.  Please read this Introduction before proceeding.

I FELL, upwards from the face of the world.  Up, up, up amongst the wheeling stars I plummeted into the night sky.  I saw the constellations moving around me like living beings of pale, blue-white fire.  Pegasus, Draco, and Scorpio moved by me.  Then I saw great wheels all around, tracing out the courses of the stars and planets.  It was as if I found myself in some great astrolabe of crystal.  Earth was at the center, around which all the heavens turned.

Then it seemed to me my eyes adapted to the dimness, for everywhere about me I could now see turning gears of transparent glass.  They were impossibly ornate, like the rose windows of a cathedral, or snowflakes.  They all moved in harmony with each other, the motion of one affecting the next, and thus maintaining the motions of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, as well as the turning of the Earth.  

Suddenly I saw the Angels all about me, everywhere.  Like ants they swarmed.  I perceived they were the engineers, maintaining the system of crystalline gears ceaselessly, diligently.  Everywhere they flew.  One of their countless number passed near me and I hailed him to stop.

He was fashioned of the same pale blue fire as the gears, but liquid and less dense.  He flamed and flickered like the blue of a gas flame.  Winged and robed, he bore no halo.  He was immaterial and ghostly.  Turning towards me he demanded my name.

SOMUE, I told him.  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Ah, said he, a Thelemite.  Then I say unto thee ‘Love is the Law, Love under Will.’

Cautious I gave the LVX signs to see if he was a hostile spirit, but he returned them with ease.  I asked him his name.

I am ZAAMPE, he replied.  I asked him to spell this for me and he did.  Then to me he asked, Why come you to this place?

I wish to walk all the Aethyrs, seeking the First.  What can you tell me of this Aethyr?

This is TEX, the Machinery of the Universe.  This is the densest of the Aethyrs, and most like unto the material world.

I recognized the phrasing.  Machinery of the Universe?  Is its character like Yesod, then?

Only distantly, he answered.  Man makes machinery of the world…machines of the animals, of the soil, of nature itself.  It is a defect in perception, seeing only half of what is.  TEX is the understanding of the Universe possessed by Man.

I considered this.  It is then only Man’s perception of the Universe, not its true character?

This Aethyr is shaped by the perceptions of those billions down below, he replied, gesturing towards the blue-green globe of the Earth hanging in the center of the void around us.  This is the machine of their making, as indeed they make we who work upon it.

What is the true nature of TEX, then?  I asked.  Can you reveal it to me?

At this, the Angel took up a great hammer.  His face suddenly bunched up in fury he swung the weapon in a great arc, shattering the closest gear.  A chain reaction spread through all the heavens.  The countless wheels screamed and shattered in a rain of jagged glass.  One by one the stars burst and faded to blackness.  The planets crumbled.  The Earth went dark.  All that was left was a desolate darkness, through which a wind howled and moaned.  

This is the true nature of things, from whence they come and to which they return.  The Void, the Angel told me.

I shivered in the darkness.  Are we to fear this?

You are to Understand and Embrace it, said the Angel.  Only this way can you cross the Abyss when that time comes to you.  The Machinery of the Universe, made by Man, with its calendars and clocks and laws is Illusion.

Suddenly, the darkness was lifted, and I beheld the stars and planets again.  The gears were back in place, restored by the angels.  They had dutifully repaired the machine.

Can you tell me any more of the nature of TEX?  I asked him.

I can only show you, he replied.  He took me by the hand and we fell downwards into the world, falling through the atmosphere and clouds, until I saw racing beneath us snow-capped mountain peaks.  So high were these jagged mountains that they seemed to touch the very sky. 

Then, on the highest of the high peaks, I beheld a terrifying figure in silhouette.  He was impossibly tall, looking like one of those towering mecha from Japanese animation, with massive, outstretched wings like an eagle and great horns upon his head.  He stood motionless on the mountain, arms reaching up like Atlas to support the sky.  We landed at his feet, tiny, like ants.

This is the essence of the Plane, the soul of TEX, my Guide informed me.

Then a great voice, like thunder or the roar of a titanic engine, boomed out.  MORTAL THING.  INSIGNIFICANCE.  COME FORWARD AND KNOW ME.  LAY YOUR PUNY HAND UPON MY FOOT IN OBEISANCE.

I did as he bade me, stepping forward through the deep drifts of snow.  I felt ridiculously small as I approached his massive right foot.  I saw now that his body was made of rusting iron plates, all haphazardly riveted together, piece by piece.  As I reached out to touch this Machine God, the rusted iron crumbled beneath my fingers.  The crumbling spread, and soon the entire statue was raining down upon me in jagged pieces and iron dust.  I caught one fragment in my hand.  The Eye of Horus was etched into the metal, inside a Triangle.  

That which ceases to move becomes stagnant, my Guide whispered in my ear.  Subject to entropy and decay.


As the great juggernaut disintegrated, the sky came crashing down with it.

September 30th, 2004     

Saturday, April 15, 2017

ENOCHIAN MAGIC: SCRYING THE AETHYRS

I admit that my visions can never mean to other men as much as they do to me. I do not regret this. All I ask is that my results should convince seekers after truth that there is beyond doubt something worth while seeking, attainable by methods more or less like mine. I do not want to father a flock, to be the fetish of fools and fanatics, or the founder of a faith whose followers are content to echo my opinions. I want each man to cut his own way through the jungle.


Aleister Crowley


Visions.

Whether you view them as psychic explorations of higher planes or something more akin to Jungian active imagining, visions are an essential part of any magician's career.  It's the oldest magic, really, with roots deep in the shamanic experience.  To cross over into the Otherworld (however you wish to define it) and bring back treasures is the core of the magic experience.  It is what makes a magician a magician.

It's also a nearly universal motif, a classic feature of what Eliade, Campbell, Leeming, and Vogler understood as the Monomyth, or Hero's Journey.  The Hero sets out of his quest, and at some crucial point crosses over into the Unknown, which can be represented as an Underworld, an Otherworld, or an Inner or Outer world.  There he faces challenges and trials, gains wisdom and strength, at at some crucial point crosses an Abyss that leaves him irrevocably transformed.



Magic is interacting with Myth as much as anything else.  The magician deals habitually with gods, demons, and spirits liberated from story and fable.  For those seeking such visionary experiences, there are scores of systems available to the modern practitioner.  For my part, I have always had extraordinary success with the "Enochian" magic of John Dee.  I have operated other methodologies with varying degrees of success, but invariably and without fail, the process of chanting an Enochian Key or Call lights up my brain.  By the end I am flying.  The visions are the most coherent, the most vivid, the most intense.  And they have also had the most profound effect upon me.  Naturally I do not expect this to be true for everyone, and magicians all need to experiment to find which techniques best trigger visions for them.  I am hardly alone, however, in attesting the efficacy of the Enochian Calls.

I have been scrying the 30 Enochian Aethyrs or Aires for thirteen years now, keeping careful records of these sessions, as well as work with the spirits or "angels" of the Watchtowers, in notebooks set aside purely for Enochian work.  Recently, I crossed the 10th Aethyr, which in the Enochian cosmology is the Abyss, the gulf or chasm separating the phenomenal universe from the noumenal one. This was a transformational experience, reordering my priorities and changing the way I view things.  One side effect of the experience is the decision to share my experiences of scrying the Aethyrs, not with dogmatic intent but to--as Crowley states above--"convince seekers after truth that there is beyond doubt something worth while seeking, attainable by methods more or less like mine."  By making these records public, I hope to show others the type of experience that is possible, fully aware that these experiences are mine and naturally cannot mean to others what they mean to me.

I invite the reader to check out the links above first, to familiarize himself or herself with the Enochian system and cosmos.  The short version, however, is a gnostic cosmology in which the physical world is surrounded by 30 concentric "Aires" or "Aethyrs," the 30th being the innermost and closest to physical reality, the 1st bordering on the Divine, or "Ultimate Reality."  The Enochian magician experiences each in a series of visions, moving ever outwards.  The best example of this is probably Aleister Crowley's The Vision and the Voice, which provided many crucial elements of his system of Thelema.

In subsequent posts, I will be sharing abridged journal entries of my own journey across the Aethyrs, starting with the 30th Aethyr of TEX back in 2004 and moving forward.  My methodology has been more or less consistent.  I perform a banishing/purification followed by an invocation.  In my case, these are specifically The Star Ruby and The Star Sapphire, but again any equivalent rituals will do.  I then recite the 19th Enochian Call or Key, inserting the name of the Aethyr I intend to visit.  This is followed by intoning the names of the Governors associated with that Aethyr with my eyes closed.  The vision usually comes on fairly quickly.

I tend to narrate what I see and hear aloud, either recording myself or working with a partner who keeps a record.  

In the next post, we will start out journey with TEX.  





Saturday, March 18, 2017

PSYCHONAUT: THE ART OF BLUEFLUKE

"...it is my position that art, language, consciousness and magic are all aspects of the same phenomenon. With art and magic seen as almost wholly interchangeable, the realm of the imagination becomes crucial to both practices."




Magic seems to go hand in hand with artistic impulses.  It only makes sense; Magicians and Artists work at manipulating symbols, and the act of "creation" is integral to both.  Rattle off a list of modern Magicians and you find a pack of artists as well.  Crowley was a poet and prolific writer.  Spare was a renowned visual artist.  Anton LaVey was a gifted musician keenly interested in the idea of the image as essential to magic.  Andrew Chumbley's works combine striking visual imagery with magic and poetry.  Grant Morrison and Alan Moore are both comic book high priests and public Magicians.  Indeed. if you dig deeply enough for the Indo-European roots of the words we use, it is even likely that magic and imagine derive from the same source (possibly PIE magh- "to be able, to have power").  It goes back to the shamans who painted on cave walls to ensure a good hunt, to the idea of seizing an idea from the hidden realms and shaping it into something tangible.

  

What we now call "chaos magic" originally was just referred to as "magical art" in seminal works like Liber Null and Psychonaut.  Generally viewed as the offspring of Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin (the latter of whom liked to use the term "the theatre of magic"), chaos magic was born in the 1970s as an attempt to look across the broad field of magical traditions in an attempt to distill the techniques and practices common to all.  It was meant to be magic ripped free of tradition, a highly individualistic path that encouraged the development of one's own symbol sets.  If Carroll and Sherwin were the parents, Austin Spare was clearly the grandfather (though to my mind, LaVey does not get the credit he should for being a sort of uncle).  At the core of sorcery, chaos magic wanted to tell us, was the exploration and manipulation of consciousness. "Belief," in this quest, was "a tool."  I would liken this to LaVey's "suspension of disbelief."  The idea was that magic invested symbols--any symbols--with power, irregardless of where these symbols were drawn from.  The Magician could invoke Isis or Gabriel or Alice in Wonderland so long as in the course of the ritual these beings were animated by belief.

Obviously this flies in the faces of hardcore Traditionalists like Julius Evola, who tended to see their symbols as a sort of Truth handed down from time immemorial.  This iconoclasm gave chaos magic its sort of "punk" glamor.  Chaos magic was a post modern field where magic was liberated from dusty grimoires and kabbalistic laundry lists.  Now magic could turn up anywhere.  Even, as Morrison and Moore have demonstrated time and time again, in comic books.

This brings us to Arch-Traitor Bluefluke.



Since I first tripped across Bluefluke's work, it has become a destination I recommend to anyone trying to get a sense of what chaos magic is  ("Curious about chaos magic?  Go check out http://bluefluke.deviantart.com").  All the hallmarks are there.  The Magician comes at you with a striking visual style simultaneously mystical, anime, and punk and a "magical name" that sounds like a rave DJ.  Bluefluke writes and illustrates with the same cocktail of respect/disdain for tradition that fuels zen, a yin-yang fusion of opposites essential for reaching "qabbalstic zero" (or again, Crowley's n + -n = 0).  In a way, this Magician is performing the same trick that LaVey used in slapping Satan across his magic...many will look at Bluefluke's art and think "this can't be taken seriously" and wander off (LaVey was going for the more "frightened off").  The intellectually curious, however, will stick around and suddenly discover how deep the well goes.  This is an ancient trick, my friends, separating the initiates from the voyeurs.

And Bluefluke is worth sticking around.  The Psychonaut Field Manual, at this writing in it's 3.5 incarnation with four of five chapters finished, is a free grimoire containing a completely workable system.  The title is obviously a wink and a nod to Peter J. Carroll, and this combined with the focus on gnosis (qabbalistic zero again), the Discordian touches and the frequent appearance of Michael Moorcock's star of chaos all plant Bluefluke firmly in the chaos magic stream, but the tech in its digital pages is universal.  This isn't to say that Bluefluke's work isn't highly idiosyncratic and recognizably unique, nor that the particular synthesis of ideas here isn't new (it is), but rather that this very uniqueness is showing by example what chaos magicians should be striving for.  "Take these tools and explore thyself."



I'm still fond of Grant Morrison's "Pop! Magic" essay as an entry point for chaos magic, but The Psychonaut Field Manual is meatier on a thousand different levels.  Browse the illustrations alone and the Magician communicates this approach to magic; they seem at once hieroglyphic and Pokemon, stained glass and Cartoon Network.  This gives the images a punch that even, say, Chumbley's illustrations did not have.  They seem to say "magic is not all spooky and scary...it is spooky and scary and cotton candy Wizard of Oz.  That alone is heady stuff.



So what is actually in this system?  It starts with the familiar chaos magic idea of gnosis, a transcendent state wherein opposites are reconciled and thus nullified, including the subject/object dichotomy.  This mental "void" state is akin to the yogic samadhi and Buddhist nirvana, a deep meditative state in which the mind is silenced.  It is in this state that commands are implanted, causing subsequent change in the Magician and his Microcosm.  Part of this process involves overcoming the Ego, which Bluefluke terms the "Selfconscious."  This is the "I" that most people identify themselves with, the "I" that speaks, goes to work, and pays the bills.  The Selfconscious is really just a construct, however, a complex operating system running on our brains that is built by our experiences. Bluefluke tells us the Selfconscious is just one of a Trinity of "selves", and these three must be brought into alignment to enter gnosis.  Its partners are the "Subconscious," which is the body and its animal drives, and the "Superconscious" which is the artist, the visionary, and idealist.  Exercises are offered to bring these into "Soul Resonance," alongside visualization and meditative techniques.  This is the core of the system, which always runs along the lines of "Invoke Soul Resonance, enter gnosis," and then perform whatever specific act of magic follows.

The rest of Psychonaut deals with techniques like sigilization, invoking and evoking, god forms, and astral projection...among a great deal else.  There is a lot crammed into this deceptively simple little work.  Along the way Bluefluke offers a new way of looking at traditional consciousness mapping like chakras or the Qabbalistic sephiroth, looking at these as evolutionary stages of brain development in a new eightfold system partially inspired by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson.  

This is a beginner friendly system, but also a refresher course for those who are old hands at all of this.  Like most chaos magic is it stripped entirely of "religious" elements, pared down to simple techniques and workable exercises.  It's a manual you are going to want to actually use to understand.

As with Bluefluke's artwork, the writing style is refreshing.  It is playful while taking itself serious, irreverent while speaking reverently, and relentlessly modern while teaching tricks used since before the mammoths went extinct.    The Psychonaut Field Manual will entertain you, challenge you, and delight you.  What more could one want in a grimoire.

And while you are there, do check out Bluefluke's Tarot Trumps.  I might prefer the Thelemic re-alignment of the Thoth deck better, but there are some fresh, powerful images there.





  








       

Saturday, January 7, 2017

THE DRACULA DOSSIER: A REVIEW

"I write to tell you how very much I have enjoyed reading Dracula. I think it is the very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years."

Letter, Arthur Conan Doyle to Bram Stoker

Dracula does not immediately present itself as a spy thriller, until you stop and think about it.  Here is a foreign power from the shadows of Eastern Europe, secretly buying up properties and planning the covert invasion of a Western democracy.  Here is an illegal immigrant smuggled into the country, a terrorist in the deepest sense of the word.  Here is a foe secretly recruiting the young and the vulnerable, brainwashing and turning them to his cause.  Here is a conspiracy that threatens the Crown.  Academics have wrangled over how exactly to classify Bram Stoker's 1897 masterpiece for more than a century, and many have described it first and foremost as invasion literature, the fear of the foreign creeping into society and taking it over.  Seen in this light, it becomes a spy thriller, or at least lends itself to being one with a little help.  That is where Ken Hite comes in.

Some of us have been Hite groupies since the days of Chaosium's Nephilim, and despite a wide variety of RPG credits (he was the line developer, for example, of Last Unicorn's Star Trek: The Original Series) he is probably best known as the guy you go to for painstakingly researched horror games.  We're talking Secret Societies and Major Arcana, we're talking Mage the Sorcerer's Crusade and The Cainite Heresy, we're talking GURPS Cabal and the definitive edition of GURPS Horror.  The list goes on.  Of late he has been with Pelgrane Press, writing the exceptional Trail of Cthulhu around Robin Laws' Gumshoe system.  But it is with The Dracula Dossier, a campaign setting for his Gumshoe-powered game Night's Black Agents that Kenneth Hite outdoes himself.  This thing, ladies and gentlemen, is a masterpiece.


Hite describes NBA as "Jason Bourne meets Dracula," but this is selling the core rules short.  Offering a wide variety of play modes, styles, and options, Agents could just as easily be "George Smiley meets Lestat," "Richard Hannay meets the alien energy drainers from Lifeforce," or "Jack Ryan meets Miriam Blaylock."  Essentially it comes down to the player characters being spies who discover, and take on, a massive vampire conspiracy, but both the type of spy thriller--from gritty, paranoid conspiracy tale to cinematic shaken-not-stirred action--and the nature of the vampires can be tailored to taste.

Agents was good, but the appearance of The Dracula Dossier elevated it to amazing.  While it consists of a full line of materials, I will be talking specifically about two books here; Dracula Unredacted and Director's Handbook.

The backstory goes like this:

In 1894, British Intelligence attempted to recruit the ultimate deniable asset, a vampire.  Their assets--George Stoker and Armin Vambery--had uncovered the existence of these creatures nearly two decades earlier on the front lines of the Russo-Turkish War.  Spymaster Peter Hawkins sends a young agent, Johnathan Harker, to bring the vampire in.  Transport is arranged for him to Britain and a safehouse secured.  But this vampire, Count Dracula, cannot be controlled.  He turns on his handler and launches his own schemes.  British Intelligence has no choice but to recruit others to terminate him.

In the fall-out of this mess, George Stoker's brother, Bram, is assigned the task of collecting all pertinent documents (diaries, telegrams, newspaper clippings) to prepare the after action report.  For whatever reason, the original is then heavily redacted and released to the public as a misinformation campaign.  The rogue branch of Intelligence that attempted to recruit Dracula, Operation Edom, goes underground.

Neither Dracula, nor Edom, surrenders so easily.

In World War II Edom attempts to recruit Dracula again, and in the 1970s realize Dracula had left behind his own network of agents that was preying on British Intelligence and feeding secrets to the Romanians.  After the terror attacks of 7/7 in 2011, Edom crawls out of the woodwork yet again, hoping to recruit Dracula to eat his way through Al-Qaeda and ISIS.  But like the back of the book says, "Dracula cannot be controlled and Edom cannot be trusted."

This is where the players come in.  Intelligence agents, they come into possession of the original, unredacted Stoker report.  This is the complete record of the 1894 operation, annotated over the years by three different Intelligence agents (one in the 40s, the 70s, and the present day--charmingly they use the work names Van Sloan, Cushing, and Hopkins after the actors who played Van Helsing).  Using this file, the "Dracula Dossier," they follow up its clues and attempt to hunt down the vampire once and for all, taking on his own massive conspiracy and Operation Edom in the process.

None of this does justice to the immensity of what Hite and co-author Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have done here.  Dracula Unredacted is Bram Stoker's entire, full-length novel, published with hundreds of annotations scrawled in the margins in three colors of ink by the three different "Van Helsings."  Each of these corresponds to an entry in the Director's Handbook that offers several different takes on what the entry might mean.  Dracula Unredacted is then given to the players as what has to be the most amazing player handout ever conceived, and they use it to steer the campaign.  The players read it, and decide which entries to investigate.  The GM then consults the Director's Handbook and responds by taking the option that best suits his campaign.

For example, Lucy Westenra finds a brooch on the beach in Whitby.  An annotation mentions that this item was not found among her personal belongings after death.  If the players chose to pursue this clue, several different locations for where the brooch might be found are given in the Director's Handbook, as well as options for the brooch's significance.  Is it an occult artifact that calls out to vampires?  An ornament Dracula gives out to his agents?  Just a simple piece of jewelry with no significance at all?  Each choice leads to other options, allowing the players to follow the trail of clues back to Dracula.

In essence we are talking a sandbox campaign here, with the novel itself serving as the map.  The players go where they deem best and the GM responds.

The Director's Handbook also helps the GM set up the structure and purpose of Dracula's conspiracy, as well as determining what sort of vampire the Count really is.  Everything is a choice in this campaign, from the true names of the principal characters (was "Johnathan Harker" really his name, or was this a cover identity) to their exact roles (Quincy P Morris...a Texan?  Really?  Or was this an elaborate cover for an Edom agent or minion of Dracula?).  The end result is that no two playings of the Dracula Dossier would ever be the same.

For hardcore Stoker fans, Dracula Unredacted is a treasure unto itself.  While it is essentially the original Stoker novel, Hite and Ryder-Hanrahan have gone back into the author's original notes to replace characters, subplots, and events eventually cut from the novel.  These have been flawlessly inserted and repurposed.  I will say no more without spoilers, but the way Stoker's famous Dracula's Guest is put back into the book is a stroke of genius.  Even just reading Dracula Unredacted alone is a game of figuring out where Stoker ends and the new additions begin.

Because this is set in the modern day, because just as in our world Dracula was published and made into umpteen films, plays, and television programs, Dracula Unredacted is not even the players' only resource.  Nothing stops them from pulling out their smartphones and tablets in the midst of play, Googling historical figures, locations, and details from the text.  Hite hasn't just made shit up, he's drawn on a ridiculous number of other sources and references for players to chase down.  Again, this makes the Dracula Dossier a genuinely one-of-a-kind experience as reality itself conspires to further the tale.

If you have the kind of group that likes to be genuinely challenged--not just falling back on dice rolls and optimizing character stats--this is for you.  It will push players to the limits of their own ingenuity as they match wits against Dracula and attempt to dismantle his schemes.  If you like gothic horror, historicity in games, globe-hopping spy thrillers, you need to own this.  It is truly unique.