Wednesday Webshare: Dragons, Dracula, and Meditation: Sex, Breath, and Darkness

2014/07/02

Mercury Web
Interestingly enough a study says that sex and meditation do many of the same things to our brain. Of course I’d wager that lasting effects are more likely to show up with meditation. Maybe I’m biased, but I know a lot more calm, compassionate monks than calm, compassionate people who just get laid a lot. (But as always I take the middle road)

Mike Sententia makes a good, short, post about foundational understanding. I’ve ranted about this for a long time, but he puts it in a short and simple package. We wouldn’t learn science the way a lot of people want to learn magick.

Everyone’s favourite Chick Track combining Dungeons and Dragons, and the occult is being made into a movie. So excited.

A study suggests that non-directive meditation is the most effective form. Despite all the more complex forms I’ve learned over the years, I still return to anapana/vipassana more than anything else, maybe this explains why.

Researchers think they found Dracula’s grave and want to open it…because that never turns out bad in the movies…

Slyphs, and Gnomes, and Undines too…but there are a lot more unusual creatures from medieval manuscripts. Lots of these weird creatures from medieval bestiaries get used in magick, but many have been forgotten, so who wants to figure out magickal uses for the bonnacon?

My friend Psyche discusses the issues around gender essentialism in their time with the OTO, and why they left. As many people know, I recently was part of a panel on queer and gender queer magick, so I’ve found Psyche’s experience with the OTO interesting and relatable to a lot of my issues around rigid binaries. It’s not without hope though, a few commenters said that not all OTO bodies hold to rigid physical sex and gender prescriptions with the roles in ritual, and allow people to move between them based on what the identify with or feel at that time, which is great to read.

Arkansas bans the creation of a pagan temple when they realized pagans aren’t Christian. I wish I could be surprised.

I ❤ Dave, and he recently did a Lyric or Satiric game, using the Bible. Basically he and friend take turns either reading Bible verses or fake Bible verses, and guess if it is real or fake.

Buffersafe has a comic on Ghost Stories…and frankly this is far closer to the ghost stories I live.

Back to Spiral Nature, Psyche addresses a question from someone who isn’t sure if they’re ready to begin spellwork. My favourite part is the advice includes something I see way too many occultists forgetting, and that’s SMART goals (or worse…any goals…).

Frankly I’m more likely to blame moldy chip dip than the Ouija board. Hell, I was at a party last weekend where drunk people made a Ouija board, used it while drunk, with a My Little Pony planchette, and no one got possessed.

The world’s first affordable sensory deprivation tank, only $1,700. Okay, that’s still a fair sum, but a lot cheaper than most. As someone who has had great results with the Ganzfeld procedure magickally, I have to say I’ve always wanted a full-blown sensory deprivation tank, and this is just one step closer.

The dark side of meditation. People in the West forget meditation isn’t about relaxation, it can help, but that’s not the point. It loosens the ego, deals with sankara (impurities of the mind), and that isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience. I feel this person needed more help processing his experience and he didn’t get it, but it’s not an unheard of, or even uncommon response. The times I live in temple or meditation retreat contain some of the more horrible and terrifying thought-experiences of my life, all while on a cushion. Meditation can bring you to some really “dark” places, but it can also take you beyond them, just return your focus to your breath.

A distant dharma sibling is crowdfunding to support her work on an elaborate thangka depicting the chöd practice and it looks amazing.

What a Shaman sees in a mental hospital. Interesting reframing of mental conditions through a spiritual lens. (Though I’m not a fan of people who say all mental/cognitive conditions and illnesses are spiritual awakenings.)

A piece on why the tarot has/needs structure. A bit controversial to some, but I wouldn’t say it’s wrong. It’s not a judgment about tarot v oracle decks, but just clarifying that they’re different things, and there is only so much you can change in the tarot until it becomes something else.


Review: Tantric Thelema, by Sam Webster

2014/06/19

tantric thelema Tantric Thelema & The Invocation of Ra-Hoor-Khuit in the manner of the Buddhist Mahayoga Tantras – Sam Webster
Concrescent Press, 2010, 114pp., 9780984372904.

When one studies the history of Buddhism they cannot help but notice that Buddhism changes with every culture it encounters. As it spreads it encounters new ethics, new cultural norms, new magickal systems, new gods and demons, and in time these may become part of the tradition. At first look some might be confused by the integration of Crowley’s Thelema with Buddhism, but one must realize that in many ways this is just another of the hundreds of shifts in Buddhism, except this time we’re seeing it as it occurs.

Tantric Thelema is what it sounds like, Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana) combined with Thelema, but probably in a way deeper than most readers expect, it is a combination of ritual structure and underlying theological practices of Buddhism with the figures and Law of Thelema. What is deeper than expected (and I’ll admit I was not expecting too much) was how thoughtfully and appropriately the systems have been combined. I’m sure we’ve all read a book, or blog entry, or been to a ritual and seen someone combine two systems with no more depth or understanding than changing a desktop theme. They call “elemental” Orishas in the Angelic corners, regardless of how they interact, or switch out Hebrew names for Egyptian names (poorly translated) cause they like them better, and so on. Yet, as someone who is a devout Tantric Buddhist (whether I want to be or not), and arguably a Thelemite I cannot help but be amazed at how well Sam Webster has integrated these systems.

Now to clarify my statement, and Webster’s, this is a book about Thelema, as he states “I don’t teach Buddhism, but I do see this work as an implementation of the Buddhadharma. If you want to learn Vajrayana, go find a competent teacher and do the work.” (ix) That being said this book is also one of the clearest explanations I’ve ever read on Tantric invocation, but this book is geared around a Thelemic form. Another aspect in this combination I would like to applaud Webster for is his use of technique but not symbols. While he relates everything back to Buddhist ritual he does not use Buddhist mantras, or seed syllables, or combine Buddhist and non-Buddhist figures. He understands “[t]his would be a theft of identity and culture and thus unjustifiable. But using the principles as published and duly translated is righteous as a recovery of a replacement of our own lost technology.” (xiv) So from a perspective of respect to the tradition, that as an admirable trait, also a wise decision in terms of avoiding mismatching things in catastrophic ways, as one often sees in poorly synthesized traditions. Too often in these combined systems the creator uses symbols because they’re traditional, even if they get misapplied, but Webster focuses on the process of invocation and the underlying theology, instead of copying the symbol set.

The text begins with explaining how and why Buddhism and Thelema work together, which seem unlikely on the surface, but Webster intelligently and skillfully links some of the major figures and concepts of the traditions, and also shows a nuanced understanding of Buddhism that allows him to understand Ra-Hoor-Khuit as a Bodhisattva. After the theoretical ground is laid Webster begins a systematic introduction into the practices of Tantric Thelema beginning with a Thelemic form of Taking Refuge, through Dedication of Merit, Empowerments and eventual Front and Self Generations (Evocation and Invocation in Western magickal terms). He also includes some “beta” rituals which haven’t been as thorough tested or practiced yet including a Yab-Yum ritual (spiritual sexual congress) and a phowa (an ejection of consciousness ritual used at the time of death). The book claims to have 47 Tantric Thelemic practices in it, which sounds a bit overwhelming, but really they’re all small elements of a handful of larger and more complex rituals.

Ra-Hoor-KhutMy only complaint about the text and the rituals is the inclusion of the figure of Ra-Hoor-Khut (not Khuit) who is essentially a female form of Ra-Hoor-Khuit mixed in with Nuit. I have nothing wrong with the concept of her, but she is used in major rituals in a way that I find unnecessary and not in line with the Buddhist methodologies. In the act of invocation one calls upon her, in order to further the invocation ritual in a way that is untraditional (an odd complaint in a text like this) and not strictly needed. Perhaps my issue here is the fact that I feel she isn’t explained clearly and I don’t know why she’s included in the process and feel that wasn’t made clear. I’ve worked the rituals both without her and with her, and I’ve found they are just as effective and powerful, but that without her they flow more. What I would like to see is a set of ritual practices around Ra-Hoor-Khut on her own. (Which I might add to my short list of Thelemic Tantric rituals I’ve been toying with.)

Don't judge my wallpaper.

Don’t judge my wallpaper.

Now that I’ve explained the text, let me take a step back and explain what this means to me. As mentioned I’m both a very devout Vajrayana Buddhist, and a Thelemite in many ways, so it was interesting and useful to see how these aspects of my beliefs could work together. More than that, I maintain that this book, while not about Buddhism, is one of the most straightforward explanations on Buddhist invocatory ritual I’ve ever read, which has been useful as a textual reference since then. I first read this book about two years ago, and I’ve wanted to review it since then, but more than any other magickal book I’ve read in the past decade this one demanded I work through it and explore. Here I am, two years later, finally reviewing, and still working with it, I’ve found the system to be very effective and satisfying. While it in no way replaces my Buddhist practices it works well to bring some of my Western work more in line with it. I have even gone so far as to order a print of the Ra-Hoor-Khuit image, and create my own thangka frame for it, so it now is on display for my working no different from my thangkas of Machik Labdrön or Yamantaka. I’ve created and used malas dedicated to the system (as well as sell them on my etsy). While I don’t think you need to have an interest in Buddhism to make this ritual system work, I think it is worth looking into if you’re already drawn to Thelema, or feel drawn to it but can’t connect with the system perhaps the (re)centring of Thelema around compassion will help make that connect.

Though the text is short, it is one of the most intriguing and in-depth works I’ve come across in a long time, and would be beneficial for a wide variety of people from either or both traditions.

ABRAHADABRA

-=-=-=-=-=-
For those interested in picking up either a print of Ra-Hoor-Khuit or Ra-Hoor-Khut both can be purchased on The Thelesis Aura website, along with other great pieces by the artist Kat Lunoe. EDIT: Kat has just corrected me, currently there are no Ra-Hoor-Khuit prints available, only Ra-Hoor-Khut, so if you’re interested check back from time to time.

And for those interested in the malas I’ve made for the practices you can find the listing here, including options for a four coloured mala or a six coloured mala, depending on which system within the text you’re drawn to.


The Feast for the Three Days of the Writing of the Book of the Law

2011/04/08

93.

To those who celebrate it, today is the first of the three feast days marking Aleister Crowley’s reception of Liber AL vel Legis in 1904. For those who don’t know the mythology of the reception the basic account can be found here on wikipedia. I was going to link the Thelemapedia article on it but they have conveniently excluded parts of the story.

Anyways, I wouldn’t say I celebrate the feast, but I observe the reading. I enjoy Liber AL vel Legis, so this gives me an excuse to reread it.

The exoteric side of the tradition, is simply read Chapter I today, Chapter II tomorrow, and Chapter III on Sunday, the anniversaries of their individual reception.

For those looking to read it you can find the full text here on Sacred-Texts.com. This is the full book, so remember to read just the first chapter today.

You can always but a text copy Book Of The Law by Aleister Crowley which looks deceptively like a Gideon Bible, they are on the same shelf in my library, and I’ve confused them occasionally.

You can also find a podcast reading of the book here on Thelema Coast to Coast. This link is just to Chapter I, the following two podcasts are the successive chapters.

And of course, I’ve shared this before but I do enjoy the song. Burning Hearts, from the band Nuit’s album Mother Night. It’s a condensed version of Chapter II.

To those who celebrate, Love is the Law.


When The Shadow Calls – The Royal Family & The Poor

2011/02/04

Originally when I started this blog and was filled with idealism I thought that every Friday I’d post a magick-themed song. Though as I didn’t end up posting as often as I’d like I decided against that. I did good the last two weeks, so I figured I’d post another song I like.

This is “When the Shadow Calls” by The Royal Family & The Poor from the album Songs for the Children of Baphomet: A Musickal Tribute To The Life & Works Of Aleister Crowley. The album is really good, it has a lot of different sounds to it, when I decided to put up a song I had trouble narrowing it down. Some songs have a classical anthem theme to them, some are just soft drifting glossolalic hymns, some have more of an 80’s rock feel, and several that are just hard to place. As for being a tribute to Crowley, this song has an exert from The Bornless Ritual, another is adapted from the Invocation of Horus, one even has the Great Beast himself reciting his poem “The Pentagram,” others as specifically inspired by Crowley’s works, and some are more general about Thelema and the theme of Crowley’s magick. All in all the album has a neat sound and the idea of producing a musickal tribute to Crowley makes for an interesting themed CD.

(As a random aside, the song is alternately called “When the Shadow Calls” and “When the Shadow Falls” depending on where in the liner notes you look.)


Burning Hearts – Nuit

2011/01/29

(This post was supposed to be uploaded last night, but dealing with catastrophic laptop death and setting up a new one I didn’t have time.)

I woke up singing this song this morning. I don’t know why it was in my head but I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s a condensed version of Chapter II of the Liber AL vel Legis, better known as The Book of the Law. I took my copy to school with me and read it over the day, it’s always an interesting read, I read it at least once a year in April during the “feast” celebrating its writing.

Anyways, without further ado here is Burning Hearts by Nuit

To download the song, read the lyrics, hear the rest of the album, or learn about the band you can visit Nuit’s “Mother Night”.

In the chance you’re unfamiliar with the text you can get the complete book (it is short) online at The Book of the Law on Sacred Texts or get a print copy of The Book Of The Law by Aleister Crowley


Review: Low Magick – Lon Milo DuQuette

2011/01/13

Low Magick: It’s All In Your Head… You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is – Lon Milo DuQuette
Llewellyn. 2010. 206pp. 9780738719245.

“Stories are magick.” (1) With that simple idea Lon Milo DuQuette begins to draw the reader into another wacky, hilarious, and insightful journey of magick and life. I will be frank right off the bat and discuss my problems with this text. I spend a lot of time on public transit reading and this memoir had people on the bus eyeing me like I was a bit crazy. Lon is quite simply a funny guy and at many points in his stories I found myself laughing- sometimes at him, sometimes with him, sometimes because a crazy idea seemed too much like me. Unfortunately when someone suddenly breaks out laughing (especially if that laugh has a tinge of mad scientist to it) people in public don’t know what to do. If you don’t mind odd looks you can read this in public, otherwise read it at home.

The humour is a great drive in the book it helps keep the stories from being too serious and not being a dry biography. Sometimes the asides and comments are just so random and funny that I couldn’t help but laugh such as the mention of nachos and guacamole as “the fast-food favorite of California magicians whose wives are out of town.” (73) That line was right in the centre of a fascinating story of a ritual spanning a few days involving Lon, the Tarot of Ceremonial Magick, and the various spirits tied to the deck.

Now this memoir isn’t just a stroll down memory lane, there is “a great deal of theory and technical information within my nonchronological narratives.” (2) So there are stories, there are laughs, and there is actual information. What I enjoyed what not so much how Lon did certain rituals but his discussion of why he did certain rituals and why he did them certain ways. When discussing a curse on a friend, rather than just using some standard ritual to undo it, or to just say what he did, Lon leads you into his head (and it is all in his head) to show why he decided to use A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the foundation to remove the curse.

Lon goes back and forth from discussing magick in a very traditional ceremonial sense and something more free form. The stories flow from Goetic demons to invoking Ganesha to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” from the Hermetic Rose Cross to gorging on quiche for astral adventures. The book covers so much in a great tone. On one hand Lon is confident about his experience and information but knows where his limitations are, and yet the book never has the tone of a magician who thinks too highly of himself. The book discusses success and failure, brilliant ideas and not-so-clever ones.

The title of the memoir is from an early work and it is a statement that I’ve seen people toss around both for and against DuQuette on various email lists and message boards. In this text he goes into more detail about it. “This is not to say, however, that I believe magick is purely psychological. What I am saying is there is more we don’t understand about the human mind than we do understand.” (133) In true DuQuette fairness he discusses this just before describing two stories where the magick and the results seem so removed from him that understanding it as being in his head is quite a challenge, even to him. Whether you agree or disagree with the idea, Lon does show through his experiences where his logic for this idea comes from. A strength of Lon’s writing is his ability to lead you into his understanding, so even if you disagree him you can understand why he thinks a certain way.

This is a hilarious book, filled with great insight into the world of magick, and into the head of one wise and wacky wizard.


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