Yesterday was a Londonmancy day. ‘Correct use’ of a ritual landscape is not really something that can be bottled.
Perhaps not much about magic can. Perhaps every magical system is the bottle, not the water. This is from Geraldine Beskine’s essay in the recently released the Secret Lore of London, which I picked up in Geraldine’s shop, Atlantis Books, last week.
Water is vital to life and commerce and many parish lines go down the middle of a river or stream. A boundary line adjacent to the Tower of London is no exception to this and its splendid ceremony involves a police launch and a teenager from one of the local schools being lowered over the side of the boat until their hair touches the Thames.
The boundary of the parish of St Clement Danes Church in the Strand leads into the river, too, and has twenty-five markers with anchors on them, not all easily visible. There is one in the vaults of a sometime bank in Fleet Street, another in the Outer Temple; and Essex Court, New Court and Middle Temple lawn all have them too, among other places. An unprepossessing cobbled triangle lies at the front of St Clement Danes. It is centuries old and marks where City and State meet. This is why Margaret Thatcher’s funeral stopped there to allow her coffin to be transferred from a hearse to a gun carriage.
Yesterday’s ritual landscape covered Wren churches built over a Mithraic temples and modelled on an esoteric Jerusalem, forgotten rivers from which curse tablets and hundreds of heads -possibly Boudica’s victims- were excavated, old Roman roads, statues of King Lud, the bells that mark the sonic borders of London before ending in my favourite local ‘wizard church’, St Etheldreda’s. It’s a space that anyone who is a bit Jake Stratton-Kentishly inclined should visit at least once. Henry VIIIth was married here, the crypt chapel has that delightful chthonic dank, parts of it have stood for over a thousand years, it houses some wonderfully ghoulish relics -a miraculously preserved hand- and if you play your arrival right you get the whole thing to yourself. As in… there were not even clergy there when I visited. It was just me and ol’ Ethel.
But how does this get bottled? That would be something like ‘go wandering around the Bank of England for a bit, then sit in a crypt, then go upstairs, rub some goo on a candle and light it. Then go next door to one of my favourite 500 year old pubs, Ye Olde Mitre, where Elizabeth I once danced around the cherry tree, and have a few drinks.’ (Actually, definitely do that last bit.) But that may not be how you personally get their attention.
You see, I had some bureaucracy shit to push through that could definitely do with a bit of ‘London lube’ to help it along, plus I’d made several wizard promises I needed to keep, plus Holy Week. Thus the pieces are me, landscape -both physical and imaginal- and the spirit world. Remember that? Adding to the complications at the bottling plant is determining when listening ends and speaking begins. This Londonmancy not only arose from a constellation of personal needs, but in response to a compulsion emerging from my mind/dreams/the local spirit world.
So it’s not merely a matter of taking a recipe off the shelf in response to a specific need: “Bureaucratic challenges? Perambulate these specific churches and light this specific number of candles.” Would that it were so simple! (I will say that whilst I can’t show you how to bottle the water, the Chaos Protocols goes to some trouble to assist you in striking water in the first place. That is both a promise and a warning.)
Chris Knowles does not live in London, but in the
Garden Wyrd State. His latest post is about a string of High Strange occurrences that I was standing on the edge of, and I can attest they were particularly weird… so much so that I began teasing him that his wyrdness was infecting me down the Skype lines. Check this:
In a more sophisticated and holistic society we’d have learned how to read these portents and act accordingly. We wouldn’t pay any attention to people who tell us that synchronicity (however you choose to define it) and precognition are meaningless. On the contrary, they’re ONLY about meaning, something Jeff Kripal articulates beautifully on the Rune Soup show.
‘In a more sophisticated and holistic society’? Like an animist one, maybe? Check out this video I cut together for you from a recent BBC documentary.
What I haven’t included in this cut is that they did actually find and successfully kill a pig… their first protein in over a week. Of course, we don’t actually live in a hunter-gatherer culture, so our (poor) equivalents for anaconda behaviour and bird omens can -but don’t always- travel through a different rainforest. Chris again.
Now, one of the reasons I’m obsessed with the pop culture icons I’ve covered in-depth on this blog is not only their innate qualities and artistic importance, but also their Synchromystic resonances, the tendency they all seem to have to step outside the boundaries of art and cross over into the real world.
Chris’s latest synchrostorm is somehow intertwined with the X-Files… and I would suggest that our macro 2016 synchrostorm probably is, also. As I mentioned to Raj on the podcast, I was quite surprised by Dr Farrell’s opinion of the show in general and the latest mini-series during our discussion on one his bi-weekly video chats. He said he liked it better when it was ‘about government conspiracies’. I said it never was and neither was the Secret Space Programme event that Chris Carter attended and Dr Farrell actually spoke at. Firstly, The Syndicate was a supranational group rather than a government one. (The X-Files is actually very pro-government in the good sense. The key protagonists are all dedicated federal employees.) It seems strange to me that someone who publishes books on a breakaway fascist international group -an idea I’m completely behind- failed to grokk this. Secondly, the show wasn’t even about that in the first place!
Inevitably, I went crying to Chris after this exchange and he said that X-Files fandom has never understood the show. Consider the motivational arc of the main character -the quest to find his missing sister- and how that gets wrapped up. (Note: this will spoil the living shit out of it, but the episode first aired almost twenty years ago, so that’s on you, not me.)
Carter created a universe in which there are vastly ancient spirit beings associated with starlight that can bodily intervene in the physical, in which magical and psi phenomena are ‘normal’, in which the seeding of life on this planet came from somewhere offworld… and it is in that universe that ‘conspiracies of men’ and sometimes physical aliens operate. The conspiracies do not explain the universe, they happen within it. Does that sound like a universe you might know?
More than that, though. Carter painted this universe using an understanding of Classical mythology that makes George Lucas look like he was finger painting. So the X-Files is a dramatic enactment of our most potent mythemes. Does that sound familiar? And what do you suppose might happen if you engage with it on this level? When does that become ritual magic or lectio divina?
This brings us back to the ‘rainforest’ of ‘cultural symbolism’. Theoretically, the chaos magical use of cultural symbols can yield equivalent magical effects as using more traditional mythological systems, but only in certain instances. There is a naïve assumption -which I have repeatedly stressed was never there in chaos magic’s original formulation- that you can just use anything you want and they’re all the same. But if you go looking for apotheosis in the subtext of Everybody Loves Raymond rather than the X-Files then you are ‘following the wrong birds’ and your family won’t be eating pig that week. Or ever. The problem with so-called pop culture magic is not on the magic side… it’s on the fact that modern culture is mostly shit and getting worse. In fact, you are better off approaching any of this from an almost Alan Moore direction: art is always magic and sometimes popular culture. Find the art, not the pop.
Language requires structure to communicate. Although we don’t quite know what’s being communicated, when you ‘follow the right birds’ you can see that something very definitely is. You can tell because of the non-human logic behind it.
It has been one of the great joys of Star.Ships’s initial success that people are really picking up this ‘non-human logic’ idea, sometimes running with it, always thinking about it. When Greg and I recorded last week’s Higherside Chats, he actually pushed the record time out an hour because he’d had a lightbulb moment reading the last few chapters on this very subject.
You can listen along to the first hour here. No free second hour this time, at my request. He’s been very generous with us and, frankly, he is worth the five bucks. What turned out to be an accidental companion piece to the show is a written interview over at The Secret Sun. From said interview:
If all the stories of creatures flying around in glowing and/or metal craft and yanking poor slobs into space aren’t evidence of alien contact, what do you think they are?
Well, some of them still might be. But a physical ETH solution is inadequate to describe the full range of effects, encounters and responses found throughout history. A wider phenomenological spectrum is required to account for, at one end, the purely nonphysical: dream visitations, inspiration… through observed psi effects and paranormal capacities… right up the physical components such as levitation, radiation effects, missing time, ‘alien’ implants and so on. It’s important not to shy away from the physical components as not only is there a mountain of evidence for them, but these are entirely predicted in an animist description of the universe: indeed, indigenous societies will flat-out say so.
AAT needs a reboot. Its core mythology has not really been updated for forty years and has not incorporated things we now actually know about human history. The ‘mystery’ has been kicked back quite a bit further, but still remains.
But as to what these things ‘are’… well what’s the difference between a 20 million year old, time-travelling, telepathic alien who can assume physical form if it wants to, and an actual god? The universe is old and even our tiny little neighbourhood looks extremely weird. We should have these discussions based on the best available data, with the awareness that these phenomena are often quite deliberately deceptive.
The video from last week’s Watkins Books talk isn’t up -which means I’ll probably just share that on the facestalk page– but it was clear from the Q&A component that magical folk are ready to start having these discussions. It’s gratifying to see these concepts bleeding through, as seen in this excellent, well-considered review of the book. (Although I expect the original composers and singers of the Rig Veda would be surprised to find out they are cognitively inferior to Archaic Greeks and that they are incapable of abstract organisation down from ‘the many to the one’… despite the obvious Monism in the hymns. And, almost by definition, the Aboriginal Dreamtime is a a ‘universal’ home of ‘timeless natural structures’. But apparently they cannot ‘cognitive grasp’ this idea? I will take a lot more convincing for a number of reasons.)
Synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, often has the characteristic of appearing meaningful without the message being at all clear. It is equally as likely that such experiences contain the utterly ridiculous, pushing against any attempt to read them in an entirely serious manner. I recently contacted a certain spirit and, following the ritual, was filled with the need to reread Treasure Island. A day after that a friend who lived over a thousand miles away contacted me to inform me she thought I might be interested in the T.V. show “Black Sails” which is a prequel toTreasure Island. She just “felt like I might be in a Treasure Island mood”. Then I found a tattered children’s pirate flag on the streets of New York. The spirit I had contacted, incidentally, has no obvious connection with the sea or pirates, and the reason for contact had nothing to do with either. It is hard to deny the element of the absurd, the ridiculous, here. Non-human logic indeed. At other times we find deep revelations and powerful life-altering events corresponding with spirit contact. I have found that sometimes it doesn’t pay to attempt to fit all the pieces together too eagerly – here be monsters, or madness.
Now we’re getting somewhere. The phenomena are not only real, like water they do not only fit in bottles. Materialism thinks these phenomena aren’t there so it can be confidently abandoned. You can model them using Idealism, but this is sort of like eating soup with a fork. It’s possible but inefficient. Which brings us back to animism –as recently discussed with Dr Kripal. Animism provides the best available phrasebook for how the non-physical vibrates through the physical like fingers on a harp. Animism allows for the anaconda to speak through rain, for the forest to speak through bird flight, for your own future mind to speak through an old TV show apparently about aliens, for portents to screech through New Jersey foxes and for us to speak back through a brace of old London churches.
Speak back to whatever is living in the starlight.