It is not your fault

There is a harrowing feature of New Age thinking which is a spin-off of the idea that you design your universe in your head. The concept touted in the Kybalion is that if the universe is mind and you are mind, then you create your universe with your thoughts.  You can be anything you want to be if you visualise and think positively.

But the converse of this is also true – if there is something wrong in your universe New Age thought is that it is because you put it there.

A psychologist friend of mine once said that while he rather liked New Age people, he did notice that there was a strong element of self-blame amongst them. When trauma counselling he had to overcome the belief that they were somehow responsible for the terrible things that happened to them.

No-one wants to be raped

One woman, who had been raped by her boyfriend, could not accept that she did not cause the problem by unconsciously choosing such a person in the first place.

She told him: “If I am the author of my own story, I must have chosen him to be in my life.  It is my negative thinking that created him.”

New Agers will apply that concept to other people and turn themselves into victim shamers. A poor person is only that way because they are not positive. They could leave that situation if they choose – they do not desire it enough.

Westcott appeared to be visualising everyone around him dying – including himself

This concept manifests in the judgement of some significant magicians who died in poverty or terrible illnesses. The idea is that they could not have been good magicians if they had such terrible lives. Had Wynn Westcott been better at visualising his family would not have killed themselves and he would not have died of Bright’s Disease. If Samuel Mathers had been a good magician, he would not have always been poor and survived the Spanish flu epidemic.

Like many things New Age, it is all propped up by a little bit of truth surrounded by overly simplistic thinking which ultimately drags down the whole idea. It is true that some people are so limited in their thinking that they cannot escape the patterns they have created for themselves. People do pick the wrong people in relations (normally due to a poor relationship with their parents). While it is true that visualisation is part of magic it is NOT the main game, but one of many limited techniques.

Bloody Kybalion

One of my first problems with the Kybalion, which annoyed my BOTA seniors, was the system depends on it all being about you. If my universe is the creation of my thinking, then other people are not involved.

If a murderer enters my life, it is due to MY visualisation and not his. This narcissistic view of the universe encourages you to only care for yourself. Other people, if they exist, are just bit players, but they are centre stage. But if everyone is visualising then somehow all these narcissistic worldviews must mesh together into a model which provides everyone with what they want.

But it doesn’t. If there is a lottery for a million dollars, there will only be one winner and many hopeful, positive thinkers. What is more, the winner is unlikely to be a positive person who knew they were going to win.

No-one asks to be raped, wants to be murdered, shot by police or die in a fire.

So what goes wrong?

The universe is not an expression of one human mind but that of the One Thing. The objectives of the One Thing are to learn about itself. Within its big created universe it built a humanity program in which it could experiment with stories involving more abstract qualities within itself like love, hate, war, online-shopping etc.

Each human has been given a story to live out with specific events which must happen for the One Thing to understand that point.

What is important to understand here is that the One Thing is doing this to itself. There is not a single thing you have experienced in your life which is not the One Thing experiencing it. Equally, there is nothing which could bring about these experiences in your life without some coordination from the One Thing. Since you are part of the One Thing, you are doing this to yourself to learn something. Once you have learnt that lesson, you may, or may not move on from it.

The easiest way for this story to happen is to be born into a family, country or social group. No New Age visualiser can claim that they were visualising on the astral and were responsible for their family.  Your first acts as a child are to adapt to that environment. So, a poor person’s attitudes are not negative thinking, but an evolution, or adaption to the situation they find themselves. It enables them to survive the terrible circumstances in which they find themselves.

That family will arrive with all the psychological baggage and genetic illnesses and pre-dispositions of its ancestors.  Something else that the child can do nothing about other than live through it and adapt.

Stories are not entirely written by you

On top of this, the child must resolve the story that the One Thing wants to learn in that life.

However, that does not mean that a person cannot use magic or visualisation to escape that life. There are many “rags to riches” stories where that happens. All of them require a person to fight their way out of their social status and DNA. But such stories are not for everyone. Some stories involve making the best of a bad situation; other stories include living your life no matter what it throws at you.

One of the things I have noticed about magicians is that all the good ones have had interesting lives. Even those who have had successful muggle lives (family, job, mortgage) have interesting stories beneath the surface.  Mathers might not have been that successful as a human or as a money maker, but he certainly lived. Aleister Crowley was a spendthrift, sexist, racist, bastard but no-one can deny that he had a life packed with exciting events and stories.

The sort of life I am describing is not entirely deterministic. Your response to those situations are what interests the One Thing.  A bad thing might happen to you which you choose to handle in a way that resolves it better. A person who deals with her rapist by facing him in court might lose, but her choice to take him on might help her deal with the pain and prevent her attacker doing it to someone else.

However, it does mean that the Kybalion is wrong. Bad things do happen to good people because the evolution of humanity and the divine spirit depend on it.

The One Thing is doing it to itself

But there is also an important social side to all this. If harming others is the One Thing inflicting pain on itself, doing “good” is also the One Thing helping itself.  When you help another person with their story, you are effectively helping yourself.  When you receive help from another, you are receiving it from the Universe.

If you don’t receive support from the One Thing, then chances are your story is to sort it out on your own and you have the ability and resources to fix the situation. For the same reason, you cannot judge another person for resolving their story in a way or failing.

The Magician is a specialist

The other question then is what is the role of the magician in this story? A magician is a specialist who uses spiritual forces and rules to create a change in the pattern or the story. They are there for when all else “rational” has failed. When the doctor or police can’t or will not help, when a situation needs to see the bigger picture or to call in gods and spirits.

A magician is no more important than anyone else in the story they are just the One Thing brings in more specialised functions. Not every story needs a Gandalf any more than it needs an Achilles. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf was vital, in the Iliad he would have been useless.

A magician has their own story. It generally starts with initiation, balancing, contact with higher forces, testing and then service. During that process, a lot of shit will get thrown at them because it is part of their training. If nothing happened, then there would be no magic rituals to try out and nothing to learn.

Either way, the stuff which gets thrown at you, it may not be your fault.

Cognitive dissonance in the occult world

You would think that occultists would be at the cutting edge of thought and be ready to look and adapt to new ideas. In fact, new ideas are hard to come by and when introduced are met with a great deal of resistance. Some of this is down to the idea of preserving traditions, but mostly it is due to what psychologists call cognitive dissonance.

For those who came in late, cognitive dissonance is a simple theory which suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and behaviour in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance). So, when something appears that is new, which runs counter to what we thought we knew, we will ignore it just to keep the balance right. My old teacher once said that people tend to believe the first thing they are told on a subject and find it difficult to let go of, and there might be some truth behind that (but it was the first time anyone suggested the idea to me so he might have been wrong and I refuse to give it up).

I first encountered cognitive dissonance in the occult community nearly 15 years ago when I was doing some research on the banishing ritual of the pentagram. In Western Magic this little ritual is used before any working. The ritual was developed by the Golden Dawn and was provided to every neophyte.  I looked at the paperwork given to neophytes throughout the long history of the Golden Dawn it was clear discovered that it was the invoking pentagram which was the main tool to be used to provide protection and the banishing was just a footnote (for when you were in unsafe space or under attack).

Israel Regardie: the Harry Potter years

I printed my findings and expected there to be either a change in the use of the banishing by at least GD types or at least a general discussion about it. While the idea was accepted amongst some Golden Dawn people, nothing really happened. People still ask questions about banishing on the various facebook groups. One person recently called into question my ability to teach because other (non-Golden Dawn) teachers, such as EA Groening insisted on the use of the banishing before any ritual. In short, I must be wrong because so many others said so. To be fair until I did some research on it, I would have said the same.

I tried to track back when the banishing superseded the invoking and found that it arose with the development of the psychological model within occultism. People like Israel Regardie favoured the banishing because it meant getting rid of complexes. The real Golden Dawn had long since passed into obscurity and so a tiny innovation in emphasis went unnoticed and there was no-one to complain. Regardie was hugely influential over most of the names of the 20th century magical scene. To many he was a font of knowledge of all things Golden Dawn. In fact, his Golden Dawn experience was limited and his ideas like the banishing, the watchtowers and his semi-tantric middle pillar exercise were all his own devising.

Another example of cognitive dissonance is the amount of emotion placed in defending the Kybalion as “hermetic” or having any real use in magic at all.  As I have written elsewhere, this New Age con trick is responsible for a lot of terrible thinking within the occult movement. The fact it suckered good minds like Paul Case, David Goddard, and even me for many years is no excuse.

Each of the seven principles that the book is based on can be pulled apart by basic philosophic or scientific reasoning. The fact it has survived so long is thanks to the lack of philosophic or scientific reasoning in the esoteric community and the amount of cognitive dissonance attached to it. Even those who admit it is flaky palm off their dissonance by claiming “there is some truth in it” (truth which they can never provide or if they do it can be soon pulled to bits).

When presented with the fallacy behind the Kybalion you can see people acting in full cognitive dissonance mode. They say:

1. I don’t understand it or have not studied it properly (I do and have).

2. They say it contains principles which have been part of Hermetics and Cabbalah since the beginning (they haven’t. You would think that a book that sums up hermetic thought might have a basis in existing hermetic thought but nothing).

3. They insist that the universe works like that anyway (it can’t. The Kybalion depends on an early 20th century view of science which has been largely superseded).

4. They claim that magic depends on it (which is odd because no work of magic before the Kybalion uses any of the principles.

5. They say I am stupid and don’t know what I am talking about, and smell of Nintendo (by this point the conversation is normally over).

There are loads of other situations in magic where cognitive dissonance places the brakes on esoteric development. Issues fought over in esoteric groups often break down to something that my teacher told me that I thought was true but turned out not to be.  There are many people who swear blind that astral initiation of a neophyte is possible because their teacher made a buck or two out of them without having to show up for the rite.

People like Jake Stratton-Kent have found it uphill work convincing people that you don’t really need a Tree of Life or a celestial view of the universe to get things done.

Aaron Leitch has angered those who follow African Traditions for pointing out that some of those traditions exist within the Solomonic tradition (he also may once have borrowed few of their terms, but it is not my tradition, so I can’t comment on it).

Cognitive dissonance prevents the evolution of magic. In older systems of magic, you can see an evolution of tradition thanks mostly because isolated magicians trained their students based on their own research. Printing affected that somewhat and enabled more unified ideas, but in many ways those systems have become unchangeable dogmas.

But ironically occult tradition is not about theology or dogmas but research. Because a grimoire has written down a spell, it does not mean it is going to work in the 21st century.It might have to be adapted. That adaptation needs to be tested to make sure it works.

That process is getting suppressed now as people try and drag systems down to something they are more comfortable and familiar. The internet makes this cognitive dissonance even worse because it echoes.




A candidate for the maker of your higher genius

According to the Iamblichus’ [1] The Higher Genius is made by the Master of Daemons by the King of the Underworld it is important when trying to contact this Daemon to also contact being. Unfortunately, there was no God named as being the master of daemons and many people think he was Hades, which makes a far amount of sense.

But another candidate could be the Egyptian god Tutu who related to (amongst other things) to the the Higher self of the Pharoah. He was a popular and accessible God to whom people could turn for help in their everyday existence. He was shown in side view but with His head turned to be viewed frontally, emphasising this approachability.

Tutu  usually is represented in the form of a striding royal sphinx composed of a lion’s body and a human head, with usually a snake as His tail. In later periods He may be depicted in a pantheistic mode with other elements like a crocodile head or a lion head attached to His body.

Must of Iamblichus’ ideas came from the Hermetic current in Egypt where Tutu was still popular so the idea of the higher self being made by a benign chaotic being makes some sense.  Before he is considered as being a minor deity he should be see in his role as the “son of Neith” and “Atum’s God”

Neith is the goddess of the the unseen and limitless sky and a fitting symbol for the underworld of chaos from which all order sprang. The Egyptians said that Neith bought forth from the primeval waters of the Nun the first land.

Being her son, Tutu is the primal force which seeks to know itself and therefore making a human higher genius makes sense.


[1]  See Iamblichus’ commentary on Plato’s Sophist, the first fragment, as well as the translator’s notes on that fragment. In Platonis Dialogos Commentariorum Fragmenta. Translated by Dillon, John M. Wiltshire, UK: Prometheus Trust, 2009. {thanks
Jeffrey S. Kupperman)

Godforms of the Golden Dawn review

Pat Zalewski’s books on the Golden Dawn are always worth getting and reading.  Lately, he has not written that many, preferring to focus on this correspondence course, so his new one is a rarity.  I was going to write a review of it, and Pat asked me to “let him have it” so here goes.

Godforms of the Golden Dawn tradition is very much a Pat Zalewski book with similarities to his classic Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries.  When I read Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries (in the 90s)  his descriptions of the use of Godforms provided me with a link between the inner work which I was doing and the Golden Dawn.

This book looks at Zalewski’s approach to Godforms which are mostly based on the holographic theory and Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic fields.  That approach has a lot to offer, and Pat clearly explains them in the context of Godforms.

Like most Zalewski books Godforms of the Golden Dawn does not have to be taken in its entirety. There are stand-alone packages of information which unlock chunks of Golden Dawn information.  For example, Pat’s explanation of the godforms of the Enochian Chess pieces in the GD ritual is well worth it.

Pat also provides some of the Godforms of the elemental grades as used in Whare Ra with original pictures provided to him by Tony Fuller.  Dion Fortune said that illustrations like this were often the real hidden teaching behind a magic order and were often the key to connecting to the original order.  Certainly, there are rather a lot of Golden Dawn orders which do not use these godforms and yet claim to be linked to the Stella Matutina or Whare Ra.

Zalewski does not like the more modern approach of officers adopting individual godforms and prefers that the Hierophant generates all of them. He says that this is because the hierophant needs to be in control of the ritual.  I do a half-way house with the godforms being created by the officers but ensouled by the Hierophant who links them into the ritual’s network and contacts. This takes a lot of the pressure off the Hierophant without losing much in the way of control.

One thing I would have liked the book to contain was more ritual use outside the grade rituals and perhaps some proper techniques for ordinary rituals.  The book is quite short and could easily have been expanded in this direction.

My one problem with the book is the excessive number of introductions.  There is an excellent introduction from Tony Fuller which explains the work of Pat, and he did research the Whare Ra and Golden Dawn godforms.  However, there then follows two largely pointless introductions from the publisher Lenny Pedersen and Martin Thibeault which did not need to be there and said very little. When you have a book which is only 143 pages long wasting 14 pages before getting to the subject is a little annoying and did not need to be there.

Pat and Tony Fuller have some more books which are coming out using this publisher which, like this book, will be a welcome addition to the evolving corpus of Golden Dawn material. You can get your hands on Pat’s book here.

The new Golden Dawn fundamentalist trend goes no where

In the last few years, a clique of fundamentalist occultists has emerged who claim that they are following the Original Golden Dawn system. They cut off all developments after Mathers was expelled. For those who don’t know, the central focus for this change means that the god-awful portal ritual in which the student is subjected to a boring lecture on diagrams and the Masonic style of giving the passwords and a funny handshake is superior to the longer more magical ritual which most people know about.  The original ritual can be seen in my Mathers Last Secret Book because the AO could not be bothered changing it themselves.

So is there anything in the original Golden Dawn teachings that is better than the off-shoots by the rebels?  The rituals are shorter and less poetic and closer to the Masonic model, some of the elements which most people like about the GD or the AO were not in the original.  The mindset is more of co-masonry or SIRA with a downplaying of the magical elements (in the early GD the second order had not been adequately integrated into the second order…. indeed the moment that the second order was developed (and Mathers delivered the Tham papers) the London adepts started to rebel). It was new wine into old skins, and the Order had to restructure to accommodate it.

There is nothing in human history where the first draft is always better than the final copy. If you write a ritual or paper and it creates something living within you that act will unlock something new in you. You will then see the universe through that new information, and the original information will have to be changed and adapted.  To say that the original Golden Dawn documents and rituals were perfect on their first draft implies that Mathers and Westcott were gods who had a clear perception of what the GD was and what it would do.

However, we know that this was not the case.  When the original rituals were written there were no perceptions of a second order and the vision was a form of SRIA which included women. Information was still coming into the order as late as ten years after.  It implies that not only were Mathers and Westcott gods, but the rebels who followed them were idiots who did not know what they were doing.  If this were the case, then the GD system failed because it did not train anyone who could carry it on.  Westcott and Mathers were not initiated using their rituals, so that means that if the rebels were failures, then it means that the original rituals did not work.

The issue here is that occultism is about time, training, focus and development. The follow-on orders had more time to understand and work with the rituals to know what needed to change and for students to develop parts of the ceremonies unworked by the founders.  More modern students have even more advantages of applying information and teaching which was less accessible to those in the 19/20th centuries.

Claiming that the rebels (or the AO) were stupid for bringing in changes (such as the portal ritual and another teaching) implies a smug superiority born of insecurity. I would rather sit and talk occultism with Yeats, Mrs Mathers, Felkin, Brodie Innes, Taylor or any of the old Whare Ra members than any of these back to the early Golden Dawn types.  All of them followed the GD system for most of their lives

Most fundamentalist quests are based on insecurities and inexperience and a hope that a human document is correct and cannot be changed.

If a single document or collection documents or rituals can be defined as “right”, then it means that others are wrong.  If you follow this perfect document, you are “right”, and that rightness counters any gnawing personality problems.  A fundamentalist must focus their intellect on one set of documents which reduces conflicts and enables a form of intellectual mastery which allows even a stupid person to look good. As a result, such movements are counter-evolutionary and opposed to intellectual development and therefore anti-magic which has been evolutionary from the start. Sure enough one of the standard bearers for this fundamentalist  approach has already lectured me on the merits of a Masonic approach to the GD.

For those who came in late, a masonic approach means doing the ritual without godforms, suppressing magical claims and then having a good dinner afterwards while feeling happy and secure that you have higher grades than the rest of the people in your group.

Fundamentalism is always the swan song of a spiritual system before its collapse and replacement with something more akin to human life. Of course, this is where I get it in the neck for disagreeing with them. Fundamentalists are not a big fan of those who disagree with them.  It implies they are wrong and if they are wrong then the universe where they, and only they, are important is under attack.


Beyond the Sun is out

The rewrite of the history of Dr Felkin and Whare Ra, along with the 7=4 and 6=5 rituals is now out through Skylight Press, who also did my Magical Imagination book.

For those who saw the now improbably rare first edition, the book is much larger.  It goes much more into the Whare Ra history from its beginning to closure.  it looks at its involvement with Anne Davies and Paul Case and looks the the reason for its demise.

It also looks at the rituals and recounts some of the experiences of those who went through it and provides some of the teachings that they receieved.   It also deals with some of my own experiences meeting and working with Whare Ra people.

Felkin has been dubbed the fool of the Golden Dawn by those who like to believe that the GD was working along masonic lines and that nothing was being channeled by secret chiefs. However all of the Golden Dawn was doing inner work, and all of them were channelling secret chiefs in some way.  In that respect Felkin was no more foolish than Westcott or Mathers.

Reading of Felkin’s adventures is like something from a Victorian Boy’s Own  magazine. He was a hard bitten missionary who travelled through Egypt during a war zone, met Gordon of Kartoom before he was killed. Avoided marterdom in West Africa and was an expert in tropical medicine.

I have to say the book would have been impossible were it not for the help received from Tony Fuller who helped considerably in providing me with information.  More details can be found here.



Within the Golden Dawn corpus, there is a slightly odd ritual called the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram. It is performed after a lesser ritual of the pentagram by adepts and various reasons have been provided for its existence mostly centred on an apparent need to neutralise any planetary energy before beginning a working.

Based on the drawing of two different triangles in different positions in the quarters it is the most used of a collection hexagrams. However, the root of the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram might provide us with some clues as to its use and why it is an important daily practice for the modern magician.

One of the founders of the Golden Dawn took the triangle diagrams from a drawing of the Key of Solomon Magic Circle where it is placed in the outside circle along with the highest magical names of power. The triangles are not explained, but it seems likely to me that that they are geomantic symbols. Two of them (in the South and West) are variations on the geomantic symbols for Carcer, the East is Fortuna Minor and the last, in the North is Conjuncto. Within the circle of Key Solomon, these geomantic symbols make a great deal of sense. In this case, their role is creating a ring of protection around the magician.

When looking at Geomantic figures, it is a good idea to see them as a recipe which fuses together to create a powerful effect. In this case, we have a strong Saturnian flavour figures which form a separation between the outside world and what is in the circle. Carcer means Prison and is attributed to Saturn. The northern hexagram is the geomantic opposite to Carcer. Conjuctio is assigned to the mutable Mercury and draws things together rather than separate them. However, Conjuctio
to unite the other hexagrams to mark off and seal the protective circle.

Fortuna Minor in the East is an odd addition to the magic circle. It represents the Sun when it is setting, in other words, the sun as an old man. It is a symbol of the beginning of the night, the light shining in the dark. It is both the beginning (Genesis counted the day beginning at Sunset) and the end which makes it a good symbol for the start of a magic circle. The image of the old man also works with the concept of this magic circle being Saturnian and marking the passage of time. The Sun, in any format, is always going to have some protective aspect against darkness, but in this case, it is the herald of the dark. However, the East is where the Sun rises, so this geomantic symbol is placed in a position of reversing that idea. It is the process of Time as the protector of order (Aion the Roman god of time was Lion faced) and the continuation of everything that was.

The writer of the Key of Solomon would have been aware of the associations of the east so placing a seemingly contrary symbol there had a purpose. The goal of the magic circle was to contain and protect. Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor, can be best associated with wheels, circles, and cycles are both cycles and associated with time. Fortuna Minor is the downward part of the wheel of fortune and the weakening of active positive solar force and he move to constrained negative solar force. With this force rising in the east the stage is set for a time of darkness and restriction… ruled by the magical image of an old man. Fire and water are imprisoned (carcer) and everything is joined together in a boundary of mercury (conjucto). All rather useful for a defensive magic circle, but when the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagramis done you create the antithesis of restriction. Time is shattered, the fire and the waters are liberated and boundaries and restriction are dissolved

Drawing of geomantic symbols is a creative art. Traditionally they could be drawn by joining up the dots of a geomantic figure, differently. However geomantic figures did not have to be constructed using lines. They could also use shapes and curls, the lines containing the dots could be made closer or further apart to make more geometrically balanced shapes. Golden Dawn members were shown a list of some of these Geomantic shapes, but it is clear that this was only a starter kit so that the students were aware of the possibilities.

Geomantic symbols are important because they represent planetary force manifesting in the earth. They bring down power to a level where the magician can directly use it.

The Golden Dawn added to the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram symbols by placing the points of each triangle onto the tree of life. One of the missing parts of Golden Dawn teaching about the Lesser hexagram was the critical placement of the solar symbol in the centre. So far, I have only seen this solar symbol in AO, but I doubt it, as NISI is rather early in AO history and did not seem to deviate much from early Golden Dawn teaching.

By doing this, Mathers provided an additional overlay of teaching which connected the triangles to the Tree of Life and showed how the planetary forces moved around Tiphareth. While this is useful to place the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagramin the context of the wider planetary hexes it has the function of enabling Mathers other innovation, the idea of creating a banishing and invoking an aspect to the hexagram. If you wanted to remove a force, you drew the triangles anti-clockwise from the planetary point and if you wanted to invoke you drew the towards the planetary symbol from the one before it. The second triangle is the mirror opposite of the first. This does not apply to the fourth hexagram where the triangles are flipped.

In the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram, the use of banishing versions of the geomantic symbols makes for an impressive symbolic system. Rather than providing a magical circle, which the invoking ritual would still do, it serves to break down existing restrictions and structures. Rather than allowing the constrictive, separate prisons of the double carcer symbols, it banishes any limitations which might be there. Rather than setting boundaries or uniting forces in the circle with the conjuncto symbol it is breaking them down or destroying all connections. The banishing of the sun at midnight is the removal of the element of time and the divine order. This would render the immediate environment chaotic.

So why is this important?

When you perform a magical act, you are creating a change in the status quo and challenging the natural Saturnian force. Some of these limitations will exist in the magician, others from society and on a broader scale the natural flow of the universe. By rendering the space antagonistic to Saturnian inertia you are giving your magic a chance.

But it is important to realise that with the  lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram you are creating chaos which allows the universe to be reassembled in the image that the magician wishes. For some types of magic a lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram beforehand would not be a good idea. If you are trying to use magic to take control of an already chaotic situation, it would be unwise to banish Saturn because you are making matters worse.

There is an additional point which applies more when you have made magic your life. That is that continual attempts to change the universe, or the move to do something significant creates a backlash from those Saturn forces which seek to keep things the same. The myth of Saturn and Jupiter and the war of the Titans applies here. At a certain point in your magical career you will be a symbol of a force for change and like Jupiter be a target for those forces of inertia that insist that things stay the same.

What is worrying is very often you are unaware of it or might mistake the process for a spiritual test. What you will notice is that your magic does not work in the same way as it did, you might find it challenging to meet your spiritual contacts, or find yourself too tired to do magical work. It is similar to the inertia that someone has when starting the work. However, unlike that stage of your personal development, forcing yourself to be more disciplined does not resolve the matter, in fact, it might make it worse.

Performing a daily lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram would help prevent this backlash before it becomes too crippling, you will always face this particular issue (it is part of the natural way the universe works), but at least it will not harm you too much.

The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram becomes an important mini-ritual for Golden Dawn practitioners which has less to do with its planetary attributions and more to do with the forces of order and chaos and creating the right circumstances for your magic to work.

The lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram  deserves to be performed in most workings (after the first lesser ritual of the pentagram) when the ceremony requires some change to an existing order. It should also be done regularly with the intention of counteracting those forces of normality which restrict evolution. If the latter is performed, it might be appropriate to call upon Jupiter for assistance.

Don’t rush to burn Bonewits

When I first became interested in magic, I was 17 and the only book I could find in the library was “Real Magic” written by Isaac Bonewits. While in hindsight it was not what I would end up as believing magic to be, but it fired up my imagination enough for me to start. Decades later I wrote to him and thanked him for that, and he politely replied.

This week Bonewits’ name has been named in a paedophile sex scandal which he cannot fight because he has been dead since 2010. Many of the associations he worked hard to create have rushed to distance themselves from him.

But the people who knew him are bewildered, two of his wives and his son say the allegations are not the man they knew.  But they stopped short of saying the allegations were made up.


Because in this case the victim is extremely credible and what she says is so terrible.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland made the allegations, and her previous tellings of the story put her own father, Walter Breen, in jail. I do not doubt that Greyland is telling the truth about the systematic abuse by her Breen and her mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley.

In these circumstances, no one wants to victim shaming the accuser. However what people are not keen to understand is that because someone is a good witness to a terrible crime does not make them automatically credible for all her accusations.

I cannot help but feel that people have rushed a little too quickly to burn Bonewits on her allegations. When I was a tabloid journalist, I was taught that there needed to be enough evidence for the story to stand up in court.

In this case, there is not.

Bonewits lived in the basement of another writer Diana Paxson while he was writing Real Magic. Paxson was friends with Greyland’s parents, co-wrote books with Bradley.

However, that is the only confirmable fact in Greyland’s story, the rest is shakey and uncohoborated.

Paxson did not recall a time when Greyland’s family and Bonewits were at her house at the same time. Of course, this did not mean it did not happen, but it was the only period where Greyland and Bonewits could have shared the same scene.

Other facts become are even more difficult to quantify.  Greyland refuses to provide any details of the abuse because it is a side issue to her main story. Some would say this is because the events were alleged to happen when Greyland was six, but equally, there might be something else happening here.

Bonewits is introduced to the story as a “Pagan Pope “which seems an odd thing for a six-year-old to understand. At that stage of Bonewits’ life, before the publication of his book, Bonewits was hardly recognisable on the esoteric scene.  While he later became a “pagan pope” for some pagans, Greyland’s perception of him being a “Pagan Pope” is something she must have understood much later, long after any alleged abuse.

So what other perceptions did Greyland have after the event?  Reading her book, you see that she slowly comes to reject and hate the lax left-wing hippy lifestyle which she identified with her parents and abusers.  Writing in this blog   she says:

“What they did to me is a matter of unfortunate public record: suffice to say that both parents wanted me to be gay and were horrified at my being female…. I have begun to speak out against gay marriage, and in doing so, I have alienated most of even my strongest supporters. After all, they need to see my parents as wacky sex criminals, not as homosexuals following their deeply held ethical positions and trying to create a utopia according to a rather silly fantasy.”

Is it any wonder that Greyland’s book is published by the alt-right figurehead Vox Day. This is exactly the sort of story that the Christian right wants out there with a spokesperson who no-one will dare question.  After all who on the left would dare question the memory of a six-year-old victim of child abuse who had the bravery to come forward?

No one appears keen to defend Bonewits because they will be seen as a defender of paedophiles and have to say that Greyland made everything up.

I don’t believe that Greyland made everything up, but I am equally unsure that her Bonewits allegations are valid.  The Christian alt-right might be rather keen to knife another “pagan pope,” as Greyland might be, as part of her anger against the leftie family and its surrounding pagan society which created her parents and resulted in her abuse.  Bonewits is a good target, he is dead, can’t sue, can be linked to Greyland and is still a pagan community icon.

The same people who point the finger at Bonewits are doing so with the same level of spectral evidence seen at the Salaam witch trials. What is worrying is how quickly the pagan community rushed to pretend that a person who had dedicated his life to forming their organisations had nothing to do with them.  If it were true, then that would be fair enough, but there has to be enough proof before you turn on people and in this case simply isn’t.

Who are the winners of this sad story?  The Christian alt-right members who have convinced the pagan community to burn one of its own founders at the stake on rather weak evidence come to mind. Some have already pointed out that they believe that Greyland is being used. writer River Devora wrote, “It’s heartbreaking and enraging because the part about the abuse is genuine […] She’s been taken in by alt right folks (a very long time ago, I might add), who have exploited her story and her trauma for their own political reasons, and that part is despicable.”

All this generates enough “reasonable doubt” in my mind to say the following:

I do not have enough evidence at this point to say that Bonewits sexually abused Moira Greyland in 1970, and I don’t think anyone else has either. Unless new information comes forward, I will not be rushing to distance myself from my first Real Magic book.


Vepar the demon spirit of Augustus’s tenth

How useful are the spirit lists for identifying what each spirit does?  Where they are given descriptions, they are often at odds and we are left with trying to find references to the limited amounts of symbolism we are given. What I found was that some of this symbolism might be a little obscure.

Vepar is a demonic spirit whose name means “Boar.” Yet the spirit lists describe him appearing as a mermaid who is a “guide of the waters” and in charge of shipping weapons and infecting wounds. What does that have to do with a boar? How does infecting wounds, so they kill people in three days become part of the remit for a spirit who guides troop ships?

It is a little more possible to flesh out details when you apply decan meanings (particularly the GD ones which would give you Saturn in Taurus) but this is artificial and probably off track.  The symbols do give us some clues and might point at the spirit’s source.

Searching for Vepar, I came across one source which I had not thought of. Roman Legion unit names and symbols. These unit symbols were often packed with symbols for many different reasons.

One of my researches though down the Vepar symbolism found the Legio X Fretensis (“Tenth Legion of the Strait”) was a legion of the Imperial Roman army. It got its name from a battle it won in the Strait of Messina although it also was part of the fleet that won the Battle of Actium.

This Roman legion had the symbols of the bull, a ship, the god Neptune, and a boar. The Bull might be because the unit was formed when the sun was in Taurus or because it was a symbol of Venus (who was Augustus’s family spirit).

Either way, we have the full set – sea, troop ship, boar, Taurus, and Venus. It also was part of the army which destroyed Jerusalem.  It garrisoned the city for at least 200 years afterwards.  It might be that the spirit lists had somehow demonised the Roman legion which helped destroy the “holy city” and because a symbol of a pagan boot on the throat of Jews and Christians living in the area.  When Legio X Fretensis and the other Roman legions celebrated their victory they did so for three days, according to Josephus.

21ST CENTURY MAGIC – a lecture given at the XVIII Foro ACCE in Nerja

The following is the speech I wrote for the XVIII Foro ACCE in Nerja Spain in 2017. In fact I tinkered with the talk considerably “on the fly” to adjust for the audience. I went over time and was only about half way through what follows. Still it was a great time, and my first time in Spain.

Magicians living in the 21st century are living in a time of transformation where the structures upon which magic is built are changing. Magic has emerged from an effective 2000-year-old slumber where practitioners lived in fear of their neighbours reporting them to the authorities. There was a flowering at the end of the 19th century with the likes of the Golden dawn, Alister Crowley and Dion Fortune, this nearly died out after WW2 until the late 1960s when it resurrected itself again in the 1980s.

But this current situation magic might not remain and in fact the movement might move underground again.  Any current renaissance you might see is doomed unless there are some major changes in the way that magicians see themselves and the society which surrounds them

The 20th century magical revolution failed because of several key reasons.  It was over-laden with baggage from the Christian dark-ages, including masonic and theosophical structures, it watered itself down under the influence of the New Thought or New Age movement and it secularised too much under the chaos and psychological magical models.

The result is a quasi-institutionalised hierarchical system, recycling new age mantras, about self-transformation of the psyche and other things which were once a component of magic but not the main event. It has become light, fluffy and peppered with images of crystal unicorns and rainbows with practitioners who insist on renaming themselves like Rob Wind-Breaker, Melissa Wolf-Spirit.

Many “magicians” are now those who have read a few books and might do a couple of rituals a year while claiming that they are working on their personalities to tackle actual or perceived neurosis.

When you compare this image of the modern magician with those who followed the hermetic current from the dawn of time you see our problem here.

Historically magicians were not nice.  They were often bad tempered distant times who did not play nice with others.  Sure they might have overcome some of their “issues” so that they could function in the real world but the real adepts I have met were not saccharin types pretending to be Jesus or Buddha.

A magical adept is a person who is most themselves. To put it simply.

“I did not choose to incarnate into this form of existence to be Jesus or Buddha. Something else has already done that job – my only purpose is to be Nick Farrell and I have to do that to the best of my ability.”

Life is a story and you are the hero. You cannot steal someone else’s character in this story you must be you, otherwise your story is going to fail. Heroes cannot suddenly say “I don’t want to kill this dragon, I think I will take up origami instead” equally stories are full of the dangers of walking off the path.

Therefore, a magician is one who says this is my path, I am who am and from that the story begins. If I fail at something in my life that is part of the story from which I have climb back. This is the opposite of the New Age self-improvement victim blaming myth which says all things are caused by bad thinking. While the New Ager might say “shit happens to me because I caused it” a magician says “shit has happened I have to change it.”

These two attitudes lead to different life approaches.  A New Ager would say “that person is poor because of the bad decisions in their life, they need to visualise and think more positively.”

The Magician says “this person is in a difficult part of their story, what can I do to help.”

But one of the problems we have with 21st century magic is that it is system of thought which has not been defined. If you ask a modern magician “what is magic” they will confidently quote Crowley that “Magic is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will” or Dion Fortune that “Magic is the art and science of changing consciousness at will.”

These definitions have one thing in common.  They do not define magic at all.

Magic does cause change to occur in conformity with will but so does flicking a light switch.  No one constructs a ritual to create a cup of coffee, they get water, fill up the coffee machine and put coffee in. If it is my will to have coffee I do not need magic.

Dion Fortune’s definition leans heavily on psychology and implies that magic requires changes of consciousness, but the reality is that it doesn’t, some magical techniques involve changing conscious but not everything involves going to the inner planes or getting into a relaxed state.

Let’s prove it by all doing a really basic magical ritual to get something we really want – something simple.

Before we start the key thing about this experiment is the Divine name IAO – Iota, Alpha and Omega which is pronounced Ee AH Oh.  As a name it is associated with Christ in revelation saying I am the Alpha and Omega… the beginning and end.  But the name is much older than that.  First it was the Greek at-tempt to phonetically say the Hebrew name of god, Tetragramatron, Yod Heh Vav Heh. Before that though it was a divine name of Jupiter and was uttered in the Greek Mysteries.  In Greek Magical Paprii it is one of the names of power for the divine light.  In the Golden Dawn tradition it is the name which brings down the divine light and unites God with Matter… so it is very powerful.

So let’s first have a crack at vibrating it because it is key part of this little ritual we are going to do.

(audience vibrates IAO)

So lets have a think about something small that we might want, it might be that we would like a bit more cash, love, or anything really.  For the purposes of this experiment it does not matter.  Just some-thing you want.

Now think of an image of that thing.  If it is money, like most of you are thinking about now see it as a simple gold coin, if it is general love see a symbol of a valentine, if it is someone specific see an image of them kissing you… you get the general idea.  Now visualise that symbol rising up in the air until it is half-way between you and the roof.

Now look to the ceiling and imagine a sphere of white light.  This represents all you expect from God, just abstracted.

Now vibrate the name IAO three times at the white sphere.

Now I want you to vibrate the letter I and see white light descend from the ceiling hit the image of the thing you want

See the white light hit that image and it comes alive now vibrate the letter A

Now see the image and the white then come down and connect to your aura and vibrate O.

Time will tell if you get what you desire and we would like to hear back from you, after all we just got a theatre full of people doing a magical experiment and it would be rather good to know what happened.

So what is it that you learnt from that ritual?

Firstly, you did not change consciousness, you connected with something to make something happen.  You did not actually change anything, at least not immediately.  There was no divine will you were obey-ing your personal will to get something you wanted and you were effectively negotiating with the divine to get it.

So we get closer to understanding what magic is when we start to think of it as a god. In fact the Ancient Egyptians personified Magic and called it Heka.  He was depicted as a man with his arms in the form of an old pre-digital TV aerial.

If you are a monotheist you can see it as god in action. Either way Magic is the raw energy of God in action which the magician is trying to direct in a way he or she wants.

If you go back through time to the first magicians, who were probably shamans, the central part of what they were doing was working with spirits and gods.

And here we come to the central issue of the 21st century. Most occultists become very uncomfortable when you start talking about God. Most of this is due to a bad experience in their upbringing.  Some mix and match things they like from one religion while rejecting most of the key parts of it. Others adopt all the attitudes and morals of Christianity, but project it on to a new Goddess or God. But the vast majori-ty, like many in the 21st century see themselves as spiritual rather than identifying themselves with a specific religion.

As someone who walked away from Christianity in my late teens, I really understand that, but if magic is an interaction with Heka then it is something we need to overcome.  It might help if we work out what a God is.

Personally I see God as an abstract infinite field of intelligent energy which creates a universe within itself as part of its process of trying to understand itself.  Because humanity is conscious it is dimly aware of its divine nature. So it has some of the same characteristics of that intelligent and conscious divine field of energy.

Before we visualised God as a ball of white light which was total abstract. Humans have attempted to understand that un-unstandable ball of light   through-out their evolution.  Infinity is too big.  So what they did was break it up into different functions and give each a mask.  Because we have some of those divine creative qualities in ourselves those masks became “real.”  Ancient humans terrified by a lightning storm made that aspect of God into Zeus, or Jupiter, or YHVH and started to build up myths and stories about those gods to explain those powers. Priests appeared to regulate the worship of these gods.

However, a magician has a different view of Gods which is not quite the same as religion.  The magician knows that they are masks.  They know that they are bit and powerful, and can be activated by worship, but they don’t worship them.

The fantasy writer Terry Pratchett put it well when he said:

“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believ-ing in the postman.”

To that I would add that the magician respects the gods and will often stand in awe of them, but the role of the relationship is different.  The Magician works with the Gods.

We can see that in the difference between a magical invocation and a prayer. On the surface, they are similar.  Both tend to start by stating how big and powerful the God is.  For the follower, such statements are simple devotion. To quote Monty Python:

“Oh Lord, oooh you are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.”

But for a magician the statements are aligning themselves to those power aspects of the mask which they are hoping to turn into the ritual.  Moreover, they are taking those divine titles and weaving them into the form of a god about them.

So if you take the Priest in the Roman Catholic Eucharist rite, he will take the wafer and ask god to make them into the blood and body of Jesus.  Compare that with the Golden Dawn Magical Eucharist where the “priest” takes on the godform of Osiris and does it himself.

I am Osiris Onnophris who is found perfect before the Gods. I hath said: These are the elements of my Body perfected through suffering, glorified through trial. The scent of the dying Rose is as the repressed sigh of my Suffering. And the flame-red Fire as the energy of mine undaunted Will. And the Cup of Wine is the pouring out of the blood of my heart, sacrificed unto Regeneration, unto the newer life. And the bread and salt are as the foundations of my body, which I destroy in order that they may be renewed.

In a magic ritual then the magician takes on the form of a god to do the work. So today we are going to see what it feels like.  I am going to give you a technique which is stage one in God form working.

So what I want you to do is shut your eyes and relax.  Just hear the sound of my voice and concentrate on your breathing.

Now visualise a small statue of a god or saint or angel which you are familiar with.  See it as about 30 cm.

In your mind’s eye draw it to your groin centre or chakra.

Now imagine your own personal divine light (which is a white sphere over your head)   This is your slice of god which you carry around with you.

Imagine a line of light from that divine source send a line of white gold light down you your back and connect to the statue. Silently say the name of the god you have visualised.

See the statue start to breath and come alive.

With each in breath I want you to see energy come down that line of light into the statue and for it to get bigger

… and bigger

Until it has grown to just below your eyes. The statue’s eyes are shut.

With your mind reach out to the god form inside you connecting with that ancient divine force.

Now allow your consciousness to enter the statue so you become the god.

When I say “now” I want you to open your eyes and see the world as the god sees it.


You are the god looking through the eyes of a human.

Now shut your eyes again.  Thank the god for taking part and with draw from the statue

See the white light withdraw from the statue and see it begin to shrink

And shrink

Until it becomes a tiny dot

Now open your eyes as a human again.

The practical use of this experiment is to take on the divine force of the god in a ritual.   So that when the magician wants something happen it is not them that is asking, but the God itself.

If you think about it, I am too small in the scale of the universe to make anything happen outside my own sphere of control.  But as a god I have the power to negotiate with other gods, or beings.

Throughout the Egyptian Papyri we here this technique constantly used.  The magician says “It is not me that does this but the God who does this.” “It is not Nick Farrell that orders you to change the orbit of the Sun, but it is Helios the god of the Sun who orders this.”

Now one thing you will have realised from your little experiment is that while you might have felt the power of the being you invoked into your Aura there was nothing there which could be remotely called worship.

In fact, the priest of any religion would say that what you had just done was heresy.  You are not supposed to USE the god, you are supposed to reverentially worship it at a distance and, if you are really lucky, that God might not smite you, or may give you a blessing.

Using that technique I just gave you, the magician can stand in sacred space as the God and re-negotiate creation.

A magician works with the Gods, sometimes using one God to order another about. You have a paradox – the magician acknowledges the Gods and their power and yet at the same time is directing them in the same way that someone might turn a stage light onto an actor.

What is more, when a magician uses these divine forces, he or she does not care which is the right religion. Instead of taking a Richard Dawkin’s approach saying all religions are wrong, and god does not exist, the magician says all religions are in some measure true and all Gods exist.

Another important modern magical tool which has been re-discovered and refined under the influence of modern psychology is pathworking.

Pathworking which is broadly the magical use of imagination has been around since the shamanic period. When we look at some of the descriptions of magical events we are very often looking at a pathworking which has been adapted for a ritual.  For example, in the Egyptian Papyri there is process to obtain a divine assistant.  Part of the ritual involves you sitting on your roof until a hawk delivers a special stone which you carve a sacred image upon it. Having tested it both ways I can tell you that the chances of a hawk showing up anywhere let alone with a rock which is capable of being carved is remote.  But, if you invoke Horus and imagine a Hawk coming down from the sun and blessing a rock you have found (which is conveniently flat and is easy to carve) then you get the same magical effect without spending the rest of your life sitting on the roof for a hawk to show up.

Magical journeys to the underworld which are described in myth are clearly pathworkings.  Homer wrote a very vivid description of an underworld magical rite where Odysseus journeys to a specific magical spot does a ritual and then pathworks meetings with the dead.

Pathworking can be a mixed bag. Some of them are just nothing more than barely controlled daydreams but others speak deal truths about ourselves which are more powerful and direct than any oracle or dream.  Still others allow us to interact with divine powers. But magic traditionally had a problem.  While it knew that some pathworkings were real and true, there was no way to separate the sheep from the goats. For example, if a 19th-century magician dreamt of being attacked by a black dog while defending a small girl that since the black dog was a symbol of the Dog Star and the small girl would represent Virgo. Psychology would ask “who is the dreamer and what do they understand by those symbols?” While the symbolic approach would provide a very interesting and esoteric response, the psychological model would give a more practical answer.

As I wrote in my book “Magical Pathworking” pathworking has become more flexible thanks partly to work carried out in the 1970s by psychological researchers. By partly applying the psychological model to pathworking we can see that some of what we imagine is driven by the desires and wishes of the lower self. Sometimes this can be useful, particularly when we are trying to understand our subconscious desires but magically they are less interesting.

The psychological model started to make an impact on magic in the 1930s. It had champions such as Dion Fortune, Paul Case and Israel Regardie. To them, and modern magicians, it provided an explanation of occult processes of the mind. It was especially good at pinpointing those processes which stood in the way of successful living and magical attainment.

If we were doing a ritual and something happens it is vital to rule out any psychological quirks as influencing the working. Divine beings rarely say what we want to hear, so if they suddenly start telling you that you are the new messiah and are going to be the prophet of a New Aeon, and people for generations will be looking to you as the way shower of a new religion then you know that is your ego talking.  Likewise, if you have sudden visions of a past life where you were a high Tibetan Lama, or High Priest of Atlantis and are now some sad alcoholic who can’t get a partner and is doing the same sort of magic you did 30 years ago then you are desperately wanting to be superior so are projecting it back to an imaginary time when you might have been.

We can now define two different types of pathworking the first is subjective which works within a person’s inner kingdom and tells a magician all about themselves and their complexes and wishes.

For example, it was not possible to identify that some esoteric experiences might be fulfilling important, repressed, unconscious desires rather than being an objective spiritual experience. As WE Butler pointed out, a modern psychologist would see some of the experiences of Christian saints as neurotic complexes often based on sexual repression.

The psychological approach also provided an excellent explanation of the processes that a student suffers during the beginning of their training. Teachers with some understanding of what their students were dealing with could help them overcome psychological issues which might have otherwise been misidentified as magical ones. Magical methods could be applied to these psychological processes, like the ones I described in my book Magical Imagination.

But as psychologists started to enter in the magical arena and define or dismiss all magical experiences in psychological terms they started to undo the important parts of magic.  Magical spirits, contacts, gods suddenly became complexes. The complex, and problematic, work of mediation with divine entities was effectively written off as a form of elaborate talking to yourself.

Nearly 50 years after the event, Regardie dismissed the channelling of the Golden Dawn secret chiefs in the Bristol vault as a pointless sub-conscious masturbation, even if they correctly said it was his mission to seed the Golden Dawn current in the US.

But the writing off all occult experiences as subjective and therefore open to psychological interpretation is dangerous. If it is “all in your head,” esoteric experiences are reduced to a nihilistic horror where perception is everything, and there is nothing other than what you experience in your own mind. It is unsurprising then that rather than tempering ego, the psychologically minded occultist has become a basket case of narcissism.

These pathologies of psychology attempt to place the study into the spiritual realm where it does not belong. While useful for mapping the lower aspects of Yesod, it has started to comment on Tiphareth and beyond. It has crossed the line of being helpful and become something to be discouraged. If occultists do not believe in a subjective occult experience, where there are spirits, angels, and gods out there, then they certainly will not have one.

Now let’s look at the role of the occult training in the 21st century. Occult Order in the 21st century which is certainly past its sell by date.  Many occult orders were based on a German book called the Crata Ropia which carefully arranged the grades of the Egyptian mysteries for different groups to follow. It showed the transformation that a magical student had to undergo as part of their magical path.  I published a translation of it because it was important to understand some of the spiritual processes found in the Golden Dawn, which used it as a background document.

The only problem was that we know that Egyptian society and the mysteries were never like Crata Ropia suggested. The book was a hugely influential 18th century masonic fantasy. While the book was forgotten, its teachings remain in the orders it influenced.

Formal Occult Orders are still around, particularly in the United States, but those in Europe have suffered badly simply because the premise that they were founded upon – the ability to impart secret information and wisdom appears to have faded due to the mistaken belief you can find all occult information in Google.

This is unfortunate because an occult order would take a student through a step-by-step process through the information while at the same time doing magic upon them so that they could take the load of the levels of information. Magical experience is not the acquiring of information.

The modern internet magician lacks that realisation and often thinks that they can do magic at a level which is impossible for a beginner because it has become accessible. It is a bit like saying I can be a brain surgeon because I have read a few books on it.

But magical training is a slow unveiling where you get better and better until you have got the hang of it, have a few short years of being useful and train someone else and then you die having advanced the path one step on.

These seven stages are 1. A basic intellectual understanding of the concepts. 2. Practicing the basic concepts. 3. Obtaining and working with your spiritual guide or contact. 4.Obtaining and working with your divine self. 5. Developing spiritual techniques for yourself. 6 working for the good of humanity or your community.  7. Preparing yourself to meet the infinite.

For this to work you need a human teacher – often several. This is another part of the tradition which has suffered from the fact that in the 19th and 20th century esoteric teachers were presenting themselves as being gods and therefore their words were set in stone. So if Dion Fortune, or Alistair Crowley had a daft idea about the nature of reality then their students were expected to believe it. A student who was dependant on the intellectual knowledge their teacher imparted to them was not going to get much in the way of other information so believed it completely. If you read some of the ways Crowley treated Victor Neurenburg you can see how dangerous this situation was. This deification of esoteric teachers in that period continues even today.

I wrote a biography called King over the Water about one of the founders of the Golden Dawn Samuel Mathers. In the book, I did not exactly say he was “as mad as a box of frogs” but I did hint that he was a lazy, eccentric, autocrat with right-wing leanings who had proto-nazi friends. One esoteric Golden Dawn group which claimed descent from Mathers launched a huge public campaign against the book, demanding it be burnt because it did not show Mathers as the occult messiah it saw him.

But this occult image making has become incredibly difficult to pull off since the Internet arrived. In fact, few modern occultists with an internet connection see their teachers as gods. An occult teacher who writes a book, or sets up a group will find themselves with followers and people who will make it their life’s work and hound them for the slightest perceived offence. The modern Golden Dawn, which started in 1979, was destroyed as a practical esoteric movement because two internet literate people decided to form Golden Dawn orders and obliterate all the competition.  This created the internet perception that the Golden Dawn is fractious and groups fight all the time. It is false, but that is the sort of perception that will stain the Golden Dawn as a working group forever.

All this caused students to be hyper-critical of their teachers.  In many ways this  is fair enough – discrimination is one of the most important early lessons on the magical path. In fact, in the early days of magical history you tended to stick with your teacher because, although he might have been a complete idiot.  finding a magical group or individual was nearly impossible.

Now the internet gives students the illusion that there are a lot of good teachers out there and they are competing for students. If a teacher challenges a student too much (and all the good ones do) the student just leaves.

Another issue is that there is very little financial support for teachers any longer.  Many students are so worried about falling for confidence tricksters they view any payment to a teacher for a course or workshop with suspicion.

In the 20th century teachers got around this by writing books.  It was possible to make a living from the occult book market with many occult books managing to sell 10-20,000 copies.  Now an occult writer is lucky to sell 4,000.  It can take two years for someone to write an occult book and if they are lucky they will make 3,000 euro from the exercise.  To make matters worse that 3,000 will be spread over a decade.

In the 1980s another method of teaching appeared – the workshop. These too were a way of supporting teachers while providing a very good method of learning techniques.  However, these dried up completely as students did not want to pay.

So now we have a situation where teachers train a smaller number of students who they train as a service. Very few write books and fewer train people in workshops. Sadly this also means that the chances of there being other Dion Fortunes, Samuel Mathers or Alistair Crowley’s being ever discovered is remote. I will give you an example. Donald Kraig wrote one of the most influential training manuals of the 21st century. I might not have agreed with a lot of it but it was influential. He died two years ago and his wife could not even afford his funeral expenses, Hermetic Golden Dawn leader Chic Cicero was dragged through the  courts by one of his students who trademarked the Golden Dawn name and was insisting that he run the order. When most have retired he is still working to pay his court bills because most of his students would not help out.

All these changing attitudes mean that Occult orders have also changed.  The big public groups such as BOTA, AMORC, OTO and the Golden Dawn are still there, but they are not the forces they once were. They have been replaced by much smaller groups centred around the ideas of one teacher. The good ones are a lot harder to find and even harder to get into. This is because although occult information has become easier, real occult training is just as hard as it ever was.

On the plus side, Occult groups are however much better networked.  A group like mine is connected to lots of other groups and we talk often to other occult leaders.  There is a sharing of information, training and techniques.  Suddenly as a teacher I can ask another teacher for help if I don’t know the answer to a student’s question. Unlike many 19th century occult teachers I don’t have to pretend to know everything.  I also do not have the problem of having to stop my own spiritual path because I teach. I can remain learning and developing my system.

So where does this leave magic in the 21st century?  The truth is that it is entirely in the hands of students.  There does need to be some changes. Firstly we need to find religion in magic again, we need to understand better what magic is and finally we need to support those who have the skills to teach, instruct and write better.

Then rather than the weakened new age flavour of magic we can create magic with an edge which fuses the historical and other data which we have found in the 21st century about the magic of the past, and develop a spiritual magic system which helps humanity develop.