Magic is not for those who want to escape

A magician who would approach the throne of the Most High, must perfect a temple on the earth which has its roots in the underworld and the roof below the moon. This is the purpose of a magical life. You are not trapped in earth, you were sent. You are not imprisoned by life; it is your mission. The fates have spun their net for you and you must use it to be the best you can.

One does not reject or demolish the temple that is built by the One Thing, to spit in the eyes of his Aeons and expect it to be pleased to see you.

Mani with his all matter is evil idea


One of the great sins of the Gnostics, which was picked up by some flavours of Christianity, and from there into 19th century esotericism, is a flawed belief that matter is evil.  Ernest Butler called this the Manichaean heresy. Manichaeism was a religion in which the world was a war zone between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light whence it came.

You can see how such an idea became popular with occultists who make a big deal about aspiring to the light, god and heaven. To be fair to the tradition too, Butler did use the general definition of the Manichaeism to describe those who see black and white as absolutes and equate matter with evil.

What becomes important is that the terrestrial gods, angels, spirits and the underworld all fit into those sorts of things that people are supposed to be escaping from.

One of the more snooty aspects of “esoteric masonic” systems, particularly of Rosicrucianism, is to adopt a similar worldview. The idea being that instead of using terrestrial gods for magic, they use “higher” gods for something called “theurgy.”

Theurgy is supposed to be a higher and spiritual process where a person invokes the highest divine being and then merges with it. Magic on the other hand is dismissed as dealing with those “tainted forces” of matter and gods which are nothing more than demons.

However this concept of Theurgy, which is a legitimate magical technique, was developed by the Neo-platonists and rather than dismissing life and the earth it was pretty much life affirming.


Iamblichus and Proclus the late fifth century philosophers who intellectualised the system as a spiritual technique felt that it was vital that, while we are alive, we honour the terrestrial gods and spirits. Their students were instructed to be devoted followers of the gods and attend religious functions. Theurgy was used to contact these beings as much as it was used to contact the much higher ones.

As such, a true Theurgist has to honour the material world and not see it as something evil where divine sparks have become trapped.

Hatred of the material world, along with a fear of the underworld, has unbalanced the magical systems of the west.  Instead of providing a base for a person to remember their divine aspects, it has become a cesspit to be escaped from. Instead of honouring those connections with our ancestors in the underworld, we attempt to disconnect ourselves with the same enthusiasm as avoiding a Christmas dinner with the in-laws.

As a result, we have lost the thrusting base to ascend to the heavens and literally trip over our own spiritual feet.

The One Thing manifested the universe out of itself. It did not make a mistake; it did so because it wanted understand itself. Our consciousness is part of that reflection and helping it to understand. If we think our universe is evil, nasty and something to be fled from; then we are saying that the One Thing that created it is evil, nasty and something from which we need to flee. It is no wonder then we cannot reach the throne of the most high, when its feet are in the matter which we see as a mistake.

Modern magic is starting to realise its mistake. Realms such as the underworld and humanity’s relationship with matter are starting to be explored and integrated back into magic. In the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea students are expected to work with the underworld forces and explore matter. Rather than reviling matter, we attempt to work with it as co-creators of the One Thing.

We are not the only ones. Writers like Jake Stratton-Kent has been looking at the real meaning of the Goetia and has found that work so spiritually satisfying he has not felt the need to propel himself out into the super-celestial realm. Aaron Leitch has been integrating underworld aspects into his Solomonic works. Josephine McCarthy has been working on a similar approach in the British tradition.

All this is a tipping point for serious magic. The underworld and sub-lunar magic is becoming something which, after centuries, is returning to the mainstream current.  It is already being dismissed as a black magic revival by those desperate to keep the Manichaean heresy alive, but it is not.  In fact is the complete opposite.  One of the more stupid aspects of 19th and 20th century magic was the idea that there was such a thing as left hand and right hand paths of magic.  Followers of the Golden Dawn magical system should tell you that the concept of a left hand or a right hand way of working is always going to destroy you (have a look at the 1=10 ritual if you want to see what I mean).  Sure there are extremes in the universe but to quote Babylon Five: “ I take the place that has been prepared for me. I am Grey. I stand between the candle and the star. We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light.”



There are those who like to see the Golden Dawn as all sweetness and LVX and assume that it would never touch those dark regions of the unconscious where demons and other nasty beings like hang out.

Of course, since Christianity arrived and told the pagans that their terrestrial gods were all demonic and the underworld was hell, it has made life a little more black and white.

However encoded into the Golden Dawn 0=0 is a formula which suggests that that particular ritual is a journey to the underworld of archetypal proportions.

Your standard visit to the underworld, at least while you are alive, is to rescue something, a princess or the love of your life, and get away still alive without looking back. Of course, if you are dead it is another matter but the rules of what you meet are similar.

Cerebus has a special place for those who think that the Jews killed Jesus.
Cerebus has a special place for those who think that the Jews killed Jesus.

When the candidate enters a Golden Dawn temple they are hoodwinked which mimics death.  The first thing they meet is a guardian with the head of a dog. This is of course Anubis the god of the dead, but he is also a version of Cerberus the dog-headed guardian of Hades.  In the Golden Dawn the candidate is called “Child of Earth” which is actually a part title from the Orphic Mysteries. In the Orphic Mysteries a candidate refers to themselves as a Child of the Earth and the Starry Heavens when they enter the Underworld. In the Stella Matutina the underworld references were even more obvious with the candidate being told that the “mother of darkness has blinded him with her hair” and the “father of darkness hath hidden him under his wings.”  The mother of darkness was Prosephone and the father of Darkness was Pluto.  It is a reference to the candidate being dead,

In fact, the Golden Dawn Z documents make references to this part of the ritual being the closest that the candidate is to physical death (while being still alive) and this being similar to the Alchemical idea of Negredo.

Now the candidate is placed in the Temple of Maat which is part of the Egyptian underworld to be judged by the 42 daemons of Justice.  Underworld judgement after death is a common thing in most major religions.  That which is bad is cast down deeper into “hell” or Tartarus and that which is  good is allowed to continue.

The candidate, still blind, is placed in the northern part of the temple, the place of “forgetfulness, dumbness and necessity and of the greatest symbolical darkness.” These are references to the waters of the underworld in the orphic mysteries where the candidate is lead to two fountains.  One of these is said to make him forget his past life and will render him dull so that he is completely happy in the Underworld and does not try to sneak back. Initiates are told not to drink these waters.

Then in this place he is reminded of his mission in the Underworld.

The voice of my undying and secret soul said unto me: ‘Let me enter the path of darkness and maybe there shall I find the light. I am the only being in an abyss of darkness. I came from an abyss of darkness before I was born and the silence of a primal sleep. And the voice of ages said unto my soul: ‘I am he who creates in darkness, the light shines in darkness and yet the darkness cannot overcome it’.

The mission then is to find his Higher Self, the Light, in the Darkness of the Underworld.  So he journeys through the Underworld meeting both Horus/Mars of the Underworld and Osiris Pluto and then finally coming to the centre.  In the Centre he is united with his Higher Self and find the “Light in the Darkness” attempts to return to the material world.

What is important, and often overlooked by Golden Dawn types, is that the candidate is not instructed in the Light, but the darkness.  In otherwords he has to learn things from the Underworld, which is the unconscious.  It is not enough to think, “I am heaven bound” firstly you have to deal with your shit.

The next thing is that you have to deal with the terrestrial world (in the elemental grades) and only then can you train for real magic and the path becomes a spiritual quest.

The Golden Dawn is telling us that we must not see our path as an escape from our Underworld, but we must enter into it to find the light.  We can’t escape from the world but must give reverence to the terrestrial gods before we can consider any assents.

The beginning of this process is not a step into the light but into darkness.

Gone from mystery into mystery

Gone from daylight into night

Another step deeper into darkness

Closer to the light.

Bruce Cockburn

(Closer to the Light)

All this explains why there is psychological fall out from our 0=0 experiences.  You always get Thor in your Netherworld when you play with the darkness.



Truth ! Certainty !

That in which there is no doubt !


The Hermetic Tablet is a quarterly Journal of Western Ritual
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A number of years ago I did not believe in magical attacks. Most of the magicians I knew had been positive that attacking someone was a bad thing – unless there were real reasons.

A “real reason” presented itself in the 1990s when I was involved in a ritual to curse Saddam Hussain. The ritual was designed to twat his expansion plans by effectively cursing all his actions. The ritual, which was under some senior people of the Order I was in at the time, got a little out of control and the doll which represented Hussain was damaged – its neck was pulled out of shape. We thought our curse worked when the First Gulf war ended with Hussain totally losing. It was not until the second one that I understood that our curse was still operating and the result was that Saddam ended up with his neck stretched.  (I am not saying our magic killed him, I think there was a lot of things lobbed his way, but we had contributed to it).


We had done evil magic. At the time, we felt it was justified because Saddam was an evil chap and yet if we had known what evils his toppling had unleashed we might have been a little more careful. My own exit from that particular Order was marked by various people claiming that each other was performing magical attacks. People who I respected and thought were good were somehow being evil to each other.

More Evil

Later I experienced some other magical attacks first hand. That was when I left another magic order. A few members were convinced I was doing “evil” one even wrote to me a long letter about how I was under a “dark cloud of evil” and he had done tarot readings that proved it. I did not act, because I thought mistakenly that at the end of the day these people were “good people” and besides using black magic was against their own oath. Certainly using such magic against them was unthinkable to me.

The fall out of their action resulted in a change of my views. I concluded that while black magicians did not exist, there was a lot of black magic conducted by good people who thought they were doing the right thing.

So, what is it that prompts ordinary people to commit acts of evil? There was a theory that people will do evil if they are under the control of an authority figure. This was called the “banality of evil,” the theory has been proffered as an explanation for why ordinary, educated Germans took part in the Jewish genocide of World War II.

Now comes the Science

Some of this idea came from research conducted in 1961 by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram.
Volunteers, told they were taking part in an experiment on learning, were led to believe they were administering an electric shock to a man, dubbed the “learner” who had to memorise pairs of words.

shock treatment

Every time the learner made a mistake, the “teacher” was told by a stern-faced, lab-coated official to crank up the shock, starting with a mild 15 volts and climaxing at a lethal 450 volts. In one test, nearly two-thirds of volunteers continued all the way to “lethal” voltage, even when the learner pleaded for mercy, wept or screamed in agony.
The experiment was fake — the learner was an actor and the shocks never happened. The teacher could hear, but not see, the learner.
Now psychologists, having reviewed the experiment have reached a different conclusion. Alex Haslam, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia said that there was less evidence we find to support the banality of evil idea, the notion that participants are simply ‘thoughtless’ or ‘mindless’ zombies who don’t know what they’re doing and just go along for the sake of it.

A team sifted through a box in the Yale archives that contained comments written by the volunteers after they were told the purpose of the experiment, and that the torture had been fake.
Of the 800 participants, 659 submitted a reaction. Some said they had felt unease or distress during the tests, but most reported being positive about the experience, some extremely so.

They said that they felt they were “part of such an important experiment” and had “contributed in some small way toward the development of man and his attitudes towards others.”
The people who carried out the experiment had “a sense of pleasure”, of “duty fulfilled”, of “having served a higher calling.”

Higher calling

Milgram had told those who took part that they would advance the cause of knowledge. He had made them believe in a noxious ideology — namely, that it is acceptable to do otherwise unconscionable things in the cause of science.

Stephen Reicher, a professor at the University of St Andrews in Scotland the new look at the study showed that ordinary people could commit acts of extraordinary harm, but that thoughtlessness was not the main motivator. People are aware of what they are doing, but that they think it is the right thing to do,” he said.
The key to it is that they have to identify with a cause — and an acceptance that the authority is a legitimate representative of that cause.

If you place this in a magical context. The curse of Saddam Hussain was just that. It was given to me as a task by someone in authority, but I was under the impression that I was doing the right thing. In fact, I did not think that I might have done the wrong thing until I forced myself to watch his execution.
Those people who attacked me had been convinced that I was evil, and that they were under attack. They believed that they had to attack anyone who threatened their temple so the end justified the means.

Groups and Watermelons

This is easier to do in a group where a leader can convince his followers of anything. There is one particularly famous story about a group leader who kept his order in a state of paranoia about other groups to the point where they were encouraged to attack a watermelon with the leader’s enemies’ names on it.


Solo magicians are not immune to this problem either. The majority of people who write to me claiming that they have been attacked are solo magicians. While their attackers are figments of their own imagination their desire to “counter-attack” against real people is all part of the false belief structure that they have built in their own heads.  In fact a Solo magician is more likely to believe they are right because they have no one to tell them that there is something wrong with what they believe.

What the Milgram tells us is that we can convince ourselves to do any atrocity if we believe something strong enough.