Friday, July 30, 2010

When does it become a different tradition?

A thought that I occasionally kick around in our polarized tradition---exactly when does a group or style of working become a different tradition? At what point, are so many changes made that a system of working simply ceases to be what it started out as and becomes something completely different? At what point in time does the teachings and beliefs of a group become so different that it is no longer recognized by its parent tradition?

Given that every group (coven, lodge, Order, etc.) has an egregore which taps into an energetic current, and the keys of tapping into the energies that the egregore guards are encoded in the rituals and procedures used by a group, sooner or later enourgh changes to the rituals and teachings would prevent a group from tapping into a current and force it switch to another current---in essence, enourgh changes creates a new system.

This set of questions is very close to the surface of my thoughts today. The workings and beliefs of the system that I work have been declared "dead-ends" by another group, and they have changed their code-keys. Are we different traditions yet? They are going back to a style that pre-dates the system that I work (and have been for years). At a certain point, the two styles became different systems---and despite this other group's efforts to drag us all back into that style, the rituals of my tradition still have power; they still have a purpose.

At certain point, the egregores of the two styles started to obey different rules. From my viewpoint, there are two traditions sharing the same name, but who are on completely different paths. And it has been this way for years---I wonder if I am the only one that sees this?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Public domain and copyrights of secret rituals

One of the things that has cropped up in the ongoing internet discussion about secrecy is the whole issue of public domain. As a writer and a scholar (or as much as I am capable of being one), I have a different point of view on these matters than some other people do. For me, the issue of public domain is more about copyright law than it is about secrecy.

Copyright law has always been slightly fuzzy when it comes to secret societies. And the history of the secret societies is full of "revealing of the secrets" of various groups. The most interesting revelation was probably the printing of the Freemason rituals. The justification of this act was that the whistle-blowers claimed that the Freemasons were nothing more than a money making scam to line the pockets of the Master Masons.

(It is interesting that this rumor occasionally crops up in Golden Dawn circles.)

The revealing of their rituals was not nearly as harmful to Freemasonry as the legend of their response to one whistle-blowing incident---even today, they are blamed for burning down a printer's house and murdering someone (the Morgan Affair). Whether they did or not is open to debate...personally I think that they just put the fellow on a boat and forgot to give anyone his forwarding address. (For the record, the whistle-blower may not even been a Freemason; he may have conned his way into a Blue Lodge pretending to be one.)

It is the rumor of how they reacted and the inherient distrust that human beings have for secret societies that did the harm---not the actual revealing of their rituals. In the United States, an Anti-Masonic Party formed, and the Freemasons almost completely disappeared. In Europe, the Freemasons have been blamed for wars and rebellions as well as controling politics and big business.

(I am still waiting for the arrival of the Anti-Skull and Bones Party. If there is any secret society that deserves their own Anti-Society, it is the Skull and Bones.)

Of course, the flaw in the Freemasonic conspiracy theories is that often both sides of any issue have an equal number of Freemasons present. For instance, the American Revolution, and its result---the United States of America, has been considered by conspiracy theorists to be the work of Freemasons. The truth of the matter is that the British had an equal number of Freemasons serving and supporting their side. If the British would have won, it could have been argued that the British victory was the result of a Freemason plot.

In part, it is the human distrust of secret societies that makes the issue of public domain and copyright law so bloody confusing when it comes to the rituals and activities of secret societies. "If they were not up to no good, why are they keeping secrets?" The laws typically treat ritual scripts the same way that they do glaze and soap recipes---if you learn the secret, not only can you use it, you can also publish it and the secret society cannot do much of anything about it.

And secret societies have tried to do things about their secrets being published. A few years ago, one secret society trademarked their service name, and then tried to legally seize all copies of documents in various libraries and private collections pertaining to their Order claiming that because the documents had their trademarked name on them, the documents legally belonged to them. The scholars who oversaw the libraries and privates collections promptly showed this Order to the door, laughing at the foolishness of the attempt.

Scholars and journalists both are thorns in the sides of the secret societies. This is because both professions have a "fair use" loophole in the copyright law that they use to their own advantage. All it takes is one scholar or journalist declaring that there is something of interest to look at in your Order and you promptly have a problem keeping the genie in the bottle. And they firmly believe that he who has access to the documents has the right to print all the juicy bits.

Even more scary to the secret societies is that scholars and journalists do not even have to wait until the copyright expires before publishing material. All they have to be is claim some interest in the material, and weave the magic wand of "fair use." And anyone can publish material of a secret society once the copyright expires---aka the material enters public domain.

A few years ago, one Freemasonic association started to publish the rituals of some extinct secret societies. Their logic is that by publishing the material, they can prevent someone from resurrecting these particular Orders---aka they think that they can renew the copyright of the material and control it. No, once something goes into public domain, you cannot put the genie back into the bottle. It is a bluff---you cannot actually prevent someone from using material that has entered public domain. And they cannot deal with it as a trademark issue unless they resurrect the Orders themselves.

Of course, that is the big issue with the latest discussion---public domain material can be used by anyone. As long as they do not use a trademarked service name, there is nothing to actually stop them from trying to use the material. Note that I said "trying to use."

Now, given the fact that the material that has been being discussed in the latest secrecy discussion belongs/ed to an esoteric society, just having access to the material (documents) might not be enourgh to be able to use the material. Given the fact that there are seven layers to the material, and the documents only gives bits of any particular layer being talked about, there is a lot of stuff that a person would have to figure out to be able to fully utilize the material.

(Ok, I could be wrong here---one of the rumors about the material is that it is defective in this regard. I am not sure how much weight I want to give that rumor without seeing the bulk of the material with my own eyes. I have heard statements like that before about other material---stuff that I now keep under lock and key.)

Even the Crowley and Regardie material needs to be looked at in the light of the seven layer system if you want to unlock its full potential. And that brings us to how did we get to this state of having a good part of the Golden Dawn material published by the two of them. Well, sorry to say, it is the fault of a court case. Or rather two of them.

The first one involved a fraud---the Horos trial. MacGregor Mathers, for some reason allowed a woman by the name of Madame Horos, aka Swami Vive Ananda, aka Editha Jackson into his lodge; he claimed that she was the real Fraulein Sprengel, aka Soror Sapiens Dominabitur Astris. She milked him for information, then misused the rituals of Golden Dawn for her own ends---fleecing young women. At the Horos trial, a lot of the Golden Dawn ritual got read into the public record. The trial gave Golden Dawn a major public relations problem. 

(No one has ever been able to give me a good reason why Mathers' Secret Masters did not intervene and warn him about Madame Horos. I just simply do not understand the logic of allowing the Order material to be misused, and the Order being dragged though the mud.)

The second trial involving the copyrights of Golden Dawn came when the infamous Aleister Crowley decided to publish the rituals of Golden Dawn. Mathers tried to get an injunction against Crowley. Between the lack of money and the fact that large parts of the rituals were already part of the public record (thanks to the Horos trial), Mathers failed to prevent Crowley's publication of the rituals.

(At first, Crowley's publication of the material, and Regardie's later publication, did not reach as many people as most modern students of the system tend to believe. Paul Foster Case and Dion Fortune exposed more people to the material than either Crowley or Regardie did---initially that is. Later, when Crowley and Regardie's works were rediscovered, they became part of the "bible" of the modern occult revival and their influence swelled.)

It was the trials that broke any hope Golden Dawn, and later AO had of keeping their material under wraps forever. That and the mistake of letting William Butler Yeats into the Order---for some reason, having a famous poet makes the Golden Dawn a subject of academic interest (remember scholars invoke the angel of "fair use").

Advice to any Order that wants to keep their material secret: Don't get involved in court cases and never let anyone with the slightest potential to become famous or important into your system. Also do not link your Order to the Golden Dawn, for even normal protections provided by copyright law tend to be useless in the protection of the material.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Talking about secrecy

Nick Farrell just posted an entry about secrecy on his blog today. It is the direct result of a long going debate in the Golden Dawn community about secrecy and what is covered and what is not covered, a debate that had a recent hot spot that erupted in the comment section of his blog and a couple of others.

Now, my beliefs about secrecy were laid by experience, both in the tradition and outside of it. Outside of the tradition, I have watched the worst possible things be made secret ("skeletons in the closet"). This has made me believe that secrecy is really bad for human beings, or at least in the wrong context. For example, one of your relatives is abusing you, but you must not tell anyone...I think that you get the idea.

Inside the tradition itself, secrecy is a wonderful tool provided that you use it only when necessary. The problem is that secrecy tends to be used more by the charlatans and cons than it does by the enlightened.

My twelve-inch rule on secrecy was provided by Hathoor Temple. I learned by example. I treat secrecy the same way they did...much to the horror of several secrecy minded individuals. For instance, every document and lecture I write I have the right to publish---oh, the lodge can ask me not to, but ultimately it is my choice.

This, as some will point out, bars me from all the better Orders. They will promptly fail to note that you and I are barred from them even if we were practicing absolute secrecy---when certain Grades are only able to be held by a limitied number of people at a time, only those especially favored by the current holders of the Grade are allowed in when (and only when) one of their current members die.

Hathoor Temple was a strange beast when it came to secrecy. They were a dying lodge and they knew it. They are the only example of a lodge I know of that instead of becoming more and more secretive as the end approached, decided to loosen up the oaths of several members and swore them to preserving the system at all costs. Think of it as a form of reverse-secrecy.

My oath is about preserving the system, and perhaps even expanding it. The difference between me and the absolute secrecy crowd is that my instructors have decided that sometimes secrecy hurts the tradition more than it helps it...and they chose to enable some to act.

I understand both sides of the secrecy argument. And I think everyone who has sat down at a table with me for a cup of coffee, or attended a public ritual that I have led, or read some of my blog and forum postings, know exactly where I stand on the subject. The only thing they do not know are the things that I chose to keep secret...and yes, even I keep secrets.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preparing to initiate a Theoricus

Yesterday and today, I am doing the final preparation for initiating a member into the Grade of Theoricus. It is not the first time that  I have done this task and probably will not be the last. Nevertheless, I find it an interesting that every time I have done this, diagrams have wandered off. Yes, once again, I am drawing up the Theoricus diagrams.

This cycle, it is also interesting because it is the second of a set of three initiations. Last month, a member advanced into Zelator; and next month, we are going to have an advancement into Practicus. Busy, we are. Because of this, we are just opening the lodge room up in the necessary Grade, and then leaving it there until we bump it up another Grade for the next person. This is the first time that we had the opportunity to do it this way.

Of course, the most interesting part for me is that despite the fact that this cycle of initiations was scheduled months ago, there have arose schedule conflicts. And they are all on my own end. My sister chose to come visiting during this time, and got upset because of the tightness of my schedule. Given her feelings about my involvement in Golden Dawn, I am quite sure that she is thrilled that I placed the lodge above her. But given the difficulties that the person we are advancing has in getting time off from work (it takes an act of congress for them to get time off), once this initiation was scheduled, I was unable to change the timing of it. As someone else noted, my sister really needs to give more warning about her little vacations if she actually wants any chance of seeing me---after all, my schedule is blocked in months in advance and once the schedule is made, I have little or no leeway to change it.

(It should be noted that my relationship with my siblings has always been on thin ice. Last year's melt-down, combined with this year's has just been par for the course. As my regular readers know I do not respond well to anger and blackmail. And that is what I got for admitting that my schedule was tight. Basically because I was not willing to change my schedule which was rooted in the schedules of other people, I was told that it was proof that I did not love my family. My response is that because I was INSTANTLY met with anger and blackmail that they obviously had no respect for me in the first place. And so it goes. I am quite sure that all can see how this one is actually going to end.)

Here is to tomorrow's Theoricus initiation. Hopefully, the initiate has a better experience than I did getting ready for it. And if not, here is to the cup of tea and sympathy that I will provide afterwards.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I write like...

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Not that I have any idea who this is...must be the fault of my less-than-stellar education.

The piece of writing I used was the June OFM newsletter article: The Effect that Diagrams have on Rituals. Probably not the best piece of writing to use, but why should I pretend that I do much else?

Now, I wonder what would happen if I imput someone else's writing. Hehe.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Father 1942 to 1984

[This blog post is a few days late from its originally scheduled day. One, I wanted to wait to the last possible minute to write it. Two, I chose to have my head explode in a shower of migraine glitter.]

Everything I am about to say needs to be taken with a large grain of salt. Up until last year, I actually thought that I had a firm grip on who and what my father was like. Last year, one of my relatives pointed out that I had no clue what he was really like…and so it goes. I can only remember him from my point of view, and memory is plastic.

I should have caught onto the fact that I did not remember him correctly years earlier when I was talking to one of my other relatives, and I accidently mentioned him. The response I got was "Don't mention that bastard to me." After that, I noticed that a lot of my memories of events were not the same as those of my immediate family.

Because of the ragged state of my memories, I have to presume that they are right and that their memories of my father are true and mine are false. Unfortunately, as I noted already, I can only remember him from my perspective which makes things a tad sticky. One of the biggest changes in my worldview that I had to make given the falsity of my memories is to accept the fact that the man would absolutely despise me.

When I started college, I presumed that he would have looked favorably on this maneuver. I seem to remember him buying me lots of books as a kid, and encouraging me in my studies. Unfortunately, the truth as the rest of the family tells it is that my father thought that reading was an utter waste of time. Given how much of my time is spent in the stacks, the ghost of the man must positively loathe my existence.

Now, I will admit that I have done things that would anger him. For instance, I have never kept a single promise to the man. I made three promises to him in my lifetime, and recently I broke the very last one. First, I resumed working with computers. Second, I have no children. And third, I am no longer dealing with my immediate family.

I have good reasons for each betrayal, but it does not matter. The only thing that matters is that I did not keep my word. The last betrayal was especially painful. At a certain point in time, when one has a memory problem such as mine, one has a choice: they can either live a lie, or they can walk away from those whose memories do not match their own. Living a lie is a form of insanity, as is walking away.

The reason that I have been thinking about this lately is that the other day was the anniversary of his death. And the fact that I decided to break that last promise recently.

The amusing part is that the person who made the promises to my father was not me. That person was a different man if my relatives' memories are true; he is not me, for my experiences are different than his were. Many of my recent flare-ups are a direct result of my reactions not being the same as his. Tactics that would have stopped him dead in his tracks merely annoyed me.

The breaking of this last promise was going to happen sooner or later. It was either break the promise, or assume the role that my familial memories had chosen for me. Every time, I realized that my memories did not match theirs, the rift between me and my immediate family grew larger. Honestly, I did not have the strength to live the life of a failed criminal flipping burgers for the rest of his life, friendless and loveless (not that I have served a day of jail time in my entire life, and that is public record).

And my failure to be able to live that doomed existence is what makes his ghost howl at me, and my immediate family hate me. Maybe the person that experienced what they claim happened, who knew my father as he truly was, is capable of living in that family and in that direly existence.

But I am not that man, for my memories are different. Memory is plastic and I can remember him only from my point of view, as wrong as that might be. My father therefore is not the same man that my siblings knew, and that is a type of insanity on an universal scale.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Migraine Won Today

I have been popping pills the last few days, trying to fend off a migraine. Well, it won today. My blog post about my father (which a couple of people actually want to see) is going to have to wait until the fog in my head clears up. Sorry for the delay.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Celebrating Death Days

One of the oddities about Kabbalah is that its students often play more attention to the day a person died than they do to the person's birthday.

(Obviously, I am talking about dead people and not the living.)

The reason for this is the fact that in Kabbalah, the day of one's death is considered to be the day that your energy is released into the universe.

The seed of your energy is planted on the day of your conception; it breaks into view on the day of your birth; it grows (or declines) as you live your life; and finally, it is released on the day of your death.

The day of your death is the summation of your entire life. The day a holy man (or woman) dies is a blessing given to the entire world. Their last breath is an act of redemption for the entire world.

Now, the happy little cynic that I am will note that this belief probably is a spiritualization of a practical solution of a common problem. Sometimes it is easier to use the death day as a marker for your studies than a birthday.

For many famous and important people, we have no record of the date of their birth. Birthdays were only for royalty and other important people.

Commoners did not keep track of such matters; heck, in medieval times, children were considered much like we consider interchangeable parts---if one child dies, you can always have another one to replace them. You did not become attached to a child until it proved that it was strong enough to survive. Harsh times produce hardened hearts.

Those people who started out as commoners often did not know their own birthdays, and the only reason we know the death date for many famous people is, well, they became famous and important and someone thought the event was important enough to write down.

And the happy little cynic in me says that it was while studying the lives of those who become famous, but started out ordinary, that Kabbalah became more interested in the death day than birthdays for its holy men.

It is something that I have often noticed. One of the layers of kabbalah, ignored much like we ignore the physical layer of Golden Dawn ritual (the symbolic is all that matters to many students), is the practical. Often a practical issue or solution will be assigned a spiritual reason later. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain ended up being embedded in the concept of the Jews being chosen to spread out all over the world in order to redeem it. The kosher laws were to prevent them from mingling with other people (there were also [probably] dietary reasons for the kosher laws). The list probably could go on for pages and days.

In the Western world, we have examples of death days being remembered (and to a certain extent celebrated): JFK, Martin Luther King, Elvis, Michael Jackson, et cetera. Many of us (if not all) have experienced the emotional impact of the death of someone. If you remember where you were when you heard the news, you were one of the blessed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quote of the day: Wagner on Sources of Power

Emotion is the quickest, most immediate form of power there is. Be it love, anger, fear, whatever, it produces instant power, instant capability. Knowledge also produces such power, but learning is a much more tedious process, and, if the time can be afforded, it is the preferred source. Power that stems from knowledge is much more controlled and directed.

Matt Wagner (Comic book artist----Mage: The Hero Discovered)