Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review King Over the Water

Would you like an antacid with your Mathers' Last Secret book?
When Mathers' Last Secret came out, one of my friends joked that we should market a brand of Golden Dawn antacids. I regret not following up on that suggestion, for the latest book by Nick Farrell, King Over the Water: Samuel Mathers and the Golden Dawn, is going to just increase the market for antiacids among some members of the Golden Dawn community.

This book review is not for the antiacid crowd. My suggestion for the antiacid crowd is just continue on with your work and ignore this book. This includes anyone who thinks that Mathers was the genius behind Golden Dawn, that Mathers was in contact with some uber-Adept, or that secret documents should remain unpublished and Secret Chiefs and their contacts unquestioned. And if you choose to ignore my advice, and buy the book anyways, just remember that I am willing to sell you a big jar of premium Golden Dawn brand antiacid.

In fact, if you feel that Mathers was perfect and/or the Secret Chiefs are perfect, you may want to ignore the rest of this book review as well and just go pop an antacid right now.

King Over the Water
*antacid time*

I like this book. It is long overdue. It will be a valuable addition to anyone's Golden Dawn history or document library.

Have you taken your antacid yet?

(One would hope that the antacid crowd have taken my advice and wandered off already, but I know that they would rather stick around and throw rotten eggs at me for liking this book. *sigh*)

The biggest problem with this book quite honestly is that those people who need to read it the most will ignore it because their superiors will tell them that it is just a pack of lies and a political ax job meant to destory Mathers and their superiors' reputations. And they will believe their superiors. Farrell tries to address this issue by pointing out some of the things that dishonest Orders have done in the past. I would love to say that the offenses he lists are isolated events, but they remind me of the laundry list of crap that I have seen in the various esoteric groups that I have been involved in.

My advice to one and all is: Be wary of anyone who holds an office in an esoteric Order, especially anyone who holds power because of the documents and contacts that they alone control. And be prepared to pop a lot of antacids. Why? Because a lot of people look fondly back on Mathers and decide to act just like he did. This tends to lead to the exact same results that the early GD experienced---do I need to remind you of the last time that this happened?!

Samuel Liddell (MacGregor) Mathers, while necessary for the birth of the Golden Dawn system, is not the person you want to model your behavior on as an officer or Chief of an esoteric Order.

One of the things that I think that every student of Golden Dawn should study is the history of the early years of the Order. It is part of our heritage as members of the Golden Dawn. I don't care what branch of the Golden Dawn tradition you belong to, the early history is important to know.

Unfortunately, up until this book, no history of the early years of the Order has been written by someone who has stood on the inside of a functioning Golden Dawn lodge. The closest we have gotten, previous to this book, are a few Freemasons who chosen to write about esoteric Order history. Because of that there are some things that are perfectly "normal" inside the GD envirnoment that end up sounding mighty strange to an outsider, and the histories so far have made the early GD sound slightly wacky.

Does Farrell make Mathers sound like a complete loon? No. Farrell makes it clear that Mathers had some personal issues, but they are no stranger than those of most of the people that I have sat in lodge with. It was rather interesting to see Farrell point out the possible psychological issues that may have been driving Mathers actions.

Over the years, I have tried to get people to explain to me why Mathers did certain things (ex. the Horos encounter---why would anyone in contact with Secret Chiefs fall for Horos and believe that they were the real thing). And this is one of the best attempts that I have seen of trying to figure out what was really going on and why Mathers occasionally made a decision that just makes your head hurt as you try to figure out his logic. Is Farrell's solution the only one? No, but it will do until something better comes along.

(If the antiacid crowd is still present, I would like to point out that they are free to hunt down records and documents, and write their own history of Mathers and the early days of the Golden Dawn.)

In all fairness, this book is mistitled---it deals a little bit with every significant member of the Golden Dawn during its early days. Westcott, Crowley, Moina Mathers, etc. But the main focus is MacGregor.

One of the accusations that will be leveled at this book will be that Farrell is not qualified as a historian. I am going to have to disagree with this notion. Having spent a lot of time learning the profession, I can see the hallmarks of a historian in this book. I might not be able to track down all his sources, but I can see that he was actually working from actual sources (primary documents).

As a history of the early days of Golden Dawn, and a biography of Mathers, this book is a welcome addition. It is not the ax job that I expected it to be, occasionally one even feels sympathy for Mathers.

In addition to the history of early GD and biography of Samuel Mathers, King Over the Water also contains several early A&O (GD) documents---an early version of the Book of the Tomb, the Z documents (which I learned is actually a single document divided into three parts), and an earlier version of the Sword Consecration ritual. (Or at least, these were in the earlier draft of the book that I read.)

Each one of these documents is of a particular interest to me. The version of the Book of the Tomb that the BIORC uses is much later, and has some additions made to it (that what happens when an Order believes that its own members can contribute to the system without having to rely on Secret Chiefs); therefore, it is nice to see an earlier version of it (beyond the photocopies that I have been given by others---this is the earliest version I have seen of the Book of the Tomb). The Z Document, just like the material in Mathers' Last Secret, has some material in it that makes me wonder if my Mother lodge reinvented the wheel or actually concealed a major part of their actual lineage (at this point, I really wonder if my lineage does not go back to Mathers on the one side through BOTA---of course, that cannot actually be true).

One thing that the reader should know is that Mathers' Last Secret and King Over the Water are very much tied into one another. If I was to assign them as part of the required reading for a lesson unit, the two books would be assigned together---for parts of each book is only understandable if you have ready access to the other. Then again, that is just like the rest of the Golden Dawn system, isn't it? For instance, the argument that Mathers did not understand the Z Document is dependent on looking both at the shortcuts that Mathers approved of for A&O rituals and the Z Document as Mathers knew it.

Of course, beyond the fact that Farrell's history reveals that Mathers and company was composed of human beings, the publishing of these documents is going to annoy some people. It is natural to be annoyed when your branch of the tradition insists on absolute secrecy.

But the biggest annoyance is going to be the fact that Farrell actually presents a strong case that Mathers' Secret Chiefs were actually ASTRAL. Or some other non-physical entity type (I am including stuff that comes out of one's brain as "non-physical" here). And that more than one person in the early GD had such contacts. The reason that this is going to annoy a lot of people (and there is more than one Order involved here) is that there are several Order Chiefs out there who claim to be in contact with the "one and only" set of Secret Chiefs.

So there you have it, the three strikes against this book (and the reason I should be making a fortune selling Golden Dawn brand antacids)---Mathers and company are human; there are early GD/A&O documents included in this book; and the Secret Chiefs are either astral or a product of the human mind. Nevertheless, this is still the best explanation about why events unfolded the way that they did.

Nick Farrell's book, King Over the Water--Samuel Mathers and the Golden Dawn, is available to order on Amazon.

[Full Disclosure Statement and shameless self-promotion: This book review was based on a pre-publication version of the book given to me by the author. If you would like me to consider reviewing your book, feel free to email me a electronic copy through my lodge email address: basttemple at msn dot com. Remember that my reviews tend to involve the selling of antiacids.]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

QoW A Crowley in the Woodpile

Question of the week: If one's lineage goes through Aleister Crowley,* are you somehow less of an initiate because of it? If so, why? If not, why not?

*Or whoever your favorite villian is (Pat Zalewski, Nick Farrell, Robert Zink, David Griffin, Chic Cicero, Israel Regardie, or that bloke in Denver Colorado).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A computer could write this blog

The Secret Chiefs of the Golden Dawn will see you now.
I am a writer---I think that most of my readers know this. And I read lots of blogs, including some in the publishing/writing field. Today, I was reading a blog post over on Galleycat about how Forbes has joined the horde of 30 companies now using the Narrative Science software to write their stories.

(Yes, I have decided that a group of 30 companies is a horde. It is either a horde or a government. And either way, you are probably not going to like what they are doing.)

Anyway, I find myself wondering if I could be replaced by a computer program. Could a computer write this blog? Would you be able to tell the difference?

And in my case, yes---a computer could write as intelligently as I do; after all, most of my jokes are not funny. Just throw in a whining attitude and a few cat photos and BLAM! you would not be able to tell the difference.

Come to think of it, there are several other bloggers you could replace with a whiny attitude and a few pictures. No names mentioned---you know who they are. Heck, the entire esoteric blogosphere could be replaced by a machine. It is not like you cannot predict what various bloggers and commenters are going to say. It can't be that hard to program a computer to do the writing instead. For that matter, we could replace all those pesky Secret Chiefs with a computer too---it is not like most of us would know the difference provided that they continued to take our money.

Don't believe me?! Just think about the number of books that you have read that are just rip-offs of Agrippa, Regardie or Crowley. Think of the number of Golden Dawn websites that are just clones of these writers. (I am beginning to believe that Agrippa is the most pirated occult writer in history.)

And the critics of this cloning---the Secret Restoration Crowd---who argue that we must change everything, so that everything is absolutely secret, you have read their posts also, right? You can predict what they are going to say next, right?

See, we could all be replaced with computers, the entire occult blogosphere. And given the amount of time that some of us spend on this stuff, we should really encourage someone to write a computer program to replace us. I wonder if I could raise money on Kickstarter to do this project.

Most anonymous blogs could be written by machines.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

As many of my regular readers know, I am working on getting my Bachelors in History (as well as a Bachelors in Literature). This semester, I am doing my Senior Seminar (capstone) for history. Yes, I am one of those evil people who is trained as a historian (and have enourgh experience with journalism and oral story telling to be leery of the oral tradition), and therefore have no place studying the history of Golden Dawn and the other esoteric Orders. It is a good thing that I am more interested in studying other branches of history, isn't it?

For my Senior Seminar paper, I am working with the papers of Denver Mayor William McNichols that are part of the Denver Public Library's Western History collection. I am focused on Civil Defense. Therefore I am reading a lot of government memos and letters.

One of the things that I have learned going though the McNichols papers is that a lot of letters supposely written by the Denver Mayor were not created by him; they merely bear his signature. Last night, I was reading a reply to a letter sent from one of the many cities who were interested in getting a copy of the "Denver Plan." (Denver's Civil Defense over time became more focued on dealing with all types of emergencies, not just nuclear strikes---riots, extreme weather, airplane crashes, etc.) And in the course of the request, the person requesting the information (to be used as a "model example" of an emergency plan) told the Mayor how proud the city and county of Denver should be to have Colonel Allen as Director of the local Civil Defense. The person preparing the Mayor's reply (writing as if he was Mayor McNichols) said that he would be sure to pass the compliment onto Colonel Allen.

The punchline is that the person preparing the draft copy was Colonel Allen himself.

And what does this have to do with Golden Dawn? Absolutely nothing...unless you are like me and wonder how often a reply from a Secret Chief is actually written by someone else. As I said, being actually trained as a historian makes me unsuitable to study the history of Golden Dawn and other esoteric Orders.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Adventures of Lil Cthulhu

Here is a video making the rounds among the bloggers that I follow. It is The Adventures of Lil' Cthulhu.

Starting seeds using toliet paper rolls

Here is a neat idea that I have never thought of---using toliet paper rolls to create mini-pots for starting seeds. I am so going to have to try this idea.

Monday, February 13, 2012

And then there is my oath

In passing, someone asked me what the other reasons were for me not being concerned about HOGD/A&O claims. Part of my reply was that it really did not matter because I am forbidden to learn from the HOGD/A&O Adept outreach thanks to my oath as an archive officer. The HOGD/A&O demands that you swore an oath of secrecy to learn their additional lessons and rituals---in other words, you never tell anyone what you have seen unless they too are under the oath.

The oath that I took as an archive officer is an "override" oath. In other words, it overrides all the previous oaths I have ever taken...and all the future oaths that people try to put me under. I am obligated to preserve the information of the whatever means I see fit to do so. In other words, I am make the decision of how to preserve the information, not someone else, and publication is always an option on the table. Therefore, the HOGD/A&O has to bar me from learning their stuff just because the material can only be learned under the oath of secrecy issued by them. It does not matter whether they trust me or not, they have to bar me because there is always the chance that I will decide that absolute secrecy is not the proper method to preserve the information.

Because of this, it does not matter what the HOGD/A&O claims. In good conscience, I am not able to apply to learn the new revolutionary material of their system...because I can never again swore an oath of absolute secrecy. Nor can they, in good conscience, allow me into their Order or associate program.

Archive officers may not be the only people who are barred from learning their system. In fact, I suspect that anyone who has ever served as a Co-Chief of an esoteric Order is also barred by their oath. One of the things that the Co-Chiefs of an esoteric Order control is what belongs to what Grade, and what is actually a secret and what is not. In other words, they decide what can be revealed and when it is revealed.

Therefore, anyone who is not wholly of the HOGD/A&O pretty much has to be barred from ever serving as a Co-Chief or Sub-Chief of any Order other than the HOGD/A&O. Again, I have served in this type of position, and because I still have students answering to me, I cannot in clear conscience ever apply to learn the full Inner Order curriclum of the HOGD/A&O. I am responsible for sharing information, and the buck stops on my desk for deciding who gets what information and when.

So my oaths, current and past officerships, bar me from even entertaining the notion of learning stuff from the HOGD/A&O. Hence it does not matter whether their claims are true or not, or my personal beliefs regarding such claims. Nor does it matter whether the HOGD/A&O and its leadership trusts me or not, for they can never be absolutely sure of my future actions and decisions, thanks to my oaths and responsibilities.

I can never be allowed to know the truth behind their claims, therefore it does not matter one iota to me (beyond the economics of resources and members) what they claim. And yes, that does mean that I have to act as if their claims have absolutely no substance. But then again, I only have to be nasty if the HOGD/A&O threaten the survival of the lodge (Bast Temple) and Order (BIOGD/BIORC) that I belong to. If they allow my group to survive in peace, then I can afford to stay out of the war.

{And before you ask, not even my current lodge can change the "override" oath I am under.}

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I teach GD over coffee

One of the things that I occasionally have to remind myself is that I am not typical of the majority of the Golden Dawn community. The way that I was initially taught affects the way that I teach; it also affects the way I think about the system. For instance, outside of a few isolated bits, such as what ended up in Kraig's book, most of my initial Golden Dawn training happened in working lodge...or over coffee.

It is the "over coffee" part that you want to play attention to. Because I was taught in informal conversations, I tend to do my best teaching during informal conversations. A lot of people think that I am joking when I announce that I am willing to try to explain what Golden Dawn does over coffee, but it is actually true. Outside of the lodge work, more of my training happened during informal, friendly conversation than it did from books and secret documents and the official lecture hour.

And when I teach...I mean truly is in the same envirnoment. You are either working or having coffee...lecture days tend to not be very educational.

I have been being reminded of this lately. One of the Sorors from my lodge recently have been dealing with me in "coffee" mode. Over the past month, she has gotten more information out of me in informal conversations than she has in formal lodge lectures (outside of actual work sessions...which is ritual work and not lectures). By the way, this is always true for me. If you want information from me, lodge is necessary; but you really want to make time to "socialize" with me, if you want me to really explain what is going on.

I just don't function properly in a strict envirnoment where you only deal with your superior during lecture hour.

(The odd thing is that if you can get me to write about the system, you also get more out of me than during a spoken lecture...I am not sure why.)

{By the way, this is one of the reasons why I could care less about the HOGD/A&O claims. Strict secrecy implies that you NEVER about talk Golden Dawn over coffee or deal with your superiors and lessers outside of a strict controlled envirnoment. Because of that, it would be pointless for me to join that matter how true their claims are or what secret information that they actually have.}

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some thoughts about occult publishing

Comfort is the only thing that counts when kitty goes to buy books.
Being involved in the occult book writing business, I run across all types of interesting comments about the nature of the occult book publishing world. Every once in awhile, I have to say something because if I don't, my head will explode. And my cats really do not want my head to might interefere with the petting, the litter box cleaning, and the opening of cat food cans.

[Note---the comments that are triggering this set of rants comes from several different people; don't presume that I am talking about you. In fact, all these rants are mixing comments from several sources and communities. So unless you are a demon worshipping rune using tree hugging gay bear in the GD, do not think that I am only talking about you. And if you are a demon worshipping rune using tree hugging gay bear in the GD, how did you manage to get past the entrance committee?]

Why do occult writers publish secret information?

Because the publishers tell us to. A few years ago, a publisher saw a sample of something that I was working on. They expressed interest in the project, clear up to the second that they discovered that I was the actual creator of the material. If the material would have been written by some old dead Adept, then they would have gladly published it. But because it was a modern creation, they didn't think anyone would buy it. Hence, if you want to be published by an actual publisher, you have to publish secret material.

Let's pretend that you refuse to do so and decide to self-publish your own stuff. Then you get called a fraud, a New Ager, and a whole bunch of other names. Often by the very people that do not want you to publish their secret information. And it is very likely that these same people have actually helped leak secret information from a rival group in order to undermine it. So they do not want you to publish their secrets, think it is ok to publish other people's secrets, and do not want readers to think that anyone other than themselves know anything. And because you are thinking for yourself, and sharing your own research and experience, they want to make sure that no one listens to you...because I guess that they want to have the entire occult market to themselves.

(My other theory is that their big massive ego insists that they are the only person to know anything about the occult. But no one in occultism has an big massive ego, do they?)

The interesting part is that labeling independent writers not publishing secrets, frauds and New Agers, you encourage them to go looking for secrets to publish. Or to lie about the sources of their material. Furthermore, you encourage readers to ignore them, and publishers to continue to insist that only secrets sell occult books.

It is a nice little ugly cycle, isn't it?

All self-published occult books are crap that could not be published by a real publisher.

Wrong. Some self-published occult books are the result of writers not wanting to deal with the evils of a traditional publisher. Another reason is that self-published writers can focus on a smaller niche. For instance, while pitching another project, a publisher (not the one from the previous example) told me that my target audience was only a hundred people...because it involved being a high Grade initiate. In other words, I had a choice---write something New Agey or quit writing about the occult. Thanks to the print-on-demand and ebook markets, I no longer have to do that. Also see below about the importance of a publisher.

Occult writers only write for fame and fans.

No. In fact, occult writers would be better off writing romances if they wanted fame and fans.

Occult writers only write for money.

No. You are thinking of people who write erotica and ads for Russian bride websites.

A publisher is necessary for a good book.

A few years ago, a book came out. It was under a publisher's imprint. It was a new publisher. At the time, I was still attempting to get my occult stuff published by a "real" publisher. So I did some checking...only to discover that the publisher did not actually exist beyond the title and copyright pages of this particular book. This book has gone on to be the official word on its subject and sells for an outrageous price on the resale market, yet it is actually self-published. The truth of the matter is that anyone can buy a "vanity ISBN" and claim to be a publisher.

Furthermore, the publishing houses have a horrible track record for predicting the future success of books. They also fall flat on their faces when it comes to editing, growing talent, and marketing.

A self-published writer can farm out everything that a traditional publisher is claiming to do (and for your first book, they do next to none of it---basically, your book has to be publishable without no work on their part in order to get though the publishing house system). A self-published writer can hire editors, ad-people, and cover artists. And once they slap a vanity ISBN on, you will not be able to tell the difference. Unless, you are in the business.

Ebooks are going to kill off paper books.

And we must keep killing those trees---damn them and their oxygen producing. Seriously, have you ever tried to get candle wax off an ereader? As long as people continue to do rituals from strange books, you will have paper occult books. If only for safety reasons---in an emergency, it is sometimes necessary to destory an occult book. Have you ever tried to destory an ebook?

You have lived a really strange life, haven't you?

Yes, thanks for noticing. Now, I am off to write some erotica about a Russian bride. Either that or I am going to go feed the cats for the fourth time today.

Friday, February 3, 2012

News for the Denver Wiccan Feb 3 2012

Two pieces of news for the Denver Wiccan today, February 3rd 2012.

The first is that Lady Judith Brownlee passed away last night at ten pm. Judith was a well-known teacher of Wiccan classes here in Denver. Over the last few years, she has suffered from health issues (mostly age related). Our thoughts go out to her family, friends and students---Judith will be missed.

And it is interesting that she chose to step into the Summerlands on Imbolc---during a blizzard----her sense of humor was alive to the very end.

Speaking of the blizzard, many events here in Denver scheduled for tonight have been cancelled, including the Hearthstone Community Church's Open Full Moon ritual, due to safety reasons.

Try to stay warm tonight---it is goin to be a cold one.

Sasquatch and the law

I learn something new everyday. Today, I learned that it is illegal to kill a sasquatch (Big Foot) in several parts of the world. In Skamania county (Washington), if you plan a "premeditated, wilful and wanton slaying of such creature," it is a gross misdemeanor and can get you a year in jail and a thousand dollar fine. There is also a Whatcom county law (again Washington state) declaring Whatcom county to a Sasquatch protection zone---I am not sure what the penalty for capping a Big Foot in a protection zone would be...but I am guessing that you will no longer be allowed to eat pizza. It is also illegal to kill a sasquatch in Britsh Columbia (Canada). So if Dean and Sam Winchester ask you to help them kill a murderous Big Foot, just say no.