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The Curse of Merlin

The Curse of Merlin

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Published by Mogg Morgan
Magical biography
Magical biography

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Published by: Mogg Morgan on Jul 25, 2009
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THE CURSE OF MERLIN

The Curse of Merlin

Act I The Awakening of Self

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MOGG MORGAN

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THE CURSE OF MERLIN

The Curse of Merlin

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MOGG MORGAN

Copyright © Mandrake of Oxford, 08 First edition

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means electronic or mechanical, including xerography, photocopying, microfilm, and recording, or by any information storage system without permission in writing from the author. Published by Mandrake of Oxford PO Box 250 OXFORD OX1 1AP (UK)

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the US Library of Congress.

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Contents
The Curse of Merlin I ........................................................................ 7 The Curse of Merlin II ..................................................................... 15 The Curse of Merlin III ...................................................................17 The Curse of Merlin IV - Long slow magical journey ................ 20 The Curse of Merlin V Long slow magical journey (continued) ........................................ 27 The Curse of Merlin VI - Conventionalism ................................. 31 The Curse of Merlin VII .................................................................. 36 The Curse of Merlin VIII - 1st Degree ......................................... 40 The Curse of Merlin IX- 1st Degree (continued) ....................... 45 The Curse of Merlin X - ‘I’m a potato’ ......................................... 50 The Curse of Merlin XI - ‘Cunning little fox’ .............................. 56 The Curse of Merlin XII : 'A stone to trouble the living stream’ ............................................ 60 The Curse of Merlin XIII ................................................................ 62 The Curse of Merlin XIV ................................................................ 66 The Curse of Merlin XV ................................................................. 74 The Curse of Merlin XVI ................................................................ 78 The Curse of Merlin XVII: ............................................................. 82 The Curse of Merlin XVIII ............................................................. 87 The Curse of Merlin XIX ................................................................ 94 The Curse of Merlin XX ................................................................. 99 The Curse of Merlin XXI ............................................................. 103

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The Curse of Merlin I
Life is a struggle against the curse of Merlin. The poet Peter Redgrove first hit me with that one. I’d been to one of his readings at the Royal Festival Hall and sharing a lift on the way down to the bar, invited him for a drink. Drinking with Peter could be an expensive pastime as he quaffs large glasses of red wine in a manner us lesser mortals might fruit juice. Peter was in the mood to celebrate the appearance of the Penguin collection of his poems. Peter later agreed to contribute a small preface to my own first modest attempt to write on the topic of sexual magick. Although hardly a household name, I’d known of the work of Peter and his partner Penelope Shuttle’s for some time. I’d ploughed my way through their seminal Wise Wound. Whenever I see that book it always reminds me of Anne, a good friend from my teenage years which were spent in Newport, South Wales. It was she who first turned me onto feminism. Alas she died ten years back, one of the first female victims in this country of the AIDS pandemic, but that’s another story. ’The Curse of Merlin’ said Peter Redgrove, ‘lies on all publishers. Publish poetry, no matter how commercially unsuccessfully it might be, or you will never thrive.’ Peter had been laying this trip on publishers thoughout his entire writing career, hence our celebration. Cheers, Peter Redgrove, and well done in convincing the increasingly market orientated Penguin to do your not so slim volume of esoteric poetry. But the curse of Merlin means something more to me. I read somewhere that Merlin was born old and moved closer to his birth as the years rolled by. From this splendid fact I surmised that Merlin was some kind of shape-shifter, the heir to the modern day shifter of gender. And it was in this connection – as a mover between genders, that I personally relate to the curse of Merlin. As I begin to write this in year four (2004 to lesser mortals) sexuality seems to be in a bit of a dry patch. Sexuality is just another thing to consume, its all about numbers. When I 7

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began this journey things were more interesting. At home we always read the Daily Mirror. The Sunday edition was serialising the biography of April Ashley, perhaps the first of the new wave of shape shifters, a male to female transsexual. It was a deliciously wicked article for a young boy to be reading but I never forgot it. It made me wonder whether I too might not be a woman trapped in a man’s or more properly a boy’s body. It’s thirty five years since I first read that, my journey has taken me to the interzone between male and female. I look at the old photographs of myself – such a misfit. I’m eleven years old (the number of magick!). A pivotal point in my mind – everything before is pretty indistinct – everything to come will be different. I’ve already lived in a couple of different places but this is probably the one most rooted in my consciousness. It’s a landscape that still lives in my head and occasionally becomes the theatre for lucid dreams. Inner city Newport, South Wales. The Corporation road is a long road that drives its way all the way from the centre of town, over the Victorian river bridge, the one decorated with cherubs who have my face when someone hasn’t pushed a cigarette butt between their bronze lips. The road keeps on, getting ever seedier, through Clarence place, past the old Gaumont Cinema and art deco Odeon, past posh 1930s semis, past the bus depot, first one shop, then a small parade, then a whole ribbon of shops, fading out. Keep going, past my old red brick school, St Andrews, then the tiny Carnegie library, to where the bus stops outside Lysaght’s sports fields, social club and steel works. Not many buses go past this point into the docklands, and factory compounds protected by high chain-link fences and ditches of neatly trimmed grass flowing with dirty water. From here you need to walk to western docks for ocean going ships, the Transporter bridge ‘Eiffel tower’ multiplied by two whose moving carriage hangs from a high overhead rail. This surreal contraption ’flies’ the traffic across the mighty river Usk to the Eastern docks. This is Pill, Pwllgwenny I suppose. 8

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On this side of the river there’s a road parallel to Corporation Road called Commercial Street. I can retrace my steps back towards the centre of town to that bridge with the cherubs where I set out. Later Newport would get a second road bridge flattening the next street where I can cross its 1960s boxgirders and be home in minutes. I live so close that I was the first person to ever walk across it, before the workmen, before the mayor. When the last section was lowered into the gap, I was watching and waiting and in an instant, I walked across. . Eleven years old and that’s my macrocosm The microcosm would be the Coverack road that runs upwards at a right-angle to Corporation road until it fades out on the river’s cinder flood barrier. On the right side a continuous row of 1930s council houses, on the left the backs of the shops, a corner shop, then the Edwardian terrace of Witham street, then a few more 1930s houses, then our shop on the corner of Feering street, then more 1930s houses, then a lane leading to the electrical substation, the powerman’s detached cottage, then the haunted shell of an old factory. The road crests over a railway line, where several times a day a bright green steam engine drags trucks of coal across the road to the power station. Next door is a wagon works for the railway. When the siren sounds at 1pm and 5pm, men and women spill out in a great crowd making for home, some in cars but mainly walking or heading for the bus stop on the corner of Coverack and Corporation rd. On the right, opposite the wagon works is another small factory made from bolted tin sheets. Behind a sliding door is a putty mill where a great chrome wheel moves endlessly through a trough of chalk and linseed oil until ‘Joey’, thinks it right to stop the machine and scoop out the pale putty, melding it into blocks the size of sandbags. Joey lays it with the others until he has a great wall of putty lining the walls on all sides. Mostly Joey keeps the door slid shut. But if it’s hot and the door is open I ask him for some to play with. We all do that, all the kids in the street. Joey is a black guy, one of the first I ever met. He was over six foot tall, or so it seemed, with enormously powerful yet beautiful hands. 9

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Every day he came into our corner shop for his sandwiches, which my mother, Joan, made for him from that day’s fresh rolls and enormous slabs of mature cheddar. *** One of the unexpected things about being fifty is that you suddenly start to learn lots of things about what happened just before you were born. That’s PR I suppose – a handy anniversary to celebrate – hence Roger Bannister and the four minute mile, another 50 years since the Book of the Law, the nuclear tests and the floods of 1953. They say it was the UK’s forgotten disaster. I must have heard people talking about the floods and when I think about it this road on which I spent so much of my youth rose upwards to a great river dyke rebuilt after that flood. I was in the womb through most of it but someone once suggested I could still have sustained some brain damage as a result; hence some of of my minor learning difficulties and absence of a sense of smell. *** The River. Never underestimate the effect of living next to one of the most powerful rivers in the world. I know every inch of the Usk, Celtic for river, from its estuary of shifting treacherous sands, to the point at which the tidal and riverine waters meld. It’s a sacred spot the so-so country pub at Newbridge-on-Usk. Being underage I sat in the garden with the parakeets watching the waters rise until all was still and the basin could hold no more water. The grey sludgy tidal water mixing like cream in the clear coffee of the non tidal stream. There’s an almost audible silence, and then the moment as if miles away someone has pulled the plug and the water begins to drop out of the basin in a mad rush. The mighty Usk cannot be said to meander its way to the sea – ‘hairpins’ it way might be better. It rushes through Caerleon where my parents still live, and which I knew intimately, long before I moved there. The river slices through Cryndau, where there was once a precipitous park now just another road. This 10

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is a stonethrow from the home of my dour grandfather where we all lived for a while. Then the Newport hinterlands where the ruins of a Norman Castle gives the town its welsh name. The river relaxs, widening out to flow under those bridges, past where I lived as a child. I swam in you, walked by you, discarded so much in you. The black and white sign that deters submarine captains with a warning of ‘cables’. From its top I watched the dredgers make ‘handbreak’ turns on the mud. The power station that once fed those cables is now nothing more than a concrete platform. Here comes the wagon works with its strategic promontory, a grey shell of an old gun emplacement but to me always a ruined hermit’s hut. I used to climb its crumbling masonry overlooking the estuary and buffeted by winds, act out a scene from a film where Kirk Douglas calls out to Odin. Just across the river rotting warships lie berthed on deserted jetties. The river surges beneath the Transporter bridge built to allow headroom for the ship’s masts. The surreal hulk of another larger power station looms solitary over the long severnside wetlands reclaimed by monks. Goldcliff is just around the corner. Goldcliff holds a secret key to the character of the locals. The Celtic tribe in this part of the word was the Silurians. They made a deal - recorded on a golden plaque found nearby - the Romans got to keep the coast, but everything inland was theirs. Even now you can divine a lot there about the relationship between the local Welsh and the English from that ancient deal. From Goldcliff my gaze can sweep across to a final beacon for my childhood world, to a squat lighthouse beside a tiny dangerous beach. That’s where I took my first ever swim in the waters of the Usk like a turtle on my father’s back.. *** Things sound better on paper but having no sense of smell probably makes the whole thing more bearable. At the bottom of my street was a small park, shelter, chain link fence, slide 11

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and swings, football pitch. Next to this is a plant where condemned carcasses from the nearby abattoir were boiled and rendered down into glue. The smell was apparently very bad but I was missing this sense and never noticed. *** I was born a pagan. As soon as I popped out (at 2.45pm gmt on 4 March 1954) the nurse took one look at me and said ‘there’s something funny about this one’. Actually I can remember the situation one hour before this, at ‘dinner time’ (where I was brought up we don’t have much use for lunch). I remember floating under water pretending I was a submarine. The high pitched whine in my ears sounded like the ping of the sonar. It didn’t last. I felt hunted. In the distance I distinctly felt a depth charge exploding, sending shock waves through the warm amnionic fluid that surrounded me and held me up. The shock waves bounced back and forth and eventually subsided. There was a lull, then another explosion ripped through the water. I struggled to regain my equipoise, the wonderful calmness of the fluid world. The shocks came at regular intervals cutting into my calm meditation until all is confusion. A climax was immanent. Then I was born. *** I always liked people, even girls. Maybe I was four or five going to my ‘sweetheart’s’ birthday party. I drank all the orange juice as a joke. Her mother sent me home in disgrace, orange juice was expensive, my parents moved house and I never saw her again. It was six years before I had another go. I went out with Angie from my school. She had long hair and a sweet face. We bought some cigarettes and I took her to my secret landscape. Everyone should have a secret and sacred landscape. The stretch of wasteground beside the river. I lived beside a bridge next to the power station. Where my street rose up over the flood defences of the river, I followed the rail lines to the coal storage. It was a real wilderness, closed off on all sides by 12

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deserted factories. The earth was black but wild roses grew there. I took Angie to the tiny lake to see newts and sticklebacks. We smoked cigarettes until our mouths were dry. Angie lay back awkwardly on the grass, her cheap sheepskin coat bulging out. We tried kissing but it made us feel funny. Angie said she didn’t like the smell from the ‘chem’ but I couldn’t smell anything. I felt nausea. I wonder where she is now? Angie’s mother could knit and made a sweater for my mother. It was lopsided and didn’t fit. Her mother was very jealous of Angie’s long sleek hair. She wanted her to cut it but Angie wouldn’t do that. Her mother chased her, jambing her hair in the door and cutting it all off. After that Angie got all fat. I have pictures of her from the school play she played Mary and I was the archangel Gabriel (She’s the one marked out by a circle of biro). I have another picture, me as the Pied Piper, she as one of the fat burgers of Hamlin. I kept going back to my sacred landscape, sometimes with friends, mostly alone. I liked the remains of an old fort there. It protects the ancient city of Casnewedd, and further upstream the even older Caerleon (City of the Legions). My fort towered high above the river. I was braver then and climbed the narrow connecting wall until I could stand in the wind blasting from the estuary. I wanted to shout something into the wind. I’d just seen Tony Curtis in The Vikings and shouted ‘Odin’, over and over again, it was the only holy name I knew. I’ve been close to Odin every since. *** Like the character in the Yeats poem, I seem to have always liked ‘strange thought’. On saturday my mother always went into town to change her library books. I went with her. I couldn’t believe you could actually borrow these wonderful things. My mammy liked novels, but I didn’t. She took me to the philosophy section and left me there. I picked out books on psychoanalysis, dreams and hypnotism and met her at the 13

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issuing desk. The librarian looked straight over my head and asked my mammy whether I really wanted these? Oh, she said, taking a quick look herself, they look interesting, let him have them if he wants them. Now when I hung out with my gang I sometimes suggested that I try to hypnotise them, sticking pins in their arms to see if it had worked. Sometimes we’d go off on quests looking for haunted houses or old women living alone, convinced they might be witches.

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The Curse of Merlin II
I like to walk. I always liked that, usually alone, sometimes with a friend. One of my favourite places when I was a teenager was Belview Park. It must once have been part of the estate of the ruined house of Tredegar or is it Morgan. Tredegar park, passed into the ownership of the local council many years ago when the last scion of the Tredegar family died childless. They were an interesting bunch, gone mad over the years, more genteel than their merchantile origins would justify. They had names like ‘Octavius Morgan the antiquarian’, but that’s another story. I’m still in Belview park, another of their bequests to Newport. It seems so much smaller now but so much has happened. Last year my mother gasped her last agonising breath in a hospital ward overlooking that same park, overlooking the very spot where I sat so many years before, locked in and wondered how to get out. The entrance to the park passes through wrought iron ornamental gates, painted green and emblazoned now with Casnewedd’s grand crest - the one that has my face. The vegetation is so luxuriant, almost tropical, covering the sides of the steep valley through which gushes a vigorous stream. I love the fenced walkways that snake the way over bridges until I am deposited just below the huge Victorian plant house, tea rooms and toilet. I love the view across the docklands to the Peterstone flatlands beyond. It was her I once looked over the balustrade and saw in the seedy bushes my companion losing her virginity to the local pervert. Time to move on, to the west end of the park. The feeling I had that first time I found the megalithic stone circle, right there in the park. The beautiful, hungry stones of local old red sandstone, blackened by the Casnewedd air, encrusted with lichen 15

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and moss. The secluded grove of ancient oaks lent it a synister feel that spoke of sabbatic rites to a god unknown. At its centre a single step led to a stone platform of appearance. Was this a place of sacrifice? The atmosphere darkens, the picnickers in the nearby meadow fade from view. Once I sat and quite spontaneously began to meditate - although back then I did not know that’s what I was doing. A shiver ran through me anyway. Was this a magical place? It was a while before I told anyone about my secret place. When I did I learnt that although it looked old it had been put there in the early part of the twentieth century as part of the celebrations for the eistedfod! The circle was ‘false’ but also real? But there again was it really false? Now Paul tells me all these ‘bardic’ circles are modelled on one very special instance from Boscawen in West Cornwall. I’ve still never quite been there. How can you not quite be anywhere? That’s very Welsh isn’t it? Simple - I got to within a few yards but had to turn back. Paul tells me Boscawen is the most perfect example of all the megalithic circles - that’s why it was chosen as a form. I have a photograph of that day in 1910 when the vast crowd, now all ghosts, but then dressed in their sunday best, as they swirl around their priests. So maybe afterall I really did get a message from the past, that day in Belview park amongst the wind lashed trees?

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The Curse of Merlin III
There’s nothing quite like a trip to North Wales to make you think about who you are. Am I getting out of touch with my homeland? I was born in Pill (Pillgwenlly), still Newport’s most deprived (and depraved) borough. It’s a long time since I left Wales to become a ‘quizling’. We used to called the Welsh speakers the viet-taff (or is it Taffi-ban?) - so the tension between the different regions of Wales is still as strong now as it was then. Wales’ south-eastern industrial population may not have all the trappings of other regions but is it any less the Welsh for that - I don’t think so? We refuse to learn Welsh because we don’t want to lose our Welsh identity - English is our mother tongue English is a language of Wales - is it not? Then there is the question of Nationalism. During my teenage years I was an paid up member of the ultra-left - it goes with the territory afterall. I think it was Kate Roberts who wrote that Wales is under the ‘triple net’ - language, religion and politics. So for me politics has always been a stronger force than the others - which is hardly surprisingly given my roots. Whatever the problems that beset the people of Wales, are they really deep down about nationality? I think lifestyle and social class are as valid a candidate for the core or base of society from which so many structures and problems grow. Isn’t it always the way of the demagogue to play the nationalist card on any and every issue? Back in Newport in the 1970s I was a young radical - not even out of school and bunking off to be on the picket-line with striking building workers. It brought me into contact with Irish 17

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labourers, amongst whom were fugitives from Ireland’s ‘troubles’. Into this melting pot - welsh nationalists were drawn. It was a bit of a dilemma for the neo-marxists, who had but recently inherited the mantle of the moribund communist party of Wales. ’Rebel in the soul’ How did it all start this political thing? Being a rebel was the only way to survive at school after age eleven. Either that or a victim be. Casting my mind back to my first overt act of political rebellion - it was always intimately connected with the whole nationalist thing - but never straight forwardly so. It was the tour of the Springbok rugby team - a racially segregated side from South Africa and therefore very controversial. I lived a stone’s throw from the rugby ground - but had no natural affinity for the players - I was too much of a wimp for that. The newly formed anti-apartheid thing was in the news but was hardly expected at a redneck place like Newport. There was to be a picket of the match - I can’t remember from whom I learnt it - but it seemed like such a good idea. I’m not sure I really understood the issues but the idea of standing outside the ground with placards sounded perfect to me. It was my first meeting with my own kind. I remember being particularly shocked then impressed by the presence there of the school Religious Studies teacher - I forget her name. I guess she had me marked down as just another oik but that day she made a point of saying hello. But whoa - did it cause a row at home. I never did manage to get my placard out of the house. It can’t have been too long after that my older brother Roy, who had actually joined the Communist Party, was asked to leave. I was grounded. Why such a strong reaction, my father had afterall been brought up in Moscow - the Maesglas suburb of Newport that had consistently elected communist town councillors? Maybe that was it familiarity breeds contempt? Stories of the 1926 General Strike still did the rounds of Maesglas - lots of railwaymen lived there. 18

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When my grandfather - a former stoker - cold-shouldered someone in the street - my father asked why - ‘because’, came the reply, ‘he went over the wall during the strike. Such was the bitterness following the defeat of the strike that nobody spoke to that man again - nobody went to his funeral. Politics was a serious business - the kind of thing that could ruin your whole life if you weren’t discerning. And in the 1960s, apart from the occasional Labour interlude, most people were happy with the conservative consensus. The communists were seen as a moribund fifth column. I asked my economics teacher what he thought of the communist newspaper the Morning Star. He told me it was the worst of the gutter press. I never could bring myself to read a copy after that even though I guessed that was not a balanced view - but it maybe gives an idea of the zeitgeist. The Communist Party was a spent force, a pale reflection of its glory days. A new ghost was haunting Europe - Leon Trotsky. Legend has it that my brother went to one of those monster Anti-Vietnam war demos in London - maybe he was even there on that fateful day outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square. There was a splendid riot. He met one of the new Trotskyities called Pat Jordan and invited him to come speak to the communists of Newport. After the meeting the whole branch upped and joined a little organisation, headed by the likes of Tariq Ali and Jonathan Guinness which went by the soubriquet of the International Marxist Group. I being still a minor was earmarked for its youth section - the Spartacus League. My first ever political outing, was to London for the unification conference of both organisations.

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The Curse of Merlin IV Long slow magical journey
I never did find out why it was that Newport’s Reference & Lending Library acquired so many magical books. I spent such a lot of my time in that library it was just a matter of time before I read them all. Best of all was Aleister Crowley’s masterpiece Liber ABA - Magick in Theory and Practice. The reference library must have bought a copy almost as soon as it was published in an edition edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant in 1973. It’s a lovely book with the most evocative of covers. It was kept in a special cupboard, along with the Kinsey Report and Masters & Johnson. If you wanted to read it, you had to ask and I did ask.

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I can’t remember reading very much of Crowley’s book at the time. Just looking at that cover illustration by Kenneth’s artistwife Steffi was probably enough. It’s so spookey, so evocative. The entire power of magick was all there in the image, the principles of which were really brought to a high point in the celebrated Victorian sodality - The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This is ‘visual magick’, the ‘simpliest’ form of which is the so-called ‘flashing’ colours such as the red and the green. ‘red and green should never be seen, accept in the realm of the fairy queen’ or so goes the old printer’s saw. The artist is some form of natural magician equiped with a mandala or ‘colour wheel’. It’s a mystery everywhere to be seen once you know how to look. It is especially clear if you looked by candle or lamplight. The red/green contrary is our most primal coding. It is the opposition between Osiris and Seth - or Mars, the ‘planet of green men’ that appears red in our sky.

I was just eighteen and had crashed out of school. The Headmaster told me not to come back. He was classically educated and said I was something like a spermologos. It’s what the Greek philosophers called Paul of Tarsus. It means a ‘seedpicker’, a person who like a bird randomly gathered scraps of information and terminology. It all started to go wrong when someone told 21

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me that you didn’t have to wear school uniform in the sixthform so I turned up in drag! Well not really but I might as well have done. I was expelled for the week with a stipulation that I had to get my haircut before returning. So you can see I was a bit of a handfull. After all that I never really settled at school. I should say it was a fairly ‘bog standard’ State comprehensive although a grammar school for my first year. It’s the sort of school that’s best left off your resume. I made the mistake of naming it in an interview for a poxy student job in the Bodleian library. One of the interviewers did his best to stop his lip curling as he informed the other that it was ‘a state school.’ The job went to a ‘grey moth in a cupboard’ - just like them. When I left school my mother found me a job in the civil service where I stayed for the next five years. During that time I lived several parallel but discrete existences - trade union leader, radical political activist, sexual rights compaigner, student of occultism. But let’s stick with the last of these for now. It was occultism that really exposed the gaps in my education. There I was back in the reference library daydreaming over a bit of Crowley and trying to make sense of Blavatsky; unsure whether to believe some of the outragious claims in Morning of the Magicians. Perhaps they were all just crap books that change your life. Somehow I just knew I needed to go to college. The Trade Union movement had been good to me - sending me on courses, paying for night classes. I wrote the obligatory essay for entry to Ruskin College but was asked to defer entry for a year as they felt I wasn’t quite ready. Perhaps they sensed I only really wanted to go there to be with ‘my close personal friend’ who already had a place. But then suddenly I had three offers of places from mainstream Universities - Nottingham, Reading and Sussex. During my remaining time in the Civil Service I often travelled to London to represent the Staffside, the public sector equiva22

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lent of Trade Unions. Between meetings I scoured the bookshops. Somehow I’d heard that Jimmy Page had a little bookshop in Kensington called ‘The Equinox’. When I got there I was the only customer. The tiny little shop had windows etched with an image of Baphomet. No one spoke to me - why should they, but people new to the occult almost expect someone, an ‘adept’ or someone senior to say something - to call them out. But occultism isn’t really like that - you have to ask. Later in the famous Atlantis bookshop I bought a Thoth tarot deck and a contemporary occult fanzine called ‘Sothis’. The letter I wrote to the American address in the Tarot deck was never answered (the American OTO never really got going until the 1980s). But eventually I did receive a reply from Sothis and it wasn’t too long before I was a probationer of the OTO. So it was the little fanzine that proved the most useful, which perhaps tells you something. . . So with the help of my little library of occult books I began to think about actually doing some magick. I copied the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram on a card and like almost every other newbie began reciting that upstairs in my bedroom. The words came easy but it was years before I learnt how to really do it and that knowledge came via other magicians I met through the Golden Dawn Occult Society. Our method can be seen on a short DVD (viewable on request). I used that as my icebreaker then settled down to practice some of the meditational exercised from the first part of Crowley’s Magick. These are in fact based on Vivekananda’s classic Raja Yoga. I was very struck by the Crowley poems that prefaces book one: There are seven keys to the great gate, Being eight in one and one in eight. First, let the body of thee be still, Bound by the cerements of will, Corpse-rigid ; thus thou mayst abort The fidget-babes that tease the thought. Next, let the breath-rhythm be low, Easy, regular, and slow ; 23

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So that thy being be in tune With the great sea’s Pacific swoon. Third, let thy life be pure and calm Swayed softly as a windless palm. Fourth, let the will-to-live be bound To the one love of the Profound. Fifth, let the thought, divinely free From sense, observe its entity. Watch every thought that springs ; enhance Hour after hour thy vigilance! Intense and keen, turned inward, miss No atom of analysis! Sixth, on one thought securely pinned Still every whisper of the wind! So like a flame straight and unstirred Burn up thy being in one word! Next, still that ecstasy, prolong Thy meditation steep and strong, Slaying even God, should He distract Thy attention from the chosen act! Last, all these things in one o’erpowered! Time that the midnight blossom flowered! The oneness is. Yet even in this, My son, thou shalt not do amiss If thou restrain the expression, shoot Thy glance to rapture’s darkling root, Discarding name, form, sight, and stress Even of this high consciousness ; Pierce to the heart! I leave thee here : Thou art the Master. I revere Thy radiance that rolls afar, O Brother of the Silver Star! Looking back maybe it is a bit overblown but it worked for me at the time. And indeed the first thing I noticed was how stiff my whole body was. I spent quite a long time just mastering a good posture (details of what I have in mind are given in greater 24

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detail in my little book Tantra Sadhana). But after a few weeks my body began to yield its secrets and I experienced one of my first real magical break-throughs. It wasn’t my first mystical experience. In some ways like Crowley that came in a prayer meeting. Ours wasn’t really a religious family. You had to go out for that, out deep in darkest Pill where there was a towering gospel hall all lit up with neon. I’d gone with friends from school to a special teenager’s event. There was a big buildup for the appearance of the ‘pastor’s’ wife who, so we were told, was a noted songstress. It’s difficult to recall whether that was true, but her manner and the fruitiness of her voice was screamingly funny. But then having got that out of our system we all settled down and listened. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt the call. It sounds corny I know, but it happened. I still value the experience as being beyond the words that my conscious mind’s ‘bullshit filter’ would never have let in. I still remember the overpowering physical nature of the experience. It was so intoxicating. But after that nothing. Repeating the experience was positively discouraged. There was no real tradition with that church of working with mystical or altered states. My mentors told me that I was only allowed one hit. Years later and alone in my room I again experienced the call and this time it was a terrifying experience. I went through my routine, the banishing, the sitting quietly and trying to achieve ‘one-pointedness’. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular when suddenly what I call the ‘vishuddha cakra’ burst into life. I’m not sure if that’s the right term to use. Looking back I guess it’s all about dissolution, the fear the ego has that the mind’s familiar structures are about to be blown away. It’s a bit of a shock to discover that just thinking in a certain way can shake up mind and body, triggering the most bizarre, unfamiliar sensation perhaps even hallucinations. And on the otherhand the sensations were powerfully ecstatic, part of me wanted them to continue until the natural resolution but the other part was seriously afraid of what that might mean. Perhaps this is

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why mystics speak of good and bad angels contending over the soul’s fate. The other feature of this experience was that is was so easy to lose it. Think about it too much and it starts to recede. The point of equipoise is finely balanced and easy to forget. Tradition says that this cakra is situated in the throat - so it’s an odd place to start feeling waves of ecstasy. Perhaps that’s why it was so alarming. The well known experience of a ‘lump in the throat’ is a reminder of the strong emotions that have their root there. The experience went on for several minutes - sometimes radiating from my throat sometimes just above my heart. After a while it just ended and I was sitting there wondering what it was all about. It was years later before I learnt that the Tantrik deity Ardanisvara ‘resides’ in this cakra - which is strangely appropriate somehow. (see notes on Ardanisvara). Vivekanda was the most useful guide to all this. It was as if he’d thought of all the angles. Nod off in a meditation - it would be there as one of the signs of progress - it shows the Ego is getting worried enough about what you’re doing to try to put you to sleep. In a western idiom these might be likened to ‘demons’ - tormentors ultimately sent by the Ego to deflect you from the path. Why one part of mind would want to stymie the efforts of another is one of those little paradoxes of magick. My little experience of ‘enstasy’ was over. All I had left was some excruciating sensations of ‘pins and needles’ caused by sitting still for thirty minutes or so. The positive thing was that Vivekanda wrote that meditation was a special kind of remembering. This had several senses - the most immediate being that the experience I had just ‘enjoyed’ could be called to mind at any future time - and doing this would repeat its effects and also cause it to grow. Meditation, like magick, was something that could grow, even if painfully slowly, the more I practiced. . .

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The Curse of Merlin V Long slow magical journey (continued)
Like most newbies it took a while for me to really get going. I was a probationer with the OTO headed up by Kenneth Grant. Back then there were no real clouds on the horizon but since all sorts of disputes had arizen on which I am unlike to be the final word I will just say how it was for me. It would be several years before I even met anyone from any other claimants to Crowley’s sword. Although obviously unbeknownst to me, a sleeping dragon had been awoken. Crowley encouraged conflict amongst magicians. Perhaps he knew that the ancient Egyptians also thought that without conflict there could be no progress. The modern stop / go progress of Thelema is in part made more comprehensible by reading the fascinating history of its first days. Crowley had lots of conflicts with a whole string of magical brothers and sisters. In the case of his OTO frater superior Theodor Reuss, Crowley upped and gave his boss the sack, proclaiming himself head of the order (Starr 2004: 112). One of the best and most readable studies of the OTO’s recent history: is The Unknown God: W. T. Smith And The Thelemites, (Martin Starr 2004). Starr tells the story of Wilfred Smith and I suppose what one might call the second generation of Thelemites, who set about to promulgate the Crowleyan teachings in 1930s Hollywood. In Crowley’s own contendings with his contemporaries he was often to fall back on the words of John Bunyan: ‘my sword to 27

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him that can take it’. And indeed, according to Martin Starr, if Crowley could only have proved his right to the OTO crown and therefore its successor organisations, he might have succeeded in his desires to impose his control over the Theosophical Society and AMORC - and then how differently the magical world of the 1980s might have looked. Can you imagine what the Theosophical Society, would look if Crowley had succeeded Besant? Would Gloucester Place be rocking to the sound of AC/DC? Crowley would also have done well to remember that in ancient Egypt, the king must die. When he (or she) can no longer cut it or as in Crowley’s case has gone gaga and starts unpicking the thing he has made – it’s time for a little experiment. Crowley’s geriatric obsession with trying to micro-manage the OTO eventually led to its self-destruction – a blight from which it did not recover until in the 1970s when several of the old guard decided to have another go. Whatever anyone may say, none of the current OTO twigs had much more than a paper existence until the 1970s revival. It was the 1970s when I myself was first drawn into the OTO net. I met a member of a recently reformed American branch of the Order who up till that point had been a bit of a sleeper but was happy to be re-activated. Kenneth Grant’s UK based ‘Typhonian’ OTO was a visible presence but was, for many, an unattractive prospect. And that’s despite KGs high profile as consultant to groundbreaking part work Man Myth & Magic, and the first of nine seminal books of modern occultism. Whilst many found these books an inspiration, I’d say no other occult writer in any other Thelemic organisation has managed anything like their sweep of vision and font of magical ideas. The best the rest of us have done is maybe a few footnotes to Crowley. Despite this, as a magical leader KG obviously left a lot to be desired – the possibilities for empire building were just too limited. My Caliphate friend and I edited a magazine called Nuit Isis, 28

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which aimed to focus on the common ground between Thelemites. But just as in the Contending of Horus & Seth, the first of an interminable sequence of court cases was just beginning (in the original contendings the trial went on for 80 years!) – and the peaceful coexistence of the first days of the 1970s magical revival did not last. The ‘sword’ those days was seen swinging in the Inns of Court. As in the ancient narrative, people seemed to switch sides, allowing the so-called judge to rule that such and such had no supporters. Some say those ‘traitors’ get their reward, although not everyone can be king, and often the hand that wields the knife does not wear the crown. There is one paragraph in Martin Starr’s book that really ought to be engraved in the second courtyard of the ideal temple – you know the one that elucidates the relationship between earthy power and the journey onwards to liberation. OK, not the place of the highest mysteries but important none the less. Over the last few years the erstwhile modern day followers of the kingly Horus have become ever bolder in bellowing their cries of ‘bastard’! So here shall be carved the more considered judgment: For those perhaps less familiar with some of the following names let me tell you that they are all the main players in the subsequent history of Thelema - here laid low by the mind games of Crowley and his caretaker Germer. Everyone has heard of Kenneth Grant’s ‘expulsion’ but did you know it was for blasphemy? How does a Thelemite blaspheme? ‘You boy! how dare you make up some hare-brained scheme about a transplutonian planet, and then have the audacity to identify it with our beloved star goddess Nuit – take six hundred and sixty six lines – ‘every man and every woman is a STAR’!!!! Wipe that smile off your face . . . I’m sending you home.’ Well he wasn’t the only one sent down that week: ‘With Germer expired the last chance for Thelema to take root in the United States, and the prospects internationally were no 29

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more bright. Or so one might have thought. Germer had successfully accused Mellinger of being an FBI agent and kicked him out of the house, expelled Grant for blasphemy, dismissed McMurtry as a slave to his wife and ceased corresponding with Metzger over differences in the Crowley translations in German the latter had published. Motta had fled the United States for his native Brazil after having been arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in February 1961 on suspicion of drug trafficking; while in jail he confessed that the source of the drugs found in his compartment was none other than his OTO Brother, Louis T. Culling. In the following year Germer refrained from giving Motta a charter to open the OTO in Brazil, mindful of the fact that Motta, in his experience only “switched temporarily back into sanity.” Yet on his deathbed what faith Germer had in a future for Thelema he chose to vest in Motta, telling Sasha to inform Frater Adjuvo! that he was “The Follower.” What this may have meant was the subject of speculation that was never satisfactorily resolved. The issue of Germer’s heir to the headship of the OTO remained an open question to the few who knew or cared about it.’ (Starr 2004: So the moving finger in the sky pointed at Motta. But the Hairy Pothead school for wizards could be a hard place for the aspiring young sorcerer – best advice is – if you want to get on – keep your head down – or you’ll end up like Crowley’s cosuperior in the OTO Frater Achad (expelled and mad), Jack Parsons (expelled then blown to bits) and the Martin Starr’s hero Wilfred Smith – lost on a wild goose chase for a god unknown. Luckily I didn’t know too much when like a fool I joined the OTO. . .

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The Curse of Merlin VI Conventionalism
‘1977 and the world is going mad’. They say when you take up magick the life changes can be bewildering. For me it meant leaving the safety of my parent’s home where I’d found temporary sanctuary after a failed relationship. It meant leaving a secure job with interesting prospects. It meant leaving the town in which I’d grown up. It was the right thing to do. Traditionally the magical journey is more than an internal pilgrimage. As I write I occasionally receive letters from beginners in obscure backwoods towns wanting to study magick. I know that if they are serious they are probably going to have to move. Those who seek magick must travel. If when you weigh up all the options you find you aren’t really up for that then the magical life probably isn’t for you. It’s a first test, how attached are you to your roots? I was leaving friends and lovers behind. I was also leaving Wales - and for me that was no bad thing. First stop Brighton on England’s south coast to one of the UKs newish redbrick universities. Months earlier I’d walked up from the little railway station at Falmer and straight into a student picket line. For me that was a good sign - it felt like home. One of the pickets challenged me, ‘Where are you going’ he said, ‘can’t you see this is a picket line.’ ‘But I ‘ve got an interview’ I replied meekly. ‘Oh, well that’s alright then.’ and he let me pass with calls of ‘He’s OK he’s got an interview.’ Somewhere in Crowley I’d read there is no such as thing as wasted knowledge. The intellectual component of magick is something that can come as something of a surprise. I was at Sussex to study for a degree in philosophy. It gave me the material I needed to develop my very own personal theory of 31

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knowledge - something with the rather grand title of epistemology. Ultimately magick is the pursuit of knowledge or to use the magicians preferred term - Gnosis. So anything that illuminated the nature of the quest was going to be useful - nothing would be wasted. From the charismatic ‘catholic’ radical Ivan Illich I learnt a love of the dialectical method long before I discovered the pagan roots of the technique. Illich was guest lecturer on campus, filling its largest lecture theatre to bursting point. The most controversial of Illich’s theories was his liberal critique of medicine. He proposed that we should contemplate some sort of limit to medicine (and indeed science) which was now an enterprise counter productive even hubristic. Whatever the rights and wrongs of all that - Illich always began his lectures by asking the audience what they thought and what would they like to discuss. The next big influence was the philosophy of conventionalism something that began in the nineteenth century with the physicist Pierre Duhem, and flows through the work of Willard Van Orman Quine. Despite the big name - conventionalism is not so difficult to understand. It’s a philosophy that seems particularly friendly towards mysticism and leaves (or clears) some space for alternative views of reality. Karl Popper summarised it thus: The source of the Conventionalist philosophy would seem to be wonder at the austerely beautiful simplicity of the world as revealed in the laws of physics. Conventionalists seem to feel that this simplicity would be incomprehensible and indeed miraculous, if we were bound to believe, with the Realists, that the laws of nature reveal to us an inner, structural simplicity of our world beneath its outer appearance of lavish variety...for the Conventionalist, theoretical natural science is not a picture of nature but merely a logical construction

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Conventionalism seems to be making a strong comeback especially in the study of psycho-physiology where it goes under the name of naive parallelism. This is a method of studying the mind without worrying too much about the insoluble link between function and structure. It makes use of coordinated data such as the study of a physiological signs such as the Electro-encephalogram and observed behaviour.(3) The seminal twentieth-century statement of the Conventionalist position is to be found in Pierre Duhem’s La Théory Physique. Son Object et Sa Structure. Written in 1906 and therefore just before the conceptual revolution in scientific thought instigated by Albert Einstein and his colleagues. The new physics confirmed many of Duhem’s views although he was not really part of the new wave and died in 1916 without really assimilating any lessons from it. Duhem attempted to produce a simple logical analysis of the method by which physical science makes progress.(5) In his view a physical theory is an abstract system whose aim is to summarize and classify logically a group of experimental laws without claiming to explain these laws By explain he means any attempt to theorize about the reality behind sensible appearances, any attempt to, as he put it, lift the veil of reality. He rejects this type of explanation because of its close affinity with metaphysical speculation. Not that he was totally opposed to metaphysics, merely that he wanted to draw a clear line between metaphysics and natural science. He acknowledged that in the past metaphysical speculation has played a crucial role in the construction of theories; nevertheless it is clear that there is no necessary connection between a theory’s explanatory and its purely descriptive content. Duhem may not be interested in metaphysics but in my opinion his theory gives it some space which to me is no bad thing. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) is an important figure in the history of mathematical astronomy. Few people know that

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Platonic and Pythagorean components in his conception of celestial harmony, however mystical in origin, helped him to develop the three principles of planetary motion now known by his name In its narrowest sense a theory can be viewed as a mnemonic device. A mnemonic device is best when it has a formal or logical structure such as a classificatory table which imposes some order on a lavish body of data. Theories tend to be based upon a natural classification i.e. a formal system, especially in Botany or Zoology will be based upon natural characteristics of its participants. Duhem contends that the sole justification of a scientific theory is that it agrees with experimental data. The theory must ‘save the phenomena’ rather than flying completely in its face. Belief in a theory implies no commitment to all or even any of the entities or variables postulated in the theory, for there are numerous theories that will meet the above criterion. This is what is meant when it is said that a theory is underdetermined by data. Willard Van Orman Quine, who is a follower of Duhem’s, puts it in the following way: “The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matter of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man-made fabric, which impinges on experience only along the edges. Or, to change the figure, total science is like a field of force whose boundary conditions are experience. A conflict with experience at the periphery occasions readjustments in the interior of the field. Truth values have to be redistributed over some of our statements... But the total field is so under-determined by its boundary conditions, experience, that there is much latitude of choice as to what statements to reevaluate in the light of any single contrary experience.” (7) Although this view of a ‘pragmatic’ philosophy of science was never really intended to make room for metaphysics or ‘alterna34

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tives’ , for me that’s precisely what it did. This at the time was how I came to interpret Crowley’s maxim : ‘The aim of religion, the method of science’ Notes: (1) Karl Popper 1983 :79 (2) Karl Popper (1983 : (3) A Gale, Psycho-Physiology: a bridge between disciplines, inaugural LectureUniversity of Southampton 1979). (4) Translated by P P Wiener, The Aim Structure of Physical Theory (Princeton, 1954). (5) P Duhem, (1954 : 7) (6) Encyclopedia Britannica, (5th Ed) “>’ 10.432...: (7) W V O Quine, ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ first published in: From A Logical Point Of View (Harvard University Press : 1964. 2nd Ed) pp 42-43

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The Curse of Merlin VII
I didn’t have much time for magick during that first year at University. Plans for a probationary ‘practice’ was confined to a regular correspondence with the mentor allocated to me by the shadowy figures in the OTO. My first mentor went by the name of Fr(ater) Leviathan. His neatly typed letters were always thought provoking and full of very useful information. But he wrote to me from an American military base in the Far East his blue notepaper sometimes embossed with a map of the place he was defending! Leviathan told me there wasn’t an awful lot going on where he was and his long nights watching a glowing console gave him plenty of time for correspondence. Leviathan presented a bit of a challenge for a precocious anti-Vietnam war campaigner; was I talking magick with ‘the enemy’. Not that this was something new - one of Crowley’s most trusted people was a Major Fuller, a specialist in tank warfare in the British Army - and incidentally an honoured guest at Adolf Hitler’s fiftieth birthday party. It’s one thing reading that in a book when you can put it down to the ‘way it was then.’ Finding yourself in an organisation that also includes a smattering of policemen and military was a bit of a challenge. . . . Later I got a UK mentor called Fr Custor (mundane name JC) from Derby where a small cell of Thelemites gathered around an occult fanzine called Phoenix Rising. Members of magical orders tend to adopt a new name or motto. Perhaps its a hangover from the time when they were secret societies. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn refined this some, the names becoming an expression of the candidate’s inner philosophy or aim. ‘Custor’ always struct me as an odd name - the only Custor I knew was the guy who died at the battle of the Little Big Horn. Custor was part of a special group of magicians, devottees of the ancient Egyptian goddess Maat. Members of this particular ‘sub-cult’ within the Thelemic tradition often do have by the magical standards, quite offbeat magical names. It’s something to do with the Maatian current, something self36

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consciously contemporary, part of their world view whereby they are more interested in their ‘future’ than ‘past’ self. Sometime later Fr Custor also disappeared from my mailbox and I heard nothing more of him for more than a decade. The switch of mentor was never really explained, it was only later that I discovered that the Typhonian OTO was going through yet another of its periodic purges. Frs. Leviathan, and Custor, along with Sor Tanith and many another by then familiar name had all gone. So letters started arriving from another unfamiliar name Ani Asig, the only one left with the time (or ability) to correspond with a very lowly newbie. From my time in the Civil Service came the uncomfortable recollection of how if you kept your head down and waiting long enough your turn would come.This process was called ‘bugging’s turn’. *** None of the above seemed that important at the time as I submerged myself into the very pleasant life of a University student - remembering that I had a student grant, all my fees paid and I could even sign-on during the vacation. Those were the days. I went back to Casnewedd for the Christmas vacation and again, probably for the last time for Easter. The weather was balmy and I did my best to maintain some of the relationship with the friends I’d left behind in Wales. Allan was one of the strangest. Allan was an Anglican priest who’d just returned to a Gwent parish from several years teaching in a Bengal theological college. We’d met at a meeting of the local Anti Rascist Committee and shared an interest in politics, India and theological speculation. I don’t suppose he ever really approved of my growing pagan sensibility but he was always very fair minded. We had an unspoken pact that I listened to lectures from visiting theologians and he would came along to the Christmas soiree at Cardiff ’s Theosophical Society. We sat in the back row trying to be inconspicuous as we were regaled with selected extracts from HPBs publishing masterpieces and 37

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for light relief, a humorous monologue on Theosophical themes. Those Theosophists certainly knew how to throw a party - not. In the Easter break Allan took me along to the smallholding/ cottage of an old family friend. The sun was shining, it was an idyllic day and the old stone house was everything you could wish for in the Gwent countryside - green rolling hills with a stream running through. Turned out his friend was an astrologer and diviner of some skill. I wish I could remember her name but its so long ago now and all I can remember was the beaming face of her teenage daughter. There was something very otherworldy about her, almost angelic. Before I left I had my first hand-drawn horoscope - all neatly written in blue ink on lined paper and very incisive. I knew I was a Piscean but uptil then I had no real idea how much. I don’t think there was a single earth sign to balance things out. Sun, Moon, Mercury and Venus in Pisces. So the final summation was a bit of a warning - ‘This is either a saint or a terrible mess. The subject does not have one earth sign to plant his feet on the ground - [or provide] practical ability’! As a finisher she suggested I cast coins for the I Ching oracle, another first for me although I’d read about its almost daily use by Aleister Crowley. I never told her the question but she seemed to know the answer before I’d finished the casting. The coins fell six times on the same side which yield the first Hexagramme in the sequence. It’s taken me a while to fully understand what it all meant but years later I would indeed join a magical order whose sacred emblem was the six unbroken lines of the I Ching Hexgramme. It was also from the I Ching that I divined my first magical name . . . Allan was on hand to translate my idea into Hebrew. Despite his expertise, Allan didn’t really know too much about the magical implications - but it seemed to work out alright in the end. Perhaps that is as it should be - it takes a while to unrival all of the ramifications of a magical name. ‘Katon Shual’ is a 38

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fairly ‘one for one’ transcription of the I Ching’s ‘Little Fox’ - the one that is skating on thin ice but somehow manages to survive by cunning and the judicious use of his (or her) tail. It’s also difficult to decide which way round the elements of the name should be viewed - but that also seems quite appropriate. There was loads more to discover - including the mysteries of those cunning little fox spirits - the Kami.

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The Curse of Merlin VIII - 1st Degree
I couldn’t really put it off any longer, the time had come to actually start. Occultists persistently call this a practice - perhaps in homage to the tantrik ‘sadhana’. The problem was that when I joined the OTO knowledge of the basics of ritual magick was fairly minimal. Those who had ritual skill either did not want to share it or had, as I recounted in an earlier section, been driven from the Order. So guidance on actually what to do was difficult to come by and this undoubtedly hindered my progress. I’m going to make a bit of a digression here to explain how this state of affairs had come about. Under Kenneth Grant’s leadership the OTO had pretty much abandoned the ritual grade work put together by Aleister Crowley. Grant felt this was hopelessly tainted by ideas from Freemasonry. Freemasonry was viewed as a belief system of the old aeon before the emergence of the new ideas in Crowley’s channelled text Liber Al. Received wisdom was that in his twilight years Crowley had become discontented with the way the Order was working and wanted some sort of new convenant or new Order. He’d even got so far as to give it a name - the Order of Thelema. More recent research shows that Crowley was in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water (see Martin Starr etc). Crowley was repeating the mistakes of many an occult leader - clinging to his old life and trying to micromanage the work of his disciples when he should really have been letting them go. Old ‘gurus’ are often surrounded by those who see an opportunty for some sort of advancement to be had from the new way. I’ve seen it so many times now.

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So with hindsight I think it was a mistake to abandon all of the Order’s rituals, especially the Gnostic Mass. But at the time I didn’t really understand the issues. And indeed when I look now at the Gnostic Mass I can see now how it could do with a good rewrite and a few years back I did indeed construct a more streamlined version. The Mass is of course the prototype for the Grand Rite of Wicca. The ritual is designed for a congregation to witness, in part or whole, the enactment of the ‘Thelemic Secret’. If you don’t have a congregation then it probably makes sense to dispense with that part of the rite. But at its core is the essential act of ‘eucharist’ magick that should still be treasured. It’s taken me a while to fully understand the meaning and origin of the Thelemic secret. As my understanding grew I offered various insights into this in my published works, most recently The Bull of Ombos. Kenneth Grant’s premature abandonment of the Gnostic Mass was probably one of the factors that led to the reformation in the early 1980s of the American OTO under Grady MacMurtry. The is the group widely known as the Caliphate - and if anything their problem is that the Gnostic Mass is all they have. As I write this I thinking of a recent magical retreat were the only work on offer was a workshop on the Gnostic Mass, followed by a performance - this entire programme to be repeated on each of the three days of the retreat. The Gnostic Mass is good, but not that good. It was always made clear to me that the OTO I was joining did not encourage contact between members. It’s magical programme was in fact more akin to the grade structure of another Crowley creation - the AA - an acronymn of uncertain meaning - perhaps Argentinum Astrum - Order of the Silver Star. The Typhonian OTO was framed around a curriculum of individual magical study and attainment. All this was interesting but hardly rocket science. The ace up the sleeve for the Typhonian was the Kenneth Grant’s own extention of the Thelemic mythos through a series of books and articles that form the Typhonian trilogies. 41

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When in the 1940s Kenneth Grant began his own career channeling messages from ‘another world’ it was regarded by Crowley’s successor Karl Germer as an insult to the great man’s memory and as tantamount to blasphemy. Grant was receiving messages from a trans-plutonian planet, which he identified with the star goddess Nuit. Rumour has it that this was viewed as a contradiction of the one of Thelema’s holiest texts where it says ‘every man and every woman is a STAR’. But Grant had captured the mood of his times better than any of his contemporary magicians ever could or would. Grant was obsessed with the idea that something out there is trying to tell us something using a whole variety of mediums and modes of communication. Crowley, he tells us, ‘with prophetic acumen [ ] presaged the massive interest in alien phenomena which erupted soon after his death and which was caused by Kenneth Arnold’s ‘flying saucer’ sighting [in 1947]. Whatever one’s attitude to such phenomena – positive, negative or indifferent – there is no just denial of the fact that the wave initiated an era of psychomythology unparalleled since man conceived the idea of the ‘gods’…. unless, therefore, we are to write off the entire ‘myth’ as an unprecedented mass delusion, we have to accept the fact that something approaching a seemingly new and inexplicable nature began slowly and insidiously to disturb the world in the year 1947.’. (The Ninth Arch p xix) Acting on the assumptions that ‘many a true word spoken in jest’; ‘the ‘ritualists of Grant’s ‘renegade’ Nu Isis Lodge utilized novels and stories as other magicians might use paintings or musical compositions to effect perichoresis and astral encounters’ xxxvi Apart from the usually occult litany, H P Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood et al Grant primary source is Richard Marsh’s novel The Beetle which contains the only published account known [to Grant] of the Children of Isis who emerge in the channelled text in rather startling form. Kenneth Grant’s numerology was suspect, his historical sources unreliable, but his poetical intuition was for many strangely prescient. 42

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Without getting too far ahead of myself - I ‘ve never been that into the UFO hypothesis although I appreciate how it can function as an important metaphor that can provoke the imagination, especially of artistic types. In the words of the historian Michael Wood, UFOs are false but also real, or Umberto Eco’s lies that are more powerful than truth. I had more empathy for the ideas stemming from an important sub-cult within Thelema, that of the Maatians. Their unease at the prospect of the new ‘Aeon of Horus’ prophesised in Crowley’s Liber Al led them to look forward to a future Aeon, which they hoped would be ruled over by more balanced forces such as Maat, the ancient Egyptian personification of Justice. The voices that speak to the Maatians are not from some other race - but our own perfected future selves. Kenneth Grant had initially recorded and rejected this philosophy but had over time changed his mind. The prime source here would be his book Outside the Circles of Time, which I was lucky enough to obtain from one of Brighton’s remainder shops. The chapter ‘Andahadna and the Mystique of Maat’ is particularly interesting. Andahadna or ‘Nema’ was / is an merican priestess. As I read it her story I focussed on her mystical journey and skipped over Grant’s attempts to analyze the esoteric subtext which didn’t mean a lot to me at the time and I confess still don’t do a lot for me. *** Well so much for theory but what do you do with it. I wasn’t really getting too much in the way of practical guidance from my OTO mentors but there were plenty of ideas from my books to mull over. I had gleaned that there was a particular aim for this first degree practice - the vision of the holy guardian angel. So the practice was all about vision. There was also the rather unusually stipulation that the work was to last nine months which implied I was to give birth to something. Of the many books that guided me through this time two in particular were most useful - the first was George Chavalier’s The Sacred Magician: a ceremonial diary. The author has since comeout as new age guru William Bloom. The second was Crowley’s own short diary 43

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John St John. Thus primed I settled down for a fairly wearisome practice of concentration as outlined in the first few chapters of Crowley’s Liber ABA. Although I got there in the end, I now know that it could have been so much more direct.

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The Curse of Merlin IX1st Degree continued
No sooner had the ink dried on my magical oath than there was a complication. I’d moved off campus to a room in a shared house in Brighton’s ‘Kemptown’. A letter arrived from Jay, a woman with whom I’d struck up an ill fated relationship during my second term. She was majoring in French and spent a lot of time studying abroad including Switzerland. When I first met Jay I quickly learnt about her complex lifestyle au pairing in a Swiss ski resort. She’d been having an affair with the married owner of a cafe / ski-school. The new term was about to begin and she was returning but had no place to stay. She was desperate and insisted that she would have to share my room for a while - we had that kind of relationship. It was very tempting to abort my magical practice. But then there were these words from Kenneth Grant running through my head ‘there never is a good time for magick.’ So not for the first time I told myself to just get on with it. ‘Distractions’ like Jay were like the demons that rise up from the Id whose sole purpose is to make you change your mind. Jay was far from demonic and in the end we came to an arrangement over the tiny living space - and I mean tiny. It was probably all bullshit really. I guess she really just wanted to be with me but couldn’t bring herself to say that. She was my first real grown-up girlfriend and I suspect it was pretty much the same for her. We both had our hangups - conditioning that needed to be undone. Like many women of the time she was full of self doubt. And me, well yes, I had my own demons. Magick helped me cultivate a ‘devil may care attitude to life’, it made me a risk taker, much more willing to experiment and at same time not worry too much about the consequences. That’s why we messed the whole thing up right from the start. Jay 45

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played a big part in the way I developed during my first faltering steps into the magical life. I guess we were both quite androgynous and though we didn’t know it at the time, our interaction contributed towards the emergence of a new modern version of the older Kaula cult of Ardanari. Some of the fruits of this time found their way in largely undigested form into my book Sexual Magick. Something you wont read in Crowley is that when it comes to relationships with women, kindness can get you a long way. Last time I saw Jay she was on the point of ordination as a Buddhist nun so I guess my influence wasn’t all bad. I’ve no idea what she’s doing now but I wish her and Buddhism well. Perhaps I have earned some merit from helping set her feet on the Buddhist path. There’s more than a little bit of Jay in my great unread novel The English Mahatma and even more in Pan’s Road. The appearance of Jay in this narrative definately raised the possibility of sexual magick. Even as a comparative novice I was already ready to express my views on the topic. There again if you wait until you can offer a considered opinion you’ll probably never do it. A typical me of the time went along to the Jewish Society to listen to a debate on the topic of Gay rights in Judaism. The orthodox Rabbi had showed but his debating partner couldn’t make it. The organisers came out and asked if anyone was willing to debate with the visiting Rabbi. I was always up for an argument whether or not I understood the issues. And these issues were becoming a bit of an obsession. But what I keep thinking about now is a paragraph I read in David White’s monograph The Kiss of the Yogini, a study of ‘Tantrik Sex’ in its south Asian context. A Yogini is a wild female animal spirit worshipped in the secret rites of the Kaulas. The eucharist in these rites is sometimes referred to as androgynous. Androgyny is sometimes seen as one of the goals of magick. One of the things I did learn during my interactions with Jay was that androgyny or fusion of the sexes can be manifest in any and every kind of relationship Hence amongst the Kaulas some elixirs are androgynous and some gods such as 46

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Ardhanari are androgynous. The goal of androgyny does not imply any particular sexual orientation. Perhaps this is why the magician often does switch genders or orientation. *** I’m probably going to have to dig around in the loft to find my old magical record of that year. I just can’t remember too much about it. I did once show it to another of my magical partners and she said it was one of the most boring things she’d ever read. Oh well - maybe it was true that it only passed muster at the OTO because they were desperate or as another initiate called Phil once confided to me - out of pity. So I did eventually meet other members of the OTO including scarey geordie Phil bitch. Actually I quite liked Phil. I thought of him as a real magician and indeed last time I heard from him he told me ecstatically he had his angel. During that first probationary year I enrolled into a yoga class. It turned out to be one of my better decisions. My teacher Wendy had trained with Iyenga at his Puna ashram, a place she said resembled a medieval torture chamber. Although Iyenga yoga is very famous there isn’t really a lot to recommend it apart from the fame of its celebrated teacher. Iyenga had grown fat and cynical with age and was probably quite bored with having to teach the same stuff every day of his life. Like every Indian guru he was grooming one of his over-induged children to take over the family business. Wendy was full of amusing stories about the worst excesses of the Iyenga clan, like how when supervising a class in headstands he would kick out with his foot anyone not in the required position. She still bore the scars of his horny, necrotic toenails. And more seriously - strict Iyenga types tend to make their students hold positions far too long - which can lead to neck and joint injury. Wendy was our guide and bullshit filter through all this. She’d mellowed her style, integrating material from western insights such as Alexander Technique. The way she combined different 47

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body magick styles was way ahead of its time. She told us that those so-called gurus who refuse to teach menstruating women are chauvinists who hide behind tradition. It was a very ‘tantrik’ class. After each session we all went to the student union bar for a few beers, followed by dancing at the disco til the early hours. We were all so charged up and fit - it really was magic. Most Thelemites think that they can learn all they need to know about yoga from reading Crowley; but how wrong that is. Swallow your pride and you can learn so much more from a mumsy teacher at the local community centre. One thing Crowley was right about was that yoga is one of the basic skills of magick. Another friend Mahindra had a good way of putting it - ‘yoga, (or was it magick?) is preparation for making love.’ What Crowley forgot was that you can’t relax and tense a muscle at the same time. Magick still lacks its own bespoke yoga system. None of the available styles quite fits the bill - either too New Age or too materialistic. In my opinion a good teacher of body magick could go a long way. Some sort of combination of yoga or Ti Chi with magical visioning techniques. Whatever way you look at it magick requires a warm-up - which is maybe what Mahindra was getting up with his preparations. Some of the most intense gnostic states I’ve achieved have been in that warm afterglow following a good workout. *** I caught the last train back to Brighton after a hard day slaving over a hot keyboard. My mind was straining to accomodate all the new ideas. My body was stretched in the yoga class; I’d drunk too much beer; smoked too many cigarettes, if I was lucky smoked a little dope, stayed on the dance floor until the last waltz, then back to my bedsite. Many, many times my diary reads, did the banishing, sat down to meditate in front of the shri yantra then passed out; crawling into bed with you know who. There were always so many dreams, I was good at the dreaming. Uninspiring as it was my meditations did provide some sort of back beat to the other comings and goings in my 48

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life. But I knew it wouldn’t be quite enough - I needed something else - I needed to go on retreat. .

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The Curse of Merlin X ‘I’m a potato’
Memories rise up like bubbles in a liquid. Something, perhaps the transcendental ego, sees it all. The trick is to just witness, neither analysing nor suppressing. When the ‘bubbles’ reach the top they evaporate and Mind becomes clearer. I read that somewhere, maybe in Vivekananda but it was at odds with the stuff I was learning in my philosophical training which often spoke of the fallacies of the ‘ghost in the machine’. The machine is our physical body, the ghost the spirit inside. But I couldn’t really see what was wrong with the idea of a ghost in a machine. Crowley wrote how you are not aware of certain internal organs until they go wrong. So for example some amputees experience something called a phantom limb? Or people seeking gender reassignment speak of a disjunction between their internal sense of themselves and the physical shell? There’s a funny little story running round in my head concerning my first encounter with Sufis. There quite a strong undercurrent of Sufism flowing through the works of Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn starting with the mantra ‘ARARITA’. Most magicians encounter this mantra very early on as it forms a significant part of the Hexagramme ritual, although it might not be immediate obvious from whence it originates. The beginner in magick is recommended to read Liber O which I presume to be based on one of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s ‘flying rolls’. These days, my brother, the Sufi adept and Thelemite Payam Narbarz, has made this part of his daily prayers. For the full explanation of the mantra you have to read a slightly lesser 50

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known ‘Holy book’ - ‘LIBER DCCCXIII VEL ARARITA SUB FIGURA DLXX’. It is significant that this text actually begins with and amplifies the meaning of the mantra, here restored to its Arabic original: Payam tells me that “The Mantra is one of the surahs in the Quran (surah 112- IHKLAAS- The Unity) : 1- QUL HU-WALLAAHU ‘AHAD 2- ‘ALLAAHUS-SAMAD 3- LAM YALIO, WA LAM YUULAD; 4- WALAM YAKUL-LA-HUU KUFUWAN ‘AHAD translation: 1- He is Allah, the One! 2- Allah the eternally besought of all! 3- He begetteth not nor was begotten. 4- And there is none comparable unto him.” *** Back in 1979 my yoga teacher Wendy must have gotten wind of my occult interests and took me along to a meeting in what turned out to be a very cold loft in Lewes. About a dozen of us struggled up the ladder to sit at the feet of Rashid, a visiting Sufi sheikh. I suppose I was expecting something more exotic that a western convert but he seemed nice enough. He was a big overweight man with a manner that in a previous life I might have called ‘camp’. A great many gay men and women are drawn to the spiritual life in all its styles. I wasn’t the first to climb that ladder and soon the loft was quite crowded when without warning the meditation began. Rashid’s fine voice boomed out 51

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Allaaaaah, Illaaaaaah Allaaaaaah As usual my first reaction was shock expressing itself as the desire to laugh. It was the first time I’d ever heard someone vibrating ‘zikker’ or dhikr’ (mantra, literally ‘a remembrance’). I suppressed the desire to laugh as the master’s chanting continued for an interminable 100 repetitions. We were obviously meant to join in but this was less successful. I wasn’t the only beginner in the room. After what seemed like an age the chanting stopped. Silence decended on the room and with our minds spinning, we continued meditating as best we could in private silence punctuated by the odd shuffle and cough. The strangest of images popped into my head. Later, when the meditation was done Rashid asked each of us to share what we had experienced - what you might call the bread and butter of group meditation. When it came to me turn I blurted out: ‘I felt like a potato’ Wry smiles went round the room. Rashid seemed a bit lost from words and eventually responded with an anodyne ‘just persevere and you’ll get there in the end.’ It takes a while to find the correct words to express these kinds of experience. I had changed during the chanting, feeling sometimes very large, sometimes extremely tiny. I did feel like a vegetable - a tuber incubating in the dark earth. It was a progression of sorts - the vegetative mind state can be viewed a yogic trance - although to be fair the normal metaphor would be a tree or plant. In Hatha yoga there are various vegetative poses called Tree. We sat in referential silence sipping tea and eating brownies. No 52

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one really wanted to initiate conversation. Those further up the pecking order did their best to keep the conversation going. One of them asked after Rashid’s future plans. ‘Oh’ he said, ‘I’ve just bought some property in New York State. I’m going to open a guest house. I think I will call it the Sufi Shores Hotel.’ When middle class New Age types start talking about their mortgages you know the meditation is defininely over. We were back to normal mode - from the sublime to the ridiculous. But something had still changed for me. University campus was very beautiful, great care having been taken to build it in harmony with undullating hills. Many of the trees were very old and had not been uprooted during the construction process. Now when I walk across the campus there was something different about those trees. I can’t quite explain it - something alive and because it was winter, something deep down in the cold earth just waiting to burst forth. I hadn’t felt that way for a long time.

--Note For more of Payam’s stuff see: http://www.geocities.com/nabarz110/theseethingcauldron1 http://www.agoron.com/~clavis/midsum.html eg: In ‘Great Satan Eblis’ by Dr.J.Nurbakhsh the view of many Sufi masters on Eblis as a noble figure is beautifully discussed. The path Eblis is taken to reach Divine union with ‘Allah’ and can be seen by orthodox Muslims as left-hand path. In Sufism 53

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Eblis is not seen as the God’s arch adversary, Eblis because of his love for God would not prostrate before Adam, he is a jealous lover who rather be punished by God than share him with those of clay. Such radical ideas were taken up by western occultist; In 1910 the book entitled ‘The scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz’ (Persian: Bagh-I-Muattar Haj Abdullah Shirazi) was published. The author behind this was A.Crowley, who was fascinated by the Persian language and revelled in the ideas of Sufis travelled widely in Middle East as well as India. Haj-Abdullah Shirazi is a character created by A.Crowley after his learning of the modern Persian language to convey his ideas based on Sufi symbols. One traditional Sufi s described his book “someone splattering his ego in the garden, simply pornography, which lacked anything of any depth”. I guess being able to annoy local mystics and playing the devils advocate is perhaps the main consistency in his life. The scented garden of Abdullah consists of 42 ghazzals (Persian poetic verses) and short stories, some of which refer to his male lover back in Cambridge. Even a century after their first publication, due to their highly erotic nature orthodox Muslims can see them as obscene and blasphemous. However A.Crowley was not the first westerner who invented his own Sufi poet. Sir Francis Burton published in 1880 Sufi couplets of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi: The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi: ‘A lay of higher order’. ... In Germany in 1902 the Ordo Templi Orients (Order of the Oriental Templars) was founded by Karl Kellner who during his extensive travel in the East was initiated by the Arab Fakir Soliman Ben Aifha, and the Indian Yogis Bhima Sen Pratap and Sri Mahatma Agamya Guru Paramahamsa. The fusion of Sufism and Tantra within OTO kept on developing. Soon after the publication of ‘Scented Garden of Abdulah’ A.Crowley was contacted by OTO and travelled to Germany, he was initiated into OTO in 1912. 54

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The left hand path (LHP) philosophy within the OTO kept on growing and found an even wider audience when Gerald Gardner the British founder of Wicca was initiated into 9th grade of OTO. Gardner himself had travelled greatly in the East and was a Sufi initiate according to ‘Witches-an encyclopædia of paganism and magic’ by Michael Jordan. Gardner was also a friend of Idris Shah, the most prominent Sufi writer in the west. Idris Shah wrote Gardner’s biography ‘Witch’ under the alias Jack Bracelin, who was another mutual friend. It could be suggested that Shah didn’t use his own name as he probably didn’t want to be associated publicly with Wicca, while Jack Bracelin was already doing a great deal to catch the eye of the media. Shah’s Octagon press published the biography in 1960. Idris Shah’s proposal in his classic book ‘Sufis’ (1964) of the influence of Sufism on medieval Witch cults in Europe via Spain, was probably inspired by his workings with Gardner. Shah’s proposed number of potential Sufi influences in the medieval period magical lore, to name a few: Moorish (or Morris, which is disputed) dance, witch’s athame (blood letter), Rosicrucians, the Knight Templars and Baphomet. It is fascinating that several of the central figures in the revival of neo-paganism were Sufi initiates. The influence of Sufism on paganism is still continued as seen in the work of Andrew Chumbly and his branch of ‘Sabbatical Witchcraft’. Chumbly’s book ‘Qutub’ was published in 1995, and consists of 73 short gazzals. Qutub is Sufi word for the magical Pole, or point of spiritual orientation. The book contains many poems and calligraphy based on Sufism. Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick regarding the herstory of neo-paganism, but then there are people who really think the Necronomicon is an ancient text, written by Arab mage, Abdual Alhazred!

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Curse of Merlin XI Cunning little fox
'It is god's nature to be without a nature. Humanity being made in the divine image, affords a clue to the mystery of god. To get at the core of God at his or her greatest, one must first get into the core of oneself at the least, for noone can know god who has not first known themself.' Meister Eckhart Every morning I took the Eastbourne train from Brighton station for the fifteen minute ride to the University stop at Falmer. I often meditated before setting out as I'd read somewhere that the mind is clearer at the beginning of the day. It's just very difficult to keep awake. The ancient Egyptians, if they ever did meditate, did so in the small hours just before dawn. This twilight zone is the heliacal rising they called the Duat. On the busy little toast-rack train I rarely saw anyone I knew for more than a few days in succession. Mostly the early morning commuters were wrapped up in their own worlds, reading morning papers or a swanky new novel or magazine. The shriek of the guard's whistle sent the ubiquitous seagulls screeching into the air; doors were slammed shut and the train drifted away from the platform. The seven hills of the city soon give way to rolling downland. Perched up on the highest of those hills was the grandstand of Brighton race course. I loved to see it hovering there at the most unlikely of angles, before allowing the rest of Brighton's townscape to slide by unobserved. Time to read my book. This day I had with me Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching. I'd only read a few lines when a women said 'Now you amaze me that you'd be reading that.' 56

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I looked up and recognised a pretty girl called Leah from my philosophy seminar. 'Really,' I said, 'how so?' 'Well you are always so rationalist in the seminars, I wouldn't have said you had any interest at all in metaphysics. I've obviously got you wrong.' I shrugged, wondering if there really was such a contradiction between rationalism and mysticism. Perhaps all thelemites display that kind of tension between the 'aims of religion and the methods of science.' 'What do you think of that?' she said, indicating my book. 'Oh I don't know, I haven't really had time to read it yet.' I said pointedly Which you think might have detered her from saying more but no way. She sat beside me. 'That's OK,' she said, 'I know all about it. Let's do a reading. You're supposed to use yarrow stalks but coins do just as well.' 'Yarrow stalks for the agricultural age, coins for the industrial, maybe dice for the new one.' 'What?' she said 'Oh nothing,' I said, 'just thinking out loud. Do go on.' 'You're taking the piss.' 'No I'm not.' She took three coins from her purse and invited me to cast them. I threw them onto seat opposite, still warm from where she'd been. They fell: 3 heads, 2 heads & a tail, 2 heads and a tail, 3 tails, 3 heads, 3 tails. 57

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'Whew,' she said, 'loads to read. "Nine in the third place means the well is cleared, but noone drinks from it. But you could if the king were clear-minded". That's tricky - but wells are good things "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.etc etc" that kind of thing.' She quickly scanned a little more from the book. 'Ah!' she said. 'What?' 'The reason you arn't drinking is because the well is being prepared . . . cleaned and lined if you like. But in the well is a cold clear spring from which you could drink if you wanted.' I wasn't sure about the way this conversation was going. Was she making some sort of innuendo? The train trundled along into Stanmer, the next stop would be Falmer for the university. I wondered if the other passengers were earwigging our conversation. 'Shall I go on?' she said 'Yes, but be quick, we're almost there.' 'You could draw from the well without hindrance. It is dependable and would do you good.' 'I'll have to think about that one.' 'Don't leave it too long, sit on the fence too long and you end up with. . . ' 'Iron in the soul.' I completed the little philosopher's joke. 'Oh hang on', she said, 'I forgot, there's more.' 'There's isn't time. We're almost there.' 58

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'Yes there is, Just quickly - 'There's a little fox - it could be you. He's almost there - crossing over a river or something, walking on thin ice - using his tail to test things. If you want to get all the way - to succeed - you must be a cunning little fox. . . here' she said, closing the book with a snap and thrusting it into my hand. 'Must dash. I've a nine oclock tutorial.' Indeed the train had come to a stop and almost everyone surged through the doors. Leah was already several yards ahead, she took one last look back over her shoulder and called 'see you later.'

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Curse of Merlin XII : 'A stone to trouble the living stream . . '
Since that time I've wrestled with the issue of divination. Some might say that divination reveals a certain fatalism about life. But I'm not so sure about that. I discovered that one of the most common methods of divination in the ancient world was a dice oracle. The Mahabharata has one famous example of its role in an internecine struggle for supremacy. The hero Yudhisthira had hitherto shown no interest in gambling until the point when he is compelled to participate in a deadly dice match. But that is just one example of dice games that seem to crop up all over the ancient world. My future-self eventually published my research as the 'Tantrik Knuckle Bone oracle' in a book entitled Tantra Sadhana. The point about dice and any other oracle is that you are putting the final decision into the lap of the gods. Although there are notable examples of where that leads to disaster there are other examples where it seems to work out OK. It's probably handy to be able to allow a bit of chaos into the equation. Some might object that oracles of the past were manipulated by a machiavellian priesthood. Perhaps - although even control freaks get it wrong sometimes, thing fall apart, things just refuse to be controlled. In the Mahabharata there is much talk of Dharma. This is a difficult word to define - some say Duty others that it is like the Thelemic ‘True Will’. What ever way you look, all these concepts, Dharma etc have some connection with casting the dice?

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Ancient dice were called talus or knucklebones. They usually had four sides in which case they were elongated - hence the name knucklebone. Some dice oracles from Egypt have six sides. I favour the four sided knucklebone that in the correct sequence yields sixty-four permutations. It's safe to assume that magical adepts of the past understood the meaning of each permutation much as modern day Ifa priests know the 120 odd permutations of their oracle. The magicians of the past were in the habit of internalising certain key pieces of occult knowledge. Nowadays we might be content to understand the underlying principles and fall back on a handbook or crib, or as Jan Fries discussed in his Living Midnight develope an intuitive approach. For those who would like to try to memorise the throws - here are the first four permutions: 444: Mantra - (Auspicious) 333: The Nine - (Good) 222: The Turban - (Good and bad) 111: Kali - (Mostly bad).

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The Curse of Merlin XIII
Next day I looked out for Leah on the little train. I walked through a couple of carriages but couldn't see her. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had a recollection that there was a way of locating lost people using magick - but for the moment I didn't really know how to do that. When I did eventually sit down the guy on the seat opposite looked up from his book as if to start a conversation. 'Not reading the I Ching this morning?' he said. 'No, not today.' I replied, although perhaps the puzzled look on my face also said how I wondered how he knew so much about my reading habits. He apologized saying that he couldn't help but overhear my discussion of the previous day. He seemed a nice enough chap but I couldn't help but wish that someone other than he had caught the same train twice. 'My name is Emlyn' he said, although he didn't attempt a handshake. Back in 1979 people had gotten out of the habit of shaking hands. 'Are you serious about all that occult stuff ?' he said. 'Well yeah,' I said, rather lamely. Inside I'm wondering whether he was some sort of religious nut, which is funny, because that's what I was, some sort of religious nut. Or maybe Emlyn was an academic from the University - but there again he looked too young for that. 'So how serious are you?' 'Very serious.' I replied 'Would you like to join an occult order?' he said I wasn't sure if that was an offer or just a straight question. 62

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'Well as it happens, I'm already a member of an occult order, or rather,' I said, correcting myself, 'I'm a probationer for one.' 'Really,' he said, 'And which one is that?' I wasn't really sure if it was a good idea to say but in the end I told him. He smiled in a manner dangerously close to being supercilious. 'That's not a real occult order,' he said. It was my stop so I got off. Emlyn kept his seat in the now largely deserted compartment as the train moved off in the direction of Eastbourne. I slunk off for a coffee before a ten oclock lecture. *** A week or so later and I was again on the train when Emlyn sat down opposite. He obviously had to knack of how to bump into people accidentally on purpose. 'Ah, he said, 'I'm so glad I bumped into you again. I enjoyed our little chat about the mysteries although I wanted to apologise if I was in anyway rude about your esteemed holy order.' 'That's OK,' I said, 'I wasn't that bothered.' 'Good,' he said, 'Please put it down to my own zealous nature. I've just joined the International Order of Kabbalists and was being a bit proprietorial.' 'That's strange,' I said, 'I'm justing reading about them in Crowley's Magick without Tears.' 'Really, I can't believe it had anything to do with him!' 'Maybe I'm reading it wrong; confusing you with the Order of the Hidden Masters. He didn't have a good word to say for them either.' 63

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'Touché!' 'Well let's face it, Crowley hated everyone, anyone who was a rival. And during the war there seem to have been a several rival occult orders, some of which are still around and some that seem to have died a death. I only associate them because I picked up a prospectus for your International Order of Kabbalists at the Atlantis Bookshop. But come to think of it, during the war Michael Houghton, aka Michael Juste, was the owner and he ran a lodge of the Order of Hidden Masters until Jean Michaud, the head of the Order, ran off with his wife!' 'So you did consider joining the IOK?' 'I did but there was something in the prospectus that at the time I found jarred. All that stuff about loyalty to King and country it just wasn't me - just too conservative.' Emlyn interupted 'Hah!' he said, 'Well there's an idea whose time has come!' 'Yeah Yeah Yeah' 'Are you forgetting what happened just a few months ago on the 4th May?' he said 'I've been doing my best to forget all that. Do you really think it has any spiritual significance?' 'Perhaps that's going a bit too far but I've been trained to at least consider the possibility that it might be some sort of shift in the zeitgeist. Oh and before you say it, don't fall into the trap of those crazy types who start thinking they are somehow the cause - that's just ego gone mad. No, its more a case that people engaged in magick or other spiritual activities tend to become sensitive to changes in the underlying spirit of an age.' It was true - I hadn't really thought about it too much up until Emlyn mentioned it. My probationary practice for the OTO did 64

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indeed coincide with so many life changes - change of home, chance of occupation to name but two. Of course I was in denial and didn't want to acknowledge that the new government would also bring big changes. The triumph in the May election of the Thatcherite 'counter-revolution' was a decisive moment. And during that year one of the other secret movers of history was taking root. It was the early days of a disease and moral panic all rolled up in one - AIDS. The train was stopping at the University. I gathered up my things and made for the door. 'Shall we arrange to meet again?' Emlyn called. 'Follow the Tao.' I replied. Seeing him looking puzzled I added 'if we're meant to meet we will.' It may seem odd to leave things so much to chance. I was convinced if Emyln wanted to find me he could. As it happened I didn't see him again for quite a while.

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Curse of Merlin XIV
I was beginning to wonder whether a pattern was emerging via these unexpected encounters with strangers. Each of them had presented me a little bit of magical information, sometimes knowledge. Would magical gnosis fall into line with the dominant modality of our age - probability? Probability is knowledge arising from tiny, seemingly random unrelated pieces of information. Back to the meditation – eyes half shut, my gaze gently falling on the yantra that lies on the floor in front of me. Posture good, breathing good, very soon I will lose all awareness as to whether my eyes are open or shut. The outer and inner worlds will begin to merge, and if I am very fortunate I will be distracted by a pleasant inner vision. It's only when you do this kind of thing that you realise just how many distractions the physical world can contrive. It's just people moving about at their daily business; the tiny noises a building makes as it expands and settles throughout the course of the day. I know by now that to become too fixated on these 'distractions' is fatal to ones inner equilibrium. It's best to try and get used to things – but to hold onto ones resolution requires a knack. 'Just let it flow over me. I will not try to control, control is fatal.' Any effort at imposing control has the very opposite effect. It's almost as if other beings intuitively know what's going on and make a beeline for the door. Soon 'they' will be hammering away. There's a movement in the corner of my eye; that is to say at the periphery of my visual field. This has now happened so many times that I know the drill. It's just my mind playing tricks. The important thing is to maintain an attitude of 'awake awareness'. Which is not quite the same as ignoring whatever it might 66

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be. Awake awareness means letting the sense data flow through me and whatever else I do – I must not move my head to have a good look.. But the movement continues. Maybe it's the little muscles around my eyes – if they are twitching again as they did before – that could give me the illusion of movement in the visual field. I read somewhere how these are 'ideomorphic signals' and that they can be viewed as communications from the 'Deep Mind'. A while back I asked my mentor if he had any insight into that. Adopted a reassuring air he told me not to worry. I'm hoping things are going to calm down soon. But far from it as I hear more of the little scratching noises. It takes just about all the effort I can muster not to take a good look. Then they stop. I'm pleased with myself, not to have given in. My eyes open slightly and there on the yantra is a tiny mouse. I guess it must be a real mouse that has scuttled under my door and now it's sitting on its haunches enjoying a grooming session no doubt before moving off again into the fluff and debris beneath my wardrobe *** Pitch black was that room, illumined by a single shaft of light. In a corner a slow-burning wick faintly glowed. Vaughan took a long slither of wood and lit from it the thick tallow candles. A room seldom cleaned but cosy from the constant heat of a furnace. A room lined on one side with large oak shelves that sagged wildly, bowed under the weight of the books stuffed every which way. A large table ordered with objects. A book lay open next to a large piece of slate, pottery bowls, bottles, knives and instruments for grinding. A chair stood near a large burning glass upon a wooden frame. That night he would bank the fire higher, remove the lid and sit 'til dawn observing closely the subtle changes passing over the iridescent liquid within the crucible. 67

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Vaughan pulled a book into the candle's light. 'Well' he said, again wrinkling his nose, 'smells like my fellow tenants have pissed over you. Are you still here? Thank you! Your piss is said to be the best defence against the worm!' He fell to reading the book, taking an occasional swig from a half-finished flagon of cider. He read on for a time before dosing. In the stillness there came the scratching sound of a small bird or rodent. Vaughan shifted slightly and set his eyes upon the tiny creature. The mouse, for that's what it was, did not seem alarmed by Vaughan's presence. 'My friend' said Vaughan, 'I must thank you for the attention you lavish on my humble library; you are more conscientious then any clerk. They tell me that in the miraculous continent of India, the elephant god of learning rides on a mouse. An elephant never forgets or so they also say. That same elephant uses a broken tusk as a quill. I have even heard said that there are churches there, devoted solely to the worship of your fellows, and that no-one dares even to shoo them away for fear of sacrilege. So I am in exalted company tonight.' 'Tell me mouse, whilst you were caring for my library, did you perchance read? I wondered if you might express an opinion on the relative merits of some of these esteemed authors. What of this one, the blessed Avicenna, Liber Canonis De Medicinis Cordialibus, a faithful translation or so I am told, from the Arab tongue into the Latin? This book is a great favourite, one of my oldest and most treasured. From this book I learnt the mysteries of mercury. See, here, where I have marked the page in silver point, all those years ago. "What is mercury?" asks the sage, a question I have often asked myself and am still no wiser after all my experiments.' "One kind" he says "is obtained by purifying its mineral; another is extracted from crystals by fire, just as gold and silver are obtained. When pure it has the colour of cinnabar." Aye yes' Vaughan went on 'I have prepared the quicksilver myself with the aid of this glass and the summer sun. Burning the mineral and brushing aside the metal with a pigeon's feather. But I bore you, do please take the floor.' 68

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The mouse was silent. Vaughan went on 'cat got your tongue, oh perhaps I should not mention that. Forgive my lapse in manners. You must be a learned mouse, spending so much time pissing on my books. Here is one you haven't seen for sure. Abbot Synesius, a learned Greek, a poet so I hear, but this little treasure is truly that. Wondrous stuff, if only I'd seen this ten years ago.' Again silence, apart from the sound of clogs clattering across cobbles in the yard outside. The rodent scurried away. Vaughan, now silent, set his eye to a tiny crack in the doorframe, through which he peered out into the yard. 'Father Vaughan! Is that you I can hear in there? I've to take the dish back. Ma sends this pie for your supper, shall I leave it?' 'There's mercury,' Vaughan whispers to himself, his eye still at the peephole. 'No wait Thomas if you would.' In an instant Vaughan stands blinking in the late afternoon sun. Peering over Vaughan's shoulder, the boy, says: 'Looks like night in there father?' Vaughan ignores him and makes for the kitchen, the boy following. 'You're limping bad today father.' 'Yes...the gouty humour has fallen into my leg.' 'At least you've a good appetite father!' he says, nodding in the direction of the plate, 'licked clean by the cat I'd say.' 'I'd prefer a mouse.' 'What's that father?' 'Oh no matter, yes an appetite today.' 'Must be funny not having someone to do for you at your age. Do you never wish to marry?' 69

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Vaughan's eyes filled with tears. Thomas remembered how Vaughan's wife Rebecca was dead seven years of a fever. 'Tis a wonder with all your cunning you could not save her, they says...' 'Yes!' Vaughan broke in 'it was a pity, but I must get on.' Thomas grabbed the plate, flushing to his hair line. 'I be off then'. As soon as the door is secured, Vaughan went up to his cot and slept until awoken by the sound of Thomas's voice: 'I got peat for you, and mam left a jug of soup.' Vaughan took a lamp, for it was dark outside, and held it up whilst the farm-boy shouldered his way into the laboratory. 'It's warm in here' he said, setting down a sack. Not long after the boy's departure, Vaughan himself went out and limped across the yard to the kitchen, taking up the bread and jug of soup left there. Back in the laboratory he locks himself in for the night. He sipped the cooling soup. His eyes were smiling as he tore a gobbet of bread, dunking this before propelling it into his mouth. Vaughan scraped his chair closer to the book. Through the corner of his eye he saw the mouse on the table, nibbling crumbs of bread. 'Ah! Forgive my manners, here take some of this.' he said, breaking off a few more crumbs for the visiting rodent. 'You have that look in your eyes Do I detect disapproval? Those rules of yours...how many times have I prayed for forgiveness for my errors of the past, especially with you know who. What of my wife you ask. Yes what of my wife…I still miss her… look here for yourself… on this note in the margin of my book: 'I went to bed after prayers and hearty tears and had this dream 70

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towards daybreak. I dreamed I was in some obscure, large house, where there were a tumultuous raging people, amongst whom I knew not any but my brother Henry. My dear wife was there with me, but having conceived some discomfort at their disorder, I quitted the place, and went out, leaving my dear wife behind me. As I went out I considered with myself, and called to mind some small, at least seeming, unkindnesses I had used towards my dear wife in her lifetime, and the remembrance of them being odious to me I wondered with myself that I should leave her behind me and neglect her company, having now the opportunity to converse with her after death...' 'I must stop reading this or I shall bring down a melancholy humour on myself and spoil my light mood this night. My head is quite swimming. Shall I be damned? ...You don't answer...I am admonished by your silence…ha!' The mouse scuttled off, startled by the sound of Vaughan's exclamation. 'Yes now, I must not forget that.' Vaughan rose from his seat to replenish the fuel for the alchemical stove. He took two pieces of black peat from the sack. The slow burning fire banked, he drew the chair near and removed the lid from the crucible. As before his nose wrinkled slightly as a whiff of gas escaped. But he was pleased to see a slight but tangible change. He settled himself for a few hours watching the scummy surface of the crucible's contents. Time passed and it seemed to his sensitive eyes that the scum had completely detached itself from the sides of the pot to form in the centre an island of black crystalline substance. The mass of the liquid was now white and the amorphous island of crystal a very dark black. 'If my eyes do not deceive me a crisis is imminent' he said out loud. Quite fascinated by what he saw, Vaughan made no effort to move. So fixed was his body that the muscles were frozen in their attitudes. The oil from the lamp burnt low, his reading lamp grew faint and guttered. As he gazed intently on the surface, the whiteness of the liquid grew ever more pure and luminescent, the blackness ever darker. The 71

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apparently random shapes of the black and the white had by some trick of the light, began to resemble two mythological beasts, each entwined within the other. The white was a lion, prostrated and wrapped around itself grasping its own tail, and surrounded by this creature, a great winged eagle of purest black crystal. Vaughan blinked involuntarily, causing the effect to fade but not disappear. The hours passed in the dimly lit room as the black crystalline eagle began a further transformation, a red tinge steadily replacing the black until the entire body and wings of the eagle became red. Time passed and the redness deepened. After several hours of intense watching Vaughan's concentration began to waver. Pain shot up and down his back and neck. His feet were numb. He sat another hour, dazzled and fascinated by the unfolding mystery of the lion and the eagle, 'til his twisted stomach rumbled and his neck became unbearably stiff. At last Vaughan replaced the lid on the crucible. Long moments of agony before he was able to open the door to the laboratory and step out into the evening air. The sky had cleared to reveal gorgeous night. Vaughan was greedy for one last lungful of air before forcing himself back to the open ledger on his desk. 'Write it up,' he told himself. His pen scratching across the paper for at least an hour. At the end he stared intently at the page, thinking of that transcendent image of the white lion and red eagle, iridescent and glorious. His heart expanded within his chest, filled with natural compassion for all creatures. Then he remembered the fuel for the stove, stood up with a jerk and strode over to the open sack to extract two further lumps of black peat. He stopped an instant weighing up in his mind whether to finish the experiment now, to consolidate what he had learnt, or to press on. Vaughan again drew his chair up to the crucible. *** 'Yaaaaaooooooooll.' It was the neighbour's ginger tom yowling 72

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outside my window. Maybe it knew there was a mouse in the house. It's calling had broken my train of thought. 'I wonder what that was?' I say out loud. I did not mean the cat. I meant the long reverie into which I had been plunged by the appearance on a real mouse on my altar. Mousika was long gone – scared by the cat. 'But what was that,' I say again aloud. 'Was it a daydream or some sort of past life memory?

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The Curse of Merlin XV
On the train rattling its way across the South Downs from Brighton to the University station at Falmer. Several weeks had rolled by since those strange meetings – but there again just when you begin to relax ones expectations something happens. Once again a woman's voice snapped me out of my morning revelry 'Excuse me,' she said, 'aren't you Leah's friend?' The voice belonged to a very pretty girl, who'd I say was about fifteen but was probably older. 'Could be.' I replied uncertainly, 'Do you know her.' 'Of course I do stupid, why else would I be talking to you?' 'Have you seen her?' 'Yes, of course I've seen her,' she said, 'I see her almost everyday.' 'Well lucky you, I haven't seen her for weeks and to be frank, I'm not really sure who she is.' 'Yes that's Leah all right, very mysterious. She's away at the moment – but she asked my to say hello to you if I saw you.' 'Really,' I said, 'So how did you know who I was.' 'Oh I just knew, Leah described you, she said you were difficult to miss. Besides . . .' 'Besides what?' 'Oh besides nothing. She just asked me to say hello.' The conversation stalled. 'So what's your name?'

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'Kali, or at least that's my magical name, my 'real' name is Sarah.' 'I guess from that you must be into magick?' 'Yes,' she said emphatically. 'And you too, so Leah says. Leah and me, we are members of the same group in London.' I was thinking to myself that during this encounter I would try to be more direct, to find out more about my interlocutors. 'So what part of London?' 'Oh all over really but mainly Primrose Hill, do you know it?' 'Yes I've been there with my friend Chris, been to some student parties round and about. So tell me more about your magical group.' 'OK, but not too much – you know how it is – secret – but we are into the goddess Maat – have you ever heard of her, the vulture goddess.' Maat is the ancient Egyptian personification of Justice – I wasn't sure if she was a real flesh and blood goddess – she seemed more like an abstraction of a philosophical principle – the kind of creation put together by priestly types. Maat is very like the image of justice that stands over the High Courts of Justice, blindfolding, balanced rather precariously, her sword swinging down, its point almost touching the earth. 'Like Balance in the Tarot?' 'You know the tarot?' she said then answering her own question 'Of course you do. I'm just learning. What are your cards?' 'What do you mean?' 'Your personal significators, your birthsigns?' 'Oh that,' I replied, 'Well the moon I guess for the Piscean, and 75

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Lust … and the Hermit.' 'Very feminine cards,' she said 'Really?' 'Don't pretend you don't know. The hermit is a feminine card – you look – you can't see her face – everyone assumes it's a male hermit but Leah said it's a woman. And come to think of it that's a good way of telling you where Leah is, before you ask, she's on the Hermit's path.' Kali had quickly reached the limits of my knowledge of the tarot. I needed to shift the ground. 'Tell me about Maat,' I said, not waiting for a reply, 'Why do you call her the Vulture goddess.' 'Maat the goddess of the feather or Mwt the vulture goddess.' The look on Kali's face told me she was enjoying herself. It made me want to take her down a peg or two. 'Different feathers?' 'What?' 'Maat's feather is an ostrich not a vulture.' 'Ah,' she said triumphantly, 'Leah warned me about your argumentative nature. I trust Leah. At our rituals when she blesses the water it changes, you'd say it was still just water but when we drink it, we know its not just water.' That shut me up. 'So where is Leah now?' 'You'll see. You'll maybe meet again in the summer – she wanted me to tell ask where are going in the summer?' I'm not too sure; I haven't really thought about it, ' I lied 76

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'Well better think about it.' 'Suppose I'd better had.' The train had arrived at Falmer station. 'Not stopping here.' 'Lewes.' she said

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The Curse of Merlin XVI
It was the end of term and also near enough the end of my magical practice. My plan now was to head off for a few weeks retreat in order to focus on the magical progress I'd made, such as it was. I was drawn by the magical reputation of Glastonbury on the Somerset levels. Although as the crow flies, Glastonbury is not particularly remote, the journey by public transport is sufficiently convoluted to give some sense of dislocation. Travelling mostly by train as far as Bath where, after a hour or two kicking my heels in the bus station, I was soon rattling my way through the Mendips to Wells, where a final mini bus carried me over the hill to Glastonbury. The town is preceded by its reputation - a new age ghetto with the promise that one might meet a genuine adept. That first night I ended up in rickety British guesthouse, typically overpriced. The door of my room slid shut leaving barely enough floor space in which to perform my circle rite. Tight as my budget was I had to find something more salubrious for the next few weeks or any hope of some sort of magical breakthrough was pretty futile. The next morning I headed up the main drag, past the Assembly Rooms, the Gothic Image bookshop, the Rainbow's End Café, St Johns Church, on until the junction with Chilkwell St where I turned right. I kept going until I was walking beside the high stonewall that marks the northern extremity of the Abbey grounds. The uninterrupted grey of the wall was broken by a high arched gateway. There was a driveway leading to a large mansion of Victorian Gothic. A small billboard read 'retreat house'. I strode across the gravel courtyard and tugged on the bell cord. A pleasant looking Anglican nun answered my call. 78

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'Yes,' she said in a nondescript accent, 'can I help you?' 'I was hoping I could stay in the retreat house.' I replied 'For how long?' 'Not sure,' I said, 'maybe a week.' 'Should be all right, we've a party coming in next week to decorate and a small parish retreat but otherwise there is plenty of room. I'll show you your room.' Was that easy - no questions asked? Half an hour later I was sitting in my overstuffed armchair reading through a copy of George Chavalier's Sacred Magician. There was a knock at the door, sister Magdalena came in carrying a transistor radio. 'It's mine,' she said,' but you can borrow it.' I wasn't sure if she could read the title of the book that lay in my lap. 'We pretty much leave you alone here,' she said, 'unless you request guidance . . . there's a large library downstairs, on the side that overlooks the Abbey. There's a little parish retreat group meeting there at the moment. You might be able to insinuate yourselves in with them if you get fed up of your own company. Apart from the library you have the use of the garden; it has its own gate into the Abbey grounds, so you can go there anytime you like. At the moment a theatre group is staging the Glastonbury mysteries, why not go see?' 'Thank you,' I said, 'I might well do that.' 'Oh,' she said, 'you already have the meal times. Its petty basic stuff, fuel really, so if you want to eat out that's OK but I can't really give you a key and we lock the front door at ten.' 79

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I nodded. 'Basic food sounds fine to me.' 'OK,' she said, but if you join us the only rule is no small talk. You don't need to keep total silence - but apart from standard pleasantries, people generally prefer to keep their own thoughts.' I nodded again. 'So we shall expect to see you at supper.' She exited my room closing the door behind her. Sister Magdalene wasn't kidding when she said the food was basic. I better illustrate that lest you think I exaggerate; the evening meal consisted of boiled potatoes and tinned frankfurters. The nun's attitude to food was a good paradigm of how they viewed the world - something to be denied. Pagans take food very seriously for it lies at the heart of our philosophy. Pagan and Christian, it's an ancient dialectic. Looking back I might once have objected to the soubriquet 'pagan', wrongly thinking it is just a negative label thrust on to us by the Abrahamic types - Jews, Muslims and Christians. Or that it's just a vague umbrella terms that glosses over the plurality of magicks. Now I know something of the truth I feel we should embrace the term. The definition of pagan hinges around a remembered conflict between Israel & Egypt. What we get in the Biblical 'Ten commandments' is the manifesto of an anti-religion - that had its roots in the fanaticism of Amenhotep IV - otherwise known as Akhenaten. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the 80

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Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

See what I mean - its all about Egyptian religion really and its denial. It's in that remembered moment on Mount Sinai that the 'pagan' was born and fanaticism came into the world. The Egyptian, like all his or her contemporaries in the ancient world, could always translate or find a home for 'foreign' or 'alien' gods or goddesses in the native language - thus Baal is Seth, Maia is Isis etc. The fanatic has no need of translation - anything other than 'the one god' is a demon, everyone else is wrong. Historically that's quite a new idea - it's the double birth of the pagan and the fanatic - who will for ever be locked in battle. So I'd say I'm quite proud to identify as a pagan. I feel an affinity with those, in the classical world that really did self-identify as such. And on a morning when 200 Yezidi are killed or injured by the modern day descendants of ‘Abraham’, I feel more than ever that the world has need of pagan values.

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The Curse of Merlin XVII:
Dreams in the Witchhouse
The house is preternaturally quiet. Occasionally I hear someone creaking through the claustrophobic corridors but it's always deserted when I go out to use the shared bathroom. The combination of a strange bed in unfamiliar surroundings makes me uneasy, which I tell myself is probably the point. I perform that day's final practice - I do the basic LBR opening rite sotto voce. I may have a sense of remoteness but it's surprising how far those vibrated calls can carry. In a sense I'm 'sleeping with the enemy' - I feel fine in myself about all that - after all I'm on a spiritual path as valid as any of my retreat house companions - but I doubt they would concur - so I must be discrete and respectful. The oak flooring whilst aesthetically wonderful doesn't quite lend itself to my habitual asana. So I was move the horsehair armchair forward so it roughly corresponds to the centre of my circle. After my lustrations and mystical gestures I settle down in the chair aiming to dissociate as much as possible from my physical body in order to explore the imaginal world of the Shri Yantra. I am travelling light and haven't bought all my various bits of kit - but I figured that after near enough nine months of daily, often more than daily work with these objects; they were pretty much now a permanent fixture in my mental landscape. The title of a H P Lovecraft story, Dreams in the Witchhouse, drifts into my mind. Very appropriate, I thought to myself, becoming excited at the prospect that this spooky setting would do wonders for my visioning. *** I've never been a very disciplined thinker. Over the years I have met many magicians who claim a rock solid concentration but 82

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not me. I'm much too astral. The late Gerald Suster, whose path I was yet to cross, was very impressive describing his unswerving use of Crowley's methods such as the exercise of holding the image of a white, equal armed cross against a black background with such resolution and application that the magician is virtually able to drill holes in the astral. Perhaps that's why I was so drawn to the tantrik approach - no black and white images in Tantrism, more a riot of colour and image, overwhelming the senses. Well that's the theory - on this night the Shri Yantra was just too familiar and I was soon drifting. But there again, was there really any need to resist - surely it's good to drift, it will no doubt all come right in the end. If the body really is the microcosm, then it surely knows the way already, it just needs to be let go free rather than told to tighten up? So in my slumbering 'witchhouse', my mind was soon wandering in the corridor outside my locked door. One corridor soon turned into another - I found myself at the head of a stairwell with the choice to go up or down. Up into the roof and perhaps the refreshing night sky seemed like a good option, the way down into the darkened corridors more sinister and foreboding, also more interesting. Like a moth I following the scent down, past the ground floor dining room and library, down into the overheated, enfolding bowels of the house. Ahead of me was a door, the warm colours of its stained glass thrown into relief and glowing from the candlelight emanating from within. Like all astral visions it took a while to resolve itself. At first I was pleased to see it as the Shri Yantra - its multifarious colours throbbing with life. Then it was a miniature version of those magnificent rose windows of Chartres and other European cathedrals. It was a transept window, like those Fulcanelli described as a hidden form of the Egyptian Ankh symbol. The light penetrates the ever-virgin glass in a most delightful way. The single rose became two intersecting circles, the common ground, a caustic curve, inhabited by an image of 83

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the Mary - but which one I couldn't say. I have the overwhelming impression that my student friend Leah, or perhaps her fellow covener Kali are waiting just the other side of the door. The door opens and I drift in on a current of warm scented air. It's an overheated shrine, its walls decorated with kaleidoscopic mosaics. Although I can't see Leah or Kali I'm still convinced they must be lurking in the shadows. But it's Sister Magdalene who blocks my further progress into the circle. She moves close, her hand behind my neck; she pulls my head down so she can whisper in my ear. On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings -- oh, happy chance! -I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised -- oh, happy chance! -In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me, I recognise the familiar lines from the mystical poems of St John of the Cross. I am very excited. Her hand slides to the small of my back - why I feel the warm sensation that soon becomes prickly heat, then burning and finally an agonising pain that shoots through my left kidney. In an instant I'm back in my physical body, my back arched to try to get away from the very real pain. I may have called out but now I stifle my cries, furiously rubbing the small of my back willing the pain to go. It takes several minutes for the pain to relax its iron like grip sufficient for me to drag myself over to 84

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the bed and bury myself beneath the covers. I sleep but in the morning my back still feels very tender. By the time I make it downstairs the breakfast room is empty apart from Sister Magdalena clearing up. 'You missed breakfast,' she said, with just a trace of disapproval in her voice, 'but you could do worse than one of the café's in the High Street, try Rainbow's end.' Over my coffee I ponder whether all that is a good or bad sign? There's none I can really ask. The rest of the morning I explored some of the surrounding countryside including the hummocky remains of the original Lakeland village. I am careful to be back at the retreat house for lunch. After lunch I let myself into the Abbey grounds for the afternoon performance of the Glastonbury mysteries. I suspect like a lot of pagans on some sort of spiritual journey it would seem churlish to pass over any possibility of some light on the path, even if that supposed light emanates from those who see themselves as the pagan's historical enemy. Pagans can be terrible know-it-alls. We feel that we understand where all religions and spiritual creeds are coming from. It's maybe something we get from Theosophy, which in turn is derived from the Hindu Tantrism and its 'theory' of Brahmanical or orthodoxy, its strengths and weaknesses. The Glastonbury mysteries are surprisingly moving. I find myself responding emotionally to the scene of the supposed 'slaughter of the innocents'. One moment the actors are carrying their living babies and children. A moment later and red ribbons stream from their cloths - it's a remarkable simple yet effective convention - I am amazed by the power of a symbol to invoke real feelings. Intellectually I doubt this massacre of the Hebrew's first born by King Herod ever really happened - it's a memory yes - but memories can be constructed, they can be falsified. Even so the underlying theme is universal. Coming on top of last night's adventure I am beginning to feel as if this really is some sort of roller-coaster. I'm not completely 85

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relaxed by the orthodox, i.e. in this instance Christian context but there again, if this really is a dialogue with the otherworld I should not reject the message because of the manner in which it is spoken.

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The Curse of Merlin XVIII
Again the quiet of the house, sometime during the day I got myself another potable version of the Shri Yantra and a special yoga cushion, ‘kusha’ brand, obviously named after the type of grass recommended for this purpose in the Bhagavad Gita. Trouble is I’ve also spent the evening in the Rifleman’s Alms where I’ve had a few drinks, smoked too many cigarettes. How did this come about? Well there was a big surprise waiting for me back at the retreat house. The suppertime dining room was buzzing with new arrivals, a party of mainly middle aged, parishioners, volunteers who’d come to redecorate the retreat house. And there amongst them I recognised Emlyn. The leader of the parish group was their vicar, who seeing me exclaimed to Emlyn, ‘ah yes, I told you there would be someone here of your own age.’ I guess Emlyn was as surprised as I was, we’d not met since those chance meetings months back on the Falmer commuter train. So we both had secret lives but also sufficient presence of mind not to blow each other’s cover. After supper, Emlyn suggested we go for a beer. His seeming greater familiarity with the lay of the land made it seem doable. I should perhaps have cast my mind back to the time when as a very young inner city teenager I’d been whisked off by the ‘Covenanters’ to a ‘outwards bounds’ retreat in the Brecon Beacons. The combination of healthy physical activities, spiritual talks and clean living was supposed to be tonic for our souls. Back then; skipping Sunday prayers in favour of a ‘pub lunch’ didn’t exactly go down a storm.

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We were soon eyed each other over our beers. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked ‘Well I could ask you the same question.’ I replied, although it wouldn’t have taken a lot of research to unearth the very intimate dialectic between Christianity and magick. Many commentators see even Crowley’s Thelemic cult as a heretical sect within Christianity. ‘Yes,’ he said, offering me another cigarette, ‘but what are you doing here.’ What the hell, I thought, may as well spill the beans? ‘I’m on a quest,’ I said, he smiled. ‘OK maybe quest is the wrong word, I can’t remember if I told you about the OTO?’ Emlyn nodded. ‘Well I’m just coming the end a nine month probationary practice.’ ‘That’s interesting. Nine months, bit different to a year and day – like giving birth to yourself I suppose.’ ‘I’m also told its modelled on the Egyptian mysteries.’ ‘Really,’ he said, leaning forward in his seat. ‘Now that’s my special interest but I can’t say I’ve ever heard that the period of nine months was especially important in Egyptian magick. Where does that come from?’ ‘Ah,’ I said smiling no doubt in an arch manner, ‘that’s an order secret I’m afraid.’ There was an awkward pause, punctuated by another trip to the bar. Emlyn took a long pull from his beer. ‘So is it going alright?’ he said ‘in as far as you are allowed to divulge Order secrets?’ It was his turn to be arch. Ignoring the bite, I launched into it. ‘Well yes I suppose it is 88

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going quite well.’ ‘You seem unsure?’ ‘Well I had a very disturbing experience last night.’ ‘Go on, you can trust me.’ I told him a little about my vision. ‘And just at that point,’ I continued, I was wrenched out of the whole thing by the most awful pain.’ ‘Umm,’ he said knowingly, ‘sounds tricky. Apart from the pain, how do you feel?’ ‘I feel, well I feel good.’ ‘You don’t feel violated in any way?’ ‘Violated, not at all violated, what’s that about?’ ‘It’s just that I’ve been reading in Plotinus that good spirits can make one feel bad at the time but good afterwards. But on the other hand, bad spirits make you feel quite wonderful when you are in their presence but they leave you with a terrible sense of violation.’ ‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘so do you think my visions were demonic?’ ‘I’m just not experienced enough to really know, just tossing some ideas around, trying to be helpful. Oh yes, one more thing, Plotinus says that even evil demons can be a sign of better things to come.’ ‘How so?’ I said. ‘He says that when the good daemona approaches, the first sign that it is getting close is the arrival of the bad guys. It’s almost as if they are pushed forward by the approach of the good.’

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‘So either way it’s not all bad?’ ‘Maybe not?’ At which point the landlord called time. ‘Jesus, is that the time!’ I said, ‘we’re be locked out.’ ‘Calm down!’ he said, I’ve got a key.’ I didn’t ask how he managed that. Even so I thought we’d better get back. We both emptied our glasses and stood up to go. But Emlyn had one last point, always one last point to make. ‘Oh, one other point.’ He said I interrupted him, saying: ‘Lets not stand on the manner of our going, but just go’ I said, paraphrasing Lady Macbeth. To which Emlyn countered: ‘The last moments are the most magical of any hour.’ ‘OK, OK’ what’s your point ‘The pain you mentioned. Couldn’t it be just some sort of yogic thing –– something being pierced, unravelled, cleansed, that kind of thing?’ ‘I hope you’re right.’ And with that we made our way unseen, well almost, back to the retreat house and our beds. Midnight – the witching hour. I struggling to stay awake long enough to finish my practice. The thought occurs to me that Emlyn is the demon, distracting me from what could so easily have been a breakthrough night. My mind drifts and for a moment I am wandering again through the empty corridors of 90

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the house, down to that glowing stained glass door that looks so much like the yantra. The Abbot forbade me to forget my old name and existence. Upon admission every novice is given a new name in either Latin or Greek. I was Pelagius, a name identical to the British original; “Inhabitant of the Sea”. As far as I know, my family has always lived by the sea and often been fisherfolk or the like. I have friends amongst the other novices but sense the antagonism of the monks. They were foreigners, haughty and intellectual. My race has always a role in religious affairs for which they are often resented. I was advised to seek admission to a religious order far away from home. When it was clear that mine was to be a religious life, I got myself accepted as a novice at a very prestigious religious house. In the first year of a spiteful, fellow neophyte told me that the only reason Pelagius has gotten into the place, was because of the notoriety of his home village. “Pelagius” he said “did not fool him!” Home was Caerleon, world famous because of the martyrdom of Britain’s first Christian saints. It was commonly believed that the Druids had done them in; Caerleon had been a Druid stronghold before the coming of the Romans. So this was not an unlikely thesis, for the gloomy Druids did kill many an early Christian missionary. But St Julius and St Aaron had as all the locals knew, been martyred in the Roman amphitheatre, the ruins of which could still be viewed outside the village. After generations of stone plundering, the structure was not what it was, but nevertheless retained a glimmer of its former glory. Aaron, a converted Jew, had been an early Christian missionary. Rejected by his friends and family and thereby freed to pursue a quest for the sacred resting place of Joseph of Aramathea. The trail had taken him firstly to the lakeland settlement of Glastonbury and from there to the gilded city of Caerleon. 91

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It was at Caerleon that he met Julius, a minor official in the Roman garrison. The pair met one day at the local bathhouse. Julius was indulging in his weekly session that always ended with an exercise swim in the large open-air pool. His routine allowed for twenty lengths before a final rubdown. This was a “Romans only” day, but it was common practice for assorted locals to gather by the pool to watch the bathers. The fountainhead of the pool issued from a small shrine to the Goddess Diana, complete with dolphins-head spigot. Aaron recalled Paul of Tarsus’s brush with this Goddess, and it seemed an appropriate place for him to stand and pursue his vocation as disciple of the divine fisherman. Somehow they noticed each other and a friendship began, a friendship under any other circumstances between a Jew and a Roman would have been out of the question. However Aaron’s new faith made him more willing to forget old scores. No-one could remember the pretext for their martyrdom. Some said that Aaron had gotten on the wrong side of one of Diocletian’s purges and that Julius had chosen to follow his intimate friend to the same grisly death. In that provincial amphitheatre, there were no lions or gladiators, except on special occasions. They were likely executed by Roman firing squad after many indignities. Pelagius knew all this from his reading at the monastery and from local knowledge. His interest in the subject sparked by one of his childhood visions. The ruins of the Roman occupancy were now a playground for the village children. A popular game staged in the defunct amphitheatre. The oval floor was a fine lawn, the sand and gravel carted off years since for other building projects. The grass grew stronger and sweeter and this attracted the local sheep whose gnawing kept it close cropped. A dozen or more would gather and with a blood-curdling howl, chase off the livestock. Dividing into sides they acted out the dramas of old. Sometimes they were Romans and Druids, sometimes Romans and Christians, Christians and Lions. Hour by hour they played, drifting home in ones and twos. 92

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After one of these gatherings, I Pelagius was alone in the amphitheatre. It was twilight. Exhausted I lay on my back watching the moon rise. I must have slept until a cool breeze blowing into my ear roused me. Startled I realized that the breeze was a whispering human voice. At first I was too numb to understand. Someone was lying beside me, nudging me from sleep with a name, a hand cupped over my ear to shield it from the wind. On the other side I felt another hand and the faint vibration of breath in the nostrils of a man. All the while I kept my eyes tightly shut, it was after just an illusion caused by the coldness of my body. Nevertheless I listened to those voices. The first voice was of a youngish man, intelligent and sensuous. ‘You’ he said, ‘Will follow the religious life as I once did, but entering a religious house.’ The other man’s voice was effeminate and less cultured than the first. ‘Wherever you go’ he said, ‘there will be trouble. Expect no support from comrades, no matter how they might seem on the surface. It’s all the same in the end, the same petty loyalties and factions.’ The first voice spoke again telling me that no one would ever know who I really was, my name would become a heresy. This heresy was to deny that anything was absolutely sinful. You opponents will say publicly that one should do whatsoever one inclined to, but in their hearts they will think otherwise. After a little while the voices faded to an unintelligible whisper and I was able to open my eyes just a crack. On the far side of the field I saw lights dancing about and wondered if it was my ghostly friends. As the light approached I saw my father searching for me in the twilight. Cold and tired, I could not walk. My father lifted me up onto his back and carried me home.

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The Curse of Merlin XIX
‘Who will reject a gem for the mere reason it is found in an impure place.’ Dattatreya A thought kept coming into my mind of a place whose description really belongs in an earlier part of this narrative where I describe my childhood home on the banks of the mighty river Usk. If I follow the road eastwards, paralleling the river, I pass shops and enormous factories until way up at the very end of the road there is a tiny oasis in the midst of the industrial chaos that is the eastern docks. A circular pond surrounding by leafy trees, the clear water full of tadpoles, stickleback fish and dragonflies. An old isolated cottage; probably the original farmer’s cottage before the land was parcelled up and sold to the Corporation that built the docks. Why they left this little oasis I’d don’t know but it was truly a magical place to find in the middle of an industrial wasteland. I suppose that’s why it stuck in my mind so. It’s a physical metaphor of the wonders that can be found almost forgotten in the midst of chaos. *** Glastonbury 1980. . . The next day I paused for a moment beside the arched gateway outside the retreat house considering which in which direction to walk into town. The way left was quicker but the right hand road took a more circuitous and interesting route that got there in the end. But that morning something drew me across the street to where another road led directly up, presumably to the top of Chalice hill. I hadn’t really taken that way before. As I passed the nameplate I couldn’t help but smile wryly to myself as I read “Dod lane” - dead lane.

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Dod lane rose quite steeply and within just a few hundred yards, at the place where Chalice Well Road forked off, there stood a large old manor house. The sign outside read “Grail Centre – please come in” – so I did. I walked through a pleasant garden up to the front door where I tugged on the bell pull. No one came – The place was deserted. There was a note pinned to the door. It said – “Grail Spiritual Centre, Visitors Welcome – Please wait in the Day Room” The glass-panelled door wasn’t locked. Inside a long corridor led off into silent darkness. Just to the right was a large book lined room, with information leaflets carefully arranged on the table. At the far end of the room a semicircle of chairs were arranged around an elaborate array of slide projectors. I pressed the on button and as the machine thrummed into life I sat down. “Welcome visitor.” began a cultivated female voice, “You are about to hear the story of the Grail centre and its place in Glastonbury. I hope you will forgive what might seem an impersonal way of presenting our ideas, but the centre is so busy, it seemed the most efficient approach.” I looked at the row of empty seats. “The Grail centre is dedicated to the work of the Edwardian mystic Evelyn Underhill. In the early part of the twentieth century EU was a regular visitor to Glastonbury in the company of her friends and fellow mystics, Arthur Machen, Arthur Edward Waite, Charles Williams and Susan Howatch. These famous writers and mystics formed a discrete fraternity dedicated to the search for what they called the “ultimate Hieroglyph”.

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The presentation continued with what was by then a fairly familiar survey of Glastonbury lore. The tape ended with an exhortation – “if what you have learned from this presentation strikes a chord for you and you would like to experience more of our fraternity – please return later today at sunset and join us for a simple ceremony and meditation.” Well who could refuse such an offer and I duly slipped out of the retreat house before nine and made my way back to the Grail Centre, not really knowing what to expect. In the twilight, the visitors’ room was now a brightly lit cube of light, shining out into the darkening garden. An attractive, thirty something couple seemed to be in charge. He introduced himself as David and his partner as Ann. Otherwise there were half a dozen of us seekers. “It’s time to shut the door, so you must be the last.” David said, indicating that we should remove our footwear and follow him into the sanctuary. There were no chairs in the octagonal room, lined with fresh pine but was otherwise featureless and possessed of a strange anechoic quality. We were invited to settle ourselves on any part of a double row of pine benches that lined the walls. A great deal of human ingenuity had been applied to the design of the room. The benches, for example were precisely proportioned to enable all of us to sit in whatsoever pose we favoured. When we’d all settled down David uttered the following benediction “some look for the self in other people, their school, work or organisation, sometimes even an ideology. Others look to family and friends. Some look for it in another person, a lover, husband or wife. But in the end the self is something you must find within.” David then invited us to undertake a private and silent meditation. I emptied my mind and got right into that. After a while he began to speak again, his voice much quieter and faltering. I guessed he was in some kind of a trance and was channelling.

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“Evelyn is in the mood for a bit of a row tonight” he whispered, “sometimes she’s a bit stroppy. She says we’ve moved away from the essence of her teaching and what we do here will not last.” It seemed a very quirky, undermining message. I wondered which part of the Grail Centres’ work she was referring to – I suspected they had eschewed her Golden Dawn connection and, as in many another group, denied the magical heart of mysticism; ending up in a bland backwaters of New Age Christianity? Apart from the handful of books and the slide presentation, the Grail group did seem to be running on empty. David continued his conversation with an unseen and unheard protagonist: “There you go again – reminding me of the basics – the five stages of the mystic way.” I already knew them by heart and mouthed them to myself even as David spoke: “Malkuth – the foundation or as she knew it ‘the awakening of self ’ – this you must do now, tonight without delay!” I wasn’t sure if he was speaking literally or rhetorically– “it’s just the beginning – a crude rough vision without the benefit of words to give it sense. Only later after you have purged the self ” Yesod – I whispered. “Then,” he continued, “only then will you find illumination, the third stage.” Tiphereth - the sphere of the sun. “And after illumination comes a fourth, unlucky stage called the ‘dark night of the soul’. “ Daath I remembered although it was all theory now.

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‘And finally for some of us ‘Unity’ or ‘Union’.” Keter, I thought, the Kingdom. David exhaled – releasing the mood – “There was a nice energy here tonight” he said. We all took that as our cue to rouse ourselves, and in slow stages to shuffle out into the balmy, star spangled night. None spoke and we each went our own ways – I was at the bottom of Dod lane in time to hear the bells of St Peters chime the eleventh hour. It brought me to my senses as it meant I was locked out. So I hurried up Chilkwell Street in the hope of catching Emlyn in the Rifleman’s Arms for last orders.

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The Curse of Merlin XX
The pub was buzzing but Emlyn was drinking alone and looked to be in a sullen mood. ‘What happened to you?’ he growled, almost as soon as he saw me. I was at the bar and offered him another beer, although I guessed he might have had a few already. I sat down and quickly told him where I’d been. ‘Well, you might have told me,’ he said, ‘Maybe I could have tagged along too.’ That was true but somewhere inside I knew that of we’d both gone off to the Grail centre, I might be accused of leading him astray. Being a weekday there weren’t too many customers, so the landlord called time and was soon bolting the door behind us. ‘Tell you what.’ Emlyn says excitedly, ‘Let’s not go back straight away – let’s go for a walk up the Tor.’ I probably could have talked him out of it but given that we were already AWOL from the retreat house I guessed another hour wouldn’t matter. It was only when we were passing Well House Lane that I remembered that I really wanted to do another magical ‘practice’ before going to sleep. We left the road and followed a track up between high hedges that blackened even further the way ahead. Someone in Chalice Cottage was burning the midnight oil; I’d heard that the writer Geoffrey Ashe lived there in what had once been the home of Dion Fortune. We stumbled across the field, using a lighter to find the style in 99

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the pitch darkness and were soon on the Tor side. We got up to the deserted top using our night vision. Glastonbury Tor is a low but precipitous finger-like hill commanding a fine panoramic view of the Somerset levels with the larger conurbation of Bristol, Cleveland, Portishead, mere red glows on the horizon making little impact on the night sky. It was a great place for a bit of stargazing, especially on such a crystalline night. We found a spot out of the perpetual breeze and lay down to stare for several minutes in silence at the manifest gods in the sky, especially the seven stars of the plough, guardians of the Pole star and humanity’s most ancient stellar companion. Emlyn fumbled for something in his pocket, then struck a match to light a medium-sized Jay. After a few moments he asked me if I wanted to share some. I was already tyro when it came to this kind of thing; university helped me with that, although I hadn’t smoked anything since the end of term. But I took my obligatory three puffs and passed it back to him ‘How did you come by that?’ I said still holding my breath ‘Oh, someone at the pub.’ .‘Can I ask you something?’ Emlyn said, exhaling to break the awkward silence. ‘Ask away,’ I replied. ‘I meant to ask, all this Crowley stuff you’re into, it’s kind of sexy isn’t it?’ ‘Sexy?’ ‘Well, you know what I mean, Crowley magick – isn’t it all sex magick?’ ‘It has that reputation, but to be honest, I don’t really know too much about that side of things. At the moment I’m just a 100

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beginner.’ ‘Don’t they teach “sex magick” in the OTO?’ ‘Well maybe,’ I replied, ‘But not so far, maybe in the higher grades.’ ‘Crowley, wasn’t he some sort of sex maniac?’ ‘Sex maniac!’ I replied, ‘That’s great. He was “a head of his time”, if you’ll forgive the pun, the drugs and all. But yes, to me he was a sexual revolutionary.’ ‘A pervert!’ ‘Not a pervert stupid, he was gay, but that’s not a pervert, not in my book anyways.’ ‘Is everyone in the OTO gay then?’ ‘No’ I laughed, ‘far from it, maybe they should be. Although I did talk to someone who was convinced that they would be buggered the time they went to see Kenneth Grant, but turned out there was absolutely no way that was going to happen.’ ‘So what about you, are you gay?’ I guessed that this was what Emlyn really wanted to ask. I knew where this kind of conversation can go so thought I’d better watch my step. ‘Lets just say I’m open-minded. Since I got into magick I’ve become more experimental in my approach to sex.’ ‘So you are experimenting with being Gay?’ he asked gleefully ‘No, not really, for me experimentation means experimenting with being straight.’ ‘Oh.’ It took a while for the penny to drop, then ‘ahhh!’ 101

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‘What about you?’ ‘Me, I supposed to be mixed up. That’s why I here with this church group really. They are trying to sort me out.’ ‘Do you need sorting out?’ ‘I dunno?’ he said passing me the Jay ‘last toke.’ My head was beginning to swim. ‘Emlyn,’ I said, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I really ought to get back.’ ‘You want to go?’ ‘I have to go soon. I can’t really get into this, not now. Tomorrow yes, but not this minute, not here.’ I guessed that in the darkness he might be looking crestfallen. ‘Emlyn,’ I said, ‘don’t take it the wrong way. I really do mean tomorrow – we can sort it all out tomorrow – it’s going to be better then – but now – tonight – I really have to do my magick, my practice, it’s maybe my last opportunity.’ ‘But I can do it with you, maybe?’ I thought of what I’d read about Crowley and his lover Neuburg. It was all a very intoxicating idea. But realistically, I just didn’t really know how to make that work. All the words from the holy books about “a curse on because” or the Blake’s – “The chapel of Love” were running round and round in my brain. But somehow I just knew all I’d achieved so far could so easily come crashing down – as at this moment fate, like a demon was conspiring to drive me off course.

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The Curse of Merlin XXI
“Alone at least!” I exclaimed out loud as I finally closed the door of my room. There’d been a few risky moments in the corridor – it was long past midnight, everything is dark, silent and disserted, all the more so might our suppressed mumbles carry to god knows where. And what if someone had spied that last bear hug. Inside I was feeling elated. That’s human nature after all – the sheer fun of being on the brink of something new. Oh well, I thought to myself, now for some serious magick. Try to channel that feeling. I’d soon prepared clear my little circle as before and launched into the opening benediction: “Ekas, Ekas, Este Bebeloi, Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”. Quickly followed by the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagramme, the sine qua non of the occult realm. Even with the slightly limited confines of the retreat house I tried this time to take as much care as possible over its performance, combining as well as I was able to mystical gestures with the flow of the in and out breath so that it became a variety of east / west ‘pranayama’. Crowley recommends that each action begins with a long intake of breathe, so that the out-breath ‘begins’ from some place very deep down inside. On this resonating column of air that the words of the invocation float ‘Ateeeeeeeeeeh, Maaalkooooooooot, etc…..’ it vibrates but I am careful not to let it resonate too strongly else the whole house might be outside my door. By the time I arrive at the closing phrases of the invocation, the long ahhhmeeeen – I am quite giddy and this seems no bad 103

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thing. I let myself recover slightly before settling down for the slow building lucid meditation. Images begin to form almost immediately – maybe too many of them, crowding in, an almost overwhelming and distracting riot of ideas. But soon they begin to thin and I feel suddenly very rooted in my posture but also very disassociated, as if I am watching myself from some other vantage point inside. I am again outside my room - wandering down the corridor – I stop momentarily outside of Emlyn’s room knowing instinctively that he is just the other side of the door. Intoxicated with my new power I wonder whether I could just pop in on him for a moment. But thinking better of it I move off further down the corridor past other doors where the gentle snoring of the occupants indicates who is who. Soon I am descending the stairways to the basement where I know a kaleidoscopic door opens onto a secret shrine. In this imaginal world I am able to push the door open and find that the temple is crowded with people, who feeling my presence divide to make way through which I much float. Everyone there is familiar – near the back I see Chrissy, my old boyfriend from my time in Wales, he’s there with his new partner Simon. Emlyn is there too, also Leah and Kali, Sister Magdalena stands together with a stranger who I somehow know is my brother. Then things get really wild like the car chase episode in Herman Hesse’s “Steppenwolf ” – or Offenbach’s “Opheus in the Underworld”. We are all crowded together, and it’s unbearably hot as if somewhere unseen, vast thundering engines belch out heat. Finally the entire company turns toward me and files out leaving me alone in the temple. Some of them whisper things to me as they file past, “good luck” or “don’t expect conversation,” or 104

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“vision not voice”; “not yet.” “he is waiting for you up ahead”. The air clears in the temple. It’s fresher and above me I can sense the night sky. I walk forward towards what I know must be some sort of sanctuary. Now I see it – a glowing tented structure about twice my height in the shape of the hieroglyph, a Tao cross. The Tao is a three dimensional, symmetrical structure. The walls are of white canvas drawn across wooden stretchers. An eternal sanctuary light hovers above the cross bar of the Tao. Someone says “go on, your father is waiting for you, in there.” I step forward and part the canvas flaps and walk through. As I do so the brilliant sanctuary lamp hovering over the Naos, sinks down through the cross bar and fills the inside of the structure with blinding, white light. I struggle to keep moving, forward into the sanctuary until the light consumes my entire body. There is no heat or pain. But the heart in my breast is beating very fast and feels as if it might burst with joy. And indeed for several moments I am overwhelmed. Somewhere in the whiteout is another figure; his features indistinct apart from his coppery blond hair. He clutches me to his or her breast and for a moment our entities merge. All the while he says nothing although my ears are ringing. So here it is, I think to myself, the vision of my higher self, beyond conversation. Certainly neither he nor I attempt to speak. Time passes and I am again in my oratory, my heart racing, as I sit there for several minutes struggling for breath but still close to ecstasy. As minutes pass I become steadily more and more aware of the room. My racing heart slows and my breathing return too normal. I am back. Now after several minutes of discomfort as I wake my sleeping limbs before I can stand and reverse the ritual gestures and sounds of the Lesser Banishing Ritual. By the time I have finished and extinguished my candles, the sky outside my window is purple with the distance approach of dawn. I throw myself on my bed, resolving to rest for just a few minutes but 105

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when I open my eyes the birds are singing outside my window and the sun is high in the sky. I looked at my watch – ten o’clock – too late for breakfast in the centre. So I headed off for the Rainbow’s End Café. I fell good, I fell that I had some sort of result and apart from the tidying up of a few lose ends, some reflection and analysis, my first degree practice is over. I had seen my higher self, my holy guardian angel – I didn’t really know what it means, it hadn’t communicated anything to me apart from its own existence – but that is in essence the nature of the first degree practice – the vision – the voice, the angelic conversation something for another time and place after more preparation and training. So on such a beautiful summer morning I was content in what I have achieved. In the café I feel like the poet W B Yeats, when he wrote: ‘I sat, a solitary man, In a crowded London shop, An open book and empty cup, On the marble table-top, While on the shop and street I gazed My body of a sudden blazed; And twenty minute more or less It seemed, so great my happiness, That I was blessed and could bless.’ I was also content to turn my attention to more mundane but nevertheless important issues. I hadn’t forgotten about my promise to spend the day with Emlyn, and who knows what. I half expect him to have followed me to the café but by the time my second cup is empty, the morning paper read there was no sign of him so I guess I’d better head back to the retreat house and check him out. Sister Magdalena is waiting for me in the hallway, “Can I have a word with you.” She says rather ominously.

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I follow her into her office. She came straight to the point, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” It catches me completely off guard. “But why?” I plead “I think you know why. Basically you are a disruptive influence here. You have led one of the other guest astray distracting him from the purpose of his stay here.” “But,” I began, then think better of it. “Yes?” “Nothing.” I say gloomily “Not just that but it hasn’t failed to be noticed that you have been drinking in a local hostelry and return worse for drink in the small hours after goodness knows what.” “Anything else?” I am beginning to get fractious “Well since you ask, yes there is more, some of it too indelicate for me to discuss. But let’s just say strange sounds in the night.” I think it best not to pursue that one. ”And”, she continued, “Several of us have not failed to notice how the glamour of Glastonbury has woven its spell – your visits to that Grail centre for instance. Your failure to be involved with the normal routine of the centre, even your failure to share meals or fellowship.” There was some truth in all that. “OK, I’m sorry for all that.” I relent, “what would you like me to do now?” “I’ve talked it over with the Father Jenkins, and he agrees that 107

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its best if you just sort yourself out and leave after lunch. As it happens Kate, one of our other guests is driving to Bath this afternoon and she has room in her car if you would care to take it.” I nodded my assent and turn to leave. “Oh,” she says, “one last thing, just in case you think you are being singled out I should tell you that Emlyn has already packed and gone. The reverend Jenkins drove him back home after breakfast. I was beginning to smell a rat, they really had us both boxed up. There wasn’t an awful lot I could do about it but somehow I guessed I would catch up with Emyln when the new term started at Sussex. Even so it had put a bit of a downer on my plans for the rest of the vacation but I was determined not to let it dent my optimism. Besides I just had this feeling that something would turn up. My ride to Bath with Kate, an American exchange student was pleasant enough. She dropped me at the railway station. During the journey I gathered she would be returning to Glastonbury. “Thank you” I said, in a laboured sort of way. Just before closing the car door I ask Kate if she would pass my address to Emlyn next time she sees him. I’d scribbled my university address and my parent’s phone-number on a blank postcard. “Sure,” she says with a smile, “I can give it to father Jenkins.” As she drives away I suspect she might toss that out the window as soon as she is out of sight.

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