Remembering and Remanifesting

I have just published Volume 3 of my memoirs.  Yes, I wrote volume 3 first!  There were three reasons for this.  It was the period in my life when I was a senior member of the Temple of Set, and my experiences during this time are one of the things I get asked about most.  Secondly, with the publication of other books, such as Michael Aquino’s two volume history, The Temple of Set, and Don Webb’s Mysteries of the Temple of Set, it is a good time to provide my own personal experiences.  And thirdly, it is the period which boasts the largest number of essays and articles which have not yet seen wider publication.  The book contains 200 pages of Setian articles and papers by myself in its appendices.

It must be stressed that it is a personal memoir, and is not designed or intended to give a broad history of the Temple during this period; it is very much my story.  But it is also a very warm and affectionate account of a time I look back upon with great fondness.

I wanted to share some part of the book with you here.  But which bit?  The introduction?  The account of a Conclave?  Ultimately, I have decided to cherry pick.  Below you will find one single paragraph from each of the book’s main narrative chapters (i.e. excluding the articles and essays), which will hopefully give some intriguing taste of these memories…

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So I have decided to ‘do a Crowley’ and write my own confessions. They will deal with all areas of my life and occultists who flick through these pages impatiently looking for the next ‘magicky’ bit had best be advised from the outset that the most important and life-changing processes never took place in rituals. A magician is not a magician by dint of doing magical rituals. A magician is a magician by dint of causing change and transformation to happen in life. We are measured by our results, not by our intentions. We are measured by what we achieve in the world, not by what we fiddle about with in secret. All facets will be incorporated in this memoir, because all are essential. I write this in the sure and certain knowledge that most occultists will disregard it. That’s not me being bitter, or disdainful, or judgemental, it’s simply the voice of experience, as you will see when you read the volumes of my confessions. But perhaps in mentioning it here, I may prompt one to look more deeply at causes and effects than they ordinarily would, thus manifesting real change. Because every one who looks into the Void is precious, provided they bring something back with them.”

I was also becoming disillusioned because despite having been quite active in penning articles and publishing a newsletter in Britain, I had never once received any kind of personal reply to any of my letters to the Central Grotto. With hindsight, it is easy to see why. I have no doubt that every time one of my missives arrived in San Francisco, LaVey (or more likely Blanche Barton) would groan and say, “Here’s another ‘Look and see how great I am’ letter from that berk in the Isle of Man.” I was trying too hard, being so very earnest and so enthusiastic that it was ridiculous. You know what it’s like when someone is trying so hard to fit in and to show they’re one of the crowd that they say the most stupid and asinine things and crack the most inappropriate jokes? Everyone feels embarrassed for them and just wishes they’d shut up, because they’re making themselves stick out like a sore thumb. That was me back then.”

Sleep that night was ‘interesting’. The previous evening, I had the living room to myself, sleeping on the couch in a sleeping bag. This evening, I retained that position (by dint of having been the first one there!), but the others also settled down in the living room for the night in their sleeping bags. One of the group – I shall not name names – snored like a beast. Fortunately in those days my own nocturnal noises were far less than they have become in more recent years. To be honest, I can sleep through anything, but it did amuse me occasionally when I stirred in my sleep and heard one of the others whimper a despairing “Oh my fucking God!” under their breath in the wake of the culprit’s latest trumpeting salute.”

Within the Order of Leviathan, James had written a document which became known as ‘the Chicago Letter’, prepared for the Conclave. In this, he set forth a new vision for the order, in which all the old props and paraphernalia of outdated magical methods would be put away and consigned to the attic. No longer should Setians in general – and Leviathanites in particular – call upon things which never were and weave rituals of fantasy to provide window dressing to their abilities. Instead, we should acknowledge the true understanding of magic that had been won, a magic worked “by force of Will alone”. This radical proposal sent shockwaves through some quarters, but it became the vision which was to increasingly guide and refine the Order of Leviathan throughout my time in the Temple.”

My first instinct was to seek out the paraphernalia of John Dee’s, such as the Sigillum Dei Æmeth and his skrying mirror, which were on display at the museum. I was fascinated by Enochian and so made a beeline for the Elizabethan displays … only to discover that Dee’s artefacts were not on public show at this time. That scuppered my plans, but there was a lesson to be learned from this which has stood me in very good stead over the years: magic does not work in the way we expect, and when we presume to know the result of a Working in advance, we very often trip over our own feet and discover that the actual result is something quite different and more wonderful than we imagined, but still appropriate to the Working. Once my preplanned ‘discovery’ was dashed, I just wandered about the museum, until I found myself drawn to a particular display. It was the spearhead of a Celtic chieftain, with fine gold designs worked into the blade, an object of incredible beauty and antiquity and power, that reached out and seized my imagination.”

It was a good time, focusing my Work in these areas, performing my Priestly duties and so forth. I really made my name known throughout the Temple during my time as a Priest. I do recall one anecdote James related to me, though, with some amusement, which emphasised that my name hadn’t percolated through to all areas yet. He told me that he had been discussing a matter that was before the Council over the phone with Lady Lilith. I have no idea what the subject was, but she wasn’t too happy about it. James started saying, “You know, this reminds me of something that Michael Kelly once told me…”, only for Lilith to interrupt him by demanding, “Michael Kelly? Who the hell is Michael Kelly?! He’s not going to cause trouble, is he?””

Don had asked me to write an invocation in Enochian for the main closing rite of the gathering. I even succeeded in memorising it. It was during this ritual that Lady Lance and I were Recognised as a Magister and Magistra Templi by Dr Aquino, in a sequence relating to Aleister Crowley’s vision of the Garden of NEMO in The Vision and the Voice, which is tended by the Masters of the Temple. It was a tremendously affecting Working. Of all the Temple of Set Conclaves and gatherings I attended, this one will always be the high point for me.”

When David first established the Order of Merlin, the intention was to use the figure of Merlin, as represented in the tales that have come down to us from such sources as The History of the Kings of Britain, the Vita Merlini, Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and The Mabinogion, as a kind of pattern and exemplar of the Initiated life. Thus the Order’s motto, Ab Uno Disce Omnes: from one example, learn about all.”

In the weeks leading up to this Conclave, James had let myself and David know that he was planning on standing down as Grand Master of the Order of Leviathan. He still planned to be active within the Order, but he had a lot of personal projects that he wanted to concentrate upon and he had now been helming the Order for very many years. He didn’t ask me directly; instead he asked my opinion of who I felt would be the best choice for the new Grand Master of the Order of Leviathan. Given my own affinity and the way my Work had been going, I suggested myself. He agreed with me, but he had wanted to hear me say it rather than put me directly on the spot. I think he would have been very disappointed if I had come out with some sort of false modesty crap.”

So Robert and I were having great fun back home on the Isle of Man and I was getting out and about more than I had for years, whilst still managing to keep up with my obligations within the Temple and its Orders and Pylons, though the strain did sometimes tell. I think some of the members of the Order of Leviathan – the ones who were never otherwise heard of – still viewed me as the ‘new boy’ and resented the fact that I had dared to take James’ position. Who was I to be calling the shots? For example, James had always had a policy that if somebody failed to contribute a single article to the Trail or at least a brief note to the Grand Master over the course of an entire year, their membership would lapse. I continued this policy, though neither he nor I ever actually acted upon it and dropped anyone from the roster (we probably should have done). Yet, when I reminded folks of this tiny requirement, this pre-existing policy, I had one guy resign in a huff over my tyrannical demands. And he was someone who had been in touch within the previous twelve months, he wasn’t even one of those being gently nudged to take a more active role!”

The turning point came towards the latter half of July, when I carried out the ‘vigil’ part of the Working, setting an evening aside to be alone and quiet, simply to focus upon its purposes. It was at this point I realised just how constricted and straitjacketed I had allowed myself to become, without even realising it. Here I was, getting up for work each morning, working through the day, getting home in the evening, then sitting in front of the computer answering mail, writing articles, preparing newsletters. And because I wrote so much, I thought I was being so productive, when in reality I was stagnating. There was no spontaneity or adventure in my life, no room for blasting out the cobwebs with a tremendous act of Xeper. This realisation stunned me, so insidious had the decay been, but it also brought a changed perspective into being, and a surge of enthusiasm and new vigour arose in me like a tidal wave as I sat there. I would sit no longer. It was no wonder things were getting me down and I seemed to be beating my head against a brick wall. On this evening, the magic came back. (I do tend to be a bit harsh on myself, and it had never really been away, just on a lunch break.)”

Magical Work begins with introspection and Self-Knowledge, whether pursued through ritual, meditational or other means. This quiet Work upon Self in the Dark places is the most essential ingredient, but in itself it is not enough. Once a Key has been discovered within, it must be applied within the world. Until it has been made manifest in the world, it remains unreal, a phantom only. Austin Spare referred to this process as the “incarnation” of an idea or obsession in his Book of Pleasure. Once an idea has been cast into the world, and has caused change there, affecting other people, it returns to its creator, who is enriched by it. The idea is no longer a static supposition, it has taken on flesh and become a living thing. It has grown and gained life through interaction with intelligences other than his own; it has inspired other ideas which will change and enrich the world still further. The returning idea triggers a Remanifestation within its originator, who thanks to his Work has become something more than he previously was. But while that idea is a mere notion within a ritual chamber, or a theoretical point to be argued among a close-knit group, it is nothing, and it does not lead to Xeper.”

“There were Workings held every night, which initially proved to be slightly problematic. We had been given a very nice function room, but it turned out that the restaurant storeroom was a little cupboard actually inside our meeting room, so we had kitchen staff wandering in and out at odd intervals, prompting an occasional outraged exclamation from ‘Evil Winkie’, the German Magister who had organised this Conclave This came to a head very early on when we had our first ritual Working. I had purposefully not brought a robe to this Conclave, I – and several others – simply dressed smartly and soberly in dark clothing. But some had brought their robes and were all robed up. We had just finished, but the lights were still low and the altar still set up, when a chef came wandering in. He was confronted by the 6’7” giant figure of Magister D.M., robed and cowled in black, towering over him, and stood quivering for a moment before running away. D,M, later found the man and took him aside, telling him that we were a Harry Houdini fan society who had been holding a séance for Harry. This explanation was deemed acceptable. D.M. was a soft-spoken giant of a man with a U.S. military background, who had enormous gravitas. He was a Councillor and had been a Setian for a long time.”

Just because we choose and shape our own purposes and destinies, that does not mean that those purposes and destinies are trivial. Quite the contrary. Rather, we should applaud the imagination and the Will that permit us to do so. Aleister Crowley wrote his celebrated text that “Every man and every woman is a star”. In this he was most correct. We chart our own course across the heavens, and our journeys and their feel and flavour are each different and unique. What strange and beautiful phenomena we are. The one tie that binds us is that of the Flame we share, that Flame which glints in the Eye of its Giver, and which allows us still to gasp in admiration at the glory of another Star which is not our own Self. All things for the viewing, all places for the going, all sensations for the feeling. There is a joy and a sorrow here to burst the heart.”

The closing Conclave Working was a profound one. As the new High Priestess of Set, Zeena stood in a central position, while every attendee took their turn to approach her and to swear a solemn Oath to assist her in her Work and to make her task easier, swearing also to accomplish one deed personally in remembrance of this Conclave. My promised deed was to publish more widely the accounts of the Secret Lover Workings and the magical technologies developed as a consequence of them, something that has only finally seen full fruition in the publication of this present book. This Oath taken and Working completed, the Helsinki Conclave came to its official end.”

The resultant ‘vision and voice’ were dramatic in their revelations and insights and were published in the second issue of the Order journal, and later in the book Apophis. In this series of Workings, the symbolic Seven Heads of the Dragon were upraised and their nature laid bare, revealing a clear curriculum of Work and a model of Initiation for the Order, which covered ground which had been previously untouched and which finally resolved in my mind the relationship between Set and Apep – between Self-Ordering and primal Chaos. This was the most exciting and important discovery in my magical career, which combined with my previous breakthroughs of the Magic of the Void and the Magic of Desire provided a coherent and workable Path to Self-Divinity. The Order journal was immediately devoted to the in-depth explanation and teaching of this curriculum, which had reached the Third Head’s instructions by the time issue 5 was published.”