Friday, December 28, 2012

Symbols - Markers of the Spirit World

One of the most crucial elements to any kind of successful occult speculation is to understand the nature of occult symbology. Because most forms of occultism combine study with experiential based research and experimentation, an occultist quickly realizes that symbols aren't just window dressing or “eye candy.” While reading and studying expositions of various systems of symbology, the occultist must also pivot and take those same symbols and experience them as a form of reality within the inner planes of the mind and the spirit. This is done through the techniques of meditation, contemplation, and of course, ritual magick.

Perhaps the greatest insight that I have ever had was the axiom that true magic was found in that powerful and magical place between the mind and spirit where “Thought becomes form and form becomes thought.” What drives this process of spiritual and mental transmutation are occult and religious symbols. They are the veritable language that bridges the worlds of flesh, mind and spirit.

What I have stated before in previous articles about the Qabalah (and I make quite clear in my new book “Magical Qabalah for Beginners”) is that in order for that system to be truly realized, the occultist must make the many symbols, concepts and analogies become real and alive in his or her mind. This is also true of any other system, or occult meta-system or magical system: It must become a living system or it has no meaning or significance whatsoever. This is accomplished by performing very deep and periodic contemplation sessions on significant and key symbols of one’s specific occult tradition or adopted system. It would appear that performing this work on a regular basis will trigger all kinds of related phenomena, and ultimately make that system become a living tradition within the mind and spirit of the operator.

Why is this kind of contemplation so critically important, and what actually happens when one focuses on key or strategic occult symbols within one’s tradition? How does one transform a documented system into one that truly lives within the mind and soul? These are really important questions, and answering them will demonstrate how beginning students can advance themselves into a true adherent of an occult tradition. It is a methodology that is generally taught to students who seek training and initiation in a traditional occult organization, but for those who lack that kind of sodality, it can also be gained through hard work and a disciplined regimen of meditation and contemplation. However, an added dimension can be obtained through mental immersion and ritual work.

The first question that we need to answer is to explain exactly what a symbol is (as opposed to a sign) and how it acts as a sign post indicating the brief intrusion of a certain kind of hidden topology which would be called the linguistic “deep structure” residing wholly in the domain of spirit.  As the ocean’s waves sometimes subtly show by their behavior the contours of the ocean floor, so, too, do symbols show the outward and paradoxical nature of the structure of the spiritual reality. We cannot accurately describe with words or mentally contrived models the nature of the spiritual world since these are devices of the mind, which is greatly subordinate to the domain of spirit. We can only perceive that place of spirit through techniques and methods that overcome the natural obstacles and biases of the mind. These techniques are meditation, contemplation and ritual (or a combination of them), but the apperception of spirit can only occur when the rational mind is temporarily put aside or somehow shunted, allowing for the full realization of spirit by what Ken Wilbur has called the Eye of Spirit alone.

As I have stated rather succinctly in the second chapter of my newest book, “Magical Qabalah for Beginners,” unlocking the secret of strategic occult symbols is the key to unlocking any occult system or tradition. I use the Qabalah as the focus for what I have written, but it could be applied to any occult system.

A key concept here, and one that is probably the most important point of all, is that the Qabalah is not just a bunch of lists or an interesting looking glyph. The Qabalah encapsulates symbols, and these symbols are either religious or occultic in nature, or both. Symbols should not be confused with signs, which is a common mistake that we all make. Signs are representative; they are, in fact, simple place holders, like a stop sign or a railroad crossing sign. Symbols are dynamic living processes or functions, like the Wiccan Pentacle, the Christian Calvary Cross or the Jewish Hexagram called the Magen (Shield of) David.

Symbols are conscious markers for deep level psychic processes that are transcendental and transpersonal, and I might add, usually mysterious to most people. Focusing on symbols can give one access to deeper layers of meaning and collective significance. Sources of symbols are numinous, archaic and inexplicable. With these concepts in mind, we can say something about the collective symbolism of the Qabalah, which contains the symbology of all the religions of the world. The religious symbology of the Qabalah is a living, breathing aggregation of functions, almost like a living body itself.

To access the Qabalah, we need only to access the various symbols of the Qabalah, and we do that through the techniques of meditation, contemplation, path working and various forms of theurgy. This methodology of accessing the symbols of the Qabalah is called the practical Qabalah, and it makes the symbology come alive in our minds. Also, if we accept that the symbolism of the Qabalah is alive, then even organizing these symbols into groups or structures, like the Tree of Life, will have an unintended and powerful affect.”

If we could then imagine symbols as being a kind of signpost with a very long wooden post that reaches all the way to the very world of spirit from our mundane world, then we could understand that accessing them within the mind and through ritual will allow us to contact that other world. What this means is that these occult symbols are indeed very important, and that focusing on them is a critical part of the work of an occultist. Determining the array of symbols within a specific target tradition and then accessing them through meditation, contemplation and ritual will open up portals between worlds and suffuse the mind and body of the operator with the numinous powers and intelligences of the spirit world. This is the methodology that one would employ in order to make the symbology of an occult system alive and fully activated.

Additionally, the very names and attributes of Deities and Spirits are also hooks or indicators of potent spiritual processes active in both the mundane and spiritual worlds. Contacting these being through religious paeans, offerings, oblations and exhortations, or more general forms of focusing, summoning and generalized or specific invocations is a crucial part of this process of enlivening a spiritual tradition. It is highly important for an occultist to establish and develop an intimate relationship with those spiritual entities that are associated with a given tradition. Failure to develop a deep and powerful relationship with such spiritual beings would be considered a profound act of disrespect and cause the whole process of awakening a tradition to fail. This is also where I incorporate the practice of spiritual alignment, including the ritual of Godhead assumption. I believe that this is a key practice to activating a spiritual system.  

Occult symbols consist of religious symbology as well as other elements that aid in the definition of spiritual concepts that are beyond the ability of the mind to conceptualize. These are the various attributes that the occultist focuses upon and systematically activates so as to completely awaken and enliven his or her targeted tradition. These symbols can consist of (but are not limited by) the following list.

  • Geometric religious symbols - such as the point, circle, equal lateral triangle, cross, pentagram, crescent moon, star, hexagram, ankh, septagram, vesica pisces, triskellion, stang (pole with horns), tetractys, Tree of Life, Sanscrit word for Aum, etc.

  • Human body parts (given special significance) - eyes, hands, genitals, heart, mouth, solar plexus, tears, blood, etc.

  • Essential religious nomenclature - such as the names of Gods, Goddesses, Demigods, Avatars, Angels, Daimons, ancestors, various earth-spirits, etc. These beings are usually associated with various attributes and qualities, and these, as well as their names, are used to contact them.

  • Mundane human artifacts such as a key, mirror, musical instrument, cup or chalice, plate, spoon, string of beads, ring, specialized jewelry, article of clothing, mundane tool, etc.

  • Common physical objects that are invested with significance, such as fire, certain trees, flowers, animals (totemic), various geographic features, rivers, lakes, hills, mountains, the sun, moon, eclipses, stars, clouds, night sky, rainbow, sun rays, storm clouds, lightening, etc. This list can also be augmented by human fashioned edifices, such as monuments, temples, churches, mosques, synagogues, funerary sites, terra-formed sacred sites, etc.

  • Regimen of typical occult symbols - colors, incense, perfumes, gemstones, herbs, geometric signs and constructs (talismans, characters and sigils), metals, minerals, magical weapons or tools, sacred alphabets or ciphers, specialized glyphs, etc.

  • Philosophical concepts (representing higher conscious functions) - love, union, compassion, blessing, sacredness, holiness, enlightenment, illumination, ecstasy, redemption, rebirth, etc. This includes all myths and analogies associated with a religious tradition. 

There are many more qualities and specialized attributes to consider, and I have listed here only the more important ones. An occultist should engage in an in-exhaustive search for all of the most important and strategic ones associated with his or her targeted tradition.  

One of the most important tasks that occultists undertake is to determine the nature and qualities of all of the important symbols associated with their tradition and to assemble and array them into various comparative lists, using some kind of unifying meta-system to achieve this end. In my specific situation, I use the Qabalah to organize the symbols that are important in my occult tradition. Also, by focusing on these symbols using the techniques of meditation, contemplation and ritual, a meta-system of some kind can be revealed if one is lacking. Revelations of such meta-system structures, usually in the form of a glyph of some kind, is often proof that the occultist is successfully enlivening his or her occult system.

The ultimate goal for an occultist is to make his or her spiritual tradition, including all of its symbology and its unifying meta-system, a living, functioning and fully activated being. I call this being the Greater Dweller Within, and it more often is either slumbering or dreaming in the typical person rather than being fully awake. (So, perhaps the most important concept here is that the Sleeper Must Awaken, to steal a concept from the Dune series.)

This overall occult task, once achieved, awakens one’s higher spiritual self and allows for an eventual but immanent union to occur between the conscious mind and the super-conscious spirit or higher self. The impact of awakening and enlivening a spiritual tradition is likely one of the key elements of achieving what magicians and occultists call the Great Work.

Frater Barrabbas

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dec 22 - World Didn’t End - What To Do?

So, here we are, the day after the supposed catastrophic Mayan Calendar World ending event, and guess what, the world didn't end. All the New Age preparations, hopeful and wishful thinking just didn't materialize anything special or noteworthy. It’s just another day like most others, with good news, bad news, and no news. There was no catastrophic ending or beginning, other than whatever each and everyone of us made happen by our own work or actions.

While auspicious times occur with some periodic frequency, we must take advantage of them through an arduous regimen of disciplined preparation and intensive magical work. Nothing that is worth anything comes easy, so we must be prepared for a long period of work, self-struggle and seemingly endless toil. Even when enlightenment is achieved, we are not free to lessen our life’s burden, and in fact, often our burdens become even greater when we achieve a certain degree of spiritual and magical greatness.

As a practical minded person I have always believed that we make our own good or bad luck, and that the key to true success is being able to take advantage when opportunities present themselves. Not being able to perceive opportunities or being unwilling to take advantage of them when they arise could be the reason that many people fail to evolve and grow as individuals. This is true in the world of business as well as in the world of magick and spirituality. So, now that the world didn't change over night as some might have expected or wished, the rest of us can get on with our lives pretty much in the same situation as we were before this supposed auspicious event. What you should  do when miraculous events don’t materialize is to put your metaphorical shoulder to the effort of slowly remaking and evolving yourself.

Also, by the way, have a happy Yule weekend - play safe and stay safe.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World Tonight?

While many of us are celebrating the pagan calends known as Yule, others will be hopefully waiting for the most hyped auspicious day since, well, the last overly hyped auspicious day. Some of you remember the direful warnings of Y2K, which of course never materialized. Tonight is the last day of the Mayan calendar, supposedly, but actually it is the zero year of the zero day, and like any incremental measuring device, it moves on past that incremental anomaly. So, what will you be doing on the last day of the world, the aftermath of which will be either the end of the world or the beginning of a new world, which is pretty much the same thing? Will you be meeting New Age folks on some mountain top waiting for the UFO’s to come and take you away from the devastation? Or will you be celebrating the beginning of Yule with friends and family?

As for me, I will be spending the last day of the world with my two best friends in Milwaukee, drinking in an Irish pub. It will be great time, and if I can avoid a certain degree of excess, I won’t be suffering too much from it during the next day. All I can say is to enjoy the festivities and avoid all of the hype. Auspicious dates are subtle things and are only made real and valuable when they are incorporated into extensive magical and spiritual preparations. However, such a regimen will take even the most mildly auspicious time and make it a life-changing event. It is the methodology and not so much the times, although they can help and add a certain amount of profoundness to a working.

Anyway, tip a glass this evening to your favorite Solstice Gods or Goddesses, and make a wish for better times and better tidings. Then, on the next day after the haze has cleared, you should shrug your shoulders and get back to work.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Magical Qabalah for Beginners

My book, Magical Qabalah for Beginners, is now available for order from most book stores, online order sites and the Llewellyn Worldwide publications website, located here. Since I just got my box of books from Llewellyn, I can assume that other suppliers will also have copies available too, or at least over the next two weeks. I have put quite a bit of time into this work, and it's selling for a very reasonable price. 

Although the title places this book within the “For Beginners” line, it is not merely for beginners, nor actually, is it a beginner’s book. I consider the Qabalah to be a pretty engaging topic for most beginners, so this book assumes a bit more than a complete beginners repertoire of knowing nothing about the occult. However, even someone who lacks an in-depth knowledge of the Qabalah and deep occultism should find this tome useful and insightful. I even managed to include some rather advanced topics in this work, so the advanced student will find something new and engaging while perusing this book.

Why did I write this book? What was the inspiration and purpose that sent me down a path that took two years to produce this published book? Aren't there already far too many books on the Qabalah currently in print? These are pretty compelling questions and if I am to promote this work, I should at least thoroughly respond to them.

I will quite frank and state that this book project was not my first choice, since I would much rather write about magick, for obvious reasons. However, when I put this proposal together, I didn't think that it would be such a long and arduous process. What I didn't realize at the time was that some of my knowledge of the Qabalah was either out of date or poorly researched. I was amazed at how much urban myth I had within my mind, erroneously thinking that it passed for some variation of truth. In researching this book, I discovered that my previous studies of the Qabalah were neither comprehensive or exhaustive. I can at least say that my knowledge today is much more extensive than it was previously, and that I have come to a new understanding of the Qabalah. Yet as I took up the task of writing a new introductory book to the Qabalah, I decided that I wanted to write a book as good if not better than William G. Gray’s book “Ladder of Lights.” This was probably the most important book that I had ever read in my occult career, and I wanted to produce a more modern book that could even perhaps supplant it. Only time will tell whether or not I have produced a work as useful and effective as what Mr. Gray wrote so many years ago.

In approaching this book, I wanted to produce a new historical narrative about how the Qabalah evolved over time as well as divide the book into a theoretical section and a practical section, representing the two modes of research and speculation as well as practical application. I also wanted to present to my readers some specific practical exercises that they could use to empower and illuminate themselves. I also desired to assemble a syllabus that would aid anyone in ultimately mastering this topic. It is my earnest belief that I have accomplished all of these goals as well as making this abstruse subject accessible to any educated reader. For this reason, I believe that Magical Qabalah for Beginners is a comprehensive book that any occult student will find useful over the lifetime of their study and spiritual practices. I also think that a book that contains all of these things and more is worthy of anyone’s book shelf even though there are many available books on the Qabalah.

Although I have tried very hard to make certain that all of the knowledgeable elements of this work have been fully vetted and carefully researched, it is possible that there might something here or there that might not agree with what others have either read or even practice. I have not been able to produce a work of perfection, but I do believe that I have produced something that is mostly reliable and useful. I think that is probably as good as anyone can accomplish given the tight time frame for completing the manuscript and presenting it to Llewellyn.

Finally, I would like to say that working with Llewellyn Worldwide has been a really wonderful and rewarding experience. I have learned a lot in the process, and I can say that everyone that I have dealt with has been fair, open minded and helpful in the extreme. I would happily produce other projects for them, and in fact, I am presently doing so. I must say that they are a class act, from start to finish, and I would recommend them to any writer who has a good idea for an occult or pagan book project. If they accept your project, you won’t be disappointed by the final results. The book layout, cover art and internal artwork was, in my opinion, of a very high quality. I am very proud of the final results that is now available to the public to read and ponder.

If you purchase a copy of this book and you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email via this blog, and I will attempt to respond to it in one of my future articles.

Bright Blessings for this upcoming holiday -

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Changing Gears for the Holidays

Well, even though it is Thursday and my vacation was supposed to start on Monday, I am only today starting my vacation from work. Yes, that means that I was having to focus intently on solving some last minute problems with the project that I had been working on since March through yesterday. However, after a 30 minute phone conversation with my boss today, all of the outstanding issues have been resolved. I am now free to pivot from a mostly work related mind-set to one of being a free-soul able to indulge and engage with everything that was put on a back-burner, especially my article writing tasks for this blog. I have been remiss in posting regular articles because I have been putting in long days trying to solve problems at my job that are quite beyond my official technical role. I performed far above and beyond the call of duty, but we shall see what that gets me after the annual evaluations are completed in February.

More than anything, I need a bit of time to catch my breath, change from being the ardent professional to the experimental occultist and ritual magician. It is the kind of pivot that usually gives me a great deal of pleasure, but this time I just feel a bit worn out and exhausted. I really need some time to unwind and disengage from work-related issues. While I might briefly envy those magicians who don’t have a day job to interfere with their occult activities, on the other hand, I am happy that I don’t have a lot of worries about how to pay the bills, supply my larder with foodstuffs or put a roof over my head. My day job takes care of all of these basic concerns, but the price is that I sometimes will be quite busily engaged with work and not with any of my spiritual and magical activities. That will change starting today, but first I need to chill out, and most definitely, clean up my house and perform a lot of untended domestic tasks. My household needs a couple of days of cleaning and squaring away, so that’s what I will be doing over the next few days.

Additionally, my lady, Grace, is graduating tomorrow from her long three year slog at getting a master’s degree. I get to attend her graduation ceremony and see her in cap and gown, noting the moment when the cap tassel is switched from one side to the other indicating a successful completion to her scholastic endeavors. She then has six months of clinical training to undergo, and then she has to study for her board exams in the summer, so it won’t too long before she will have successfully transitioned herself to a new career. I am glad that I was able to help her in this endeavor.

So, there’s a lot going on right now, and that’s why it’s going to be a little while before I get back to producing the usual number of articles a month. One wonderful thing that has happened is that I got two initial copies of my book “Magical Qabalah for Beginners” and I have been looking over the finished and now published copy of this book with a great deal of joy and admiration. It took me nearly two years to get this book into print, but the final results are very much worth it. This is probably the very best book that I have ever written, and the editing was quite excellent as well. It is a very accessible book to readers at a high school level, but it also has enough interesting lore to make it a worth-while buy for knowledgeable students as well. Anyway, the book is now available on Amazon dot com, and it should be in book stores and also available from Llewellyn Worldwide directly in the next few weeks. While I would prefer that my readers order this book from Llewellyn or from their favorite bookstore, it is also available from online booksellers, too.

Next year I am planning some book signing/mini workshop ventures at two local book stores in the Twin Cities area. Other venues will also be added as time goes on. I am planning (so far) to attend Pantheacon next year, but all four of my workshop proposals were sadly rejected, for various reasons beyond my speculation. Supposedly, Pcon staff received vastly more proposals this year than at any time in the past, so that might explain why none of my classes were deemed of sufficient interest to be chosen for this coming year’s schedule. That would also mean that the number of attendees is also at a level beyond any that I have experienced previously. This will likely make it a very crowded convention that will challenge the staff and the hotel where it is to be held. We shall see if that is the case, and it might be a good reason not to attend this venue in the future. I suspect that Pcon may have gotten too large to be sustainable.

Anyway, that’s all I got to say at this time. I am looking forward to the holidays and I will post some articles during that period as well. Have a safe and great weekend, and if you can, go and see the first installment of the movie version of Tolkein’s the Hobbit.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thoughts About Occult Training and Education

I wanted to put down a few more thoughts about the whole self-training, self-directing and self-initiation discussion that has been going on between a few traditionalists and myself. Some good points have been made in my private conversations and I wanted to share them in this thread before I moved on to other topics. I am not trying to flog a dead horse by continuing to discuss this issue and there are some drawbacks to being completely aloof and independent from any traditional organization. Being a trail blazer makes such an individual something of a hero, but there is also a high cost to electing such a path, and that, in all fairness, also needs to be covered.

Yes indeed, I mostly followed the path of the independent and creative trail blazer and pretty much invented my own system of magick. As I am putting into effect the very last pieces of the puzzle for the first seven degrees of the Order of the Gnostic Star, which also happens to represent my own particular path of growth, I can marvel at what I have accomplished.

However, what I have accomplished has taken me a total of 40 years, and I haven’t even begun to work on the levels of the high adept or master magician (degrees 8 - 10). I certainly have some material, ideas, communications from spirits and other things that I can use to start developing this lore, but at this point most of it is pure speculation.

Not only that, but I probably spent several years tracking down leads during that period that led to nowhere, and I have discarded more lore than I eventually kept. Some experiments provided me with negative proof and forced me to drop or radically alter what I was doing in order for it to be successful. There was quite a bit of trial and error throughout the years, including a fair amount of error or inclusive results. Usually, those of us who are independent talk about our successes and pretty much ignore our failures. You can trust me when I tell you that there were a lot of mistakes, errors, bad practices, erroneous lore, all of which had to be mitigated in order for me to achieve success.

These days I can rely on the fact that the new lore that I develop has a high probability of success, but that’s because I have been researching and writing ritual lore for four decades. That experience has helped me know what will work and what will fail, and I can avoid writing rituals that won’t function as I had planned them to. Still, I can make mistakes, but they are usually minor and easily remedied. That, of course, was not the case when I was starting out, and it remained a problem until I had developed an array of successful ritual lore that I could rely upon, a process that took me a good 15 years to achieve.

Another factor that I had to deal with was the fact that the ritual lore that I had developed and successfully used in the early 1980's was very idiosyncratic and based on my own personal pagan and occult system of beliefs. Some of those beliefs were erroneous and needed to be corrected, while I had to ultimately justify the rest of the lore when I sought to make it useable to trial members of the new magical order that we had collectively founded. What this did was force me to rewrite all of the ritual lore using the agreed upon occult beliefs and philosophies of the Order. That effort took me another four years, and then I just continued to build the new ritual lore on top of that foundation. However, when I look at the original rituals that I wrote up between 1981 and 1983, I can see how inappropriate much of that ritual lore would be to someone who didn’t share a lot of my intimate occult beliefs.

So, if you add up all the of years it took me to develop a powerful and generalized system of magick that was useful to more individuals than myself, the final total is something in the area of 20 years - of that, 15 years was spent on the foundational ritual lore itself. That time period represents the span of time from when I first developed my unique system of magick and when it was finally fully capable of being used by people other than myself. We are talking about me having to spend an enormous amount of time and effort creating something that was actually already in existence. The foundational lore that I have developed would have been accessible to someone who had joined a traditional Golden Dawn organization, especially if it also had a robust and well developed second order. Thus, I spent many years reinventing the wheel. I had no choice because there wasn’t any Golden Dawn order for me to join, and there weren’t any published books (like David Griffin’s “Ritual Magic Manual”) that showed in detail how to perform magic using the Golden Dawn system.

Do I regret all the time that I spent creating a new system of magick? Absolutely not! However, would I recommend that anyone else spend their time in this present day, with all of the available material and groups at their disposal, building a system of magick from scratch? My answer is actually no, I wouldn't recommend anyone trying to build their own system of magick. If someone had a special calling and felt compelled to follow this path, I would wish them well, and perhaps they might take less time than I did because there is such more information available.

However, considering that it takes only four years or so for someone to master the Golden Dawn system and undergo the rigorous curriculum and receive mentoring and guidance from experienced adepts, I believe that to be a much better way of mastering the western system of magick. Compare four years to approximately 15 to 20 years and you will easily see that there’s really no comparison at all. If I were starting out today, I would join the Golden Dawn and get my foundational knowledge fully established, and then once that was completed, I would be able to experiment with completely new forms. I would have the same competence and expertise that I have now, yet without having used up two decades of my life in getting there.

Traditional organizations are important for beginners and intermediate students, and they will therefore be around for many years in the future. One could also say the same thing about fully developed adepts. (I would be foolish to turn down an open offer for the comradery, help and assistance of an existing tradition if they would accept my particular way of working magick and my present accomplishments.)

The organization structure of such traditional organizations might change, as would the method of communicating and outreach, but the fundamental purpose of these traditions as teaching bodies will in no way fade from the occult scene. If for some reason occult colleges and traditional orders would completely disappear from the western world then I would judge that world to be very poor and forsaken indeed. Anyway, that’s my final opinion on this matter, and I hope that we can all agree that getting good training is vitally important for any magician at some point on his or her spiritual path. Being completely independent and reinventing the wheel (as I have done), although quite possible, would likely take the average magician and occultist far too long to be useful.

Frater Barrabbas  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thoughts About Epistemic Closure

Now that the November election is over and most of the results have been tabulated, a new phrase has become vogue in some of the left-leaning political blogs, and that phrase is epistemic closure. It’s a fancy word that describes the fantasy-level wishful thinking that many on the political right had in regards to the predictions that President Obama would be re-elected by a sizable margin of voters and win a landslide of electoral votes.

It would seem that right-wing political pundits and various prognosticators were absolutely shocked that Obama cruised to an election victory on the night of November 6. I recall watching TV and the presidential election was called a little after 11 pm CST, when it became pretty clear that Obama had won the state of Ohio, much to the amazement of the Romney campaign. Mitt Romney had been so convinced that he was going to win the election that he had not bothered to write up a concession speech. Even Karl Rove tried to get FOX news to recant its projection that Obama had won the election while on TV before millions of viewers, and spent a terribly embarrassing twenty minutes or so disputing the projection for Ohio with the FOX news number crunchers. Those who had passionately backed the Republican ticket went through a period of utter denial and disbelief, saying that somehow the election had been erroneously called and that the news outlets were all in on some kind of national conspiracy.

Anyone who had been perusing the internet just a few days before the election would have found that the consensus of poling aggregators (like Nate Silver) had pretty much predicted an Obama victory, and that the national pols weren't as trustworthy as the individual battle ground state pols, which has become something of a pattern in the last several presidential elections. Yet the right-wing bloggers and pundits predicted a Romney landslide, which only made his defeat more astonishing, shocking and bitter to them. It was a situation where reality harshly intruded on the wishful thinking and collective denial of many Republicans who ardently believed and passionately desired the incumbent president to be decisively defeated. They had thought that the election was theirs to win, but the truth was that the Obama campaign was probably one of the best political organizations to be assembled in quite a number of years. They had little chance of winning once the Republican primaries were finished.

Now, nearly a month later, many of the right-wing pundits and commentators have proposed various nefarious scenarios where the election was somehow stolen by voter fraud or a series of underhanded manipulations. They have responded to their shock and disbelief by engaging in greater leaps of fantasy and self-serving rhetoric, saying the nation was now doomed and headed to a complete moral and financial collapse. All of these foolish beliefs and misinformation represent the fact that many on the right are living within their own “bubble,” and their apparent disconnect with reality has been correctly labeled by left-wing pundits as a form of epistemic closure. It’s a neat term that describes in philosophic terms the fact that some people are living in their own reality and refuse to acknowledge that the real reality is much more complex, nuanced and subtle than they realize. 

We don’t live in a world where obvious factions of good are combating against the obvious factions of evil. The good guys don’t wear white hats and the bad guys, black, since at times it’s hard to determine who is really good or bad. In fact, such a simple judgment of good and evil just doesn't make any sense at all. We really live in a grey secular world, and trying to project upon that world one’s overly simplistic religious mythology is likely the first step to becoming a certified nutcase (or at least talking like one).

Examples of the kind of lunacy that lurks within our supposed free thinking society are often found in the emails sent by anonymous trolls to the Daily KOS web page, and they are displayed in all their pathetic glory for all to see every Saturday morning. The spelling and grammar is atrocious, but the ideas espoused are completely over the top. It’s hard to imagine someone cogently thinking these thoughts, writing them and sending them to a liberal blog web page. I don’t believe that these emails are faked or in anyway edited or changed. They represent the true mental health of a small minority of right-wing individuals. Here a couple of samples that you can examine for yourself, and every Saturday there are several more presented in a blog article called the "Saturday hate-mail-a-palooza."

Obama will execute his evil plan through a mind-control technique called the Delphi protocol. This was developed by the NWO-connected Rand corporation during the cold war, and the stolen election was the first large-scale attempt to deploy the Delphi protocol.”    

Do you know what God looks like?  You aren't even fit to get on your knees before his likeness! You should be ashamed. Your plan to pull the plug on my grandma will not work, if I have to stand watch over her bedside for the Obamaloons come to smother her with a pillow every damn day of my life!!”  

I have already made some of these points in a previous article that I posted the day after the election, and if you missed it, you can read it here. However, I am more than a little bit concerned by the continued presence of epistemic closure that seems to be haunting the right-wing political machine in this country. It can be a pernicious malady resistant to change and oblivious to facts, but if it isn’t overcome, it could set the stage for an epic failure.

As occultists and magicians we should be looking at this social phenomenon as an example of what might happen to anyone who ends up believing too much in their own personal hype and who, therefore, refuse to allow objectivity to mitigate their emotional and mental excesses. Objectivity is the one palliative that can truly correct one’s erroneous beliefs and assumptions. Working magic alone for many years and being socially isolated and without any objective engagement with a peer group of fellow magicians will likely produce a state of epistemic closure. This is something that we collectively need to avoid at all costs.

So how does one fall prey to this terrible state of affairs? How do occultists or practicing magicians end up living in their own bubble, divorced from objective reality or scientific fact? I can say from experience that it sneaks up on you completely unaware, and it evolves over a period of time. It is subtle, at first, and after a period of time, it can ultimately lead one from conjecture and inference to complete distortion and delusion. Entering this state happens gradually, often without a troubled thought, warning or even an intuition of impending doom. By the time close associates, friends or family become aware of it, the bubble has completely closed and only reflects back one’s absolute sense of certainty and even destiny. Nothing can seem to penetrate that insular enclosure, just short of personal disaster. The trick is to either insure that it never happens or at least leave the door of possible dialogue always open to friends and family. Still, reality has a way of intruding sooner or later, since most pipe dreams are unsustainable.

I have personally experienced this kind of phenomenon when I was a member of Bill Schoebelen’s “Coven From Hell” many years ago. I was not alone, since all of the members of that small group ended up living in a bubble of misinformation, projected myth and outright delusion. When any of us were kicked out of that coven (and that eventually happened to everyone except Bill and Sharon), we found ourselves trying to cope with the cold and cruel objective world that had suddenly appeared before us. Our dreams and fantasies about living forever in an idyllic Wiccan Camelot were simultaneously and completely annihilated. I went through that terrible awakening and realization, and I know all too well why some would be very reluctant to do so. Yet in order to grow and evolve, it was an important and necessary thing to experience, since otherwise I would have become quite incapable of functioning in the real world.

Combating an occult version of epistemic closure requires first and foremost the ability to doubt oneself and one’s beliefs. If you are absolutely certain that you are right about your spiritual and occult beliefs, then it is likely that some form of closure is already occurring. In fact, it is healthy to doubt and question yourself about nearly everything at some point. Never be completely satisfied with any explanation or supposed irrefutable fact when it comes to occultism and mystical spirituality. You can accept proven scientific theories, but it becomes important to be a little bit skeptical about anything that is based on subjective experience, particularly experiences with paranormal or occult phenomenon.

It’s also important to be open minded about alternative possible perspectives or opinions concerning these phenomena, in fact I would say that it’s important to be open minded, period. It is prudent to avoid unproven dogma as well as urban myths and popular misconceptions. Gullibility and credulity are serious flaws in judgment that an occultist or magician should avoid wherever possible. A quick perusal of such web sites dedicated to debunking urban myths and misinformation can really assist one in staying above the cultural baloney factor, like the site Snopes dot com located here.

What keeps all of us magicians and occultists on the objective path is to get input and criticism from one’s peers. In fact, it is the peer group that acknowledges personal claims and accolades as either facts or fallacies. A magician can make all sorts of claims and brag about what he or she has accomplished to others, but a peer group of magicians is most qualified to make a judgement or determination about such claims and accomplishments. Likewise, a peer group can question the misinformation or even delusions that a magician might be operating under and save them the trouble of embarrassment or even disastrous consequences by pitting objective rationality against subjective illusions or delusions.

The reason why a peer group of magicians is so important is that they won’t judge a fellow practitioner’s claims as obviously false, but instead they will at the very least compare it to their own experiences, and at the most, they can test it for truth by taking the time to perform the same rites under analogous conditions. Also, there is no greater objective test of any magical working than doing it with a group of fellow magicians. While each participant will certainly experience something different and unique, the points that they will experience in common will undoubtedly reinforce and objectify the overall experience of magick. 

This is one reason why I believe it’s important for the beginner to have a group of individuals with whom he or she can perform group workings. Other magicians will certainly understand what a ritual magician has undergone while performing a working, and if they happen to have been there with him or her, they can certify that what was experienced was real and not fantasy based. Yet those who have no experience or knowledge of magick could never adequately judge whether a magician was experiencing something credible or not.

Therefore, cultivating a peer group and expanding beyond the typical impersonal social network of Face Book friends, Twitter feeds, blogs, email and other internet exchanges will ensure that the magician has a more healthy relationship with reality than otherwise. Looking for help and guidance from strangers on the internet is not very helpful or productive. Most towns have some kind of occult social collective, or at least, one can travel to the nearest metropolitan area to acquire that kind of social connection if it is lacking in the area close by. Finding other like-minded individuals who are not only sympathetic to magick but who are actual practitioners in their own right is just as important to a magician’s development as collecting the latest cutting edge occult lore or even finding a teacher. (Having recourse to a second opinion is important to curb the excesses of badly written books and teachers who are either incompetent or untrustworthy.)

As you can see, we can do a lot to make certain that regularly working magick and studying the occult doesn't put us into a socially isolated life situation. I have stated my opinion numerous times in this blog about the hazards of working forms of heavy or intense magick alone and without any input from other practitioners. We now have a name for the malady that can develop if magicians pursue their magical avocation without recourse to any degree of objective criticism or a rational examination of their work. 

Avoiding the pitfalls of epistemic closure is an important behavior and practice for the practicing ritual magician to adopt. While it might not drive someone insane to unwittingly undergo this malady, it can certainly make his or her occult path more difficult and could even force occult seekers to end their search prematurely. A key point is that a closed mind is a terrible curse to have to experience, particularly when reality harshly and decisively intervenes.

Frater Barrabbas