Friday, May 17, 2013

Terrible Death of a Thelemite

Last month I had heard that one of my acquaintances from long ago was murdered in his home in Columbia, MO. That individual was Brian Daniels, who I had met during my interlude in Kansas City, back in around 1985 to 1986. His half-sister introduced us and told me that we had a lot in common with each other. When I spent some time with Mr. Daniels, I found him to be quite harmlessly demented, perhaps even a borderline psychotic. Brian implored me to invoke Satan so that he could meet him, because he believed that the Devil was his real father. I also heard that Brian had performed his own kind of Satanic Mass, blessing the wine and hosts in the name of the Devil and inviting demons to enter into them, and then at the climax of the rite, greedily consuming them. His reasons for doing this is that he wanted to become completely possessed by the Devil.

I found Brian to be something of a nut-case and refused to have anything further to do with him. Even though he was quite delusional, I thought that he was also quite harmless. Brian never hurt anyone, nor was he was ever violent or even vocal about his apparent off-putting mental problems. However, I didn’t invite him to be a part of the then forming Order of the Gnostic Star, and I also declined to either initiate or even ordain him, as he had apparently hoped. In fact, I tried to convince him to get out of the occult altogether and get some help for his obvious mental instability. He found that to be quite funny and still had hopes that I would relent.

Brian passed out of my life once he determined that I wasn’t going to enable his delusions, and from what I understood, he moved on to other pursuits. Once in while, one of my acquaintances would tell me something that they had heard about Mr. Daniels. I had heard, for instance, that he had moved to Columbia to study at the university there, but never pursued a degree. For those who might not know this little fact, Columbia is the capitol of the state of Missouri. Another time, I had heard that he had been involved in a terrible apartment fire and that he had barely escaped with his life. There had been some issue with the smoke alarm detectors not having been properly installed and failing to go off, and that Brian had received a considerable sum of money as a form of compensation. Apparently, the fire had left him disfigured and crippled one of his arms and one of his legs, making him rather incapable of either getting or keeping a job. As a disabled person, he earned disability coverage for life as well as being the recipient of quite a windfall from the ensuing lawsuit.

From what I understood, Brian pursued his passion for magical artifacts. He ordered artistically produced magical tools from various local artisans, and he also collected and sold valuable artifacts on Ebay. From what I had heard, he had grown out of being a diabolical seeker to one that was firmly in the Thelemic camp. I don’t know if he ever joined the OTO or received any initiations in that or any other organization, but he did delight in projecting a kind of creepy, occult image of himself in a town that was probably quite conservative, despite the presence of the State Capitol and the University. If anyone had ever asked me what I thought about Brian Daniels, I would have said that he was a harmless crank. So, that’s the most of what I remember about him back in the days when I lived in Kansas City; and that is all that I remember hearing about him since those days from folks with whom I have met whenever traveling up that way. 

Then I read in an April edition of the “Wild Hunt - Unleash the Hounds (Link Roundup)” a news item that Brian Daniels was found shot to death in his home in Columbia on April 10th. I was a bit shocked to read this news item, so I followed the links and verified that indeed, this was the Brian Daniels that I had known. You can find a newspaper article about the murder and its early investigation here. However, a few days later, Brian’s alleged lover, house-keeper and intimate friend (who even had the power of attorney) was accused of the murder. Two other suspects were also arrested for lying to investigators. You can read about the whole sordid affair here. Even despite the controversy associated with Brian Daniel’s life and his rather lurid public persona of being a Thelemite and a closet Satanist, the local newspaper wrote an op-ed on his life that was quite fair and open minded. That impressed me and it also gave me hope that maybe there is some degree of compassion in the world for those who are not normal, particularly in a part of the U.S., which is not known for its compassion to pagans, witches and occultists. Yes, they painted him as some kind of crackpot occultist, but at least the human behind the facade was also noted. I am sure that Brian Daniels would have relished the attention that he is posthumously getting, since it shows him to have finally achieved his desire of being one of those infamous forbidden left-hand path magicians and occultists. Yet part of me feels sad about the whole ugly affair.

However we judge Brian Daniels, he deserved to live out his full life without being murdered. It is an object lesson to all occultists that we need to ensure our own safety and well-being, despite the capriciousness of fate and that bad things do happen every day. It is also sad because even though Brian was one of those individuals who delighted in the “ooky-spooky” aspects of the occult, he was essentially harmless. Whether or not he was ever able to deal with his lifetime of mental problems and serious psychological defects will never be known. His story will remain basically untold, but one can assume that such troubles are never fully eliminated, and they may have contributed to the obvious poor choices that he made in regards to the affairs of the heart. Those poor choices prematurely ended his life; but I suspect that he was likely also lonely and without family support and care, and this can lead nearly anyone to make bad choices as far as friends and lovers are concerned. May whatever Deities were in alignment to Brian Daniels at the end assoil his troubled spirit and keep him in a place of peace forever. 

All of this is, of course, quite sobering to me, and it shows that human nature is fragile, relationships and trust must be given to those who are truly worthy, and that life is precious. We must guard ourselves from the iniquities of those who would do us egregious harm, and seek the blessings of the Gods to ensure that this state is maintained.

Frater Barrabbas

Update: Jefferson City is the Capitol of Missouri, not Columbia. My mistake.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Literary Dream Come True

Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - the Logo for this work is an Octagram with a sun and moon occupying the circular center. What this symbolizes is the overall magical discipline of the Lunar and Solar cycles, both of which are represented by the number eight. There are eight solar celebrations and there are eight nodes in the lunation cycle. The sun and moon (and their respective cycles) conjoined like the Yin and Yang is the key to forging a true magical discipline.

Twenty years ago this year, I embarked upon my career as an occult writer. I don’t exactly know when I started my first book project (1991?), but it was already in high gear by 1993. What pushed me to begin this writing project was a complaint informally delivered to me by two neophytes in our already formed Order of the Gnostic Star. It was, to use a paraphrase, that the lore we were using was too complex and difficult for a moderately experienced beginner to learn. We had nothing in print that could help the beginner other than our method of direct hands-on teaching.

Since these two students did not have access to me or other members of the group because they lived in Dallas (and we were in Tallahassee and Kansas City), they requested that I write up a manual for knowledgeable students. This wouldn’t be a manual for complete beginners who knew nothing, it would be just a primer for individuals who wanted some help mastering the lore of the Order.

I happily complied with their request since it seemed like a good idea, and instead of just writing up a simple manual, I decided to write up a book containing a comprehensive system of ritual magick that would function as an introduction to the lore of the Order. It would also serve Witches and Pagans to make that most difficult first step in their magical career, and that would be creating their own comprehensive magical system. Since I had done this myself more than a few times, helping others to formulate and build their own magical system seemed like a good idea for a book project. There certainly weren’t any other books already published that would fulfill this need, so I began to organize and outline what such a book might contain.

Anyway, this is how the book project, which I called the “Pyramid of Powers,” had its start. It was a giddy dream and a driving passion that I had discovered in myself, which led me to pursue my literary dream of being a published occult author. The literary bug had bitten me and there was no turning back now. I also erroneously thought that publishing a book could earn me some real money, too. Later on I discovered that idea to be quite a laughable fantasy, but the desire to be an author was realistic enough. It is amusing to note that previously I had been such a hard core, autistically focused ritual magician, and that magick had been more important than anything else. Now, I had a desire to share my knowledge with others, even with individuals who had never met me. That was quite a peculiar transformation.

Little did I realize that this project would consume around five years of my life, and it would challenge me to learn how to write in a clear and definitive manner. I didn’t have those kinds of writing skills back then, and often the first book project that an erstwhile writer attempts to write ends up in the rubbish bin. After quite a number of editing cycles that included hiring an editor, I had taken this project as far as I could take it without engaging a publisher. All three volumes were fully written, and the manuscript as a whole was well organized and structured, at least in my opinion. Even so, it was poorly written and executed and there was little that I could do to change that. Even my hired editor found the job of editing the manuscript quite onerous if not outright frustrating. I had even hired one of my friends, who was a professional artist, to produce a number of the diagrams, which I thought looked quite good.

Despite all that, I was so eager to move the project forward because I really believed that I had a good literary idea and dreamed of successfully publishing this book. So I put together a submission package and mailed it out to a dozen different occult publishers back in 1997, and then waited for some positive news. Months went by, and during that time all I got was a sequence of polite rejections. Well, some of them weren’t so polite, but I took them with a certain humble mind-set, believing that some publisher would be interested in my book. After waiting nearly 18 months, all of the publishing companies had finally replied to me, each one using the stamped and self-enclosed envelope that I had included in the package, and every one of them had declined to publish my book. After that, I managed to print up some copies of the book myself, hiring the skills of the local copying store to produce three ring-bound volumes. These I distributed to some of the members of my Order and a few friends. I gave up on the idea of ever publishing my book, the Pyramid of Powers, and felt that the personalized copies had satisfied my original intent, sans all of the glory of being a published writer. (Sigh.)

Some years later, I decided to try to publish another book. This one, I decided, would not be quite so ambitious, so I put together a scaled down version of the Pyramid of Powers. I even cannibalized some parts of the old book project to fill out the new, and in much less time, I had a completed a decent sized manuscript. By this time, several years had elapsed and I was much better at writing then compared to what I had been in the mid 90's.

I had just completed purchasing and assembling the artwork from another friend who was an artist (for the cover and other some other excellent illustration work) and I had crafted a proposal letter when a friend of mine named Nicholas suggested that I send my proposal to his friend who was opening an occult section for Immanion Publishing called “Megalithica Press.” That friend of his was, of course, Taylor Elwood, and he very quickly signed me on to publish my newest manuscript, to which I gave the title “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick.” After what seemed like just a few months of work, in May 2007, the book was released into print. I was now a pusblished author! Hazah! What a joy and a pleasure it was to finally experience seeing my words in print. (I have always been grateful for the opportunity that Taylor Elwood afforded me in getting my first book into print.)

However, my friend Nicholas, who had promoted the idea of getting my first book published by Megalithica, told me that I should also seek to publish the Pyramid of Powers. At first I was quite dubious, but then decided to give it shot. However, I had determined that the old title desperately needed to be changed. I also had to rewrite and fill in a number of chapters that I had gutted from the old manuscript in order to complete the new edition of this book. So I started to work on this project, and I got Taylor to approve the publishing of a three book set called “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick.”

This project took quite a lot more time to complete, since I had to rewrite whole new sections in the book, and the older text required some extensive editing in order to make it have the same readable quality as my previous book. It took me nearly three years to get all three volumes into print and my girlfriend Grace spent quite a bit of time going over and editing that work. I must confess that whole sections were eliminated and others were completely rewritten. In the end, the quality of writing in that book didn’t match the level that DGRM had established for me, but at least I had achieved the dream of publishing my very first book project.

As I have said, many writers are often forced to discard their first attempt, and some even have to discard their second and third attempts, so I considered myself quite lucky. The three volumes were a good addition to any comprehensive occult library, but the overall process had lost some of the original passion and luster that it had back in the 90's. The three books sold some copies here and there over the last few years, but bought together, they were indeed a bit pricey. Sales began to dwindle and I wondered if they would ever be even slightly popular with occultists.

Then, as fate would have it, something odd happened to breathe new life into this work. For some reason, two of the three volumes of MARM became unsearchable when searching the author’s name. Nothing that the staff at Megalithica or Immanion did could rectify this problem, and they did try to fix it. It was just really weird. Then late last year, Taylor Elwood recommended that perhaps the solution would be to pull the three volumes together into one large “omnibus” edition. He asked me if this would be OK, and I heartily approved. So after a few months of steadfast work, which was mostly done by Taylor Elwood, Storm Constantine (the owner of Immanion), and Andy Bigwood (the cover artist), a new version of the book came out in early April, and I got my first copies later that month.

Needless to say, I was really pleased by the look and feel of this book, and the layout was done quite well and cleanly, too. The cover art has a new illustration that incorporates the three previous covers of the old three volume set into one unified and colorful concept. I also really loved the matt finish of the book cover, and that appears to be a nice texture quality that is found in other books recently published. As I held the new omnibus edition in my sweaty hands, I felt a strange sensation occurring within me.

This book was once rejected by publishers and existed only in Xerox copied editions with ring binders. Then it was produced as three separate book volumes, which seemed to confuse a few of my critics who hadn’t bothered to read all three of them before commenting. But the new omnibus edition, which combined the Foundation, Grimoire and Greater Key into one large three-part volume seemed to make the MARM series reborn into a newer and better format. I was witnessing my book idea in its third incarnation, and the final version, at over 500 pages, seems much more like the comprehensive work that I had planned it to be all those years ago. Now the passion from the original work has been restored, and I am once again quite excited by it.

Anyway, many thanks to Taylor Elwood, Storm Constantine and Andy Bigwood for their excellent and good work. You can purchase a copy of this book at Amazon dot com at the following link. If you have waited until now to purchase this work, I can at last truly recommend it as a literary dream come true. I am quite pleased with this newly revised book, and I believe that you will find it very useful and economical as well.

Frater Barrabbas