So, I’ve been wanting to get back into ‘routine’ blogging for a while, I had this sort of intense run of writing in ’17 which was great, at the time I had a many focuses. There was a reading of House of Leaves which I stopped and deleted as it would actually ruin the book for others, there was my TSPDT series, which I intend to continue…I just need to get more organized, and there was of course the initial Accelerationist stuff. This has all petered out a little and I look at bloggers such as Xenogoth with scorn, I wish I could be more attentive. But my inherent nature is that I need projects with clear guidelines. That’s not to say I wont digress – I will – only, if I leave myself to wait for something to come to me, nothing will happen. Some people can wait for creativity, others have to drag it out screaming from whence it lay.
Now, before I explain the project here, I will just add that I am still working on Z/Acc stuff, when I say working on, I mean doing thorough amounts of research. Z is a tough line between collapse and Acc which is very finicky. Also working on my Accelerationist thesis at the moment, so I’m busy. But basically, I allocate 4 nights a week to thesis study, 1 night to Z and 1 night to occultism. The remaining night is either for me to get drunk, wind down or eat a heavy meal.
So, what’s this project? Well, I intend on lucidly writing a close reading of Manly P Hall‘s The Secret Teachings of All Ages. This book is often cited as an encyclopedic occultist masterpiece, it’s both the history and the philosophy of occultism written by an advanced practitioner. It’s also commonly seen as a great starting place for a novice. Not a beginner mind you. If you’re still ‘in doubt’ with respect to ‘Occultism’ (whatever that means to you) I highly recommend picking up a copy of Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising (PDF) and doing some of the exercises from it for 3-4 weeks, and then picking up a copy of Alan Chapman’s Advanced Magick for Beginners and doing those exercises day by day. For anyone engrossed in Occultism wondering why I recommend these two western ‘chaos-leaning’ texts, well, quite simply they’re very accessible for the average Joe, at least the average reader of this blog.
I guess for me to take myself seriously on something – and this is a recent epiphany – I have to non-narcissisticly – make my intentions public. This both acts as a means to follow through with my created debts and also acts as a quick stripper of embarrassment. That’s right old high school friends I’m into magick now. But legitimately, I’ve found that one of the first hurdles to ‘expanding one’s mind/perspective’ is the overcoming of embarrassment, of losing credibility etc. So this blog series will act both as a ‘scholarly’ (blergh!) exercise, a weekly meditation on Occultism, inspiration for others to take the initial ‘dip’ (Though, if you do intend to get ‘into’ Occultism, I advise going the whole way or nothing, taking a dip can be dangerous.) and also a chance for to simply blog routinely again.
A note on ‘Magusitus’, give this piece a read, make sure you understand it at don’t fall into the pitfalls of ‘being magickally stuck’. Treatment for the I’m-so-powerful-look-at-me-Occultist:
LAUGHTER: Stop taking things so seriously. A damn good dose of Discordianism
COUNSELLING: To put things into perspective. Reframing techniques (used in NLP.)
ASK THE QUESTION: Are you a Cosmic Shmuck?.
EGO MAGICK: Sort those demons out! If you have any personality disorders when you start magickal work, expect them to be amplified by the work over the years. Best deal with them using psychological magicks before you embark on serious magickal journeying.
MEDITATION: Without regular exercise of self discipline and ego dissolution, ego inflation may occur – magickal work does tend to inflate the ego, especially if you don’t banish effectively.
Also, just as a very quick aside, I’ve always had trouble internalizing that which I don’t work with, I have to write about something to truly understand it – and this is a book that needs study. Let’s begin.
Museum Hermeticum Reformatum Et Amplificatum
Let’s start with the title. The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Not so secret any more, hey Manly! Well, it’s certainly a pre-internet clickbait title if you ask me. A compendium of secrets, who could resist. With that said, it begs an early question. What happens to Occultism – Occult meaning hidden – in an age when ‘teachings’ and knowledge are so easily accessible? Actually very little. John Michael Greer has actually commented on this, stating that it was a worry throughout Occult circles as to what would happen if the general public got their hands on these teachings. They of course worried it would be a kids with dynamite type scenario, when in actuality, Occultism takes a lot of work, a lot of hard, disciplined, daily rigorous work…at least if you want to get beyond the point of gimmicks, basic sigils and minor will stuff. And so, yes we can all read the secrets, but it takes a keen, tenacious and downright spiritually obsessive eye to read between even just some of the lines. Needless to say, Hall’s book still achieved its aims to some extent:
“The greatest knowledge of all time should be available to the twentieth century not only in the one shilling editions of the Bohn Library in small type and shabby binding, but in a book that would be a monument, not merely a coffin. John Henry Nash agreed with me.” – Secret Teachings
The book opens with this dedication:
This book is dedicated to the Rational Soul of the World.
You can see already Hall thinks and writes like a contemporary continental, capitalizing all that needs its own. With that said, behind Hall’s dry witticism here, there’s an importance…at least as I see it. The ‘Rational Soul’ is a state of being for Hall. This will come as no surprise to many of you, but to those who may be taking their first trembling steps into the world-of-doubt, then to attend to the notion that there is a ‘Rational Soul’ is to also attend to the idea that there is most certainly other forms of souls, spiritual, machinic, black, dead…who knows, but the possibility of otherness is forthwith, and yet, once the rationality is removed what of ‘the Soul’?
After the initial preface we come across the ‘Preface to the Diamond Jubilee Edition’, within it this strange quote from Hall:
“It was apparent that materialism was in complete control of the economic structure, the final objective of which was for the individual to become part of a system providing economic security at the expense of the human soul, mind and body.”
The latter parts here are of little originality (now), but the former sentence, of materialism is somewhat unique. Materialism as a form of control. In an email I received from my online-friend Amy Ireland, wherein we were discussing time, she stated that it was – to paraphrase – ‘material that was living through us.’ And this is what happens when you take Kantian idealism to its limit. The souls of humans bereft of all cosmic worth, and they bow to the material, allow it to seep and enter into them – virulent materialism in cahoots with techonomic forces.
“the ageless truths of life – have usually been clothed in shabby garments.” – MPH
This quote is reminiscent of Couliano’s writing (in Eros and Magic in the Renaissance – or this paper) with regard to advertising acting as a form of magical spell cast over society, the truth is throughout and in all things. One wonders if hours spend musing over intricacies of an airline pamphlet could reveal some cosmic truths, the truth, splayed throughout modernity’s shivering intensities, tacked onto pithy desires as an afterthought.
“I have sincerely endeavored to refrain from haphazard metaphysical speculation,” – MPH
To the introduction…
“The superiority of any state or substance over another is determined by philosophy.” (p13)
Note: All pages references are from the 2003 Tarcher/Penguin edition, unless stated otherwise.
And so Hall begins with a metaphilosophical quip relating to the determination of philosophy to value its own inherent self-worth. For the state/substance dynamic was in some sense born from philosophy and is thus controlled by philosophy in relation to valuation. What Hall calls the ‘index of priority’ (p13). Halls’s philosophy is one of manifestations, relations, causes and nature, his mission is to seek out the a priori interconnection and truth of/behind these. In fact hear on page 13, Hall very cheekily lists altering definitions of philosophy one after another, reeling them off, so to speak.
“Convincing evidence of the increasing superficiality of modern scientific and philosophic thought is its persistent drift towards materialism.”
Perhaps, later down the line I’ll introduce here some of my own readings of materialism (via Kant, D&G and Land of course) but for now, we’ll leave Hall to the archaic notion of material and non-material. He seems ignorant of any immanence here.
“Man’s status in the natural world is determined – by the quality of his thinking.” – (p15)
The Rational Soul previously spoken of returns here, hidden away as such a person whose thinking, knowledge and study is of bad quality, is insincere, is ignorant, and Hall accepts that to have lacking quality in one’s thoughts is to be but a man, and that, for Hall it seems, is not a great thing. The elevation of one’s intellectual faculties to the intrinsic study of the ‘divine realities’ makes of man a demigod. Hall here does the same for ‘God’ as he does for philosophy, listing off a few pre-socratic variations of God and World. The most important for Occultism – in my opinion – would be the Heraclitean notion of eternal change and flux.
“John Reuchlin said of Pythagoras that he taught nothing of his disciples before the discipline of silence, silence being the first rudiment of contemplation.” (p16)
The importance of silence cannot be overstated, especially now – forgive the cliche – of all eras. Not only must one take silence seriously, but one must understand that to be silent is to allow inner reflection, connection and contemplation to come forth without hurdle (at least as much as possible). Not only this, one must understand that to be silent after an act of magick is to make not the ritual narcissistic, nor proof that one has ‘Become a Grand Wizard/Seer’ – silence is the avoidance of arrogance and ignorance. You’re sitting attached to some device, some machine, some external apparatus of noise. This is not a luddite disconnection, not any anti-tech rhetoric, no. One can be silent and think in a machinic manner, or think of machines if they wish. Only silence will bring you an originality of thought, else your mind is tainted by a third party symbolic limb. In fact, for a further understanding of silence and noise in this sense, I highly recommend Michel Serres’ The Parasite, or see here:
“Noise in French means “strife” (cf. chercher noise, “kick up a fuss,” “look for a fight”); bruit is “noise” — in two senses: auditory noise (static) and noise in information theory (turbulence) [see Serres, Genesis 141]. For Serres, noise serves as the “third man” (the parasite: the unwelcome guest) in all communication. (In French, bruit parasite is static or interference.)”
Now, after this Hall begins to sort of smash through Greek reading’s of God, philosophy and life at high speed, these are sort of prerequisite nuggets of information to be extrapolated on latter, when they’re more involved. Hall notes here the doctrines of the Cyrenaics: “All that is actually known concerning any object or condition is the feeling which it awakens in man’s own nature.” (p20) As you can see, Kant is probably going to play a large role here with respect to my reading of Hall. The dynamics of Kantian representation, phenomena, noumena and the thing-in-itself play a high role with regard to Occultism. “The end of pleasant emotion is pleasure; the end of harsh emotion, grief; the end of mean emotion, nothing. – Pleasure, furthermore, is limited wholly to the moment; now is the only time.”
Halls section on Greek philosophy takes a sad turn: “But Greek philosophy had passed the zenith of its splendor; the mass of humanity was awakening to the importance of physical life and physical phenomena. The emphasis upon earthly affairs which began to assert itself later reached maturity of expression in twentieth century materialism and commercialism, even though Neo-Platonism was to intervene and many centuries pass before this emphasis took definite form.” (p24) At least, a sad turn for Hall. The peak of Greek life, which was surpassed, seems to be for Hall a moment in time wherein the culture took a turn from the divine, to the material. And though the Neo-Platonism of Ptolemy attempted a return, the cards were dealt with respect to a strict cultural adherence to earth, physicality and human affairs. Hall marks the death of Boethius as the clear end to the Greek school of philosophy.
Hall dedicates a short paragraph to Kant: “Dr W.J.Durant sums up Kant’s philosophy in the concise statement that he rescued mind from matter. The mind Kant conceived to be the selector and coordinator of all perceptions, which in turn are the result of sensations grouping themselves around some external object. (p29). Is it these ‘objects’ (inclusive of processes etc.) that we are grasping for? That Hall and co wish to ‘find’? In some sense, I believe so.
Hall continues here through German Idealists, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel etc. Now, I wont extrapolate on these as Hall’s remarks are more or less a very brief overview of their beliefs largely was clarity with respect to a history of philosophy. However, he then turns to Schopenhauer, who as far as I’m concerned is of strict importance here and so I’ll make a couple of notes:
“The true subject of Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy is the will; the object of his philosophy is the elevation of the mind to the point where it is capable of controlling the will. – The will is the tireless cause of manifestation and every part of Nature the product of the will. – The entire intellectual and emotional constitutions of man are subservient to the will and are largely concerned with the effort to justify the dictates of the will. Thus the mind creates elaborate systems of thought simply to prove the necessity of the thing willed.” – (p30-31)
If we juxtapose Hall’s reading of Schopenhauer here with two classic readings of what ‘magick’ is, we’ll find some similarities, and perhaps reasons as to why the introduction is focused with philosophy:
“Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” — Aleister Crowley
“Magick is the art of causing changes in consciousness in conformity with the Will“– Dion Fortune
Is Schopenhauer’s ‘will’ and the Will of Crowley and Fortune the same? There may be an argument to say there is a difference, and yet I cannot find one. Schopenhauer is important here for me as it in some way ‘justifies’ – not that I needed justification to do so – my assimilation of continental philosophy more thoroughly into this domain. I know not whether Schopenhauer ever wrote of magick, occultism or practices for the control of the will…at least in the practical manner of Crowley and Fortune, yet one could say that Schopenhauer’s metaphysics are the circuitry of Occultism, from which we may draw in other readings and findings and begin to build systems.
Thus far Hall has made little favourable remarks with regard to any of the aforementioned philosophers, and then all of a sudden:
“Henri Bergson, the intuitionalist, undoubtedly the greatest living French philosopher, presents a theory of mystic anti-intellectualism founded upon the premise of creative evolution. His rapid rise to popularity is due to his appeal to the finer sentiments in human nature, which rebel against the hopelessness and helplessness of materialistic science and realistic philosophy. Bergson sees God as life continually struggling against the limitations of matter.” – (p33)
All of a sudden Hall calls forth and explicitly states his adoration of Bergson. A philosopher who despite his importance to Deleuze, I don’t actually know very well at all. (I have Land to thank for that.) And yet this section is left as and island, adrift and odd. Out of nowhere springs some direction, and then alas we fall back into historical analysis of philosophy. Must remember to pick up a copy of Creative Evolution, one must at least try and see the breadcrumbs when they are there.
Hall finishes up his tracing of sequential philosophic thought in a hasty manner, it seems apparent that those whose philosophy is directly linked to the Cartesian is of little interest to Hall. And Hall now gives us an idea as to why we must first understand philosophy:
“Hence he who would fathom the depths of philosophic thought must familiarize himself with the teachings of those initiated priests designated as the first custodians of divine revelation.” – (p36)
“Thales, Pythagoras, and Plato in their philosophic wanderings contacted many distant cults and brought back the lore of Egypt and the inscrutable Orient.” – (p33)
And now we’re getting somewhere,
“The Mysteries were secret societies, binding their initiates to inviolable secrecy, and avenging with death the betrayal of their sacred trusts. – Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries; in fact it is the language not only of mysticism and philosophy but of all Nature, for every law and power active in the universal procedure is manifested to the limited sense perceptions of man through the medium of symbol. Every form existing in the diversified sphere of being is symbolic of the divine activity by which it is produced.” – (p37)
See, told you Kant would be important.
And so here I finish up this first part of my reading, little to say here if I’m quite honest, just enough stuff to keep you wondering. A few bits you’ll need to know, but ultimately this is a primer for the likes of that which is to come. If you wish to follow along, feel free to grab and copy and comment or post your own readings etc. From here on in the readings are less analytical and more subjective with regard to Hall’s heavily researched studies of the Ancient Mysteries etc. And so the thoughts that come from me, on Hall’s readings, will from now on be a little more unique than the above text.
Hope you enjoy.