We moved on from autobiography and Illumination in the second part, onto the Next Big Thing in Magic, the Cradle, the Pact of the IOT and the Urban Druid. Here’s how it went …
Visionarium: Obviously, there’s some sort of evolution in magic as well. It broke free from the hidden knowledge of elitist circles and information became easily accessible via books, the internet as well as Visionarium. From dogmatic, hierarchical structures to a post-modern punk-rock style. For 40 years now, chaos magic allegedly has proven that shifting and mixing and inventing paradigms is not only possible, but also a valid technique. So, what’s next? Are there any trailblazers for the next big step in magic and what are their visions?
I really don’t know. Goetia is big at the moment, and Jake Stratton-Kent is worth watching for his championing of goetia as the root and the continuous tradition of Western magic. But overall, our magic seems very much the esoteric equivalent of the pietism of early modern Europe: individualist and self-absorbed, withdrawn from social and political issues. It’s also largely too dependent on philosophical movements, such as postmodernism. To labour a point, magic is not philosophy. It uses philosophy. Any philosophy.
I’m watching Gordon White and his blog Rune Soup with some interest, because he’s one of few who seem to be aware that Western civilization as we know it is in decline and we should be preparing our people for what comes next. What comes next is largely dictated by catastrophic climate change and the future scarcity of petroleum, overtaking the coming ascendancy of China, Russia and the southern hemisphere. Transition strategies and permaculture should figure in our planning, not for our individual futures but for our cultures.
If there’s a common theme to these it’s that magic, especially chaos magic, is rediscovering the value of history. Modernist approaches dismiss the primitive foolishness of our forebears and seek the new and better, completely missing the generations of hard-earned wisdom of our prehistoric forebears who turn out to be a lot more sophisticated than was previously thought. Postmodernism encourages an ignorant, ahistorical approach to the treasures of the past and as a result is unable to put them into context. Understanding requires context. A chess board is useless without knowing the rules of chess, for example. Both Gordon and Jake have been retrieving for us the roots of our magic and reconnecting us to the wisdom of generations of practitioners. It seems the way forward is by looking back.
And there’s something else …
How could society benefit from a broader understanding of magical principles? Is that why you’re running your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
I believe not only that our culture is failing, but that its ignorance of the magical dimension of life is impoverishing us now and will cripple our descendants. However, magicians will multiply as the situation unfolds, and I believe we have an opportunity to place ourselves to resource our peoples for the times to come. If magicians want to follow their forebears then we need to take on a social role. We need to step up to the edge of the spirit world on our people’s behalf and work for union, not just for ourselves and Other, but for our communities and Other. As an Urban Druid the local magical and pagan community is much on my mind. But that’s just me. By all means let people play at being rockstar Doctor Strange while their civilization decays around them.
My blog, the Kite’s Cradle, is a case in point. I give it a no-nonsense feel in order to nail the lid on the coffin of the materialism that got us into this mess, and try to raise expectations of being able to do something constructive instead. Part of the no-nonsense content is discussion of the how and why of magical technique. But another part is the unapologetic insistence that the Illumination stuff counts. It is central, not peripheral, and should not lead to escapism but to engagement. No culture is complete without it.
Why the name ‘the Kite’s Cradle‘? Seen a cat’s cradle? An important metaphor for me is seeing the Universe not as objects in space but as entangled events, with our hands in the middle of the processes, with objects and events as nodes where the strands connect, suggested by Buckminster Fuller’s concept of Tensegrity.
Likewise the concerns of the blog push-pull on each other constantly in a non-linear fashion that reminds me of the Taoist concept of the Five Phases or elements as ‘mutually-arising,’ like when you’re boiling stew and the convection currents push first a chunk of potato to the surface, then a bit of carrot, along with some peas, and as these are cooling and sinking back down a bit of meat is rising up …
You’re a member of the IOT and are quite public about that. Compared to magical orders like the O.T.O., the Fraternitas Saturni or OBOD with a relatively preset training program for one’s initiatory path and most likely quite homogeneous goals and ideas within the group, the IOT seems to emphasize extreme individuality and a radical hands-on mentality towards practical techniques and result driven magic. Isn’t it a contradiction to do group rituals and be part of an organization, if the basic premise of said group would make you think there isn’t even the slightest common denominator and the members could switch paradigms and beliefs every second? What are the challenges and benefits of such a chaotic or maybe even arbitrary setting?
IOT — Illuminates of Thanateros. The group in question. There is indeed a common denominator and it’s called The Great Work of Magic. Each one is pursuing magic to their utmost.
Secondly, while most of us seem to actually prefer to work alone, there’s no denying that gathering as a group lends a certain frisson to the magic that seems to help it along. Some sort of crowd effect, perhaps.
Thirdly, being able to switch beliefs rapidly (though not as rapidly as every second — get real) does not relieve anyone of the obligation to behave themselves in company. Furthermore, we agree to cooperate with each other in our work. That is the meaning of ‘Pact.’
Fourthly, because of the BYOR structure of most meetings (Bring Your Own Ritual), members attending a group regularly quickly attain a working knowledge of a number of different systems, all introduced to them by their fellows. This is not the same thing as formal training in a system and it creates a steep learning curve but it’s a hell of a head start and its variety gives one perspective.
Fifthly, in the face of constant indoctrination by our failing consumerist anti-magical culture, a responsible peer group is a useful safeguard against caving in to the media onslaught and backsliding into mediocrity or pushing back to the point of overbalancing and going mad.
Sixthly, arbitrary it may all seem, but chaotic it is not. My experience of chaos magicians generally, and Pact magicians in particular, is of geek levels of research, painstaking practice and presentation all grounded in a genuine enjoyment and appreciation of whatever system they’re investigating. And they’re quite good at organizing, too. Ironic really. If you want something organized, ask a chaos magician.
You’re a chaos magician who calls himself an “urban druid”. What do you mean by that?
Yes, I mentioned the Urban Druid earlier without explaining. So, remember me talking about how we are not put on the Earth but grow from it, and that what the Universe is, we are? So if I’m discovering what for lack of a better term I’ll call ‘sacredness’ then there’s nowhere else to find it but in the Universe of which I am a part. For ultimate meaning and value, there is nowhere else we need to look but to the Universe and ourselves and each other as parts of it.
I know several Druids. They have these in common:
Firstly, some sort of nature spirituality, for lack of a better expression. Most of them don’t seem to mind camping out and getting muddy.
Secondly, they love research. They seem to like to learn stuff vaguely related to their Druidry. And I too am Mr. Homework when a subject interests me. But then, all occultists are geeks.
Thirdly, some sort of leading role amongst their crowd. Directly or indirectly, they seem to have pastoral roles or lead by example or, most commonly, some ritual celebrancy role.
Fourthly, they stick apart. Even when they are at the same event, they don’t exactly hang out together. They do their Druid thing in very different, individual ways. I like this sort of independence.
Because of the apparently endless flexibility of Druid approaches, I years ago took to describing them as the chaos magicians of paganism. Huh. The irony.
The Urban Druid is what you get when you outgrow the Romanticism of affluent English antiquarians and their fantasies of an ancient rural idyllic Druidism. A problem with the nature mysticism common in Druidry is that like many other forms of mysticism it encourages transcendentalism. In this case that means Nature as transcending the man-made world. “Get out of the city and into Nature,” is a common chorus.
However, the Urban Druid realises that 80% of pagans, and therefore Druids, live in urban areas. And you’ve seen that I recognise only one Universe and this is it. Therefore I do not ignore my actual surroundings, which are buildings, roads, vehicles, sewers and so forth. It would be madness to treat them as irrelevant.
Yes, I love going out among the green things, and where I live in Wales is famous for its scenery, and I have good access to the countryside where the most interesting archaeological sites are. But I also address the spirits of the hill on which I live, I play in with the tides of social and architectural change in the district, I anchor myself to my native Welsh culture here. So once again we’re looking at engagement rather than escape as the strategy of the magician.
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And there we finished. A big thank you to the spirits of Visionarium and all the best with the magazine. I hope that was as much fun for you as it was for me. Once again, if your own German’s up to scratch, visit Visionarium and read the published version here: