Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 9


The Book of the Law is an incredibly unique work that essentially promotes the idea of spiritual revolution at the very heart of human existence. "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" is the radical spiritual idea that pervades the three chapters of the book. Aleister Crowley's Holy Guardian Angel, Aiwass, the Minister of Hoor Paar Kraat (Harpocrates, a fusion of spiritual powers within the god Horus), speaks throughout the work.

In his "Commentary on the Book of the Law," written in September 1923, Crowley states: "The Secret was this: the breaking down of my fake Will by these dread words of mine angel freed my True Self from all its bonds, so that I could enjoy at once the rapture of knowing myself to be who I am."

From Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: "The mystical death of the ego and resurrection of the hidden God would also be charactertistic of the birth of Crowley's New Aeon. So Crowley believed that his problems were also the problems of the culture in which he was suffering. If he overcame them, it follows that he and anyone else who had attained this would be empowered to be an authentic mouthpiece for a new culture. Aiwass-Crowley, the hidden and formerly repressed god of the West, thereby became the Logos (Word) of the Aeon-and the Word was thelema-will."

Crowley always denied sincerely, that the last position his conscious self would ever want was the responsibility of leadership of a New Aeon-and hid from this every time the subject came up. Thus the Book of the Law was put into a packing case and almost completely ignored until a lucky rediscovery in the attic at Boleskin in 1909. However, the spiritual and mental preparation for the rediscovery of the manuscript appears to have occurred in March 1906, two years after Crowley wrote it. Crowley had been in southern China with his wife and baby daughter, and a series of powerful internal invocations had left him feeling very uneasy.

Again from Gnostic Philosophy on page 335: "Crowley's Buddhism had already been severely undermined by the message of Aiwass that existence was "pure joy" and that sorrows pass.

"Now it was time for his intellect to undergo a severe attack. As Blake had realized that reason is only one faculty of mind and should never be permitted to unbalance the harmonious mens and rule the roost alone, now the essence of that conclusion smashed into Aleister Crowley's mind with sudden violence...Seventeen years later, his thoughts on the limitations of reason had coalesced into a firm grasp of the problem. This from a commentary written at the Hotel in Djerid in Tunisia on Aiwass's declaration that "Reason is a lie": "When Reason usurps the higher functions of the mind, when it presumes to dictate to the Will what it desires to be, it wrecks the entire structure of the star...The Will should not be conscious at all. Once it becomes conscious, it becomes able to doubt; and having no means of getting rid of this by appeal to the Self, it seeks a reason for its action.

The reason, knowing nothing of the matter, promptly replies, basing its judgement not on the needs of the self, but on facts outside and alien to the star. The will having stopped in doubt goes on again in error. The will must never ask why. It ought to be as sure of itself as the Law of Gravity. Aiwass now leaps to the supreme stroke-Reason itself is a lie...It can never be sure of being right unless its knowledge is complete, which of course can never happen. There is always a factor infinite and unknown."

Aleister Crowley not only thought that the Book of the Law was transmitted to him by a higher intelligence but that the book's rediscovery in 1909, due to a series of synchronicities, was also engineered in advance by the same preternatural intelligence. However much Crowley was surrounded by these strange (supernatural?) events he never lost touch with his rational intellect. Crowley had a great thought that was a kind of answer to the high priests of rationalism who truly thought humanity and its scientists had almost discovered ever law of nature and would soon be able to explain the whole of existence-as if nature-the universe-were a watch, that upon opening up, one could explain everything by the movements of its cogs and gears: "There is a factor infinite and unknown." As Tobias Churton points out: "Niels Bohr would have agreed with him."

Bohr was one of the physicists of Crowley's era that truly understood how odd and counter-intutitive the discoveries of quantum mechanics really were.

I would like to go back to Gnostic Philosophy on page 337: The laws of the unconscious are not the laws of the conscious. Awareness of this made it easier for Crowley to embrace the Book of the Law. From 1909 onward, the "Cairo Revelation" would come to be both the yardstick of his entire teaching and the arbiter of psychological, spiritual and philosophical conflict. It should also be absolutely clear why Crowley declared himself to be the sole and final judge of its contents. Not only did he not want to be the center of theological conflict and disputed readings-as the Bible had become-but it was, in the profoundest possible sense, his work."

As Churton also points out: "Very few people want to listen to their "true will": the will of the god in the human being, of whom the personality is an expression...Aleister Crowley rebelled against his Angel almost as much as against his parents and his culture. It would take fifteen hard years before he became permanently identified with Aiwass, his own very Self: a Secret Chief, an Ipissimus-the highest grade of the Golden Dawn system."

In a 1925 letter to the head of the German Ordo Templi Orientis, Heinrich Tranker, Crowley explains his belief in the necessity of the Law of Thelema: "Those who came to me in 1904 E.V. [vulgar or Christian era] told me that they chose me for the Work in question on account not of my spiritual or magical attainments (which were and are small indeed) but for (a) my loyalty and steadiness. (b) my knowledge of compartive occultism, especially in my comprehension of the essential unity underlying sectarian differences. (c) my perception of the Great Work was as strictly scientific as Chemistry. (d) my command of language.

The urgency, they told me, was this. There was to be a general destruction of Civilization...We are on the threshold of the New Aeon. The death of the formula of Osiris is marked understandably to any student of the affairs of the planet, with the complete breaking-up not only of all the religions but of all the moral sanities. The result is constantly increasing anarchy feebly stemmed here and there by reactionary movements which are merely brutal, containing no firm elements because of the lack of any principle to which reasonable men can appeal."

This will probably be the last article here for 2009. I hope to be back with more next year! Once again I thank all of you for your wonderful, intelligent comments and I hope you all have a beautiful new year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 8


Once again going to Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times pages 331-332: "After a fruitless divination on March 23, he made the following notes in his "Book of Results": "There is one object to complete the secret of wisdom-or it is in the hieroglyphs [of the stele]. (perhaps or Thoth) GD [Golden Dawn] to be destroyed ie: publish its history & its papers. Nothing needs buying. I made it an absolute condition that I should obtain samhadhi, in the Gods' own interest. My rituals work out well, but I need the transliteration [of the stele]."

"Crowley had the assistant curator of the museum (M. Brugsch Bey) make a transliteration of the stele's inscription into French, which he then transposed into verse. According to Crowley's Confessions, Rose then told her husband to enter the room where the transliteration had been made every day at noon on April 8, 9, and 10 for one hour."

"It is interesting to note at this point that the "Book of Results" and the notebook containing the "Invocation of Hoor" contain notes revealing that a fortnight before Crowley entered the room, he was already thinking about turning the image of the stele into a ritual. He was also making inquiries about the nature and origin of the stele."

"In the Tarot divination of March 23, we find the words and symbols: Mars in Libra=the ritual is of sex; Mars in the house of Venus exciting the jealousy of Saturn or Vulcan. Crowley had been thinking deeply already about how to turn the Horus invocation and its message into a working magical system. He could not fail to see the image of Nuit bending over Hadit, witnessed by Horus, as a sexual image of magical potency. This is especially surprising, for it is usually held that Crowley took no serious interest in sexual magic until after 1913."

"The Invocation of Horus was the key event, proving for Crowley that he had come to the explicit attention of the Secret Chiefs and was thus empowered to create his own magical order."

"The next stage of what came to be called the "Cairo Working" introduced Crowley to someone he had been wanting to meet for some considerable time. Crowley entered the room at noon, as instructed, on the appointed days "to write down what I heard," for an hour each time."

"In these three hours were written the three chapters of the Book of the Law." "The interpretation of the Book of the Law taxed Crowley's mind for the rest of his life, and since he was its authoritative interpreter, it is presumptious for this author to attempt to do any more than examine what Crowley himself believed to be its meaning and import, and to attempt to clarify some of its contents for the interested reader, with due reference to Crowley's work on the subject."

I hope anyone stopping by has a beautiful Christmas and a wonderful and joyous 2010! Thanks again for the great comments!

Monday, December 21, 2009

William Keens: For Caroline


At day's end, swans
Like ciphers on a green page,
Light-shadow-light,
Swimming in tributaries of shade.

From a lifetime's distance.

This may seem small, pathetic-
the secret genetic
Code of wild mustard,
Paroxysms of dogwood in an overgrown glade.

In such fields we see

Only fields of possibility,
Room to breathe, the pure oxygen
Of love's early years.

Now we are here, arrived together,

Oblique as light
Over the swaying weedheads,
Deep into the deepening day.

"Stone" another poem by William Keens was put up here at MFM on 2 December. Many people told me how much they loved that poem-and I certainly did too. Mr. Keens is near to publishing a limited edition of 26 poems. "For Caroline" -which I also loved and think many will too is the first in the collection. Mr. Keens was kind enough to give us a preview here at MFM. I am looking forward to ordering the collection as soon as it comes out! I will let people who read this blog know as soon as it is published. Thanks again Willam Keens-and best of luck with your new collection-if "For Caroline" is representative of the poetry in it -I am sure it will be a huge success! I felt honored for you to stop by and comment and leave "For Caroline" for us to enjoy-all the best!

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 7

Here I would like to once again quote from Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy on page 325: "...Crowley headed for Sri Lanka in the hope of annihilating the universe that was his troubled mind. From Colombo, he wrote to Kelly: "I have chucked all nonsense, except a faint lingering illusion that anything exists. This (with my breathing practice [pranayama] should go soon." Crowley, for a season, became something that perhaps had never been seen before: a combination of neo-Egyptian novice-hierophant and a Buddhist. The Buddhist asserted the illusion of the very world the Egyptians deified."

It seems that by the end of 1901 Crowley realized two very important things even if his realizations were in the embryonic form at that time. 1.) He would have some part to play on the stage of this new century. 2.) Crowley-like other interesting and learned people born during the decade before and including his own (1870s) also seemed aware that Western civilization was about to undergo what would be the first of several convulsions.

Here I would like to go to Gnostic Philosophy on pages 328-329 again-speaking of Crowley's letters to Gerald Kelly: "They also give a picture of a strange outsider hanging on to reality, with all the bravado in the world, by the skin of his teeth. Six months later, he wrote to Kelly a letter full of suppressed guilt feelings, unsure of himself, frustrated. He had just met Kelly's very beautiful, but, by the standards of the time, wayward sister, Rose-a woman whom he would marry (to her family's initial dissatisfaction) within the month, in a fit of youthful impetuosity-in order, he thought, to get her out of an unwanted liason: "I have been trying since I joined G.D. (Golden Dawn) in '98 steadily and well to repress my nature in all ways. I have suffered much, but I have won, and you know it...Did your sister want to hear the true history of my past life, she should have it in detail; not from prejudiced persons, but the cold drear stuff of lawyers. And English does not always fail me. If your worst wish came true, and we never met again, my remembrances of you, with or without beard would, as you say, be good enough to go on. But I am ambitious. I hope one day to convince you that I am not only a clever (the 4tos have "mentally deformed") man but a decent and good one. Why must 9/10ths of my life: the march to Buddhism, go for nothing; the atrophied 1/1,000,000 always spring up and choke me, and that in the house of my friends?...All luck, and the greatest place in the new generation of artists be yours. So say Aleister Crowley, always your friend whatever you may do or say. Vale! till your Ave!"

----Strange Angels----

All of the suppressed or repressed material in Crowley's psyche would burst forth in a supernova of a psychic experience during his honeymoon in Cairo with Rose in March to April of 1904. This amazing episode in the life of Aleister Crowley began when his pregnant wife told him "they" were waiting for him. In some of his later writings, Crowley treated this odd statement as if he didn't know what Rose was talking about. However, many people think he knew exactly who Rose was referring to when she said "they." Crowley had been trying to make contact with his Holy Guardian Angel, his Genius or Augoides since 1899 at the very least-perhaps earlier. He had felt it was imperative to achieve contact with this being or these beings or entities if they did indeed exist.

Rose had some more news for Crowley the day after the "they" are waiting announcement. She added that this meeting was "all Osiris" and "all about the child." Crowley then performed a ritual-an "invoking" to seek the powers of Thoth (Hermes)-the Egyptian god of magic, writing, science and the judgment of the dead. By performing this ritual, Crowley hoped to receive the wisdom, insight and understanding of Thoth. Rose-who was experiencing clairaudience the next day, revealed that a particular power was trying to communicate to her husband-that it represented "Horus, whom thou offended and ought to invoke."

In Gnostic Philosophy on page 330: "Crowley later thought that the power of "Horus the avenger" with his character of "Force & Fire" (very much like Blake's Orc, child of freedom and rebellion) was precisely what he had been trying to avoid or suppress. He associated it with the martian tendencies of Mathers, whom he had been obeying in an almost masochistic fashion-and this obeisance went against his true nature that years of Plymouth Brethren conditioning made him repress. Horus, of course, is the avenger of his father's murderer; Set the sun in the south: symbolically speaking, the dark and hidden aspect of the unconcious...That Saturday's (19 March 1904) invocation achieved, Crowley wrote "little success." But Sunday's invocation was a real mind-blower. It was revealed that the Equinox of the Gods had come, "Horus taking the throne of the East and all rituals being abrogated...I am to formulate a new link of an order with the solar force."

Aleister Crowley was determined not to be hoodwinked in any way and thought of some tests for Rose, that were to make absolutely certain that it was indeed the god Horus whom she was "speaking for." One of the trials that Crowley devised for Rose was ingenious for its simplicity. They would go to the nearby Boulak Museum and walk by the various inscriptions that depicted the god in his many aspects. He was wondering if this was another false path as Rose passed by one after another without comment. Then-out of the blue-Rose pointed down a corridor to a stele (she could not see the image depicted on it), and said, "There he is!"

Crowley was very interested and when he got to the stele he saw the funerary inscription of the priest Ankh-f-n-Khonsu. On the priest's left, enthroned, was Horus in his form called Ra Hoor Khuit-the solar aspect of Horus. The goddess Nuit (the Egyptian sky goddess) was arched over the scene, and below her the winged globe of the god Hadit. The catalogue number of the stele-666-astonished Crowley. This was a number for the sun and a number that held special importance for him as it also represented his opposition to the Christian era.

Once again, I am indebted to Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times-pages 325 to 331 for this information for this article. Thanks again for all of your thoughtful and intelligent comments! Peace and be well to anyone stopping by!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 6


Allan Bennett, who had given up on Western magic, and was about to begin a life as a Buddhist bhikku (novice monk), suggested that Crowley was too interested in evoking demons. This point of view from a good friend appeared to have started a questioning process in Crowley's mind and he went to Mexico with his friend and fellow mountaineer Oscar Eckenstein to look over his priorities and sort his thoughts out about where he was heading in his career.

A red notebook contains information about Crowley's activities in Mexico from January to April 1901, aside from climbing mountains of that country in double-quick time. On the cover of the notebook, next to a sketch of the Monas Hieroglyphica of John Dee, are the words: "Feb 2. My 2 and 1/2 years work crowned with success. We will probably never know exactly what happened but it was most probably some sort of spiritual attainment.

Crowley left Mexico for San Francisco and from there he sailed to Japan stopping for Hawaii. There is a diary entry of his for 18 June 1901, that reveals a yearning for the simple (but also very demanding spiritually) life of a Buddhist monk. He seems to be wanting to withdraw from the greed, stupidity, absurdity and illusion of the world: "Shall I go to Kamakura and live a hermit's life in the Temple? A tarot reading advised against this -and also offered a bit of advice to which the meaning soon became obvious: "Be wise in avoiding quarrel if Alice be obsessed."

From Yokohama Crowley wrote to his friend, Gerald Kelly who was an aspiring painter: "You are a good boy and I am a good boy and I am right and you are right and everything is quite correct...Japan is a fraud of the basest sort...To change the key. This is the strictest of all confidence. I have had the greatest love-affair of my long and arduous career (arduous is good). Her name was Mary Beaton. Think of it! Absolutely the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, of the imperial type, yet as sweet and womanly as I ever knew. Moreover, a lady to her fingertips. I call her Alice in the poems you will read about her, as she preferred that name. She was travelling for her health in Hawaii where we met. We loved and loved chastely (She has a hub & kids-one boy with her) I made her come with me. On the boat we fell to fucking, of course, but-here's the miracle! we won through and fought our way back to chastity & far deeper truer love. Now she's gone & forgetten but her sweet and pure influence has saved my soul. (Heb: Nephesch). I lust no more-What never? Well- hardly ever!

"...I wish you'd buck up with occultism so that I didn't have to talk with all this damned reticence. I have done none myself lately-there's been love and poetry going on. Also my ideas are changing and fermenting. You will not recognise my mind when I get back."

In the years of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one gets the feeling that Aleister Crowley was in the grip of some deep unresolved conflicts in his unconscious mind-these "issues" were struggling to make themselves known. The way this affected his actions in this timeframe is fascinating to look at. He had the soul of a lover, but seemed incapable of making a longstanding commitment. He was a poet-tried and true-his poetry received good reviews in the prewar press, but poetry was not where his destiny was either. He was the "98 pound-weakling" who turned his physical body into one that allowed him to become an accomplished mountaineer. In 1901, Crowley left for Sri Lanka.

Thanks to one and all of you for your beautiful thoughts and comments about the last few days-or about the posts on my blogs. I promise this bit with Aleister Crowley is going somewhere-sorry it is so slow-my back is hurting too much to not take a rather long break-or maybe even try to get back to this tomorrow. I would also like to do a post at my "history" blog today that just needs a bit of work in drafts to post.

Again I cannot tell you all what your friendship and support mean to me-and I will try to get to some friends who have updated today. I was so intrigued with this bit from Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times because it seems like the only "fair" treatment of Aleister Crowley I have ever seen written. Today's information in this post comes from pages 322 to 325 of that book. All the best!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 5


In 1896 Crowley returned from St. Petersburg and experienced his first mystical awakening. While in Stockholm, Crowley received an "intimation" of the magical control of phenomena and began to study the great (and not so great) works in the field of occultism with even more verve than before. There was a book by Karl von Eckarthausen called The Cloud upon the Sanctuary that particularly fascinated Crowley. In this book, the author wrote of an invisible ecclesia of gnostic initiates whose task was to guide humanity throught its development toward the fulfillment of the Hermetic Great Work.

The Hermetic Great Work can be summed up as the liberation of the spiritual from the material. Crowley was introduced to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn by a man named George Cecil Jones after a casual conversation on the subject of alchemy in a Zermatt, Switzerland hotel in 1898. Jones recommended Crowley to this very influential British Masonic offshoot. Crowley was a bit disappointed at first with the Golden Dawn. The order didn't seem to reveal either the saints of Eckarthausen's sublime Sanctuary or the breadth and vision of Rabelais's Abbey of Thelema (see note at end of paragraph). Still Crowley began his magical training with his characteristic discipline, powerful concentration and thouroughness.

Note from pages 440-441 in Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: 12.) The first part of Crowley's famous watchword-"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law"-comes from the rule of the Abbey of Thelema (Greek for "will") in Francois Rabelais's Heroic Deeds of Gargantua and Pantagruel (c.1532). Rabelais was included as a saint of the Gnostic Church in Crowley's Gnostic Mass. Taking the following extract into account it is not difficult to see why: All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good: they did eat, drink, labour, sleep, when they had a mind to it, and were disposed for it. None did awake them, none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all of their rule, and strictest tie to their order, there was but one clause to be observed, DO WHAT THOU WILT. Because men that are free, well-born, and bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them into virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour..."

In 1899, Crowley met Allan Bennett, a fellow brother in the order, and together they began to work on a more intense magical program. Crowley turned his flat in Chancery Lane, where he lived as Count Zvareff into a magical temple. He also met Samuel Liddell "MacGregor" Mathers, who was the chief of the Golden Dawn. Mathers had also translated The Key of Solomon the King and The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, and was a Celtic enthusiast and admirer of the French Occult Revival.

Crowley believed that Mathers had "that habit of authority which never questions itself and so inspires respect." In 1899 Crowley also bought a country residence befitting his own fading Celtic revivalist enthusiasms: Boleskin House, Foyers, near Inverness. From Boleskin House that year, Crowley wrote a letter to a brother in the order. Even though he was still very young (24) one can already surmise his inclination towards the role of a teacher on the road to becoming a master: Care Frater,

"Agrippa [Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettersheim, author of Three Books of Occult Philosophy, 1651] is very useful. It is practically the source of Barrett [Francis Barrett, author of The Magus, 1801] and is much fuller in the same style...

You can only curse a spirit because you have conjured him by the Great Names of God the Vast One, and he obeyeth Them not. You cannot use these Names unless you are yourself in accordance with His Will...

My First Magical Operation was devoted to the Invocation of That One whom Abramelin calls Guardian Angel. As also it is written: So help me the Lord of the Universe and My own Higher Soul! And without the Aspiration to, and in a little measure, the grasp of this: no White Magic is possible. "In myself I am nothing: in Thee I am All-Self." Therefore you are not of a position to act as Master: for you are not yet Master of yourself, not even in communication consciously with That One who hath made you His Habitation.

Therefore, it is necessary First to reach unto your own Kether [Crown; the higher mind of the Kabbalist]: that the influence of the Most Holy Ancient One descend upon you: and then: "all things will appear easy to you."

...As to Abramelin, he is a quite different bird. You devote six moons to the purification of your sphere or "aura." Then you can invoke the Angel with complete success. Then you can compel the Forces of the World-the "visible Image of the Soul of Nature" to your service. This Operation is so Awful that I cannot find any words to tell you about it. I may now say that I have devoted my life since our fortnight at Folkestone to the Beginning of it. And the oppositions on every plane have been tremendous. Even now, the copying of the symbol is so terrible a task that I can barely finish a dozen daily. After that my brain seems to reel, the characters dance around me, and it is useless to proceed. And this while putting any magical force into them in the making. If you wish to try Abramelin, God forbid I should hinder you. But I warn you that for all its apparent simplicity and ease, it will be a bigger job than anything you have ever tackled in your life.

...The part about the Angel and my intention of doing Abramelin is very secret-not from obligation standpoint, but from its extreme sacred character. To no other person inside or outside the Order, would I have spoken thus plainly. But as I said above, what will not paternal affection do?

Yours fraternally,

Perdurabo [Crowley's magical motto, "I will endure"]

I hope to post again fairly soon-by the weekend maybe? All of the information in the last two articles comes from Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times. There is much more in the chapter on Crowley in his book, and this is what I would like to continue with when I come back and also keep going with the "mythical creatures" series. Thanks again for all of your fantastic and thoughtful comments!

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 4



The following information comes from Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times published by InnerTraditions in 2005 on pages 315 to 321. Aleister Crowley-the "King of Depravity," the "Human Beast," "the wickedest man in the world" -or so said to be by the yellow press at the time, met Nancy Cunard: poet, publisher, 1920s avant-garde star, determined campaigner for racial, social and sexual equality-and discoverer of Samuel Beckett in the late 1920s.

She had written to Crowley asking him for astrological advice involving her financial relations with her mother, Lady Emerald Cunard. Nancy was afraid that her mother was about to cut her allowance off because she was living with the black American jazz pianist Henry Crowder. The two met again in 1933. Nancy was organizing interracial dances in Notting Hill and the East End of London. She was also working on a major public appeal for the Scottsboro Boys. On 25 March 1931, nine black youths aged thirteen to twenty were found guilty in Alabama of raping two white prostitutes. Eight of them were sentenced to to die in the electric chair. Crowley signed Nancy's appeal like this: "This case is typical of the hysterical sadism of the American people-the result of Puritanism and the climate-Aleister Crowley, Scientific Essayist."

On 10 March 1933 Crowley noted in his diary: "Great public meeting to protest against Scottsborough Outrage turned to African Rally 8 PM. It would have been a perfect party if the lads had brought their razors! I danced with many whores-all colours." Nancy Cunard even visited Aleister Crowley in England in the summer of 1944 during wartime conditions-hardly the best time to travel-but shows she had a great deal of courage. And Crowley wrote to her thanking her hugely for her visit: "My own adorable Nancy, Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. How too angelic a visit. But let it not be so 'far between' the next time! I cannot remember so few hours packed with so much rapture."

On 24 October 1954, Nancy Cunard sent these letters to Gerald Yorke, Crowley's old friend and preserver of his manuscripts, with an accompanying letter: "What a galaxy of people he did offer himself to! This particular point seems practically the pivot of the man-man or magus-does it not? I should have hated all the 'hoolie-goolie' stuff, but that seems to have been long before. I can well imagine him absolutely terrifying many people-serpent's kiss and all. ( I have had the honour; no trouble whatever, it lasted about 10 days, very pretty on my right wrist.)...La! What a picture it evokes, even this short sequence: there he was, in an excellent inn, see how well fed, with plenty of coupons &c...It has been a pleasure to copy them for you, but alas that none of us will see him again." Note: Regarding the "Serpent's Kiss" mentioned in the letter. In the 1920s in the south of France, Crowley enjoyed the joke of asking women if they wanted the "serpent's kiss." Those who agreed offered their hand and received a bite-an anarchic frisson from a bygone age.

Edward Alexander Crowley had been born into a family of well-off Christian fundamentalists in 1875. His family were members of the Exclusive or "Plymouth" Brethren in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. He received his education from a group of strangely sadistic Brethren, whose efforts at indoctrination intensified after Edward's beloved father's death in 1887.

Crowley referred to his education by his mother's family as "A Boyhood in Hell." The many privations he suffered led to the collapse of his health. He began to despise (in the form of a viperous wit) what he knew as Christianity, sympathizing with "the enemies of Heaven." He questioned the moral absolutes of Christianity-good and evil-holy and unholy etcetera. Back in the days of the late 19th century, questioning the foundations of one's culture wasn't near as common as it is now. Crowley felt an acute loneliness and deep isolation, and began to seek a solution to the problem that might go beyond not only these apparent opposites but also the sufferings and miseries of life itself.

His youthful rebellion against the established relgion of the West is expressed bluntly in some passages of his Confessions, of which the following is the most succinct: "I was trying to take the view that the Christianity of hypocrisy and cruelty was not true Christianity. I did not hate God or Christ, but merely the God and Christ of the people whom I hated. It was only when the development of my logical faculties supplied the demonstration that the Scriptures support the theology and practices of professing Christians that I was compelled to set myself in opposition to the Bible itself. It does not matter that the literature is sometimes magnificent and that in isolated passages the philosophy and ethics are admirable. The sum of the matter is that Judaism is a savage, and Christianity a fiendish superstition."

It would seem that Crowley was among many other things a very spiritual person. He wasn't religious in the ordinary sense of the word-but he had an intense drive to know-to have the experience of gnosis-the highest possible level of spiritual illumination. In 1913 Crowley described himself as a Holy Illuminated Man of God or "HIMOG"-and took this appellation very seriously.

At the same time, Crowley decided to improve his health, physical weakness, and prevail against the taunts of his peers by developing amazing skill in the discipline of mountaineering, a sanctuary for many solitary young people and an area in which Crowley did extremely well.

In 1895 Crowly matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a very adept scholar at this point and preferred his own voluminous reading to that prescribed by his tutors. The Crowley family wealth (somewhat ironically in the brewing trade for a family of fundamentalist Christians-although even Jesus Christ said "eat, drink and be merry" -or was that someone else? :-) ensured that money wouldn't be a concern for him at this stage in his life.

There is still more to post for this article-I wanted to take a break and look something up-I should still have it here in a bit. Thanks again for all of your fantastic comments and all the best to anyone stopping by! The second image is of a young Aleister Crowley.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jormungand-The Midgard Serpent: A Dragon "Tale"


The god of evil itself, Loki, gave birth to Jormungand. The horrible serpent was huge and its coils spanned the globe as far as the eye could see. It had scales all along its coal-black body and its dragon-like head looked like death itself.

We can see why Odin cast the beast into the deepest ocean, when it was brought before the Aesir, Norse mythology's council of heroic warrior gods. Jormungand, however, thrived in its watery exile. Eventually it grew so large that its body encircled the globe; its jaws clenching its own tail like a humongous ouroboros.

Jormungand was to remain in the ocean, until Ragnarok, The Day of the Last Battle. Then it was foretold that the evil serpent would be freed to do battle with the most powerful of the Aesir-Thor, god of thunder. However, long before the time of this last titanic battle, these two formidable enemies were to encounter each other on two separate occasions. The first crossing of paths happened when Thor was paying a visit to Utgardhaloki, the king of the giants. The giants were long time enemies of the Aesir. Utgardhaloki thought it would be great fun on this occasion to try some tricks to belittle Thor and his fabled strength.

Utgardhaloki challenged Thor to a trio of tests that actually would have been impossible for even a god or a king to pass. But the king of the giants hoped to bypass this by deception. He was very accomplished in magic and the art of illusion, so he sought to hide the true nature of the things used in Thor's tests. Utgardhadolki thought to humiliate Thor in the extreme in one of the feats. He wondered if Thor could even pick up his pet cat. (Good call on choice of pets-Utgard!)

Thor was extremely angered by this and grabbed the hissing animal on both sides and tried to lift it off the ground; but the cat stayed put. Thor struggled mightily to lift the cat but couldn't lift it even an inch in the air. Utgardhaloki was laughing loudly a such an odd sight, enraging Thor and rallying his spirit for one last attempt. Thor used every fiber of his being and exerted every muscle for this last try, but succeeded in pulling the king's pet cat only a fraction of an inch off the floor!

The other tests left Thor no less humiliated. Thor was famed for his drinking prowess, and failed to finish off a horn of mead that Utgardhaloki's subjects could finish in two swigs. The final crushing defeat was that Thor was overcome in a wrestling match with the king's childhood nurse, who was a frail old woman by now.

Thor was ashamed and humiliated as he left the kingdom of Utgardhaloki the next morning. He was escorted far beyond its frontiers by the king himself. It was only then with the kingdom far behind them and safe from any wrath Thor might bring down upon it that Utgardhaloki told Thor about the true nature of the trials. The horn had been connected by magic to the oceans, so Thor could never have succeeded in drinking its contents. Thor did such a good job during the test that he had created the world's first ebb tide. The "feeble old nurse" wasn't tied to the king at all. She was none other than Old Age, and no one-not the strongest, richest or most powerful can ever conquer her. The most awesome revelation was the test involving the king's pet cat. For this was no feline whatsoever-but Jormungand the Midgard Serpent itself! When Thor had lifted one of the supposed paws off the ground he had actually lifted the head and tail of the great Midgard Serpent.

This was such an astonishing accomplishment that Utgardhaloki had barely been able to hide his terror of Thor's strength with phony laughter. Thor was exceedingly angry to learn how he had been tricked and would have slain Utgardhaloki right then and there with his magic hammer, Miolnir, but as soon as he finished his last sentence, the king of the giants vanished. He had not even been accompanying Thor during his departure, his prescence had been just another illusion.

Many years after the meeting with Utgardhaloki, Thor and another giant Hymir, grandfather of Tyr, god of war, were fishing on Hymir's boat. Thor was using the head of an ox as bait, and suddenly something enormously powerful took the bait in its jaws. Thor knew there was only one creature that could exhibit such strength-Jormungand. He remembered how the beast had humiliated him years before in Utgardhaloki's court and delighted in the opportunity to haul the evil beast to shore. Thor pulled on the line with ever fiber of his being and every ounce of his strength and wrestled with the giant serpent for what seemed like an eternity to the scared-witless Hymir.

In time, Jormungand tired and Thor was starting to realize his long-time goal. The beast's awful, huge and extremely nauseating head emerged from the ocean's surface, and Thor whirled Miolnir to strike the death-blow. Just at the very moment, however, Hymir's courage completely abandoned him. The sight of the loathesome visage so near to his own face was just too much. Without any thought or hesitation Hymir cut Thor's line. Immediately, Jormungand sank below the surface and Thor could only rage at the Fates for having been thwarted again.

In the realm of mankind it seemed as if countless eons passed, but to the Aesir it seemed like only the blink of an eye since the world had begun and Ragnarok arrived. This was the long-awaited Day of the Last Battle, which would pit god and giant, deity against demon, man against monster, and Thor, god of Thunder, against Jormungand.

The ocean's surface and depths quaked with massive ripples and waves as the immense dragon uncoiled itself to come ashore to challenge Thor, the only being capable of giving it a worthy battle. The final combat began and the earth rattled and shook with tremors due to the dragon's unrelenting assault on his adversary. The heavens also quaked and were set alight as Thor sent deadly thunderbolts and searing lightning at his evil and monstrous foe.

The sky shook again as Thor shouted his final war cry and raised Miolnir high above his head. He swung it round and round until the skies were whirling in a vortex. Then he smashed his magical hammer down upon the head of the beast with a thunderous blow that echoed all over the world.

The Midgard Serpent was fatally wounded and squealed out a last earsplitting blast of rage and pain before it crashed lifeless to the ground. Thor had finally conquered the most deadly enemy to ever challenge the Aesir. Sadly, though, Jormungand had a last victory at the same time. Only seconds after slaying the evil dragon, Thor fell dead alongside it. Thor had been strangled to death by the malodorous stench of venom exhaled with the enormous dragon's final breath.

The painting is an artist's rendition of Thor trying to "fish" Jormungand out of the ocean with Hymir crouching in terror in the background. I will try to find out which artist painted it-I had it written down-but lost the paper. This was one of the wonderful mythical stories in Dr. Karl Shuker's Dragons: A Natural History. Thanks again for your great comments and all the best to anyone stopping by!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 3


The Gnostic worldview has the Demiurge in opposition to the Anthropos, the primal human, who had appeared before the archons to their jealousy and amazement. (cf. the manifestation of the "Son of man" in Ezekiel 1: 26). As the exile from the Pleroma deepened, sparks of pneuma (spirit) were trapped in the cosmos by the envious archons and sadly got trapped with some human beings, whom then had to face the horrific fact of seeing the light (spiritually) while being cruelly exiled from it by the seemingly eternal prison bars of matter.

Again quoting from Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy on page 93: "This situation typifies for the Gnostic the distress of the spiritual human's predicament: spirit trapped in matter. That is to say, humans are not simply born into the world; they are brutally "thrown" into the prison of the soul."

To Irenaeus, the Gnostic belief that humans were superior to their creator was both crazy and blasphemous. It is exactly here that we can decipher how the bishop of Lyons would differentiate between false and true gnosis. Irenaeus believed that the Johannine tradition as demonstrated by the Gospel of John, revealed to Irenaeus that eternal life consisted in knowledge of "the only true God": "This is eternal life, that they know [the Greek verb is gignokosin] thee the only true God, and he whom, thou hast sent Jesus Christ." (John 17:3).

"The only true God" for Irenaeus was the God revealed by Jesus Christ. The one and only God who had created heaven and earth and all things within them. This God was superior to all things in existence-the Alpha and the Omega. Now, of course, some Gnostics would interpret the passage above as referring to the absolute Father beyond all creation.

Continuing on with the list of Irenaeus, and quoting from pages 94-96 of Gnostic Philosophy: 4.) The great secret of radical Gnostics consists in knowing and understanding the precosmic Fall myth (in one of many variant forms) and in being given the keys to liberate the exiled pneuma from the grip of the archons. (The characteristic chord of gnosis is the yearning for the absolute in pain, the major seventh of the entire philosophy and the psychological basis of its attractiveness.)"

5.) Not infrequently, these groups refer to the holder of the keys to liberation as Jesus: an emanated energy of the Father, sent out of the Father's love to benighted earth in order to awaken the dormant Gnostics to their true identity. Jesus is thus the Gnostic par excellence; he is not a man in the ordinary sense of the word.

The crucifixion itself is a fraud, a trick effected to outwit death from the body (its essential nature)-but the spiritual being could not be destroyed. Rather, as the unknown author of the Gnostic gospel of Philip put it: He "came crucifying the world." Some Gnostics denied Jesus' participation in the crucifixion altogether, claiming that another (sometmies Simon of Cyrena) was crucified in his place..."

6.) The Gnostic groups believed the emanatory powers (aeons) of the Father were projected within the Pleroma in co-dependent pains (male and female natures), with names such as Mind and Truth and Logos and Life. Consistent with this was that one valid way for the spirituality to express the gnosis-or to return to the One-was through a pneumatic sex sacrament. This "divine union" was available only to the pneumatics-for sexual gnosis had nothing to do either with material procreation or with animal lust..."

7.) The Gnostics, who claimed to owe their being to a higher power, felt free to disregard the Ten Commandments and to live by their own light because the Demiurge was responsible for there negatively expressed injunctions. Essentially free of any external authority whatsoever, the Gnostics could "walk tall" in the world-and, should we share the Gnostics' symbol of water as denoting matter, the Gnostic could "walk on water" as well.

8.) Irenaeus found objectionable the Gnostic notion that humankind's essential predicament is the product not of sin, but of unconciousness. When humans become conscious, when they experience gnosis, they are free to disentangle themselves from (nature's grip on the spirit, working through the soul). This could be achieved either by asceticism or by becoming indifferent to the passions, permitting their manifestations with detached indifference on the principle that what the body does or does not is either irrelevant or a necessary education on the path to pure spirituality. (This was particularly the case among the followers of the proto-communist Gnostic teacher Capocrates, an intellectual anarchist who coined the dictum "Property is theft.")

9.) Gnostics gave women an equal spiritual role in their services. By emphasizing the androgynous character of the spiritual, Gnostics enabled particular devotion to either the male or the female aspect of divine emanations. Thus Sophia, for example, conceived of as feminine, could effectively be adored as a kind of goddess within, and as a road to, God.

10.) Some Gnostics used demonic magic as a means of ascending through the archontic spheres to obtain assistance from celestial and supercelestial beings. Indeed the cosmogony of the Gnostics is in all essentials a magical one, populated by beings who could be influenced by the right magical codes, symbols, and passwords."

I hope to have the next installment of something here shortly. Maybe one of the dragon "tales" would be good. I would definitely like to get more out of Tobias Churton's book before I have to take it back because it has some very unique viewpoints in it that I haven't run across before. The image is called a "Sophia" (Wisdom) Tree. Thanks again for all of your fantastic comments! All the best to anyone stopping by!

Gnosticism & The "Real" World Part 2

There was a certain irony to the meaning of the name of the man, Irenaeus (c. 120-202)= "peace," who most completely divided the Christian Church from the doctrinal viewpoint. His stand against the Gnostics has been the most devastating. When both scholars and ecclesiastical authorities sought to define the meaning of the word Gnosticism, it was to Irenaeus they turned-not exactly "fair and balanced" researching!

In 180 AD, Irenaeus was the bishop of Lyons. The see of Lyons had been founded by a Greek-speaking mission from Smyrna in Asia Minor. This mission had been led by Pothinos, who, like Irenaeus was a student of the martyr Polycarp.

Irenaeus's antipathy towards the "false" gnosis appears to have been born by painful events and experiences he witnessed (the word martyr means witness) under the persecution of Christians by the last of the "five good emperors", Marcus Aurelius in AD 177. The horrific things done to the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne became famous and infamous in the history of the Christian Church. Irenaeus "witnessed" these events first hand and it was very important to bishops like Irenaeus to in promoting the message of martrydom to non-Christians.

In Irenaeus's viewpoint, the meaning and significance of what exactly it was that Christians were dying for was the important thing. It happened that during the persecution of Marcus Aurelius that Irenaeus visited Rome to take issue with the bishop there for believing what Irenaeus regarded as false doctrines.

During his visit to Rome, Irenaeus also encountered an old friend-and to his horror and astonishment, this man had embraced the teaching of the Egyptian poet and Gnostic theologian Valentinus (Valentinus had been in Rome about two decades earlier). Irenaeus discovered both in Rome and southern Gaul that the theological concepts believed by those calling themselves Gnostics was not consistent with the teachings transmitted by Polycarp-who had died at the stake for his beliefs.

Quoting directly from Tobias Churton's 2005 book Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times: "Unsettled by his discovery, Irenaeus set about exposing the doctrines of "those who called themselves Gnostics" with great thoroughness, posing as one interested in their "secret" ideas. What he discovered from the Gnostics, and the manner in which he presented what he had discovered, has shaped our ideas of gnosticism from that time to the present-tarring Gnostic ideas forever with the brush of heresy, on which charge Gnostics could be codemned and excluded from the Church. Irenaeus's aim in producing his five book Against Heresies was to ensure that henceforth no one to whom his work was accessible could possibly confuse the "false gnosis" with the tradition of the apostles as he understood it."

However, Gnostic Christians taught and believed that they were the true Christians. The Gnostics believed themselves to be the custodians and guardians of these special insights into what they believed to be the real meaning of Christ's teachings. The ideological fighting between Irenaeus and the "heretics" came to have enormous consequences for the development of the Christian Church into a doctrinal control system. The final culmination of this development-theocratic dominion-can take partial credit for the perrenial interest in the Gnostics. Looking back, Gnostics can be portrayed sympathetically as rebels with a cause. It must be stated that when Irenaeus is talking about "blasphemous and mad" Gnostics-his description of them, he was speaking of very specific factions in southern Gaul and in Rome only.

Of these groups only a portion took the name gnostikoi, gnostics, as their ideological nickname. Here is a list of ideas from Churton's Gnostic Philosophy of what Irenaeus took issue with from pages 91 and 92: 1.) Objectionable was their view that salvation is attained through receipt of a recent knowledge of how to extricate the transmundane spirit in humans from material development, both corporeal and cosmic. Both body and cosmos are regarded with suspicion. 2.) Also troublesome was their belief that humanity is divided into three types. First, there are the pneumatikoi, or spirituals (who have awakened to their real nature through gnosis). Second, the psychikoi: psychics, whose soul-nature may be guided by faith, but who yet still stand in need of exceptional moral effort and spiritual enlightenment. Third, the hylikoi, hylics-that is the "materials": those who are aware only of matter alone, have no chance of salvation. They are, from the spiritual point of view, already "dead." My note: Some of this-especially the last sentences about the "hylikoi" remind me a great deal of the work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

3.) Also on Irenaeus's list was these groups' belief that the cosmos is a calamity and birth a catastrophe. The absolute God had not intention of producing a material universe. It came about due to a Fall within the original divine being (called the Pleroma or Fullness) consisted of a coterie of conceptual emanations: the archetypes, or aeons, who derived their origin from an unfathmable depth or profundity (Greek:bythos), also called the Father. The emanated archetypes were presented both as Platonic ideas and as spiritual beings, among whom the most significant were Anthropos (humanity) and Sophia (Wisdom)..."

Some Gnostics believe the material universe began (perhaps allegorically) with a tragedy. This was the result of Sophia's (Wisdom's) trying foolishly to know the unknowable. The only thing she accomplished was making a material copy, a false conception, resulting in a miscarriage in which she loses herself in her fall into matter, exiled from the Pleroma.

This tragic material cosmos, far removed from the Pleroma, is under the control of beings, archons ("rulers"), who, though they are entranced by the light of the Pleroma above them, are basically antagonistic to, or jealous of, the purely spiritual. The consensus belief of the Gnostics that Irenaeus was exposed to, was that human beings are the work of the chief archon, the Demiurge. He has various names, but is sometimes referred to and identified with the creator-God and legal judge of the Hebrew Bible.

The image is of a Gnostic Coptic Cross. I hope to have the next part here very soon-like beginning typing right after posting this. The next bit isn't as long as this part. Thanks again for all of your fantastic comments! I very, very much appreciate them! Peace and be well to anyone stopping by!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gnosticism & The "Real" World

From Wikipedia (I know-where else?): Gnosticism refers to diverse, syncretisitic religious movements in antiquity (I would think modern times applies here too!) consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect god, the demiurge, this being frequently identified with the Abrahamic god, and is contrasted with a superior entity, referred to by several terms including Pleroma and Godhead. (my emphasis)

Depictions of the demiurge-the term originates with Plato's Timaeus-vary from being as an embodiment of evil, to being merely imperfect and as benevolent as its inadequacy permits. Gnosticism was a dualistic religion, influenced by and influencing Hellenic philosophy, Judaism (Notzrim), and Christianity, however, by contrast, later strands of the movement, such as the Valentinians, held a monistic world-view. This, along with the varying treatments of the demiurge, may be seen as indicative of the variety of positions held within the category.

The gnosis referred to in the term is a form of revealed, esoteric knowledge through which the spiritual elements of humanity are reminded of their true origins within the superior Godhead, being thus permitted to escape materiality. Consequently, with the sects of gnosticism only the pneumatics or psychics obtain gnosis, the hylic or Somatics, though human, being incapable of perceiving the higher reality, are unlikely to attain the gnosis deemed by gnostic movements as necessary for salvation. Jesus of Nazareth is identified by some Gnostic sects as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnosis to the earth.

In others, (e.g. the Notzrim and the Mandeans) he is considered a msiha kdaba or "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John the Baptist. Still other traditions identify Mani and Seth, third son of Adam and Eve, as salvific figures.

Whereas formerly Gnosticism was considered by some a heretical branch of Christianity, it now seems clear that traces of Gnostic systems can be discerned some centuries before the Christian Era. Gnostic sects may have existed earlier than the First Century BC, thus predating the birth of Jesus. The movement spread in areas controlled by the Roman Empire and Arian Goths (see Huneric), and the Persian Empire; it continued to develop in the Meditteranean and Middle East before and during the second and third centuries. Coversion to Islam and the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229) greatly reduced the remaining number of Gnostics throughout the Middle Ages, though s few isolated communities continue to exist to the present. Gnostic ideas became influential in the philosophies of various esoteric mystical movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and North America, including some that explicitly identify themselves as revivals or even continuations or earlier gnostic groups.

The Main Features of Gnosticism

1. The notion of a remote, supreme monadic divinity, source-this figure is known under a variety of names, including 'Pleroma', 'Bythos' and 'Abyss' (Greek for "deep");

2. The introduction by emanation of further divine beings, which are nevertheless identifiable as aspects of the God from which they proceeded; the progressive emanations are often conceived metaphorically as a gradual and progressive distancing from the ultimate source, which brings about an instability in the fabric of the divine nature;

3. The subsequent identification of the Fall of Man as an occurrence with its ultimate foundations within divinity itself. As mysticism, the modern word for the category of the study of mystic knowledge or gnosis, teaches the fall of man, and the material world are an illusion. Salvation is a radical essentialism and not based on personal choice, action or behavior but rather destiny or fate. Due to this, salvation does not occur either entirely or partially through any human behavior or agency; this stage in the divine emanation is usually enacted through the recurrent Gnostic figure of Sophia (Greek "wisdom"), whose prescence in a wide variety of Gnostic texts is indicative of her central importance;

4. The introduction of a distinct creator God or demiurge. Which is an illusion and as a later emanation from the single monad or source, this second God is a lesser and inferior or false God. This creator god is commonly referred to as the demiourgos ( a technical term literally denoting a public worker the Latinized form of Greek demiourgos, hence "ergon or energy," "public or skilled worker" "false God" or "God of the masses"), used in the Platonist tradition.

The gnostic demiurge bears resemblance to figures in Plato's Timaeus and Republic. In the former the demiourgos is a central figure, as benevolent creator of the universe and works to make the universe as benevolent as the limitations of matter will allow; in the latter, the description of the leontomorphic 'desire' in Socrates' model of the psyche bears a resemblance to descriptions of the demiurge as being in the shape of the lion, the relevant passage of The Republic was found within a major gnostic library discovered at Nag Hammadi, wherein a text existed describing the demiurge as a 'lion-faced serpent.'

Elsewhere this figure is called 'Ialdabaoth', 'Samael' (Aramaic "blind god") or 'Saklas' (Syraic "the foolish one"), who is sometimes ignorant of the superior God, and sometimes opposed to it; thus in the latter case he is correspondingly malevolent. The demigurge as a tyrannical God having caused the imperfect world and all of its suffering, is as the creator God of the pagan philosophers (Zeus) and the Judeo-Christian-Muhammadan creator God (Yahweh or Adonai) not real but a construct or illusion of the human mind (as nous). Since no secondary creator God is necessary or of high importance as everything is eternal or emanated and can not be created or destroyed. The demiurge typically creates a group of co-actors named 'Archons', who preside over the material realm and, in some cases, present obstacles to the soul-seeking ascent from it;

5. The estimation of the world, owing to the above as flawed or a production of 'error' but nevertheless as good as its consituent material might allow. This world is typically an inferior simulacrum of a higher-level reality or consciousness. The inferiority may be compared to the technical inferiority of a painting, sculpture, or other handicraft to the thing (s) of which those crafts are supposed to be a representation. In cetain other cases it takes on a more ascetic tendency to view material existence, negatively. Which then becomes more extreme when materiality, and the human body, is perceived as evil and constrictive, a deliberate prison for its inhabitants;

6. The explanation of this state through the use of a complex mythological-cosmological drama in which a divine element 'falls' into the material realm and lodges itself within certain human beings; from here, it may be returned to the divine realm through a process of awakening (leading towards salvation). The salvation of the individual thus mirrors a concurrent restoration of the divine nature; a central Gnostic innovation was to elevate individual redemption to the level of a cosmically significant event;

7. Knowledge of a specific kind as a central factor in the process of restoration, achieved through the mediation of a redeemer figure (Christ, or in other cases, Seth or Sophia).

Why Gnosticism now you ask-when you are doing another series? Why Gnosticism again you ask? Why Gnosticism at all you ask? Well stay tuned and find out the answers to these and other exciting questions as "Dev's Mind Disintegrates" -no in all seriousness-this philosophy/religion has interested me for a long time. For various reasons I hope to be getting into soon I will propose that much of what Gnosticism says about the human condition-I am starting to believe is true -truer-or more "close to home" than many other philosophies have come to describing our "real" status as human beings in this very material world. I still intend on keeping going with the "Mythical Creatures" series as I start this. I think both series will have stops and starts as I try to find good information to use-so I can't guess on any posting times or frequencies. Thank you again for all of your intelligent, thoughtful and insightful comments and to anyone else who is following or reading this blog! I hope to get caught up with other blog and net friends very soon!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dragons! Creatures of Worldwide Mythology

Many European stories of dragons have them guarding a treasure hoard. Both Fafnir and Beowulf's dragon's guarded earthen mounds full of ancient treasure. The treasure was cursed and brought ill to those who later possessed it.

English "dragon" derives (via Middle English), Old French,, and Latin) from Greek drakon, "serpent dragon," the Greek word derives from Indo-European "derk-,"to see," and many originally have meant something like "monster with the evil eye." Not withstanding their folkloric associations, there is no etymological connection between dragons and the ghoulish figures known as draugr in Old Norse.

The emblem books popular from late medieval times through the 17th century often represented the dragon as an emblem of greed. The prevalence of dragons of European heraldry demonstrates that there is more to the dragon than greed.

Though the Latin is draco, draconis, it has been supposed by some scholars that the dragon comes from the Old Norse draugr, which literally meant a spirit who guards the burial mound of a king. How this image of a vengeful guardian spirit is related to a fire-breathing serpent is unclear. Many others assume the word dragon comes from the ancient Greek verb derkethai, meaning "to see," referring to the dragon's legendary keen eyesight. In any case, the image of a dragon as a serpent-like creature was already standard at least by the 8th century when Beowulf was written.

Although today we associate dragons almost universally with fire, in medieval legend the creatures were often associated with water, guarding springs or living near or under water. The poem Beowulf describes a draca (=dragon) also as wyrm (=worm or serpent) and its movements by the Anglo-Saxon verb bugan= "to bend," and says that it has a venemous bite; all of these indicate a snake-like form and movement rather than a lizard-like or dinosaur-like body as in later belief.

Dragons in Celtic Mythology: In Britain, the dragon is now more commonly associated with Wales due to the national flag have a red dragon (Y Draig Goch) as its emblem and their national rugby union and rugby league teams are known as the dragons. This may originate in Arthurian Legend where Myrddin, employed by Gwrtheyrn, had a vision of the red dragon (representing the Britons) and the white dragon (representing the invading Saxons) fighting beneath Dinas Emrys. This particular legend also features in the Mabinogion in the story of Lludd and Llefelys. (Mabinogien-is the title given to a collection or prose stories collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts. The tales draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international motifs, and early medieval historical traditions.

According to Fox-Davies, the red dragon of Wales originated with the standard of the 7th century king Cadwaledr, and was used as a supporter by the Tudor dynasty (who were of Welsh origin). Queen Elizabeth, however, preferring gold, changed the royal mantle and the dragon supporter from red to gold, and some Welsh scholars, still hold that the dragon of Wales is properly ruddy with gold rather than gules (gules=in heraldry gules is the tincture with the color red). There may be some doubt of the Welsh origin of the dragon supporter of the Royal Arms (the official coat of arms of the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II), but it certainly was used by King Henry II (1 October 1207-16 November 1272-reigned for 56 years from 1216 to his death).

It has also been speculated that the red dragon of Wales may have even earlier origins in the Sarmatian (Persian-ancient Iranians) influenced Draco standards (a Roman cavalry military standard borne by a draconarius. Thought to have originated with the Dacians, it took the form of a gaping wolf's head and mouth formed from cast metal, to the end of which was attached a 'body' of cloth or silk fabric in the form of a woodsock), who would have been the primary defense against the Saxons.

Dragons in Slavic Mythology: Dragons of Slavic mythology hold mixed temperment towards humans. For example, dragons in Bulgarian mythology are either male or female with each gender having a different view of mankind! The female dragon represents harsh weather and is the destroyer of crops, the hater of mankind, and is locked in a never-ending battle with her brother. The male dragon protects the humans' crops from destruction and is generally loving to humanity. Fire and water play major roles in Bulgarian dragon lore, the female has water characteristics, while the male is usually a fiery creature. In Bulgarian legend, dragons are 3-headed, winged beings with snakes bodies.

In Bulgarian, Russian, Belorussian, Ukranian and Serbian lore, a dragon is generally an evil 4-legged beast with few if any redeeming qualities. Zmey (Russian for dragon) are intelligent, but not very highly so; they often place tribute on villages or small towns, demanding maidens or food or gold. Their number of heads ranges from one to seven, or sometimes even more, with three and seven headed dragons being most common. The heads also regrow if cut off, unless the neck is "treated" with fire (similar to the hydra in Greek mythology). Dragon blood is so poisonous that Earth itself will refuse to absorb it. In Bulgarian mythology these dragons are sometimes good opposing the evil Lamya, a beast that shares a likeness with the zmey.

The most famous Polish dragon is the Wawel Dragon or Smok Wawelski, the Dragon of Wawel Hill. It supposedly terrorized ancient Krakow and lived in caves on the Vistual river bank below the Wawel Castle. According to lore based on the Book of Daniel, it was killed by a boy who offered it a sheepskin filled with sulfur and tar. After devouring it, the dragon became so thirsty that it finally exploded after drinking too much water. A metal sculpture of the Wawel Dragon is a well-known tourist sight in Krakow. It is very stylized, but to the amusement of children, noisily breathes fire every few minutes. The Wawel dragon also features on many items of Krakow tourist merchandise. Other dragon-like creatures in Polish folklore include the basilisk (from the Greek basiliskos, "little king," Latin (Regulus) is a legendary reptile reputed to be King of Serpents and said to have the power to cause death with a single glance), living in cellars in Warsaw, and the Snake King from folk legends.

Thanks for all of your thoughtful and intelligent comments! Best to anyone stopping by! The first image is of a statue called the "Dragon of Llubjana" and the second image is the flag of Wales with its famous red dragon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

William Keens: Stone


Camille Claudel ended her liaison with Rodin after fifteen years, but was unable to forget him. She would come to Meudon and crouch in the roadside undergrowth to watch him pass.

When I was stone my flesh again

turned in his hands.
I held my breath before his face
and it was good, his hands, that stone,
the women of me that he made,
In their faces, mine; my breasts
my limbs, my hands,
this crease and vein.
His was a way almost witchcraft:
touch the stone, the stone breathes.
Maker! so many times of me.

And if the night took hold

I dreamed of them.
Dreaming, I rose, put on my shawl;
dreaming, let my body go.
Those nights they watched me cross the garden,
open the door, stand before them.
"This is my face." I touch the stone.
"This is my face." The stone lips speak.
Dreaming, I stand in the dark room
that smells of their dust
and call my name.
So many voices answer: "Here I am she."

These days without end

in the tall weeds.
crouched in the grass,
surely stone.
He will not know me
from his work, if I am still.

If I am, still.

These days in the grass
of the yellow slope,
watching all day for a glimmer of my maker.
My eyes lock, my body locks:
surely I am stone.
Whatever flesh now belongs to them,

I drag my heavy body down to sleep

among the stalks and yellow wildflowers.
Sweet maker, hear my prayer: that love was good.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_Rodin

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dragons! Creatures of Worldwide Mythology

European dragons are legendary creatures in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. In European folklore, a drago is a serpentine legendary creature. The Latin word draco, as in the constellation Draco, comes directly from Greek drakon -"gazer." The word for dragon in Germanic mythology and its descendants is worm (Old English: wyrm, Old High German: wurm, Old Norse: ormr) meaning snake or serpent. In Old English wyrm means "serpent," and draca means "dragon."

Though a winged creature, the dragon is generally to be found in its underground lair, a cave that identifies it as an ancient culture of earth. Likely, the dragons of European and Mid-Eastern mythology stem from the cult of snakes found in religions throughout the world.

In Western folklore, dragons are usually portrayed as evil, with the exceptions mainly appearing in modern fiction. In the modern period the dragon is typically depicted as a huge-fire-breathing, scaly, and horned dinosaur-like creature with leathery wings, with four legs and a very long muscular tail. It is sometimes shown with feathered wings, crests, fiery manes, ivory spikes running down its spine and various exotic colorations. Iconically it has at least combined the Chinese dragon with the western one.

Many modern stories represent dragons as extremely intelligent creatures who can talk, associated with (and sometimes in control of) powerful magic. In stories a dragon's blood often has magical properties: for example in the opera Siegfried it let Siegfried understand the language of the Forest Bird. The typical dragon protects a castle or cavern filled with gold and treasure and is often associated with a great hero who tries to slay it, but dragons can be written into a story in as many ways as a human character.

This includes the monster being used as a wise being whom heroes could approach for help and advice, so much so that they resembled Asian dragons rather than the European dragons of myth. Roman dragons evolved from serpentine Greek ones, combined with the dragons of the Near East, in the mix that characterized the hybrid Greek/Eastern Hellenistic culture. From Babylon, the musrussu was a classic representation of a Near Eastern dragon.

John's Book of Revelation-Greek literature, not Roman describes Satan as "a great dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns." Much of John's literary inspiration is late Hebrew and Greek, but John's dragon is more likely to have come originally through the Near East. Perhaps the distinctions between the dragons of western origin and Chinese dragons are arbitrary, since the later Roman dragon was certainly of Iranian origin: in the Roman Empire, where each particular identifying signum (military standard), after the Dacian Wars and Parthian War of Trajan in the east, the Dacian Draco military standard entered the legion with the Cohors Sarmatarium and Cohors Dacrum (Sarmatian and Dacian cohorts)- a large dragon fixed to the end of a lance, with large gaping jaws of silver and with the rest of the body formed of colored silk. With the jaws facing into the wind, the silken body inflated and rippled, resembling a windsock.

This signum is described in the surviving epitome of Vegetius De Re Militari 379 CE: "The first sign of the entire legion is the eagle, which the eagle-bearer carries. In addition, dragons are carried into battle by each cohort, by the 'dragoneers.' "

I hope to do another "Dragon" article very soon-perhaps tomorrow if I get a chance. I believe all of this information so far is from the "main" dragon section of Wikipedia and the "European" dragon section-I thought it would be good to have a lot of background for the next part. Thanks again for all of your wonderful comments!
The first image is a painting by Viktor Vasnetsov called "Zmey" -the Russian word for dragon and the second image is of a Romanian 5,000 Lei bill with a dragon pictured on top of the buildings.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dragons! Creatures of Worldwide Mythology



From Wikipedia: Dragons are legendary creatures, typically with serpentine or otherwise reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of worldwide cultures. The two most familiar interpretations of dragons are European dragons derived from various European folk traditions, and the unrelated Oriental dragons, such as the Chinese dragon. The English word "dragon" comes from the Greek language (drakon-dragon, serpent of huge size, watersnake, which probably comes from the verb drakein-"to see clearly").

Dragons are usually shown in modern times with a body like a huge lizard, or a snake with two pairs of lizard-type legs, and able to emit fire from their mouths. The European dragon has bat-like wings growing from its back. A dragon-like creature with no front lets is know as a wyvern. Following discovery of how pterosaurs walked on the ground, some dragons have been portrayed without front legs pterosaur-fashion when on the ground, as in the movie Reign of Fire.

Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label. Some dragons are said to breathe fire or are poisonous. They are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically scaly or feathered bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as having especially large eyes or watching treasure (very similar to gryphons-see posts below), very diligently, a feature that is the origin of the word dragon (drakein-"to see clearly").

Some myths portray them with a row of dorsal spines. European dragons are more often winged, while Oriental dragons resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature. Modern depictions of dragons tend to be larger than their original representations, which were often smaller than humans, but grew in myths and tales over the years.

Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, a religion and the universe. They are often associated with wisdom-often said to be wiser than humans-and longer lived. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain and rivers.

In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech. The term dragoon, for infantry that moved around on horseback yet still fought as foot soldiers, is derived from their early firearm, the "dragon" a wide-bore musket that spat flame when it fired, and was then named for the mythical creature.

Greek Mythology: In ancient Greece the first mention of a "dragon" is derived from the Iliad where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his swordbelt and a 3-headed emblem on his breastplate, however, the Greek word used-drakon-genitive drakontos could also mean "snake." In 217 AD, Philostratos discussed dragons in India in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (II, 17 and III, 6-8). The Loeb Classical Library translation (by C.F. Conybeare) mentions (III,7) that "In most respects the tusks resemble the largest swine's, but they are slighter in build and twisted, and have a point as unbraided as shark's teeth."

According to Aelian's On Animals, Ethiopia was inhabited by a species of dragon that hunted elephants. It could grow to a length of 180 feet and had a lifespan rivaling that of the most enduring of animals.

European Dragons: European dragons exist in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. Despite having wings, the dragon is generally depicted as having an underground lair or cave, making it an ancient creature of the earth element. Chinese Dragons: Chinese and Oriental dragons generally, can take on human form and are usually seen as benevolent, whereas European dragons are malevolent though there are exceptions (one exception being Y Draig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales). Malevolent dragons also occur in the mythology of Persia and Russia, among other places.

Dragons are particularly popular in China and the 5-clawed dragon was a symbol of the Chinese emperors with the phoenix or fenghuang the symbol of the Chinese empress. Dragon costumes manipulated by several people are a common sight at Chinese festivals. Japanese Dragons: Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese dragons are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Gould writes (1896: 248) in his book Mythical Monsters: "the Japanese dragon is "invariably figured as possessing three claws."

Vedic Religion: In the early Vedic religion, Vritra, was an Asura (power-seeking beings, sometimes seen as deities and sinful) and also a "naga" (serpent) or possibly dragon-like creature, the personification of drought and enemy of Indra (The king of the Gods of Devas, Lord of Heaven). Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi ("snake"), and he is said to have had three heads.

Persian Dragons: Azi Dahaka is the source of the modern Persian word azhdaha or ezhdeha, (Middle Persian azdahag) meaning "dragon," often depicted upon a banner of war. The Persians believed that the baby of a dragon will be the same color as the mother's eyes. In Middle-Persian he is called Dahaq or Bevar-Asp, the latter meaning "[he who has] 10,000 horses." Several of the dragons and dragon-like creatures, all of them malevolent, are mentioned in Zoroastrian scripture.

I hope people enjoy this next series on mythical/imaginal creatures. I wanted to get more done this morning in this post, but am typing too slow and have to get ready for Thanksgiving. By the way, I hope any Americans dropping by have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and any people from other nations a wonderful Thursday and upcoming weekend also! Thanks again for your thoughtful and intelligent comments and links-I really appreciate them!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Unique Physics Experiment?

Ettore Majorana (b.1906) was an Italian physicist, who was famous in his time. Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, compared Majorana's genius with Newton and Galileo. Fermi was also Majorana's supervisor at the Institute of Physics in Rome. These days Majorana is credited with predicting that neutrinos have mass, something which has been confirmed only in the past decade. He also had an idea that was developed by the famous physicist Richard Feynman. This was called integral path formulation, which states that the state of a particle at any time is the sum of an infinite number of paths that it could have followed until then.

Majorana had the idea a decade before Feynman developed it in 1948. On 27 March 1938, at the age of 31, Majorana disappeared during a boating trip between Palermo, Sicily and Naples. His body was never found, and people have argued over whether he committed suicide, was kidnapped, or changed his identity and began a new life.

In the summer of 2006, theoretical physicist Oleg Zaslavskii of Karazin University, Ukraine, suggested that the ambiguity about the fate of Ettore Majorana was designed by he himself as a "living" demonstration of quantum superposition. This paradox, in which a particle can simultaneously exist in two mutually exclusive quantum states, is usually demonstrated by Schrodinger's Cat, a thought experiment in which the cat can be both alive and dead at the same time-until it is observed.

The poor feline is usually (in thought only) put in a box where a container of poisonous gas is hooked up to a device with a small hammer that will break the glass container that holds the gas and kill the kitty if it is triggered. This is where the observer paradox comes in. The device is always thought to be triggered by the radioactive decay of an atom that has exactly a 50/50 chance of decaying at any one time.

The physics equations tell us that until someone looks in the box and sees whether the cat is alive or dead that the feline exists in a state of being equally alive and dead at the same time! Majorana is thought to have wanted to mirror this paradox with events in his own life, says Zaslavskii. The argument is based on three messages that Majorana sent to his family and to Antonio Carrelli, the head of the Institute of Physics at the University of Naples.

First, he sent a letter expressing his intention to commit suicide, which he followed with a telegram refuting the idea that he was suicidal. In the third letter, Majorana says he hopes that Carrelli received both the original letter and the telegram at the same time. "A sender should hope that the second message came first, to cancel the earlier one with the more disturbing content," said Zaslavskii. Instead, Majorana wanted two mutually exclusive outcomes-his suicide-or survival-to co-exist, making it, as Zaslavskii said, the "quantum mechanical version of the Hamlet question." It was when Zaslavskii looked into the background of Majorana's disappearance that he became curious-and suspicious.

For instance, Majorana is thought to have hired impostors to pose as himself during the boat trip: "I suddenly realized that all these separate and seemingly extravagant details are united by the same underlying idea. It was very impressive," he said. Some people believe that Majorana survived the boat trip and from 1940 to 1973 lived in Mazara, Sicily, under the name of Tommaso Lipari. There he refused any kind of charity, and carried a wooden stick that had a pin at the end to pick up cigarette butts to smoke.

The life 'Lipari' had in the town caused people to call him the "Dog Man" because he lived like a solitary stray dog searching through trash bins. One man who lived in Mazara said that 'Lipari' had confessed to being Majorana. Another was trying to help his son with a difficult mathematics project and found 'Lipari' was familiar with complicated theories in maths and physics and helped solve his son's project.

If Mr. Majorana did indeed do this to "prove a point" in modern physics-and who is to say-I just chanced on the story glancing through old issues of Fortean Times magazine-here is what I wonder (unless he was completely unhinged-this little "experiment" of his would have been extremely cruel on any family members he had if he came from a loving family). I wonder if he did this because he knew if he planned his disappearance well enough, that a lot of people would be looking at his case-looking at him essentially-and trying to decide the truth.

Maybe Mr. Majorana thought "his" reality would change-in the same way of the "Schrodinger's Cat" experiment because of the interaction of different human consciousnesses trying to decide if he was alive or dead? It was just a thought for why someone would do this, and that is if he did indeed do this for reasons of modern science. Certain things about his case are irrefutable-the boat ride-suicide notes-etcetera. I thought it very interesting to think about whatever the truth to the story might be-and very much like the "observer paradox"-maybe it just depends on who is looking? New Scientist, 5 August 2006; Fortean Times 220:09

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrodinger

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ettore_Majorana

I hope to be back soon and start again with the mythical (or not so mythical:-) creatures series. Health issues keep on sidetracking me, but hopefully I can get back on course. I do have a lot of information written down already for the next creature-it's just not quite ready to go. Thanks again so much for your kind, thoughtful and intelligent comments!