The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
From Neophyte to Zelator
That night in the park where under a mushroom Autumn moon I saw the dazzling dance of energy… Words are inadequate for I was not thinking but being. The large circle of trees surrounded the shimmering expanse of grass and I felt like I, (or eye for there was no ‘me’) was in a pristine new Eden, enclosed under a glass dome of stars, everything fizzed with life and there was no boundary, I was the earth and the sky. The oak and cedar sentries communicated their slow vegetable wisdom. I talked to a beautiful young rose and her scent was intoxicating. Verbal thought was jumbled glossolia, utterly meaningless… In that moonlight park I danced with Pan, saw impossibly complex geometric fractals changing into even more complex patterns, I had the idea I was looking into my own DNA… More than that, the DNA of all creation.
Self initiation is a contentious issue. The great oracle Google shows a thousand conflicting ideas on the matter but for me it is quite simple. Initiation is an entry into the alchemical process of turning the base metal of the aspirant into the gold of spiritual enlightenment. Being agnostic in outlook and bred from dour Presbyterian stock, living in the north of Scotland, a barely surviving artist and poet, I take my magick where I can get it! On the 10th of June 2013 I was given a book which promised to be “A complete course in Kabbalah Magic and the Great Work of Self Transformation”. One year into the program I feel this manual fulfilled its promise. I believe myself to be a fully functioning magician. Why wouldn’t I be?
I have never been attracted to the robes and regalia of a formal lodge but at first I did reach out to various groups within the Golden Dawn tradition… To me in those early days of my work I wasn’t at all sure if I was ” doing it right” and felt that a Lodge would give me confirmation of my magickal ambitions and of course the initiation ceremonies themselves.
If there had been a GD lodge in Scotland I would have joined but now, seeing how certain “leaders” are behaving I’m glad that I and I alone am in control of my esoteric education. By taking part in online forums I can ask questions, get the answers and continue on my own merry way… Who wants to be part of an Egregore who’s members and OHO’s make wild claims and public failures? I think I’d rather continue to study hard and practice harder for it is the repeated use of ritual that maketh the magician…
Before that day in the summer of 2013 I had began to tinker with ritual magic but on that day I resolved to begin the work of the Neophyte… it’s been a interesting ride, and I’m barely over the first drop on the magickal rollercoaster.
ISIS, Virgo, Mighty Mother.
The friend who I’d been experimenting with a form of magick-lite (with enough success to make us want more) returned from a trip to Treadwell’s Bookshop in London. She brought back a book, it had, the ways things do in ‘Chapel Perilous’, fallen off the shelf, she bought it of course.
I won’t name the author but the blurb on the back promised to be ‘A Self Study Course for the Aspiring Adept’, inside were symbols, Pentagrams and Unicursal Hexagrams, strange alphabets and glyphs… I felt immediately that this was what I wanted, needed.
The first book on Magic I ever read was found, curiously, in my secondary school library, I was 12 years old.
In Aberdeen in the early Eighties this was quite a find, it was a gentle little book called ‘Magic: An Occult Primer’ by David Conway and I read it from cover to cover many times. I have a terrible memory but the way Conway talked about the ‘Astral Planes’ and its denizens particularly impressed itself on my still unformed mind. I yearned to travel to these ‘Planes’ not as an escape but as an adventure. Years later I found a comic book shop that sold Crowley, R.A.W. and some other Weiser titles. I read The Beast, admiring his mad passion and iconoclasm but understanding little of the work. Besides I had discovered hash and cider, girls and music. I read Burroughs and Baudelaire, decided to be a brilliant but doomed ‘poet maudit’ and painted and wrote teenage poetry which eventually became lyrics for my band… Magick seemed like something only someone akin to a psychic could do. I wasn’t psychic, I wasn’t ready.
Of course I could never forget that night in the park. I used Tarot without bothering to go much beyond the tiny booklet that came with the pack and also came across a heavily abridged copy of the I Ching and a set of three coins to cast the hexagrams. I was often struck dumb by its precision. I decorated my teenage lair with candles, incense and richly patterned throws and rugs trying to replicate the Moroccan splendor of Rolling Stones photos and developed a fascination with the band reading book after book noting their friendship with Kenneth Anger, Brion Gysin and other Sixties luminaries and gobbled up stories of Brian Jones’ experiences with the Pipers of Jojouka and his witnessing a goat being sacrificed to Pan. All the different strands of my reading, the artists and poets I loved began to form a paper trail, from John Fowles’ ‘The Magus’ to Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Marguerita’, everything led back to Magick.
I was around nineteen at the time and felt the pull of the occult like a bow string being pulled taut. Like most teenagers I had my little gang of friends but none of them really followed my growing obsession. We were having a ball, listening to classic sixties stuff but also a lot of new American indie bands like Dinosaur Jr, The Pixies, Sonic Youth etc. We’d meet up every night, get stoned and play Risk… Around this time we’d started to put a little band together, school friends and partners in wild weekends. I found, to my surprise I could sound okay using a mic and stepped in as singer, my best friend Croitz on guitar/ keyboards, Kev Buyers learned bass and we had the luck of having a proper drummer with a kit! We played covers and started making tentative tunes of our own… The Comfy’s…Such innocent times.
The More I Write the More I Remember..
For some time I’d been buying everything in the Magick section of the comic book shop from Chaos Magick to Castenada, and had begun an erratic program, I managed to do Crowley’s Gnostic Pentagram Ritual everyday for a few weeks and I felt the stirrings of… something… I now did elaborate tarot readings for friends and decided that the cards were a way of making the querant examine his or her life through the lens of the spread. The cards were a catalyst beginning the process of self analysis. I began to wonder if I wasn’t already an initiate, everything that interested me would turn out to have some connection with occultism. My book shelves were now groaning under the weight of Peter Carroll, Phil Hine, Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie and dozens of books on Astral Projection, Shamanism ad infinitum, along with my other obsessions, Picasso, Van Gogh, Klee, biographies of Rimbaud and Modigliani, and Plains Indians, (the Sioux and Cheyenne were my fierce favorites), and, of course, Crowley, from his torturously long winded Hagiography to the oblique Book of Lies. It was around this time I tested my growing sense of power… Young men are clannish and territorial and a couple of acquaintances had overstepped the mark by making threats. They were both bad news and I forget now what exactly was the cause of the trouble. However under the encouragement of my friends I cursed both of them when my blood was hot. I have no idea how to curse someone but I presume I used sigil magick with pure rage as fuel, perhaps I sigilized their names and performed some cobbled together word spell but I fired them both off, in front of my younger brother and a couple of friends. I must say that curses are not cool and I would never be so foolhardy now but like I say, I was young, pissed off and to be honest, didn’t expect them to work. The next day I heard to my amazement that acquaintance #1 had had a minor car crash on his way home after the argument and subsequent curse, he was luckily unhurt but his car was in need of expensive repairs! The friend who told me about it had been present at the cursing, I didn’t doubt I had somehow worked black magick… A couple of nights later, Xmas eve if I remember rightly, #2 was hospitalized with an unusually intense asthma attack! Did I really cause these events with my amateur hexings?
I believe I did…
Magick was in my bones now, in my eyes as I looked in the mirror, I was developing a magickal ‘ identity’. Was it there before the park, the books and now this defining act of dark Voudon? Why are some called to the vocation of occultism, skeptics call it fantasy, escapism, but to me it was an extension of Art, Literature and the noblest, most ancient of human endeavors… Are we born magicians, picking up where we left in a previous incarnation’?
APOPHIS, Scorpio, Destroyer.
Life went on… The band morphed into a more serious pastime, we practiced everyday. THIRTEEN, the name chosen by me was not just a good ol’ rock n’roll unlucky number but represented to me Atu XIII Death, rebirth, transformation. Funnily enough #2 was a good guitar player, Terry, great blonde hair. Wolfish in looks and person. Together we wrote songs effortlessly. I experienced moments of real transcendence where the music lifted me out of myself, every member lost in musical gnosis. Unfortunately Terry introduced me to a friend of his… Atu XV in his most seductive form… I battle him still. After a year and just ten glorious, ecstatic gigs the band was destroyed by Terry’s sociopathy. And most of those who hadn’t been smart enough to get fired from the group were now addicts. That curse came home alright, I invited it in…
Moving forward… A wonderful woman, Jill, saved me just before self destruction. Many of my friends didn’t get saved. But I was different, magicians are different. I did an English Degree which threw open not only the Great Writers of the English pantheon but literary theory, again, through Shakespeare and Bacon, from the Romantics to Joyce and W.B. Yeats and right through to the ‘Rhizome’ theory of Deluize and Guettari, the golden thread of magic glittered for anyone with eyes to see.
Jill and I split after seven years, but our bond became an unbreakable friendship. She is a reiki practitioner but for some reason I’d never had a session. With survival threatened, jobless and penniless I had lost my centre. I didn’t read anymore. A piece of me had been left behind in some dank stairwell of my past.
One day i decided to try it, expecting little… What happened is beyond the scope of this article (it was so weird and unexpected, I’m almost embarrassed about it) but it kick started my dormant Magi-Me, it leapt forth and Jill and I started doing rituals from a book called ‘Isis Magic’ by Isadora Forrest. We would meet at her beautiful but tiny flat and act out the Purifications and Consecrations, perform The Lotus Wand (basically a Middle Pillar) and used sigils for, money, love and magickal advancement. We collected crystals, wandered in the lush woodlands and riversides of her native Fochabers and meditated together. All the time the voices of the Adepts were talking to me, through me. I was moving toward traditional occultism while Jill was still in the healing ‘New Age’ mindset. She had heard of the Golden Dawn and Thelema but was quite entitled to be wary. Also, as our Isis rituals progressed there developed a tension, we’d plan for days but when the time came we felt a tremendous desire to do anything but the work! We would bicker and quarrel. Perhaps it’s interesting to contrast these formal rites with our ‘practice’ runs for new rituals which always went well and were relaxed and full of laughter, we also knew within the first few minutes which practice runs had become working rituals. This is all very subjective, a lot of ‘feeling’ and ‘sensing’… I needed to take a few more steps. I needed structure, my only previous frame of reference had been the TARO, I knew of Kabbalah and the Tree of Life but had really never had the will or need to use them. So I started to focus on the one manual that seemed to have the whole system of attainment wrapped up in a neat little bundle. Before June 2013 the only ritual work had been the Isis rituals and Jill was doing most of the work. I meditated daily using a reasonably good pranayama mp3 (ocean breath, breath of fire) which opened and balanced each chakra. But apart from that I was lazy and had read just too many books to really form a cogent idea about how to take magick from dilettantism to ‘attainment’. Footnote* during our Isis period I inherited a large amount of money from a great aunt I’d never heard of!
The book that had thrown itself off the shelf seemed exactly what was required. Using the Ra-Horakhty Golden Dawn system it was to be used in conjunction with Regardie’s massive The Golden Dawn. It seemed the most sensible system to use as a base for any further serious work. I had no Lodge or Teacher but that suited me. I got down to it and made an oath to at least complete the Elemental grades which was a commitment of at least a couple of years, and here I am almost at my first magickal birthday…
The Book marked a a new method in my previously scattershot study and practice. The author was insistent on not using ANY other rituals or ‘spiritual practices’ while using the syllabus and that was quite liberating. At that point I had never read such a simple, well constructed system in print. You began as a Neophyte doing daily Fourfold breath, LBRP, KC, Middle Pillar and a meditation… Simple, there was a required reading section which was not too demanding and projects including making many copies of the Tree of Life, picking a magickal motto etc.
I took to the daily rituals with gusto. I found i could visualize the blue flaming Pentagrams quite easily, I used a Scottish Sgian Dubh as a dagger and improvised a decent altar in the east and just rearranged the furniture in my large, high ceilinged studio, marking the directions with suitably colored candles At first I worked in a silent room, giving no thought to neighbors and vibrated the Hebrew godnames and formulas as loud and powerfully as I could but processed to experimenting with different kinds of backing music… Much of the study material was a bit dry and I avoided Hebrew QBL, It’s only now I’ve experimented with Gematria that I’m getting it at all. The Tree of Life was more accessible. I made many drawings in my daily diary and the study of vast mind blowing concepts combined with the drama, visualization and the body awareness of ritual, trying to trace the symbols with precision and move around with grace and purpose gave me an immediate sense of expansiveness. I would walk over the old Torry Bridge into town radiating with a kind of mad joy. Something was happening… After a couple of months without missing a day a bad relationship seemed to just fade quietly without drama. The alchemical process, was a gradual stripping away… Layers of whitewash and self delusion were being removed, revealing a smaller, simpler idea of ‘self’.
Around this time I began to join internet forums, I see the WEB as an invaluable, almost vital tool in the modern magician’s arsenal. Without the advice and fellowship of these groups and the ‘Akashic Digital Record’ where Google acts as an Oracle, answering any esoteric questions as quickly as I could form them I would have struggled. I stuck to my oath to keep strictly to my curriculum but the rituals and study materials threw up as many questions as they answered and I found myself utterly consumed in a discipline broader than my degree and more satisfying than painting or writing, again there was a sense of unfolding. Working on just one system with diligence was clearly working, I wanted more, faster, deeper…
I made inquiries about joining a Golden Dawn lodge but to my amazement the nearest Temple was in Nottingham! I got in touch with a group who shall remain nameless. I wanted a formal Initiation, I felt that this was one thing, the only thing, that my book and my cyber friends could not give me. I arranged an ‘Astral’ Neophyte ceremony and was given a date and a magickal motto that I felt might as well have been picked from a hat. Without going into too much detail the whole thing was a farce! I simply wrote it off and through meditation and repeated readings of the 0=0 Initiation I now considered myself a bona fide Enterer of the Threshold. The practice and study of GD magick had literally and metaphorically opened a whole new dimension… a space I had known to exist, indeed I had been an occasional visitor but now I had a permanent temple, not the physical altar in my room but a place in some area of my consciousness that grew more solid and accessible as my grade work progressed. I have a very vivid imagination and even before my daily work had had experiences which could be described as clairaudient. In deep meditation I would ‘hear’ words, nonsense words with a distinctly ‘occultic’ flavor. I used these words intuitively, the first was my only secret name. Another, Belaroth I decided was an angelic name… This forced me to deviate from my limited Neophyte work. But as it had been a product of the proscribed praxis it couldn’t do any harm to try a little Gematria. I admit that the hardest part of the 0=0 grade was Hebrew Qabala. I have never had much fun with maths and at first the Qabalistic alphabet had seemed very complex and I had great difficulty telling my Beths from my Kaphs, Cheth, Hé and Tau looked terribly similar and what to do with vowels? A friend from one of my online groups had developed what he called the Obororos English Qabala and I began to experiment with it straight away. The results were immediately fascinating, among my ‘received’ words and names I found 111’s, 93’s etc. and I began to suspect that any schema which has fixed number to letter correspondences would give results. Like any symbol system it was in the act of concentration and intellectual immersion and not the values themselves that produced results in the same way as the Tarot or the Tree of Life are not intrinsically magickal in themselves. It was the PROCESS, the power of symbols, which are, after all just skeletons around which we build our own flesh, is that they force attention inwards. Strange words and symbols are related to our own lives giving us insights on the microcosm AND the macrocosm of which we are a reflection.
Since starting the Neophyte grade I had swapped a heavy cigarette habit for a few puffs on an e-cig and seemed to be more balanced. Before my adoption of ‘proper magick’ I had still been acting out the ‘flawed genius’ cliche. I drank and partied and used drugs. All these behaviors had been gradually falling away. When I started in the summer I was madly in lust with a beautiful girl, we’d met through our mutual love of drugs and although she had been quickly banished the sheer amount of nasty addictive drugs were still a problem for me. They would have to go but I wasn’t ready…
I had worked solidly for six months and on the Winter Solstice 2013 I felt I was ready for the first Elemental grade. As advised by my book I’d constructed my Enochian Earth tablet with surprising ease and had been performing The Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram till I had mastered it. Although I’d taken a Christmas job doing long hours I found time for my daily regimen, even performing Liber Resh in the staff toilet when need be. I was soon able to do the whole Zelator daily rituals, now including the beautiful and powerful ‘Invoking the Four Powers’ of Earth entirely in my imagination. It was not quite a substitute for the visceral form of practice I had developed in my home temple but it was a skill that was beginning to link me to a sense of myself as a non localized being… I would do an LBRP and KC in the morning with sunlight streaming through my large windows and do the invoking LRP at night with glowing candles my only light source, loud crashing psychedelic rock music (handily disguising my vibrating and howling) clouds of incense and my Enochian tablet on the easel in the North all added to the theater of ceremonial magick. I was not satisfied unless after my Body in Assiah exercise using a dizzying form of often improvised pranayamas, I was a sweating, exhausted Zero, with barely enough strength to lift my dagger for a final banishing.
The Dark Night…
I have mentioned my extremely unmagickal use of a rather nasty, extremely addictive prescribed ‘medicine’ and as Winter turned to Spring I determined to get off them.
Three days in and I was so ill I felt I was dying! Everything the drug had given me it now took back like a spurned lover, ripping the warm fuzzy love she had once given me to shreds. I felt every kind of mental and physical torture, I seemed to be falling into madness. I could barely stand and when I did everything swam in front of my eyes. I checked online forums and found these were common symptoms, I read to my horror that the withdrawal would peak after three weeks but could last for months! I managed to do my daily KC and LRBP but for the first time I could not force myself to do anymore.
In my terrible anxious state the idea of invoking ANYTHING seemed like a bad idea. I could not sleep, eat, read… Everything was hellish and hallucinatory. I began to doubt that this living nightmare could possibly be caused by the cessation of a little pill. No, I had gone mad, probably caused by my occult activities, that was it! I’d somehow let some qlippothic entity in and was now entirely in it’s possession. I grew sicker, my skeleton was trying to burst out of my skin, I could barely hold my arms straight during the Evocation of the Archangels… I was obsessed with ideas of mortality and death, I was dissolving. After about two weeks an old friend visited unexpectedly. He knew nothing of the esoteric but assured me that if I thought I was mad I probably wasn’t and left me a little bud of cannabis. Although it was enough for at least two fat joints i rolled it into one… As I smoked i began to realize I’d made a big mistake. My own mind turned against me, in a trance every stupid, shameful thing I’d ever done was paraded before me in a revision of my worthless life. I lived though them all with excruciating pain and embarrassment. My inner dialogue became so loud in its accusations it seemed to be coming from all corners of the room, i was flayed and demons snapped at my heels. I realized that I was not a magician but a loosely connected series of memories and experiences. I suddenly became acutely aware of my insignificance. I was not ‘I’ identity was pure illusion… That night was the dark opposite of my vision of beauty in the park. I was accused and found guilty. There was so much more that cannot be expressed in language but after being reduced to nothing. I crawled into bed pulled the quilt over my head and faded into darkness…
Sol, OSIRIS, Slain and Risen.
The next day I realized I had passed through a common experience in the life of an aspirant… The symptoms of withdrawal faded over the following weeks and my friend and fellow traveler Jill would drive me to the beach in the unseasonably warm weather. We dug our bare feet into the damp sand and our senses were cleansed by the roar of the waves…
A year in magick… Can it really be just a year? I seem to have traveled so far. I did the ‘Zelator Initiation’ in much the same way as the first… read it over, grasped the basic symbolism and composed an ‘Oath’ confirming my commitment. In my mind initiation is a process not a ceremony and ultimately we come to the Great Work alone, work on our own Transformation and indeed leave this brief incarnation alone. I have however, found a Lodge that suits my needs and exists solely in cyberspace. No politics or infighting, no mindless parroting of ‘Holy Books’, no narrow minds or adherence to any form of dogma. In a time of ‘flame wars’ and infighting amongst groups of every creed finding this group offered all the advantages of comradeship and sense of community without interference in my own work. I still stick to the ‘Kabbalah Magic’ Zelator syllabus but feel confident enough to experiment with any form of praxis that fits my idea of The Great Work. There is no turning back now… One year of daily practice has taken me further than I could have ever hoped, I look forward to a lifetime of immersion in the mysteries. One line from my book seems a suitable way to finish… “Magick is not what you think it is…”