Thursday, August 29, 2013

Magus Magazine: Blood taboo, the Serpent and the Shroud: Folklore ...

Magus Magazine: Blood taboo, the Serpent and the Shroud: Folklore ...: One of the most popular motifs of occult folklore is blood. Traditionally, blood is a symbol of purity and fertility. In some ceremon...

Blood taboo, the Serpent and the Shroud: Folklore of revulsion

One of the most popular motifs of occult folklore is blood. Traditionally, blood is a symbol of purity and fertility. In some ceremonies, water is substituted for blood but the idea of blood and the chalice is a paramount occult teaching. Anybody who has read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ recognizes the importance of blood in esotericism. Although a pop culture phenomenon, which, incidentally makes most occultists howl in disgust, the idea of Sang Real or ‘Holy Grail’ as the womb of Mary Magdalene is a much older initiatory teaching. The holy bloodline of Christ is an oral narrative has been passed down in the recesses of secret society membership for hundreds of years. Tarot symbolism also preserves this secret and anybody who has studied the cards knows of the importance of the suit of cups and its relation to blood.

Moreover, the etymology of blood is ripe with esoteric connotations. According to Judy Brahn, “Old English forms related to blod, ‘blood’ are blowan, blew and blown, meaning ‘to bloom, to blossom.’  In French, fleur means ‘flow’, and fleurs, ‘flowers’.” (Judy Brahn. Blood, Bread, and Roses: How menstruation Created The World. Boston. Beacon Press. 1993)  And therein lays one of the mysteries of the original Rosicrucians. The red rose is much more than a flower. It is the flowing of sacred blood. It is blooming and the vessel that  carries the godhead into this world.

Red hair was also a symbol of blood. The Malleus Malifacarum asserted that red hair was a sign of a witch. Again, this superstition dates back to the taboo associated with menstruation. Menstrual blood is considered polluting or toxic. As Ambrose Pare remarked, “a child conceived during the menstrual flow takes his nourishment and growth…from blood that is contaminated, dirty, and corrupt”. (On Monsters and Marvels- Translated by Janis L. Pallister. Chicago. University of Chicago. 1983)

Poisonous blood also leads to the metaphor of snakes or ‘serpent’. We all know the theological importance of the serpent in the Bible. And we’ve all seen the auroboros image and are familiar with Medusa in Greek myth. But how often do we ask ourselves what these symbols mean? It’s strange to relate snakes and blood with Time but it’s probably the most appropriate meaning of the representation.  Janis L. Pallister reiterated the idea when she stated, “Indeed, we have seen that association between feminine blood and snakes implies cyclic renovation on the model of moon revolutions.” (Archaeology of Intangible Heritage. Chicago. Univ. of Chicago Press. 198

Perception of the occult is one of filth and revulsion. The reason why is because many of its tenets are misconstrued as perversions of traditional Christian ethos. For example, the mirroring of sacrificial and menstrual blood is something the occult has been teaching for centuries. Modern Christianity- especially Evangelical denominations- consider this concept absolutely horrifying. It is more than repugnant; it is blasphemous.  But the folklore behind such thought is very spiritual. When Even partook of the red fruit, the apple of folklore, menstrual blood and thus Original Sin was introduced into creation.  Christ’s redemption of this curse is with the spilling of sacrificial blood. When Jesus chooses to sacrifice his holy blood he chooses menstrual blood as a vehicle for redemption. As Colledge and Walsh remark, “the incarnate godhead redeems humankind by opposing the blood of Mary to that of Eve, and sacrificial bloodshed to menstrual bleeding” (200- Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, ed. Julian of Norwich: Showings. New York 1978. Paulist Press. ). For somebody who doesn’t understand that Eve’s folly and Mary’s purity are mirror-image archetypes, the idea that Christ chose Eve’s polluting blood is at best contradictory, and at worst heretical. Occultists don’t shy away from this idea. Those that use menstrual blood in their Eucharist cakes or in other forms of ritualization know that ingesting menstrual blood has bewitching properties. Groups like Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian Order consider menstrual blood as essential aspect of the ritual because they know that in its pollution is purity

The serpent is also a symbol for renewal. It seems counterintuitive due to the nature of the serpent and its role in Biblical narratives. Nevertheless, the serpent shares themes of re-vitalization as well. In its propensity for cyclic renovation, it is the perfect candidate for renewal. The serpent’s position as something Trickster or evil is also part of what Occultists call the veil. It is the veil that separates Man from his spiritual evolution. It is like a cataract that covers the inner eye and keeps us blind to the daimonic world around us. The veil must be sloughed like snake skin. Often times, this shedding of the past is celebrated ceremonially. For example, Francisco Vaz Da Silva has studied the House of Shrouds in Iberian folklore. He found that when somebody who was deathly ill made a miraculous recovery, they would embark on a pilgrimage to the “Casa des Montalhas”.  He states that “over centuries, those past hope who were healed would make a point of travelling to the healing sanctuary wearing a shroud or carried in a coffin. The main idea underlying this custom is that people given up as dead had come back to life and so would take off the death garb at the sanctuary in token of resurrection” (152- Francisco Vaz Da Silva. Archaeology of Intangible Heritage. New York. Peter Lang Publishing. 2008). This sloughing of the shroud is the equivalent of the shedding of serpent’s skin and symbolic of  renewal as personified in Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the “Shroud of Turin”-long famous as a holy relic and artifact of resurrection, can be considered a form of snakeskin. For many, equating Jesus Christ with the serpent is the vilest heresy but if we ignore traditional orthodoxy in favor of esoteric ism and folklore of renewal, we have a very profound message. If we but open our minds to the possibility, then that solemn image embedded in the fabric of the cloth really is proof that Jesus slipped the veil and became re-embodied in the spirit. In this sense, the shroud is not proof of death but of life. And when we look upon the image, we bear witness to the Dying God mythology. As Jesus undergoes the trials and tribulations of the sloughing of his former existence, he is in a liminal state betwixt and between ontological statuses. His being is moving from potentiality to actuality and in doing so, becoming something new. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Should the occult abandon the natural sciences?


Here is an excerpt from an upcoming book about the 'Folklore of the Supernatural'

 Many take the occult very seriously and regard it as a real threat to the fabric of society. Perhaps remnants of the reason-driven war on the occult arts during the renaissance or the rumor-panic of Satan in our neighborhoods in the 1980s, the occult is a very feared enterprise. Moreover, academia has trouble finding a category in which to place the subject. The natural sciences back away slowly at any mention of the word. The psychologists smirk and identify a dozen neuroses that could explain any and all of the mystery of supernatural processes. The psychiatrists simply get giddy. Only the anthropologists and folklorists will explore the occult in situ and on its own terms. But even then, the subject is a complicated matter. As Folklorist Gillian Bennett remarks,

The main trouble for folklorists is that we have got ourselves into not one, but no less than three vicious circles. Firstly no one will take the subject because it is disreputable, and it remains disreputable because no one will tackle it. Secondly, because no one does any research into present day supernatural beliefs, occult traditions are generally represented by old legends about fairies, bogeys, and grey ladies. Furthermore, because published collections of supernatural folklore are thus stuck forever in a time-warp, folklorists are rightly wary of printing the modern beliefs they do not come across for fear of offending their informants by appearing to put deeply felt beliefs on a par with chain-rattling skeletons and other such absurdities. Thirdly, because no one will talk about their experiences of the supernatural there is no evidence for it and because there is no evidence for it no one talks about their experiences of it.  (1987 pp13 Gillian Bennett. Traditions of Belief: Women, Folklore, and the Supernatural Today. London. Pelican Books.)

As Gillian has correctly surmised, the occult is in an academic conundrum. Ironically, much of these questions of validity and reputability have been grossly perpetuated by occultists themselves. Since antiquity, the occult processes has been intertwined with advances in science. For example, as astronomy and chemistry became more advanced, their occult counterparts in alchemy and astrology lost favor and in turn, lost validity. But its been the occultists themselves that have continued to try and make their arts a natural science. For the most part, the scientific community has been content to leave well enough alone. It s been practitioners of the occult that have continued to be concerned with science. It’s no coincidence that famous magus Aleister Crowley named his particular form of ceremonial magic: Scientific Illuminism.
Perhaps it’s time to leave the never-ending subdivisions and cul-de-sacs of the natural science community and venture into the small towns and country of the social sciences. The occult can be right at home without being concerned with the natural sciences. And that’s not to say that the supernatural cannot be endowed with a robust philosophy or even dip its foot into quantum theory and other like-minded scientific theories. It’s just time for a change. Throughout this book, we will be venturing into these uncharted and unexpected places. We’re creating a trail that will be followed by any and all who want a fresh approach to occult study. Instead of focusing on what can be empirically proven, we will show why its unnecessary to validate in this matter. Instead of trying to prove the logic and rationalism of the supernatural, we will embrace a metaphysics based on experiential happenings. Instead of trying to convince the academic community of the occult’s relevance, we will let anomalous entities be their own informants and inquire into how these creatures re-present themselves continuously. And in so doing, we will re-discover what it means to be an occultist in the modern world. Like the black hole in the center of a galaxy or the spider at the center of its web, we will explore the series of connections and correspondences that make this world and showcase its place in the center of a truly intricate and delicate network of the numinous.   

In ‘Religion, Philosophy, and Psychical Research’, Charles Dunbar Broad introduced a theory for God’s existence that had anthropological connotations. In essence, it stated:

1)      People cross-culturally have reported experiences in which it was seemed to them that they experienced God.
2)      If people cross-culturally have reported experiences in which it seemed to them that they experienced God, then people cross-culturally have seemed to experience God.
3)      People cross-culturally have seemed to experience God.
4)      If people cross-culturally have seemed to experience God, then there is experiential evidence that God exists.
5)      There is experiential evidence that God exists.

This theory is remarkable cogent and fits well into anthropological discourse. It is especially good for occult studies. In fact, if we replace the word God for Old Hag, or Demon, or Extraterrestrial, we have a workable theory of occult experience. And the fact that it accentuates ‘cross-cultural’ experience gives it multiple avenues for social scientific research. It at once gives credence to narratives of the supernatural while it simultaneously suggests that this sort of phenomenon is experiential and found in a multitude of cultural scenarios.
What makes this form of occult study particularly exciting is that it asks us to question what is real based upon what we can empirically verify. And that’s the rub isn’t it? It’s also the main criticism of Broad’s theory. If people are seeming to experience God or the Occult, then there must be some way to test these experiences. In true Popperian fashion, we must find way s to falsify or verify the experience in the same way sensory input can be falsified or verified. If we subject the experience to ‘checking’, then what people seem to experience is not evidence of the reality presented.
Perhaps an elegant way to resolve this conundrum is through the ‘inferences’. We can accept the validity of occult experience by inferring their non-causal properties while carefully recording the causal properties and sensory data that accompany the event. 

We should probably explicate exactly what we mean by folklore of the occult and supernatural. Typically lore is transmitted verbally and passed on from person to person via stories.  Telling stories is the perfect conduit to disseminate folklore – especially of the supernatural variety. They provide a suspense that can’t be matched by reading the account or watching it on television or at the movies. The face to face interaction requires a personal exchange. It’s much easier to relay ‘how something seemed’ by being able to tell it how it happened. And we all love a good story. Whether it be a ghost story, UFO experience, or banishing ritual, supernatural stories are the best stories. And we’ll be exploring these various forms of folk belief throughout this book.
The supernatural is also, more often than not, believed narratives. There is something about believing the unbelievable that is attractive to both the storyteller and his audience. Perhaps due to the exotic nature of supernatural belief, we want to include these experiences into our worldview. Anybody who has claimed to be a UFO abductee or seen a ghostly visitor will swear absolutely and without reservation that what they experienced was real. Most have no doubt as to the ontological relevancy of these entities. The “I have seen it with my own eyes” is a popular catchphrase for this type of contemporary legend.

As well as believability, these narratives also hold structural similarities that make them especially easy to group together. There are motifs, and morphology that capture what I call likeminded essences in the narratives. Moreover, not only are these various contemporary legends similar but they also echo traditional supernatural assault traditions of the past. In the stories of fairies, angels, changeling, gnomes and other creatures of the past are the prototypes of modern myths and monsters. It’s no surprise that the modern UFO movement is so full of religious imagery. These re-presentations of the numinous follow society and take on new meaning as times change. But even though their faces may change or the narratives many show variations in plot or action, the terror that is evoked surpasses time and space.    

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Authentication of the Anomalous Part 1

Here is a small excerpt from a larger work on Rites of Passage and the Occult...Check it out!

Each initiate who undergoes a rite of passage also undergoes a corresponding change in consciousness. This change is indicative of the change in status that occurs as part of the experience. Often times, the change occurs as a time of transition during the liminal state. Literally a transitional event  within the transitional state. Sometimes this event happens while sleeping. Rothman and Sudarshan remark of this transitional period in regards to Kashmir Shaivism. They remark that “if one examines  Kashmir Shaivism, one finds extremely specific instructions for achieving various states of consciousness. We are first told that there is a junction, or transition point, between each of the three states of consciousness and the next: the waking state, the dreaming state and the state of dreamless sleep” ( 18 Doubt & Certainty by Tony Rothman and George Sudarshan. Reading Mass. 1998. Perseus Books). Proponents of this form of Shaivism state that, “you should [focus on] the center of any two movements, every two breaths. After some time when that concentration is established, then whenever you go to bed to rest you will automatically enter the dreaming state through that junction…Here you do not lost consciousness even though you feel intoxicated…Here the aspirant does not experience moving about nor does he hear or see. He cannot move any part of his body. At that moment the aspirant hears hideous sounds” (Kashmir Shaivism, the Secret Supreme. Swami Lakshman Jee. Albany. SUNY Press under imprint of the Universal Shaiva Trust. 1988. Pp 109).

The transition point is reminiscent of folklorist David Hufford’s work with Old Hag phenomenon.  Often times, an Old Hag event entails the victim being attacked by a supernatural entity. The victim usually awakes in the middle of the night unable to move or scream. Then, a horrifying presence is exerted on his or her chest. (Quote)  The Old Hag attack involved complete paralysis and is associated with night terrors. Like Kashmir Shaivism, the Old Hag  experience occurs upon waking from sleep. During the transition from dream to wakefulness, or from one state of consciousness to another, the aspirant is in a liminal state and is more susceptible to the strange or unusual.  
                Carl Jung also studied transitional moments of a liminal state. In particular, he researched the effects of complexes and neuroses when they become conscious. He wrote that, “it is felt as strange, uncanny, and at the same time fascinating. At all events the conscious mind falls under its spell, either feeling it as something pathological, or else being alienated by it from normal life. If the content can be removed from consciousness again, the patient will feel relieved and more normal. The irruption of these alien contents is a characteristic symptom marking the onset of many mental illnesses. The patients are seized by weird and monstrous thoughts, the whole world seems changed, people have horrible, distorted faces, and so on” (119- Carl Jung. Psychology and the Occult. Bollingen Series. Princeton. 1981). As transitional events during a betwixt and between state, the complex is no longer repressed and allows for experiences of the Other or Alien.
                Changes in state occur at a ritual level when the rite is used as a proxy for the mythical narrative. As Walter Otto exclaimed, “ cultic rites were frighteningly serious because they were concerned with none other than the presentation of the supernatural occurrence which the myth had expressed in words” (77 Walter Otto. Dionysus-Myth and Cult. Dallas, Texas. Spring Publications. 1981. Orig. Published 1965- Indiana Univ. Press).  Often times, the occult ritual is the most important catalyst for inducing a change in consciousness. It is within ritual that the supernatural narrative can be acted out, grasped and given legitimacy. Sometimes the climax of the ceremony extracts the numinous in the initiate and serves as the transitionary  event. Such was the case at the Isaeum in ancient Egypt.

          The Isaeum was the sanctuary and place of ceremonies for the Egyptian goddess Isis. A physical representation of the liminal state, the initiate separated themselves from the world of the profane by entering its walls. And this was serious business in ancient Egypt. When aspirants left the blazing light of the desert and entered the cool chambers of the Isaeum, it was thought they were passing from the world of the living to that of the dead. It was in these liminal spaces that their most important rituals occurred. Robert Turcan describes a becoming rite when the initiate is transformed into a god. He states that, “the initiate was dressed in a linen robe never previously worn; then the priest took him by the hand to lead him to ‘the remotest part of the sanctuary’, or penetralia. The neophyte was probably shown statues that were concealed from the gaze of ordinary followers. In the middle of the sanctuary, a platform was set up which the new initiate mounted, this time clad in an embroidered linen robe…When the curtains were drawn, he was revealed like a statue, crowned with palm leaves and armed with a torch” (Robert Turcan. 1996. The Cults of the Roman Empire. Blackwell Publishing Inc. Williston). The transitionary event and its change in consciousness becomes the focal point of the ritual.
                This state of affairs was common in the mystery cults of the Greco-Roman era. A way to resolve the immanence/transcendence dichotomy, many of the cults sought to instill the divine within thus making them immortal. As Jane Ellen Harrison remarks, “To become a god was therefore incidentally as it were to obtain immortality. Their great concern was to become divine now” (477-Prolegomena To The Study of Greek Religion. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton. 1991).

To Be Continued....