“No spiritual development begins without that person having a mystical experience,” claimed my friend Hans in recent conversation. We had been discussing mysticism and he made a few points that made me pause. He continued, “Mystical experience connects a person to the higher states of being. Without this, no one make any serious progress on the spiritual path.” I thought this was a rather provocative statement and asked him to clarify. He said that only once someone has tasted the ultimate can they really begin to direct themselves and their actions towards it. Until then it is like trying to create a trail with no guide or point of reference in sight.
I must admit I was taken aback by such a frank assertion, one he was quite adamant was universal. Additionally, I take seriously Aleister Crowley’s warning about the ways mysticism can delude a person and have thus always been suspicious of it. I pointed out how Crowley noted that mysticism was all subjective and lacked any kind of objectivity. Hans countered that this is wrong and that all true mysticism connects to a universal higher reality to which all humans share access. Humans, he claimed, were “wired” for these mystical states. He then pointed to all the great religions and mystics and said they all went up different paths to the same mountain peak.
I asked then, why did each of these mystics have such different responses to the same experience. Why did Jesus appear as the sole son of God after his time in the desert while the Buddha, Mohammed, Theresa Avilla, and so many others had different responses? Continue reading
I have always liked the motto Aleister Crowley gave to his journal The Equinox: The Method of Science—The Aim of Religion. The first part in particular. Today science is something that many people connect with technology. In some sense, science and technology are inseparable. The beginning of the twentieth century was not without its technologies either. The Equinox began to be published in 1909 and by then, early versions of today’s ubiquitous technologies were emerging. The escalator, air conditioner, neon lights, gas-motor powered airplanes, vacuum diode, sonar, instant coffee, and even the theory of relativity all came to life in the first decade of the twentieth century. But when Crowley stated “The Method of Science…,” he was not talking about any of these technologies, nor ones to come. Instead he was referring to the way science is approached and practiced. Science has a method and at the centre of that method are questions.
When Crowley advanced the method of science it was, more than anything else, an attitude or an approach to reality. It is one of curiosity, open mindedness, and discovery. It was a method that elevates the question and only sees answers as doorways to other questions. Continue reading
For many people, their first introduction to the Song of Amergin came through Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. Graves states that, “English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin.”
However, despite this apparently reverential beginning; Graves does not actually put forward the Song of Amergin as we have it; rather he begins by utterly changing this ancient poem to better fit his own pet theory, connecting the lines from this poem to the Ogham alphabet and the “months” of the year. This creates a vague pattern, unprecedented in either nature or the Gaelic source culture he purports to respect.
Graves provides neither the original Irish poem, nor anyone else’s English translation. Instead he just sets off on his own imaginative journey. Continue reading
I was putting together a time-line for another essay when something occurred to me. Various religions that started as fringe have grown and expanded over the years, many becoming legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream (or at least, approaching legitimacy), but somewhere along the line we seem to have run out of steam.
Early into the twentieth century Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis or The Book of the Law, the central text of Thelema, a new religion or spiritual technology (I’ll leave it to those more invested to argue which description suits it best). Crowley joined the OTO and shortly afterwards assumed the role of the OHO, subsequently reworking its rites and rituals to integrate the principles of Thelema, effectively setting it up as a Thelemic organization, which it remains today.
In the late 1950s Malaclypse the Younger and Omar K. Ravenhurst received a divine revelation from a chimpanzee in a bowling alley. There they learned of Our Lady of Chaos, Eris. The Goddess of Discord was alive and well and continues to merrily wreak havoc on mortals, who don’t always seem to get the joke. Indeed, Kerry Thornley (Omar K. Ravenhurst) described it as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion… Even so, Discordianism’s still around and stronger than ever, even if it’s not always taken as seriously as some of its more greyfaced adherents would like. Continue reading
The Feast of the Einheriar or the Festival of the Einherjar is also known by other names including the Festival of Odhinn, the Feast of Fallen Warriors, Heroes’ Day, the Salutation to the Heroes and Old November Day. Marking the day of the full onset of winter, this festival was Christianized and transformed into St. Martin’s Day (Martinmas), a catholic saint who was given many of Odhinn’s original attributes. Originally this day was sacred to both Odhinn and Cernunnos (who has many similarities to the Wanderer Odhinn). Continue reading