A Jack Parsons Foursome on Occulture

Little did I know that starting this humble little blog would lead to a chance to talk with one of my favorite authors and chroniclers of the counterculture. Author of the cyber-gnostic classic, TechGnosis, Erik Davis, is one of a handful of personalities and thinkers that have shaped my thinking at this stage in my life. I'm sure that sounds really weird to him but I'm sure he has his own influences that resonate powerfully with his sensibilities.

Aside from his incredible writings, I think that being connected to his weekly podcast, Expanding Mind has plugged me into not only his way of thinking but the vision of so many of his killer guests.
Honestly, there were certain weeks of my life where I was lost and down and popping on one of his shows revived me. 

What really strikes me about Davis is his way of being deeply immersed in a plethora of alternative spiritual and cultural currents while not proclaiming an exclusive membership to any one tradition or mode. This way of being and experience is something I've been more and more inclined to embrace as part of my own non-conformist orientation. 

That being said, it was a thrill to get the email to participate in an interview with Erik to discuss his essays about NASA legend and Thelemite Jack Parsons. Being the iconoclast that Parsons was, the discussion covers everything from California, feminist witchcraft, Aleister Crowley and of course rocket science. The great thing about all that was that it opened doors to other topics like Philip K. Dick, the dystopia of our social media age and Erik's personal ideas about spiritual seeking and practice. You also get to hear him speak more subjectively about his hopes and apprehensions than is the norm when he largely speaks and writes as a commentator or observer.

It was also awesome to converse and learn from another writer/podcaster I highly admire, Miguel Conner of Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio. His expertise on Gnosticism is incredible and his commentary on Barbelo's possible correlation to Babylon during this episode is truly fascinating.  

I have to thank Ryan for starting his Occulture Podcast and thinking of me for this fantastic line-up. The discussion left my mind buzzing for a week after and even lead to a personal essay from me about the beauty of analog experiences

Astral Artifacts // Mixed Media Series

"Against the Archons" - 22x30

Like most of these pieces in this series, I design the composition using elements from comics that I'm reading or inspired by at the time. The past few months when I haven't been reading the Poetic Edda or the Nag Hammadi Scriptures, I have been blasting through old Doctor Strange and Son of Satan comics from the 70's.

There's two specific collections of each that Marvel released last year. A Separate Reality
traces Doctor Strange in a pivotal era of psychedelic and occult exploration from 1969 through 1974. Mostly written by Steve Englehart, the latter half of the collection features the defining artwork of Frank Brunner. In the category of fantasy and trippy acid infused psychedelic art, Frank Brunner is among a handful of my favorites. I think this compilation represents the best of the Doctor Strange character, supporting cast and storylines.

The collection of Son of Satan is simply titled, Classic. Some of the main features I placed in this drawing came from elements of those comics. Although the art in general is not as stellar as the Brunner stuff, it has its moments and the dark occult stories make it a must have on my shelf. Taken together, it goes to show how strong the influence of and interest in magic and mysticism was in that decade. Many of the people I've interviewed on this blog were products of the 70s and I'm always interested in reading about reflections of their lived impressions of that time period.

Aside from that, you'll notice my use of runic symbols and other magical or astronomical items in this drawing since I've been immersed in them personally from a practice basis for many months now.

As I mentioned about reading the Gnostic Nag Hammadi texts, the idea of visualizing those black monsters at the bottom of the page as nasty Archons of various worlds helped me title the work. I've been wondering lately how different the flawed creator gods are from demonic forces in terms of ability and power. The main difference may be that demons don't suffer the illusion that they're at the top of the spiritual pyramid, or that they're in fact righteous beings. There are many other distinctions that I need to explore deeper in my ongoing research, specifically into the gnostic cosmology.    

The little meditating dude in the middle of the chaotic forces is you and me, or any of us finite humans that can only try to hold our grounds in a universe of competing polarities. With so much out of our hands in the big cosmic picture, my only hope is to find some space for center so as not to get ripped in half by the waves. 

Divining in the Dark: The Runes as a Guide through Disruption

"It is my firm conviction that the Runes, as adapted here for the contemporary Rune caster, are not meant to be used for divination or fortune telling. The disposition of the future is in God's hands, not ours. Rather, the Runes are a tool for assisting us to guide our lives in the present. - The Book of Runes, Ralph H. Blum
The synchronistic wallops I've been receiving by pulling runes from day one has been impressive. They are in a rhythm with my daily trials in a way that goes beyond explanation. It began at the start of this year as an added component of a set of daily rituals I dedicated myself too. 

I have to come right out and say the deep power of my experience has everything to do with working not just with the runes themselves, but also a little book called, The Book of Runes, by Ralph H. Blum. Reading the associated insight provided on each rune in tandem with the daily pull has become a synch-charged ordeal.

The runes began preparing me for a big upheaval of change and transformation right from the start. I could feel the impending shake up at hand going back into the previous year. The guidance from Blum's prose only confirmed my own intuitions about what was going on inside me and specifically my work life environment. My job had become a source of existential dread and uncertainty over the last two years that was turning me inside out. While I wasn't happy with the work I was doing, I was comfortable in a way. I could slip out to the library at lunch, write articles and work on interviews on my down time and not have to interface with management all that much. Even with the advantages, I clearly knew I wasn't going anywhere and felt stuck, moving in place.

Threats of company revenue losses leading to downsizing came down in November. By the end of January, after dodging several bullets, my card was finally pulled. The wild thing is that for the previous weeks leading up to the fateful lay off, The Book of Runes was preparing me a little each day. In a really extraordinary way, each day the runes and associated passages acted as a wise sage, laying explicitly personal guidance on me. The impact couldn't have been any greater had there been an actual person with my personal story there to provide commentary. The impact is pure magic.

And it hasn't stopped even a week after the break-up. The tough pill wisdom keeps showing up. Today for instance came up Laguz. Rune 18 stands for flow, water and that which conducts. Except I pulled it in reverse which indicates a warning against overreach or excessive striving. Laguz in reverse instructs me to go within and draw from the wisdom of my instincts. I need to find my intuitive way through this trial.

Obviously, this sort of generalized commentary can apply to anyone going through anything. The point is it meant what it meant to me, and I could make those connections. Meaning is always shaped by us, in response to external experience or information. The book advises me to use it not as a future diviner but as an interactive oracle that requires my input. 

To place some more meat on the bone, I'll share some of the other pulls I received this past month. Early in January rune 21, Thurisaz was presented. The associations here are the Gateway, Place of Non-Action and the God Thor. For my situation, the job loss itself doesn't represent the gateway entirely, although it is an integral pillar. As I type, I'm still looking towards the gate that I have not yet completely crossed over. From my reading I learned that the "the gateway is not to be approached and passed through without contemplation."

The finality of the job loss has triggered a hell of a lot of contemplation about my future. The non-action aspect of the rune was more relevant to that final month of employment. At that time I was committed to waiting out the company decisions of who would stay or go. Like the rune suggested, I waited and put off making a decision. Then the decision came and while I am moving forward with much action in the meantime, the ultimate gate of change is still very much in front of me.

I'm facing a situation now in which a short-term decision must be made and yet, another much bigger long-term decision must be reckoned with as well. A source of income must be acquired in an immediate sense, but a true life vocation of passion and purpose is to be acquired after a deeper investigation and potential training is undertaken. Most likely I will have to strike a balance of  letting go of the past while still relying on it until such a time when a true changing of roles can take place. A cycle of initiation is at hand.

In Blum's explanation of the runes, there are 13 that when grouped together represent a Cycle of Initiation. These runes focus on self-change and personal transformation. The final rune in the cycle is the 22nd, named Dagaz. And right on cue, this very rune that symbolizes breakthrough, showed up early on my usage. Other concepts associated with Dagaz are transformation and day.

This is a pretty heavy rune that calls for a radical trust that the transformation under way is necessary for growth. Stepping into the unknown can be fraught with fears and a sense of insecurity. I can't say I'm living in complete trust or without fear as I face down financial and career uncertainty. With two young kids to feed, and debts to service, there's no way not to have many concerns. All at the same time rooted in my belief in the mystical forces of the unseen, I try to stand in a faith that I'm being moved to better things.

I've been a scrapper for work since my teen years and know that I've never taken defeat lying down. The warrior nature that Blum so often made reference to in his book is a force I'm lucky to have some familiarity with. Growing up lower middle-class and having no connections to rely on, I went my own way, determined to make it.

The warrior is a central archetype to any heroes' journey and is represented by rune 15, Teiwaz. This is not the warrior of brute force, but spiritual power. In my experience, the most pivotal battles are staged within. My current situation is no different. Although there are external forces that are working upon me, what will determine my future has more to do with the state of my mind and spirit as I manage these obstacles. Struggle, set-back and defeat are all teachers.

I must act, calling upon the masculine solar energy of Teiwaz, but also be ready to wait for results and even be free from attachment to particular outcomes. Having received this console from the runes at this time has dramatically impacted how I've responded over the past several weeks. My mind might be in a much darker place without it.

The necessity for a big change and a shedding of the old continued to be reinforced to me in the days leading up to my job loss. When I pulled rune four, Othila reversed, I learned the time to be bound by old conditioning and old authority was coming to an end. Sitting at my altar in the pre-dawn darkness, reading that I was being "called upon to undertake a radical departure from old ways," felt like a direct hit. If not handled with willingness and care, I could bring down harm upon myself and family. The separation or retreat symbolized by Othila both scares and inspires me.

Disruption is not always a positive experience. It can go either way. The issue is you don't really know while you're in the middle of it. Getting hit with the idea of having the fabric of my reality, security and understanding of myself being ripped away is admittedly unsettling. Pulling these runes only clearly conveyed what was already rolling around in my gut for a very long time.

Hagalaz, rune 19, is that elemental power of disruption. Looking back its synchronistic message from a post-disturbance event, leaves me bewildered at how the universe can communicate to us when we pick up divinatory tools. The dust of Hagalaz is far from settled and yet there's a sense of purpose inside this storm all the while.

I'm not feeling lost as to how or why this has all transpired. My soul has been restless ever since I really took on an intensive mystical practice over two years ago. Almost immediately, I was shown
something was very off about my work life. In that sense, my disturbance got under way long before I was let go. As my awareness about myself and what was important to me grew, so too did my internal discomfort.

Spiritual awakening and transformation is not at all like what people imagine it to be. It's not about getting zapped with a god-ray from the sky and suddenly realizing all is love. In the alchemical tradition, the first stage of nigredo is a process of purification and burning away the blackness off our soul. Coming face-to-face with the darkness of the world in all its seemingly irrational violence and injustice was and is incredibly painful. Turning inward to see my own flaws of character, self-defeating beliefs and guilt tied to the past shook me up.

Having overcome many obstacles and personal demons at earlier stages in life promoted a false
sense of completion. Having achieved what I thought was success by our culture's standards, it was destabilizing to move into another realm of awareness. I had the impression by taking on a new journey of spiritual practices and study would only "plus" what I thought was a solid position.

This new cycle of initiation brought to bare unresolved past hurts, a discontent with what I was doing with the creative gifts I was given and a greater connection to the suffering of others. All at once, a new vulnerability allowed me to feel what I had not allowed in for so long.

Perth, rune number six, when drawn in reverse signals secrets, hidden meanings and the dark side of initiation. From Blum this lesson tells me I simply cannot repeat the old and not suffer and I could no longer be bound to past achievements. Most valuable of all was the passage that directs me to look upon failures or unwanted challenges as deeply significant obstacles within the larger process of initiation. This simple reframing of painful emotions and circumstances as tests of character leading to the discovery of my Grail provides necessary meaning and value to the struggle.

All kinds of mundane and frustrating things take place in our lives. It's how we choose to assign meaning to them that dictates how I experience them. The runes assist me in making that effort.

One rune I've pulled several times over the last month, both right side up and reversed, has been the first one. Mannaz, the rune of the Self is the starting point. Beginnings can happen as often as we choose, or in some cases they can be chosen for us. That beginning for me starts with my relationship with myself, others and spirit. A time of major growth and rectification, Blum says, must come before progress. He uses the metaphor of the planted seed in the tilled field as a way of describing a period preceding the blooming flower. Mannaz is about going within and cultivating introspection that can produce corrections and redirections of energy and intent.

Rather than become a famous artist or whatever, striving to "live an ordinary life in a nonordinary way" is one of the most liberating pieces of advice I've ever received. All I had to do was pick up a little book off the shelf to reveal it to myself.

The most mysterious rune is the last one, which is blank. While it has no structure or shape, the symbolism of rune 25 is profound. It can be seen as the Unknowable, the Divine or even the All-Father Odin himself. It directs me to the most difficult task - to trust unconditionally. Staring into the unknown with no knowledge of where next months funds for survival are coming from is tense and invigorating at the same time. While I have this opportunity to call upon my inner warrior, I also can sit back and watch the magic of that which has not yet come into form, come into form.

The Book of Runes came into my life just at the right time to strengthen and prepare me for this moment. I think everyone has different spiritual tools and practices that support and speak to them. Although I have many others, having this direct and intimate communication with the runes propels me into a deep desire to work more with them. The drawing out and reading on a rune a day
has brought new dimensions to my rituals. Chanting the rune names and visualizing the sigil forms 
makes for a powerful warm up in preparation for chakra or other meditations.

We can't escape the cliché about change being the only certainty. My own mental health has been known to change from day to day, let alone the external forces that bring turbulence to all of us at one time or another. The constancy of my spiritual quest and practice is generally the one thing I can control and influence.

Life must be faced, regardless of the season of our prosperity. The ease of availability of inspired texts, rituals and prayers has to be appreciated as one of the benefits of modern life. These tools act as an anchor that brings firm conviction and structure to my life, even when the other structures have fallen apart. The way of the spiritual warrior consists of belief in living life with purpose and that if strived for, the fire of Prometheus can be grasped, lighting a path towards illumination.

Another true cliché is that the only way out, is through. Mercifully, we have some ancient tech to keep us company.

Poetry Magick: The Soil Savior Risen

The Soil Savior Risen

Lifted up and burned through,
the solar dance breaks up my body of Christ.
Atoms and atoms diffused into the black empty.
Shimmer back down the cascading pool
to cool the fire of self-sacrifice.

A transcendent-Tao moment.
Die and live again in the dialectic.
Here and gone, living and dying.
All material stripped away,
naked body of Osiris risen.

Sister of sex divines gnosis
like a bullet through the head.
Brain bits make babies to cry
and suckle golden milk
that flows across new Jerusalem -
only to be cast out, fallen, free.

Orbit galaxies, star-fathers glow existence
and pulse collectively among the children
tilling my garden.
Brought about by the descending angels
armed hostilely with settles to score.

Corrupted soil births the serpent
body of man,
bequeathed with bull head
and demon horns.

Penetrate deeper into inner-earth.
Work wells down into the cave of the hermaphrodite.
Genital entities to consecrate weary knights
whose horses have grown cold.
Blade can split the man from the woman,
let the grail collect the resulting seamen
that shines and reflects as a diamond.

The trillion-fold souls of light
carry this cup across the red river
by raft steered by jackal priest
with iron lips that accept payment
and ears made to hear parables.
His paddles they drive and thrust
the way forth to the sexless one,
who initiates
and has a way of fucking flesh into
blind rapture.

The innards of the soul-shell
shiver and shake apart
by shafts of light
until pieces of the thing you were
rattle round by this procedure.

The gate draws open to the tomb
of CR guarded still by breathing symbols
that have their way too,
inside your limbs.
Self, of any concept, rendered empty
by forceful hand.

The offering of your energy is eaten
and devoured in the process of
ecstatic agony,
like a child rebirthed -
eons past as you lay your
pure nothingness within the tomb
of infinity, closed by the cross
of four holy poles
that form the ground of all

All Gods, all creatures, all moons
came to pass in your ever-lasting sleep.
Through destruction comes creation.
Humanity doomed, humanity dies
a new cycle, a new sun.
Dawn of the four quarters.

Lucifer presides in a flash of lightning.
By his pen, a book of magic
bound for disciples not yet born.
Witness the pillars restructure
the instrument of time
by the power of dragons,
whose wings push together new stars.
For all the old worlds have ended -
the climax had been reached -

Return, return, return.
The one, the two and the million more,
drawn back to the surface of earth,
up into the clouds to be rained back down
psychedelically on the skin of the shepherd,
breaking the damn holding in his sensual fluid -
which then comes into the tilled soil
grazed by the lamb,
springing up from the dirt,
the messiah with breasts and
doves flown free from between her legs.

All the people cried
hallelujah, our savior has come.

Analog Heart, Beating Inside the Matrix

Photography // Jeff Wolfe

I was just lucky enough to join a four-way podcast conversation, the subject of which was the rocket scientist/magician Jack Parsons. Cultural historian Erik Davis, having written two essays on the man who became a myth was the focal-point of the interview with myself, Miguel Conner from Aeon Byte Radio and host Ryan Peverly of Occulture.

Aside from the incredibly intriguing Parsons talk, we veered off into more personal discussion about modern culture and the many challenges it poses for weirdo seekers. One comment has been swimming around my brain ever since we got off the call. Davis made the statement that he was unequivocally an “analog” person in light of the ubiquitous digital nature of everything under the sun. 

His lacking in ability to relate to the new generation, their lifestyles and behaviors is something he associated with his particular age. Me, being of a younger generation am apparently on the other side of that digital divide, but only perhaps from a technical sense. Internally and spiritually I see myself also as very much an analog type.

I prefer physical books, the outdoors and hardcopies of movies and music. I am the only person I know that still buys CDs when a band puts out a new album. It makes no practical sense but makes perfect sense to me. The tactile and tangible is something I respond to immensely, to the point of it being a strange quirk. 

There’s a calming and reaffirming effect felt when I can come home and scan over these objects sitting on a shelf. People my age overwhelmingly prefer the economy and mobility of digital possessions. I on the other hand don’t feel as though I possess something unless I can see it in physical space. A bizarre eccentricity I know, but I don’t really give a damn.

Born in 1981, I came of age in a VHS, cassette tape era. I didn’t get online until I went to college in 2000 or 2001. And even then, I did very little with it for years after. An early adopter I was not. I realize that time is long gone. Kids are born digital. They can navigate smart phones and tablets before they can read. It makes me realize the transitive state that I exist in. Not totally analog but not completely digital. I feel as though I’m part of the very last analog generation ever. Having graduated high school on the cusp of Y2K, my flip from youth to adult landed right on the turning of the centuries. In the history books, the 21st century will be noted as the first completely digital one.

Of course the breaks in technology are never that clean.

I should feel closer at heart to the millennials right behind me, but truthfully I feel more in tune with in spirit to children of the 70’s from which Davis comes. From his perspective, I’m perhaps part of a legion of odd aliens; disconnected from the real and willfully enslaved in a bubble of surveillance. A look around these days at people my age only reinforces that perception.

If you’re not connected, you’re not really alive. Death isn’t the same death as before either. Our social profiles immortalize us, our last likes and comments left to be visited by friends, family or strangers. Weird to think about indeed.

Even though I’m completely caught up in digital tech on one level, I think a lot like Erik in that the impersonal abstraction of it all is something to hold out some resistance against. Like Jesus said, to live inside the machine, but not be of the machine. Or that’s what he might say if he were around today to deliver his ministry through podcasts and YouTube.

In our roundtable discussion, Davis also brought up the concept of the underground or counterculture and how it relates to this post sci-fi reality. The underground in my mind was always a physical zone, composed of actual people interacting, creating and exchanging in community space. These were places where outcasts, weirdos, freaks, druggies and artists came together to develop a living experience of culture that then filtered out to the mainstream.

Historically, undergrounds existed in warehouses, apartments, music clubs, record stores or any number of other zones formed in a secret word-of-mouth fashion. This is not something I can say I’ve felt a part of since perhaps brief moments of my teenage life. But I understood exactly what Davis meant when he spoke of holding a strong fidelity to underground ethos. The question is whether those currents live now only in memory or the ephemera of old objects.  

These two notions of a burgeoning invasive tech world and a dying underground strike a deep cord for me personally and professionally. In fact, it has become the bane of an existential crisis going on in my 30’s.

I came up out of the underground most certainly after college and was ushered into the hustle of humdrum high aboveground in the offices of corporate America. I was hired into this professional world in part as a representative of an authentic creative underground that could be milked and processed for commercial consumption. As time goes by, I move further and further away from those dark, grungy spaces and grow more and more acclimated with the routine sameness of strip mall suburbia.

What’s left? To become the old guy who hires in the next wave of cool kids, weighing their street cred?

How many of us youth culture rebels have been sucked up into the system, accosted for our cool, until were naked and cornered. Up to the eye-balls in debt coming out of insanely expensive art schools, creative weirdos struck by a fear of drowning, strike sweet deals with the devil. In an economy of brutal competition, high interest rates, high rents and shrinking opportunity – media outfits of one sort or another throw out life preservers.

Corporations know who to woo creatives to the dark side, with appeals to ego and promises of being at the tip of the cultural spear. No one talks about ads anymore. That’s passé. It’s all about creating cool content. Right…

Sure, just like capitalism promises – everyone is free to leave whenever they want. And yet, that debt. That rent. Perhaps, those kids.

Once the recognition of this alienation sets in, there’s little place left to turn to reconnect with a sense of genuine connection than the Internet.

For a price, social media, apps and all the rest extract data to subvert our autonomy and prod us into thinking, feeling and behaving in a prescriptive manner. It should be simple to reject it all and refuse to participate. The rub in my situation is that despite the ethical conflict, the risk of complete alienation from the far away “others” feels too great. The loss of analog environments or points of underground contact in the adult world leaves me with this choice of long distance online contacts or next to none at all.

It’s not technology itself that is the issue. Analog nostalgia for me is rooted in the fantasy of purity and freedom. Not unrelated is a libertarian anti-surveillance ethic. The slow creep that acclimates us little by little to greater observing, cataloging and prodding slithers into our consciousness under the cloak of shinny objects.

Even in the old underground youth scenes individuals were still subject to peer influence and nobody wants to be out of the know. It creates the terrible pull between creating this self-molded identity that feels liberating and empowering only to use that highly drawn up personality as a currency to be gobbled up by the tech and corporate giants. The more flushed out our digital character, the more hypnotic the spaces we browse become.

My obvious confession is that in my workaday material life, I have little to no interactive human relationships that provide a necessary sense of being understood, accepted and heard. The ideas and lifestyles that are deeply important for me to discuss and explore have been best nurtured by online communities. These digital communities soften the hard edges of loneliness and confusion.

I have a belief that if I talked openly about myself with strangers I would be met with a blank stare. The wonderfully strange characters that I used to meet in my school days have all seem to faded away.

In a position of being overworked, crushed by social anxiety and juggling all sorts of obligations, blogging, posting and messaging feels like the last bastion for honest self-expression. It can feel like the only place to be heard or listened to. Writing a blog and hoping some other strange soul will read pushes just a little further off the dread of other problems with no solutions.

An underground of one is formed. An isolated mobile underground, where I launch out across time and space, landing in places unknown.

In my desire to be heard I strike a deal with agents of mind control. Communing with strangers is part of the game. My personal thoughts and intimate ideas are chronicled into abstract databases and clouds. Some of the information I give up can be sold, most is probably worthless. To them, anyhow.
The contradictions within me are glaring and not as unique as a snowflake. This tension between analog and digital is pervasive, maybe even for those millennials that Gen-Xers can’t seem to understand.

I do my best to experience the world in an analog way as much as possible. Walking in nature, meditating, reading bounded books, writing in notebooks, drawing on paper, seeing music performed live. At best, these are small spaces carved out from an otherwise dominating virtual landscape. To unplug, disconnect and log-off takes discipline and conscientious choice. The sense of missing something or even not existing outside of the web is potent and purposefully addictive. To be turned off is the act of rebellion. But turning off feels like turning ourselves off, pulling the plug once and for all.

Our digital selves are constructed by so many pixels and codes. Profiles can be filled out to demonstrate just how complicated and interesting we are. That’s the buzz of it. Total control over our public appearance. It stays cool on my worse days and portraits happiness and success even though I haven’t made genuine human contact in weeks. To hundreds of people who have never even met me, all I am is a page, a profile, a thumbnail sized image. Would there be a qualitative difference if I were just a robot.

When the self that I’ve constructed online can’t be acted out or embodied, who is the self who acts offline. Is it the same person, or someone different? It becomes hugely problematic when my offline self has no avenue of expression in real time within an actual community. It necessities the return back to the online self or risk becoming disoriented. That self has a network that serves to reinforce that identity and respond and in some way, recognizing me as I want to be seen.  

But damn it if it isn’t still altogether unfulfilling. Devoid of eye contact, body language and emotive voice – the brain or maybe the soul knows what it lacks. The three-dimensional effects that satisfies so many of our senses yearns for engagement. Even as I think that, companies with billions of dollars are working to finally realize VR in a way that will satisfy those needs, fooling our pesky hearts. The flatness of the screen will soon be overcome. Will I go along with that too?

There has to be a better way. In the time being I cling to both this digital mode of expression and an experiential analog one. I try my best to make them congeal, knowing all the well which side of the equation needs to be enhanced.

To be human and to feel human is analog, authentic, flawed and raw. As of yet, there is no way to approach spiritual experience through an interface. Based on my predilections, there is no stronger argument for the analog life than that. As long as I attempt to merge into mystic states, it will be rooted in a body-mind process. To engage in a ritual is an advanced technology, connecting the soul to ancient culture. Spirit technology is a hell of a thing and I cherish that part of my day.

Spirit opens up in the quiet spaces of solitude. When the senses are engaged naturally, the soul responds. To be under the light of the stars. To be immersed in water. To be surrounded by trees. To hear nothing but the activity of wildlife. To exert the body through hills and up mountains. Even the clean air filling your lungs is mystical in the proper frame of mind.

This is not meant to argue for a luddite primitivism. This is not another screed against social media. It is however a reflection on the sacredness of the analog, the innocence of the underground and revulsion towards some of the ways I have allowed myself to give up on those principles in some measure.   

The Mystical Fruits Behind the Veil with Greg Kaminsky

The times we live in are very strange indeed. As the subject of this piece relates, we're living through a disturbance of the status quo that is sending shock-waves throughout all our lives we haven't witnessed in some time. We all feel a sense of dislocation and of the ground underneath changing at a rate we aren't accustomed to. The way in which we learn and communicate has radically shifted in our lifetimes and continues to. The nature of the way governments, economies and technologies operate being ever in-flux, forces our minds to constantly readjust and reprocess. 

In this dislocation, the Holy Grail of understanding is our social media God. The daily feed to satiate our hunger. The stream of data that never sleeps. If we can just keep up with the downloads, we won't feel quite so lost at sea. This strategy fails a lot of us, in that flashy content provides little context for meaning or value. We yearn for something deeper and more substantive. We've never had more avenues for distraction and self-medication and still the unsettling disturbance of the violations being perpetrated against us is unshakable. 

For those of us who no longer want to return to the source of the sickness expecting a solution, we must find alternate avenues for answers. For some it becomes a philosophical journey and for others it's a distinctly spiritual one. It's in an existential fall that we turn towards firm platforms of grounding that offer sturdy support. Ways of being and knowing that persist. 

For reasons both personal and societal, I can locate my own fall in the opening years of this century. Many people have preceded me on a similar journey. A few years ago I was fortunate to come upon a stream of knowledge that had been flowing for some time already. While plenty can be said about the damaging effects of technology and social media, there's also no question that the same outlets and channels for communicating ideas have also produced incredible and unprecedented access to enriching content. 

The way in which we chose to navigate these new technology platforms makes all the difference on whether we add value or confusion to our lives. Podcasts that capture conversations about highly nuanced subjects featuring individuals we would otherwise have no access to has changed the game. 

A podcast like Occult of Personality, that brings forth the foremost experts studying and practicing in the field of magic and mysticism provides a caliber of intellectual discussion one could only hope to find in an academic environment. I was so affected by them, I felt compelled to contact the show creator and host Greg Kaminsky privately, to ask for personal guidance. 

At my beginning stages of discovering the occult, I couldn't have reached out to a better or more generous representative to answer the questions I had.

It was only a matter of time before we had our first Skype consultation and I was off on my way with a solid foundation to enter upon a deeper path of research and discovery. There are a lot of so-called internet authorities of occultism, with larger-than-life personas. What has always appealed to me about Greg and his show is his down-to-earth realness. In my conversations with him, I have always found not only a profoundly knowledgeable resource on arcane matters of the spirit, but also a caring friend concerning matters of the ordinary.

It is now my pleasure to finally be able to share publicly some of the amazing insights he has provided me over the years in private.


Greg Kaminsky

Let’s start with your story about when you decided to make the huge change in your life to dedicate yourself fulltime to the podcast and let go of your corporate gig.
I had been working as a software development project manager at a major financial services company for almost 10 years when the housing bubble / recession hit in 2009 and was laid off with severance pay. I'd been spending at least half of each work day for 5 years or so just reading esoteric books and doing research, so I knew that going back to a normal job was not something I wanted to do. Fortunately, my wife (girlfriend at the time) agreed and we decided that we were going to follow our dreams, even though it meant struggling financially for awhile. 
 At some point during those 5 years, I came to understand that despite my wanting, the corporate job I had was preventing me from fully embracing all the teachings that I'd received. 
I was working at this job not because I enjoyed it or it was a calling, but because it provided financial security. That security came at a price however. I had to reconcile the fact that the entire financial services industry was like a giant casino and it was being sold as the exact opposite.   
My own very small role in that felt destabilizing. This taught me how important it is for thoughts, feelings, and actions to be in accord. It is not enough, at least for me, to believe wholeheartedly in the ancient philosophies of Western esotericism while simultaneously hedging my bets by working to seemingly undermine the very ideas I held dear (by serving greed and rapacious capitalism). I'm not a Marxist, but the things I saw while working in that environment made me appreciate ethics and the limits of human exploitation. So, really it was easy, and a blessing, to be able to walk away from that situation into one where I feel a sense of purpose, that my ideals are in alignment with the work I do each day. I don't believe you can put a price on that, but I think about it often as we try to come up with money to buy food or pay the mortgage.
What was the first occult experience you had that was like the light bulb going off? Did it happen as the result of a book or someone you met?
As I look back, there have been quite a few. It was a gradual progression until one day it was a full-blown lifetime study. If I had to pick one single thing, it was the experience I had using salvia divinorum in a ceremonial way. It caused a very strong reaction that led me to understand that the kundalini response, in its myriad forms, was the purpose of human life on this planet. I felt compelled to better comprehend what happened to me that night and this secret fire within all humans. 
I've spoken and written about this experience in greater detail previously, but what I'd like to emphasize is that you, reading these words, are not what you take yourself to be. Investigate who you really are and the answer may shock you. Esotericism and mysticism point the way, but this intelligence that dwells in and around the human body is ultimately determining the course. 
What three books have had the most effect on you? 

-      1. I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargardatta Maharaj - This book is the most pure distillation of non-dual philosophy from talks with someone who had achieved stable realization. No book has had a more profound effect on me then this one. It's the most simple, clear, accessible, and direct path that I've ever encountered. It's profoundly mystical, and completely grounded in reality. It's appeal may be limited among those that prefer grimoires, intermediary intelligences, esoteric orders, ceremonial gear, etc. But if you're after learning who and what you truly are, there's nothing better in my opinion. 
-       2. The Tower of Alchemy by David Goddard - I did the practices from this book for over a year and they had a radically transformative effect. In addition to the theory of inner alchemy, Goddard relates it to Vajrayana Buddhism. The practice also stimulates the inner alchemical reactions and involves the art of memory in extensive visualizations.  
-       3. Morals & Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry by Albert Pike, - This dense tome contains a wealth of wisdom and reading it many years ago was the first time I was exposed to Gnostic, Neoplatonic, Hermetic, and Cabalistic ideas. Specifically the 28th Degree, Knight of the Sun, is the chapter that made a metaphorical light bulb go on in my mind. Pike was revealing a lot when he composed that book and it stands the test of time, though the modern annotated edition is clearly superior to the original. 
Since the occult covers a lot of ground, based on your experience, what can you say are the common denominators across all the various threads?
I'm going to limit my answer to Western esotericism. I think there are several qualities that characterize these traditions. 
1.  Secrecy, initiation, oath-taking - The need for secrecy is for many reasons including being seen as an apologist for magick, Judaism, or paganism was dangerous, the Qabalah promotes the idea that the secrets of nature are hidden and revealed only to the wise, this behavior creates a sealed container in which to do the work more effectively, and several others. 
2.  Qabalah as the foundational system of divine names, cosmology, and anthropogeny. This is often mixed with astrology, alchemy, and Tarot symbolism. Some traditions depart from Hebrew Qabalah and use English, Greek, geometric and astrological symbols, or even Runes. 
3.  Concordance - at some level, an appreciation that all religions, or at least all esoteric traditions, point to similar ideas even though they may come through a different cultural paradigm, language, and history. 
4.  Tradition - whether in support or denial, all esoteric groups have some position on lineage and authenticity of their teachings and initiatory transmissions. 
5.  Syncretism - despite any claims to the contrary, Western esotericism is, by its very nature, syncretic. By this I mean that it combines Qabalah, Hermetism, Neoplatonism, gnosticism, Hellenic magick / goetia, and Christianity (of various flavors) to produce many varieties of theory and practice. 
6.  Innovation under the guise of ancient tradition - from all those who signed the name of Hermes Trismegistus to their works, to the ancient Jewish Kabbalists, to Aleister Crowley this has been a hallmark of Western esotericism. 
7.  Mythology of the tradition - think of all the legends about famous occultists and occult orders - St. Germaine for one and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn's origin story for another. If you're in an occult order, chances are it does this too (especially Freemasonry!). 
8. The phenomenon of the outer school - any group that you can find information about    publicly and join is only an outer manifestation of the authentic esoteric tradition. The groups where the real work is occurring are hidden.
How has having access to your guests changed or influenced your life and spiritual practice?
I think it has made a world of difference. Once the podcast started gaining momentum after the first few months, the level of commitment to the material covered increased significantly, meaning that I felt compelled to read every book that I discussed on the show and delved deeply into the work of each guest. Over time, this process has exposed me to a lot of material of varying levels of efficacy. 
Gradually, over about 10 years, I’ve come to the specific path I follow and I can only credit my work on the podcast as instrumental to that revelation. Interacting directly with these teachers and experts has also forced me to be much more dedicated and serious as a practitioner. Primarily because these interviews / conversations gave me the insight that these people were once beginners and through a lot of hard work, they achieved some level of mastery. 
The formula of applying your attention and focus without desire for any specific outcome is true magic. I also believe very strongly that sharing these interviews has made this endeavor into an act of service instead of selfishly gaining knowledge and experience for my own benefit.
You recently completed work on a thesis, can you tell us what it was about?
Yes, I recently completed my thesis and earned a master’s degree in liberal arts concentrating in medieval studies. My thesis is entitled Celestial Intelligences: The Syncretic Angelology of Renaissance Philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. 
The focus is Pico’s Cabala and the manner in which he combined the traditional Jewish and Christian orders of angelic hierarchy to fit in with his program for spiritual ascension. 
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
I would also add that Pico was the originator of the Christian Cabala and his prescription for divine union mirrors almost identically those of Kabbalist masters like the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and Joseph Karo. Pico outlined this program in his Oration (posthumously entitled Oration on the Dignity of Man).  
I’ve also recorded two audio lectures (with more coming) about this topic and they’re available now in The Chamber of Reflection. 
For those how have never written a thesis, can you describe the process, it’s length and what the requirements are?
I would describe it as similar to writing a non-fiction book. I began by researching the transition of Kabbalah from Judaism to Christianity in the fifteenth century. This involved more than hundred scholarly sources and took me two years. I went over the recommended time due to illness; I think it should have probably taken one year. From there, I had to write a proposal of about 28 pages in length outlining my planned thesis. 
My research advisor approved this proposal, and we began to search for a thesis director—the professor I would consult with to complete the thesis who has some level of expertise in the subject matter. My advisor pitched the proposal to the professor we selected and she accepted conditionally. 
After meeting her, we decided that I had to narrow the focus of the thesis from Kabbalah’s transition from Judaism to Christianity and write about the originator of Christian Cabala—Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. It took me 15 months to complete the 128 page thesis, again longer than required due to illness. 
There are a multitude of requirements; so many that the school provides a book called the Thesis Writers’ Guide filled with everything from how to research, notations and citations, formatting, and more.
What did you walk away with that you didn’t already have after completing that work?
I believe I have a much more complete understanding of the history of Cabala and the major figures that developed it, why, and how. I also understand the vast differences even more than before, the differences between mysticism, natural magic, and theurgy versus sorcery and thaumaturgy according to Renaissance-era schools of thought. 
Interestingly, I ultimately learned how true wisdom is more of an un-learning process as opposed to an acquisition of more and more knowledge. If and when you read my thesis, I think this last statement will become clearer.  
Do you have a vision of what you’re working towards once you obtain this next degree?
My vision was to develop my intellect to the same extent as the most brilliant minds I’d spoken with about esotericism. After speaking with a Jesuit named Father John, it became obvious to me that I required a greater discipline of study in order to truly understand the historical and philosophical foundations of Western esotericism. I know that my studies in the academic area have allowed me to do that and I am grateful to have had the experience.
Without breaking any oaths, what has your participation in a Freemasonic order done to enhance your spiritual life or your esoteric understanding?
Becoming a Freemason has given me a great appreciation for tradition, ritual, the art of memorization and how learning from ritual and memorization of lectures allows for a different way of understanding than the strictly intellectual, patience, tolerance, compassion, and a feeling of goodwill towards humanity. How all of that happened during the course of my Masonic journey is not easy to describe, but it isn’t complex either.
What are you appreciating about Freemasonry right now in the present that is new or different than it might have been in the past?
I’m appreciating that Freemasonry as an institution doesn’t require any remedies or fixation, in my opinion. All of the work that is required is for the individual Mason to do internally. That isn’t to say that there are no problems within Masonic lodges or grand lodges, just that individual Masons seeking more light will find that light by working on their own deluded perceptions, not those of others.
I’m also appreciating very much that Freemasonry isn’t, nor was it designed to be, a fully-contained spiritual path. Rather, Freemasonry complements, and is complemented by, a self-described religion or spiritual tradition. Not having to rely on the Masonic tradition to answer all possible questions is a blessing, in my opinion.
Recently you worked with writer and artist David Chaim Smith, editing his new book Deep Kabbalistic Principles. Was that the first book you edited? What was that process like?
Yes, this was the first book I’d worked on as an editor. I am eternally grateful to Dave for the opportunity to work with him on the production of a book that I find so important and radical in the context of Western esotericism. 
Basically, I read the book dozens of times in different ways, offered suggestions with regard to content and structure, and spent a lot of time chatting with Dave about the concepts and their expressions in his work. For me, it was perhaps the finest combination of esoteric and academic work I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of and I learned a great deal.
Smith’s approach feels like a radical departure from what might be considered a typical approach to the Kabbala mediated through ceremonial magic systems. Is that correct and if so how might his work challenge those who have built their experience around late 19th and 20th century conceptions and practices?
I think your assessment is correct. Smith’s work starts from what he terms a gnosemic view—En Sof is the foundational basis for all phenomenal appearance. He describes En Sof as the ground. This is not a ground as in support to erect a structure, but as in the grounds for an argument. The ground, or En Sof, is not a thing, but a continuum of no-thingness. He also posits that there was no fall, or tzim-tzum, shattering of the vessel producing emanations of spheres. 
He sees the Sephirot as the display functions of En Sof. Essentially all there is is En Sof gazing at itself through itself. Realization is the lived experience of that. 
Because full gnostic awakening, or enlightenment, is the only concern of the system, it is challenging to many who have not accepted that as their goal, or that such a thing is even possible. But it is the true promise of most esoteric traditions and as heirs to those traditions, we would be wise to not settle for anything less. 
For anyone that might be confused, what do you consider to be mysticism and how does it differ or correlate with magic?
I think the above answer goes toward this question. Mysticism is generally concerned with approaching deity or divinity in an apophatic, or post-apophatic sense. It could be seen as the sublimation of the conception of individuality for the non-conception of the No-Thing—divine union. 
 Magic is generally concerned with vectoring in the opposite direction. Instead of an upwards union into no-thingness and un-knowingness, it is concerned with knowledge and classification, correspondences and causes and effects. 
To better understand the world and oneself often requires a breaking down, into ever more subtle and refined pieces, the bits of information so that it may be better digested by the self-conscious mind. With that knowledge, the magus may then manipulate reality using language, symbols, and materials.
The two are in no way exclusive and those who are effective generally use both. 
Authors like Erik Davis, Mitch Horowitz and Gary Lachman are all deeply committed to esoteric studies and have their own personal spiritual practices but aren’t initiates of magic societies or practice that’s considered ‘ritual magic.’ Can one choose to be an esotericist but not necessarily be a ‘magician’ with an adherence to defined systems of ritual performance? 
I believe so. Certainly one is not required to become something in order to study it. The authors you cite are all accomplished and exemplary in their field. But they do maintain a certain distance from their subjects that some of us do not. There is no judgement there at all. For me personally, sacrificing some perceived objectivity for the intimacy of experience is a deal worth making over and over again.
I hear often that we are living through a revival of magic from many streams: from witchcraft, Hermetic, Chaos, Solomonic, etc. Do you feel there is a revival happening? What can you attribute that to?
Clearly the interest level in these subjects is greater than it was when I began my podcast more than 10 years ago. In my studies, it seems notable that these heterodox systems of thought and practice generally become more attractive during times of perceived political, social, and religious instability. The past 2 years have been the most unstable in my own living memory...
In what ways did Aleister Crowley reframe magic in practice and vocabulary that permeated throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st? How has his influence helped the magic culture flourish and how has it hindered it from your point of view?
In my opinion, the reframing occurred specifically through fully adopting a view that is individualistic. Crowley took the concept of the individual to new heights. Begun with Renaissance Humanism, we can perceive these ideas about the primacy of humans, the anthropocentric view, as a split from previous historical conceptions of the self. 
Crowley extended it further. I am in no way judging this direction, but you can perceive the vector towards greater separation in asserting individuality instead of universality. Now this may be conceptually dealt with by philosophically denying the existence of any will greater than man’s. I think this has allowed magic culture to flourish and be hindered, both.  
To me, the primary hindrance is that Crowley’s Thelema is based on revelation, not realization. Again, it goes to the issue of not holding enlightenment, or self-realization as the highest standard of esoteric attainment.
To engage with classical ceremonial magic takes time, some money and a level of education. Do you think “high” magic brings with it a certain elitism or academic complexity that excludes the common folk who have more mundane and immediate needs?
To put it simply and succinctly, yes. And one could argue that is partially the point.
Folk magic is generally regarded as the magic of the common people, villagers, farmers, etc who didn’t run in high society circles or have access to old Grimoires. Which form of magic do you think goes back the furthest and has the deepest historical roots? Do the two approaches feed into each other today?
While not being able to know for certain, I imagine that if you could go far enough back historically, there would not have been this separation between high and low or ceremonial magic and folk magic. 
Think of tribal societies and their shamans. Civilization, larger societies, and hierarchy are the factors which bring about these divisions. I don’t have enough experience with folk magic traditions to really answer this question further.
Throughout history we can point to movements that sought to decentralize religion and faith, taking away power and control from elite hierarchies and allowing the everyday person to be self-empowered and have a direct line of communication with the ‘Source.’ With the development of secret magic societies, there comes a form of hierarchy and authority claims being made having to do with such and such linage. Is magic a heretical rebellion against authority, a tradition that genuinely needs authority figures or a little bit of both?
In the West, it started as both. During the middle ages and Renaissance, the most learned and those with access to the texts and traditions were clergy. Yet their magical activities had to be hidden from most. Hierarchy and authority are not just features of magic, but of nature and world, so of course, magical structures will resemble natural ones. 
Just as there are hierarchies of angelic orders, there exist hierarchies throughout the natural world. Hierarchy itself is the Jacob’s ladder that allows human consciousness to ascend to union with the divine. 
Bound up in the previous question is this notion that people tend to be ‘profane’ and ‘unclean’ and therefor unsuitable for receiving secret spiritual truth. In contrast, a movement like the Quakers argues that God’s truth, voice and spark exists inside of every person, not just special classes of ‘chosen’ Masters. Both concepts have a certain plausibility and grounding, yet they seem to create a tension. Which assertion do you think has greater weight or do you see a way both ideas can co-exist?
These ideas are not exclusive. Yes, the spark of the divine is there, but it is human delusion that prevents it from shining forth constantly. The “uncleanliness” is really the stain of an unskillful view and the effect of actions born out of that view. 
Correct view will lead to correct actions which can lead to purification and redemption. But I would argue that usually requires a true teacher that can guide one out of delusion. Mind itself cannot think its way out of delusion, unfortunately.
In reading Mitch Horowitz’s book Occult America, he traces a history of ordinary people grabbing onto various elements of occultism, breaking them apart, reshaping them, creating new approaches, etc. This breaking from old traditions of European structures feels a bit in keeping with our modern spirit of DIY attitudes that have shaped a broader American ethos. Was that a positive development to have occult tools, ‘democratized’ if you will?
I think the answer depends upon your view. If your view is anthropocentric, then yes, I think it could be perceived as positive.
 If your view is gnosemicthen the answer is maybe. The shattering of tradition, the idea that one can do it themselves with a book and no teacher are negative outcomes that ultimately create a break from which Western esotericists seem unwilling to address in any meaningful way (aside from studying and practicing Eastern traditions, which is what many who are accomplished end up doing). 
However, if there is some alleviation of suffering through these approaches, then that would probably be good. If the alleviation of suffering were permanent, then it would definitely be good.

There are lots of stories of secret orders gone wrong, devolving into cults that are abusive or facilitating a megalomaniac personality to reign supreme over the rest. Why do you think this happens? Is this something to do with the occult or is this to do with human behavior in groups? What would be the way to check and balance that while still maintaining a communal experience?
Yes, this can and does happen. I think it has to do with human personalities and their dynamics. Some want to lead, others want to follow. It is not exclusive to the occult, but combined with occultism, human relationships can take on a more meaningful appearance. I don’t think there is a way to check and balance this. 
Over time, group dynamics can become unbalanced. It may be best to rely on our own good judgement and common sense, but usually the realm of the esoteric involves following more non-rational faculties. I don’t want to say there is no satisfactory answer to your question, it’s just that I don’t know it if there is.
There are some involved in occult that are vocal that tangible results based magic or the ability to change material conditions being the only magic that matters. Money, sex, material needs, jobs, etc. Someone of that position may then consider goals like ‘spiritual development’ to be nebulous and New-Age. Has there always been this split of mindsets on what magic is and what it is meant for? 
I don’t believe that this split of mindsets has always been since time immemorial. I believe that a materialist mindset, or modernist perspective which we may be able to trace to the late-middle ages or early Renaissance in western Europe having to do with the anthropocentric perspective I mentioned earlier. 
So it becomes a bit hard to separate—there was probably a split between high and low magic (since it was described as an existing situation by Pico in 1486), but it was not over materialist versus spiritual goals. Rather it was between magic whose purpose was divine union and all other magic (divination, sorcery, spirit contact and communication, creation of talismans, geomancy, etc.) with the exception of alchemy, whose goal was to better understand the natural world.
 Ultimately, the true magus can and does use both types of magic, but in support of divine union, if that makes sense.
You have discussed previously the differences between the traditions of East and West and even the deficits of the West in comparison. That being said, how does this passage from the Tao strike you?
"Occult abilities are just flowers of the TaoAnd the beginning of foolishness.
Therefore the Master dwells in the substantial And not the superficial.Rests in the fruit and not in the flower.
So let go of that and grasp this."- Tao Te Ching, Ch. 38
With regard to the comparison of Eastern and Western traditions, I want to be clear. The deficit, if you will, in Western traditions (with the exception of Jewish Kabbalism) is stark--the lack of living realized beings that teach students. Eastern esoteric traditions are, for the most part, predicated upon the concept of a living enlightened teacher that transmits the wisdom to their disciples. 
For a variety of historical reasons that are too lengthy to approach here, that is not the case for Western traditions and as a result, we have no realization in that sense. 
This is crucial because the magic or transformations of consciousness that a realized being can enact dwarf what a typical being is capable of on scales of magnitude that are difficult to imagine.  
I believe that this is what the quote from the Tao Te Ching is referring to. The substantial, or unchanging, is the co-emergence of awareness and appearance, which never changes, was never born, and is eternal. The Master, or realized being, dwells in this Reality, whereas typical beings like myself reside in delusion, AKA the superficial. And like the flower, occult powers usually appear to a practitioner prior to the fruit of self-realization. If one grasps the flower, the fruit will not ripen . . . or so I've been told. 
How do you feel about the Internet disseminating occult teachings, practices and online communities? I’m sure there’s not a binary answer, maybe what are the pros and cons?
I feel good about it considering my podcast is one of those websites. I think the best part is that people are able to learn about traditions and teachers that they may otherwise never have been able to. But this is a double-edged sword. 
Having access to so much quality material is costly in the sense that for every moment that one is unable to choose a single teacher, tradition, or text to work with at a time, their attention risks being fractured by additional work that is equally attractive and draws their focus and energy away from any single point. Do you see how this is both a blessing and a curse simultaneously? In my opinion, the solution is to remain interested in the diversity of available material, but ultimately, to be a practitioner, one has to have a regular practice, a teacher, and a tradition that provides a path to follow. Not everyone desires this, but those who do tend to make more progress.
We still see a great deal of conspiratorial Internet gossip rooted in the belief that the puppet masters at the top of the international pyramid have a deep understanding of occult symbolism and are motivated to use the world stage to revive and pay homage to these cosmologies to gain favor and power. Given how intricate and demanding occultism is, do you think world leaders are committed to manipulating events and staging rituals in this way?
I obviously cannot know the answer to the question you’re asking. It seems as though some may be manipulating events and staging rituals. If not the figureheads, perhaps it’s those behind the scenes. 
 Rather than discussing specific evidence, or why you or I might even ask this question, I think it is more productive to ask why do so many in the mainstream and alternative media want people to be so angry and afraid all of the time? Is it because angry and afraid people click more? 
There is no coincidence that the perceived rise of authoritarianism, conspiracies, corruption, and decadence occur at the same time that the Internet connects us all to a greater or lesser extent. 
 This question deserves more exploration than I can provide here. 
Back to the podcast, can you discuss the addition of co-host Rudolf to the podcast and how that is enhancing the quality of the show?
I was sick for several months and was having difficulty with all of the tasks involved in producing the podcast, so I asked Rudolf to assist me and be the co-host. He’s been great! I love the way we interact during the interviews and it takes some pressure off of me because we can share the workload of preparation, scheduling, communication, post-production, and more. 
I think Rudolf’s perspective, being Austrian and a long-time Freemason in Austria, France, and London, adds a lot to the show. I’m very grateful for Rudolf’s willingness to step in and help out. He very likely saved the podcast.
If someone has not heard your show, which episode would you direct them to immediately?
That’s a difficult question because if it were up to me, I would direct them to different episodes based on their interests. But if I had to pick a single episode, it would be one where I hardly said anything—the recent interview with David Chaim Smith about Deep Principles of Kabbalistic Alchemy. To me, this material is the most inspiring and deeply esoteric. I understand contemplative mysticism is not a path that will appeal to most, but to me it is sublime.
What plans do you have for the podcast in the coming year?
Thank you for asking! I am focusing heavily on the membership section at the Chamber of Reflection. We have a new members’ forum Facebook group that’s been very active with Q&A’s with recent guests. It’s great because members are able to directly ask guests questions and it provides a level of engagement and intimacy that you cannot get elsewhere. 
I’m also focusing on bringing forth more personal material from my thesis and Pico’s system of spiritual ascent using Jacob’s Ladder / Tree of Life. The Chamber of Reflection is also going to feature a lot of additional interviews designed to allow for deeper consideration of the questions that can ultimately be defining for those seeking fruitful spiritual paths. 
I’ve spent more than a decade exploring a myriad of esoteric traditions and occult paths. After 15 years of work, I finally have real, practical evidence of approaches that are authentic and effective based on history and my own experience. That is just part of what the coming year will bring.

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