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.
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