A Musing on Occult Blogging and the Distinction of Passions

That recent post I made was definitely a wild one, I admit.  It’s extremely rare that I use this blog as a platform for an outright call-out or attack on anyone or anything, and it’s not something I enjoy doing or want to make a habit of.  After all, what I enjoy most about blogging is blogging about the things I actively enjoy reading, writing, studying, and practicing, and me getting involved with drama or current events just distracts me from writing about that and my readers from reading about that.  When I make a post like that, it’s because I feel it’s part of my moral and ethical responsibility to do so.  Last time I did something like this, it was to call out the old admin of the now defunct Hermetic Agora Discord server, and after that, I mulled in a follow-up post about the social and esoteric implications of the underlying issues that led to such a call-out post to begin with.  Like then, I want to unpack and muse over this more recent call-out, too.

To be sure, November 7 2022 (when I made my call-out post about Gordon White and Rune Soup being a toxic and violent influence in the online occult community and having been so for years now) is now officially the most well-viewed day for my blog in its history, beating out the previous record set ten years prior to the day (November 7 2012) when this blog (quiet and meek as it was) was hit by an abnormally large botnet raid or scan or somesuch that sent my views skyrocketing into the many thousands.  While I’m glad that my call-out post earlier in the week was so well- and widely-received to get the word out (I’ve had dozens of friends and colleagues reach out privately to me thanking me for such a post, in addition to the many more who did so publicly at the risk of their being raided online), the absurd hit count I got earlier in the week (and which I’m continuing to get day by day to a lesser degree) is a stark reminder of something I’ve neglected about interacting with things online: “rage sells”.  Those two words are at the crux of so many problems involving all sorts of media that we have today, both online and offline, both social and static.  It’s why extreme polarization in large swaths of the population happens because of mere mainstream news banking on increased viewership from rage-inducing stories; it’s why we get far-right/alt-right terrorists merely by watching YouTube autoplay a series of videos that lead from Enya and Minecraft to Jordan Petersen and worse; it’s why social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter have warped to the breaking point the very conceptions of “relationship” and “community” for so many people that lead such companies to build algorithms to enflame people’s emotions.

“Rage sells”, and I admit, my last post was, in many senses of the word, rage (although I consider it a righteous rage against someone behaving harmfully and who is a detriment to the online occult community).  Did I want to get a good hit count on that post?  Absolutely; it’s part of me getting the word out.  Did I expect that much of an increase across my blog generally, whether that rapidly or that sustained?  Did I expect that much of an increase in my follower/viewer numbers, even after taking into account all the people that split from me (or from Twitter generally)?  No, actually!  And that simple fact serves as a reminder as to why some people act the way they do online.  Without wanting to harp on him too much (that was very much the point of the last post after all), Gordon White does just this very thing: lashing out and attacking anyone and everyone repeatedly and often who doesn’t fall in line with his conspiracy-addled rage.  Despite his encouragements to his readers that they should live their lives free from rage (which he calls “hate”—a difference I’ll get to later) in their hearts, he is still relying on preserving and cultivating such rage (both on his blog and his Twitter, projecting and deflecting the time to shift the narrative to suit his needs) in order to keep people engaged with him.  Of course, he’s far from the only one who does this, so it’s not fair (even to him) to paint him as some extreme outlier on this front.  Enflamed emotions encourage engagement; that’s basically a truth for social media nowadays, where you can find endless articles about how emotional engagement is the key to viral content marketing, study after study about what emotions trigger increased engagement and how strongly each kind of emotion influences engagement, and so on and so forth.

I mean…for a more humorous take:

I’m not about that kind of life, that kind of media propagation or content generation, and I don’t want to be.

As I said in the last post, and as I said above, I’m just here doing my thing, and my thing is writing about the occult, spirituality, religion, mysticism, magic, divination, and other kinds of esoterica, and even from its earliest days (although far more pronounced now) was centered on Hermeticism.  This blog has always been about that, and will always be about that.  And yes, to be sure, I do make a few ebook PDFs for sale as a sort of “intensely-produced content” for those who want to go beyond the abundance of stuff I write publicly, and while I’m still on hiatus, I do hope one day to get back to doing readings and consultations for people—but, all that said, I’m not really here to market myself.  I don’t go out of my way beyond a notification post when I come up with something new (which isn’t common) to sell a product, and I’m definitely not trying to corner a market or develop some sort of base of paying viewers to give me money on a constant basis.  That’s never been my goal, and never will be my goal.  My goal for this blog is to just do magic and mysticism and to share what I find in the course of studying, researching, and practicing that.  Being on social media in general is just a way to further that and emphatically not the purpose of me doing that—and that’s a distinction that a lot more people should bear in mind when they get into developing their own stuff.  It should always be remembered, after all, that “substance” is not the same thing as “content”.

As a lot of people clued into online events are aware, Twitter is going through something of A Time right now, what with Elon Musk’s recent takeover of the platform and quickly showing the world how hilariously bad he is at…well, everything that isn’t just spending money.  As a result, that’s leading a lot of people to consider different social media platforms, whether it’s returning to Tumblr, resuming interest in Mastodon or Counter.Social, or jumping to new platforms like Cohost (though, hilariously, I can’t find anyone actually mentioning anything about staying on or going back to Facebook).  I mused about social media a bit on Twitter a few days back, and realized that all that social media platforms do for us is the equivalent of each of us making our own website and us bookmarking each others’ websites, putting all those bookmarks in a folder in our browser.  Sure, social media platforms standardize, aggregate, and make convenient this whole process, but that’s basically what it is at heart.  When I made this observation on Twitter, someone commented their view that they don’t fully trust people involved in their circles who “don’t have a basic bloc, a place to put things outside of the algorithm”.  That’s a viewpoint that I wholeheartedly agree with, to be sure, and it raises a really neat distinction between someone who uses social media as a means for something that isn’t a part of it or built within it, and someone who uses social media as an end unto itself.

I admit that I enjoy seeing numbers go up (who doesn’t? it’s like points in a video game), and I do think it’s really neat that I have several thousand followers online across multiple social media platforms (including, if we go with a Web 2.0-based notion here of what qualifies as “social media”, this blog itself on WordPress).  Still, though, my main purpose for being on social media is an emphasis on being social (to communicate and relate to others online), rather than it being merely media (to share or propagate content); it’s a neat thing that I get to share my writing and project on Twitter or Facebook, but I’m not on social media in order to spread my blog.  That I have so many viewers is neat, but let’s be honest: I would still be writing about the things I do whether I had 10 followers or 10000.  I don’t write to get engagements, I don’t blog to get views, I don’t post to be famous; I write, blog, and post because I have things I just want to write, blog, and post about.  I write for the sake of writing, not just to keep myself in check with my own studies (and to give myself a reference and a record to look back on over the years), but also to help share things I find useful so that others might derive some benefit from my writing.

Still, exploiting emotion is a great way for people on social media to get numbers to go up in general, but that’s not what I want to do; if it happens, I want there to be a good reason for it besides benefitting my blog.  I mean, who am I to enflame people’s emotions in general?  While I claim that there’s a distinction between “righteous anger” and “non-righteous anger” in how it arises, can be expressed, and affects us as human beings, I still remember what CH XIII.7 talks about as irrational tormentors of matter:

This ignorance, my child, is the first torment; the second is grief; the third is incontinence; the fourth, lust; the fifth, injustice; the sixth, greed; the seventh, deceit; the eighth, envy; the ninth, treachery; the tenth, anger; the eleventh, recklessness; the twelfth, malice. These are twelve in number, but under them are many more besides, my child, and they use the prison of the body to torture the inward person with the sufferings of sense.

It’s that tenth one, “anger”, that I want to draw attention to.  The Greek word used here originally is ὀργή, which Salaman, Copenhaver, Mead, and Scott all translate as “anger”, which is an eminently reasonable translation for it.  However, looking up the full meaning and use of this word more generally, we can see that it eventually came to include notions of anger or wrath stemming from a meaning of “natural impulse, propensity, temperament, disposition, mood”.  To me, my understanding here isn’t of ὀργή to refer to what I’d consider “righteous anger”, which is a rational aversion to and desire to fix something that is morally and ethically wrong.  Rather, I’d see it as representing the anger that arises from thumos, the “emotional drive” (often discussed alongside epithumia “appetitive desire”) which is a baser, nonrational passion arising from body-centered ego (tellingly, the Perseus-Tufts online dictionary above notes that we don’t find ὀργή/ὀργάς in Homeric texts, who uses θύμος instead).

Consider a Stoic parallel: for most negative passions (πάθῃ pathē), there are also corresponding good feelings (εὐπάθεια eupatheia).  For the Stoic, there are four high-level categories of passions, a combination of whether they are valued as good or bad, and whether they relate to things in the present or future.  The passion of good things in the present is pleasure, and good things in the future is appetite/desire; the passion of bad things in the present is distress, and bad things in the future is fear.  These are inherently nonrational impulses and mistaken judgments that arise to cause us emotional disquietude, but there are also appropriate and rational impulses and correct judgment that serve to bring one to emotional peace.  Corresponding to the passion of pleasure is joy, to fear is caution, and to appetite/desire is reasonable wishing (though there is no rational correspondent to fear).  The difference here is that a Stoic may well wish for something to happen, but in a way appropriate to the thing itself and the Stoic’s relationship to it, as opposed to an irrational, mistaken mere instance of appetite/desire.

In a similar way, I claim that not all anger—one might even say not all “hate”—is the same, and that there are healthful expressions of what might be apparent as and equivalent to baser kinds even though they are nothing of the sort.  For my part, consider the line from the Headless Rite that says “I am the Truth who hates the fact that unjust deeds are done in the world” (Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ Ἀλήθεια, ὁ μισῶν ἀδικήματα γίνεσθαι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ Egṓ eimi hē Alḗtheia, ho misôn adikḗmata gínesthai en tôy kósmōy).  “Hate” here is just the word μισέω, which really just means “hate”, but what do we mean by “hate”?  Hatred is, at its core, a strong aversion or intense dislike of something, an unwillingness to suffer something.  Sometimes hate can arise from mere opinion and irrational desire, sure, but sometimes it can also arise as the logical and rational consequence of particular ethics and morals that one has cultivated and developed, and if those ethics and morals are well-founded, then hate of a thing directed by such ethics and morals must necessarily be followed as an extension of those ethics and morals.  In that light, while “hate” for some people may well be emotionally-driven, for others it may instead be logically- and rationally-driven.  And this is still something distinct from “rage”, which is merely an indulgence in one’s baser, lower, ego-driven emotions.

When I make a call-out post (as I did with DanKadmos from the Hermetic Agora, the Temple of the Hermetic One, the oppressive acts of the previous US presidential administration during the protests in 2020, racism and fascism and violence against movements like Black Lives Matter, or the like), is there emotion involved?  Sure; I’m still human and definitely no sage.  However, I don’t like wasting my time writing posts like this, and I don’t want to waste my readers’ time in reading posts like this unless there’s a reason that I think justifies the time; if I just want to bitch about something, I keep it to Twitter (if I think it’s funny enough to get a few people to laugh) or (far more commonly) I just keep my mouth shut.  I don’t write call-out posts just to get people upset and enraged, because that’s something I find abhorrent from a moral and ethical perspective, much less a Hermetic one that seeks to quell one’s temper and passions in order to attain higher and more refined states of spiritual development.  I write these posts to get people to act in a way I think helps the world and helps make the world a better place.  I write such posts not as a distraction from my usual writing here, but as a logical extension and result of the practice of living what I write about here.  It is as much part of the message and goal of what I do here as everything else.

As I mentioned in my last post, I fully expected that making such a post about someone so popular in the online occult sphere was going to be divisive, drive people away from me and my writings, cause my much-vaunted numbers to drop, and so on.  And yanno what?  That’s just fine with me.  As I’ve said before in no unclear terms, if people are willing to support horrible things, then I’d much rather they not read my stuff at all.  For all that some people might cry out about others being “hateful” towards them, consider what I said about what “hate” actually means: if you’re willing to suffer or tolerate (or even encourage or rejoice in) things that I make no qualms about being detestable or despicable to me (and with good reason!), then I’m not sure what I have to offer you or what you might hope to find here besides a few tricks nestled amidst my words.  If, after reading and considering what it is I have to say, all that still drives you away from me or makes you want to unfollow me on my blog or Twitter or what-have-you: good.  Go on with your life, and I genuinely hope you do better wherever you go than you are now.

I’m not playing this game to earn a name for myself or to build up a sycophantic echo chamber around myself; in truth, I’m not playing any sort of game at all.  I’m just here doing my thing, as I ever have.  That’s what I encourage others to do, too, both online and off: focus on what it is you want to do, for its own glorious sake as much as you possibly can, and let people rejoice at that and with you in that.  Just remember that, whatever you do, you should do all of it—and that includes the stuff that you might find distasteful but which goes along with all the rest.

A Musing on Incense

Back when I was a child, my father (an officer in the US Navy) was stationed at one point in Sasebo, a city in the southwestern prefecture of Nagasaki in Japan.  I had the good fortune to visit him once while he was there, but I was still in like seventh grade at the time, so I was maybe about 12 or 13 years old, and didn’t have as much appreciation or means to appreciate things as I might have later on.  Still, it was neat to do so, and he picked up a few souvenirs, trinkets, and other things that may one day become family heirlooms.  One of those things he got, which he recently sent to me as a gift between house-movings, is this weird open ceramic urn of sorts.  It’s fairly large, comes with a plain wooden base, has these two brass chopsticks sticking out of it, and comes with a bag of fine grey powder.  After trying to puzzle out what it was, I figured out that it’s a 香炉 kōrō, a kind of censer used to burn incense in, which came with a pair 火箸 koji, brass chopsticks used as tongs to move charcoal within the 灰 hai ash.  It’s a simple thing, but still beautiful in its simplicity.

Looking into it recently led me to learn a bit about 香道 kōdō, the “Way of Incense”, the Japanese ceremonial art of burning and appreciating fine incense.

Of the many classical cultural arts of refinement in Japan, usually labeled some sort of 道 “way”, the big three that come to mind are 書道 shodō (traditional Japanese brush calligraphy) 華道 kadō (flower arrangement, also called 生け花 ikebana), and 茶道 chadō (tea preparation and presentation, as in tea ceremonies).  On occasion, kōdō is considered a fourth in this same category, and sometimes even replaces one of the other ones to keep the big ones in a set of three.  Of all these cultural arts or “paths”, though, kōdō might be considered the least popular nowadays, but it’s no less elaborate, intricate, meaningful, or significant than the others.  It has as many tools and implements, as much process and procedure, and as much a historical pedigree as many other ceremonial or performing arts in Japan, and is a valuable part of Japanese culture all the same.  (For those who are interested, check out Kikoh’s Japanese Incense 101 article series, which is a wonderful resource in English about Japanese incense culture and online store besides.)

At some point in the 15th century, Zen Buddhist monk and poet 一休宗純 Ikkyū Sōjun preserved and shared a short poem written in classical Chinese from the Sòng dynasty-era poet 黄庭坚 Huáng Tíngjiān outlining ten ideal properties of incense, entitled 香十徳 Kō no Ju-toku or “Ten Virtues of Incense”.  In just 40 characters (arranged in 10 series of 4 characters each), this poem conveys rather beautiful notions on the powers of what incense should be, how it should affect us, and what we should look for when approaching good-quality incense.

From what I’ve found around online, here’s the poem in Chinese characters (at least as it’s written in Japan), along with a rough translation.  I’ve found two versions of the poem that differ in slight ways (just a few minor characters that are either variants of each other or synonymous with each other), so for the lines that have a variant I’ll include the variant in parentheses, but the translation is the same either way.  I’ll also include a Japanese rendition (via kanbun) of the poem, too.

香十徳

  1. 感格鬼神
  2. 清浄心身
  3. 能除汚穢 (能払汚穢)
  4. 能覚睡眠
  5. 静中為友 (静中成友)
  6. 塵裡偷閑 (塵裏愉閑)(塵裏偸閑)
  7. 多而不厭
  8. 寡而為足 (募而知足)
  9. 久蔵不朽
  10. 常用無障

香の十徳

  1. 感は鬼神に格り
  2. 心身を清浄にし
  3. 能く汚穢を除き
  4. 能く睡眠を覚し
  5. 静中に友と成り
  6. 塵裏に閑を偸む
  7. 多くして厭わず
  8. 寡くして足れりとす
  9. 久しく蔵えて朽ちず
  10. 常に用いて障り無し

Ten Principles of Incense

  1. Sensations are considered as fierce gods.
  2. It purifies the mind and body.
  3. It can remove filth.
  4. It can rouse you from sleep.
  5. In quiet times, it becomes a friend.
  6. In busy affairs, it makes time for pleasure.
  7. Even when plentiful, one never tires of it.
  8. Even when scarce, one is still satisfied by it.
  9. Owning it for a long time, it does not decay.
  10. Used every day, it is harmless.

If I were to render it a bit more loosely-but-poetically in English as themed couplets (since I detect a bit of pairwise parallelism in the original poem, which is why I often find it written in calligraphy as five pairs of four-character statements as above):

Perceiving, it’s like a god or spirit.
Purifying, it’s for body and soul.

By it, excrement gets wiped away.
By it, exhaustion gets warded off.

In dreary times, it’ll become your friend.
In weary times, it’ll become your rest.

If it’s dense, you’ll never tire of it.
If it’s sparse, you’ll always delight in it.

Kept for an age, it won’t degrade itself.
Used every day, it won’t disturb others.

What we see here in this poem, as the name “Ten Virtues of Incense” itself indicates, are ten ideals that good-quality incense should possess and what we should look for in incense generally:

  1. It should be potent enough to perceive as an entity unto itself.  Smelling the incense should not only elevate and sharpen one’s senses, but should even bring about communion with the transcendent and the divine, bringing into connection different realms.
  2. It should refresh and purify the body, soul, spirit, and mind (literally 心身 “heart/mind-and-body”) of the one who smells it.
  3. It should eliminate pollutants and pollution (literally 汚穢 “filth, human excrement”), removing all impurity from within and without.
  4. It should bring alertness, wakefulness, and focus without drowsiness.  Even those who are asleep should be able to be roused pleasantly when they smell it.
  5. It should be a solace in solitude and a companion in quietness.  It should soothe the heart and mind, and alleviate the pangs of loneliness or boredom.
  6. It should bring a moment of peace and relaxation during busy affairs that otherwise dominate us in this world.  Even just taking the time to light the incense or taking the time to enjoy its fragrance should give us a moment to pleasantly rest when busy.
  7. It should not become annoying or unpleasant, no matter how large or abundant an amount.  The fragrance should not become oppressive or obnoxious to any mental or physical sense, but should remain enjoyable.
  8. It should be able to be smelled clearly and distinctly, no matter how small or meager an amount.  Even a small amount burned in a room should leave the room scented for a long time after it has finished burning.
  9. It should not change in potency or quality no matter its age.  Even when left unburned or kept in storage for an extended period of time, its fragrance should not degrade or break down when it finally is burned.
  10. It should not irritate, impede, or otherwise cause harm, no matter how frequently it is burned or smelled, even if used everyday.

In other words, Huáng Tíngjiān was writing about good principles for what we should look for in aromatherapy almost a thousand years ago.  And, of course, while these principles would be ideal for kōdō (where the actual act of enjoying incense for its own sake is called 聞香 monkō, literally “listening to incense”, akin to wine tasting or whiskey savoring using all of one’s senses), a good incense can be used for purposes other than being enjoyed for its own sake.  Burning incense while copying sutras, for instance, can help purify one in preparation for the sacred work of copying, while keeping the mind sharp and alert enough to avoid making mistakes, but without being overpoweringly distracting from the work as well.  When offering incense to the various buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other deities, we should strive to offer pleasant-smelling things that we can offer in abundance, but even if we can only offer a small amount, it should still be noticeable as a potent offering without causing health issues for the priests or attendees of ceremony.  For all the same reasons that tea can be drunk for its health benefits or for spiritual symbolism as much as for its own sake as a thing to delight in, incense can likewise be used and enjoyed in many of the same ways—and for that reason, just as one should strive to partake in good tea, one should likewise strive to partake in good incense.

Although Kō no Ju-toku gives its ten maxims to describe the ideal qualities of what incense should be and what benefits it should confer, I was struck by how simple these principles are and how broadly they can be applied to so many things in our lives, things that we should ultimately appreciate and which should benefit us.  I mean, sure, kōdō is the art (the “way”) of approaching incense as something to be savored and enjoyed, but as any artist of any sort (from the most venereal to the most martial) can tell you, there are ways of seeing the guiding principles from their arts as informative for all that we do in life.

So, naturally, as an occultist and mystic, I started to consider these notions as applied to spiritual practices, and thought that—just maybe—we could consider these as guiding principles for ourselves in how we consider and approach what we do for our spirituality.

Ideally, our spiritual practices should have the following ten “virtues”:

  1. It should sharpen our senses so that we can see past the merely mundane, enabling us to commune with the divine or other spiritual realities.
  2. It should cleanse and purify us on every level, not just physically but spiritually as well.
  3. It should eliminate impurities and pollution, whether our own or those around us, so as to make the world a better place.
  4. It should rejuvenate and reawaken us from whatever state we might be in, reminding us of our goals and renewing us on our path to them.
  5. It should keep us in good spirits, even (and especially) when times are hard.  Our practices should give us encouragement when we’re discouraged and solace when we’re worried.
  6. It should be a refuge and respite for us from the trials and distractions of our mundane affairs.  We should be able to steal away from the world around us, even if for a moment, to participate in our spirituality without having to be consumed by worldly matters.
  7. It should satisfy us without overwhelming us, even if we do a lot of it, without becoming a detriment to the rest of what we have to do.  We should not be left with a bad taste in our mouths, so to speak, from doing too much of our practices.
  8. It should satisfy us without underwhelming us, even if we do a little of it, without becoming a distraction for the rest of what we have to do.  Even small practices should leave an impact.
  9. It should never get old or stale, no matter how long it’s been since we started it, no matter how long it might have been since we last engaged with it.
  10. It should never become a harm, hindrance, or a burden to us in our everyday practice.  We should not be negatively impacted by our practices, especially if we engage in them frequently.

There’re lots of reasons why one might burn incense: they might do it to purify their body and prepare their mind for some undertaking, or they might do it to make offerings to the gods, or maybe they might just do it as aromatherapy for mental wellness and good health.  In all these (and all other) cases, though, no matter why we might burn incense, we should still burn good incense.

And in the same way, no matter why we might engage in spiritual practices, we should still engage in good spiritual practices.

And sure, while there are reasons why one might burn harsh incense for particular reasons, there can be times that we might need to engage in harsh spiritual practices, but by and large, that’s not what they’re for.  We don’t drink tea to poison ourselves; we don’t burn incense to choke ourselves; we don’t engage in spiritual practices to punish ourselves.  While I’d argue that we should engage in spiritual practices for more reasons than to merely enjoy and appreciate them for their own sake (which would turn meaningful ceremony into mere ceremonialism), there’s no reason to not make them enjoyable and worth enjoying, either.

Despite all the many boxes of sticks, bags of resin, and jars of other kinds of loose incense in my house, I typically don’t burn incense except as an offering to spirits or when I’m specifically suffumigating a thing or space for a particular ritual reason.  As a result, I end up hoarding the stuff, and admittedly, I like saving the good stuff for “when I need it” (whenever that might be).  After thinking about the “Fragrant Path” a little, though, and learning a bit from the “Ten Virtues of Incense”, maybe I should use incense as its own contemplation instead of just an adjunct or a mere supply, and learn a good lesson from doing so.

This post was originally made as a series of posts on Twitter, but I decided to polish it up here for posterity.

August Updates: back to routine, I guess!

What a time it’s been, y’all.  After a bit of annoying circumstances that pushed it back a few days, I gave my presentation for the Salem Witchcraft & Folklore Festival 2020, hosted by the good people at the Salem Summer Symposium.  By the accounts of those who attended, my class, Spelling by Spelling: Greek Alphabet Divination & Magic, went well, and even I’m pleased with it, having gotten a bit of extra time to polish up the presentation, and having ended about on target (with ten minutes leftover for questions instead of fifteen).  I’m frankly surprised that so many people still managed to show up as they did, rescheduled as it was from a Saturday afternoon to a Monday evening, and I want to express my deepest thanks and appreciation to all the attendees as well as to the organizers of the symposium and festival for hosting such a wonderful event even in light of the current awkward situation of the Reign of the Lady of Crowns.  Unfortunately, since it was just a two hour class, I didn’t get to cover half the things I originally wanted to, so I guess I’ll just have to do a separate series of classes sometime in the next year to make up for that, but that’ll be in the future.  If you didn’t manage to catch my class or any of the other amazing classes offered by SWFF2020 live, you can still register for the recordings through the end of 2020, so check out their website and sign up for everything that catches your interest, or get a package deal for multiple classes at once!  The recordings will be up in the coming days after they finish processing and uploading them, so stay tuned to their website for more information.

I consider my little hiatus from blogging well-spent, though it’s not like I wasn’t busy in general these past six-ish weeks.  It seems that I can’t not avoid writing one way or another, and I’ve been pretty busy on Twitter lately with a series of threads that I’d like to share pontificating or didacting about this or that.  To be fair, Twitter these past few weeks has been…interesting, between everything being cakes to newbie witches hexing the fae and also the Moon, to more shade being thrown against the Kybalion (which, I maintain, is more hernia than Hermetica), but a few of the highlights I wanted to share of my own twatting (which can be considered blog posts in their own right) would be these:

  1. That men (of all types) need to listen to women (of all types) more in general
  2. How our words can offend and injure even when we don’t mean for them to
  3. How we shouldn’t bias ourselves regarding accusations towards us based on what we hear alone about them and from whom
  4. How we present ourselves can affect how people react to us
  5. Nobody gets to buy any more crystals until you first learn how to treat, use, and work with the rocks in your own driveway/alleyway first
  6. How magic, spirits, and curses don’t need belief and how revealed experience is Hermetically superior to both discursive logic and faith
  7. An unfortunate incident with someone who asked for way too much information in a rather wrong way
  8. Follow-up to the preceding: on how and why closed traditions limit knowledge and teaching
  9. Why non-Jews working with or venerating Lilith most likely isn’t cultural/religious appropriation
  10. What learning from books really means and how to read them properly
  11. An unfortunate incident when someone tried to use one of my copyrighted designs for their own advertising
  12. Accuracy is not precision, but both are needed for diviners

All that in addition, of course, to the usual shitposting and antics I get up to on Twitter.  Somehow I’ve only gained followers over the past few weeks, which is nothing short of a profound mystery to me.

For those with a linguistic bent, Dr. Christian Casey of Brown University is hosting a free online course for teaching Sahidic Coptic.  If you have an interest in translating Coptic works from the early Christian, Gnostic, and Hermetic traditions or have an eye on getting at the non-Greek more-Egyptian magical papyri, this is something to keep an eye on!  The classes will be weekly on Saturdays at 1pm Eastern US time, starting September 5 and continuing for 30 weeks, so sign up if you’re interested!  I’ve signed up and hope to keep up with it, but we’ll see.

I’ve also picked up Final Fantasy XIV again.  I had a dream during a nap one day a few weeks back that I was playing again, and BOOM the desire hit me to play again, even though I hadn’t played in about two or three years.  So, after about two weeks and no small amount of enticing from some other magicians and astrologers who also play, I’ve caught up on all the main story content from patches 4.3 to 5.3 (holy shit you guys, I cried so much), though I’m still getting caught up on the side story and other stuff.  I’m trying to limit myself mostly to weekends for playing and spending the rest of the week researching and writing as ever, but I’ve definitely missed the game and my friends who play it.  Plus, this gives me a good reason to pick up my writing about the Deck of Sixty, the in-game divination deck used by the Astrologian job, and how it can be used and expanded upon using in-game lore and other canonical information given by the lorebooks to be used as an actual method of divination we ourselves can use.  I’ve written about it in a publicly-viewable spoiler-free Google Doc for those who are interested in checking out the system, such as it is.  (And yes, I’m still Smoking Tongue on Aether/Midgardsormr.)

I’m sure other things have happened these past six weeks that have escaped my memory, but in general, things have been largely quiet and peaceful for me on my end.  Still at home and rarely leaving the house, still working from home full time, still annoying the cats, still keeping up with housework and ritual work as best as I can.  I wish I could say I’ve caught up on sleep, but we all know that’d be a lie.  On the whole, things go well and busily as ever, and I’m happy with that.  I hope the past few weeks have been at least as nice for you all, dear readers, and that things continue to improve for us all, wherever we might be and whatever we might be doing.

With that, I suppose it’s time to figure out what to write about next.  I’ve got a few ideas lined up, but it’ll take me a few days to get back into the swing of things.  At least, with the presentation for SWFF2020 over, I can devote more time back to my other projects again—and start figuring out what to propose for next year’s symposium, too.  Plus, with it getting to be towards the end of summer (finally), the busy season is really going to start ramping up soon, so there’s always more to do.

Thoughts on Mars

So, as many astrologers, occultists, and others (like me) who are groupies of astro-Twitter are aware, Mars is about to enter in Aries again, where it’ll be for about the next six months or so.  This is a rather long time for this feisty planet to be in its own domicile, and gives a good number of people some worries and concerns, especially given the rather volatile nature of everything going on in the world right about now.  In this light, one of my good friends on Twitter sought some advice from others regarding this (sometimes misunderstood) planet and how to best integrate it into our lives beyond the merely superficial descriptions that so many seem to find online:

There were a good number of replies to his tweet from a variety of perspectives (which I encourage my readers to read, to be sure!).  Me, being the total Mars fanboy that I am, had…well, more than a few words about this topic, which I’d like to share here.

You cannot engage in construction without destruction: agriculture cuts open the flesh of the Earth, building a house requires cutting down trees and clearing out land, establishing new doctrine inherently destroys the old.

All canon is made by or as cannon, one way or another.

Mars is the sword, but what do swords do, like all knives? They cut. They cut at, away, and into things. They bite. They tear and rip and rend—but for nutrition, or for harvesting, or for sex, or for just chaos?

Mars is power of justification, but can it justify your own sense of justice, or just your own self-justification? Justification for its own sake is injustice; the knife thrown about haphazardly is dangerous for everyone. Only with a trained hand and purpose can that be honed.

Is the dynamite being used to clear land or a wedding party? Is the knife used to whittle wood on a bench or flesh on a torturer’s rack? Is the crucible used for spiritual alchemy or for chemical warfare? Mars is all these; it doesn’t care how it affects, so long as it effects.

Learn to wield your tools well, and they serve you well—but remember that you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs. You can’t plant seeds into a garden without slicing open the soil; you can’t establish order without demarcating and fighting against disorder.

Mars is the usher, the guardian, the bouncer, the blacksmith, the farmer, the soldier, the fucker, the knave, the footpad, the general. Mars acts because action is needed. What that action is for isn’t up to him; Mars just acts because action is needed.

In the Ladder of Manifestation, stern mother Saturn says what’s possible at all, and happy father Jupiter fills it out with grace and goodness. Mars is the one that refines creation by blade and flame to determine what actually gets to stick; it is the trial by exposure.

Mars is the parer-down of vague possibilities into concrete probabilities, that which is improbable to that which is probable. Mars is the one who balances excess and deficiency by cutting out a hole for something to hold more, or cutting out extra to hold less, by raw change.

All change is, in a sense, violence; it strips away the comfort of the status quo. Violence, in a sense, is inescapable; to enact one plan for peace is to violently crush and destroy all other such plans for peace, because it strips those plans from manifesting and realizing.

Are you strong enough to withstand that violence when it is just to happen to you? To defend against it when it is unjust to happen to you and just for you to stop it? To wield it properly when justice calls? To refrain from it when injustice tempts?

Mars manifests as strength (ενεργεια), sure, but more than that, Mars is the source of strength (δυναμις). Being unmanifest, Mars itself is the edge of the blade between potentiality and activity. Learning the trade of Mars is learning not just how to effect its power, but when.

Mars gives the gift of anger, the sense that injustice is being done, spurring you on to action out of a sense of justice. But that anger can also cloud you, overloading your circuits to the point of explosion, resulting in you yourself becoming a force of and for injustice.

Anger is a powerful cleansing agent of the soul and the world, but it is draining and sticky, and will latch on to any bias or fear or anxiety, magnifying it and exploding it, blowing it out of proportion, harvesting it for all its worth to burn as kindling to sustain itself.

Use anger scalpel-surgically, and become the stoic but utterly just commander-tactician to conquer all adversity; use anger bomb-recklessly, and become a blood-thirsty mindless berserker taking down friend and foe alike. Wartime or not, Mars fights all the same; how is up to us.

We all like fire, but what cuts the difference between playing with fire and pyromania? Knowing when to put out the fire and being able to do so. Being unable to quit anger, to lay down your weapons, is succumbing to primal injustice that would see everything burn to save itself.

Mars is not pleasure, not satisfaction, not generosity, not rationality. Mars is determination: it makes you determined and it makes you determine. Saturn may be the boundary, but Mars is the one who cuts those terminal lines and enforces it—terminally if need be.

Even if I’m absolutely a through-and-through (although indignified) Cytherean boy myself, I’m also a complete encourager, supporter, and facilitator of the various powers and works of Mars.  Personally, I find that those who are in aversion to or fearful of working with this red planet are often (though not always) misguided.  To be sure, as a malefic, Mars is not a pleasant force to deal with—but deal with it we must, because we cannot live without it, and when utilized and integrated appropriately, there is nothing that could stand in your way except God—and if God is in your way, then you’re probably not on the right way to begin with, and haven’t integrated the lessons of Mars appropriately.

To that end, I also recommended my friend (and recommend to everyone, really) to read a fine bit of modern literature: Meti’s Sword Manual.  This bit of instructive writing is from one of the best webcomics to grace our generation, Kill 6 Billion Demons, which I swear taps into more than just pretty art, but that’s beside the point.  This little “guide”, such as it is, is something I often turn to for contemplation and guidance—perhaps not as much as Epictetus’ Enchiridion, the Arbatel, or various parts of the classical Hermetic canon, but I find the advice in it to be fantastic all the same.  Illusion that this fiction might be, what else in this world isn’t illusion itself?  And what a wonderfully useful and pragmatic illusion it is!

May Mars always smile benignly on you, dear readers: as the Orphic Hymn to this god goes, “encourage peace, to gentle works inclin’d, and give abundance, with benignant mind”.