After some time of being inactive, I’m pleased to report that Uncle Abrasax Curio Co. & Services is back online for a while in order to help with my attendance at Many Gods West. At Uncle Abrasax we endeavor to provide the finest custom services for your needs. Presently we’re offering the following:
- Five Card Spread $10
- Nine Card Spread $15
- Fifteen Minute Reading $20
- One Candle $10
- Two Candles $12
Upon request formations may be mailed to you for your keeping as a personal talisman for an additional $2.
- One Rune Pull $1
- Three Rune Pull $5
- Nine Rune Spread $15
- Dream Interpretation $25
If you’re in the Seattle area, I also offer home cleansings and banishings for $50.00.
If you’re in the Seattle area, I provide free spiritual healing services. Donations are always accepted but not strictly necessary.
Starting late June we will be offering hand-made votive candles for your conjure work. You can get a set of three candles for $10.
Also in late June we will be offering a limited selection of custom hand-made oils at varying prices. Stay tuned.
By request we offer the following art talismans made from the finest materials with instructions for use.
- Swedish Luck Talisman (paper, ink) $20
- Swedish Money Drawing Talisman (paper, ink) $20
- Anglo-Saxon Home Protection Charm (wood and pyrography) $20
- Witch’s Ladder (mixed media) $25
- Witch Bottle (unsealed with instructions for use) $60
- Crow Fetiche Bottle, small (mixed media) $50
- Custom Fetiche Bottle, medium (mixed media) $70+, depending on animal or plant of origin.
- Tree Fetiche Doll, small (mixed media) $50
- Custom mojo hands $35
I can be contacted at email@example.com.
Legal Stuff: Services and products, while of good quality, craftsmanship and insight, are offered for spiritual, entertainment and novelty purposes only.
A week has passed since the flare up over the initial ‘Ten Tips for Young Occultists’ debacle with many prominent and up and coming occultists putting their own lists up. I think by and large this has been a valuable exercise and in some ways shows where many contemporary occultists are coming from.
About mid-way through the week, Ultraculture posted another interesting list titled, ‘3 Ways to Become a Magician by a 16th Century Alchemist‘ based on suggestions by Giambattista della Porta. This article struck me in particular as it could have just as well have been my own list as well. Brother B.J. recently put up his own commentary on the same which I highly recommend. In keeping, however, with the ‘Ten Tip’ trend, I present now my own list in that form.
While this may come off as a particularly classist statement, I do believe that having a foundational education in the liberal arts is essential to being able to understand from where our historical predecessors were coming. I’m not saying that an individual necessarily needs a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, but merely be acquainted with them. Historically this would have included the verbal arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric; and in the quadrivium—the numerical arts: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (I would also add here biology as well as chemistry). While I would never persuade someone from going to college, the reality is, is that that’s not always possible. Good news! However expensive going to college may be, the aspiring candidate has a world of resources at their fingertips whether it be simply going to the local public library or enrolling in online classes such as those found at Wikiversity.
2. Secondly, know thyself:
The famous magician Israel Regardie, himself a therapist, insisted on the necessity of psychotherapy for candidates as well as students of the occult. While this would be great for everyone to have access to, sadly it is not always the case. The candidate should be able to know their limits, be able to set boundaries, as well as know their own personal integrity. Many people come to the occult as a form of escapism and end up getting overwhelmed. Having a strong, but flexible idea of who the candidate is him or herself will set a very powerful stage for being a great student.
3. Thirdly, should familiarize themselves with warning signs:
There are a lot of unscrupulous charlatans out there hoping to make a quick buck or engage in a power play – there are also a lot of very knowledgeable people out there who can really take you to the next level even if it’s your first step. In my previous post I pointed out the Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Form as one possible tool to use in identifying potential dangers. Other possibilities when the candidate is ready would be to find magical forums on the intranet or other social media. There they can get to know who’s recommended and who to avoid. As always, caveat emptor! A good teacher should be able to provide a statement of principles and expectations.
4. Fourthly, the candidate should not be afraid to speak and communicate:
While this should go without commentary, the reality is, is that many students feel overwhelmed either by the personality of their teacher or by the unfamiliarity of the world into which they have just been cast. This is entirely understandable, but that should not preclude them from being able to ask questions as well as occasionally contradicting their teacher in a respectful manner that generates dialogue. In this, questioning is also a form of communication. Never accept “it’s just always been this way” as an answer until your teacher provides you a comprehensive bibliography where they’re coming from and what they know.
5. Fifthly, the candidate should strive for excellence and expect the same from their teacher and peers:
While everyone has their own unique learning and teaching styles, the candidate shouldn’t be content sitting on their or their teachers’ laurels. Arete, in its basic sense, means “excellence of any kind”. The term may also refer to “moral virtue” as well and is ultimately bound up with the notion of the the act of living up to one’s full potential. Here, studying virtue ethicists, aesthetic and moral philosophy as well as the classics as a continuation of the first suggestion may be of help. While we may study what is “hidden” it is equally important that we realize that we don’t just stand on the shoulders of giants, but should bravely go forth with their knowledge and take this knowledge to the next level.
6. Sixthly, the candidate should be mindful of what they project on their teacher and peers:
As eloquently stated by Mr. Hillier in his work, “All beings project their minds on to the world, your teacher included, its a rule of consciousness and part of what we are exploring.” It’s very easy to fail to notice this and, in relation to part two, it’s the student and teacher’s obligation to be able to see when this is happening. A number of years ago, a wonderful essay titled ‘Magusitis: A Hydra in Sheep’s Clothing‘ was written giving the warning signs and symptoms of this particularly strange phenomena – this article may well be of use for both personal reflection as well as striving for the excellence of both teacher and peers and be engaged in contributing the process in an equal and dynamic way.
7. Seventh, the candidate should not be afraid of making mistakes:
Magic can very quickly become competitive – that’s the nature of the beast. A good teacher will provide foundational exercises that will ground and balance the candidate in their tutelage – this may be in the form of a number of types of meditation, purification, prayer, et cetera. As often quoted in Buddhist Lojong manuals: “practice the preliminaries”. This will give you a little bit of extra padding should something go wrong and the knowledgable teacher will recognize when it has and be able to assist in some way. Nobody comes out of this unscathed or slightly burnt.
8. Eighth, the candidate should exercise their imagination:
The 20th Century occultist, Aleister Crowley, defined magic as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”. Whereas above I have suggested highly technical suggestions of study, the candidate will be working with a very broad set of symbols eventually which will require creativity. Whether one is predisposed toward poetry, dance, music or the visual arts; the candidate should strive to seek beauty and the truth that lies within it. Maybe they like cooking: they can examine the magical applications of ingredients and apply it; maybe they like art: they can try a new mode of painting or drawing; maybe they’re not artistic at all: perhaps taking a trip to the museum or an art gallery or reading about cross cultural art theories may help them.
9. Ninth, the candidate should cultivate awareness that the map is not the territory:
This concept occurs in the discussion of exoteric and esoteric religions. Exoteric concepts are concepts which can be fully conveyed using descriptors and language constructs, such as mathematics. Esoteric concepts are concepts which cannot be fully conveyed except by direct experience. For example, a person who has never tasted an apple or made love will never fully understand through language what the taste of an apple is or the feeling of skin against skin in intimate embrace. Only through direct experience (eating an apple or making love) can that experience be fully understood. It’s all too easy to confuse abstracts such as numbers in resulting from gematria for concrete realities.
10. Tenth, the candidate shall not neglect their own physical needs:
Many disciplines in the esoteric and occult community tend to generate a lot of mental and spiritual energy. A good teacher will prepare the student by admonishing them to pay attention to their physical needs; eat well according to their means, get adequate sleep, exercise if possible, perhaps learn some form of budgeting so they’ll be able in the future afford a more comfortable life, and lastly ground their work in the physical reality in which they live.
In closing, I understand that much of this may seem like a handful to apply all at once. I’m personally of the school of thought now that I’m a little older and have definitely done made my fair share of mistakes as well as my fair share of successes that practicing magic isn’t something that comes out of a box, but rather is cultivated carefully as one might cultivate a topiary or bonsai. The better our foundations are in the real world, the better our successes will become as we advance along the path. All teachers started out as students and all teachers are still students learning now in their own way and this itself is part of the mystery of engaging in the Mysteries themselves.
“[Let] me advise you never to ridicule or cast obliquely upon the form of religion professed by another, for what right have you to desecrate what is sacred in his eyes?”
– Neophyte Ritual of the Golden Dawn
In the past couple days there has been a number of misconceptions arising online in response to my initial post on the subject of religious abuse. I want to re-emphasize that while my response was not as carefully worded as it ought to have been, adding more fuel to the fire, I do not think that Mr. Farrell at any point had committed any of the egregious abuses such as those by Robert Zink and Kenny Klein. This morning Nick and myself had a discussion and clarified the points of contention. I in no way hold any ill-will toward him and despite the heated discussions, do think that this was a good opportunity to bring awareness and dialogue to very real concerns that have arisen and may rise again if we are not careful and do not allow ourselves internal and external evaluation.
Nick is a serious practitioner of his art and his organization is highly respected. He has indicated that his organization does in fact have internal means of control and I’m satisfied since our discussions that he is doing the right thing. Not all organizations do this and in the past this has led to much harm. I do maintain that his post, however ill-worded, comes from experience and I reacted poorly but also out of a sense of duty to the communities that I do hold dear.
As a member of clergy and holding a number of lines of initiations and lineages, for me it is vital to uphold the dignity of my sisters and brothers, as well as students approaching the esoteric world. As stated in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” I hold this value very close to my heart. For long-term students, it’s vital that we not become dismissive of those who are just starting out and instead should foster an environment where their own creativity and curiosity may flourish. Expectations where the student isn’t allowed to explore can become a noose that strangles them and it’s beholden on us who are elders to not allow that to happen.
As stated in the Book of the Law, “Every man and every woman is a star.” (AL. I.3). Patience with beginners should be exercised in order to allow them to flourish in their own innermost integrity. Everyone also has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. I think that the original post that Nick made does contain kernels of truth as to the value of relationship of the student, but could have gone further. Others have chimed in with their own lists as well which I think is beautiful and telling that even where there is disagreement across lines, we are communicating and expressing ourselves. A great example is in Ocean Delano’s part one of Tips for Young Occultists.
I have mentioned before, relationships between students and teachers are a very delicate and can be prone to transference and counter-transferences. It’s all too easy for both student and teacher to idealize one another as well as project the ghosts of their realities onto one another. Many organizations have initiator training, such as in O.T.O. as well as guilds that help guide teachers and initiators toward “raising” healthy initiates. I think more organizations should have such implemented. Being a teacher and initiator is hard work but teachers and initiators also have to realize that being an initiate is likewise difficult, particularly for the novice. We need to be open to them as they are to us.
For students both old and new, I would suggest familiarity with warning signs of abuse as they can be very innocuous at times and can assail both experienced practitioner and novice. Unfortunately most of these cater more toward Christian audiences, however many resources like The Wild Hunt as well as well-known pagan blogs do occasionally have good pieces where you can get your feet wet in understanding the unfortunate reality that no human organization is safe from the potential for abuse. Similarly, for initiators and teachers, I think that having a well-crafted set of Student Rights as well as Initiator Rights may be a good protocol for the future that should be made available to each student. I know it’s not always possible but I think it’s high time we as a community implement such things.
Before I embark on making my own list, I do want to thank Mr. Farrell for his willingness to come to the table as well as Mitzy for her willingness to dialogue. I hope that this peace that has been made endures and, as at the start, becomes another part of a fruitful dialogue that all may benefit from. I would also like to thank everyone else who threw in their two bits into this discourse as it keeps us as a community engaged.
Disclaimer: It has come to my attention that some people may have willingly misinterpreted my post as being specifically a smear campaign against Mr. Farrell. I would like to adamantly state that this is not the case while reserving my observations that his original post is indicative of fostering a culture of abuse. In no way do I equate him with Robert Zink or Kenny Klein, but provide the two as examples of abusive situations that have occurred that were handled poorly and all too late. I do not think that Nick, himself, is guilty of such atrocities, but provide examples of what could happen when communities do not pay heed to warning signs and refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue.
While I generally try to stay away from the drama department in my esoteric pursuits, occasionally something comes up that I have to speak out against. Recently occultist and author Nick Farrell published an entry in his personal blog ‘Ten Tips for Young Occultists’ wherein he manages to squarely place the blame of the state of modern occultism on the younger generation of occultists who simply can’t respect their elders. Apart from coming across as an ageist screed, I would like to propose that each of Nick Farrell’s tips are actually advocating religious abuse.
Religious abuse refers to abuse administered under the guise of religion, including harassment or humiliation, possibly resulting in psychological trauma. Religious abuse may also include misuse of religion for selfish, secular, or ideological ends such as the abuse of a clerical position. While we are more often familiar with the abuses of organized religions, esoteric orders and fraternities are not excluded from having the capacity to cause grievous spiritual harm to individuals. There are a variety of ways in which this can manifest organizationally as well as individually.
In his first tip, ‘Realise you know nothing’, Farrell in speaking from an authoritative position first belittles potential students and practitioners by denying their basic human dignity by informing them that until they meet some abstract ‘age of reason’ their experiences are unimportant. In doing so, he also manages to foster some form of submission to teachers without any avenue for personal disagreement, this also continues more blatantly in his second tip, ‘Stop talking’.
His third tip, which is seemingly innocuous enough, he encourages students to listen to the experiences of other teachers. While this is generally good advice, he invokes the power of having esoteric knowledge that is too advanced for students. This, naturally, creates an imbalance of power and presumes that the teacher or adept ultimately knows more than the student and has power over them.
Farrell’s fourth tip, ‘Do not use questions to assert your own ignorance’, presumes that the student’s ignorance is to be taken for granted and once again fosters unquestioned allegiance to the teacher. While he does include, “Good teachers allow questions and debates because that is how they learn. Unquestioned teachers make emphatic statements which will have to be challenged later” he doesn’t provide a litmus for the very real possibility of abuse in this particular dynamic.
In ‘Realise that you are unimportant’, Farrell not only manages to patronize the reader but removes them from any chance of dialogue in complete contradiction to his previous statement. Here he also manages to foster an environments of exclusivity, dismissing criticism on the purported basis that the assessment, opinions, and criticism of the critic is invalid because he/she does not understand or rejects the unorthodox nuances of the belief system or magical teaching.
Tip number six, ‘You can learn a lot from some real cunts’, places the blame directly on the student should they eventually have the unfortunate event of a falling out with other occultists or even their teachers. This removal of consequence from the teacher and displacing it onto the student – also continued in tip number seven – is highly irresponsible.
In tip number seven, while it may be that traditional that teachers place upon their students certain obligations or have expectations, the student/teacher dynamic is, well, dynamic. The student should definitely be able to prove their understanding of whatever curriculum they’re enrolled in, but their learning and experience doesn’t develop without the guidance of the teacher who should be there to engage in dialogue without belittling the self-worth of the student. Submission to spiritual authority without any right to disagree is ultimately a form of intimidation which is antithetical to the learning process.
Tip number eight, ‘You will project your weaknesses onto your teacher’ is particularly troublesome in the number of presumptions that it implies. While a degree of transference is to be expected in any interpersonal dynamic, it’s also equally true that the teacher may project their expectations and fantasies as well as fears and insecurities unto their students.
In tip number nine, ‘Don’t just sit there help’ I must repeat Mr. Hillier in his refrain of, “Help put out the chairs???” Seriously, having held back for a bit I’m a little disappointed in the inclusion of that, but on a more serious note it also could be that inclusion may also be an aspect of demanding servant-hood from their students while remaining aloof in their own personal involvements.
Finally, tip number ten is the bulk of the iceberg that nobody could have seen coming, ‘Never challenge the leader’. Seriously, I don’t really know where to begin with this one other than it really speaks for itself. Having gone through the whole process of cultivating dependence on the teacher, demanding servant-hood, buffering himself from criticism, and fostering exclusivity, all the while belittling the student, the expectation that students should essentially sit down, shut up and learn is rather unbecoming of any person who engages in authentic spirituality.
Having looked at all these ‘tips’ I’m left with little room but to suggest that Mr. Farrell is fostering a culture of spiritual abuse which, as we’ve seen recently here and here, often goes unremarked in the greater pagan and esoteric communities. Unless he cares to elaborate further on his position, I’m left with no choice but to strongly advise any potential students away from his mentorship as they would be subjecting themselves in proximity to the possibility of spiritual abuse and exploitation.
“Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”
– Hebrews 3:12-19
“I was glad when they said to me,”Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.”
– Psalm 122
I didn’t get to writing this until late last night, and it was largely on my phone, so I apologize both for the brevity.
The second Psalm reading for the evening is one of my favorites. Also called Lætatus sum, it is one of the fifteen Psalms that bear the title, ‘Song of Ascents’, also commonly called ‘Gradual Psalms’. It is believed that these particular psalms were sung by the worshipers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavout, and Sukkot – a time when Israelites living in Judea would make a pilgrimage to the Temple of Jerusalem.
In many ways, this particular psalm calls to mind the scene of Christ in the wilderness where the Adversary tempted Jesus with food, domination, and all sorts of worldly powers only to fail. Probably the most poignant scene where the Adversary takes Jesus to the top of the mountain, tempting him with control of all the kingdoms of the world – if only Jesus bow down and worship the Adversary. Personally, I don’t believe in a singular, monolithic ‘devil’; but I think that the struggle of Jesus in the Desert speaks to each of us and our own dealings with the Adversary.
Throughout Lent, we’ll all have our moments of temptation. Maybe we had a bite of meat on Friday when we swore it off. Maybe we forgot that we weren’t going to have candy and took a piece of toffee from the bowl at the waiting room. In and of themselves, these things aren’t bad, but they’re not good either. In Jewish thought, humanity is said to have two naturally occurring inclinations – the yetzer hara, or, evil inclination; and the yetzer tov, a good inclination.
Since these things are naturally occurring, it’s difficult to put an entirely moral dimension to them, but they can be conveniently spoken of as psychological and spiritual realities which eventually we must face, sublimate or avoid. When I read the story of Jesus’ temptation, I see it personally as one of the best examples of a person struggling with these urges. In the Berakhot 32a, the Talmudic sages clearly give an example of the evil urge which is not unlike that what Jesus was tempted:
“To what is it like, the evil inclination in man? It is like a father who takes his small son, bathes him, douses him with perfume, combs his hair, dresses him up in his finest accoutrements, feeds him, gives him drink, places a bag of money around his neck, and then goes off and puts his son at the front door of a brothel. What can the boy do that he not sin?”
– Sages of the Talmud, Berakhot 32a
Many of us I imagine, often forget that while fully divine, Jesus was also one hundred percent human, and struggled with many of the same problems that we struggle. It could have been very easy for Jesus to give into his evil urge and done a great many more worldly things that we could begin to imagine, yet, at the end he chose the narrow gate and submission to the Good.
In a few weeks, we’ll witness Jesus’ triumphant arrival into Jerusalem as he ascends through the gate not on a noble horse, but on a mule, yet greeted none the less as a king and shaking the religious and social authorities to their knees. Until then, like the psalmist writes, we wait in silence on the the loving kindness of God, in the midst of the Temple. If we make any errors in the instance we’ve made a mistake in something we’ve given up, or something that we’ve knowingly done that might draw us slightly away from the path. Don’t be angry with yourself, but like a pilgrim, pick up your staff, dust off and continue on the road to the heavenly city.