theomagica

Voices of the Narrow Path

a series of interviews with magical practitioners
on spirit work, power and ethics

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About

The Voices of the Narrow Path project is part of the research for a future book. As the first three voices you can find the full interviews with Ralph Tegtmeier, aka Frater U∴D∴, Josephine McCarthy and Dr. Stephen Skinner on this page.

Before we jump in, here is a little background on the project that led to these conversations: It doesn’t take much to realise that our 21st century world is rushing towards self-destruction with increasing pace and compulsive obsession. Much of these dynamics might be part of a cyclical pattern no one of us can change. However, in particular how our global leaders show up, the increasingly overt and blunt abuse of power, is turning into a poison that will affect young people growing up today in unprecedented ways. At best they’ll grow up in a world without a grain of respect for politicians and people in power. More likely, I fear, they might blend into that blueprint themselves and unconsciously accept the degraded ways of dealing with power as ‘the new normal’. It is easy to become a wolf when raised amongst wolves.

In light of this, my research is focussed on how a positive antithesis of human engagement with power could look like? Much of the history of magic exclusively focussed on ways of acquiring power as well as magic as a tool to manage crisis. Given this long tradition we stand in, there certainly is something we should be able to contribute here? In essence therefore my exploratory hypothesis is quite straight forward: Could there be a way of democratising the ideal of ‘Gandalf-the-White’? With less hoo-ha, no beard, robe or staff, but maybe with the same deep roots in doing what is right rather than what is easy or en vogue. And if so, how can our practice and partnership with the spirits, whether they are ancestral, chthonic or celestial, help to provide guidance and support on this path.

In the following we get to hear a slowly expanding set of voices of advanced practitioners on the narrow path. Unfiltered, and close up. Please join me in thanking them for being so generous with their time to contribute to this project. Thank you.

LVX,
Frater Acher
Making the serpent bite its tail.




The Most Holy Trinosophia, by Count St.Germain, Chapter III

A STRONG wind arose and I had difficulty in keeping my lamp alight. At last I saw a white marble platform to which I mounted by nine steps. Arrived at the last one I beheld a vast expanse of water. To my right I heard the impetuous tumbling of torrents; to my left a cold rain mixed with masses of hail fell near me. I was contemplating this majestic scene when the star which had guided me to the platform and which was slowly swinging overhead, plunged into the gulf. Believing that I was reading the commands of the Most High, I threw myself into the midst of the waves. (…) The shore which I could scarcely discern seemed to recede to the degree I advanced. My strength was ebbing. I feared not to die, but to die without illumination . . . I lost courage, and lifting to the vault my tear-streaming eyes. (…) I could hardly move my tired limbs and was sinking more and more when near me I saw a boat. A richly dressed man guided it. I noticed that the prow was turned toward the shore which I had left. He drew near. A golden crown shone on his forehead. "Vade me cum," said he, "mecum principium in terris, instruam to in via hac qua gradueris." (Come with me, with me, the foremost in the world; I will show thee the way thou must follow.) I instantly answered him: "Bonum est sperare in Domino quam considere in principibus." (It is better to trust in the Lord than to sit among the mighty.) Whereupon the boat sank and the monarch with it. Fresh energy seemed to course through my veins and I gained the goal of my efforts. I found myself on a shore covered with green sand. (...)  (continue reading at Sacred Texts…)

 
trinosophia
 
 
 

Voices of the Narrow Path

a series of interviews with magical practitioners
on spirit work, power and ethics

background_4.png
 
 

An interview with Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold

Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold

Anthropologist, psychologist, and palero, Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold’s books have made a major contribution to Western Magic as we know it. Not only have they helped the term ‘West’ to slowly expand and include original African and Afro-Brazilian religions. More importantly his work shines a magnificent light on the rich philosophical, spiritual and magical realms of cults such as Quimbanda, Palo Mayombe and Ifá. Nicholaj’s work thus has opened diverse new pathways not only for practitioners of these cults but also for followers of European forms of Magic.

Born and raised in Norway, today Nicholaj lives with is wife Katy in Brazil where he continues to study his unique magical path, marked by devotion, authentic practice and a deep-running understanding of the in-between space that is foundational to all spirit work.


What is your personally preferred way of accessing the spirit world?

I would define my preferred intercession with spirit as ‘communion’, or spending time with spirit in the in-between. 


How long did it take you to learn this technique and where did you first come across it?

This has been an on-going spiritual investigation and it was with active involvement in cults of possession, like Vodou and Quimbnanda I managed to refine this modality. But, looking back on past practices I would say that I was always a good ‘dreamer’, hence the oneiric faculties were always a great visionary aid for me. Also, my practices in the past where often of a devotional nature and I used to occupied with sharpening the senses, all of them, to ensure refinement of how sensorial data was received.

Further, I was always careful in not blurring the lines between fantasy and the realm of the divine imagination. Spare’s death posture and alphabet of desire, vigils in places of power were also practice I used frequently for many years along with bhakti sadhana. The last 15 years or so I have used the same technique for spirit congress, intent, feeding the ground, summoning and entering communion. So this ‘technique’ is clearly related to having sharpening the skills over a couple of decades. I would say, for the sake of reference, that this method or technique is probably similar to what Nordic seidr truly is.   


When you go into the spirit world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

Nowadays we are speaking of the in-between, a shared space and the first thing I do is offering of for instance scent, candle, and spirits. If I go to the spirit world, it is usually through oneiric means, but I must say that as a result of involvement with possession cults, where spirit takes over a body and uses the vehicle of flesh, the veil between is awfully thin lately and I would say that I currently do hold a connection with my tutelary spirits that are so strong and loud that they are tangible through visions, voices and inspirations on a constant frequency.  


When you commune with the spirits, how do you normally talk to each other?

Nowadays, “internal dialogues”, dreams, impressions, visions and naturally oracles, such as runes and the Ifá oracles, which more and more is used for the sake of affirmation and clarity, expanding the horizon of what is communicated more than anything else. 


When you return to the mundane world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

I don’t have a procedure for this. Instead I am focusing on spiritual hygiene in the form of starting every morning with tending to the spirits and every week using spiritual baths to maintain spirit, soul and body strong, clean and elevated.  


If any, what role do sleep and dreams play in your spiritual practice?

As told, dreams are a truthful and visionary gateway for me. I can with ease ‘dream on things’ for the sake of oracular answers, clarity or spirit congress. It is in this extremely important to discern between fantasy and the work of ‘imagination’ to not confuse our inner world with the ‘in-between’.


What role does your physical body play in your spirit work? How has this evolved over the years?

I believe it is important to pay attention to body, soul and spirit, so as I am conscientious about how I nurture and exercise my soul and spirit, so it is with the body. I believe this has been quite permanent since I was in the early 20s. 


Do you have any magical tattoos? If so, would you mind sharing the story of one of them?

The tattoos I have are more a consequence of personal stories, the only one bordering on magical is to get an Aegishjelmur tattooed when I migrated from Norway to Brazil, but I decided to make it in Brazil as it here is similar to a ponto or sigil of Exu Rei (King Exu). 


Looking at the world around us in 2019, we increasingly seem to live in a world where showing good manners, decency and calm, mutual respect seems like antiquated behaviors. Do you have personal code of ethics?

I actually believe the world is suffering from ‘negative selection’, but as a traditionalist I also believe in cycles and that we do live in Kali Yuga, the age of decay where spiritual darkness, narcissism and selfishness are signs heralding the end of this cycle and announcing the arrival of a new Golden Age. I do believe as Odin said in Havamal that the generous and brave have the best life and this is sort of a motto for me.

In addition to this I have taken seriously the ethical code of Ifá about building good character seriously. Good character is marked by being joyous, peaceful, tranquil and pleasant. Working on building character involves making errors, but in error we correct our selves so we can be better people. I believe that in a world that is gradually getting darker spiritually we need contrast manifested in people who are kind, generous and brave, so I strive towards forging those character traits or virtues.

In my day to day in reflects in me setting as goal to be kind and patient around those I meet and be aware of not giving bad people control over my life as happens when we lose our cool in traffic for instance or when somebody mistreats us for no good reason. I try to not invite in negativity and instead understand the subtle play of energies and frequencies.  


According to your experience, what role should ethics play in spiritual training & practice?

Well, I think a lot of people are searching power, but people are often blind for what is necessary to achieve power. It is important to understand in a case like this, that power is only understood by self awareness and an active interest in what makes us powerless.

In general I think a more scientific mindset, a more joyous attitude towards the Great Work would be good in general and as for ethics I do believe generosity and kindness are key virtues that when contemplated will be found to encompass all possible ethics.  


What does the word integrity mean to you? Which role, if any does it play in your everyday life? Could you give us an example where you felt your integrity challenged?

Integrity is related to be consistent and truthful and for me this translates into avoiding gossip, scapegoating and lies. Integrity is about accountability of the good and the bad, to be solid. For me it also implies to be calm and tranquil and I still have some problems maintaining peace of mind confronted with gossip and lies. 


The term ‘virtue’ seems to be quite old-fashioned these days. Which connotations does it evoke for you? Does it have any personal relevance for your spiritual practice?

In your eyes, what is most required to be able to hold significant levels of power with responsibility?

For me virtue and good character is intimately tied together, a virtues person is a good person, not a person free from sin if you will, but someone who strives to be a positive force in the world. I see Veritas, truth, to be the fountainhead of virtue, and this is not about facts, but about a notion of what is good and right both in terms of posture and actions. I mean, why is it so difficult for people to avoid hurting others unnecessary? Can it be because a lack of connection with Veritas?

For me these matters are crucial for my spiritual practice, I do what I do, not because of power nad influence, but in order to understand how to improve my life, mundane and spiritual. It was always about the quest of wisdom and abundance at large for me. 


When you are in need of wise counsel, where or who do you turn to?

I am grateful for my ability to ‘dream on things’, but also periods of hermitage are important for me to be constantly alert and sharp in my own life. Silence, alone-ness is for me when thoughts, impressions, ideas all find its place and in this the landscape widens, so that is more a part of my process and strategy for keeping spirit high and the soul alert. If I am in need of guidance from people, I do tend to turn to my Baba Ifá, Ogunsina or my mother in law, Eda. They are both people I would judge as ‘heroic’ in every sense of the word, people of great depths of wisdom, endurance, joy, peace and integrity. This is also something we find in Ifá as an ethics code of sorts, that we don’t share our problems with those younger than us, only with our elders, for me Anton La Vey’s recommendation of not sharing our troubles with others lest we know they want to hear about it is also a good code I think…


Today, what is the work you are most proud of?

I assume you are referring to writings? If so, Ifá: A Forest of Mystery is a work of relief and victory, because I was actually a bit terrified what the tradition holders in Nigeria would say about the work, the acknowledgment and praise following from them made me extremely happy, that I actually had managed to present the rich spiritual philosophy of Ifá in a way that bridged in a just way the West and Africa. But overall, I am very satisfied with having managed to build a healthy spiritual community in Brazil. It naturally took many years and a few errors to accomplish, but I must say, that is truly an achievement that makes me happy and impress me.

I am also very happy about the book on Sethian Gnosticism, Invisible Fire, just wish that it was published by a more serious publisher than what it was published by, that is a book that deserved better I think.  


Looking ahead, what is the work you wish you’d be able to complete one day?

I like routine and is disciplined, I would say I have almost a monastic profile, so it is somehow important for me to always finish what I start. Sure some projects gets discarded under the way due to showing a weakness as it is taking shape, in these cases I discard, destroy or abandon usually, but there is one project on magic, mysticism and the erotic filed away that might want to manifest. It is just that it grew so much out of proportions that it was better to let it gestate alone for some years. But on overall, what I start I complete.

In truth I see myself only publishing a few more books. I am currently in the process of finalizing a novel, not a magical novel per se, so let’s see how that goes before deciding the path ahead.   


Any work, today in retrospect, you wish you had not begun or completed? 

No, everything is a blessing or a lesson. Even though I am chronically dissatisfied with every book I wrote upon publication, because the composition of a book never finishes… I am still happy they are out there.

I do feel my interest in traditional themes, theology, cosmology, philosophy and metaphysics have contributed in a positive way to the understanding of  Quimbanda, Palo Mayombe, Ifá and the Nameless Art, what sometimes is referred to as traditional witchcraft. 


Whom or what do you feel most grateful for?

In retrospect I do see that my daimon has been guiding me well, if it has been guiding me through hellfire or celestial dew I am grateful for both. I mean that is the human experience, a world of contrast, and we need to taste bitterness to appreciate the honey. The more this truth sinks in, the more Stoic, Epicurean and content we get. But I must say that meeting my wife was a turning point for me, when everything started to move in all the right directions, so she is truly the person I feel most grateful for. In truth, I think ‘the philosophers stone’ the true work of alchemy need to be supported by this union of love as spoken of by Flamel, love being the force beneath the constant solve et coagula…  


Thanks a lot for your time, Nicholaj.

 
 
 

Voices of the Narrow Path

a series of interviews with magical practitioners
on spirit work, power and ethics

background_4.png
 
 

An interview with Ralph Tegtmeier, aka Frater UD

Frater UD

Ralph Tegtmeier (*1952) doesn’t require much of an introduction: as one of the most prolific authors and voices of modern magic he has not only co-founded the famous The Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros, contributed to the resurgence of the Fraternitas Saturni in the early 1980s and triggered much of the revival of AOS’ sigil magic.

His agnostic approach to working magic, both pragmatic as well as philosophic in equal parts, has essentially shaped most modern authors’ outlook on magic. Today Tegtmeier’s broad range of influential ideas remain amongst the most frequently copied materials, yet often without reference. From early on Tegtmeier chose the magical alias ‘Ubique Daemon Ubique Deus (aka Frater UD) for his magical writings.


What is your personally preferred way of accessing the spirit world?

How long did it take you to learn this technique and where did you first come across it?

When you go into the spirit world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

When you commune with the spirits, how do you normally talk to each other?

When you return to the mundane world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

If any, what role do sleep and dreams play in your spiritual practice?

What role does your physical body play in your spirit work? How has this evolved over the years?

You're starting off with a ton of loaded, leading questions here, full of a priori assumptions. What are spirits anyway? What IS that "spirit world" exactly? Who says that accessing it relates to my personal magical praxis in any way?

Not to leave you standing empty handed, however, while I'd rather skip your more technical questions, here are some general views of mine concerning "spirits"...

So what are "spirits"? Setting aside the materialist's and rationalist's wholesale denial of any metaphysical, immaterial, supernatural, invisible and/or spiritual entities, defining spirits even within an esoteric or occult context is anything but a plain, self-explanatory matter of course. True, most people seem to subscribe to a fairly vague definition of "spirits" being some kind of entities "similar to humans or animals, only invisible" but that doesn't really cover even half of it.

Whether you take an animist or panpsychic worldview (such as most shamanic cultures tend to subscribe to) with its power animals and spirit guides, or one based on the richly intricate and highly systemised demonology and angelology of Judaism/Kabbalism as well as its Egyptian and Babylonian precursors; whether you consider the jumbled Islamic concept of jinns or the necromantic take of Spiritualism's (Christian or not) communication with the deceased; vedic devas or the Roman Catholic and Orthodox cult of angels, demons, saints and exorcisms, not to mention the common folklore of "little people" and elves so prevalent in Nordic and Celtic culture; then, adding to the confusion for good measure, if you think about West African and Haitian Voudoun, Ju-Ju and their copious Afro-Caribbean iterations etc.: what you'll find overall is a slew of differing, admittedly quite often very similar yet fairly frequently equally contradictory, mutually exclusive views on what spirits are or are not supposed to be. (Want some more? Help yourself: how about thought forms? Astral larvae? Psychogones? Egregores? Clan animals? Ghosts? Revenants? Zombies? Henochian angels? Chaoservitors?)

Renaissance (and not, as is commonly assumed, medieval!) grimoires are replete with lists of demons and planetary intelligences blended with angelic lore, cataloguing their respective names, social status, sigils, formulas of evocation, sacred numbers etc., much like supernatural phone directories. When describing them as "princes", "dukes", "counts", "barons" and similar, it's only too obvious what is happening here: highly itemised mirror images of thentime current, strictly hierarchical, feudalist social structures, projected to the "other side" but essentially part and parcel of an extremely well-ordered world-as-we-know-it, subject to a fundamentally tautologic taxonomy: nothing new under the sun, really.

Rather than losing myself in the seemingly endless minutiae of this weird otherworldly bestiarium, I tend to view the term "spirits" as indicating essentially alien lifeforms that won't render themselves to common human modes (and norms) of perception. Instead of working from the anthropomorphic and collectively narcissist hypothesis that they are construed and contoured just like any other living entities we are familiar with (humans, animals, microbes, viruses etc.), to me the whole point about the spirit concept is that they are possibly entirely different to what we are accustomed to.

By way of a purely theoretical illustration: a spirit might "consist" of a maple leaf in Canada, a drop of brine in the Dead Sea, a grain of sand in the Gobi desert, a whiff of air rushing across the Andes, a drop of mole's blood in the Caucasus, a trill in a Mongolian shepherd's morning song, two molecules of mammoth bone, a handful of ice crystals in Antarctica, a pebble in the Australian outback and a slice of time in the distant future. Weird? Sure. Hard to fathom? Obviously. Do bear in mind, though, that this description is nothing but a tentative concept not necessarily to be taken literally. All it's supposed to serve is illustrating the alienness of the spirit model. You get the overall drift - possibly, a spirit is more of a non-local entanglement than a set, clearly definable and unequivocal organism.

In my view, this would help explain a lot of puzzling questions that have bugged human spirit work throughout our evolution as a species. For one, it might account for the hugely varied and inconsistent experiences people working with "spirits" tend to report. Rather than adopting a reductionist psychoanalytic approach to this phenomenon by declaring these testimonials to be "(merely) subjective" if not downright hallucinatory, even indicative of some psychic disorder, it would enable us to come to terms - of sorts, anyway - with their highly volatile amorphousness.

This said, I've proposed an entirely pragmatic approach to matters in my "Models of Magic" essay. Essentially, you only have to "believe" in spirits temporarily when working within the Spirit Model. If instead you've decided to work your magic within the Energy Model or the Information Model, there's no need for that as you will be focusing on different procedural agents such as, obviously, energy/power or information. Hence, when the inevitable question "are there spirits?" pops up, the only valid reply is "yes, within the Spirit Model there are" - no more, no less.

It stands to reason that modes of handling spirit work vary widely. A shaman will typically make use of trance, travelling the Underworld. A fetish priest will conduct a ritual of evocation, as will a Western magician working in the hermetic tradition. In Voudoun - as in Candomblé, Macumba or Santería, for example -, priests and priestesses will strive to be possessed (ridden, mounted) by various spirits or deities. A Hereditary Wiccan might offer some oblations to the Little Folk as prescribed by her grandmother's family lore. When "rising on the planes", e.g. following the Golden Dawn tradition, you might deploy tattwa symbols. Kabbalistic pathwork on the Tree of Life will involve a specific type of imaginary trance. A spiritualist will deploy the services of a talented medium. Then there's ouija boards and pendulums, the wide field of oracles and divination with tarot cards, ordinary playing cards, cowrie shells, bones, entrails of sacrificial animals, yarrow stems, coins, geomantic figures, astromagic, plain old skrying etc. etc.

Personally, I have experimented widely with and experienced most of these approaches and expectably they have all proved to have their merits and their limitations.

These days, however, I don't focus on spirit work so much myself anymore.


Do you have any magical tattoos? If so, would you mind sharing the story of one of them?

I don't sport any tattoos, in spite of the fact that some of my very best, closest friends do. One of them is actually a world-class tattoo artist in her own right, running her own studio in Manchester. But while I do admire top notch tattoo artwork, it's never been something I was able to relate to myself.


Looking at the world around us in 2019, we increasingly seem to live in a world where showing good manners, decency and calm, mutual respect seems like antiquated behaviors. Do you have personal code of ethics?

This may not be our privilege alone. In the course of human history we've always encountered phases when people were very rude and abrasive dealing with each other as compared to more "civilised" times. Indeed that's the whole point about civilisation: toning down our manners and adopting a more constructive, non-violent approach to maintain a smoother societal interchange. If you look at what tends to happen in times of civil war or serious calamities such as epidemics, earthquakes, volcanic events, tsunamis, famines and similar, overall good manners will probably be one of your least concerns.

Not that I disagree with you: I have always preferred decent manners and an attitude of mutual respect myself - there's nothing "antiquated" about being nice to each other. And in the long run it's the wiser approach anyway, less self-defeating as you won't have to exert so much energy on fending off all those lamebrains who cannot for the life of them see that life's far too short to spend it being obnoxious.


Do you have personal code of ethics? If so, can you describe it high-level and share how it affects your everyday interactions?

In my view, ethics are an entirely personal matter even if they do affect others all the time. My fundamental rationale being that you cannot truly enforce "being good". Hence, I'm pretty hesitant whenever someone comes along touting normative ethical or moral values.

Personally, I try to live by Kant's categorical imperative which is a lot less daunting than it may sound to many people. It really boils down rather nicely to "do as you would be done by". Whether I'm always capable of actually living up to it is another matter, of course. You won't catch me pretending to be a saint on that score, but I do seriously try to abide by this fairly straightforward maxim.


According to your experience, what role should ethics play in spiritual training & practice?

Again, there's no valid normative take on this that I'd be willing to condone. As we all know, "black magic is always what the other guy's doing"… At the end of the day, it's your own decision and whatever you do, you should be willing to stand by it. Personally, I wouldn't like to have to spit at the mirror every morning. But what that actually implies in detail is every individual's own choice.

Of course, you'll have to live with the consequences of whatever you do. Call it conscience, call it karma, call it law enforcement: don't shift the blame on others when it's only yours to account for.

But then, that's merely my view, of course.


What does the word integrity mean to you? Which role, if any does it play in your everyday life? Could you give us an example where you felt your integrity challenged?

This ties in with what I've outlined above. To me, integrity is the indispensable foundation of self-respect. However, it's your own norms you will want and need to live up to, not necessarily other people's. That is essentially what Crowley's "Do What Thou Wilt" is all about: living a self-determined, sovereign life. Personally, I feel that you can only violate your integrity at your own peril and that's not a very wise thing to do. I am, however, quite aware of the fact that many people don't see it that way at all, which is something we simply have to live with and - hopefully - survive.

As for challenges of my integrity in the past, I don't really go for evangelical public confessions and indeed I find them quite distasteful. Why bother people with that? So let me simply say that in my business life there've been plenty of challenges to my integrity but if there's one thing I can lay claim to it's that I've never deliberately hoodwinked or defrauded people (be it clients or business partners) even when the opportunity to do so may have been ever so tempting. Note that this is nothing I am specifically proud of: it's simply how I am hardwired and it would actually cause me physical and mental aggravation to act otherwise.


The term ‘virtue’ seems to be quite old-fashioned these days. Which connotations does it evoke for you? Does it have any personal relevance for your spiritual practice?

Etymologically, virtue derives from Latin virtus, meaning "moral strength, high character, goodness; manliness; valour, bravery, courage (in war); excellence, worth". (The "manliness" bit comes from the Latin root vir, "man", of course.)

Obviously, this is an ideal one may wish to attain to and I don't think that "old-fashioned" does it any justice. So many people may have forgotten about it, true, but then again it was always considered to be a fairly rare attribute, anything but a given even in Roman times. There's nothing wrong with strength (moral or otherwise) and valour let alone efficacy. But once more, declaring this a life target is a question of personal ethics.

I do have a beef with the concept, however, where it's hijacked e.g. by religion(s) and converted into some normative rule or litigable code of conduct as, for example, insisting on women to be "virtuous" i.e. "chaste" whereas their male counterparts were usually considered free to screw around as much as they liked. Once you fall for the dichotomy of "virtues vs. vices", you're basically subjugating yourself to third party norms of what's "good" or "bad", thereby relinquishing your sovereignty.

As a magician, you'll have to live with the fact that most all societies will regard you as an outsider, a threat even, taking a very dim view of your activities, be they real or imagined. As the old saw will have it: "Magicians may be respected but never will they be loved." More often than not, if they learn about it people will be quite scared of you. This puts you in a weak position, outnumbered as you will be, so you should make damn sure that you actually know what you're doing. Virtue may not factor in to this by default but I feel it's good practice to take it into consideration anyway. Because no matter how little you may rate these things, others may have an entirely different view of matters and this could well impact you like it or not.


In your eyes, what is most required to be able to hold significant levels of power with responsibility?

Depends on how you define "power". Following the dictionary again, power means "ability; ability to act or do; strength, vigour, might, efficacy; control, mastery, lordship, dominion", derived from Vulgar Latin ”potere", from classical Latin potis "powerful". In a nutshell, power implies "being able to do".

Technically, this doesn't entail any qualifiers, especially none of a moral or moralistic ilk: either you're capable of doing something or you're not - whether whatever that may be is "good" or "evil" is quite immaterial.

And yes, in my view magic is all about power, not the least because we as humans are by default in an entirely powerless state. By way of illustration take two simple examples: gravity and metabolism. We are wrestling with gravity all the time - whether we want to or not. Nor is this in any way a trivial matter: preventing falling to the ground is actually hard labour and we're exercising it all the time, round the clock, even when sleeping in our beds.

Equally, we are utterly dependent on metabolism: you don't ever breathe "voluntarily" but because you must or else you'll die. (If you don't believe me, try holding your breath for 10-15 minutes and see where that gets you…) This scandal of human powerlessness is what magic has set out to address in my opinion.

By inference, "responsibility" has nothing to do with it - at least not in any higher or superordinate sense. If you want to superimpose some limitation on power, that's an essentially moralistic if not religious endeavour which I for my part cannot and will not endorse. Because if power can be subjected to "responsibility" not to mention the popular concept of "abuse", it is power no longer but merely a faculty of adaptation and conformism.

Of course, it's a question of your personal ethics how you actually want to make use of your power (should you actually ever attain to it). But that's an entirely different thing to demanding that power be curtailed in the cause of whichever moral norms or deity you happen to subscribe to.


When you are in need of wise counsel, where or who do you turn to?

There's a very few close friends whose counsel I value. No name-dropping here, however. Beyond, I keep reading all the time like there's no tomorrow and a lot of that input goes a long way to assist me with whatever issues I happen to wrestle with.


Today, what is the work you are most proud of?

Pride was never a concept I could seriously relate to. On a less ambitious note, there are some things I may have achieved which I deem fairly well done or halfway satisfactory, perhaps. (Though there's invariably plenty of room for improvement.) For instance, I once set out, many decades ago, to prove that you don't have to be a moron to engage in practical magic. I do think I have actually achieved that if I say so myself, because whatever my detractors - of which there are plenty - have said about me, claiming I was an idiot was never part of it. (Well, up until now, anyway…)

Actually, I'm not particularly concerned with what I may have achieved in the past. Rather, I'm far more interested in what I haven't achieved yet - and believe me, there's plenty of that around!


Looking ahead, what is the work you wish you’d be able to complete one day?

I'm presently working on a fairly extensive gnostic breviary based on the assertion of some classic schools of Gnosticism that "awakening gnosis" in those people who can relate to it at all doesn't require any set rituals, sacraments or formal magical spells but the simple influx of the Logos. Either the gnostic narrative will touch you or it won't. If it does, however, your life definitely  won't be the same any longer. So it will essentially be an anthology of gnostic texts (both classic and modern), tied to a mild regime of contemplation and meditation with the aim of making the gnostic experience accessible.


Any work, today in retrospect, you wish you had not begun or completed? 

Wouldn't do me a lot of good anyway, would it? Seriously though: not really, no. Sure I've ramped up a pile of errors and mistakes in my life like everyone has, but regrets are an entirely futile waste of resources, like stopping in mid-race. I'm all for reflection, but it should be conducive to moving on rather than petrifying your motility. In the end, it's not so much what you actually do that counts but how you deal with it to overcome your own limitations, be they corporeal, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual.


Whom or what do you feel most grateful for?

I'm grateful for the many people I've met (either in person or via their books or lectures) in the course of my life's journey who have taught me things, shared their experiences, pointed out my errors or who have stood by me when I did require help or support. Most of all, however, I'm grateful for my two daughters and that I've managed to raise them safely, enabling them to develop into self-reliant, intelligent human beings who are able to question authority while at the same time being willing to learn from others and capable of digging their claws into this sublunar world.


Thanks a lot for your time, Ralph!

Thank you for yours - and all the best for your spiritual and magical endeavours!

 
 

Voices of the Narrow Path

a series of interviews with magical practitioners
on spirit work, power and ethics

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An interview with Josephine McCarthy

Josephine McCarthy

Josephine McCarthy is one of the most innovative voices amongst the community of advanced practitioners on Western Magic. She is the author of now famous modern manuals such as The Magical Knowledge trilogy, Magic of the North Gate and The Exorcist’s Handbook. In 2014, after two years of discussion between herself and Frater Acher, she undertook to write a full ‘no holds barred’ in depth magical training course from beginner all the way to adept. That course has fully come to life in 2016 in the form of Quareia, a free Modern Mystery School. Its unique and comprehensive curriculum spans over 30 modules, more than 240 focussed lessons, covers more than 2400 pages in print, and will always be available for free download at Quareia.com. Josephine McCarthy lives in South-West England, enjoying the remoteness and wild nature of the untouched Dartmoor landscape.


What is your personally preferred way of accessing the spirit world?

Through inner and outer voice, mind, and action. The ‘spirit world’ is within and all around you, it is within everything, and yet separated from us.


How long did it take you to learn this technique and where did you first come across it?

It is a lifetime pursuit that I am still working on.


When you go into the spirit world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

Mind my manners and try to be helpful.


When you commune with the spirits, how do you normally talk to each other?

It depends upon what sort of being I am talking to. Mind, behaviour, action, voice, perception, all play their part.


When you return to the mundane world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

Sit quietly and absorb.


If any, what role do sleep and dreams play in your spiritual practice?

Sleep and dreams allow the deeper part of myself to commune. Some dreams are simply my brain refiling, some are my subconscious rolling its eyes, and some are voices from deep and far realms, from past and future, communing, guiding and warning


What role does your physical body play in your spirit work? How has this evolved over the years?

You cannot separate the body from the mind and spirit, they are interwoven by the nature of life. Every cell, every organ, partakes of the mystical magical act of communion with power and spirit.


Do you have any magical tattoos? If so, would you mind sharing the story of one of them?

I do, and I will not. The deeply personal relationship the magician has between their body, their fate, and their magic is not something to be displayed on social media, or paraded around like a badge of honour.


Looking at the world around us in 2019, we increasingly seem to live in a world where showing good manners, decency and calm, mutual respect seems like antiquated behaviors. Do you have personal code of ethics?

My personal code: honesty and integrity, the two hardest behaviours to live up to, that take a lifetime to even scratch the surface of their mystery. We try, fail, try again, succeed, fail again, and keep trying. In terms of everyday life, it makes enemies, breaks friendships, it strengthens you and helps you to understand what is truly important and what is not. I am not talking about telling people they look fat or ugly when they ask, ‘how do I look’? that is just power games. I am talking about a situation whereby the truth would expose you, or integrity would bring you loss, but you still do the right thing, because that is what truly needs doing. It is the hardest thing to ever do, and you will likely fail many times, but by not giving in, and to keep trying to hold that bar high changes you. It steadies the mast of the ship in the storm, it anchors you deep into the earth, and it becomes your ‘scent’ as you delve deeper into the spirit worlds.


According to your experience, what role should ethics play in spiritual training & practice?

Without ethics, there is no spiritual training and practice, there is simply manipulation. What you define as ethics is a different matter. Society/culture defines its ethics in a way that solidifies the agenda of that society, but those ‘ethics’ may not actually be ethics, but simply social engineering. The understanding of true ethics comes with time, practice and experience, which in turn give wisdom, and that wisdom slowly reveals what is truly right and what is truly wrong. No modern society or social code can define that, as true ethics are not often conducive to the way that modern societies function.


What does the word integrity mean to you? Which role, if any does it play in your everyday life? Could you give us an example where you felt your integrity challenged?

Integrity to me is doing what is right, not what is easy or what ‘gets you off the hook’, and when you step on that road, the universe will challenge you to see just how your integrity stands up in a storm. How is your integrity when you have an empty stomach and an empty wallet, or when you are powerless and homeless? It is then when you learn your limitations, and when you learn your own limitations, you find your fulcrum of integrity – you have to face yourself, your weakness, your powerlessness and your deeper self. Then you know what a steep mountain you have to climb to strengthen your integrity in the face of adversity and isolation. Integrity does not make you friends, nor does it make you rich, but it makes you whole


The term ‘virtue’ seems to be quite old-fashioned these days. Which connotations does it evoke for you? Does it have any personal relevance for your spiritual practice?

What is virtue? Culture defines virtue, often in an attempt to control – women must be virtuous, i.e. hidden and passive. Fuck that. See how difficult it is to even define and understand that word depending upon what culture you come from and what language you speak. To me, virtue is doing what you know to be the right thing.


In your eyes, what is most required to be able to hold significant levels of power with responsibility?

Knowing your limitations, knowing your weaknesses, and knowing that power and responsibility is not about being at the top of the ladder, rather it is being at the bottom of the ladder and holding it firmly to ensure those who climb all get there safely.


When you are in need of wise counsel, where or who do you turn to?

The moorlands, the wind, the silence, and self examination. We are ultimately responsible for everything that we do, and although one side of us will flounder and look outside for guidance, the other side of us knows what must be done. It is finding the strength to not be tempted to absolve responsibility by trying to place upon others the burden of decision under the guise of advice on important matters. In more mundane situations where I do not fully understand the parameters, or I feel my judgement is impaired, I will turn to those whom I know have integrity and also better knowledge of the specific situation.


Today, what is the work you are most proud of?

Seeing my daughters as grown up confident women doing their own thing.


Looking ahead, what is the work you wish you’d be able to complete one day?

Life.


Any work, today in retrospect, you wish you had not begun or completed? 

No…. everything just is what it is…


Whom or what do you feel most grateful for?

Life, and everything that has ever happened to me both good and bad.


Thanks a lot for your time, Josephine.

 
 
 

Voices of the Narrow Path

a series of interviews with magical practitioners
on spirit work, power and ethics

background_4.png
 
 

An interview with Dr. Stephen Skinner

Dr. Stephen Skinner

Dr. Stephen Skinner is an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer. He was responsible for introducing real feng shui to the West, and wrote the first 20th century English book on the subject in 1976. He completed his Ph.D in Classics at the University of Newcastle with a thesis on the transmission of magical methods and implements from the Graeco-Egyptian world to the grimoires.

In 2004 he began publishing Source Works of Ceremonial Magic with co-author David Rankine. The first title was The Practical Angel Magic of Dr. John Dee’s Enochian Tables, opening the doors on real 17th century angel magic in a way never done before. This was followed by The Keys to the Gateway of Magic and then The Goetia of Dr Rudd, a complete 17th century version of the four books of the Lemegeton as used by a practising magicianHe then produced a new edition of three versions of the most famous grimoire, the Key of Solomon as The Veritable Key of Solomon. More recently they deciphered and translated the Grimoire of St Cyprian, the Clavis Inferni. He also edited and published the 16th century manuscript of Sepher Raziel: Liber Salomonis with Don Karr, and facilitated the publication of The Magical Treatise of Solomon or Hygromanteia, the forefather of the Key of Solomon.

Since more than 15 years Dr.Stephen Skinner lives in Malaysia and Singapore, where he continues to advance his studies into Feng Shui and classical forms of ritual magic.


What is your personally preferred way of accessing the spirit world?

Formal Evocation.


How long did it take you to learn this technique and where did you first come across it?

The method is in the grimoires, something I have been studying since the 1960s. I was lucky that my first experiment met with some success, although I spent many months accumulating and consecrating the right equipment, incenses, etc. and learning the invocations by heart.


When you go into the spirit world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

I call them to attend, then ask questions designed to ensure their identity.


When you commune with the spirits, how do you normally talk to each other?

I speak out loud as spirits for the most part cannot read your mind. They reply almost audibly, or in dreams later.


When you return to the mundane world, normally, what is the first thing you do?

After every evocation, a license to depart must be spoken, and 10-15 minutes allowed to pass before exiting the circle.


If any, what role do sleep and dreams play in your spiritual practice?

In addition to evocation, I sometime project via the astral to their world, but this is tiring and a lot more difficult.


Do you have any magical tattoos? If so, would you mind sharing the story of one of them?

None. Magical tattoos are a large part of Thai magic.


Looking at the world around us in 2019, we increasingly seem to live in a world where showing good manners, decency and calm, mutual respect seems like antiquated behaviors. Do you have personal code of ethics?

My personal style is old fashioned, antiquated and polite, modelled on what a Victorian gentleman might be expected to do.


According to your experience, what role should ethics play in spiritual training & practice?

Ethics is simply good behaviour in life generally, not just in spiritual practice. 


What does the word integrity mean to you? Which role, if any does it play in your everyday life? Could you give us an example where you felt your integrity challenged?

Integrity is speaking the truth and always following through on what you have promised. The corollary is not promising things you cannot be sure of performing.


In your eyes, what is most required to be able to hold significant levels of power with responsibility?

To achieve significant levels of power requires hard work and regular practice. Responsibility comes with integrity.


Today, what is the work you are most proud of?

The change in the perceptions of magic held by many Westerners from an arid psychological explanation (“it’s all in the head”) to an understanding of the real mechanics of magic which are based on interaction with spirits (or other ‘spiritual creatures’) via evocation or invocation, a view that is closer to the Eastern view of the world. A large part of this shift has been due to the publication of my books on the techniques and practice of Solomonic magic.


Looking ahead, what is the work you wish you’d be able to complete one day?

A restoration of magical methods long suppressed in the West, and later full integration of all the techniques used by magicians of all cultures (which show a remarkable similarity).


Any work, today in retrospect, you wish you had not begun or completed? 

None.


Thank you for your time, Dr.Skinner.