I’ve been watching Frater RO gettin’ lots of comment love from his latest blog posting (18 comments at last count), and seeing as I have some relevant remarks to make, I considered joining the chorus. But then the thought struck me: “Wait a second! I shouldn’t comment. I should post this on my own blog!”

Why someone as relatively inexperienced as me dares to address something that many well-trained folks have already talked about long and learnedly, is because I was also a participant in the experiment that rocked Mr Opus’s world.
Though one phase of the experiment is over, it is far from a conclusive ending, so I won’t describe it or the results in much detail, since publishing half-baked research is not responsible. We got lots of results, but we’re still sifting through them to make sense of what we got. Since RO has already mentioned that he was taught something in a dream, I’ll say this much about it : the project involved incubating dreams.
A magician friend and I discovered a “pattern” in a well-known grimoire that we’d never seen discussed in any book or in any digital resource. If you applied certain clues in the text to a certain diagram, it seemed bloody obvious. So obvious, I’m sure we can’t be the first people to have discovered this in the last 500 years. But there you have it! This “pattern” that fits into a Hermetic universe like a coin into a coffee machine isn’t described in any source that the four of us know of.
Dreaming has been one of my primary sources of knowledge ever since I was a teenager. It just seemed natural to me to use dream incubation to test our theory. We’d been using RO as a “grimoire consultant” (he says he should put that title on his business cards!), and when he heard how we were going to test drive our theory, he wanted to hop aboard. I hadn’t expected that. After being a loyal reader of his blog and corresponding with him for a year, I wouldn’t have guessed he’d be down for a dream incubation project. The boy is full of surprises.
I discovered a blogger doing related work and invited her to join.
It might sound fairly banal to say that the four of us got different results, but how different was striking. We kept in fairly close touch during the experiment, despite the fact that the four of us are in three different countries. We used Google Wave to coordinate (which worked splendidly) and we recorded our results in a common Google Document. RO’s dream experiences made my jaw drop from the very start. Taken at face value, it looked like he was definitely in touch with something, and he was being taught. For perspective: another member started getting fairly lucid early in the project, and the other was getting serious psychic downloads of number-, geometry-, color- and mythology information. She joked about feeling like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters” when he was compulsively building the mud mountain in his living room. I was having fairly tame dreams in comparison (though with parallel symbols to the others’ dreams), and it was quipped that I was the “designated driver”.
All of this was a preface to discussing RO’s epiphany that he might have been wasting his time dallying with the likes of Goetic demons for as long as he had.
You see, watching RO posting his dreams and then writing in Waves about what he thought of them, I was bowled over at how fast the changes were coming over him. Let me suggest that the theme of his magical life should be that rowdy 80s Billy Joel anthem “I Go to Extremes”. I mean, I recall it was only last autumn after he’d published his Modern Goetic Grimoire that he was encouraging me to give it a whirl. He contended that my work with the Olympic Spirits was likely enough to keep the Goets fairly respectful of my divine credentials. Although I thought he could be right, I still thought I’d leave Goety alone for some time to come.
And I bought his arguments that The Goetia was like a post-classical rendering of Hellenistic shamanic magic with its roots going into the mists of pre-history. Very compelling.
And now he says maybe that was all a distraction? Woah!
The real eye opener was when he described what he was learning from the dreams by using the word “energy”. I never thought I’d see the day.
Now, I mentioned earlier that everyone had gotten very different results. Part of that was that we each got messages that spoke to and through our unique personalities. But part of the difference was that we also got what was suitable to our background experience.
Rudolf Steiner once gave a series of lectures that got collected into a volume called Necessity and Freedom. To terribly oversimplify the doctrine: if you look at the past, you see that everything that happened was exactly what was necessary to arrive at the present moment, and if you turn to regard the future, you see that it beckons with the possibility of freedom.
I think the sublimely cantankerous Rufus O received what he got from the exercises we did, which was very different from what the rest of us got, precisely because he had been prepared for it through all the work he had done up to that point, including all of the hobnobbing with demons of questionable repute (which might be how my mother described my high school social life). And I’m not so sure how honorable or healthy it it is to deny their formative role in his life so fast (Cue Billy Joel again!).
I can look back on my life and, if I want to see it that way, see it as an incredible number of mistakes. There are some doozies back there, too. Or, if I take a different tack, I can see it as all the necessary steps to becoming who I am at this moment.
I was a devout Catholic as a kid. Now I can look at Roman Catholicism and see what dramatically mistaken ideas I had about a lot of things. But, on the other hand, I’d never have the sense of ritual I have now if it hadn’t been for those hundreds of Latin masses I went to as a kid. And oddly, even the catechism gave me a basis for understanding spiritual philosophy.
I had a very close friend in the seventies who’d ripped through a bunch of the classic occult books available at that time (Crowley, Regardie, Blavatsky, etc.), and because of his very rebellious, and cynical nature arrived at a practice that would easily be characterized as chaos magic these days. But we’d never heard of such a thing. It must have just been in the air in those days. I often followed his example.
He did things like peeling the labels off of sweating beer bottles, carefully tearing them into letters and words, and pasting spells onto the walls of bars we frequented. This stuff just came naturally to him.
I remember playing doubles pool with him one night at our regular hang out, a dingy campus beer garden with one light over the pool table and no others. We were playing a couple of menacing rednecks, and the psychological element of the game was pretty hairy (I was a hippy, after all). It came down to just the eight ball left on the table and it was my friend’s shot. The angle sucked. It was a really hard shot. You could see little beady eyes in all the dark corners of the bar intent on the outcome of this game: the homeboys defending the turf from the intruders. After studying the table while chalking up, my friend suddenly dropped the thick end of his cue stick onto the floor with a startling thump. Then, holding the cue with two hands he dragged it through the dust on the floor and drew a circle all the way around the table. This act palpably increased the tension in the air. Then, without pausing, he drew that force into the cue between the knuckles of his Saturn and Jupiter fingers (his unique style) in a gesture as smooth as a tai chi move, paused just one beat, and cracked the eight ball into the corner pocket so hard and straight it made people jump. He stood up straight and looked the rednecks in the eyes. They just quietly slinked back out into the night. That was magic. That’s what he was like.
But my friends and I were young and foolish. We knew enough “technique” and qabbalism to manipulate a party full of stoners with the music we chose, the colors of the lights, the subliminal symbols in the decorations, “chance” words and remarks we interjected into the conversation, etc. We could make things happen/manifest with impromptu rituals. But we had no sense of balance or propriety. We were motivated by ego, not by love. Eventually bad shit started happening, and we started picking fights with each other. Everyone from that crew got scattered to the four corners of the earth. We sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
I moved to California and swore off occultism for years, preferring martial arts and zen philosophy. Aikido was my life for a while after I finished graduate school.
But to make a longish story shorter, I eventually found my way back to magic in middle age, and understood lots of things about it that had eluded me in my youth. And eventually I found my way to the things I am doing nowadys.
The magical “mistakes” I’ve made led to a tragic marriage in my twenties, and losing contact with my daughter for many years. My ex didn’t hesitate to drag my occult practices out in the open in divorce court in front of the conservative judge. She successfully painted me as the devil incarnate. The friend I glorify in the pool story won’t talk to me anymore.
I could go on.
But I never complain about these things. They were all vital lessons. They have all brought me to who I am, and to what I can do now.
Is screwing up really such a bad thing? I mean, as long as you learn from it, you should be grateful for it.
OK. Now cue Billy Joel for real. This one’s for you RO!