WTF and Other Stars

“Every man and every woman is a star.” ~ Aleister Crowley

In this famous statement from The Book of the Law, Crowley meant that every individual is the centre of the universe to themselves; their own God and an equal element of the cosmos. In the commentary, he went on to describe how an atom of carbon may pass through myriad phases ‘appearing as chalk, chloroform, sugar, sap, brain and blood, not recognizable as “itself” the black amorphous solid, but recoverable as such, unchanged by its adventures.” The implication, I think, is that this is also what happens to consciousness.

In Mapmakers, the fifth story of Mind in the Gap, Maisie borrows from Crowley by saying that “every man and woman has their own orbit and their own constellation of meaningful events.” In Winter Triangle, the people of Origin take this idea more literally, naming their people of underground significance after the most prominent stars in particular asterisms. Then the stars surface again in The Fold when Georgie says ‘My mother always told me people are like stars. They have a light inside, and you can tell if something’s amiss by the way they shine.’

In the course of researching for the book, I learned some fascinating things about particular stars, which I applied in metaphor for the way my characters were acting. I thought I’d share some of them with you. Continue reading “WTF and Other Stars”

5 Non-fiction Books that Shaped Me

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I’ve always loved reading non-fiction as much as fiction, and have a particular attraction to all things philosophy and psychology. I always manage to take something away from every book I read and feed it into my worldview, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write a little bit about the ones that have had the biggest impact on me over the years. I’ve chosen my top 5, listed in the order I read them.

 

1. Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra

When I was 15, I wrote an essay on my typewriter called ‘The Personal God’. It wasn’t for school, and it wasn’t really planned out; it just sort of wrote itself. In it, I set out my reasons for believing that God was created subjectively in the minds of men, and that the concept of a mythical overlord was becoming less relevant as we developed as a species. It wasn’t great: I was 15. But it meant that when I saw a documentary about Nietzsche on TV a few months later – the first time I’d ever heard of him – I was immediately drawn to his ideas. I got a copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra as soon as I could, devoured it, and covered it in pencil notes.

Apart from the opinions on women he expresses in the book, which frankly seem primitive compared to his other musings, there are many themes that made a big impression on me. The will to power, the bowels of existence; herd morality. His succinct descriptions of the suffering that is so very human and rooted in the self. The idea that the only meaning we can create in this absurdity we call life is that which we make for ourselves. His existentialism set my mindset up nicely to understand the ideas of Thelema a couple of years later, and I have continued to return to this book and his others many times. I think there is an appropriate Nietzsche quote for every situation in life.

 

2. C.G. Jung – The Essential

Jung’s psychology has had a profound impact on the way I see the world. Generally, a major criticism of his work is that he was swayed too readily by mystical fancies, yet the very fact he was not afraid to face the metaphysical and the unknown is one of the reasons he appeals to me so much. His thought attempts to bridge the gap between science and religion, the rational and the irrational, and had he been around to see modern developments in neuroscience I think he’d have had a lot more to give.

Science or pseudoscience, Jung’s model of the psyche works very well for me. I use it to analyse my mental states, my dreams, my path to individuation (which is remarkably similar to both alchemy and, at times, taoism), and the way I interact with others. His thoughts on the collective unconscious and personal myth constantly feed into my creative work.

I chose this book as the one that shaped me simply because it is the first one of his I read. I borrowed it from my local library when I was about 16 or 17, and was hooked on Jung’s style straight away. Since then I have been working my way through all of his books, including the stunning Red Book, the full folio version of which sits pride of place on my bookshelf.

Continue reading “5 Non-fiction Books that Shaped Me”

Party at the World’s End – James Curcio

Already being familiar with James Curcio  from his zany debut novel ‘Join My Cult’ some years ago, I was excited to discover he had published another.

Party at the World’s End is a lot of fun. It is beautifully chaotic, with events told out of order from the points of view of several different characters; sometimes in third person and sometimes first. Sometimes in recollections, in philosophical musings, in diary entries, and sometimes in dreams or hallucinations. Now I’m sure that sounds hard to follow, but it actually works so well with the subject matter and at no point did I find myself confused. After attempting to read Ulysses this was a breeze.

The theme is sex, drugs, rock and roll, with the added twist that all of the main characters are insane by most people’s reckoning; in fact the story opens with two of them escaping from a mental institution. But there is a constant question; are they really insane or are they actually enlightened through their detachment from what is ordinary? Are they just using too many drugs or are they remembering their past reincarnations as mythological beings?

Continue reading “Party at the World’s End – James Curcio”

Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation – Christopher Hyatt et al

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Christopher Hyatt was an occultist, a doctor of psychology and founder of the Extreme Individuals Institute. He was also president of New Falcon Publications, which under his watch became well known for publishing envelope-pushing and often controversial personal development material. Rebels and Devils is a collection of essays, poems, interviews and short stories from some of the best mind explorers he knew.

Some of the writers here are well known in the field, such as Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary, and William Burroughs. Others are less well known, but have equally illuminating viewpoints to share. Different styles and backgrounds come together in a thorough analysis of the individual going against the grain of society, how their perception of reality differs from the layman, and more specifically the transformation of mindset that anyone pursuing occult practices needs to undergo.

It is written from a left hand path perspective, in the sense that all of the contributions are centred around each individual being his own god who can take control of his own spiritual development, and around removing the labels of good and evil. ‘What we do and how we feel is a function of believing in fictitious limitations which have no basis except in habits.’ Having read a fair few mediocre writings on the left hand path of late, this is a refreshing and dogma-free approach to the subject – as many claim to be, but few really are when you get beneath the surface. Continue reading “Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation – Christopher Hyatt et al”