Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Views from the Chrysalis I

Posted by Mike on May 14, 2006

Lately I feel “in between.” So I thought I’d start writing something for a number of different reasons. One is sort of a ruler, to measure where I’ve come from. Another is I’m asked fairly frequently about the more esoteric posts in this blog and I’ve been bouncing back and forth on what I want to say or not say. I guess in a way this will act like a little autobiography of my personal and spiritual development.

I grew up in a household that was fairly unreligious until about when I was 11 years old. My parents both converted to Southern Baptism at around the same time and the rest of my family (my brother and I) followed suit as young kids must do. As most people know Baptists are among the most fundamentalist and literalist of Christian denominations and like many new Baptists, born-agains tend to be quite strict. Another important feature of this part of the religion was the need for proof in the way of apologetics. These were books and reasoning strategies meant to demonstrate that the literalist, inerrantist view of the bible was scientifically valid. Real. My father’s shelves were full of these books and I was at a very young age when my reason started conflicting with what I was being told. For a while these apologetics assuaged my crisis of faith, but even that young I was having difficulty. What I do remember and will always take forward from this experience, was my father’s exhortation to follow and seek the truth. This has been probably my primary motivation for my entire life since. I had several experiences where some crisis in life returned me to the faith of my youth, only for me to find emptiness in it. The message I got was I needed to go back to church and get right with God.

When I was young and still living at home I lived near a neighbor who was into the occult. From him I was introduced to lucid dreaming, astral projection, and a number of other “dark arts” that intrigued me as a child in the same way that fantasy and science fiction did. Of course at the time, this stuff terrified me, I had grown up hearing that these sorts of esoteric ideas were evil or satanic. I remember as a youth going by the occult section afraid as hell even to look at any of the books, for fear of being led to the dark side. Now all of this exists sort of in the background of life itself, for the most part music was my incredible passion, I played it, listened to it, wrote about it from the time I was in my teens. In fact the first time I stopped playing in a band was due to one of those “back to the old faith” experiences, but it was about a year later when I met a friend who would end up being the vocalist in the second incarnation of the band and another woman who would end up being my girlfriend later on, but who introduced me to the world of astrology, runes, tarot and other occult ideas.

Skipping all the band melodrama, I ended up leaving maybe about a month after I started dating the above person. I had walked into a swirl of typical new age beliefs, my favorite of the time being “turn off your rational mind.” It was a system where anything goes, if somebody saw an angel, you better believe they did. During this time my girlfriend even paid for a magnetic reader at some new age shop, who boldly acclaimed we were two lost souls finally coming together, soulmates and the like. But at the same time, she gave me a book on runes and I started meditating on these. My first initiation ritual was in 1997. I ended up meditating on about a dozen of these runes with alarming effects, including a major increase in my dream life, including my first actual lucid dream. My progress crashed when we broke up and in many ways this world had crumbled for me.

I spent the next two years exploring the diehard worlds of atheism and skepticism. I learned at this point that biblical literalism was basically a leaking sieve. I explored the literature intensely, I became entirely skeptical and then what they call zetetic, skeptical of skepticism. I feel I’d hit a wall. While the scientific viewpoint struck me comfortably in terms of the physical world, I’d had too many prior, strange¬†experiences that kept making me wonder about other levels of existence.

In 2003, I had another deeply personal experience that started making me look back at my journaling activity. I’ve kept a journal of all my meditations and dream experiences since 1997. During this time, I had one of the most profound and strange mystical experiences. I don’t talk about it much but I’m happy to call it an overactive imagination for the purposes of the physical world. At the same time, I started working with the tarot again, although at this point I was fairly clueless about it.

Not soon after I became attracted to the work of Aleister Crowley. He’s one of the most reviled men of his age, a person of legend and mystique who was said to be one of the great ceremonial magicians. I couldn’t keep away from his writing. Although it was complex and confusing, so much of it spoke to me. I couldn’t possibly describe the philosophical process of this, but it led me to see a counselor who was a specialist in people leaving their own religions. I only spoke to this person once, but it was generally because I was starting on a path contrary to everything that had come before. Crowley was skeptical and analytical in a way I had never expected from anything occult or esoteric, it wasn’t enough for you believe what you had written, the continual exhortation was to do the work. And of course I was still petrified.

[Edit 11/27/07: Soon after these posts, I decided to more or less move away from discussing the esoteric on my blog. Hermeticism, like everything else in the 20th century, is undergoing transformative change at a rapid rate, meaning issues of secrecy are a lot more fluid than they used to be. To date my coming in terms to these changes meant less that I wouldn’t discuss the subject, and more that I wouldn’t discuss the effects the study of the subject has had on me personally. Even though I originally had a part II of “Views,” I deleted it as too much of the writing was discussing how the study affected me personally. One of those understandings, as I saw it, was that the hermetic viewpoint and the practice of mysticism and magick is something that affects the practitioner on such a personal level that the details of those effects would be almost entirely lost on anyone else and would personally degrade the experience. To date, the central experiences that changed my life are experiences that I wouldn’t and couldn’t relate to anyone and in the realization of this, I realized, if only in part, the importance of being silent. Which is why this article now ends at my discovery of the work of Crowley, despite thelema not being my end destination.]

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